9 Copywriting Lessons from Conversion Queen Joanna Wiebe to 3x Your Sales

Want to boost your conversion rates? These 9 powerful tips from copywriting legend Joanna Wiebe will help you write copy that persuades, engages, and sells.

Joanna Wiebe Headshot

If you want to learn how to write high-converting copy, there‘s no one better to turn to than Joanna Wiebe. Crowned "the original conversion copywriter", Joanna has helped major brands like Wistia, Intuit, and Buffer optimize their messaging and drastically improve results.

Through her company Copy Hackers, Joanna offers online copywriting training and resources used by over 50,000 marketers worldwide. She‘s been invited to speak at leading industry events like Inbound, SearchLove, and Business of Software on her favorite topic: writing copy that converts.

Luckily, Joanna is passionate about sharing her hard-earned copywriting wisdom so others can improve their skills. In a recent Ask Me Anything session on Inbound.org, she dished out some of her top tips for creating persuasive copy that gets results.

Let‘s dive into 9 of Joanna‘s most valuable and actionable copywriting lessons for increasing sales and conversions.

1. Keep a swipe file to spark inspiration

One of Joanna‘s most raved-about pieces of advice is to keep a swipe file—a collection of landing pages, ads, emails, and other marketing copy examples that really grabbed your attention or made you convert.

Saving copy that made you take notice helps train your brain to recognize great writing, so you can emulate those techniques in your own work.

Some things to look for when building your swipe file:

  • Headlines and hooks that instantly drew you in
  • Compelling benefits and customer-centric messaging
  • Engaging storytelling that kept you reading
  • Clear, concise, and persuasive calls-to-action
  • Memorable phrases and voicing

"A swipe file is a copywriter‘s secret weapon", says Joanna. "It‘s a place to turn for inspiration when the creative well runs dry."

By collecting examples of copy that made you feel something, made you smirk, made you reach for your wallet—you‘re building a treasure trove of proven formulas and techniques to reference later.

When you sit down to write, you can browse your swipe file to jog ideas and get the gears turning. You might spot a clever headline to riff on, a pain point to tap into, or a storytelling method to weave in.

The key is to be highly selective in what makes it into your swipe file. Only save the best of the best—the cream of the copywriting crop. Aim to curate copy so good it makes you jealous.

2. Spend most of your time writing headlines

According to Joanna, a good rule of thumb is to spend 50% of your copywriting time on the headline alone. She says "a strong headline is your best shot at getting a prospect to read on."

In her words, "the headline is the ad for the rest of your copy". Its one job is to convince people to keep reading and ultimately convert. So it‘s worth obsessing over and re-working until it‘s irresistible.

Some of Joanna‘s top headline writing tips:

  • Focus on the core benefit or value prop: What‘s the #1 thing your target customer really wants? Call it out loud and clear. E.g. "Write better content in half the time".

  • Use "even if" statements: Help prospects overcome hesitations by addressing them in the headline. E.g. "Build muscle even if you hate the gym".

  • Quantify tangible outcomes: The more specific, the more believable. E.g. "Boost Conversions by 75% in 30 days".

  • Tap into emotions: People make decisions based on emotion first and logic second. Use headline copy that evokes anger, excitement, curiosity, and more.

Writing a killer headline is part art, part science. Joanna recommends making a "super list" of at least 50 options, then narrowing it down to test the top 2-3.

"Your headline is 80 cents out of your copywriting dollar", she emphasizes. "Without a strong hook that grabs attention, the rest of your copy might as well not even exist".

3. Sell benefits, not features

One of the biggest rookie mistakes Joanna sees in copy? Focusing too much on features (what your product or service does) and not enough on benefits (how it improves customers‘ lives).

"People don‘t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves", Joanna wisely stated in her AMA.

That‘s why it‘s crucial to shift the focus of your copy from simply listing features to painting a vivid picture of how each feature will benefit the user.

For example, which is more compelling?

  • Feature: "Our software has a drag-and-drop editor"
  • Benefit: "Create professional-looking designs in minutes, with zero technical know-how needed"

Spotlighting benefits works because it taps into your audience‘s self-interest. As Joanna puts it, "What‘s in it for me?‘ is the question that drives all buying decisions".

Effective benefit-driven copy paints a "before and after" picture—calling out your prospect‘s pain points and demonstrating how you‘ll help solve them.

To uncover the benefits in your own copy, Joanna suggests asking:

  • How does this make my prospect‘s life easier/better?
  • What frustrations or obstacles does this help them overcome?
  • What positive outcomes or goals does this help them achieve?

"When you understand the transformation your product provides at an emotional level, you can express benefits that truly resonate", says Joanna.

4. Aim for clarity over cleverness

It‘s a common myth that persuasive copy equals sleek, sophisticated, or clever copy. But according to Joanna, the opposite is actually true.

"When it comes to conversion copywriting, clarity trumps cleverness every time", she stressed in her AMA.

Why? Because no one will bother muddling through complex jargon and drawn-out sentences. On the web, you have mere seconds to get your point across before losing people‘s interest.

Joanna‘s advice: Use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs. Avoid obscure language and instead choose simple, direct words. Trim the fat and cut anything that doesn‘t directly support your core message.

For example:

  • Unclear: "Our cutting-edge, best-in-class software will help you generate new leads and capitalize on growth opportunities."

  • Clear: "Get more leads with less work using our easy lead generation tool."

As Joanna says, "Never make your reader think. Confusion doesn‘t convert".

Strive to make your copy so simple, a skimming eye could understand it. So concise, it could fit in a tweet. So crystal clear, it could be understood by a grade schooler.

"Clarity is what converts browsers into buyers", Joanna explains. "If you confuse, you lose."

5. Agitate problems before presenting solutions

Another conversion-boosting copywriting technique Joanna swears by? Agitating problems before swooping in with the solution.

In other words, amp up your prospect‘s frustrations, fears, and pain points first. Then, follow up by showing how your product or service can make all those problems go away.

Why does this work? Because people won‘t fully appreciate a solution unless they first feel the weight of the problem.

Some ways to agitate effectively in your copy:

  • Paint a vivid picture of how frustrating, time-consuming, or costly the problem is
  • Ask thought-provoking questions that get prospects reflecting on the problem
  • Use emotive words and phrases to evoke feelings like anger, sadness, or FOMO

Here‘s an example:

Tired of fighting with clunky design tools just to create one simple social media graphic? Hate how much time and effort goes into designing visuals that should take minutes? Wish you could whip up professional-looking designs at lightning speed, without breaking the bank on outsourcing?

Introducing DesignPro: The drag-and-drop design tool built for busy marketers. Pump out scroll-stopping visuals in a snap, with zero technical or design know-how needed.

See how the copy first describes the audience‘s frustrations in detail, before offering the solution? That‘s the art of agitating and solving in action.

"Agitation is all about pouring gasoline on the fire," says Joanna. "Fan prospects‘ flames first, then position your product as the water that extinguishes them."

6. Include "even if" statements to overcome objections

One of Joanna‘s go-to persuasion techniques is to sprinkle "even if" statements throughout her copy. These are essentially preemptive responses to common hesitations and objections prospects might have.

For example:

  • "Get more leads even if you‘re new to marketing"
  • "Build muscle even if you hate working out"
  • "Declutter your home even if you‘re a notorious packrat"

By directly addressing doubts upfront, "even if" statements remove barriers to taking action. They say to prospects, "This is for you, regardless of XYZ".

"People will always have knee-jerk objections to buying", says Joanna. "‘Even if‘ statements help overcome those hesitations by calling them out directly."

Try sprinkling a few "even ifs" into your own copy, especially near CTAs, to see how they impact conversions. (Spoiler alert: this one small tweak can make a huge difference).

7. Make copy more convincing with mini-stories

Want to inject some personality and persuasive power into your copy? Take Joanna‘s advice and incorporate mini-stories.

These are bite-sized narratives (usually just a few sentences long) that illustrate how your product or service has helped real people achieve positive outcomes. Kind of like a mini-case study or testimonial.

Here‘s an example:

Meet Sarah, a busy freelance designer who was drowning in client work. She was spending hours every week on mind-numbing admin tasks like tracking time, sending invoices, and chasing down payments.

Then Sarah discovered ClientFlow‘s all-in-one client management platform. Now, she can easily track time, generate invoices, and get paid on autopilot. Sarah saved 10+ hours a week, unlocked more time for actual design work, and 3x‘d her income—all thanks to ClientFlow.

"Mini-stories are so powerful because they help prospects envision how your offer will change their life", Joanna explains. "When people can see themselves in a story, they‘re much more likely to convert."

A few tips for using mini-stories in your copy:

  • Focus on the transformation: Paint a clear before > after picture showing how your product/service made life better
  • Be specific: Use concrete details and numbers to boost credibility
  • Keep it concise: A few power-packed sentences are all you need to get the point across

Ultimately, the goal is to sprinkle these "social proof" stories throughout your copy to build trust and bring your claims to life.

8. Test, tweak, repeat

Perhaps Joanna‘s biggest piece of advice when it comes to conversion copywriting? Always. Be. Testing.

That could mean testing different:

  • Headlines
  • Hooks
  • Value props
  • CTAs
  • Testimonials
  • Agitation angles
  • Offer positioning
  • Storytelling elements
  • And so much more

According to Joanna, testing is the only way to find out what copy resonates best with your unique target audience.

"Best practices are a great starting point, but you must test to see what works for YOUR people", she wisely stated in her AMA. "Never assume. Always be willing to prove yourself wrong in the name of higher conversions."

To run a proper copy test, Joanna recommends this process:

  1. Form a hypothesis (e.g. "Changing the CTA from ‘Buy Now‘ to ‘Add to Cart‘ will boost conversions by 10%")
  2. Create an A/B test pitting one copy variation against another
  3. Split traffic between variations and measure results
  4. Roll out the winning copy full-scale
  5. Record your insights and use them to inform future tests

"Testing helps you understand your customers better", says Joanna. "It removes the guesswork and shows you how to write copy that makes them tick."

9. Practice makes proficient

Last but not least, Joanna stresses that becoming a conversion copywriting master takes time and dedication.

Just like playing an instrument or learning a new language, copywriting is a skill that must be practiced regularly to see improvement.

That‘s why her parting advice is to write every single day—especially copy that‘s outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself to write a landing page, an email funnel, a Facebook ad, a video sales letter.

The more you push yourself to hone your chops, the faster you‘ll flex your copywriting muscles.

"The most accomplished copywriters I know are also the most disciplined," Joanna shared in her AMA. "They commit to mastering their craft through daily practice and continual self-education."

One of the best ways to boost your skills? Collect copy from brands you admire—aka keep a swipe file (see Lesson #1).

Over time, exposure to excellent copy will train your brain to recognize what works. You‘ll develop an intuition for which words convert and which fall flat. Do this long enough and you‘ll be able to write high-converting copy in your sleep.

Or as Joanna puts it, "Immerse yourself in copy that converts day after day and you‘ll start to internalize the patterns. The paragraphs. The flow. The pace. You‘ll soak it up through osmosis."

Key Takeaways

There you have it, folks: 9 insanely valuable conversion copywriting lessons straight from the legendary Joanna Wiebe herself.

Whether you‘re a copywriting newbie or a seasoned pro, her advice is pure gold when it comes to writing words that boost conversions and rake in more sales.

Let‘s recap the key takeaways:

  1. Keep a swipe file of copy that converts to swipe inspiration from later
  2. Spend 50% of your time writing headlines that hook readers
  3. Emphasize benefits over features to tap into your prospects‘ self-interest
  4. Choose clarity over cleverness to maximize conversions
  5. Agitate the problem before presenting the solution to make prospects crave your offer
  6. Use "even if" statements to overcome objections and remove barriers to buying
  7. Include mini-stories to make your copy more relatable and persuasive
  8. Test everything to find what copy resonates with your unique audience
  9. Practice daily to hone your skills and internalize what works

Armed with this conversion copywriting wisdom, you‘re well on your way to writing copy that doesn‘t just sound good—but sells.

As Joanna says, "Copy is your online salesperson. It will make or break your conversions, your revenue, your business. Give it the time and attention it deserves".

Now go forth and write some damn good copy.