5 Best Copywriting Formulas to Never Start From Scratch Again

Ever felt like you can’t come up with an effective message? Formulas can just be the right tool for you. Check out five formulas to use in article intros, in social captions, in emails, on landing pages, and everywhere else you write online.

If you’ve ever felt stuck and lacking creativity, in this blog post, I’ll show you five copywriting formulas to ignite your brain.

I wrote a book on copywriting called From Reads To Leads. It’s a real gold mine for anyone working in the content marketing industry. One chapter of this book is talking about copywriting formulas which I’ll cover in this video. But you should definitely check out my book for more insights.  

Now back to the formulas. Attention before we start! No formula or copywriting trick will do the job (I mean sell your offer) unless you really understand your audience. That said, formulas are needed to help you structure your ideas based on tried and true methods for capturing people’s attention. 

Guess which one we’ll talk about first!


AIDA (Attention–Interest–Desire–Action)

One of the oldest marketing formulas, AIDA helps you persuade your reader to take the next step by making them want whatever you have to offer. AIDA was invented by American advertising and sales pioneer E. St. Elmo Lewis, who said that “the mission of an advertisement is to attract a reader so that he will look at the advertisement and start to read it; then to interest him, so that he will continue to read it; then to convince him, so that when he has read it he will believe it. If an advertisement contains these three qualities of success, it is a successful advertisement.”


The AIDA formula works in the following way:

  • Attention: Get the reader’s attention by showing something that stands out.
  • Interest: Engage the reader’s curiosity by sharing information that’s interesting, fresh, and appealing.
  • Desire: Show the benefits of your product, service, or idea and give the reader some facts that prove what you say.
  • Action: Ask the reader to take the next step.

Here’s how Apple does it:



And here’s how the design agency SumitHegde uses AIDA on their home page:


The most difficult part of AIDA is Attention. To be able to say something that appeals to your audience, you need some insights about them. For example, in SumitHegde’s message “Your SaaS website is stopping you from doubling your MMR,” MMR is monthly recurring revenue—the money a startup expects to bring in every month. This is one of the most important metrics that helps a startup define whether they’re doing well or failing. If you’re a copywriter who doesn’t know anything metrics used in the startup world, you might never come up with a message like that. That’s why you need to deeply understand your market before putting words on paper.  

PAS (Problem–Agitation–Solution)

One of the most reliable approaches to selling anything to anyone is to start with a problem. Copywriters use the PAS formula to start blog posts, emails, social media ads, and landing page messages. It always looks good and works well.

  • Problem: Identify a problem and present it to your reader.
  • Agitation: Intensify the problem so it feels even worse than it seemed at first.
  • Solution: Present your solution to this problem.

Here’s an example of how I used the PAS formula to talk about the Kaiiax marketing audit service:

Problem:

We’ve all been there. In the rut. Your business is doing okay but not great. You have enough clients today, but the number of new leads is growing slowly. Your marketing team is working hard to produce content, do SEO, and improve conversions, but your growth seems to have plateaued.

Agitation:

You’re looking at what others do and feel like your business isn’t harnessing the newest marketing tactics. You’re overwhelmed with ideas about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. The truth is, after thousands of dollars spent on marketing, you can’t even pinpoint your own marketing strengths and weaknesses.

Solution:

Being stuck sucks. We get it. So let’s get you unstuck.

By running a marketing audit, you’ll be able to turn your marketing strategy upside down, exposing what works and what doesn’t. You’ll gain new insights on what to improve and where to go next in line with your core business goals.

The PAS formula is also great for your article leads. In this case, though, instead of presenting the Solution after the Agitation in the lead, you should push your readers to read on so they can find the solution in the body of your article. Here’s an example of how this works:

Problem:

Did you know that almost 40 percent of IT projects fail because of bad requirements? 

Agitation: 

You can’t build anything on time and within budget if you don’t have good requirements to work from. When bad requirements happen to good people, they can’t build something great. No matter how hard they try.

Transition to the Solution:

Do you want to become another failure OR do you want to learn a lesson or two on how to document the “what” and the “how” of your project? If you would prefer the second option, this guide is for you.

The most difficult part of the PAS formula is the problem. You need to truly understand what pain your readers are in to be able to write a compelling message. 

Before–After–Bridge 

This formula opens the reader’s eyes to the present situation by pinpointing a certain problem. Then it shows what the world could be like if that problem were solved. The bridge between is a pathway to the possible future. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Before: Your present situation sucks.
  • After: Imagine how your life could be better if this problem were solved.
  • Bridge: Here’s how to get there.

Kevan Lee, Buffer’s VP of marketing, knows how to use the Before–After–Bridge formula in a simple tweet:

Unlike the PAS formula, which emphasizes the problems readers suffer from, the Before–After–Bridge is about revealing problems readers don’t even know exist. It’s also a great way to communicate with brevity.  

Promise–Picture–Proof–Push (PPPP)

This formula is attributed to Henry Hoke, an American author, only in his version the Picture goes before the Promise. Some copywriters substitute Push with Pitch (Damien Elsing) or Push with Proposal (Ray Edwards) to make the Push feel less aggressive. I’m used to calling things what they are, so I’ll use the word Push because it describes exactly what we’re trying to do here—push the reader to act now. Here’s how the PPPP formula works:

  • Promise: Promise something to your readers in the headline or the introductory copy of your article. Your promise should declare how your product, service, or idea will change the reader’s life.
  • Picture: Paint a picture that shows the reader how their life will change. Your picture needs to be specific and realistic. This is a great place for sensory words, which I have a video about. Make sure you check it out.
  • Proof: Back up your promise with cold hard facts. By providing support for your promise, you’ll get the reader’s thinking brain on your side. What can serve as proof? Figures, testimonials, research results, case studies, product demos—anything that can prove your promise.
  • Push: Ask your reader to commit. When your reader’s emotional and thinking brains agree that your solution is what they need, the reader will be ready to take action when you ask them to. If you have free bonuses, discounts, limited-time offers, or guarantees, roll them out here.

This is how I used the PPPP formula when writing copy for the website of a software testing company:

Promise:

Become a high-performing organization with a team of QA experts by your side.

Picture:

Imagine you could spend 22% less time on unplanned software development thanks to proper software testing procedures. Imagine you could have 200x more frequent code deployments. Imagine you could reduce user churn and have more people recommend your product to others. With a QA company like UTOR, you get all that and even more.

Proof:

“UTOR saved us this year! We had a short deadline and a complex product to be tested and Artem and Sergey gave us big support. Even the fact that our product is entirely in Portuguese didn’t take these guys off track. So glad we found you! We have been working together for 11 months and I know I can always count on UTOR.”

Eliza, PM at Round Pegs [client testimonial]

Push:

Have a problem that needs solving? You can always count on UTOR

Contact us →

This copy looks like a big part of the landing page, doesn’t it? If you want something that could work for an entire page, the next formula is for you.

AICPBSAWN

I know, it looks… um… long. But here’s how Buffer explains it:

  • Attention: Biggest benefit, biggest problem you can solve, USP
  • Interest: Reason why they [readers] should be interested in what you have to say
  • Credibility: Reason why they should believe you
  • Proof: Prove what you are claiming is true
  • Benefits: List them all (use bullets)
  • Scarcity: Create scarcity to incentivize people to take action fast
  • Action: Tell them precisely what to do
  • Warn: What will happen if they don’t take action
  • Now: Motivate them to take action now

If we fit this into a landing page structure, it will look like this (as explained by CopyHackers):

I bet you’ve seen a bunch of landing pages with this structure. Next time you stumble upon one, pay attention to Scarcity, Warn, and Now—these sections can work wonders in influencing the reader’s decision to act.

So there you have it, five best copywriting formulas:

  • AIDA (Attention–Interest–Desire–Action)
  • PAS (Problem–Agitation–Solution)
  • Before–After–Bridge
  • Promise–Picture–Proof–Push (PPPP)
  • AICPBSAWN

With these formulas, you should know what to do when your muse leaves you. But don’t get too excited about them. They do make it easier for you to write, but you still need to know your audience to make them work. Messages based on insights work great even without any formulas. Consider this one: 

Relax. Your customer support is automated.

There is no formula in this message. But it’s incredibly powerful. If you’ve ever dealt with customer support for your product, you’ll get it.

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