Storytelling is essential, all the experts preach, but doing it right takes time. Lucky for content marketers and social media marketers, the experts also offer ways to help you there too: Tested copywriting formulas. You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel with every blog post and tweet.
A previous post explained 15 formulas. Here are 12 more, plus an added bonus for those who read to the end:
1. Star — Chain — Hook
Star: Your product/service/idea
Chain: A series of facts, sources, benefits and reasons
Hook: The call to action
The key element is the chain. It is intended to take a reader from interested to attentive. The right facts, sources, benefits and reasons can get them there.
2. Awareness — Comprehension — Conviction — Action (ACCA)
Awareness: Present the situation or problem
Comprehension: Help your reader understand how it affects them. Explain that you have the solution.
Conviction: Create a desire and conviction in your reader to use your solution.
Action: Call to action
Another variation good for its focus on comprehension. Whereas other describe the situation and tell stories, this one acts more as a diagnosis. This is what’s happening, and this is how it affects you. When done right, the comprehension step should lead straight to conviction and then action.
3. The 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 formula for persuasive copy
1. What I’ve got for you
2. What it’s going to do for you
3. Who am I?
4. What you need to do next
Another Copyblogger gem, this four-question formula has some great ties to the storytelling opener of previous formulas, with a useful twist. After telling the story and explaining the benefits, you then sell the reader on your authority. Who are you and why should someone listen to you? Explain that part well enough, and you can breeze through the call-to-action in the final step.
4. So what?
Every time you state something, ask yourself, “So what?”
Helen Nesterenko, writing at the Eloqua blog, has a great way of spinning this one from a features vs. benefits perspective.
Our knives have the sharpest blades!
So you can chop ingredients quickly and efficiently, just like the pros!
One way that I’ve looked at this with my Buffer writing is to ask “so what” in order to test whether a tweet or paragraph adds any value. Why should someone care about this particular thing I’ve written? Typically, it’ll all come back to benefits.
Attention: Biggest benefit, biggest problem you can solve
Interest: Reason why they should be interested in what you have to say
Credibility: Reason why they should believe you
Prove: Prove what you are claiming is true
Benefits: List them all (use bullets)
Scarcity: Create scarcity
Action: Tell them precisely what to do
Warn: What will happen if they don’t take action
Now: Motivate them to take action now
I’m not sure this one was meant to be an acronym. Nevertheless, there are several good nuggets in here, starting with the first. A unique selling proposition could be a copywriting post all to its own. It’s a big idea, and finding the unique angle to pitch your product/service/idea is key.
Like the A FOREST formula, you can grab bits and pieces, for example, scarcity, when sharing in the confined spaces of social media.
6. String of pearls
String together a series of persuasive stories.
What does this formula conjure for you? Listicles. List posts have their roots in this copywriting formula. If lists don’t fit your marketing strategy, you can string together testimonials or benefits or any elements that, when combined, make for a persuasive pitch.
7. The fan dancer
Be specific without actually explaining anything
It took me a bit to wrap my head around this one. What is a “fan dancer”? It’s nothing really. But it did pique my interest and that’s the point. The fan dancer formula uses specific details to create curiosity, all the while never revealing any actual information about what that tantalizing something is. To find out, someone will need to click or keep reading.
8. The approach formula
Arrive at the problem
Propose a solution
Persuade the listener why your solution will work
Reassure that you and your solution can be trusted
Orchestrate an opportune opportunity to sell
Ask for the order (or response)
You might recognize parts of this formula if you’ve ever had a call from a telemarketer or a visit from a door-to-door salesman. It’s a soft sell. The formula takes its time to get around to the “ask” part, building trust along the way and looking for the best time to make the final step toward the sale. Slow pitches like these might involve a couple steps through the marketing funnel or perhaps a piece of long-form content with a variety of ways for the reader to act.
9. Bob Stone’s gem
Begin with your strongest benefit
Expand on the most important benefit
Tell exactly and in detail what they are going to get , including all the features
Back up your statements
Tell them what they’ll lose if they don’t act
Sum up the most important benefits
Make your call to action. Tell them to “reply now” and give a good, logical reason why they should.
Steve Slaunwhite shared this useful formula in his book The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. The originator of this formula is Bob Stone. The successful ad man came up with this formula for sales letters and direct response ads, but it’s been used in a number of different ways since.
10. The 6+1 model
4. The gap
6. Call to action
From Danny Iny of Smashing Magazine, the first six items in this copywriting formula follow a similar path to the Before-After-Bridge formula, giving the reader a sense of what life might be like with your product/service/idea. You’ll be well on your way to a sale, but you won’t get it without one more ingredient: credibility.
Universal Picture Words Or Relatable, Descriptive Sentences
This is a neat one from Michel Fortin. He’s found that using common words that conjure imagery or examples will help a marketing message have meaning.
The four stages of your market’s awareness of your product/service/idea.
Oblivious, Apathetic, Thinking, Hurting
This formula helps you focus on the reader. What stage are they at in their awareness of your product? The spectrum runs from the completely unaware (“oblivious”) to those in desperate need of a solution (“hurting”). Knowing where your audience stands can help determine how you frame your writing.
Bonus: Literary devices
Demian Farnworth and the Copyblogger team are just so good at explaining the concepts of writing well. And here’s another great one: literary devices.
Demian lists 12 at his blog. Here are my five favorites:
1. Polysyndeton: using extra conjunctions
“If there be cords or knives or poison or fire or suffocating streams, I’ll not endure it”
— Shakespeare, Othello
2. Chiasmus: reversal of structure
“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
— John F. Kennedy
3. Epizeuxis: simple repetition of words and phrases
“Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
— Winston Churchill
4. Anaphora: repetition at the beginning
“Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!”
— William Shakespeare, King John
5. Epistrophe: repetition at the end
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
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