Dang Grrl, How’d U Get That Sexy Body [Copy]?

Writing Body Copy - So What and Prove ItFor my unwebinar with Unbounce last week (watch it here), we solicited Qs in advance. And I was pretty surprised to find so many people asking similar questions that could best be summarized like so:

“What do I do once I’m done writing my headline?”

It’s funny. See, on the rare occasions when we’re NOT talking about headlines in this crazy copy hacking world, we’re talking about buttons or testimonials.

But what about the rest of the page?

What about all that stuff that actually makes up the whole page?

Nobody ever talks about writing body copy. But that doesn’t mean startups aren’t sitting in front of their screens – their fingertips hovering over their keyboards, and their eyes staring blankly at 700 or so pixels of empty space under the headline – wishing Copy Hackers would post about this already!

So why don’t we talk about body copy? Simple: It’s a freakin’ huge topic. Basically, whenever we’re not talking about headlines or buttons, we’re talking about writing better body copy. Which means that all of the following Copy Hackers posts are actually about writing better body copy:

As huge as the topic of body copy is, I want to share with you 2 sticky note-worthy phrases that will help you immediately answer one of the most common Qs startups have about body copy:

“How much is too much?”

Inspired by this question – which unwebinar attendees Janet K, Miha M, Chris O and Donna K asked (verbatim or nearly) – Lance spoke to how long your copy should go in this awesome “Automatic” post last week. Now I’m swooping in to tell you HOW to know when you’ve reached the point that you can finally stop writing and move onto either the next section of copy or the next page. And, as mentioned, the way to do this is to employ…:

The 2 Phrases to Tape to Your Monitor Today

The best body copy addresses features, benefits, claims and facts in an engaging way. But how do we make those believable? It’s your message’s believability that contributes most to your ability to convert your visitors. To increase the believability of your message – and write sexy-a$$ body copy that is more likely to convert – write these 2 phrases on a sticky note and post them to your monitor:

  1. So what?
  2. Prove it!

That’s it.

Addressing those 2 phrases alone in your body copy will help you:

  • Know when to stop writing
  • Know when to keep writing
  • Cut unbelievable messages
  • Increase the believability of believable messages

There is a world of people marching through your site with the firmly held belief that your ENTIRE reason for being is to part fools from their money. Your visitors are not interested in being fools; they’d rather be rich skeptics than poor fools. …And that’s why these 2 phrases – which your visitors will never actually see on the screen – are so powerful.

Here’s how you use them when you’re writing. Start by writing down a feature, benefit, claim or fact. Then, ask yourself, “So what?” (Note that, for benefits, the so-what is baked into the statement itself. At least, it should be… if it’s a good benefit.) Why should anyone care about the filter on your photo-sharing app? What’s the big deal with the biodegradable packaging your product is shipped in? Whatever the “so what” reason is, write it down on the page as support for the feature, claim or fact. Stop writing once you’ve answered the question.

THEN, prove what you’ve just stated by using a demo, a screenshot, a testimonial or a data point to bolster it. The bigger the claim, the more proof you’re going to need. (This is why long form sales pages for expensive products get so freakin’ long. Because you need 30 testimonials to get people to pony up $97/mo on a “how to get an interview” course.)

Real World Examples (‘Cos You’ll Only Believe Me If I Prove It)

Michael Aagaard at always posts wicked examples of tests he’s run. Here – although he’s referencing a call to action – we can see the “so what?” principle at work in the winning treatment:

Writing body copy

The control tells you what you’ll get (a claim), which is cool. But the treatment tells you why you should care – as in, it answers the “so what?” question. It will then be the job of the newsletter to prove it. (Perhaps a well-placed testimonial or embedded tweet could work as proof here, too.) does an awesome job of proving the benefit / claim they make in the body copy below the subhead:Pay Tango proves their claimThe so what of “incredibly fast transactions” is clearly and succinctly messaged: “No more fumbling with the cards in your wallet.” Then they prove the claim by adding a recording (which unfortunately requires you have Vine) to let visitors see with their own eyes. (Bonus points for adding “Don’t believe it?” as a message on the page. Why imply when you can directly address? Nice.)

Unless you’re supporting a major claim, you generally only need to state 1 reason people should care and show 1 proof point. That’s it. Your copy doesn’t have to go any longer than that. You can test longer – or shorter – copy. But if you’re really concerned about keeping things crisp without cutting out important messages, do this right now:

Get a black marker.

Get 2 sticky notes.

Write “So What?” on one.

Write “Prove It” on the other.

Stick them to your monitor frame.

And always reference the sticky notes when writing body copy.

If the good peeps at YCombinator’s BitNami were to pop some sticky notes on their monitors, perhaps their copy would address either So What or Prove It. The only hint of so-what is under “Or in the cloud”, and the closest we get to proof of what they’re claiming (i.e., run any app on any platform) is a lineup of 8 icons. No screenshots, no demos, no explainer videos, and just one small testimonial that isn’t positioned to support any messages. Too bad.

BitNami misses the boat on body copy

You don’t have to be “wordy” with your messages to be believable. But ask yourself: Am I compromising the believability of my copy just to appease some nagging voice in my head that says I have to squeeze all my messages into 3 short blocks of copy on a page? I mean, why do you even HAVE any words on the page if you’re not going to let them convince and convert???

…And, finally, if more words are required to convince your visitors to click that button, then those are words well-used, aren’t they?

The right amount of copy is the amount it takes to turn your visitors into customers.

Yours in succinct, believable copy that converts,

“70% of the time if the facts aren’t there, they’ll hurt you. It’s exactly as if you don’t have a piece of concrete in your building, and it collapses.”
– Gene Schwartz (in a 1993 speech)


About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • This is something I learned through trial and error and beating my head against a wall, and it applies to most kinds of writing. I would write up all these lovely, helpful paragraphs, and the whole thing still fell flat. Then, I discovered that adding a line about why you should care and some kind of supporting evidence to each point was like sprinkling magic dust on the words.

    I think the structure would show up in a lot of popular writing if you went out and looked for it.

    • Totally, right? You wouldn’t write an academic paper where you waxed about what YOU “thought” mattered. You’d support every claim with proof and tie your points up with why what you’re saying is important to the world or a segment of it. Samezies on the web — just in shorter form.

Copyhackers Tutorial Tuesdays training calendar

Copywriting tutorials

How to write a long-form sales page using survey data
SEO copywriting
Why good copy performs badly
Conversion copywriting defined
How to use VoC to create outlines
How to validate your copy
How to make your writing sound good
Getting creative with conversion copy
How to write headlines
How to be specific in your copy
How to write great bullet lists
How to write a long-form sales page
How to write compelling “agitation” copy
How to write holiday copy
3 essential copy techniques to use daily
How to write a sales page
How to optimize crossheads/subheads

How to optimize Facebook ad copy
How to write an Adwords ad
How to write Facebook-compliant ads

How to evergreen your course sales
How to use SEO landing page
How to get more subscribers
How to script the first sales video
How to script the second sales video
How to script the third sales video

How to write welcome emails
How to write a launch-day sales email
How to write a last-day launch email
How to write a cold email
How to write cold emails for services
How to write a trial-ending SaaS email
How to write a post-welcome SaaS email
How to write TOFU emails

How to shift the way you think about money
Think you’re not ready for a VA?
How to get paid to write proposals
Creating and selling packages
How to write a project proposal
How to present your copy to clients
How to get more proposals approved
How to wireframe your landing pages
The art & science of pestering
How to pitch your copywriting services
How to create a biz-worthy home office
How to handle awkward client convos
How to master customer interviews
How to keep your copy reviews on track

How to write a long-form sales page using survey data
A super-speedy formula to find VoC
How to Marie Kondo your VoC data
Optimize your email sequence with Trello
How to research a blog post
How to plan a SaaS onboarding funnel
How to use Amazon review mining
How to do a content audit
How to know what your visitor’s thinking
Creating a launch command center
A 3-part copywriting process for newbies

Likes to leads
SEO copywriting
How to optimize a headline
How to optimize a SaaS sequence
How to optimize content for SEO
How to validate your copy
How to optimize Facebook ad copy

Breakthrough blog post topics
How to write an epic blog post
How to write a mass-appeal blog post
How to write funny content
How to keep readers reading
Blog post formula for authority building
How to write an ultimate guide

Sweep 1: The Clarity Sweep
Sweep 2: The Voice + Tone Sweep
Sweeps 3 & 4: The Believability Sweeps
Sweep 5: The Specificity Sweep
Sweep 6: The Heightened Emotion Sweep
Sweep 7: The Zero Risk Sweep