The 5-Step Plan for Turning Prospects Into Customers

Using this five-step plan can help you write powerful, persuasive copy that attracts your best customers.

learn more about Robert W. Bly

By Robert W. Bly • Mar 13, 2019

Tom Werner | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly's book The Direct Mail Revolution: How to Create Profitable Direct Mail Campaigns in a Digital World. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | IndieBound

In direct marketing, structure is key: If your copy doesn't follow the formula for persuasion, it won't work, no matter how creative you get.

There have been numerous formulas for writing persuasive copy throughout the years. The most famous is probably AIDA, which stands for attention, interest, desire, and action. In copywriting seminars, I've taught a variation on AIDA known as the motivating sequence.

The following explores the five steps of the motivating sequence:

Step 1: Get attention

Before your promotion can do anything else, it has to get your prospect's attention. It must get the prospect to stop, open the envelope, and start reading the materials inside instead of tossing it in the trash. You already know many methods of getting attention and see dozens of them in action every day. In TV and magazine advertising, sex is often used to gain attention for products ranging from soft drinks and cars to diet and exercise programs.

Other options: Make a bold statement, cite a startling statistic, ask a curiosity-arousing question, put a bulky object in the envelope, apply a glossy coating to the envelope and letter, use a pop-up graphic -- you get the idea.

Related: Looking for Leads? These 4 Direct Mail Offers Are Your Answer

Step 2: Identify the problem or need

Most products fill a need or solve a problem. But what are the chances that your prospect is thinking about this problem when they get your promotion? Probably not all that great.

So, the first thing you have to do is focus their attention on the need or problem your product addresses. Only then can you talk to them about the solution.

Step 3: Position your product as the solution to the problem

Once you get the prospect to focus on the problem, the next step is to position your product or service as the solution to that problem. This can be a quick transition. Here's an example from a fundraising letter from the Red Cross:

Dear Mr. Bly:

Someday, you may need the Red Cross.

But right now, the Red Cross needs you.

It pretty much lays out where the letter will go next, doesn't it?

Related: Need to Get People Paying Attention to Your Brand? Hold a Contest.

Step 4: Offer the reader proof

As marketer Mark Joyner points out in his book The Irresistible Offer (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), one of the prospect's first questions when they receive your promotion is "Why should I believe you?"

You answer that question by offering proof. That proof comes in two flavors.

The first type speaks to your credibility. It convinces the prospect that you are a reputable firm or individual and can therefore be trusted. A diploma from a prestigious medical school displayed prominently on a doctor's office wall is an example of credibility. In a direct-mail piece for health offers, response improves if the letter is signed by an MD.

The second type of proof has to do with the product and convinces the buyer that your product can do what you say it can do. Testimonials, case histories, reviews, performance graphs, and test results are examples of proof in this category.

Step 5: Ask for action

The final step is to ask for action. Your goal is usually to generate either an inquiry or an order. To ask for action in direct marketing, we make an offer, or, in other words, what the reader gets when they respond to your promotion and what they have to do to get it.

In a lead-generating direct-mail package, the offer might be as simple as "Mail back the enclosed reply card for our free catalog." In a mail order online promotion, the offer might be "Click here and enter your credit card information to purchase our product on a 30-day money-back trial basis for $49.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling."

I'm willing to wager that every successful piece of copy you've ever mailed or emailed follows to some extent the steps in the motivating sequence -- even if you've never heard of it before. That's because you have an instinct for how to sell.

So, if you can sell instinctively, then what good are the motivating sequence and other persuasion formulas?

They're useful because when you have the steps written out in front of you, you can make sure no step is shortchanged or left out -- increasing your odds of writing a direct mail winner.

Robert W. Bly

Author, Copywriter and Marketing Consultant

Robert W. Bly is an independent copywriter and marketing consultant with more than 35 years of experience in B2B and direct response marketing. He has worked with over 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Embraer Executive Jet, Intuit, Boardroom, Grumman and more. He is the author of 85 books, including The Marketing Plan Handbook (Entrepreneur Press 2015), and he currently writes regular columns for Target Marketing Magazine and The Direct Response Letter.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

Have More Responsibilities at Work, But No Pay Bump? Use This Script to Get the Raise You Deserve.
Black and Asian Founders Face Opposition at All Levels — Here's Why That Has to Change
Business News

Viral Sensation 'Popcorn Guy' Has Earned a Gig at the 2023 Oscars

Jason Grosboll first went viral on TikTok for his theatrical method of buttering popcorn in a Texas movie theater.

Business News

'This Made Me Physically Recoil From My Phone': Lingerie Brand Apologizes For 'Creepy' Ad Referencing Ryan Reynolds and Bras

Online lingerie retailer Harper Wilde is under fire for a bizarre sponsored post it has since pulled from Instagram.

Thought Leaders

5 Small Daily Habits Self-Made Millionaires Use to Grow Their Wealth

We've all seen what self-made millionaires look like on TV, but it's a lot more subtle than that. Brian Tracy researched what small daily habits these successful entrepreneurs adopted on their journey from rags to riches.

Marketing

5 Startup Marketing Moves That Work Even in Uncertain Times

You may not be able to predict the future, but these battle tested marketing moves will help you create opportunities, even in the most trying times.

Business News

The Scam Artist Who Robbed Backstreet Boys and NSYNC Blind. 'Some of the Guys Couldn't Pay Their Car Payment.'

In the 1990s, Lou Pearlman made millions creating the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. It was all a giant Ponzi scheme.