I don’t normally write long-form sales pages. But when I do, I go deep. And it turns out I always learn a lesson or two. Here are three…
As a SaaS and ecommerce conversion copywriter it’s rare that I get to write long-form sales pages. But someone reached out a while ago with an interesting project and I thought, why not?
There’s a big difference that very few copywriters spell out when it comes to writing web copy vs “funnel” copy like a long-form sales page.
Web copy is a lot about the usability too. You have to be the alchemist between the world of UX and that of the written word.
I’ve been diving into “The real mad man” book lately for my podcast and one quote about Bill Bernbach reminded me of this:
“To Bernbach, this fusion of writer and art director became so natural as to be unquestionably the only way for creative people to work and for advertising ideas to be developed. It was the only way of producing complete ideas that are born from thinking of the way that words can most effectively combine with, and compliment, pictures.”
Nowadays it’s more than just pictures and layout, we also have interaction, loading times and a lot more to take into account, but nonetheless, it’s all quite different from the work involved in writing a long-form sales page.
Sales pages are more about the narrative and flow. About the emotional journey you take people on and about how vividly you can do it.
So, here are 3 lessons I’ve learned in the process:
1. The most important skill is patience
When you embark on a 5k+ word copy project it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I see writing shorter, snappier copy for web pages or landing pages more as a step by step, almost linear process.
It looks a bit like this: You do the research, you look at the data, jot down a couple of ideas and then get to writing. Going back and forth between voice of customer and your page, until you’ve got a pretty good rough draft. Then you edit.
For such a long page, after the research is done you have to accept that it might take you weeks before you get to the complete draft. It changes your perspective and forces you do compartmentalize the work much more. For example, my first draft of this page was HORRIBLE.
But I got it done. Which is what matters, because after that I could switch into copy-editing mode and polish it.
Like the samurai say: “If a man is prepared to accept a loss from the outset, he cannot be beaten. In this sense, if you are patient (kannin) you will not lose”
Accept that your first draft will take a long ass time, that it will suck and that you’ll have to wear entirely different hats at every stage. Be patient.
2. Taking your time makes you a better writer
The first thing I noticed when I looked at my client’s original copy for the sales page (around 2k words) was that it felt rushed. Obviously I’m not faulting the client, they did their best and it wasn’t that bad.
But when it comes to selling cold-ish traffic, you cannot rush it.
More than that, it shows that you don’t understand your audience.
The best part of taking so long to write this one page, was the fact that I almost became the target audience. I started empathizing with them, and even coming up with objections to my own points, so that I could counter them.
It was a big lesson in staying with the discomfort, only to realize that it passes and that you’re better off for having gone through that.
Writing copy can be a form of meditation.
3. The hardest part is entering “the gap”
Especially when it comes to writing for an audience that you’re not a part of, the most challenging step lies in exploring the gap between where they are and where they want to be. The gap is that dark, scary and unknown place that separates them from their final outcome.
You have to go there or they won’t feel it deeply enough to want to take action.
It’s hard because to be persuasive you have to be specific, descriptive and very vivid.
The only way for you to accomplish that is to do the research. But still you’re putting puzzle pieces together – you’re not those people and you’re not inside their minds.
So, like an actor, you have to wear their shoes and jump into that gap. Live it and hope you come out of it.
It’s not easy, but when you do it well, that’s when your copy gets to a whole new level.
Overall, what I’ve found writing this type of very emotional copy (this was for a B2C info product on likability and charisma), was that there’s a lot of art to it.
I’ve always been of the opinion that research is the basis, that the science part of it is what matters most, but I’m leaning more and more on the side of a good 50/50 split between art and science.
After all, that’s what alchemy is about, isn’t it?
What’s one lesson you’ve learned doing something you don’t normally do?
✅ In case you missed it
The first ever episode of my podcast “Writers Of Influence” is live! We dive into what the advertising world was like in the 50s and 60s, and get familiar with two of the legends we’ll be coming back to: Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy.
Some thoughts on giving advice from the samurai
📚 3 things to be better at copywriting
- One quick, but important thought from “The power of now” by Eckhart Tolle: “The whole advertising industry and consumer society would collapse if people became enlightened and no longer sought to find their identity through things.” In a way, we as marketers and copywriters, are shaping people’s identity. Keep it in mind.
- This article goes into how AI is helping us get rid of the boring tasks. I resonated a lot with it as ChatGPT has been my junior copywriter for the past 2/3 months. From a study they quote: “in realistic business writing tasks, ChatGPT decreased the time required for work by 40%”. I can confirm. I also learned from this piece that you can use ChatGPT’s code interpreter to create and upload files (I’ll use it to analyze and extract research data) and how to use Midjourney to create more interesting images based on ones you provide.
- As I was doing some research for the podcast, I stumbled on this documentary. Very well done and you can watch the first episode of the mini series for free. If you’re a fan of Mad Men and advertising geek you can’t miss it.
🤔 Thought of the week
“There is no point in one’s training in which one reaches the end. The instant you think you have finished, you have already strayed from the path.“
– Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure
Enjoying and embracing the process means accepting that there will be no end to it. The goal is the journey.