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4 Persuasive Sales Copywriting Techniques to be a More Effective Copywriter — Starting Today!

It’s one of the greatest challenges for any business:

Just how do you make sure your sales copy delivers the results you want?

Today, I’m going to give you four simple-to-implement techniques that American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) has been teaching copywriters for the past 20 years. American Writers & Artists Inc.

Understand them and start applying them to all the copy you review. You’ll end up with sales copy (and content, too) that’s more compelling, more engaging, and more persuasive.

And, if you’re the boss, your writers will appreciate the clear and effective direction they’ll be getting from you when you use the four persuasive sales copywriting techniques.

(RELATED: Perpetual Traffic Episode 34: 14 Elements of Persuasive Ad Copy)

And, these copywriting techniques apply to ANY type of marketing copy you’re about to publish:

  • Search Ads
  • Web Pages
  • Video Sales Letters (VSLs)
  • Email Campaigns
  • Direct-Mail Campaigns

Let’s go through each method in detail…

Persuasive Sales Copywriting Technique #1: The Power of One©

Let’s start by asking this question…

What is good writing? "One good idea, clearly and convincingly presented, is better than a doze so-so ideas strung together." ~Mark Ford

Master Copywriter and business-building guru Mark Ford’s answer is:

“Good writing is good thinking… clearly expressed.”

 “To be a good copywriter,” continues Mark, “you need to be able to present good ideas clearly. And, the best way to do this is to limit yourself to a single idea. One good idea, clearly and convincingly presented, is better than a dozen so-so ideas strung together.”

At AWAI, we call this The Power of One©.

The Power of One©:

  • Emphasizes one good idea
  • Stirs one core emotion
  • Tells one captivating story
  • Directs the prospect to one inevitable response

The Power of One© is something credible the reader can grasp IMMEDIATELY. Something that offers a clear benefit, whether it’s achieving a goal or overcoming a problem.

The Power of One© is critical to marketers.

"The Power of One© is something credible the reader can grasp immediately."It’s getting harder to break through the noise of today’s marketing landscape. One strong, core idea can help you do that.

To give you some examples, in his book, How to Write a Good Advertisement, Victor Schwab (the “greatest mail-order copywriter of all time”) reveals a list of successful headlines, 90% of which are based on The Power of One©. They include:

  • The Secret of Making People Like You
  • Is the Life of a Child Worth $1 to You?
  • To Men Who Want to Quit Work Someday
  • Are You Ever Tongue-Tied at a Party?
  • Who Else Wants a Screen Star Figure?
  • You Can Laugh at Money Worries – If You Follow This Simple Plan
  • When Doctors Feel Rotten This is What They Do
  • How I Improved My Memory in One Evening
  • Discover the Fortune That Lies Hidden in Your Salary
  • How I Made a Fortune with a “Fool Idea”
  • Have You a “Worry” Stock?

These are all singular ideas that are instantly comprehensible. You can read those headlines and know what’s in store and why it might be of benefit to you.

Here’s a recent Power of One© example written by “A-list” copywriter Carline Anglade-Cole. It’s all about the “Beet Secret”…

"Beet Secret" of Olympic athletes copywriting example

This is a far more powerful approach than hitting the reader with a cluster of promises they must sift through for the one that appeals to them.

Here’s an example of too many ideas for a product that teaches people how to create their own Money-Making Website…

“Turn something you love to do in your spare time into $750 … $1,500 … $3,500 and upward per month.

Money that comes in whether you’re working, sleeping, playing golf, or relaxing on the beach.

And … No technical skills needed …

No more answering to a boss …

Make Google work for you!”

"Be sure that the core idea is woven throughout the entire promotion."And, here it is after the writer focused on The Power of One©

“Make money in your spare time.

Turn something you love to do in your spare time into $750 … $1,500 … $3,500 and upward per month.

Money that comes in whether you’re working, sleeping, playing golf, or relaxing on the beach.”

Next, when you’re working with a copywriter, ideally, you should agree on the core idea with the copywriter before he or she begins writing.

And then, as you’re reviewing the piece, you want to be sure that the core idea is woven throughout the entire promotion, just as it is in sales page below

An example of a sales page the effectively weaves a core idea throughout.

In the image above, you see The Power of One© technique broken down for a product that teaches people how to write and publish their own ebooks. The copy of the entire sales page includes:

  • One Big Idea: There’s no product easier to create or sell online than an ebook.
  • One Emotion the reader should feel: e.g.: “It’s simple! How exciting. I bet I can do this!”
  • One Engaging Story to express your Big Idea: e.g.: “My very first ebook has generated $20,727 in sales.”
  • One Big Promise: e.g.: “You could make huge profits very quickly by creating and selling your own ebooks.”
  • One Action they need to take to achieve this outcome: e.g.: “The only way to get this book for $19 is to ‘click here now.’”

From The Power of One©, we move on to…

(NOTE: Is your sales copy seizing attention and sparking desire? Start crafting gripping, persuasive sales copy that flat-out sells when you become a Direct Response Copywriting Specialist. Learn more now!)

Persuasive Sales Copywriting Technique #2: The 4 U’s©

A headline does 90% of the work in any piece of sales copy.

It’s the first thing the reader sees and might be the only thing they read.

When someone lands on a web page or opens a letter, they make a snap judgment about whether to read it based on whether they think there’s something valuable in it for them.

A good headline needs to: "A headline does 90% of the work in any piece of sales copy."

  • Grab attention
  • Arouse interest
  • Create desire
  • Motivate someone to read on

Doing all four takes skill, which is why headlines are the most difficult thing to get right and why they need the most work.

(RELATED: Want More Traffic From Google? Use these 5 Blog Post Headline Templates)

At AWAI, we teach a headline-review technique called the 4 U’s©.

It’s a scoring method that both writers and non-writers can use to create powerful headlines that ATTRACT attention and COMPEL your target customers to dive into the rest of your message.

The 4 U's Formula: 1. Useful 2. Ultra-Specific 3. Urgent 4. Unique

The 4 U’s© are:

1. Useful

A good headline should offer something USEFUL to the prospect.

"A good headline should offer something useful to the prospect."For example, someone in need of relationship advice would find “7 Magic Words that Will Convince Any Woman to Date You” useful.

If they were looking for nutritional advice, then “The Kitchen Cabinet Food that Burns Away Body Fat” would be a useful idea.

If you sell golf shoes, then “Is This the Most Comfortable Golf Shoe Ever?” would entice a golfer with a clearly useful benefit.

2. Ultra-Specific

Wherever possible, use SPECIFIC details.

They make what you’re promising more real, believable, and achievable.

Rather than “Save Money on a New Car,” write “Save $1,999 on a New Audi.”

Change “Boost Your Profits,” to “How to Get 3,800% R.O.I.”

Instead of “New Slimming Secret,” try “New Slimming Secret from Osaka, Japan.”

Bring a headline to life with:

  • Numbers
  • Prices
  • Dates
  • Times
  • Measurements
  • Names

However, when possible, avoid round numbers as they appear made up. So instead of “10 Ways to Double Your Open Rates” use “7 Ways to Increase Open Rates By at Least 126%.”

3. Urgent

Show that your message is TIME-SENSITIVE and cannot be ignored or left until later.

It’s ideal when you have a real deadline or time element such as: “6 Stocks That Are Poised to Take Off Before Election Day.”

But… you can still apply this “U” when an urgent deadline is NOT applicable.

Here are a few classic headlines that also create a sense of urgency without a real deadline:

  • “What Never… EVER to Eat on an Airplane!” — You’d want to know this before your next flight.
  • “Are You Making This Mistake with Your English?” — You’d want to know this mistake ASAP to avoid embarrassment.
  • “Erase Your Worse Pain… For Hours and Hours. Guaranteed. — If you’re in pain, you’d want to know this solution now.

4. Unique

Try to bring out the UNIQUENESS of your message, idea, or story.

For instance, “How this Rare Manuka Honey Protects You from MRSA” is a unique headline — whereas “How to Protect Yourself From MRSA” is something you might read anywhere.

Rule of Thumb: At AWAI, we’ve found that a good headline contains at least two of the 4 U’s©.

Here are some more examples of headlines that use the 4 U’s©:

  • Give Me 5 Days and I’ll Give You the Secret of Speaking Spanish Like a Local!
  • Do You Have One of The 7 Early Warning Signs of Dementia?
  • 7 Proven Ways to Make $370-$1,100 a Week Selling Used Books on
  • Ex-Bank Manager Reveals How to Clear Your Debts in 4 Steps
  • This All-Natural Himalayan Tea Reduces Anxiety, Sleeplessness, and Stress with Every Sip
  • Lose 37 Pounds in the Next 14 Weeks with Honey, Lemon, and Garlic

When your headline is as strong as it can be, it’s time to improve the body copy…

Persuasive Sales Copywriting Technique #3: The 4 P’s©

The 4 P’s© is a technique you can use to judge a whole piece of copy from top to bottom.

The 4 P’s© are the four elements EVERY piece of sales copy needs to be successful. They’re the framework to build your sales argument… the structure you need to follow to persuade your reader to take the action you want him to take.

They are:

  1. Picture
  2. Promise
  3. Proof
  4. Push

Let’s look at them in detail…


A picture, in copywriting terms, is a real-life scenario or story that illustrates a problem or goal your prospect will have.

Good copy should get the reader to VISUALIZE the positive benefits of your product or service, or the negative outcomes they might experience without the help of your service or product. "Good copy should get the reader to visualize the positive benefits of your product or service." ~Katie Yeakle

To help the reader imagine this, share a scenario by painting a picture using words.

The following sample is the classic opening of a sales letter for International Living magazine. It taps into their prospect’s dreams of a luxurious, peaceful, and affordable retirement abroad.

International Living magazine taps into their prospect’s dreams of a luxurious, peaceful, and affordable retirement abroad by painting a picture with words.

Whatever you’re selling, your readers need to imagine themselves in the very real outcome…

  • The scent of the leather in their new Mercedes E-Class Cabriolet…
  • The admiring looks they’ll get when they wear their skinny jeans…
  • Their smiling wife and children as they surprise them with the holiday of a lifetime…

Let’s take a dental hygiene product, for example. You could sell this item based on:

  • NEGATIVE EMOTIONS: fear of bad breath, decaying teeth, and gum disease
  • POSITIVE EMOTIONS: a more attractive smile, healthy teeth and gums

Get your audience to imagine how confident they would feel flashing their lovely white teeth, with people commenting on how much younger and healthier they look.

The picture should come first, either in the headline or the lead copy. Then, you move on to…


Once you’ve created a picture in the reader’s mind, make a specific promise based on the best benefit of your product or service, showing how it can help create that ideal scenario or avoid the nightmare one.

Using our dental hygiene example, you could promise, “Healthy, white teeth in 21 days,” for instance.

Or a pain relief product might have this promise: “Enjoy natural relief from stiff, painful joints — starting right now!”

Here’s a powerful example of a promise from a wildly successful online Video Sales Letter:

An example of a promise from a VSL: "Brand new knees in 90 days!"

But… remember The Power of One©. This single promise needs to recur throughout the copy.

Next, let’s talk about…


To make your promise effective, it must be credible and achievable.

So, the sales copy must offer solid proof that backs up your claims.

To make your prospect believe you, include:

  • Facts: Back up your promise with statistics, charts, quotes, illustration, sales figures, examples, diagrams, etc., like Proactiv does here:

Proactiv backing up their Promise with Facts.

  • Credentials: Who is the person behind the product or service? What qualifications, experience, or expertise do they have?
  • Media Coverage: Showcase instances where you, your products, and/or services have been reviewed, quoted, or praised.
  • Testimonials: Prove that your product or service works by showcasing testimonials. Give preference to those that highlight a major benefit rather than simply saying “It was great.” AWeber does a good job of this.

AWeber testimonials

  • Comparison: Compare your product to other types of products or services in terms of price, speed, reliability, effectiveness, and other factors.
  • Track Record: Include trials, experiments, results, or real-life case studies. If you can “show and tell” with compelling visuals (before/after, charts, etc.), even better.
  • Social Influence: Prospects will give more credence to an idea when they see others doing it. For instance, “We did a study of people in your town, and discovered that your neighbors chose SuperEnergy 6 to 1 over other similar drinks.”

The following website image includes a couple of copy points showing strong proof:

  • 91% of owners surveyed recommend Sleep Number
  • Lasts twice as long as an innerspring

Sleep Number using strong Proof to back up their Promise

Once you’ve proven your point, it’s time to get the reader to take action…


Getting the viewer to take action is known as a “push” or a “call-to-action” and it involves three steps:

  1. Remind them of the urgency of the problem the product can solve.
  2. Tell them precisely what they need to do to get the benefits you’ve promised. For instance, tell them to click the link or give you a call.
  3. Explain how easy it is to take action now.

Then give them special and genuine reasons for them to act now, including:

  • Special Offer: This could include a discount, bonus extras, free delivery, or risk-free trial.
  • Scarcity: This could be a limited release: “There are only 50 printed copies.” Or an offer with limited supply/availability: “These are the last 23 available.”
  • Time Sensitivity: Why is acting quickly so important? “The deadline for your tax return is April XX.” Or, “You want to get this set up in time for Christmas.” Or, “If you wait until next month to do this, you might find yourself paying double for your heating.”
  • Ease: Emphasize how easy and simple it is to order, and tell them how soon they can get the product and enjoy the benefits. For instance, “As soon as you click, you’ll get instant access,” or “I’ll rush you a copy in the first-class post,” or “You could be up and running within 3 days’ time.”

Finally, reassure the reader that taking this prompt action will not cause them any risk.

This is known as “risk reversal” and could involve reminding them of the following:

  • Trial Offer: Either a risk-free trial or free trial membership.
  • Return Policy: Money-back guarantee — say how and when they’ll get their money during the cooling-off period.
  • Support and Contact: Reassure them with customer service contact details and support should they have problems.

Here’s an example showing the Push element (“Register … by midnight on October 14 to save up to 20% off on-site registration costs”):

(RELATED: Perpetual Traffic Episode 84: Ryan Deiss: 7 Questions I Ask Myself Before I Finish Writing Ad Copy)

And that leads us to our final method…

(NOTE: Is your sales copy seizing attention and sparking desire? Start crafting gripping, persuasive sales copy that flat-out sells when you become a Direct Response Copywriting Specialist. Learn more now!)

Persuasive Sales Copywriting Technique #4: Flesch-Kincaid Score

The Flesch-Kincaid (FK) score will help you or your writers improve the readability of your copy because it rates text on a U.S. school grade level and provides a “grade.” For instance, an FK score of 6.8 is much easier to read than a score of 11.8.

You should insist that your copywriters include the FK score as part of their editing process for the following reasons:

  • Ease: You want to make it as quick and easy as possible for the reader to consume the message without pause or confusion. You can lose customers if the copy becomes boring or confusing at any point. To get across big, complex ideas, you need to write in a way a 5th grader can understand.
  • Emotions: To tap into the emotions of your readers, you must pull down the language barriers. The more direct the copy, the more emotionally hard-hitting.
  • Trust: To gain trust, you must sound like a real person who is “like” the reader and speaks in their language. What’s more, your customers’ brains are hardwired to trust simpler writing. The easier it is to read, the more believable it becomes.
  • Action: If it isn’t absolutely clear what the reader needs to do and why, they’re less likely to take action and click the order button.

To check copy for an FK score, writers can use the “Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test” tool built into the MS Word® Spelling & Grammar.

  1. Simply open the document, click on the Word drop-down menu, and then click on Preferences.

Click on the Word drop-down menu and then click on Preferences

  1. Go to Spelling and Grammar and make sure the “Show readability statistics” option is checked.

Go to Spelling and Grammar and make sure the “Show readability statistics” option is checked

  1. Run a Spelling and Grammar check.
  2. After you’ve completed the spelling and grammar check, a summary box will pop up like this:

Word spelling and grammar summary box

Look at the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (7.2 in this example).

A score of 5.0 or less is ideal and shows that the copy is very readable. A score of 10.0 or above is poor and does not make for good sales copy.

If the copy is between 5-8, that’s okay. Look for “sections” that may be problematic and focus on those.

For example, you’ll want to look out for…

  • Long sentences. See if you can shorten them.
  • Too many adverbs.
  • Flowery, overly poetic language.
  • Jargon, business-speak or stuffy academic phrases.
  • Clichés.

Here’s an example of simple, short copy with a very low FK score of 2.8.

An example of simple, short copy with a FK score of 2.8

Remember, though, the FK score technique is only a tool. It can be used to improve the readability of copy.

But, if the writer hasn’t focused on The Power of One©, written a powerful headline using the 4 U’s©, and followed the 4 P’s© format, the copy won’t help make more sales.

(RELATED: These 5 “Copy Cosmetic” Mistakes Are Costing You Conversions)

Therefore, the FK score check should be done at the editing stage.

So, what’s next?

Ready to Make Sure Your Copy is the Best It Can Be, Generating Great Results?

Remember to follow these four AWAI-taught techniques when writing sales copy or reviewing drafts from your copywriters:

  • The Power of One©
  • The 4 U’s© for headlines
  • The 4 P’s©
  • The FK Score

Then, keep a swipe file of…

  • emails
  • sales letters
  • ads
  • online sales videos
  • websites

…that have grabbed your attention. Use this swipe file as both a learning tool and an inspirational device to write persuasive sales copy.

Looking to build your swipe file? Keep up with the popular news websites that have mastered the art of “clickbait,” too.

Clickbait is the term for eye-catching social media headlines that readers can’t resist clicking on, like this one:

An example of clickbait: "Man Tries to Hug a Wild Lion, You Won't Believe What Happens Next!"

While clickbait may have a bad connotation, it isn’t bad when it delivers on the promise of the headline. So, deliver that promise and that value!

You’ll see clickbait on these websites:

Adding these practices to the four persuasive sales copywriting techniques we taught in this article will help you and your writers craft sales copy that will generate leads and sales.

(NOTE: Is your sales copy seizing attention and sparking desire? Start crafting gripping, persuasive sales copy that flat-out sells when you become a Direct Response Copywriting Specialist. Learn more now!)

Katie Yeakle

Katie Yeakle

Katie Yeakle has spent over 30 years in the world of direct marketing and publishing in the roles of copy editor, editorial coordinator, product manager, fulfillment supervisor, marketing manager and publisher. Recognizing the industry-wide need for talented copywriters who can deliver copy that sells, she helped establish American Writers & Artists Inc. with co-founders Paul Hollingshead and Don Mahoney in 1997. Today, as Executive Director, Katie oversees AWAI’s 70+ programs designed to train writers on how to deliver the marketing materials businesses need to thrive.

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