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10 Steps to a Sales Page That Doesn’t Suck

This guest post is by Jessica Albon of ThriveYourTribe.com,

In general, writing comes pretty easily to me. When I’m in the flow (which is relatively often), I can write about 2000 words in an hour. And yet when it comes time to write a sales page for myself, my writing flow and speed used to ground to a halt.

I’d spend hours on a single paragraph feeling frustrated that I wasn’t making any progress at all.

What was especially frustrating was that when I’d write a sales page for a client it didn’t take nearly so long—it was only when I sat down to write sales copy for myself that I couldn’t seem to get the words out.

Looking back now, I see the reason I struggled was entirely my own fault—which is a good thing because it means I could fix it. If this is something you’ve noticed with your own writing—blog posts flow but when you try to write sales copy that writing flow deserts you—you can fix it too.

In the past, when I’d write my own sales letter, I’d try to do everything at once—a little research, a little figuring out my goal as I went, a little getting to know my audience better, a little writing. I did everything all at once in a mish-mash.

And that may work when writing blog posts, but it’s a painful way to write a sales page. What’s more, when you write your sales page in dribs and drabs like this, it either takes a ton of editing to polish it up, or the reader will notice those starts and stops (which means they’re unlikely to make it all the way to the end). So, not only is writing this way making the writing more difficult, but the sales letter that results isn’t nearly as good as it would be if you tackled each task, one at a time.

We’ve heard a lot about how multitasking can hamper efficiency. But usually multitasking is seen as performing several very different activities at once (like watching TV, answering emails, and playing the kazoo). “Writing a sales page” on the other hand seems like just one activity.

But it’s not. “Writing a sales page” actually requires a number of distinct processes. When we separate out these distinct processes, we write more efficient, more effective copy.

The next time you have a sales page to write, try out this sequence of tasks and see if it helps make you a more efficient writer.

  1. Brainstorm: Spend ten minutes generating as many ideas as possible about the sales page, your hook, your audience, your product. Get them all down on paper.
  2. Distill: Go over your notes and determine the bones of your letter. What key thing do you want people to know after reading your sales page? Who are you talking to? How will you talk to them?
  3. Research: Learn your market inside and out. Research your competition, competitive advantage, and where your product or service fits. What’s the latest research that supports your product? What’s the evidence that your product or service is necessary?
  4. Write a project brief: Write everything out as if you were hiring a professional copywriter. Include everything about your product or service—all the nitty-gritty details—as if the person reading it knew nothing about you, your blog, your audience, or your offer.
  5. Brainstorm again: Now that you’ve done your research and written the project brief, you probably have some new ideas popping up. Get those down on paper.
  6. Winnow: When you were in school, you might have used index cards to collect notes for reports. This can be a really effective way to comb through your research, brainstorming, and brief. But even if you don’t get out the index cards, go back through everything you’ve done so far and review the essentials.
  7. Write your first draft: I highly recommend setting a timer for this step—don’t choose a crazy limit, but do choose a limit that’s a bit of a stretch. Write as quickly as you can without stopping from beginning to end of your sales page.
  8. Take a break: If possible, set your writing aside for a day or two. If you need to make more progress, going for a walk or run can help clear your head before you move to the next steps.
  9. Write a new first draft: Don’t throw out the first first draft, but do set it aside. Writing a second first draft from scratch tends to result in a smoother draft because you already know what you’re going to say. It’s usually easier to write a new draft  than to revise the original first draft. (Plus, this method often results in new insights that make for a more effective letter.)
  10. Revise, revise, revise: Finally, it’s time to polish your sales page until it’s compelling from start to finish. As you revise, add your headline and subheadings.

It sounds like a lot of steps, but except for that break in the middle, these are the steps your brain already takes when you write a sales page. It’s just that up to now you’ve been mashing them all together. By separating out each task and performing them one at a time, you’ll gain focus, the writing will be easier, and the finished letter will be much more effective.

You might even find you actually enjoy writing sales copy!

Jessica Albon is the creator of the upcoming Sales Copy Play Dates and ThriveYourTribe.com, a digital branding, design, and copywriting agency.

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Comments

  1. Tom White says:

    I ALWAYS hated writing in general. I know that’s not a good trate for someone who’s in the IM niche, but I somehow forced myself to do it.
    As you mention it sounds like a lot of steps, but in all honesty, the more steps there are the easier it is, since, those steps then tend to be smaller. So for someone like me, who kind of hates writing this is quite good, since I can tick off more stuff faster and have a feel of accomplishment.

    Thanks, great share! :)

    • The idea of having to tick off a number step by step is good motivation for everybody. There is indeed a feeling of accomplishment as you do things one by one. It’s great Tom that you found this kind of motivation.

      I like the index card thing and I always have a spreadsheet to put down my thoughts and be able to organize it as I see it.

      • A spreadsheet is a great idea, Trent! I like the physical act of writing sometimes (hence the index cards), but nothing beats the computer for speed and search-ability.

    • You make a great point, Tom. When we dislike a task, it can be even more important to break it down so that we have the momentum of checking things off. I hated writing when I was a kid, but unabashedly love it now. (Actually just wrote about that a few weeks ago: http://www.thriveyourtribe.com/tyt/blog/how-i-became-a-copywriter/ .) One of the big things that shifted it for me was learning to write fast, and a checklist like this one can help with that.

    • Writing an article and a salespage can be quite different. Whereas for the first, it is easy to elaborate and bring your point across, for a salespage, we have to filter down to the most eye-catching points to draw the attention of the reader.

      That said, this is a fantastic step-by-step strategy to writing up a solid sales letter.

      • Thanks, Dylan! You’re right–it’s really different writing, and it’s a huge help to approach them differently as a result.

  2. “Determine the bones of your letter” is very important. When I write a copy, I usually brainstorm and analyze the ideas. This is a fundamental aspect of copywriting. I like this post and bookmark it. Thanks for sharing this amazing insight.

    • Thanks Michael! It’s great that you are starting off your letters on the write foot by taking the time to brainstorm and analyze your ideas first.

  3. This is a great share. I know blogging is a must for business and as a business owner I know I have to get it done. At times writing can take up too much of my time. These are some great tips to better use my time when the writing does not come as natural.

    • Blogging is a great tool for businesses, and I can definitely relate to it taking too much time sometimes ;-). You might want to pick up a copy of How to Write Fast by David Fryxell. It’s an awesome book that really helped me improve my writing speed (without sacrificing quality).

  4. Pratap Singh says:

    Hi,
    Darren always have been a mentor to me. I have learnt a lot from him. But when it come to writing some thing serious, it sucks. I have found, when I write for myself, its pretty much easy, I feel good and happy. But when I start writing for others, it become Hercules.
    I suggest first think of yourself, put yourself at the target audience, then write the sales page. I think this would work.

    • It can be all too easy to get stuck when the writing feels really important, Pratap. I can really relate to that. Certainly, putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience can really help to write a better sales page. Thanks for offering that suggestion.

  5. Dzulhelmee says:

    “Writing a second first draft from scratch”. That’s a new term that I found so refreshing and extremely useful. Will certainly come in handy for me in writing my future post. Multitasking adapt differently to different people. Some might think it is too complicated and some might actually enjoys doing it. This is just my own humble opinion.
    Anyway, Great Post!
    Thank you

    • You’re absolutely right, Dzulhelmee–sometimes multitasking is fun (and even necessary). For many of us, though, when we unwittingly multi-task our way through a complicated process, it can feel like we’re “bad” at it… When, really, we just need to acknowledge that we’re trying to do too much at once. So, sometimes it can help to break out all the steps and see exactly what the process is.

  6. Hi Jessica,

    Powerful tips here.

    I did a massive rehaul on my capture page last week. I now treat my capture page like a sales page.

    Why?

    I intend to attract only people who are serious to start with my team. No tire kickers. No time wasters.

    I breakdown my activity, what it entails and most of call, I tell lazy folks not to bother opting-in…in a nice way of course ;)

    Many sales or squeeze pages are vague. So the quality of leads, in general, are poor, in the case of most lists.

    Few people are clear enough to establish full clarity on either page, trying, hoping or wanting to get an opt-in or sales, holding a desperate vibe the whole time.

    Speak to people who are ideal matches. Let ‘em know through your copy.

    You want matches, not number. Finding matches becomes increasingly easy if you think through your copy, test, tweak and most of all…view your sales page with complete honesty.

    If you can’t do this, ask someone to do it for you. Especially a third party, if you want an objective view point.

    Thanks!

    RB

    • Thanks Ryan! And that’s smart of you to treat your capture pages like a sales page. I completely agree that it’s wise to be specific and to start off the process being selective as opposed to casting too wide a net.

  7. Good advice. I think you are so right about research. It’s hard to be good at anything without background information. Also, revising is important too.

    • Exactly! Research really helps us dig out the insights that make all the difference to the credibility of what we’re writing. Thanks!

  8. Chris says:

    Hi Jessica,
    I agree with you that writing sales page is very difficult (and time consuming). My steps are a little bit different – firstly I make a research about my customers and my competition. It’s very important for me to know everything about them before brain storming. And I use one more step (before revising) – I test, test, test ;)
    Thanks for sharing,
    Chris

    • soubhik says:

      I quite agree with chris.
      If you get to know your customers, it get quite easy to write your sales page, moreover you don’t get lost in the web…
      Testing is also a very practical approach before you write your last Final Draft :)

    • Chris, testing is so important! Thanks for sharing that. And I know that brainstorming twice can sound a little excessive, but I find it really helps me focus. Otherwise, when I start researching, I’m never entirely sure when I have “enough” research. Having a sense of what I’m trying to accomplish first means that I have more of a finish line in mind.

  9. Moin says:

    You are good blogger really. There is no doubt. Wow! You can write 2000 words per hour. I can write 2000 words article within three days. You are better than me.

    • That’s kind of you to say, Moin, but speed isn’t necessarily a good thing. I like to write fast (and I type really, really fast, which helps), but there are definitely benefits to writing more slowly. I think it’s all about finding your own rhythm.

  10. Hi Jessica,

    You know this article has come at the very precise time I need it. I have an eBook called “The Best Traffic Generating Strategies Shared By 10 Top Bloggers | A Tribute” coming up. It actually gets released next week if everything goes well.

    I am currently running a competition on my http://ultimatedomainmanager.com site where 10 lucky participants stand a chance of winning a free copy even before it gets released by completing a few simple and easy steps. You know what? I haven’t even started with a sales page yet!

    Why?

    Well, you summed it up perfectly. I can do sales letters etc for clients but when it comes to my own sales copy, BANG! Nothing comes out. I’ve been playing around with graphics, layout, reading up on sales page copy writing and I really do have an idea of what I want, but for some reason I just have no idea how to put that down onto my own page. This has been a huge obstacle for me and you can imagine the pressure building up inside as we near next month…until now…

    You have inspired me to try something different seeing I need different results, right?

    I’m giving it a go as soon as I can find a gap!

    Thanks a million; much appreciated!

    • I hope you’re feeling more inspired to start, Ruan. It can definitely be tricky to get started, and I can relate to getting caught up in other tasks and procrastinating on the actual sales page writing. Glad to hear the timing was so good for you!

  11. Maria says:

    I can write page and post content all day long. But when it comes to Sales pages, I always draw a blank. These 10 steps are really very helpful! The idea of writing a draft, taking a break, then writing a new draft makes so much sense! Thanks!

    • Maria, I know just what you mean. So glad that you found the steps useful–hope you give them a try the next time you’re writing a sales page!

  12. Thanks for this good advice. Personally I like #1 brainstorming. This will lead to a great sales page right away. Great post. I will definately use this as a guideline.

  13. Jean-Luc says:

    I would suggest split testing also, it’s a great way to know what works best.
    Sometimes you get surprised because one little tweak makes a big difference.

    • Absolutely, Jean-Luc. The results of split-testing can be really startling, too–sometimes it’s the tiniest thing that changes everything. Whichtestwon.com is a great site for seeing the results of testing (and for generating ideas on what to test).

  14. sanjay says:

    Love your step by step approach, I’ll be using this on my blog post and what I can come up with. Thanks a lot!

  15. Nice tips! With this in mind, writing will always be fun… and if it has always been fun; then I guess it’s going to be even more interesting.

  16. Vincent says:

    I guess, writing could be fun… it depends on the topic. anyway, I guess that’s 10 ways on how not to suck at writing, I’m bookmarking this one to review anytime I’m down.

  17. Bobbie Hurst says:

    I love the ease with which you approach the task of doing articles.