Many of these formulas listed below are part of the famous, perhaps in-famous AIDA principles that the advertising industry has been using for years.
Capture the reader with a charged headline to capture Attention, then give them some specifics to Interest them, follow this with emotional feeling language that builds desire and end the piece with a strong Call to Action. Follow these principles closely and it will improve your ability to enroll and convert at every customer touch point.
1. Before – After – Bridge
- Before – Here’s your world …
- After – Imagine what it’d be like, having Problem A solved…
- Bridge – Here’s how to get there.
Buffer’s Kevan Lee describes how they apply this tactic at Buffer: This is our current go-to formula for the Buffer blog. Describe a problem, describe a world where that problem doesn’t exist, then explain how to get there. It’s a super simple setup, and it can work for blog post intros, social media updates, email, and anywhere else that you write (or speak, for that matter). – Kevan Lee
2. Problem – Agitate – Solve (PAS)
- Identify a problem
- Agitate the problem
- Solve the problem
You’re looking at one of the most popular copywriting formulas out there. Copyblogger calls this formula the key to dominating social media. It’s ever-present in copywriting lists and tips.Compared to the ﬁrst copywriting formula in our list, it’s nearly an identical match with only one diﬀerence: Instead of describing a life without the problem (the “After” part), PAS describes life if the problem were to persist (the “Agitate” part).
3. Features – Advantages – Beneﬁts (FAB)
- Features – What you or your product can do
- Advantages – Why this is helpful
- Beneﬁts – What it means for the person reading
This copywriting formula highlights one of my favorite bits of advice on writing: Focus on beneﬁts, not features. We’ve even taken this advice to the extreme of avoiding the word “features” when launching new tools.
4.The 4 C’s
Here’s one of our favorite formulas because it reminds us to stay focused on the goals of the copy and the beneﬁts to the reader. Keep the writing clear, keep it concise, ﬁnd a compelling angle to write from, and write with credibility that what you’re promising can be trusted to happen.
5. The 4 U’s
- Useful – Be useful to the reader
- Urgent – Provide a sense of urgency
- Unique – Convey the idea that the main beneﬁt is somehow unique
- Ultra-speciﬁc – Be ultra-speciﬁc with all of the above
Looking for a way to write a great Twitter headline? Start here. The 4 U’s formula seems ready-made for social media. The elements of urgency and speciﬁcity ﬁt well with the fast pace of social and the small amount of text. If you can master this one, you can expect to see great results for your social media marketing.
6. Attention – Interest – Desire – Action (AIDA)
- Attention – Get the reader’s attention
- Interest – Interesting and fresh information that appeals to the reader
- Desire – Beneﬁts of your product/service/idea and proof that it does what you say
- Action – Ask for a response
AIDA is one of the most standard copywriting formulas for most anytype of marketing copy. It’s been used for direct mail, television andradio, sales pages, landing pages, and so much more. Many of thebelow ideas will play oﬀ the elements included here. My favorite part of AIDA: attention. With blogposts and social media,this can amount to writing an amazing headline.
7. A FOREST
- A – Alliteration
- F – Facts
- O – Opinions
- R – Repetition
- E – Examples
- S – Statistics
- T – Threes (Repeat something three times to make it memorable.)
This is a big one. You’d be hard-pressed to ﬁt this one into asocial media update. But a blogpost? A landing page? Sure thing. And for those times when you’re pinched for copy on social media, you can pull elements out of A FOREST. Post with alliteration or facts or threes. Pick one, and see how it works.
8. The 5 basic objections
- I don’t have enough time.
- I don’t have enough money.
- It won’t work for me.
- I don’t believe you.
- I don’t need it.
Chances are that a reader can easily come up with reasons not to read or click or share. Those reasons will likely fall into one of these ﬁve basic buckets. Keep these in mind as you’re writing. If you can solve all of them, wonderful. If you can solve even one, great.
9. Picture – Promise – Prove – Push (PPPP)
- Picture – Paint a picture that gets attention and creates desire
- Promise – Describe how your product/service/idea will deliver
- Prove – Provide support for your promise
- Push – Ask your reader to commit
Many of these formulas involve showing someone a picture of a desirable outcome. What a great opportunity to deliver happiness to potential readers and customers! The PPPP follows up this dream with speciﬁc ways that the product/service/idea can help, along with proof that it actually does. The ﬁnal step—call to action—is crucial,and it can be as simple as a short URL if you’re trying to ﬁt this formula into a tweet.
10. The psychological pull of OpenLoops
Create a cliﬀhanger with your content
Open loops are rooted in psychology.
We need closure in our lives, and when we don’t get this closure, we feel anxiety, which spurs us to get closure, to ﬁnd out more, to keep reading. Felicia Spahr described this phenomena in a post at KISSmetrics, pointing out the prevalence of open loops in Hollywood ﬁlmmaking and TV.
11. The Reader’s Digest blueprint
According to famed copywriter John Caples, you can take great inspiration from studying the way that Reader’s Digest articles are composed.They are fact packed. They are telegraphic. They are speciﬁc. There are few adjectives. They arouse curiosity.
Example: Copyblogger’s Demian Farnworth and Jerod Morris put this formula to good use in the way they open blogposts.
Here’s what they’ve learned:
• Your opening sentence should be short — even as short as one word
12. Sonia Simone’s 5 Pieces Every Great Marketing Story Needs
- You need a hero
- You need a goal
- You need conﬂict
- You need a mentor
- You need a moral
You might pick up on some familiar threads in Copyblogger cofounder Sonia Simone’s formula. “Conﬂict” ﬁts with Problem-Agitate-Solve. “Mentor” ﬁts with the new-world vision of Before-After-Bridge. All ﬁve elements together make for great storytelling—for a blogpost, a landing page, and many more spots that support a start to-end story.
13. Write to one person
Good advertising is written from one person to another.
The above is a quote from Fairfax Cone, one of the leading voices in copywriting. His tip reads more like advice than a formula, but the takeaway is just as good. Who is your ideal reader? Find out (perhaps using marketing personas), then write to them and them alone.
14. The 3 Reasons Why
- Why are you the best?
- Why should I believe you?
- Why should I buy right now?
This trio of ideas is an expansion on a tried-and-true question that all copywriters strive to answer: “Why?”
15. Star – Story – Solution
- Star – The main character of your story
- Story – The story itself
- Solution – An explanation of how the star wins in the end
This formula doesn’t necessarily need to be linear. You might tell your story and introduce your star at the same time. And the star can be anything—your product/service/idea or even the reader.
16. Star – Chain – Hook
- Star – Your product/service/idea
- Chain – A series of facts, sources, beneﬁts, and reasons
- Hook – The call to action
The key element of this formula is the chain. It is intended to take a reader from interested to attentive. The right facts, sources, beneﬁts,and reasons can help get them there.
17. Awareness – Comprehension – Conviction – Action (ACCA)
- Awareness – Present the situation or problem
- Comprehension – Help your reader understand how it aﬀects them. Explain that you have the solution.
- Conviction – Create a desire and conviction in your reader to use your solution.
- Action – Call to action
Another variation from the above formulas, you might sample this one for its focus on comprehension. Whereas other formulas describe the situation and tell stories, this one acts more as a diagnosis: This is what’s happening, and this is how it aﬀects you. When done right, the comprehension step should lead straight to conviction then action.
18. The 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 Formula for Persuasive Copy
- What I’ve got for you
- What it’s going to do for you
- Who am I?
- What you need to do next
This four-question formula has some great ties to the storytelling opener of previous formulas, with a useful twist. After telling the story and explaining the beneﬁts, you then get to sell the reader on your authority. Who are you and why should someone listen to you? Explain that part well enough, and you can breeze to the call-to-action in the ﬁnal step. This is a Copyblogger gem.
19. So what?
Every time you state something, ask yourself, “So what?”Helen Nesterenko,
writing at the Eloqua blog, has a great way of spinning this one from a features vs. beneﬁts perspective.
Our knives have the sharpest blades!
So you can chop ingredients quickly and eﬃciently, just like the pros!
One way that I’ve looked at this with my Buﬀer writing is to ask “so what” in order to test whether a tweet or paragraph or section adds any value to the reader. Why should someone care about this particular thing I’ve written? Typically, it’ll all come back to beneﬁts.
20. AICPBSAWN (phew!)
- Attention – Biggest beneﬁt, biggest problem you can solve, USP
- Interest – Reason why they should be interested in what you have to say
- Credibility – Reason why they should believe you
- Prove – Prove what you are claiming is true
- Beneﬁts – List them all (use bullets)
- Scarcity – Create scarcity
- Action – Tell them precisely what to do
- Warn – What will happen if they don’t take action
- Now – Motivate them to take action now
I’m not sure this one was meant to be an acronym or not. It’s long!Nevertheless, there’re several good nuggets in here, starting with theﬁrst. A unique selling proposition could probably be a copy writing post all to its own. It’s a big idea, and ﬁnding the unique angle to pitch your product/service/idea is key. Like the A FOREST formula, you can grab bits and pieces of this one when sharing in the conﬁned spaces of social media.
21. String of Pearls
String together a series of persuasive stories
What does this formula conjure for you? Listicles. List posts have their roots in this copywriting formula. If listicles don’t ﬁt your marketing strategy, you can go in a diﬀerent direction by stringing together testimonials or beneﬁts or any stand-alone elements that, when combined, make for an overwhelmingly persuasive pitch.
22. The Fan Dancer
Be speciﬁc without actually explaining anything
It took me a bit to wrap my head around this one. What is a “fandancer”? Well, it’s nothing really. But it did pique my interest! And that’s the point. The Fan Dancer formula uses speciﬁc details to create curiosity, all the while never revealing any actual information about what that tantalizing something is. To ﬁnd out, someone will need to click or keep reading.
23. The Approach Formula (APPROA)
Arrive at the problem
Propose a solution
Persuade the listener why your solution will work
Reassure that you and your solution can be trusted
Orchestrate an opportune opportunity to sell
Ask for the order (or response)
You might recognize parts of this formula if you’ve ever had a call from a telemarketer or a visit from a door-to-door salesman. It’s a soft sell. The formula takes its time to get around to the “Ask” part, building trust along the way and looking for the best time to make theﬁnal step toward the sale. Slow pitches like these might involve a couple steps through the marketing funnel or perhaps a piece of long-form content with a variety of ways for the reader to act.
24. Bob Stone’s Gem
Begin with your strongest beneﬁt
Expand on the most important beneﬁt
Tell exactly and in detail what they are going to get, including all the features and beneﬁts
Back up your statements with support copy
Tell them what they’ll lose if they don’t act
Sum up the most important beneﬁts
Make your call to action. Tell them to “reply now” and give a good, logical reason why they should. Steve Slaunwhite shared this useful formula in his book The Everything Guide to Writing Copy. You could probably have guessed that the originator of this formula is Bob Stone. The successful adman came up with this formula for sales letters and direct response ads, but it’s been used in a number of diﬀerent ways since.
25. The 6+1 model
- The gap
- Call to action +1. Credibility
From Danny Iny of Smashing Magazine, the ﬁrst six items in this copywriting formula follow a similar path to the Before-After-Bridge formula, giving the reader a sense of what life might be like with your product/service/idea. The key element that Danny has added: credibility.
26. UPWORDS Formula
Universal Picture Words Or Relatable, Descriptive Sentences This is a neat one
from Michel Fortin. He’s found that using common words that conjure imagery or examples in the minds of readers will help a marketing message have meaning.
27. OATH Formula
The four stages of your market’s awareness of your product/service/idea.
This formula can help guide your copy because it helps you focus on the reader and his or her needs. What stage are they at in their awareness of your product? The spectrum runs from the completely unaware (“oblivious”) to those in desperate need of a solution(“hurting”). Knowing where your audience stands can help determine how you frame your writing.