Stop Losing Readers by Finding the Sweet Spot Between Sales and Story

Finding the Sweet Spot Between Sales and Story

With the possible exception of those confusing feelings you harbor toward your sister-in-law, nothing is more bewildering than a Google search about writing better copy. Take note of statistics! Make it all about connection! Use these words! Don’t use these words!

It’s a total mess. And for a long time, I just couldn’t get past it. I was stuck in limbo, losing money and clients as I tried to decide which approach to take:

Sales? Or story?

A Tale of Two Concepts

Some writers tout narrative above all else. Others are far more militant, sending the vague impression that failure to account for headline scores will land you in some copywriter’s gulag from whence there is no escape.

Sales and story are at war, as if one could possibly be better than the other. But the truth is, no one likes a hard sell, just as no one likes a wandering anecdote. If you want to maximize conversion and audience interest, you need both. Here’s how.

Stop Worrying About Stats (Except Headlines)

I sincerely hope you’re writing for clients with lists in the hundreds of thousands. If so, good on you. However, most freelance copywriters have smaller clients: creatives, solopreneurs, micro-businesses run out of converted garages. In that case, sales tactics that increase this by 8 percent or decrease that by 12 just don’t matter.

The exception is headlines. Those, along with subject lines, weigh heavily into whether your reader will actually give you a chance, so don’t mess around. If you’re a newbie, Moz has got your back.

Bury the Lede

Gasp! Bury the lede?? But I’m a writer!

For those of you who didn’t go to J-school, this simply means keeping your real message in reserve for a paragraph or two. Why? Because absolutely no conversation between actual humans begins with “I can save you 25 percent on grocery bills over the next three months!” You’ve got something to say, and that’s great. But first you have to make sure they want to hear it.

So tell an embarrassing story about yourself. Take a stand. Comment on politics. Just spend a sentence or two convincing your reader you give a crap about this thing you call a conversation before you actually toss out that offer.

Make Your Calls to Action … Action-y

This is where sales come in. When it comes to your call to action, you cannot eff around. Too many copywriters forget this, hoping readers will sort of click around and land on something that makes them want to give away tons of money.

Uh … nope. Doesn’t happen. On the other hand, a single call to action can increase clicks by 371 percent and sales by a whopping 1617 percent. Whoa, right?

So if you want copy to convert, you need a clear, concise and doable call to action. Click this. Buy that. Head to this landing page. Add this to your shopping cart. Whatever you’re selling and whomever you’re writing for, basic human psychology is the same: Baaaaaaaaaa. Tell us what to do.

Still a little lost? Here are some kickass CTA examples to get you started.

The truth is, despite what the blogosphere would have you believe, there is no one trick that will turn non-converting copy into The World’s Most Impressive Marketing Engine. But if you loosen up and step away from the sales or story debate, you’ll find that your content gets read more, earns you more clients and more gigs, and just stinks less all around.

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