3 Top Techniques For Copywriting Success

3 Top Techniques For Copywriting Success

There are hundreds of techniques for copywriting. Want to know what the Number One secret that professional copywriters don’t want you to know?

They cheat.

When they craft their high-converting masterpieces, they totally cheat the system!

Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

Actually, what they do is use copywriting formulas!

It makes sense when you think about it. Time is money after all, so being more efficient during the writing process means more money in the bank.

Instead of writing fresh copy every time, they use proven frameworks and basically bolt on content from there. So they’re not reinventing the wheel for every piece of content they write.

Copywriting has been around since the invention of the printing press (and probably even before that). So hundreds of copywriting techniques have been developed over time.

But I want to shortcut that and give you the Top 3 Most Effective Formulas that you can use to quickly and easily write your emails so that they convert better than ever before.

These are so good that some major companies like Zappos and Apple use them in their own marketing efforts.

The Pain. Oh The Pain!

The first thing you absolutely need to know is what pain your customers and subscribers are experiencing.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What issue are they struggling with (trying to quit smoking, trying to lose weight, trying to make money online, etc.)
  • How big is that a problem for them?
  • What are you going to offer them to make the pain go away?

When you’ve got the answers to these questions, you’re then in a position to leverage that information in your emails and the formulas below will work that much better for you.

Don’t forget that these techniques are designed to drive traffic. Where you send that traffic is up to you. It can be to your website, to affiliate offers, squeeze pages (for building a list) or to your own products and services.

Now, let’s dig into the formulas!

Powerful Copywriting Formula #1: AIDA

First on our list of techniques and also one of the most popular used copywriting techniques today.

This one’s so good that many of the other formulas created by copywriters are based on this and have it at their core. Simply because of how effective it is.

So what does AIDA stand for?

  • Attention – A headline or sentence that gets your reader to stop and pay attention.
  • Interest – Give them something that makes them want to know and read more.
  • Desire – Get their emotions involved in a way that makes them want what you’re offering.
  • Action – They want what you have. Tell them what they need to do to get it.

When I first started writing emails, a formula like this didn’t entirely make sense to me. I never took any psychology courses so I initially missed how this formula is geared to push certain psychological buttons in all of us.

Even if you know and understand that this is how you’re being marketed to, it still works because its designed to push certain buttons in you regardless.

I love seeing examples of techniques, no matter what they are, so that I can get my Aha! moment with them.

So here’s an example of AIDA in action in one of Foundr‘s emails:

AIDA in action by Foundr

Now that you know how AIDA is structured, you can see this copywriting formula at work:

  • Attention – The email subject line appeals to the people this email is going to. Foundr knows their customers well, so even though the subject line is just four words, it’s still enough to get the email opened.
  • Interest – More money and less work. That’s the dream for us all, right? They don’t dance around that fact, but instead, they state it clear as day and get their readers nodding along.
  • Desire – They just talked about the dream of more sales and less work. Next, they say that this is possible and they have the answer to get you there. This subtle offering makes the reader want more.
  • Action – Right below that you see a call-to-action to grab the info Foundr is offering, that will help you get more sales on autopilot. This vital step gives the reader direction so they know exactly what to do next!

You’ll also notice that this is not a long email. There’s only 8 sentences in it, amounting to about 150 words. It’s short-and-sweet and gets straight to the point.

Every situation is different and how much copy you need to write for each AIDA section will differ too. So you may need to write more or less for each thing you want to promote.

Your subscribers’ time is precious so keeping emails short will work in your favor.

Now let’s look at a formula that’s considered to be the best in the business…

Powerful Copywriting Formula #2: The 4 Ps

P here stands for Powerful.

While AIDA is the most popular formula in use in email marketing, The 4 Ps takes a different and more effective approach to tugging at the heartstrings and eliciting an emotional response from the reader.

This formula weaves a story and pulls the reader into the narrative.

We all love stories. It’s why the entertainment industry is one of the biggest on the planet.

And stories sell products better than just about anything else. But you have to do it the right way.

Using The 4Ps formula, you can rinse-and-repeat the copywriting process the correct way almost every time.

These are the 4 Ps:

  1. Problem – State your customer’s painful issue or phrase it in a question.
  2. Picture – You know their problem(s) which means you should know what the solution looks like. Paint that picture of how their life would be better with that solution in full effect. Craft the story.
  3. Proof – By this point your reader is likely thinking “that sounds too good to be true.” Here is where you come in and show the evidence to back up what you’ve just talked about. Before and after photos, data, graphics, testimonials and third-party stats can be used in this section.
  4. Proposal – You’ve stated the problem. You’ve managed to paint the most amazing picture of life without this problem and likely hinted at your product/service as a solution. You’ve even handed the reader transparent and true evidence to back that up. Now your reader should be hungry for more. So, this last step is where you offer your service/product in an outstanding way so all they can say is yes.

Now this approach may seem, at first glance, to be very over-the-top. It seems like a lot of effort to get your readers to convert into buyers.

What you may not realize though, is that this formula has been used so often in marketing that you’ve already been exposed to it and conditioned to respond to it (as has everyone else).

To give you an example: Have you ever seen those long infomercials that sell a weight loss supplement or some equipment and by the end you’re getting your credit card out?

Yeah, that’s the 4 Ps in action.

Here’s another example. Chalene Johnson is a well-known fitness expert and online marketer and this is from an email sequence that she sends out whenever she launches a new product:

4 Ps Copywriting Formula In Action

Chalene doesn’t go for the jugular here by outright saying what problem her audience has. Instead, she draws attention to the problem in a more subtle and roundabout fashion.

In this case, she raises an issue that her subscribers can relate to – not being as healthy as they should be and how that affects their well-being.

Rather than asking them if they’re happy with their health, she implies that they’re not and that they need to do something to achieve better health and happiness.

The picture part of the formula is a bit more subtle but still powerful.

Here, rather than writing a lot of text about what her program will do for her subscribers, she takes a more succinct approach and provides 5 bullet points that list the benefits her subscribers will get.

This way, her subscribers will be easily able to visualize a healthier, happier version of themselves…and it’s something they can achieve in as little as 3 weeks.

Not only that, but getting the desired result will involve less hassle than previous programs they’ve tried.

Now let’s look at the rest of Chalene’s email:

The 4 Ps In Action - Part 2

An actual Before And After image is used to show proof that her program works. Nothing more is needed here. It gets the idea across perfectly.

Finally, there’s the proposal – a Call To Action (CTA) to join her program now.

Even though a discount deal is offered in the middle of the email, the Join Now button is only CTA in the entire email, and the only hyperlink in the email that will take the reader to the offer.

Again, like in the AIDA example, there isn’t a lot of copy in this email. It looks longer because of the images used in it but actually there’s very little real text used.

The 4 Ps formula isn’t specific to any one industry. Many affiliate marketers and bloggers have used this formula and found it to be a fantastic asset for generating traffic to their sites, squeeze pages and offers.

This takes us to formula #3 which is the one to use if you’re pressed for time or want to start creating effective emails without having to put in a lot of practice.

Powerful Copywriting Formula #3: PAS

This one’s the Holy Grail of email marketers. It’s a simple and sweet formula that you can press into service whenever you want. I’ve yet to find a copywriting hack that’s as simple and quick to use as this one is.

If these formulas have got you looking at the types of marketing we’re all subjected to every day, you’ll quickly learn to spot when AIDA and the 4 Ps are being used.

Spotting when PAS is being used is harder unless you’re really looking for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective in getting people to take action.

This is what PAS stands for:

  • Problem – You know the problem they have, so say it.
  • Agitate – Their problem really stinks, and you want them to remember just how much it does. Pour salt on that wound!
  • Solve – Present your solution.

It’s no accident that each of these three formulas start by addressing a problem.

When you think about it, almost all successful businesses are providing a solution to a problem.

Cellphones solve the problem of needing instant communication; GPS devices solve the issue of getting from A to B without having to consult a paper map; flypaper solves the issue of flies buzzing about in your house.

The list is endless.

By addressing your subscribers’ core issue – that thing they just don’t want to have to deal with any more – in the subject line of your emails, you’re going to get straight to the root of their motivation and convert them into a customer.

Here’s how cold email expert Heather Morgan at Salesfolk uses this formula:

PAS Copywriting Formula In Action

When you know the way PAS is formulated, it’s easier to spot. In this example, this is how Heather’s email was constructed:

  • Problem – Your sales emails get opened but no one is responding.
  • Agitate – You feel like you’re doing everything right until you realize you’ve forgotten a memorable CTA.
  • Solution – I have 3 tried and true tactics that really work. Check them out!

There’s not a lot of copy in this email either, but it is the most verbose of the three email examples in this article. That’s because a little more effort was put into the agitate section to rub more salt in the reader’s wound.

But, as with the other examples, you can see that you don’t have to put a huge amount of effort into crafting emails that are going to convert well.

Whatever niche you’re in, you probably know at least one problem that faces people in that niche, even without doing any research. You should also know how to solve that problem for them.

You shouldn’t need to spend more than 30 minutes writing copy for a PAS email and in that time you should have 3 or 4 ideas that you can use to create your emails.

If you have an email list or landing pages for your business, why not give PAS a try, and then split test the results.

You may be pleasantly surprised by what comes out of it. 🙂

Winding Up

As I mentioned at the top of this article, you need to have a firm understanding of your subscribers’ pain points in order for these copywriting techniques to work for you.

And, if you don’t know what issues your subscribers’ have to contend with, then it’s time you started doing some homework.

One good way of doing this is with a survey. That can be as simple as sending out a text email with a series of questions or using a survey site like SurveyMonkey.

You can also post in a Facebook group or Google+ Community with your audience and start a conversation about what pains them and what would make that pain go away.

Once you understand your audience’s wants and needs, creating emails using these formulas becomes so much easier.

And your new emails will convert in the way you’ve always wanted!

So, now, are you ready to put these copywriting formulas to work?

If you’d like to learn more techniques for copywriting, there are a couple of free copywriting courses online:




  1. Hi Gary. I found your post very interesting. The superb copy writing technique is really admirable, especially since I like the way Formula 1 (AIDA) is written, because using this formula in your writing is really an email that people want to see. The other two technologies are also very good, so I really want to try. Thank you very much for your article, great!

    • The AIDA technique is a very strong and successful one, TeeTeng. But I find that the PAS technique works best for broadcast emails – those emails you shoot out to alert your subscribers about affiliate offers and new products.

  2. Hey Gary,
    Thank you for the information. I love when my mind is opened up to things I haven’t noticed before. I can’t wait to be able to check out the methods used next time I receive an email like the ones you are talking about.

    I appreciate how informative this post was and look forward to what else I can learn from your site.


    • Thanks Kahlua. If there’s any other aspects of list building or email marketing you’d like me to cover, please let me know.

  3. Hi Gary,

    I love your website, and I’ll stop by more often. I have my Master’s in business communication so am familiar with such things as the AIDA technique. That said, I was really interested in reading your description of PAS. It reminds me, although of course it’s not the same, as when one wants to create a headline that catches a reader’s attention.

    Of course there are many ways of catching someone’s attention. But you’ll have the best success if you know what keeps your readers up at night! You then offer a solution.

    For example, we are all afraid of an unexpected attack. So the Threat Headline speaks to the reader who is afraid as to whether they are doing enough to protect something of value.

    It can read something like this:
    How Safe Is Your House From Fire?

    It’s a simple headline. Yet, it’s subtly directing your subconscious to imagine an attack.

    As I said, not exactly the same thing as PAS but very close. I can see why you like PAS. Do you see the similarity between PAS and the Threat Headline?

    • Hi Thabo, now that you describe it, I can see similarity between the Threat Headline and PAS. To be honest, I hadn’t considered headlines/subject lines in that way. I’d only ever looked at them as posing a problem that needs a solution. But those threat headlines do work in a (maybe not so) subtle way to prompt your reader to open your email or read your blog post.

      Having an enticing blog headline or email subject line is half the battle in getting someone to read your content.

      Thanks for drawing my attention to these types of psychological triggers.

  4. Thanks for the post Gary. The ideas you shared here about copywriting are sublime and I am going to be implementing them right away so that I can get more conversions

    • Let me know your results, Mitala. Give PAS a try first as it’s the most simple to implement. The try AIDA of the 4 Ps.

  5. Hello Gary,

    These are excellent techniques you shared here. I am never a good writer and always on the lookout for ways to improve. And I found it here. I feel that these techniques are not only suitable for emails but articles and posts as well. Of course, for the latter, I will need to expand based on the structure.

    This is great and many thanks!

    • Your skills as a writer will improve the more practice you have, Sharon. When I was in school, I hated writing essays and wasn’t very good at it. Over the years, as an adult, I’ve written for a few magazines, published a couple (so I had to edit other people’s articles) and written tons of blog posts and writing is no longer a problem.

      I do still have the occasional day when the words just won’t come so I do something else in my business to fill in the time and don’t get anxious that I can’t write. The words start flowing again in a day or two.

      I have to say I was pretty lousy at writing compelling emails when I first started list building. But it too is a particular kind of writing skill that also gets better with time and experience. And with this site, I hope I’m helping visitors to shortcut some of the common pitfalls many of us have encountered in our list building careers.

      It’s really gratifying to know that my posts are proving useful to people. Thanks for the positive feedback, Sharon.

  6. Quite a deeply enriching article, Gary. THE AIDA technique, the 4Ps, and the PAS techniques are really mind-blowing.

    I learnt lot reading this. And your illustrations were so helpful and effective. It’s as if I’m in a classroom hearing the teacher speak directly to me with utmost attention and interest. I got hooked by the Charlene Johnson example, the PAS technique and others.

    Coincidentally I’ve been looking round recently for ways I could start email subscription on my new blog. I’m a novice in these things, you know. Now, I can learn a whole lot and possibly start making good bucks from my blog, who knows? Lol…

    Great post, Gary!

  7. Hello Gary,

    Wow this was such a great article. I am bookmarking it so I can come back and really understand all the points. It is so true that if we don’t write what is able to be heard and then solve problems, we are not writing well.

    Thank you for this!

    Light the Path
    In peace and gratitude, Ariel

    • Thanks for the feedback, Ariel. Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and something that’s blindingly obvious to us is clear as mud to someone else. And, of course, we all perceive the world a little bit differently. Being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes so that we can relate to problems as they see them is a skill that develops over time. And when you can speak directly to your audience rather than at them, you get much better interaction and reaction.

  8. Great post and site Gary.

    I try to apply these principles of copywriting but I think I suck at it. But I think the more I practice the more I improve.

    What I do need to learn to accept is that not everyone is like me (I hate certain types of sales pitches and prefer a direct approach) and I am not my ideal client.

    I’ll get there slowly as I read more posts like this. Going to look around your site for a while so if you see me lurking in the corridors don’t be concerned. 🙂


    • I sucked at copywriting too when I started, Lawrence. But the key is not to be a perfectionist about things. Perfectionists rarely get things done because they’re never happy with what they create. It always needs tweaking. It can always be improved. I know because I used to be one! 🙂 Nowadays I write my emails and just send them out. They’re not perfect but even an imperfect email gets more response than one that’s waiting to be perfected and is never sent out.

      Writing skill and familiarity with the copywriting techniques will come with practice. 🙂

  9. This is by far the most informative article I read today. I found it very helpful. I am not good at copywriting, but these tips should give me some guidance. I am going to bookmark this page for the future. Thank you so much for the article.

    • Thanks, Hong, I’m glad to hear you found the article useful. Copywriting is definitely a skill we have to develop as online marketers. Being good at it explains why the best command such high fees for their services! 🙂

  10. Never thought of this before until I read this article. I must say well done and thank you for sharing such an insight into copyright tips. I will bookmark this for future reference.

    • The power of the written word is so often underestimated, isn’t it? When you structure your text the right way, interesting things start to happen. I don’t know if (President) Lincoln wrote his own Gettysburgh speech or if he had a copywriter do it but that powerful speech was only 272 words long.

  11. Copywriting is so important. And it is indeed a challenge to do it right so that we can convince our audience to take action and buy our products or services. Thank you for a very powerful and helpful article on how to do it successfully. Love all the 3 techniques. I have heard of AIDA but only thought of using it for marketing. Now, I see that it can be used for copywriting. Thank you again! 🙂

    • It all comes down to eliciting trust from your audience whatever technique you use, Timotheus. If they trust you they’re more likely to follow your suggestions and recommendations. If you abuse their trust, they’ll leave your list like a scalded cat.

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