You don’t have to be an expert to master some of the most effective copywriting techniques. Use these 5 copywriting formulas to improve your sales messages and CTAs across most marketing channels.
Some of the greatest copywriters in history lived and worked at a time when words were the only tool they had in order to make a sale—as opposed to the phone cameras, filters, and hashtags we use today.
Though visual elements are just as important, your copywriting still helps entice audiences and give just enough information for them to take an action. With the right copywriting formulas to create attention-grabbing messages, you’ll always know what to say for various goals and campaigns.
Improving your copywriting will help audiences engage with social media posts, click a call to action on a blog post, and even reach out to inquire about your services. However you choose to utilize them, though, these formulas have been around in one form or another for decades—being used in advertising campaigns when the primary medium was text.
A note about the copywriting examples shown
Along with each formula in this list, I’ll include a few examples to highlight exactly how you might implement the formula in your own marketing.
Keep in mind, however, that many of my examples will be brief, but these same formulas can be used in any setting—from a singular email subject line to a social media caption.
It’s also important to note, if you’re not comfortable with copywriting, there are lots of freelancers out there who live and breathe copywriting every day.
You can easily hire a copywriter by posting on reputable job boards, but I would encourage you to give it a go yourself first. Often, the sincerity and authenticity you’ll bring to your email marketing will make up for any industry knowledge or experience you lack.
With that, let’s dive in!
Formula #1: Beginning, End, Bridge
This formula is very simple and helps potential clients visualize their journey from frustration to success.
Step 1: Start with the “beginning” of your client’s story—or where they are now. Usually, this outlines some frustration or pain point they want to address.
Step 2: Help them imagine what it’s like to be at the end of their story—having accomplished the task at hand, solving their problem, and reaping the benefits of it.
Step 3: End with explaining how to get from “beginning to end” using you or your services as a solution.
Examples of Beginning, End, Bridge
Here are a few ways you could use the Beginning, End, Bridge formula to generate more leads for your business.
Example 1: “Trouble engaging customers? Try refreshing your social strategy. We can help.”
Example 2: “Planning a wedding can be overwhelming. Getting the perfect pictures to remember your special day forever deserves special attention. That’s why we’re here—to make sure you enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime day while capturing the perfect memories to cherish forever.”
Example 3: “When it’s time to sell your house, you want as many interested buyers as possible. Getting the perfect photos can mean the difference between mediocre offers and an all-out bidding war leaving you with massive profit (dream home, here you come!). For pictures that leave people begging to see more of your home, call us and we’ll take care of everything.”
Formula #2: Ask “So What?”
The “so what” copywriting formula is not only a persuasive and powerful way to communicate with your potential clients, but it’s also a great way to get you (the marketer) in the proper state of mind to be persuasive.
By asking yourself “so what” (and then passing that same question on to your clients), you can come up with some pretty persuasive copy. The goal of this copywriting formula is to grab your audience’s attention with messaging that spells out the value you’re offering.
In comparison to the Beginning, End, Bridge formula, this formula is best for when the audience might not even know what their problem is. Your job is to spell out why they should be interested in the first place.
Examples of “So What?”
Here are a few ways you could use the “So What?” formula to show your clients how they’ll benefit from working with you.
Example 1: “More professional app design mockups mean bigger investor commitments and stronger runway to make your dream a reality. Get award-winning app design by replying to this email today.”
Example 2: “If you’re ready to start hunting for your dream job, you’re going to want to stand out from the crowd. That means looking your best every chance you get. Our professional headshots will help you shine on Linkedin. Employers are checking your social profiles—greet them with a professional profile image.”
Formula #3: The UPWORDS Formula
One of my favorite options, this creative approach to copywriting is credited to Michael Fortin and focuses on using relatable imagery and metaphors to expand your writing.
UPWORDS stands for:
In short, use words to create relatable imagery.
Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, so too a metaphor can be worth far more than its character count.
Examples of UPWORDS
UPWORDS copywriting tends to be a bit more relatable, funny, and even sarcastic. It’s perfect for social media ads or quick captions underneath social videos. By illustrating what you’re talking about with your words, it creates interest and connection.
Example 1: “Only having polaroids of your wedding day is like taking a honeymoon in Paris … Idaho. Instead, count on us to capture your most important memories in a way that’ll last a lifetime.”
Example 2: “Your logo is like the face of your business. And hiring the wrong person to design your logo is like walking through middle school with a face full of pimples.
It’s not pretty.
Getting a beautiful, meaningful, powerful, and timeless logo is more affordable than you might think—and it’s worth every penny. Just like that zit cream your mom finally bought you. And just like mom, you’ll thank us later.”
Formula #4: The Fairytale Formula
Based on Sonia Simone’s “5 Things Every Great Marketing Story Needs”, the fairytale formula focuses on making your customer or client a hero in their own story.
Each fairytale needs:
1. a hero
2. a goal
4. a mentor
5. a moral
Similar to the UPWORDS formula, the fairy tale strategy relies on your audience connecting with your words and visualizing exactly what you’re talking about. Yet, fairy tale copywriting lends itself better to a bit longer messaging, such as emails or sales pages in your brochure templates.
Telling a relatable and engaging fairy tale via email can be a great way to capture potential clients and convert them into sales for your business.
Sure, you could just email out a discount code and beg people to buy, but writing a story with your client as the hero can be such a better (read: more lucrative) option.
Examples of “The Fairytale Formula”
Here are a few ways you might choose to use this formula to build your business:
Example 1: “Next time your boss asks what the numbers are looking like this quarter, don’t stand there with your mouth open wondering how to tell her it’ll be a week before you can pull all the right data.
Instead, let me collect your most important data every single week and populate a ready-for-you spreadsheet you can keep “at your hip” for the next time your boss comes calling.
You’ll sleep better at night.
Your boss will be happier.
And you can finally stop copying and pasting your life away in Google Sheets.”
Example 2: “You’ve dreamed of your wedding day. Planned it since you were a little girl. And imagined what it will be like to relive your fondest memories while perusing old photographs with your own daughters one day.
But without the right photographer, that’s just a pipe dream. That’s why we focus on long-lasting, timeless photographs you can count on sharing with your little ones when they’ve found their Prince Charming one day.”
Formula #5: PPPP (Picture, Promise, Prove, Push)
The last formula you can use comes in particularly handy when preparing to send a proposal to a potential client.
The PPPP formula also uses elements from other copywriting formulas, so it comes across a bit more salesy – perfect for when you’re nurturing leads or talking specifically about your products or services.
Here’s how this copywriting formula breaks down:
Picture: Help your client picture the outcome your service will provide.
Promise: Make promises that offer solutions with tangible results.
Prove: Use social proof or other statistics to prove they need what you’re offering.
Push: Incite them to take quick action and make a purchase or accept your offer.
Examples of “PPPP”
Just because there are four distinct parts of this formula, doesn’t mean you have to have four sentences, emails, or anything particular. Your copywriting should simply include the four elements.
Example 1: “The tuxes have been returned; the honeymoon was magical; the “thank you” cards have been sent. But just because it’s over doesn’t mean you can’t relive it over and over again. For our customers, remembering their wedding day is as easy as pulling out a precious photo book and turning the pages. Savor your memories for a lifetime by ordering your own photo book today.”
Example 2: “No more losing customers because your website won’t load. Studies show customers decide to shop or leave in under 3 seconds. Call us for a free website speed audit today.”
How to use copywriting formulas
Now that you have 5 copywriting formulas to use and test, get in the habit of using them to craft your messaging. Some formulas match better with specific strategies, like content marketing, while others you can experiment on your sales letters, email templates, and more.
Once you get more comfortable understanding the difference between each, the idea is to get into the habit of trying, testing, learning, and improving as you grow your Independent business and take it to new heights.
What worked for one platform might not work for others, and it’s always unique to your audience and their needs.