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The Copywriter’s Handbook


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  • 1. The Copywriter’s Handbookby Robert W. Bly
    • “I don’t know a single copywriter whose work would not be improved by reading this book. And that includes me.” – David Ogilvy
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 2. Slideshow put together by:
    Colin Postpost.colin@gmail.comWeb development and e-marketing campaignsImport / export management for US-South AmericaInmersiones ingleses en CundinamarcaFreelance
    I hope Bly approves. Buy his book.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 3. Intro to Copywriting
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
    “A copywriter is a salesperson behind a typewriter” – Judith Charles
    “The goal of advertising is not to be liked, to entertain, or to win advertising awards; it is to sell products.” – Robert Bly
    To convince the consumer to buy the product, copy must do 3 things:
    Get attention.
  • 4. Writing to Get Attention: The Headline
    Direct mail sales letters have 5 seconds to gain the reader’s attention.
    “If you come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad … But even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline.” – John Caples
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 5. Defining Headline / First Impression
    In print advertising, it’s the headline and visual.
    In radio or TV ad, it’s the first few seconds.
    In a direct-mail package, it’s the outer envelope or first few sentences of the letter.
    In a press release, it’s the lead paragraph.
    In a sales brochure or catalog, it’s the front cover.
    In a sales presentation, it’s the first few slides or flip charts.
    On a website, it’s the first screen of the home page.
    In an email, it’s the From and Subject lines.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 6. Four Possible Headline Functions
    Get attention.
    Select the audience.
    Deliver a complete message.
    Draw the reader into the body copy.
    “The headline is the most important element in most advertisements … On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.” – David Ogilvy
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 7. Headlines Get Attention
    Appeal to the reader’s self interest
    “Why Swelter Through Another Hot Summer?” – GE air conditioners
    Give the reader news
    “Introducing …”
    Offer freebies and use the word, “free”
    Offer useful information
    “How to Bake Beans” – Van Camp’s
    Proven headline buzzwords:
    Free, how to, why, sale, quick, easy, bargain, last chance, guarantee, results, proven, save
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 8. Headlines Select the Audience
    Headline can qualify the buyer – “an ad for a $65,000 sports car should (somehow) say, ‘This is for rich folks only!’”
    Select the right audience, screen out others.
    “We’re looking for People to Write Children’s Books!”
    “Is Your Electric Bill Too High?”
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 9. Headlines Deliver a Complete Message
    This kind of headline can sell the 80% who read headlines only.
    “Gas Energy Inc. Cuts Cooling and Heating Costs Up to 50%!”
    “Caught Soon Enough, Early Tooth Decay Can Actually Be Repaired by Colgate!”
    * Include the selling promise and brand name.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 10. Headlines Draw Reader into Copy
    For products that require much information to sell, use humor, intrigue, mystery, ask a question, promise reward, news, info.
    “What do Japanese Managers Have That American Managers Sometimes Lack?”
    “The $5 Alternative to Costly Plastic Surgery”
    “If You’re Confused About Buying a Personal Computer, Here’s Some Help.”
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 11. Direct Headlines
    Indirect Headlines
    News Headlines
    How-to Headlines
    Question Headlines
    Command Headlines
    Reason-Why Headlines
    Testimonial Headlines
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
    8 Types of Headlines
  • 12. 4 U’s Formula for Writing Effective Headlines
    Urgent – gives the reader reason to act now instead of later.
    “Make $100,000 working from home this year.” (add ‘this year’)
    Unique – says something new or something familiar in a new way.
    “Why Japanese women have beautiful skin”
    Ultra-specific – “fascinations” tease the reader into reading further.
    “Best time to file for a tax refund”
    Useful – appeals to reader’s self-interest by offering a benefit.
    “An Invitation to Ski and Save”
    * Rate every headline you write on each U from 1 – 4. Then tweak it to boost your total average rating.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 13. Writing to Communicate
    “You sell more merchandise when you write clear copy.”
    Causes of confusing copy:
    “Borrowed interest”, lengthy sentences, clichés, big words, not getting to the point, a lack of specifics, technical jargon, and poor organization
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 14. 11 Tips for Writing Clear Copy
    Put the reader first, use “you”
    Carefully organize your selling points
    Break the writing into short sections
    Long paragraphs are intimidating
    Use short sentences – easier to read
    Best average length = 14 to 16 words
    Use simple words
    Avoid technical jargon
    Be concise– avoid wordy phrases, unnecessary adjectives, redundancies, etc.
    Be specific
    Go straight to the point – start selling in the first line.
    Write in a conversational style
    Avoid sexist language
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 15. Stylistic Tricks of the Trade
    End sentences with a preposition.
    Use sentence fragments – adds drama.
    Begin sentences with conjunctions – easy transitions.
    Use one-sentence paragraphs – lively change of pace.
    Use graphic techniques to emphasize words or phrases – underlining, capitalization, boldface, italics, arrows and notes, etc.
    Use bulletpoints
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 16. Copywriter’s Checklist
    Does the copy fulfill promise from headline?
    Is the copy interesting?
    Is it easy to read?
    Is it believable?
    Is it persuasive?
    Is it specific?
    Is it concise?
    Is it relevant?
    Does it flow smoothly?
    Does it call for action?
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 17. Writing to Sell
    Feature: a descriptive fact about a product or service; it’s what the product is or has.
    Benefit: what the product does; it’s what the user gains as a result of the feature.
    “Write about benefits and not about features.” – Robert W. Bly
    “Customers don’t buy products or services … They buy what these products and services do for them.” – Learning Dynamics Incorporated
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 18. The Motivating Sequence
    5-step formula to writing copy that sells:
    Get Attention
    Headline & visual, should focus on single strongest benefit
    Don’t use clever phrases, puns, irrelevant info while saving strongest benefit for a big finish inside the copy.
    Show a Need
    With most products, the need for the product may not be obvious.
    Demonstrate that need.
    Satisfy the Need and Position Your Product as a Solution
    After demonstrating need, quickly show that your product satisfies the need, answers questions, or solves problems.
    Prove Your Product Can Do What You Say It Can Do
    Testimonials, comparisons to competition, studies / research, etc.
    Ask for Action
    Last step must be a call for action to the next step in buying process.
    If possible, give an incentive for responding now: discounts, etc.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 19. The Unique Selling Proposition
    USP is the major advantage your product has over competition.
    3 requirements for USP:
    Each ad must say “buy this and get this benefit.”
    Proposition must be different from competition.
    Proposition must be so strong it pulls new customers.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 20. 4 Ways to Create USP
    Stress an underpublicized or little-known benefit.
    Dramatize a known benefit in compelling fashion.
    Dramatize the product name or package.
    Build long-term brand personalities.
    Advertising is “the art of getting a USP into the heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost.” – Rosser Reeves
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 21. Know Your Customer
    Find out which benefits and features your readers care about.
    Copy hits prospects on 3 levels:
    Intellectual – based on logic. Not as strong as others.
    Emotional – tap into fear, greed, love, vanity, benevolence.
    Personal – use you, you, you. Most powerful.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 22. BFD Formula
    To reach prospects on those 3 levels, determine your target market BFD profile:
    Beliefs – attitudes toward need, your product
    Feelings – Confident and brash? Nervous and fearful?
    Desires – What do they want? Goals? What change?
    Before writing copy, write out in narrative form the BFD profile of your target market.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 23. Motivators Checklist
    To be liked / appreciated
    To be right
    To feel important
    To make / save money
    To make work easier
    To be secure
    To be attractive or sexy
    To be comfortable
    To be distinctive
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 24. Motivators Checklist, contd.
    To be happy
    To have fun
    To gain knowledge
    To be healthy
    To gratify curiosity
    For convenience
    Out of fear
    Out of greed
    Out of guilt
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 25. Long Copy vs. Short Copy
    Length of copy will depend on:
    Product – how much to say about it?
    Audience – how involved are they with the product?
    Purpose of the copy – which step in the buying process are you asking for?
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 26. Copy Length Grid
    Emotion refers to the degree of which the purchase is emotional
    Diamond engagement ring vs. paper clips
    Involvement refers to how much time, effort, and though goes into purchase
    Car vs. cheeseburger
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 27. Other Factors that Determine Length of Copy
    Price – more expensive, more copy
    Importance – high need products (refrigerator) can be sold with less copy
    Familiarity – familiar products need less copy
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 28. Getting Ready to Write
    Get all previously published material on the product
    Brochures, reports, catalogs, ads, websites, everything.
    Ask questions about the product
    Features and benefits? Which are most important? How is it different from competition?
    Ask questions about your audience
    Who will buy? Why? What is main concern? What motivates purchase?
    Determine the objective of your copy
    To generate inquiries, sales, qualify prospects, generate store traffic, keep in touch with customers
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 29. Technique for Producing Ad Ideas
    Identify the problem
    Assemble pertinent facts
    Gather general knowledge
    Look for combinations
    Sleep on it
    Use a checklist
    Get feedback
    Team up
    Give new ideas a chance
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 30. 4 Missions of Print Ads
    To sell products directly
    Lengthy, answer all questions, aim to close the sale
    To generate sales leads
    May give a lot or little info, but never the full story. A salesperson is needed for this buying process. The ad asks for response for more info.
    To build awareness of a product
    When product is not sold by mail or salesperson.
    To build the company’s image
    Corporate advertising aimed at general public, stockholders, investors, etc.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 31. How to Write a Good Ad
    Headline contains an important consumer benefit, or news, or arouses curiosity, or promises a reward for reading the copy.
    Visual illustrates the headline’s main benefit.
    Lead paragraph expands on headline theme.
    Layout invites readers to read the copy.
    Body copy covers all important sales points in logical sequence.
    Copy provides info needed to convince prospects to take next step in buying process.
    Copy is interesting and believable.
    The ad asks for action.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 32. Checklist of Ad Ideas
    Question ad – headline asks question, copy answers.
    Quiz ad – copy presents quiz, which qualifies reader.
    News ad – announces something new in products.
    Direct ad – straightforward presentation.
    Indirect ad – obscure headline arouses curiosity.
    Reward ad – promises a reward for reading copy.
    Command ad – commands reader to take action.
    Price-and-where-to-buy-ad – announces sale.
    Reason-why ad – presents reasons why you should buy.
    Letter-ad – written in letter form.
    Before-and-after – shows improvements.
    Testimonial – product user or celebrity speaks in favor
    Case history – detailed product success story.
    Free information ad – offers free brochure, pamphlet, or other info.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 33. Ad Ideas Checklist, contd.
    Story – tells a story involving people and product.
    “New Wave” – relies on far-out graphics.
    Reader identification – headline selects audience.
    Information ad – gives useful info related to product.
    Location ad – features product in unusual location.
    Fictional characters – uses brand mascots, etc.
    Fictional places – e.g. Marlboro Country
    Cartoons and cartoon strips
    Advertiser in ad – advertiser speaks about own product.
    Invent a word – “athlete’s foot” and “halitosis” were marketing inventions.
    Comparative advertising – shows your product against competition.
    Challenge – challenges reader to do something.
    Guarantee ad – focuses on guarantee, not product.
    Offer ad – focuses on the offer, sale, etc.
    Demonstration – shows how product works.
    Pun – attracts attention and explains pun in copy.
    Contests and sweepstakes
    Tie-in with current events – adds timeliness and urgency.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 34. Writing Small Display or Classified Ads
    Don’t ask directly for order. Get an inquiry.
    Be concise – short and pithy as possible.
    Minimize address.
    Use phrases and sentence fragments.
    Remember your objective
    Effective words:
    Free, new, amazing, now, how to, easy, discover, method, plan, reveals, show, simple, startling, advanced, improved, you
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 35. Writing Direct Mail
    Successful direct-mail writers favor an informal, conversational style … with personality, enthusiasm, warmth, and sincerity.
    Classic direct-mail package contains:
    Outer envelope
    Sales letter
    Reply card
    “The letter sells; the brochure tells.”
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 36. 15 Ways to Start DM Sales Letter
    State the offer.
    Highlight the free literature.
    Make an announcement.
    Tell a story.
    Flatter the reader.
    Write to the reader Peer-to-Peer.
    Personal message from the president.
    Use a provocative quote.
    Ask a question.
    Make it personal.
    Identify the reader’s problem.
    Stress a benefit.
    Use human interest.
    Let the reader in on inside info.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 37. 11 Tips on Writing Sales Brochures
    Know where the brochure fits into the buying process.
    Leave-behinds, point-of-sale, inquiry response, direct mail, sales support
    Know whether the brochure stands alone.
    Know your audience.
    Put a strong selling message on the front cover.
    Give complete info to get prospect to the next step in the buying process.
    Organize your selling points.
    Divide the brochure into short, easy-to-read sections.
    Use hardworking visuals, captions stress benefits.
    Tell reader to take next step in buying process.
    Don’t forget the obvious: contact info, prices, hours, etc.
    Make the brochure worth keeping.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 38. How To Organize Product Brochure Copy
    Introduction – capsule description
    Benefits – why customer should buy
    Features – how it’s different from competition
    “How it works” – description of how it works
    Types of users (markets)
    Product availability – models, sizes, etc.
    Technical specifications
    Questions and answers – FAQ
    Company description
    Support – info on delivery, installation, guarantees
    The next step – how to order or get more info
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 39. How To Organize Service Brochure Copy
    Intro – outlines services, types of accounts handled, reasons why reader should be interested.
    Services offered – detailed descriptions.
    Benefits – describes what readers will gain and differentiates you from competition.
    Methodology – outlines firm’s methods.
    Client list – list of customers who endorse service.
    Fees and terms
    Biographical info – key employees
    The next step – instructions on what to do next.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 40. Catalogs vs. Brochures
    Brochures tell in-depth story about a single product. Catalogs give short descriptions of many products. Catalog descriptions must be terse.
    Brochure’s mission is to provide enough info for reader to take next step in buying process. Catalogs are mail-order vehicles from which you order; salesperson not needed for catalogs.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 41. Tips for Writing Catalogs
    Write snappy headlines – strong benefit or descriptive adjective.
    Include a letter from the manufacturer.
    Give all key product facts.
    Devote the most space to best-sellers.
    Use techniques that stimulate sales – toll-free phone numbers, credit cards accepted, free gifts.
    Make the order form simple.
    Indicate discounted items – 25% off! or $11.95 $8.95
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 42. Other Types of Sales Literature
    Annual reports
    Broadsides – flyers folded for mailing
    Invoice stuffers – small promos mailed with monthly bills / statements
    Circulars – 4-8 pgs, full color, contain coupons for local products
    Pamphlets – similar to brochures but more general
    White papers – in-depth reports about product or industry under guise of unbiased information
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 43. Writing Public Relations Materials
    Press release: a printed news story prepared by an organization and distributed to the media for the purpose of publicizing the organization’s products, services, or activities.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 44. Press Release Tips
    Clarity and accuracy are more important than fancy letterhead or layouts.
    Cite outside PR firm if they wrote the release.
    Use release date or “For Immediate Release.”
    Leave ample space between date and headline.
    Headline should sum up story at one glance. Max 2-3 lines.
    Lead paragraph should include “who, what, when, where, why, and how.”
    Include person to be credited for quoting or if you make any claims. Editors don’t want to take the position they’re claiming something.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 45. Press Release Tips, cont’d.
    Body picks up additional facts. Don’t use superlatives or complimentary adjectives.
    Shoot for a single page, no more than 2.
    Include name, address, phone of someone to contact for more information.
    If you use photos, print & attach caption on the back of the photo w/ sources, contacts.
    Keep the release simple, straightforward, and newsy. Excess verbiage turns editors off.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 46. Making Press Releases Newsworthy
    Advertising and promotion is not news. Editors will only print that tells something new, or provides info useful to the publication’s readers.
    Possible topics for news releases:
    New product, old product with new name or package
    Product improvement, or new version
    Old product available in new materials, color, size
    New application of an old product
    New accessories available for an old product
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 47. Possible topics for news releases, cont’d
    Speech or presentation given by executive
    Expert opinion on any subject
    Controversial issue
    New employees or promotions within company
    Awards / honors won by your organization
    Original discoveries or innovations
    New stores, offices, headquarters, facilities
    New sales reps, distributors, agents
    Major contracts won or achievements
    Joint ventures
    Management reorganization
    Case histories of successful applications or projects
    Tips and hints – how-to advice
    Change of company name, slogan, or logo
    Special events or charitable acts
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 48. Writing for the Web
    Microsite: or long-copy landing page, is a website designed to sell a product directly.
    Short-copy landing page: simple landing page for product / offer. Often used for white papers, software demos, inquiry fulfillment.
    Transaction page: similar to SCLP but with less descriptive product copy. Basically just an order form.
    Long-copy email: designed to sell product directly by driving recipient to short-copy landing page or transaction page.
    Teaser email: short email designed to drive readers to microsite or long-copy landing page.
    Lead-generation email: similar to teaser but drives readers to request more information.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 49. Writing for the Web, cont’d
    Online email conversion series: series of follow-up email messages ,sent via autoresponder, designed to convert inquiry to sale.
    Online ad: typically a 100-word classified ad on e-zine.
    Banner ad: HTML ad on a website.
    Pop-under: window that appears on a website when visitor takes certain action (usually trying to leave site). It makes a special offer, usually in exchange for email address.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 50. Email Marketing Tips
    Use From and Subject lines for headline.
    “Free” is effective buzzword in copywriting, but using it in the Subject line can cause ISP or email service to block the message, or forward it to junk folder.
    Lead copy with a killer leading sentence. Email is read with even less attention than other mail.
    Deliver mini-version of complete message in 1st paragraph.
    After 1st paragraph, cover all benefits, features, details, etc.
    Offer and response mechanisms should be repeated in the close of the email.
    Limit response links to three.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 51. Email Marketing Tips, cont’d
    Use wide margins so weird wraps or breaks don’t occur. Limit 55-60 characters per line.
    Be careful with all-caps, which is hard to read and interpreted as SCREAMING online.
    In general, shorter is better.
    Get important points across quickly.
    Use helpful, friendly, informative and educational tone. Not promotional or hard-sell.
    Include an opt-out statement for readers who don’t want to receive your messages.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 52. Getting Past ISPs and Spam Filters
    Create a reverse DNS.
    Set up a Sender Policy Framework (SPF).
    Send only one message per connection.
    Limit sending rate – 10,000 messages / hour.
    Accept bounce messages.
    Validate HTML content at W3C.
    Avoid scripting (JavaScript, PHP, Perl).
    Understand content filtering basics.
    Monitor delivery and bounce rates by ISP and domain.
    Monitor spam complaints – you’re sure to get them.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 53. Writing a Conversion Email Series
    You create some free content.
    Special reports, newsletter, etc.
    You offer people the free content online.
    Get email address in exchange.
    When they accept, you then sell them products and services they have to pay for.
    Send a series of emails with the objective of turning a requester of free content into a buyer of a paid product.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 54. Writing an Effective E-Zine
    Be a conduit who passes along useful info.
    Pay attention to questions, problems, and ideas from customers.
    Distill lesson(s) into a tip easily shared.
    State problem / need as intro to tip.
    Give the solution – action steps.
    Describe benefit resulting from solution.
    List websites and other resources readers can use.
    Put your best tip first.
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 55. Content not Covered
    I’ve left out a lot of good stuff from the book. Missing from this presentation:
    How to Organize Corporate Brochure
    How To Write a Feature Article
    How To Write a Speech
    Writing Promotional Newsletters
    Writing Commercials and Multi-Media
    Writing Long-Copy Landing Pages
    virtually same as direct mail sales letter
    Writing a Blog and SEO Copywriting
    How to Get a Job as a Copywriter
    How to Hire and Work with Copywriters
    Graphic Design for Copywriters
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at
  • 56. THE END
    Colin Postpost.colin@gmail.comWeb development and e-marketing campaignsImport / export management for US-South AmericaInmersionesingleses en CundinamarcaFreelance
    I hope this helped!
    Prepared by Colin Post – find me at