Use a P.S. in your copywriting: Why you need it, 18 ideas to create your own, and how to rock it

Whether you write copy for a living like I do, or whether you’re a business owner who creates your own copy for your marketing and sales efforts, here’s one way you can bump up the effectiveness of your copy efforts: A P.S.

Traditionally, the P.S., or post script, was used after the signature as a way to add more content — perhaps to clarify something you’d written earlier or as a brief update between when you wrote the letter and when you mail the letter.

No one writes by hand anymore, except my grandma (and her letters are always written on those impossibly thin shopping list notepads that real estate agents send out for free. My grandma is awesome). But everyone else in the world writes on a computer and doesn’t really need to add a PS because they can just go back and edit what they wrote or send a second email.

In copywriting, the P.S. persists and is a useful tool. When possible and appropriate, I try to include a P.S. in my copy (yes for sales letters and autoresponders, sometimes for blog posts, no for reports).

WHY YOU NEED A P.S.

It’s been said by someone (attributed to a couple of different people, most frequently to copywriting master Gary Halbert) that the P.S. is the second headline.

Less succinctly, my copywriting studies frequently urged that copywriters need to write a great headline and a great P.S. and just about everything was secondary… because it was usually skimmed (or even overlooked completely) by readers.

In practice, it seems that people tend to read the headline and, if the document is short, they’ll scan to the bottom and read the P.S. and then they’ll read the body copy. If the document is longer, this practice doesn’t happen as often (because of the work required to scroll down to the bottom) but the P.S. is almost always read, even if nothing else is read.

Since a headline and a P.S. are the two pieces in marketing copy that are almost always read, you need a P.S. as often as possible because it’s a second way to get your message to your audience.

Copyblogger gives another good reason to use the P.S.: In a list of things (and your marketing or sales piece IS a list of things), people tend to remember only the first and last thing. So your headline and P.S. are going to be remembered when everything else is forgotten.

Want some numbers to back up my pro-P.S. position? Here’s a compelling statistic from The Toppled Bollard, a British site about direct mail. They report on a split test between a sales letter without a P.S. and with a P.S.: The letter without the P.S. resulted in zero sales while the letter with the P.S. resulted in a 2% response and ultimately over 20,000 pounds in profit. Nice.

18 IDEAS TO CREATE YOUR P.S.

There are many ways to create a P.S. I’ll gather what others have said and I’ve added my thoughts in parentheses beside each one.

Michel Fortin says: The P.S. is a place to…
1. State or restate your call to action (this one’s my favorite)
2. Disclose a new piece of information (save a great piece of info to really hit home)
3. Summarize the main points of your letter (good but can make for a longer P.S.)
4. Recap your offer (similar to above but shorter)
5. Strengthen or sweeten the deal (especially good for a reluctant prospect)
6. Add a proof element (statistics work well here)
7. Overcome an objection (I recommend the most common objection)

Procopy tips advises to use the P.S. to…
8. Increase urgency (one of my favorites)

Ryan Healey adds these ways to use the P.S…
9. Reinforce the guarantee (make sure your guarantee has teeth!)
10. Restate the big idea (I haven’t seen this done very well)
11. Add social proof (especially your strongest testimonial)

Mike Kim lists these ways to use the P.S…
12. Restate the terms of the offer (be careful! This can sometimes be long or boring)
13. Add a bonus (similar to sweetening the deal, above)

HubSpot adds these great ways to use the P.S…
14. Provide a hook (including a link for the person to take action)
15. Give a final plea (similar to call to action but I like the sense of “plea”)
16. Personalize the offer (great to use if your offer has a corporate feel to it)

Copyblogger has this nice simple way to use a P.S.
17. Reiterate what the customer stands to lose (Love it! I’m going to try this one).

The Toppled Bollard gave this really interested idea…
18. Add a non-sensical P.S. (it creates interest, response, and drives people back into the letter)

HOW TO ROCK YOUR P.S.

Here are some tips I’ve developed over the years when writing P.S.s:

  • Use it! When possible, use the P.S. Don’t waste the opportunity.
  • Use it with purpose. A P.S. isn’t a throwaway piece of your marketing. I like to spend a large portion of my time working on my headline and P.S. If I nail that, there’s a lot of room for error in the body copy and I still get a good response. The skill-set I use to write a headline is the same one I rely on to write my P.S.
  • Use only one P.S. Although some people practice using more than one P.S., and I have done multiple P.S.s in my sales letters, I prefer to use just one. I tend to think that multiple P.S.s clutter things up and you lose the edge you gained with one.
  • Be succinct. I like shorter P.S.s. Yes, you might be able to argue for longer ones but I tend to think of a P.S. as a headline and headlines should be succinct.
  • Test and measure. Key the links in your body copy separate from the link in your P.S. and see which one pulls better.

Case study: Communicating through a sensitive topic

In business, it’s easy to communicate the fun stuff. “Great news! We’ve increased the your bandwidth!” or “Great news, that airplane seat actually costs less!”

But there are times when you need to deliver bad news to a client… and that’s when clients call me.

In the recent past, I’ve had 3 separate clients ask me to help them communicate bad news to their clients.

  • One software client was changing how their warranty period was charged and measured, which ultimately resulted in higher costs for customers.
  • An insurance client was asking its vendors to adopt a new and highly complex piece of software.
  • A client that sold online services was increasing their rate structure, even though they had already increased their rate structure earlier that year.

I always start by trying to understand both sides of the relationship. The party delivering the bad news has their reasons for having the bad news in the first place. (In my experience, businesses rarely try to screw with their customers and vendors without having a good reason!). And on the other side of the table, the party receiving the bad news brings their own set of biases and goals.

This is where most businesses fall short. They might want to do what’s right for all parties but their own goals are so embedded in their thinking that it’s hard to consider the other side. Perhaps that’s why they bring me — an outsider — in to help.

After thinking about what both parties want, I try to find something good. Something. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s never impossible.

  • In the case of the software company, there were aspects of the warranty that customers could customize.
  • In the case of the insurance company’s vendors, the software allowed for faster communication between the vendor and the company.
  • Even in the online services client, there was something good — although we had to create it: Rather than simply increasing the company’s rates across the board, we changed the conversation by creating new service tiers. The prices increased but so did the service and the perceived value.

The result? I was able to communicate through the sensitive issue for my clients and they came out the other side with customers and vendors intact and happy.

Case study: Writing to create a brand

When you have a product to sell, you sell it once and the client takes ownership of that product. But with software as a service, you are creating a product that you “sell” over and over again. Every time the payment is due, you need to re-sell why you provide the service that you do. And when there are other competing products in the marketplace, you’d better step up with something different of your own.

I had an opportunity to write for a client who was selling financial software as a service. They were a brand new product competing in a space already dominated by several other names.

With a total blank slate, I set out to create the brand. I knew that we’d never be able to compete on an equal plain with the other established service providers in the category. They had already locked up the ideas/concepts/terms that they stood for. So we found our own idea and I wrote all the content around that one idea. I recommended a mascot to be created and presented frequently on all the pages to give the brand its identity. All content — on every single page, as well as the blog — was designed to support the one idea or key theme we chose as the idea for our brand. We even changed the pricing model to reflect the brand that was built.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result: The site looked sharp, attracted subscribers, and became a solid player in the industry with a healthy base of subscribers. I wrapped up my agreement with them when they were acquired by another company.

This project was the project that ultimately “sold” me on the value of the subscription payment model. I’d seen other companies do it, of course, but was never on the inside before, and this company put together an offer that worked really well.

And, this project was thrilling to participate in because it truly was a “from-the-ground-up” project in which I started with an entirely clean slate and could build it almost in any way that I thought best.

Go after your leads BEFORE they become leads: How to convince buyers that they want more than a faster horse

I’ve been writing about sales funnels for a while. And if you’ve ever heard me speak about them, or you’ve read my book The Sales Funnel Bible, you’ll know that one of my favorite sales funnel speaking points is this:

Your sales funnel starts earlier than you think it does.

Unlike how most people view their sales funnel, it doesn’t start with marketing to get leads.

Your sales funnel starts earlier — with your audience.

You should be marketing to them long before they realize they have a problem that you can solve. You should be marketing to your audience to let them know that they have a problem.

A great example here is from Henry Ford. He famously (and apocryphally?) said that if he had asked his customers what they needed, they would have said they needed a faster horse. He needed to find potential car buyers and let them know that they had a problem they didn’t even realize they had!

The same thing is happening in your business. You solve a problem — great! — but there are people who don’t realize that they even have a problem. If you market only to those who already know they have a problem, you miss out on a huge market of people who are only a small decision-point away from discovering they have a problem that you solve.

So build your sales funnel “taller” and “earlier” by educating people who don’t realize they have a problem.

Imagine my delight when I saw that Moz (formerly SEOmoz, whose content I find so damn interesting) wrote about this exact topic on a recent Whiteboard Friday post. That’s validating because Rand Fishkin is smarter and more popular than I am… so maybe I’m kind of on the right track. :)

Check it out here:

Targeting your audience earlier in the buying process

This is such a huge opportunity for business owners. If you’re not paying attention to your audience, start today!

Case study: Ghostwriting a best-selling book

A book is more than just a couple hundred pages that you might sell for twenty bucks on Amazon. Writing a book SHOULD BE on your list of things to do to grow your business. It’s a document that helps to position you as an expert in your field. It has the potential to provide ongoing income for you — just sweat through the hard work of writing it once and then you’ll earn ongoing income from it for as long as you sell it. A book is also a marketing tool; it constantly promotes you even when you’re sleeping. Books open doors — to new business opportunities, new marketing opportunities, speaking engagements, clients, and more.

As a former ghostwriter (I really don’t do ghostwriting at all anymore) I had the privilege of working with a few clients on their books. They’d tell me what they wanted to write about, I’d put together a table of contents and a project plan (to keep the project moving forward because it’s SO easy to let your book falter) and then I’d write the content for them. Unlike some ghostwriters who write almost all the content exclusively, I tried to adopt a more collaborative approach with my clients because I felt that it better captured their brand and “voice”, and it ensured that I didn’t too long on a rabbit-trail digression that wasn’t helping the client.

Some books I wrote for some clients turned out okay. We were both happy with the end result but the books didn’t deliver all that was hoped. But for one client, with whom I wrote nearly half a dozen books, they all became Amazon best-sellers, achieving #1 seller status in different Amazon categories.

So what was the difference between some of my clients whose books were okay and my one client whose books all became best-sellers?

Here are a few things that helped my best-selling-book client do so well:

  • We wrote good-sized print books (250+ pages) of high quality, high value information
  • We created a website to help promote the book
  • We cross-sold the book on my client’s other channels (his site plus in the backs of other books)
  • We wrote sales letters and autoresponders to help generate sales

These all helped; they all played a part… and I would love to point entirely to myself as the most significant reason that these books did so well. However, what really made a huge difference was that my client had a HUGE audience with whom he had nurtured a very deep and trusting relationship.

Whenever we wrote something, he put it on Amazon and his readers would rush out and buy it. (That might sound bad but don’t worry, I made sure we wrote GREAT content!).

Although I played a part, it was really my client’s relationship with his list that made all the difference, turning a great product into an in-demand product.

So what should you do if you’re a business owner who aspires to write a book and use it as a tool for your business? I think your first priority should be to build an audience and nurture a relationship with them.