I recently asked on Instagram what you want to know more about, and over and over again you asked me ALL ABOUT copywriting formulas.
What are they, and how do you use them and how do you write them for your creative small business? In this post and corresponding video, I am giving you the one proven copywriting formula you need.
Oooh, y’all got me a good one … I can get real nerdy about this. I LOVE a good copywriting formula—not only does it make your work easier, it makes you more efficient.
Lately, I have written a sales page or an email funnel a week if not more for our clients— in fact, we just came off a launch that helped an affiliate land around $700k in sales and $1.4 million for the program creator herself—and secret? I used so many formulas throughout the launch campaign. Why? Because they work—and not just in an “it’ll get the job done” kind of way, but in a “tried, tested, proven” kind of way.
Now it’s taken me years to get to where I know how and when to use them. Do you HAVE to use a copywriting formula every time you write something? No. Just like an efficient calligrapher has her Hunt 101 nibs and her blue pumpkin nib nearby (Pssst. where my calligraphers at?! You know that’s my background!) she may opt to use a brush pen to create art to digitize for a wedding invitation. Same thing. You have your tools nearby, you know what to use when.
But if I were starting from absolute scratch every time I went to type something, it would have taken me such a long time to get to where I am today! The main thing I find formulas to be useful for is helping organize your message. You know when you sit down and feel like it’s fitting an ocean in a teacup? Like you have so much to say and don’t know where to start? This helps you get started and make sense out of all.the.things.
Here’s a moment to take a deep breath and receive the permission to “do less”… ready for it? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every blog post or tweet— you can save time and increase your readership with tested copywriting formulas.
My Go-to Copywriting Formula: P.A.R.I.S
Since I’m not very good at keeping secrets, I’m cannonballing into the deep end and giving you one of my most profitable, powerful formulas. It’s my simple, go-to copy formula that you can use in your business to turn to when it’s time to draft copy that turns heads and piques interest.
You may also be interested in: Find Your Brand Voice: How to Add Personality to Your Copywriting
My formula is P.A.R.I.S.—I know, on-brand, right?
And if you haven’t heard it before, it’s because I made it up—well, I riffed on the things out there that are already working to help me explain it to creative business owners like you. I’ll explain as we go.
So to really break it down, I’m going to get into the 5 steps of a formula that I’ve used and continued to use with clients and students that I work with.
(PLUS, in this week’s YouTube video, I show you some examples so you can see how this works, no matter what industry you’re in!)
Copywriting Formula Step No. 1 – Problem
P is for “Problem.”
People don’t quit habits or make a decision without a reason, so we have to GIVE them one.
You’ve probably heard Problem-Agitate-Solution. I’ve told my students before it’s the little black dress of copywriting formulas—it’s going absolutely nowhere anytime soon—and copywriter Dan Kennedy described it like this:
“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this first formula is. (…) It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.” ~ Dan Kennedy
So, we’re going to start with the problem, but you need to start here because your reader is thinking “so what” as they work through your copy, so they’ve got to track with you.
Here’s the thing: I work with a LOT of artists, creatives, makers, and they always say to me how hard it is to figure out how to write copy when your people don’t have traditional “pain points.” You’re selling beauty or luxury, and it’s so difficult to figure out the “pain point” or problem.
Now—if you don’t like the word “problem,” think what’s the CHALLENGE. I have a TON of students who are NOT selling something that’s gonna like, make you more money or cure a disease. In fact, most of my students are selling something that could kinda be considered a luxury. Art, high-end photography, DJ services, creative direction, destination wedding cakes, party subscription boxes, or something that’s just beautiful for beauty’s sake.
One example from one of my Copywriting for Creatives™ students is Tavia who is a birth and newborn photographer and educator. She really dug into what I teach and picks the problem so well on her homepage, so I wanted to show you her headline:
“Imagine this: It’s 18 years from now, and you’re sending your baby off to college.”
She is picking at that problem that new mamas have, that idea that the days can feel long, but the years just fly by.
Another student, Emma, wrote the services page for one of her offerings after going through what I teach. Her headline reads:
“Are you too close to your genius to recognize your superpower?”
Both her headline and Tavia’s are positive sentiments that still call out a potential challenge, pain point, or stumbling place. They put the reader in a place where they’re a little bit “called out” and realize you might have their number, so to speak.
From there, we move into step 2.
Copywriting Formula Step No. 2 – Agitate
by talking about what it would be like if this problem persisted. Here, we want to give a bit more copy that describes what this is like for them. Using what you’ve learned through your client or customer voice hacking, say things they’re already thinking straight back to them.
Bonus tip—and many of you have heard me say this to the creative industry before, but quit putting all of your services on one page. Break them up, because there’s no way that your $300 floral package customer that’s getting your services for her brand shoot has the same problems as your bride that’s ready to shell out a few thousand for a country club install and day-of pieces for her wedding. (My general rule is “sell one thing to one person one at a time.”
BUT, before you stay too long on the agitation or let them tumble down a spiral of depression, we come in with step 3.
Copywriting Formula Step No. 3 – Remind
Done well, these first few things can be presented as a sort of mini-story, which can be really fun. I say it all the time: story sells, and this is a strategic way to add it in and make story useful.
If you’re doing the client and customer voice hacking like I talked about in step 2—you can continue to pull that out here. Keep in mind, your client voice hacking serves as a never-ending suite of ideas that you can use for content, blogs, opt-ins, and whatever it might be.
For here, focus on what that deep, “so what” is. Really get to the core of it.
Copywriting Formula Step No. 4 – Interest
If you were thinking, I’ve heard this before, you’d be right, but this is where I like to shake it up a bit. This is the part where I find your reader might sort of catch on to you, so I like to add in some interest, oftentimes with something like a fact.
We buy with our emotions and back it up with the rational mind, so I like to just talk straight to that here. This engages them—it could be fresh info they’ve never heard, or something counter-intuitive or borderline shocking, or just an unexpected BUT related thought that will help your argument. (But it gives their emotions a break for a minute and wakes up that logical mind.)
Some of my favorite ways to add interest are to use a stat or numbers, take a stand or have an interesting opinion on a subject, or report on something you’ve seen or noticed.
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Copywriting Formula Step No. 5 – Solution
Tell them exactly the way you can work with them to alleviate this challenge or friction point in their life. Spell it out with plain and simple, easy-to-understand, straightforward details.
At this point in my P.A.R.I.S. formula, you’ve made a sales argument, before you ever, ever start talking about the product or its price.
Many, many writers and advertisers tread the waters before us and found formulas that just plain work—whether it’s an Instagram caption about your Black Friday sale, an email newsletter, or your services page.
Now, no copywriting formula can guarantee that your service or product will sell—for things like this to work, you really have to have done the research, understanding your audience like the back of your hand.
Now, I know this was a lot of information, a little like drinking from a firehose, but I’m hoping it gave you some clarity on how—even if you can’t hire a copywriter—you know enough to be dangerous about writing your services page or at least freshening it up a bit, so you can make sure your website words are pulling their weight.
Now ultimately, to be persuasive and attention-grabbing in copywriting, you have to tell your story with your voice, I have an entire 10-page guide to finding your brand voice, which you can get here.
And once you have this formula and your voice, you’re well on your way to continuing to craft an unforgettable brand—and if you want 8 MORE tips on how to do that, catch my last blog post!