The Math Behind the Message: How to Use Math to Write Copy that Connects With Your Audience
Christa Nichols Thursday, January 10, 2019
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It’s no surprise that being an entrepreneur requires math. From sales to ROI and ad spend to profit and loss, math is involved every step of the way. Even sales funnel design has a mathematical element to it when it comes to the composition and balance of each page.
But I never expected to discover that math is actually one of the keys of … well … writing good sales copy?
I KNOW! Listen, I’m not excited about it either. I’m a copywriter for goodness sakes, not an accountant! I’m pretty sure part of the reason I became a writer is because there’s no math in writing.
At least that’s what I thought.
So you can imagine my level of chagrin when the truth about high-converting copy hit me one day. Good sales copy, the truly high-converting, stop-them-in-their-tracks-and-make-them-click messaging that converts in your funnels, in your email sequences, and in your ads always have a basis in math.
Words for the Win?
About a year ago, I set off on a personal mission to find out what makes good copy good. I read books. I watched webinars. I took masterclasses and joined email lists and stalked other copywriters and influencers.
Sorry, Dana Derricks. It was all for research.
I had a burning desire to know what makes good copy GOOD. Is it a compelling headline? A fascinating story? An irresistibly described offer? And I found that the answer to those questions is yes, of course. Who wants to read a boring headline, rambling story, or lackluster offer?
But I knew there was more that I hadn’t quite put my finger on. I knew that in order for copy to really hit and deliver the conversions and sales desired, there had to be more than just words, more than sentences and phrases, more than product descriptions, well-placed emojis, or attention-grabbing CTAs.
I was right. There was more to it, but the answer surprised me. Because the answer was math.
“Why?” I cried to the heavens. “Why can’t I just write a bunch of nice words that sell stuff?” Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I’m pretty sure there was some emotional eating involved when the realization that I had to start using math in my copy hit.
So anyway, “WHY?” Turns out, BECAUSE of MATH. And yes, I died a little on the inside.
I’ve always been a fan of words, even as a kid. When the other children were out on the monkey bars or the swings at recess, I was the kindergartener holding book club under the slide. Dr. Seuss and I were tight, and we knew how to have a good time.
When it was time to go off to college, I decided to study journalism and mass communication. I wrote for the university newspaper and ate up the news writing and English classes. I only had to take one math class in college - statistics - and this gave me an immense sense of relief. It’s not that I’m THAT bad at math. It’s just not how I operate. I’ve always thought in terms of words and stories.
When I became an entrepreneur, I cracked open the dusty, cobwebbed part of my brain where I had tucked away my basic math skills and brushed up on my bookkeeping and accounting skills. As a Facebook ads manager, I dealt with ads budgets, conversion rates, and ROIs every day. But I never expected that math would play such a large role in my secret love: writing.
Figuring Out the Equation
I didn’t set out to be a copywriter. I only discovered I was good at copywriting by accident while managing Facebook ads. Writing ad copy was always my favorite part of creating ads. I loved putting myself in someone else’s shoes and writing what would sell.
But sometimes the copy hit and other times it didn’t. I couldn’t figure out why. As a trained journalist, I knew how to tell a story, how to get an audience interested, and how to paint a picture with words. How hard could it be just to add a sales element, right? Turns out, sometimes it was kind of hard!
As I wrote more and more copy, I began to see a pattern emerge. I’d been overlooking an important element, and that element was the reason my copy didn’t always convert. Guess what? It was math. Of course. Because copy, my friends, is an equation. Leave out a step in the copy equation, and the copy will have holes and gaps in the information. And your target market has a tendency to trip over those gaps and fall right through the holes and out of your sales funnels.
But what does a copy equation look like? I promise, there’s no calculus or trigonometry here - if there was, I would no longer be a copywriter. It’s actually super simple. All you need to create copy that converts are the following elements:
Connection + Communication = Conversion
That equation right there is the foundation of good copy. When your message connects well with your audience and your call to action is clearly and compellingly communicated, then the conversion will follow. When you use this copy equation to write sales copy, you’ll have the framework to write copy on any subject for any client. Your message will hit and convert because of … gulp .... math.
THE THREE LEVELS
Each step of the copy equation has three levels: the Base, the Math, and the Words. First, I’m going to break the three levels down for you and show you the exact questions you need to be able to answer in order to build a solid foundation for your sales copy. Then I’ll walk you through how to apply these three levels to the first part of the copy equation, connection. You’ll be writing copy that connects with your target audience like a Jedi mind reader in no time!
The Base. The base level of each step of the copy equation describes the foundation of that part of the equation. Everything in that step of the equation will be built upon the foundation, helping to ensure that your copy targeted well. Questions to ask include:
■ What is behind this part of the copy equation?
■ Do I have the information I need to begin writing?
The Math. Here’s where all the math really comes into play. Each step of the copy equation has something you’ll need to add and something you’ll need to remove in order for your copy to be effective. The math level is what keeps your copy clear, straightforward, and direct because it trims out any unnecessary items that might distract from your message. Questions to ask include:
■ What do I need to add to my knowledge base in order to write effectively?
■ What do I need to remove?
The Words. The temptation for any writer is to start at this level of the equation. I mean, we’re all about the words, right? Resist skipping past the base and the math levels - resist I say! I promise your copy will be SO much better if your words don’t come until after you’ve addressed the first two levels. Questions to ask:
■ Are my words consistent with the base and the math levels of this step of the equation?
■ Am I spreading the message that needs to be here?
Step One: Connecting With Your Target Audience
If you want people to stop and read your content, you have to immediately form a connection with them. That’s why connection is the first step in good sales copy. I will say it again, good sales copy creates a CONNECTION with the reader.
But how do you know if your copy will connect? Isn’t it all just hoping you get the messaging right and then testing it? No. You can write copy that connects with your audience every time by applying the three levels of connective copy.
The base level of connection is your audience, the people you want to reach with your message. Without them, you wouldn’t even have an offer, right? Before you write, make sure you’ve identified your target audience. I told you we were starting simple.
Math is hugely important at the connection level. To connect well with your target audience, you have to know THEM and leave YOURSELF out of the equation. In order to connect well, you’re going to add audience research and subtract your own agenda, preconceived notions, and biases.
Add Audience Research. If you want to connect with your audience, you have to know them. You have to know who they are, what makes them tick, and what their pain points and needs are. This makes audience research absolutely essential.
Subtract Yourself. Have you ever gotten cornered by somebody whose favorite thing to do is talk about themselves? Bad sales copy is kind of like that. Because you know your products or services so well, it’s really easy to just launch into telling your audience what you think they should know. That’s a big mistake - you’ve effectively just subtracted your audience instead of adding them.
Unlike face to face interaction, there’s no politeness factor keeping people tuned in to the written word. When readers feel like you’re not talking to them or addressing their wants and needs, they can just click away. So don’t be that guy. Subtract yourself from the equation. Go back to your audience research, put yourself in their shoes, and write what THEY want and need to hear, NOT what you want to say.
Yes, we’re back in my comfort zone again. Happy sigh! You’re ready to put pen to page (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) and start crafting a message that will connect with your target audience.
You have one goal in at the Words level when it comes to connection: mind-reading. You want your target audience to feel like you’re speaking right to them, that you understand them, and that you’re someone they can relate to. And you have about three seconds to make it happen.
In the connection step of the copy equation, your focus is going to be on two parts of your copy: the headline and the opening statement. If you don’t catch them with the headline and opening statement, then you’ve already lost them. Here’s how you can make sure you do.
Make the headline work FOR you. Your headline should be an attention-grabber. It should stop them in their tracks so they can’t help but want to read more. Be creative, but clear. Here are some examples of funnel headlines that work and headlines that don’t.
Headline 1: Sign Up For My Webinar On Money Management Today!
Oh, excuse me. I think I just fell asleep. This headline wouldn’t entice anyone to click. For one thing, there’s nothing that differentiates it from any other money management seminar. There’s also no indication of who the target audience is, and that’s NOT a good thing. A headline that targets everyone often appeals to no one. We can do better.
Headline 2: Do You Want to Makeover Your Money Situation? Get Financially Free Without Pinching Pennies or Putting Your Family on a Shoestring Budget!
That’s so much better! It’s very clear about what the offer will provide, and it’s written to appeal to a specific audience - money-conscious parents interested in financial programs.
Kill it with the opening statement. There are many ways to handle the opening statement, but these two are my tried and true favorites because the audience will feel understood and plugged in immediately.
Lead with what your target audience wants . . .
. . . OR lead with what they don’t want.
I ran a campaign for a health and wellness expert doing a detox challenge once. I was struggling with how to make detox sound sexy, and as I was brainstorming with a team member for ideas, I decided to just be honest.
“I just don’t think I would like doing a detox! The thought of it kind of makes me want to go hide in the closet and eat ice cream out of the carton!”
The opening statement for the ad became, “Does the thought of doing a detox make you want to hide in the closet and eat ice cream out of the carton?” The client LOVED it, and that ad copy performed like crazy! The audience ate it up, and the client had leads coming out of her ears.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that math has made a big difference in the effectiveness of the copy I write. Who knew? When you build your copy around your target audience, it connects with them quickly. Your audience feels understood, and they’re more likely to keep reading - and clicking - further into your funnel.
Using the copy equation formula can be a game changer for your funnels. It helps takes the guesswork out of wondering if your copy will connect with your audience, and it provides a framework to follow so you can write copy about anything for anyone.
There are two more steps in the copy equation that we didn’t even get to. Stay tuned to read about how to use the copy equation to create messaging that communicates effectively and converts like mad in upcoming editions.
Teaser: Ever wondered why sometimes your sales copy hits, and other times it falls flat? It may have less to do with the words you use and more to do with the lack of something completely unexpected in your copy ... math.
Social Media Blurb:
1. Want to know why sometimes sales copy hits and other times it falls flat? Math.
2. Math is the framework that can help you create amazing sales copy on any subject for any client.
3. There’s no math in writing ... so why am I now preaching math as the saving grace of high-converting copy everywhere?
4. Write copy that connects with your audience every time by using . . . math?
5. Stop wondering if your copy will connect with your audience. With this math-based copy equation, you can write copy about anything for anyone!
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