As marketers, we write copy daily: For landing pages, social media posts, email newsletters, you name it.
And this content isn’t just supposed to sound pretty — it’s also supposed to be powerful enough to convert visitors into sales. In fact, as of 2022, over 60% of marketers measure the success of their content through sales. That’s no small feat.
If you’re stuck in a writing rut or unsure how to use conversion copywriting to increase sales, you’re in luck. Here, I sat down with Lately’s CEO, Kate Bradley Chernis, to discuss the 11 tips that enabled her and her team to grow monthly recurring revenue by 240%.
But first — what is conversion copywriting, anyway?
What is conversion copywriting?
Simply put, conversion copywriting is copy with the ultimate goal of converting readers into buyers.
Conversion copywriting uses engaging and persuasive language to motivate readers to take a specific action.
Typically, the goal with conversion copywriting is to encourage readers to purchase a product or service. However, conversion copy can be used at all stages of the buyer’s journey, so conversion copywriting might be leveraged to inform buyers’ of their pain points, encourage them to sign-up for newsletters or future offers, or simply increase brand awareness.
Conversion copywriting ultimately falls under the broader topic of website conversion rate optimization (CRO) — or leveraging your website to effectively convert users across your homepage, blog, pricing page, and more.
There’s a difference between conversion copywriting and SEO copywriting. As Chernis puts it, “As a startup founder, I’m in the business of turning customers into evangelists — because evangelists work for you for free. SEO is never going to get me there. Besides, SEO is reliant on you, the search engine user, to take all the action. But with conversion copywriting, I’m driving the conversation and have complete control over where it goes.”
SEO and conversion copywriting can coincide, but the biggest distinction is the goal you’ll have in-mind when creating the content: SEO copy is copy written with the intent of getting on page one of Google. Conversion copy, on the other hand, is written with the intent of keeping readers’ on-page once they find your content.
Consider, for instance, the following LinkedIn post by Chernis:
The piece uses engaging and active language to encourage viewers to join one of Lately’s live video Office Hours. While the content might not pass an ‘SEO-optimized’ test, it doesn’t need to — on social media, it’s more about standing out from the crowd through authentic, creative content.
Next, let’s dive into some of Chernis’ favorite copywriting tips, followed by a few impressive examples of conversion copywriting for inspiration.
11 Conversion Copywriting Tips, According to Lately’s CEO
1. Write like a boss.
The first – and perhaps most important — rule Chernis told me is to write with confidence.
She encourages writers to avoid words like need, think, just, probably, maybe, and possibly. Instead, be direct with your writing and ensure you’re getting your point across without superfluous details.
In the examples below, you’ll notice that the brands and influencers we’ve highlighted do a fantastic job of writing with confidence. Consider Uber, for instance — the car-sharing app’s homepage reads: “Get in the driver’s seat and get paid.” It doesn’t read, “Consider getting into the driver’s seat, and you just might get paid.” It’s direct, firm, and assured.
Confidence is key to making you feel empowered to write directly to your readers and encourage them to take action, without offering apologies or excuses.
2. Remove the phrase ‘check out’ from your vocabulary.
I’ll admit: I’m as guilty of this as anyone.
It can be incredibly easy to write ‘Check out’ when you’re encouraging readers to click on a link or read a blog post, but Chernis suggests using stronger action verbs instead to communicate the value of what someone will get by completing your CTA.
For instance, consider the difference between the CTA link “Check out how to optimize your landing pages here” and “Optimize your landing pages here”. The second one is much stronger, and likely more effective.
3. Don’t bury the lede.
As writers, it can be tempting to create beautiful, long-winded introductions full of humor and imagery and metaphors. But as conversion writers, it’s best to get to the point.
Chernis told me, “There’s something about this ‘warming up to the point’ that we all suffer from, an incessant over-intro’ing. Some of it is out of politeness, but ultimately, you want to be direct and get to that point, lickety split.”
4. Use negative calls-to-action instead of positive ones.
Chernis says, “The bad kid in all of us responds to this tactic.”
Consider how you might leverage negative calls-to-action instead of positive ones — for instance, rather than writing, “Remember to follow these rules”, try “Don’t forget to follow these rules.”
Negative calls-to-action work particularly well for B2C brands. As an avid online shopper myself, I can attest: Seeing ‘Don’t miss out on 10% off’ or ‘Don’t forget to purchase’ is often all the encouragement I need to buy.
5. Leverage ‘why’ and ‘because’.
Whenever possible, aim to use ‘why’ and ‘because’ to posit interesting, thought-provoking, open-ended questions and encourage your viewers to keep reading to find out the answer.
As Chernis explains in her copywriting course with HubSpot:
- ‘Why’ wants to be resolved; the reader expects ‘because’.
- ‘Because’ resolves the ‘why’ and triggers reason, which is an ingrained cue for trust — key for compelling CTAs.
- ‘Because’ at the start of the sentence creates pause.
- ‘Why?’ gets the bonus visual of a question mark.
Consider the HubSpot blog post title, ‘Why your brand needs a strong visual identity’ — for some, this unresolved question will be enough to get them to click.
6. Use the royal we/you.
As Chernis told me, using ‘I’ too often can signify selfishness in a brand. By contrast, using ‘we’ and ‘our’ implies inclusivity and trust, and ‘you’ signifies empathy.
Take a look at the difference between “In this post, I am going to demonstrate five examples of copywriting” versus “In this post, let’s explore five examples of copywriting” or “In this post, we’ll explore five examples of copywriting.”
Feel the difference?
7. Read what you write out loud.
Oftentimes, one of the easiest ways to catch awkward or cumbersome writing is by reading it out loud. Reading your content out loud can help ensure you sound authentic, natural, and human.
Additionally, Chernis encourages writers to seek out different ways to say the same thing by leveraging synonyms. She says, “How can you say the same thing differently and do it in a way that cuts through the noise? We all get lazy, but as conversation copywriters, this is our challenge. Find a more interesting way. Open the thesaurus. And don’t just pick any other word; it has to be the right word.”
8. Write with your eyeballs.
When writing for conversion, consider how your writing looks on the page. Many prospects and visitors will skim through your content, so you want to make that easy for them to do.
Leverage spacing, numbers, exclamation points, question marks, percent signs, emojis, and more to make your content as digestible as possible.
9. Do unto others.
As Chernis puts it, “Having compassion is key. Don’t forget that the person on the other end is a busy, stressed human like you. Take the time to ensure that what you want to communicate will be understood as you intend it.”
Reading out loud is one effective strategy to ensuring your writing conveys empathy. Additionally, put yourself in the reader’s shoes often and ask yourself, ‘Would I click this link?’ ‘Would I find this helpful?’ ‘Would I enjoy this content?’
If you’re not passionate about it, your readers won’t be, either.
10. Write with a clear objective.
Conversion copywriting is different from other types of writing in one key way: You want people to take action as a result of your writing.
Which is why Chernis encourages writers to identify what action you want readers to take, and then work backwards from it.
For instance, on social media, Chernis says there are only two objectives: conversion (click) and reach (share). She says to get readers to share your content, you’ll want to appeal to their ego.
As she puts it, “Reshares are all about ego and the person sharing that content — so make those people look smart and interesting, and they’ll share your content; that’s why Gary V. will write ‘Be nice to others’ and everyone shares it … you want to give people something that will make them look cool to others.”
Additionally, Chernis told me the second action — click — always works with How-Tos and tactical content.
11. Dog-food your own marketing.
Finally, Chernis says successful conversion copywriting is about encouraging employees to share your message on social.
She says, “First and foremost, all of my employees are social beasts. That is a must. We also broadcast all of our Lately branded content on each of their personal social channels, because together, we’re stronger. We even have a Slack channel called #sharingiscaring, where every time someone evangelizes us on social, we drop the link in that Slack channel and my entire team is expected to boost it with likes, comments and re-shares. I might even share those links with other Slack groups or with my investors … because I’m an army of one. I rely on the help of other people.”
Chernis adds, “If your employees aren’t following and sharing your message, you’ve got bigger problems. They should be your biggest fans.”
How Lately Achieved 240% Monthly Recurring Revenue Increase from Copywriting Alone
When I spoke with Chernis about her copywriting tips, I was also curious about the results of her conversion copywriting efforts. Does conversion copywriting actually matter all that much to a business’ bottom line?
Turns out, it does. For Lately, conversion copywriting alone led to a 240% increase in monthly recurring revenue, and a 98% sales conversion rate.
Chernis told me she does one public speaking or guest post every single day. When she’s done, she asks for the file and uploads the file into Lately, which uses artificial intelligence to transcribe the text and pull out one-liners that the AI knows will get the highest re-shares, likes, and comments.
Chernis says, “We don’t do any paid ads, cold calls, or cold emails. Instead, we repurpose all our content to the nth degree. Lately’s AI picks out which bits will get us the most likes, shares, and comments — it knows what our targets want to read, watch, or hear. We then consider those folks ‘warm leads,’ we either qualify or disqualify, and by the time we get them into a demo, we have that 98% sales conversion rate because those leads are hot.”
Ultimately, she told me you can do something similar even without the use of AI. It would just take longer, and you’d have to guess which bits to highlight.
The key is persistency and amplification of each branded message.
Next, let’s dive into some conversion copywriting examples.
Conversion Copywriting Examples
Direct, and to the point.
Spotify sure doesn’t bury the lede with this one: “Get 3 months of Premium for free.” You know exactly what they want you to do (sign-up) and you know exactly what you’ll get for completing the request (3-months free). The focus is on you, the reader. This is an actionable, assertive, powerful example of strong copywriting.
Start-to-finish, this caption is fun, engaging, and personal. It’s concise, but uses playful phrases (i.e. “no mess, no stress”) to connect with Instagram followers.
Additionally, this is an effective example of ‘writing with your eyeballs’. The caption is easily digestible, using sun emojis as bullet points and an arrow to draw attention to the “Available Now” CTA.
3. Ann Handley
Master-marketer/writer Ann Handley is no stranger to strong conversion copywriting. For instance, her newsletter subscription page is concise and informative: Telling you exactly what you’ll get in her newsletter, and even offering an empathetic “Unsubscribe whenever you want” — signaling Handley took the time to understand any concerns her readers might have when signing up.
I love this conversion path from Uber’s homepage: “Get in the driver’s seat and get paid.” The content doesn’t waste time on any benefits beyond the major one: financial gains as a result of signing up to drive for Uber.
Plus, Uber is smart enough to know why most prospects visit their website — to become a driver, explore Uber Eats, or get a ride – so they don’t waste their readers’ time on superfluous content.
Here, Chernis shows an authentic, human side while asking her LinkedIn followers to take action. In particular, notice how Chernis uses negative calls-to-action, i.e. “Learn what not to do” and “Plus all the reasons not doing it are costing you” to effectively convey her message and convince followers to join the live webinar.
Now, it’s your turn.
It’s time for you to take these tips to bring your conversion copy to the next level. The end result is glorious: higher sales, better revenue, more customers, and through-the-roof conversions. It’s up to you to produce the content that will make this happen.
For a Better Long-Term Content Strategy, Find a Purple Audience
When the stock market is up, it doesn’t always follow that the economy is great. When the stock market crashes, it doesn’t always mean the economy is bad.
That’s as true today as it was 25 years ago when I first got into marketing. And it’s a great reminder to avoid basing business decisions on faulty connections.
Over the years, I’ve learned an adjacent lesson about content and audiences: Popularity isn’t a sign of differentiation. People don’t necessarily regard what is popular among online audiences or the media as high quality – or even true.
If you successfully chase trends and feed popular content to audiences, you have not necessarily differentiated your content. On the other hand, differentiating by taking a contrarian or highly niche view of what’s popular doesn’t always work either. How do you blend popularity and differentiation?
Red and blue ocean strategies
In their 2004 book, Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne explain red and blue ocean strategies for marketing. Red oceans are crowded markets where popular products abound and cutthroat sales and marketing strategies rule. Blue oceans are undiscovered markets with little or no competition, where businesses can create new customers or die alone.
In strategic content marketing, most businesses focus on the red oceans – offering short-term, hyper-focus feeding. They look to drive traffic, engagement, and conversions by getting the most people to consume the content. So a red-ocean strategy focuses on topics and content that have proven popular with audiences.
But this strategy makes it difficult to differentiate the content from everyone else’s.
This myopic view of content often prohibits testing the other side – investing in a blue-ocean mindset to find and create new audiences with less-popular content.
Finding a blue niche in a red world
I recently worked with a financial technology company that provides short-term loans to small businesses experiencing a cash-flow crunch. It’s as sales-driven as any team I’ve seen.
When they started, they put much of their marketing and content efforts into a blue-ocean strategy, targeting small businesses that will need a loan within a month.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Five years ago, this company wasn’t the only one to recognize the massive opportunity in fast, easily accessible, short-term lending. A red ocean of new customers who needed these loans grew in a relatively robust economy (and historically low interest rates).
The value of these loans grew from $121 million in 2013 to just over $2 billion in 2018. And competition for this audience’s attention grew, too. As short-term, low-funnel content on accessible lending saturated the market, this strategy became less and less successful because so many fintech companies pursued it.
My client’s team knew they couldn’t only count on this red-ocean audience for new business. They recognized the need to invest time in building a new audience – larger, more established, long-term borrowers.
This audience wouldn’t produce immediate lead generation. But the company wanted to diversify its product line and better support the new audience’s loan-related needs.
The genius of this strategy was teaching, targeting, and building demand for new ideas from a niche within the red audience. Put simply: They created a purple audience by targeting a blue audience within the red one.
The blue audience the team targeted consisted of fast-growing smaller businesses that would soon evolve into established, long-term borrowers. These businesses might want to know the benefits of the short-term availability of cash. The team focused the new learning content platform on teaching companies that don’t need a loan now about the benefits of having a solution at the ready when they do.
The purple audiences took time to develop. But when those audience members entered the red ocean, my client company stayed top of mind because it had bucked the popular trends and offered completely different content.
3 triggers for targeting purple audiences
Deciding to invest in cultivating a purple audience requires some thought. These three considerations can prompt the move to a different audience hue.
1. You’re ready to hedge bets on current efforts
So many companies double down on their content to the point where their strategy incorporates the same content at every stage of the customer’s journey. Why? Because everybody is talking about it.
I see some B2B marketing organizations deliver the same “why change” thought leadership content to prospects as they do their customers. Shouldn’t your customers’ needs and wants change after they purchase your solution?
Developing thought leadership you believe is important but current audiences aren’t yet thinking about can be an excellent hedge.
You shouldn’t deliver the same thought leadership to prospects AND customers. After all, your customers’ needs and wants should change after they buy.
2. You believe the consensus is wrong
Many companies fold their content marketing like a lawn chair because their content goes against the consensus. Last week, a chief marketing officer told me, “Our CEO says we can’t go out with that thought leadership message because people will disagree with us.”
You don’t have to invest the entire budget in a contrarian idea. But if you genuinely believe the world will eventually come to your point of view, build the content infrastructure that supports that opinion and experience a multiplier on the investment.
3. You see an opportunity to steal audience
Look at the most popular content, and you see all your competitors fighting over the eyeballs seeking that topic, trying to outrank everyone on search, and fighting a red ocean of potential audience members. Then, look up and ask, “What’s next?”
You might see a slight trend. Or, as my fintech client did, you may notice a niche blue audience in the red audience. Investing in that content can pull audiences from the popular content into your fledgling purple audience.
SAP’s content site The Future of Customer Engagement and Experience illustrates this concept. During the pandemic, the team, led by Jenn Vande Zande, adjusted its editorial focus to steal a segment of the red-ocean audience seeking COVID-19 coverage. Jenn and team designed the content to appeal to people looking not just for lockdown news but also for the most up-to-date practices and industry information for businesses on customer experience in the COVID-19 era.
SAP created a purple audience.
As a marketer, you should think about new audiences. How can you address them with content that may not be widely popular now but can help them better prepare for what you believe is coming tomorrow?
That’s a better question to answer for long-term content marketing success.
Get Robert’s take in just five minutes:
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