The Secret to High-Impact Sales Copy (Hint: Your Customers Already Use It)

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I have bad news and good news.

First the bad: It doesn’t matter how good your sales copy, it doesn’t really sell.

Which means all that work: the well-chosen words, the descriptions, and especially your lists of features and benefits… they aren’t doing the job.

Now for the good news: Your customers don’t need a lot of copy to make them want to buy. Believe it or not, they sell themselves — without your beautifully crafted sales copy.

What do I mean by that?

If people are reading your sales page, they already want what you’re selling — or are at least considering it. You only have to help them see themselves using and benefiting from your product, and you’re likely to win the sale.

That’s because people buy for emotional reasons, not practical ones.

They want the product that will change their lives and make their dreams come true. So while your features and benefits help customers justify a purchase, they don’t persuade.

What does persuade is one simple word: Imagine.

Used strategically, it can help you tap into your readers’ own imagination, and instantly turn ho-hum sales pages into high-impact selling machines. Without resorting to hype or manipulative tactics.

Let’s take a look at some sales pages that use this technique, and I’ll show you what I mean…

Imagining happiness: flesh out the dream

People are dreamers. We dream of a better life… of no problems… no fears. And deep down, every decision grows out of these dreams.

As marketers, we can easily tap into those dreams by helping people “imagine” what they already want. Let’s look at how the copywriting specialists at AWAI do it.

Their promotion starts with an imagination-boosting headline:

headline: top 5 deadbed regrets

There’s a short, well-written introduction (read more about effective leads here). Then the writer shares her own desires:

set-up copy

Now comes “imagine”:

Barefoot Writers

I give you the progression here because it follows a classic formula that I’ll tell you about in a minute. But for now, realize that this powerful technique doesn’t work alone.

You still need to write power-house sales copy that follows a proven sales structure. You still need to create a compelling sales presentation. You just need to be sure you engage your readers’ imagination as you do it.

Now, in this example, your imagination starts working as soon as you read the headline.

Just the mention of death gets you thinking about your dreams and what you most want out of life. But revving the imagination isn’t always enough to make a sale. You also need to direct people’s imagination.

Just as it does here, “imagine” generally marks a turning point in your presentation. You start by identifying a topic that you know resonates with your target audience and gets them nodding “yes!”

In this example, that’s the desire to be a successful writer. For this audience, the dream is so elusive, they can’t imagine what it really looks like. So the sales copy has to spell it out for them.

Fortunately, the writer understands that.

She tells them what it looks and feels like to be a working, in-demand writer. Her copy gives flesh and blood to the idea of becoming a professional writer. Then their imaginations can take over and they’re ready to respond to the offer.

Your take-away

Too often, a goal or dream is a vague concept — even for the people who seek it. Create details that help people see the dream more clearly.

To do that, learn everything you can about your target audience. Don’t settle for their dream. Learn what that looks like to them. Try to create a bulleted list like the one in this example to show specific details of the dream.

Imagining success: present benefits

Imagine isn’t the only way to engage your readers’ imagination. Synonyms work too. Consider this promotion by Nightingale-Conant:


Here the trigger word, “imagine,” and its synonym, “see yourself,” combine to make a fascinating presentation that forces readers to consider a new, much more successful future.

First, readers are asked to imagine a new pair of glasses that help them see beyond reality to pure possibility.

Then readers are presented a litany of images that tangibly represent success: promotions, money, confidence, and relationships. Like a hypnotist’s pocket watch swinging in front of your eyes, it’s mesmerizing.

Through it all, every sentence relates back to “you.” There’s nothing here about the product or its creator, so there’s nothing to break the hypnotic spell. It’s just the reader and the copy and his future success.

Notice the emotional temperature of this copy. Everything you’re asked to imagine is loaded with emotion. It addresses self-esteem, goal-setting, finances, everything.

This is especially powerful because, no matter what your problem or how you dream about fixing it, you get the feeling that this product will take care of it.

Your take-away

Before you start writing, brainstorm the emotional baggage that comes with your readers’ dreams. Why do they have those dreams? How do they feel about their current lives?

Now, how does your product address those feelings? Write at least one section of your sales copy to specifically address those feelings.

Be sure to help people see it clearly, like Nightingale-Conant does. Write directly to your readers. As much as possible, keep yourself out of the copy.

Imagining the life-long dream: let your readers complete the picture

Ted Nicholas’ Millionaire Information Publisher promotion is a case-study in the use of Imagine in sales copy.

ted nicholas

This sales page starts and ends with the “imagine.” In the example above, you have it in the headline and the first word of the first sentence.

In the example below, you see it in one of the final paragraphs (the highlights are mine):

ted nicholas 2

“Imagine” is such powerful motivator, you can use it as the theme of your promotion, as in this promotion. But rather than pushing your own picture of success onto your readers, you tickle people’s imagination and ask them to create their own picture.

That’s why it works so well.

In most cases, people already have an image of what success or happiness looks like. All you have to do is ask them to pull it out and see how your product fits into the picture.

Once that happens, your job is easy.

Your take-away

You can use “imagine” in your headline, as an introduction, or as part of your close. Of course, you may also use it in all three, as Ted Nicholas does here.

Be careful, though, not to sound manipulative. People are always ready to pull out their favorite dream, but they don’t want you to sully it with over-the-top sales tactics.

The imagination is a powerful thing. You don’t need to heap on the hype to make it work.

Imagining beauty: add emotion

One of the biggest reasons people buy is to be more beautiful, sexier, or more attractive to the opposite sex. That’s one image you can almost expect your readers to have fully formed. (Flat belly, thinner thighs, bigger biceps, thicker hair… and the list continues.)

What’s more, there’s no topic that elicits more raw emotion than the idea of becoming more attractive or confident.

That being the case, if your product can reasonably improve your customers’ self-image, it’s a no-brainer to tap the power of “imagine.” Which is probably what the writer of this Turn Heads After 50 promotion was thinking:

turn heads after 50

The promotion starts with a problem: lack of time for self-improvement. “Imagine” is the one-word transition that leads into the solution: one luxurious day that will transform your life.

The writer is right to use this technique here. As I mentioned above, when you’re dealing with matters of self-esteem, there’s no better way to engage your readers.

But I want you to take another look at how it’s done here… because it just misses the boat.

Let me explain.

When you tap into your readers’ imagination, you’re tapping into their emotions. So you want to ask people to imagine something that drips with desire.

Here, you’re asked to imagine a day of individualized coaching. (yawn)

The good news is, even poorly done, this technique works. Your brain makes the leap between the first word in the paragraph (imagine) and the bolded list below. But think how much stronger it would be if it was worded like this…

Imagine looking in the mirror and loving what you see… whether you’re stark naked, dressed for the gym, or dressed to the nines.

Imagine entering a room and having every head turn in your direction… your very presence making the men smile and women cringe.

And imagine that you could achieve this simple change in just one day.

See the difference?

Your take-away

“Imagine” isn’t a magic button. The technique is most effective when you tap into the emotional side of your offer. Tie it to your reader’s deepest desires, and you’re sure to get them hooked.

Imagining health: use a simple formula

Each of the examples we’ve looked at today follow a proven formula for high-impact copywriting:

  1. Introduce the problem.
  2. Agitate.
  3. Introduce the solution.

Using this formula, it’s relatively easy to write a successful promotion. The challenge? Creating a strong transition between #2 and #3. That’s where “imagine” comes in.

Simply by tapping into your readers’ imagination, you can make this transition in just a sentence. This Rodale promotion is a good example:

rodale - gluten free book promo

The first paragraph introduces the problem: chronic fatigue.

The next paragraph builds on it by tying the condition to the product: gluten intolerance is to blame for your lack of energy. (It doesn’t agitate, I realize, but it loosely follows the formula.)

The final paragraph introduces the solution: a gluten-free diet that has been proven to fix this problem.

This fits the formula. Sort of. But it’s not very compelling, is it?

Granted, it’s not the best writing, but there’s another, more important reason why this doesn’t work. There’s no emotion for readers to tap into. It just relates the facts, and facts don’t sell.

In this example, “imagine” saves the day. See how well it transitions into the sales pitch. The writer tells you to imagine having lots of energy, then tells you which pages will apply to you.

Even though this isn’t the best-written copy, it works. And it’s a great example of how you can use this technique in a short-copy format.

Your take-away

When introducing your product, follow the problem-agitation-solution formula that you see in this example.

You can use your “imagine” statement just after introducing the solution, as this writer did. Or you can tell people what to imagine and then introduce your product, like the self-esteem example above.

Either way will work.

Once you’ve got people thinking positively about your product, lay on the benefits and proof. Overcome objections. Then state your offer and give a strong call to action.

Your goal: triggering belief

Consumers, especially American consumers, want to believe. As long as your claims don’t sound unrealistically hyped, they’re willing to be convinced.

Harry Beckwith, in his book Unthinking, blames it on a genetic predisposition to optimism, citing a study that says 80% of Americans believe in miracles and some other compelling statistics.

He makes this connection:

“People who believe in major miracles, as we do, are even more apt to believe in lesser ones, like having thinner thighs in just seconds a day or becoming rich by working four hours a week. By our nature, we trust claims of “New and Improved!” because we believe in new and improved.”

The secret to higher sales? Your customers’ imagination.

Knowing that a large percentage of your readers already believe change is possible, you don’t have to sell them. You only have to help them visualize — get them to see how your product relates to their dreams.

For that, there’s no better technique that a well-placed Imagine!

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