7 steps for writing effective sales copy

Morgan Weistling

You might already be familiar with something called "tripwire" marketing - maybe not because you learned about it in a business course, but rather you experienced it as a consumer.

You've probably seen a website or received an email that went on and on for a really long time (it felt like you were scrolling down forever!), filled with lots of headlines and overflowing with exclamation points and boldface type. It talks rather repetitively about a common complaint, how you're undoubtedly feeling about it, and then...wait for it...there's an amazing, super cheap product that will magically solve your problem.

Then right after you buy it, you start getting more emails or more webpages, promising more satisfaction if you spend more money. The copy for all these messages was most likely written using a tripwire template.

Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with tripwire marketing as a sales tactic. First of all, the name itself has a pretty negative connotation: 
tripwire (noun) - a wire stretched close to the ground that works a trap, explosion or alarm when disturbed, serving to detect or prevent people from entering an area.
Sounds manipulative, like we're supposed to trip people up and force them to fall into a trap. But tripwire marketing tactics are pretty common and have been around for a long time - we see them every day at our supermarkets and department stores, not just online or in emails.


It's really just about using a free or cheap products to bring people in, so that we can then encourage them to buy additional or more expensive products. It can be effective because most people are willing to accept something free or cheap with little or no hesitation, whereas a more expensive product usually gives us pause.

To me, many of the emails and webpages I've seen that were written with tripwire templates feel fake and unnecessarily long-winded, like the crazy carnival guy trying to sell snake oil. But I will say that the basic, boiled-down structure of a tripwire template can actually be a helpful reference for writing concise copy that flows smoothly for the reader.

Whether you're writing an email, an article, a blog post or text for a website page - the words, phrasing, format and length you choose should flow naturally and guide your readers such that they genuinely want to keep reading what you've written from beginning to end. I'm not talking about manipulation, I'm talking about sincere engagement. Hopefully I'm doing that for you right now...  :-)

Here are 7 steps for writing effective sales copy:

  1. Write a headline that speaks directly to a perceived problem or need
  2. Feature engaging or aspirational images
  3. Define your customer's perceived problem or need clearly
  4. Support your statements with facts and testimonials to establish authority and credibility
  5. Offer your product/service as a solution with easy "click here" purchasing access
  6. Include simple, bulleted details about the features and benefits of your product/service
  7. Anticipate potential objections and provide answers to frequently asked questions
Whenever you need to write specifically about what you sell, and you want to see click-throughs that convert to sales, I believe that following these steps will give you the best chance of success.

Just remember to balance your sales messages with non-commercial content. Too much "buy me, buy me" without enough useful information, inspiration and/or education makes for very unhappy readers who will not likely become loyal customers or ambassadors.