by Robert Bly Author, Copywriter and Marketing Consultant
I love formulas for writing for two reasons.
First, the best formulas are simple, easy to remember and rapidly mastered. Knowing them can help you create content and copy that’s twice as effective in half the time.
Second, the reason they became formulas in the first place is that they work!
There are literally dozens of time-tested content and copywriting formulas out there. If you don’t know any of them, you could be unnecessarily wasting your time reinventing the wheel with each promotion you write. You could also be writing inferior copy that diminishes sales.
One of the oldest formulas — and perhaps the most famous — is AIDA. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. It says persuasive copy must first grab the reader’s attention, then get them interested in what you’re selling, then create a desire to own the product and finally ask for action.
AIDA is one of my favorite formulas — I’ve been using it to write successful promotions for four decades. Even better, it works just as well for content.
Less well-known than AIDA, but in its way almost as powerful, is the SELWAB formula. SELWAB is a mnemonic device to remind marketers what’s most important to the prospect. It stands for “start every letter with a benefit.”
Yet another writing formula I use — one I invented — is the "Five C’s." It says that every good piece of content is clear, concise, compelling and credible, and has a call to action. Let’s take a look at each element of the Five C’s formula in a bit more detail.
Your writing must be clear to everyone who reads it — not just to you or the client or the marketing director or the product manager. There’s an oft-quoted saying I like that defines clarity this way: “It’s not enough to write so that you can be understood. You must write so that you cannot be misunderstood.”
The typical advice given in writing classes about clarity is to use small words and short sentences, paragraphs and sections. This is sensible, as they make your content easier to read.
But clear writing stems primarily from clear thinking, and the converse is also true. If you don’t really understand what you’re talking about, your writing will be weak, rambling and obtuse. On the other hand, when you understand your subject matter, know your audience and have a useful and important idea you want to convey, the clarity of your writing will inevitably reflect that.
Call to Action
A call to action (CTA) tells the readers what action they should take and how to do it. These CTAs can appear throughout the text, or you can put them in a box or sidebar to make them stand out. Common CTAs include:
Downloading a free white paper or ebook
Registering for a webinar or teleseminar
Getting a password to access protected content on a website
Requesting a free estimate
Asking to get a phone call from a sales rep
Purchasing a product online from a shopping cart
Subscribing to an online newsletter