By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning content writer and author who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
The 1-2-3-4 copywriting formula has long been used to sell. But there’s no reason why this writing template should be relegated for use in ads and direct mail only.
I’ve been trained as a copywriter – those who write to sell. But to be honest, I don’t like to “sell” readers. It makes me feel manipulative and greasy.
However, I like to offer readers answers to their questions and solutions to their problems.
Take this article, for instance. I want to encourage and equip writers with tools to help you be persuasive. So, I feel comfortable coming alongside you and showing you what simple writing tips have worked for me.
The 1-2-3-4 copywriting formula is one of those.
I’ve found this little template useful in persuading readers in all kinds of content: blog posts, articles, email campaigns, cover letters, articles, scripts – anytime I’m writing to convince my reader to understand information, adopt a point of view, or take an action.
I like it for two reasons.
You can easily learn to use this nifty little template. Do so, and you can become a persuasive powerhouse, no matter what kind of content you write.
The 1-2-3-4 formula is a series of four simple questions – questions your reader asks quietly in her mind. Each represents a piece of information the reader must know in order to be persuaded.
The four questions are …
When you answer each of those questions, your writer sees that you understand her. She is more apt to be persuaded to buy, give, click, respond, or act.
In your content opening, state a solution to a problem.
The problem is one your reader has. Your solution may be a product, service, special deal, information, method, savings, or unique insight.
You can present the problem and solution a few ways.
This is the place where you explain your solution’s benefits – not just its features.
To be clear:
Don’t assume you reader can make a mental leap from a description of your solution’s features to understanding how your solution will benefit her. She has the ability. But make it easy for her. Seeing benefits on paper affirms them in her mind.
Talk directly to her. Outline the benefits that specifically impact your reader … not for someone else. How does your solution make her life better? What information or expertise will she gain? What time or money will she save? Spell out in clear language what the advantages of the facts mean for her.
Here’s an example of benefit-oriented language: You can easily learn to use this nifty little template. Do so, and you can become a persuasive powerhouse, no matter what kind of content you write.
What’s the feature?
What are the benefits?
Practical writing tip: notice that benefit-oriented language uses the word “you.”
Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. She’s flooded with content. Why should she believe yours? Give her good reason to do so.
Professional expertise and academic credentials are useful. But the best way to be believable is to show you are trustworthy.
I find myself apt to trust another person when they are …
Explain to your reader what problem you had and why the solution you present in your writing works for you. When you infuse humanity into your content, readers are more ready to trust you and believe what you write.
Maybe you’ve made a compelling case by answering the first three questions. You’ve persuaded your reader and she is ready to respond. But without a clear call to action, your reader may not know how to act … or if she should even do so.
Tell your reader what to do next. Spell out the step she should take, like ...
A typical writing formula is structured as a step-by-step guide. Writers follow the format one step at a time. And that sequential approach works when using the 1-2-3-4 copywriting formula, but it’s not necessary. For instance, you could introduce your credentials at the top of the piece rather than three-quarters of the way through it in an answer to Question #3: “Who are you?”
But if you want to persuade you reader – and you’ve chosen 1-2-3-4 to do so – then you MUST answer all four questions. Otherwise, you’ll leave readers confused or unconvinced.
Let’s say you omit an answer to Question #2: “What is it going to do for me?” Even if you’ve described a perfect solution to the reader’s problem, why should she embrace the solution? She doesn’t see what’s in it for her.
What should you do with this template? Test it. Use the 1-2-3-4 copywriting formula in your next writing project. Be sure to answer all 4 questions in your content.
My bet is you’ll persuade your readers to take their next step, too.
More Writing Formulas to Try
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