The “SkyMall” Guide to Writing Copy that Sells

Brad Smith
Here are some copywriting tips from SkyMall
A lesson in copywriting from everyones favorite in-flight magazine.

Over the holidays, I traveled from Southern California (where I live), to St. Louis, Las Vegas, Minnesota, and back to Las Vegas before returning home.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time in airplanes.

Which is fine, because I enjoy traveling. I usually read on my Kindle, or try to get some work done on my MacBook Air.

But during takeoffs and landings, you have to put all electronics away.

And that 20 – 30 minutes with nothing to do gets boring. (I can’t just sit around and relax!)

So I open up one of my favorite magazines ever… SkyMall.

If you’re not familiar, SkyMall is basically a catalog of fun, useless products to buy. And they have some strange stuff — so it’s entertaining to flip through when you’re killing time.

But unfortunately, I can’t turn my brain off.

So I start thinking about the products, how much competition they have, possible conversion rates, total reach with such massive distribution in every airplane, etc. etc.

I mean… some of these are interesting, but most aren’t really essential to your life. You may WANT these products, but you certainly don’t NEED them.

(Case in point: the only time I remember hearing about someone purchasing a product from SkyMall, it was an adult-sized, one-piece pajama set… complete with footies.)

Now think about how difficult it is to sell something if you take away the human interaction. That means you’re trying to use a few words, and an image to sell something… when you’re just one product out of a hundred others, and you only have a few seconds to get your point across.

(Kinda like the internet… see where I’m going with this?)

How are you supposed to (1) capture attention, (2) create interest, (3) build trust, and (4) inspire someone to take action with a tiny space, a couple words, and only a few seconds of each person’s time?


Why Selling with Words is So Difficult

Writing is the backbone of online marketing.

Because every word on your website, and each sentence in your email needs to do one thing (and one thing only): sell.

Maybe not overt, aggressive, used car-salesman-type selling.

But it needs to influence, persuade, and seduce potential prospects from the moment they land on a page.

Your writing needs to do all of these things… when most people have no idea who you are and could probably care less about you.

Fortunately, your website and emails don’t have to be “written well”. You’re not trying to win a Nobel Peace Prize, or get an “A” in your old high school English class. (In fact, most of the time you should purposefully go against most writing guidelines.)

You see this mistake all the time…

Websites are filled with huge blocks of boring, jargon-filled text that tries to be “professional”.

But in most cases (especially B2B), you’re just turning people off.

If you turn people off, then they won’t read further and you won’t sell more.

Instead, you need to start using more copywriting that speaks to the hearts of prospects. (Humans are inherently emotional and irrational… so facts and statistics only get you so far.)

Here are two great examples from SkyMall.


Bad Example: “Our Most Powerful Tablet PC Ever!”

Here’s one picture I took while flying over the country:

Bad example of copywriting.

Notice a few things here:

  • The headline emphasis the company (“Our…”)
  • It uses vague jargon (“Tablet PC”)
  • The sub-head uses more jargon (“Android 4.0”)
  • And all the bullets emphasize features

I don’t have any inside information… but I bet the sales of this product are terrible.

It doesn’t resonate with readers, or tell them why they need the product.

Now compare that to this one…


Good Example: “Can’t Sleep? Always Too Hot or Too Cold”?

Great example of how to use these copywriting tips.

  • The headline describes a common reader’s problem (“Can’t sleep?”) which immediately grabs their attention
  • Then the sub-head talks about another common problem (“Always Too Hot…”)
  • Now look at the opening line of copy… it’s beautiful. (“Don’t settle for hot sticky nights and poor sleep when you can stay cool, dry and comfortable all night”).
  • And it uses a feature to describe a competitive advantage, but then translates it into a benefit. (“… evaporate rapidly so the…”)

This ad is using copywriting to get prospects to emotionally engage and buy in.

It’s not trying to factually talk about the product. Because that’s not why people buy.

People buy because you’re solving their problem, or fulfilling a desire.


How to Use Copywriting to Capture Attention, Build Trust, and Increase Sales

The first rule of copywriting is this: no one cares about you, your company, or your business.

The only thing that matters is your prospect. Who they are, what they do, where they want to go, and what’s preventing them from getting there.

Maybe they have aspirational goals, or maybe they’re trying to avoid pain.

Either way, you need to identify with them and talk about what they’re experiencing.

Frame it as a problem… a huge hurdle or gap in their life.

Talk about common symptoms of that problem, and how it’s a huge burden in their life (whether they realize it or not).

And the only possible solution… is what you’re providing.

You’re the cure to protect them, or the solution to getting a new job, losing weight, making more money, experiencing less stress, or maybe just… feeling better about themselves.

Use concrete examples and vivid language.

And emphasize expected results, outcomes and benefits.

“Your service or product does this, or has that feature, so that the prospect gets this benefit, or that outcome.”

You’ll notice a striking difference in results when you write like this on your website, blog posts, PPC ads, social media updates, and email newsletters.

People start actually paying attention.

They begin opting-in to willingly hear more from you.

They open and click on every email you send them.

They start replying to your emails, and commenting on your Facebook updates.

They begin inquiring for more information, or raising their hands to become a lead.

And they start… buying. In droves.

Because you understand them.

You know what they’re going through, and how they feel.

And they’re confident that you can help them.

If you’d like to experience this transformation in your business, then I can help →.

See what I did there… 🙂