How to write ethical sales copy

What someone considers unethical, another person might not. But if you’re here reading this, we can probably agree that most ‘standard’ sales copy uses traditional tactics that make people buy out of a place of fear or pressure, rather than from a place of legitimate desire.

Ethical sales copy aims to focus on educating readers about the benefits and the transformation the product or service will offer, giving the reader the power to make an informed choice. I’m going to give you a few pointers on how to write ethical sales copy.

A sidenote: selling as a standalone isn’t bad, or unethical, in my opinion. You need to earn a living, and your business can and should grow via more sales.

How is standard sales copy unethical?

  • It relies on the reader feeling agitated and distressed in order for them to buy. Many copy tactics focus on really squeezing this agitation out of the reader so that, by the time they read down to the offering, they’re feeling like the only possible solution is to buy. Even though nobody ‘has’ to buy anything…
  • It can use false scarcity to make readers panic buy. Think ‘only twelve hours left!’ or ‘Only three spots left!’ Even when there most certainly aren’t twelve hours or three spots left, or they’ve got the intention of extending the time or spaces allocated.
  • It can make you feel guilty for not deciding to purchase. For example, a button where the ‘no’ option is ‘I don’t want to save money and improve my life.’ Just because someone doesn’t want to buy there and then doesn’t mean they don’t understand the value of the offering.
  • Most of it uses heavily persuasive writing and psychological tactics to really push people into buying. A lot of it reminds me of cold-callers desperately trying to sell you their latest insurance plan.
  • It may have a huge big promise that might seem too good to be true, or not backed up by any sort of evidence.

But those sales tactics work…

Yeah, they do. I’ll never say they don’t work because that would be unethical of me to say so. They do work, people can make a lot of money from using those tactics, and a lot of people will say you have to use those tactics and wonder why the f you wouldn’t.

They can make you money quickly when used properly, and they can bring in money you might not otherwise have had – as you reach those people who are uncertain and persuade them. I’ll stop you right here if you’re looking to make money quickly and you don’t really care about how you do that.

This blog, or likely my wider business, may not be the right fit for you!

How to rework your copy to make it more ethical

  1. Focus on the struggles your reader is having, but also focus on the benefits your offering will give them. Rather than focusing on the negatives that they’re experiencing right now, focus on all the great things that could happen if they bought your thing.
  2. Don’t make big promises you can’t back up. Don’t promise £10k months, instant sales, or a huge transformation if it isn’t really that true. Especially if you’re a sustainable business, making big false claims about your sustainability in order to sell your services is greenwashing.
  3. Educate rather than solely persuade. I recently helped with the newsletter copy for the launch of The Green Marketing Academy and the strategy was to focus on educating the readers about green marketing and about the course, rather than trying to persuade people to join. Why? Educating is a light form of persuasion, it’ll give the reader all the information necessary to make an informed decision. It shows them why the offering is right, rather than telling. Combine the two and your copy will be more ethical.
  4. Be clear about your pricing. Don’t put a monthly cost in bold if you actually require people to pay upfront, and don’t hide the fact you need to charge VAT until checkout. Oh, and round up your numbers instead of using unethical charm pricing like £399. Just say £400 and don’t try to trick people’s subconscious into thinking it’s cheaper than it is.
  5. Give them the opportunity to learn from your free resources if they are not yet ready to buy. Not only will this teach them that you’re the one for the job, but this will also make your offering more accessible to those who may not ever be able to buy. Don’t make them feel guilty about not buying, make them feel like they’re valued no matter what.

Ethical sales copy can still sell for you

Notice I’ve not mentioned that you shouldn’t use persuasive tactics or soft selling. My job as a copywriter is to get people to buy from you, so there will always be some element of persuasion or selling to get the copy to work.

What matters is how you do that. You can sell, be persuasive, and make money, without using white lies and trickery. Yes, even for sales pages, you can sell your stuff without using the tactics mentioned above.
I’m living proof of it 😉

Need some help writing ethical sales copy?

If you’re a sustainable, vegan, or outdoorsy business, I’d love to help your business thrive ethically. I’ve got a few packages tailored to different budgets, and the pricing is entirely transparent: what you see is what you get!

I won’t rely heavily on any of the persuasive tactics mentioned, what I’ll do is balance them correctly with creative copy and ethical tactics so that you’ll get the sales from the right people.

I can’t wait to help your sustainable business grow and show you the power of ethical copy. Have a browse of my packages and see if I’d be the right fit for your business.

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