3 Copywriting Formulas You Don’t Know (But Should!)

I admit I have a love-hate relationship with copywriting formulas.

On the one hand, they capture the best practices of writing sales copy in a way that’s easy to remember and apply. On the other, I don’t like the “paint by numbers” aspect because that can limit thinking and creativity.

After all, you want to be free to paint outside the lines occasionally!

That said, formulas can be helpful as a tool (not a rule) for writing compelling sales copy. So, it’s smart to have a few good ones in your writing toolkit.

There are many well-known copywriting formulas: AIDA, The Motivating Sequence, and The 5 Ps, to name a few.

Here are three more you probably haven’t come across. That’s because I developed these for my copywriting workshops and rarely share them publicly — until now.

1. The RICE formula for B2B marketing emails

This one is handy for writing promotional emails targeting B2B prospects, such as business owners, managers and other professionals.

  • Relevant
  • Immediate
  • Concise
  • Easy-to-scan

B2B prospects are often busy; in work-mode. They see the week ahead filled with tasks, projects, goals and expectations. So they’re most likely to respond to emails that are relevant to what’s on their plate right now and give them an immediate benefit.

And because these prospects receive dozens of emails each day, they don’t have time to wade through a lot of information. So, your emails need to be concise and easy-to-scan.

By the way, concise doesn’t necessarily mean short. It simply means you’re making every word count and keeping your copy as tight as possible.

2. The BALI formula for writing about benefits.

When reviewing sales copy written by clients and students, I’ve noticed that many fall into the trap of writing benefit lines in just one or two ways. To the reader, that can get dull quickly. The BALI formula reminds you of all four variations so you can mix things up.

  • Before
  • After
  • List
  • Imagine

Before refers to stating the benefit and then the feature. For example:

[Benefit] Want to vanquish night-before presentation jitters? [Feature] In the workshop, you’ll master a 3-step technique for…

After refers to stating the benefit after the feature. For example:

[Feature] Learn a 3-step technique for delivering presentations with confidence. [Benefit] No more night-before jitters!

List refers to stating the main feature and then a bullet list of benefits. This variation works well when there are multiple benefits for a single feature. For example:

[Feature] You’ll walk away with a 3-step strategy that will enable you to:

  • [Benefit]
  • [Benefit]
  • [Benefit]

Imagine refers to bringing the benefit vividly to life using an example, scenario or story. For example:

Imagine giving an important presentation that is pivotal to your career or business. It’s a tough group. They’re staring skeptically at you as you begin. You could be nervous and uncertain – Who wouldn’t be? – but you’re not. Why? Because you learned a 3-step strategy…

I wish I could say I came up with this formula while sitting on a beach in BALI! Sadly, I was in my home office during the pandemic lockdown.

3. The 4 Cs formula for writing a headline

This is a well-tested formula for brainstorming headlines and evaluating candidates. I find it works well for B2B ads, emails, landing pages and other offer-driven promotions.

  • Communicates a benefit
  • Creates a sense of urgency
  • Credible
  • Creative

To use this formula for brainstorming, start with the first C. Jot down headline ideas that communicate the big benefit.

Next, explore ways to give it a “now” factor by creating urgency or another compelling reason to pay attention now.

Next, check that it’s credible. Contrary to popular belief, headlines with exaggerated claims don’t work well — particularly with B2B offers.

Finally, play with ideas for making your headline interesting, fresh, inventive or otherwise creative. What can you say that will make it pop?

Does a winning headline need to have all those characteristics? No. There are always outliers. However, in my experience, the closer your headline is to checking off those four Cs, the more likely it is to work well.

So, those are the three copywriting formulas you may not know but should. Give one of these a try the next time you’re writing sales copy. Just remember that these formulas are tools, not rules. Don’t ever let a formula replace your thinking and imagination.


This article was originally published in LinkedIn Pulse here.

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