AIDA: A Proven Copywriting Formula for Generating Leads and Revenue

by 7 09/23/2013

No, it’s not about Verdi’s Opera.

AIDA stands for:

Attention

Interest

Desire

Action

If you’re new to copywriting, or you’re a copywriter staring at a blank page, the AIDA copywriting formula is an “old standard” that routinely produces rock-solid results. You can use AIDA for every type of direct response ad: sales page, squeeze page, direct mail, radio, and TV.

First, I’ll detail how AIDA works. Then I’ll show you some fun examples of AIDA in action.

Before You Start Your AIDA Journey

Before using AIDA, the first step is to understand the potential customer or client.

The direct response advertisement MUST be targeted directly at the person who will, and can, buy the product or service you’re selling. AIDA, or any copywriting equation, will only work when it’s perfectly aligned with your database of prospects.

The pre-writing research must clearly investigate, then define, the demographic and psychographic of the potential client or customer.

I describe this process in more detail in another Crazy Egg article on maximizing your ROI. You can also use my free “preflight” copywriting checklist to get started.

An example

Let’s say you run a suburban dance studio that targets couples age 30-55. The studio also works with serious ballroom dancers who compete in national competitions. But the bulk of the studio’s income comes from couples who simply want to enjoy learning to dance.

The studio owner buys a mailing list of couples within 10 miles with the correct demographic. So it’s a highly targeted list.

Before using the AIDA formula, it’s VITAL to understand precisely what motivates couples to, if you’ll excuse me, take the next step in the sales process.

Fortunately, the studio owner has successfully run the studio for several years and knows the following:

  • Women want to try learning to dance.
  • Men are initially reluctant but eventually really enjoy the classes.
  • A low-price offer converts best.
  • Dance lessons bring couples closer together—in many ways.
  • It’s a perfect date night activity.
  • A promotion in tandem with a local bar/restaurant works well. Have a dance class then a meal and/or glass of wine.
  • Customers want to learn a variety of different styles. Tango. Fox trot. Waltz. And more…
  • The benefits of “practical application” must be stressed. For example, the couple will be able to dance at country club social events, meet new people, and never be wallflowers. Couples even move on to enjoy going to salsa clubs and some even make competitive dancing their hobby.
  • You can definitely leverage the popularity of TV shows like Dancing With the Stars.
  • The key proof element is the testimonial.
  • The calls to action include: calling to book a spot at an introductory session, visiting a web page with more information, sending an email to the studio owner.

The offer (the most important part of this promotion) is a 1-hour private dance class for $25. The private class takes place with one of the top instructors and normally costs $100.

It can also be important to understand the business model. Or, more specifically, the sales funnel.

The offer above persuades potential clients to try dancing lessons.

Approximately 50% will continue with weekly lessons. These customers, if they have young daughters, will send these children to dance lessons.

The couples will often bring other couples into the school. Many of these couples will regularly take dance lessons. About 5% will take it super-seriously and become premium clients who will spend several thousand dollars a year taking lessons to prepare for competitions.

Now the copywriter has the raw materials needed to use the AIDA formula properly. AIDA will only maximize conversion when the copywriter understands the business model and has almost all the copy elements in place before writing.

The Nuts and Bolts of AIDA

Let’s look at how we’d apply AIDA to this particular promotion.

Attention

The chosen vehicle for the offer is a two-page letter. So the first job is to persuade the reader to take notice of an envelope… then open it. the copy on the envelope MUST grab the reader’s ATTENTION.

The target is a suburban woman age 35-55. What’s supremely important to the prospect?

Dancing? No.

Their relationship? Yes.

To grab the attention of the reader, I would try a question headline.

“Would you like to take your
relationship to the next level?”

The headline on the letter would match the attention-grabber on the envelope. I might try:

“How a Couple Used a
Totally Unexpected Idea to
Strengthen their Bond.”

I would test the attention-grabbing headlines, but these present a strong start.

Remember, when grabbing the attention of the prospect, it’s important to hit them right between the eyes and use some intrigue to persuade the reader to keep reading.

ON A SIDE NOTE: You might also choose to create a sales page—and the same formula would work. Instead of envelope copy, though, you’d probably have an email.

Now it’s time for…

Interest

Once you’ve grabbed the attention of the reader, it’s time to provide interesting and fresh information that augments the headline.

In this case, the letter can tell the story of a couple who tried dancing and strengthened their relationship… enjoyed meeting new people and were never wallflowers at social events… and even went on a tango vacation to Argentina.

Base the information in the interest section on what really appeals to the couples who have become regular students.

Notice that the approach above subtly solves a potential or current problem: a relationship that needs a boost. In this instance, it would be a mistake to mention the problem directly.

However, with some products and services, you can write openly about the problem. This approach works well for common problems like warts, blocked drains, indigestion, athlete’s foot, bad breath, etc.

Now that you’ve got them interested in dancing as a way to improve a relationship, now it’s time to introduce…

Desire

It’s in this section that you pound away with the benefits. And here’s where the research becomes especially valuable.

In this letter, I would state and re-state the benefits that couples enjoy when they take up dancing as a hobby.

To back up your claims, you must provide proof. In the case of the dance school, three testimonials from other suburban couples should suffice and buttress the desire.

Now that you’ve stimulated desire, it’s time for…

Action

You’ve worked hard to get the potential student interested in learning to dance. So it’s time to introduce the offer plus overcome any objections. You can also introduce the concept of scarcity.

In this case, the offer is the $25 private dance lesson and there are just 4 available a week.

You can mention that men are reluctant but love it in the end.

You can introduce the instructor and their qualifications.

Then it’s important to provide a clincher: when you buy the $25 dance lesson, you also get a $25 gift card to a local restaurant so you can enjoy a meal after the lesson.

A guarantee can also help persuade people to take action.

Then you MUST include a call to action (CTA). Make it clear and easy to respond. Tell the reader to take the next step.

The above example is somewhat simplistic but it clearly introduces AIDA. Now let’s see…

AIDA in Action

Infomercials almost always use AIDA. Here’s a old short-form direct response TV ad from the 70s.

Those were the days!

The writer gets your attention with a simple scene from a party featuring young, attractive people—one of whom suddenly produces a microphone.

Then the ad keeps your interest with a series of fun and slightly crazy scenes showing you the fun you can have with the product.

To boost desire, the ad shows a ton of people using the product. Don’t you want to be like those people?

Then it’s time for action with the low price and phone number.

Here’s a print ad that follows the AIDA formula.

AIDA format in a Gary Halbert ad

The advertisement appeared in the Los Angeles Times in 1988.

Attention

If you like music and Elvis, the advertisement gets your attention. It’s news about the king! There’s a photo plus a revealing headline.

Elvis1

Interest

Note that the ad looks like—and reads like—a newspaper article. There’s ample fascinating information from Elvis insiders about the “lost” recordings and how they surfaced.

In fact, I count 14 paragraphs of “interest” copy. It’s detailed and even hyper-ventilates.

Elvis2b

Desire

To create desire for the product, the copywriter uses a classic technique: scarcity. Only a few are available so get yours now.

Elvis3b

Action

The ad provides two easy options plus a guarantee.

Elvis4b

Note the added bonus of the signature from the king’s mother.

Next time you see an advertisement, a web page, or a TV commercial, see if they’re using the AIDA formula. And make sure you test the formula in your advertising.

About 

Scott Martin is a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has also written or edited 18 books including The Book of Caddyshack: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Greatest Movie Ever Made. Scott provides free resources for marketers including direct response checklists.

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7 COMMENTS

Rahul Kuntala

This is such an awesome post, I was taking action while reading!

Great insights Scott. Definitely worth a tweet :)

September 25, 2013 Reply

Scott Martin

Thank you, Rahul, for the kind comments. AIDA is a great place to start.

September 25, 2013 Reply

shayne

Scott, this was a phenomenal article. I love it. I do have a question though. In the section where you explained the “interest” part of the formula, you said this in reference to talking about the problem:

“Notice that the approach above subtly solves a potential or current problem: a relationship that needs a boost. In this instance, it would be a mistake to mention the problem directly.”

Why would it be a mistake to mention this problem directly? I have my assumptions, but I would love your take.

Thanks again,
Shayne

January 23, 2014 Reply

Lewis Rose

Brilliant article. The best example of the AIDA formula I’ve seen to date.

It’s great to touch up on useful skills as a writer. You can never know too much! I look forward to reading your next article and implementing the AIDA formula in to my next few projects.

Regards,

Lewis

July 7, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Lewis, glad you liked it. Thanks for the feedback. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

    July 7, 2014 Reply


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