One of the first things that every article writer must understand before they start their project is the purpose for the content the writing. Without clearly defining the purpose, it is quite possible that extremely well-researched content can end in a wasted effort. That is not to say that the content can't be repurposed or used at all. It simply means that if the content doesn't lead a certain number of people to the action required from the piece, it will eventually have to be redone until it accomplishes the desired result.
Nowhere is this distinction more apparent than in the difference between content written to inform, and content written to sell. For some, the thought of using article content in order to sell is dreadful. What normally comes to mind when the process of selling with article writing is discussed are gaudy and bombastic direct response sales letters with annoying headlines and hyped-up language. While most writers recognize that this kind of writing (in direct response sales letters) has its place, the thought of turning their craft into a letter like that is distasteful.
However, article copywriting, when practiced effectively, is actually a far cry from sales letters like that. In fact, many times the selling process accomplished in article copywriting is to move a prospect one step closer toward a sale, and to not force an emotional response to make a purchase decision right at that moment. A reasonable goal for an article copywriter is to get a potential buyer to provide their contact information and agree to hear more marketing messages from the writer (or the writer's client) in the future. Regardless of what the sales goal is, the article writing process for selling is very different from one in which the author is writing to inform their readers.
When an article writer starts their content piece with a goal of selling, they are not necessarily laying the groundwork for a linear presentation of the facts. The goal of the beginning of a sales piece is to describe in detail the problem that a potential customer is having. This is the most important part of the sales article because the reader should get the sense that the writer understands their unique frustration or pain point. The article writer goes into great detail as to what it means to have the problem, and how it is likely to make the reader feel. In effect, the article writer is reminding them of the acute discomfort that they presently have.
Once the writer has outlined this discomfort in detail, they transition into an agitation stage. In other words, the critical goal for the writer is then to speak to what it means NOT to solve the problem. This is where article copywriters describe in vivid and personal terms the difficulty that can be expected when no solution to their problem is implemented.
Now, if there is any stage of the writing process that bears resemblance to the direct sales letters mentioned earlier, it is this one. The point of this stage is not to provide evidences for a point made earlier. The point is to get the reader to envision the worst thing that could happen if the problem isn't solved. This is actually an excellent stage for personal case studies to be presented.
Case studies are an excellent bridge to the last stage of writing to sell, which is solving the problem. It is here that the writer must provide factual information (verifiable when possible) about how those, who personally struggled with the problem, solved it. Conceivably, these personal testimonials will speak to your product or service, and how it brought them relief. The article concludes with how the reader can achieve the same results and/or get the same relief. This conclusion statement is appropriately named by marketers: the "call to action". The writer is giving explicit instructions on how to solve the problem. Whereas in informational article writing, the point is to provide closure to the evidence provided, a sales article moves the reader to a specific place in the buying process.
Article copywriting's basic format is: problem, agitate, solve. The language should be persuasive but sober. This is especially true when the purpose of the article is to move a prospect one step further in the buying process. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about either form of article writing. The skill of the writer is knowing when to use the sales format, and when to use the format designed to inform.
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