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Copywriting Articles by John Forde


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Copywriting Articles by John Forde

  1. 1. Copywriting Articles by: John FordeThis special report is brought to you free courtesy of:
  2. 2. John Forde:A Master at Writing More Controls More Often"If you write copy … how many chances to sell your talents to the businesses youknow and trust have you overlooked? Company websites … local salesbrochures … online ads and sales letters … print ads in local papers … even P.R.pieces or ezine editorial.It might be the small gigs that get you started. It might be the big opportunitiesthat let you smack the cover off the ball at your first at bat. Either way, I’ve metplenty of people who had no grasp about what role copywriters play.Masterson‘s [Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting] offers the mostthorough and well-organized approach to the subject I’ve seen anywhere. There’snot a technique or secret in there that I haven’t found helpful over the years. Iowe a great deal of my own success to Mike Masterson. And I tell him soregularly. As for the program, I’d recommend it to anybody – not just direct-mailcopywriters, but anyone who’s trying to get a grip on what makes marketingwork."— John FordeJOHN FORDE has been writing winning controls for going on two decades now.He‘s made untold millions for clients in the financial, health, and travel industries.John also works as a copy coach, hosting intense seminars for two or threehundred marketers and copywriters at a time.John Forde also writes the successful and very useful eletter, The Copywriter‘sRoundtable.
  3. 3. Which Sells Best, Stories or Stats? Do this: Write down the word ―baby.‖Now, how does that word make you feel?Try it with another baggage-friendly word like ―family‖ or ―war.‖ Or any otherphrase that gets your inner emotional stew simmering.Done? Good. No, dear reader, you haven‘t stumbled into a 1970′s sensitivitytraining group.There will be no hugs here. And no massaging your chakras (I mean, really… whodoes that in public?)Rather, I‘m just trying to warm you up for today‘s issue. See, I‘m reading ―Madeto Stick.‖ (Okay — listening to it as an audio book, during the morning run. But inprint or audio, I recommend you get a copy too.) And this morning, the bookgave me a shocker worth sharing.So now that I‘ve got you ―primed‖ to receive (I‘ll explain what I mean in just asecond), let‘s begin…Which Works Best, Stats or Stories?Carnegie-Mellon, says the book, did a study. They invited participants in to take asurvey. The topic wasn‘t important — something about tech products — but whatmattered was the small payout. Each participant got paid with five $1 bills.They also got an unexpected letter and an empty envelope. The letter asked fordonations for an international charity called ―Save the Children.‖ But differentgroups got different letters.One letter dripped with grim statistics. In one African country, it said, 3.2 millionstand on the brink of starvation. In another, 2.4 million have no easy access toclean water. In a third, almost 4 million need emergency shelter. Each problemwas gigantic and serious.
  4. 4. The second letter had only a story. ―Rokia,‖ it said, ―is a 7-year-old girl from Mali,Africa. She‘s desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger or evenstarvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift.With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Childrenwill work with Rokia‘s family and other members of the community to help feedher, provide her with education, as well as basic medical care and hygieneeducation.‖Which worked better?Now, dear reader, I know your momma raised no dummies. You‘re going to tellme that the Rokia letter cleaned up. And you‘d be right.On average, Rokia‘s letter took in $2.38 in donations from the test group. Thestat-soaked letter took in only an average of $1.14. But that‘s not the bigsurprise, is it? No, of course not. (What kind of storyteller do you think I am, afterall?)See, the study didn‘t stop there…How Less Really Can Mean a Lot MoreThe researchers then called in a third group. You‘ll get paid for taking this survey,they said again.Only this time, instead of giving the participants only one letter with their cash —everybody got both the story AND the stats together.Great, you might say.Heart AND head. A real one-two punch. Wouldn‘t that net you both the bleedinghearts and the brainiacs, all in one sweep?As it turns out, no.Not only did combining both approaches fail to gas up the giving engines… itdoused the pitch-power of the story-only approach with ice water.The combo group, on average, gave almost a dollar LESS than the story-onlygroup alone.Just $1.43.
  5. 5. Isn‘t that amazing?I thought so.But even more amazing was the last part of the experiment. This time, just tomake sure of their conclusion, the researchers invited in a fourth group.This time everybody would only get the stronger Rokia letter. But beforehand,they would complete an exercise.Half the group would finish some simple math problems. The other half wouldanswer a word challenge like the one I gave you at the start of this issue: Giveword, write down feelings.What happened?Incredibly, the group that got ―primed‖ with the emotional exercise gave analmost equal $2.34… but the analytically ―primed‖ group AGAIN gave less, for anaverage of just $1.26.These were unrelated calculations. But somehow just putting on a thinking capwas working like one of those tinfoil hats that crackpots wear to block out alienmind-reading waves (I‘ve got to get me one of those).Nearest the researchers could figure is that, while analytical thinking can shore upbeliefs or activate a reader‘s capacity for focus, it actually stymies action.To get someone to act, they need to go beyond beliefs to the feelings they HOLDabout those beliefs. Feelings inspire action.And I don‘t just mean that in the ―touchy-feely let‘s all hug a kitten and light avanilla candle‖ kind of way. All persuasion works best when it focuses most oncore emotions, not cerebral abstractions. I know this charity, ―Save the Children,‖pretty well by the way. My wife and I have a Danish friend who works for them.She‘s a talented photographer.
  6. 6. Whenever there‘s a crisis, her boss dips into the funds and puts our friend andher camera on a plane. Burned out post-war zones, post-tsunami and typhoondisaster areas, dirt poor African villages — she‘s been there, capturing a personal,eyewitness view.Why?Because in the charities well-tested experience, those individual on-the-sceneimages raise more money than a boatload of shocking statistics ever could.I know that I‘m going to try to work more of the ―story of one‖ effect into myfuture promos. Maybe you should too.JOHN FORDE‘s copy has made untold millions for clients in the financial, health,and travel industries. And he‘s also personally trained dozens of other now-successful writers and mentored many million-dollar controls.John is also the proud recipient of the ―Ouzilly Award for Sterling Copy‖ and the―2008 AWAI Copywriter of the Year‖ award as well as a 2009 ―Most ValuablePlayer‖ award from Agora Financial Publishing.John is also a published author and a favorite speaker at AWAI‘s FastTrack toSuccess Copywriting Bootcamp. He currently divides his time between the U.S.and Europe, with his wife and two young children.John is also the founder and editor of the weekly industry e-letter,TheCopywriter‘s Roundtable, considered by many to be one of the best in theindustry ( Writers’ Alliance EXCLUSIVE: John takes us behind the scenes ofa winning control in ―First to Final‖: The Evolution of a Successful Sales Letter.A lot of new writers think professional writers simply sit down at a typewriter andpump out winning copy effortlessly, time after time. They wish that were thecase…
  7. 7. In reality, every writer has a first draft he or she most likely would rather forget.But, its the process from that shaky first draft to the final product where so manywriting and selling lessons are learned. Which is why well be asking top writerslike John to share this experience with you – by taking you from first to final draft– and telling you about everything in between.Is Your Customer Too Paralyzed By Worry to Hear Your Message? Heres What to Do… "An undefined problem has an infinite number of solutions."  Robert Humphrey What keeps your customer up at night?When he sits on his bed, one shoe on and staring out the window… whats hethinking about?When he looks in the mirror, half-shaved… when she dials the doctor… when themail comes, marked urgent…What sound buzzes between your prospects ears, so loud that your sales pitchdrowns in the din?Could it be the un-payable bill… the unruly child… the rosy red zit on the tip of hisnose… or the gray hair she found this morning?Maybe its a nagging ache… or last nights awkward date. Maybe its a car thatpings when it shouldnt… or a job in a cubicle thats going nowhere.Heck, maybe its all those unreadable road signs dotting the path to totalenlightenment.If youre not sure, maybe its high time you find out. And today, I hope to showyou why…
  8. 8. How to Unlock a Worried MindWhile you watch, Id like to do some deep thinking on a concept Im sure yourefamiliar with, called the "problem-solution lead."This, Ill bet you can gather, is the persuasion technique where you identify aprospects problem… then imply youve got a quick and painless way to solve it.If you study advertising at all, youve seen this at work many, many times.For instance, the ol classic "Are you ever tongue-tied at a party?" is just one ofmany blockbuster examples.It was a hit because it identified an emotionally drenched issue… the fear ofknowing what to say in a social situation… and implied, just by the asking, thattheres a way to escape that embarrassment.Another great headline, "Do you make these mistakes in English?" works almostthe same way. Yes, say the grammar-challenged, I might make some mistakesand I worry about that. And what makes this opener even stronger is that itimplies youre probably making more than one mistake, too. It ups the antebefore also implying theres a solution.Of course, not all great problem-solution headlines have to be stated asquestions."When doctors feel rotten this is what they do" is a great example. For one, thisis a rare example where being general about the problem works – because its theunidentifiable aspect of simply feeling rotten thats at the core of the worry.Whats also brilliant about this one is that its not only sympathetic – just feelingrotten is a common worry – but that the doctors who know what youre goingthrough are also the source of the solution.And all that happens in just nine words.Though, for all their differences, youll still find that these and all great problem-solution headlines and leads track pretty much the same formula.
  9. 9. First, set aside your big benefit. Make it time to talk about the reader, and let himor her know youre doing it… by giving a name to the elephant in the room. Itcould be a big problem; it could be one thats embarrassingly small. The key isthat its deeply felt and emotionally unresolved.Feel their pain. Let them know it. And let them feel justified for feeling that way,too. Never mock or make light of their worries, unless youre laughing with themat the awkwardness of feeling a certain way – as a means to drawing the problemout in the open.Then imply a solution. Either by saying or showing outright that youve got theanswer… or by hinting a solution exists. Even just seeing lots of copy below a"have-this-problem" headline could suggest as much.What Else Works in Problem-Solution Headlines?Simple as they are, there are lots of random secrets to making a problem-solution copy lead work.Stick with me while I work them out:  If you identify the prospects problem with a question-based headline, naturally youre gunning for a "yes" answer or anything else that opens rather than closes the door on a discussion.  What are some other great problem-solution headlines that you might recognize?  From a famous book club ad: "How often do you hear yourself saying No, I havent read it – Ive been meaning to!"  From a parenting-product ad that uses the open-question technique: "Whose fault when children disobey?"  From a pre-Prozac era drug ad that broke ground by inventing a name for a condition: "Have you these symptoms of nerve exhaustion?"  An old investing ad that might resonate today: "Have you a worry stock?"  A classic non-question example that Ill bet still gets your psyche to vibrate: "To people who want to write – but cant get started"  And two more that state, not ask – in both, its in seeing the ad copy below that a solution is implied: "Little Leaks That Keep Men Poor" and "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride… "  One more bonus example: "For the woman who is older than she looks… "
  10. 10.  Heres a great quote about advertising in general that applies especially well here: "Youre not selling, youre solving."  What works isnt targeting gigantic problems. Rather, you want to aim for the one thats most deeply felt and persistent. Emotional engagement is always the key.  The best solution isnt always the biggest, either. Usually, its the easiest, the cheapest, the fastest, the most widely accepted, the most precious… or some combination of the above.  While every problem-solution lead needs to offer answers, youre always keeping something back until after youve made the sale.  That hidden thing might be the name of the solution itself. Or it might be a last or most essential step that youll reveal for a price. It might even be something you promise never to share, like a secret ingredient or formula.  If you claim to have answers, youll need proof. Some of the problem- solution ads do that with the "before-and-after" setup you see so often in ads for all kinds of health products.  You could even say testimonials – either quotes, success anecdotes, or customer profiles – are some of the most powerful kinds of proof any problem-solution ad can give.  The reason why testimonials work so well in a problem-solution ad is not just because they show a solution in action, but because they also do the "I feel your pain" work thats special to this kind of lead.  If youve got kids or youre married, youve got yet another angle from which to get how problem-solution ads work – all too often, people want to make sure their concerns are being heard and are regarded as legit. Only then do they open up to hearing about how to fix things.  Another reason problem-solution headlines work? Humans are just hard- wired to fix stuff. Even problems we dont have ourselves, we want to be the smart guy in the room who knows what to do. At least, thats going to be true of some of the prospects youll draw in. I could say much more. And believe me, I will at AWAI‘s upcoming Bootcamp.For now, lets leave it at this:If you find yourself writing to a prospect thats so focused on his problems hecant quite hear your promises… this could be the way out that youre looking for.Let him know you hear what hes worried about. Give it a name. Justify it. AndTHEN watch doors open to your solution.
  11. 11. 10 “Speed-Copy” SecretsThe better you get at writing good copy, the more clients will want access to yourtime.In the beginning, you‘ll want to give it to them.But as time goes by, you won‘t be able to.You‘ll try to cherry pick projects, taking on only those that won‘t bog you downdisproportionately to what you‘ll get in return.But what happens when you have no other choice than to just… write… faster?You can try these tips… 1. Really DO Cherry-Pick Projects It‘s great to be eager. But you‘ll find there really are some copywriting jobs that just aren‘t worth it. Which ones? Be wary, for instance, of poorly baked products with no clear audience or no clear benefit for the audience they‘re meant to target. Likewise, look out for projects without a passionate champion on the client side. If there‘s nobody who can sell you on what you‘re supposed to be selling, there‘s a good chance you‘ll have a hard time selling it to prospects, too. And finally, look out for projects that don‘t have at least 85% of the pieces in place before you get started. Unless, that is, you‘re also being paid to help develop the product… a different and more involved job than just writing the sales letter.
  12. 12. 2. Know Your LoadFour solid hours of writing, day in and day out, with rest of the day for calls,meetings, and email is actually a pretty solid pace. Sure, one can go longerwhen needed. But writing can be physically draining, if you‘re doing it right.Copywriter Bob Bly once told me that, while he also logs only about fourhours on eachprojectper day, he stays fresh by keeping two projects goingat once and switching to four hours on the second project in the afternoon.I‘ve tried that. And sometimes it works. But frankly, once I start working onsomething – anything – I get too caught up in it to let it go. So I actively tryto avoid other projects until I‘ve got the first one completed.Your style will be up to you. 3. Gather Your Resources, Part IOne of the best ways to accelerate the pace on any writing project is to feedit the nourishment in needs to get started. That nourishment is information.Read up, interview, discuss.Call the most central figure for the product that the client can offer and do aphone interview. Record it and start typing as you play it back. You‘ll needother resources along the way. But this is where you‘ll need to begin, if youwant to make sure you burst out of the gate with as much power aspossible. 4. Build Your FrameworkOnce you‘ve got a grasp on the general direction you‘ll need to take in thepromo, you‘ll want – no, need – to make an outline. Too many early writersskip this step. Many say they don‘t need it.Yet, for all but a rare few, unstructured writing shows. The benefit of anoutline is that you know where you need to go. But you also know, as youpile up research and ideas, where you DON‘T need to go.And that‘s equally important.
  13. 13. 5. Gather Your Resources, Part IIOnce you‘ve pulled together a rough outline of where you‘re headed, you‘llimmediately start to see the additional holes you‘ll need to fill.Now it‘s time to go out again and start digging. Pile up links, magazineclippings, notes from studying the product and the customer base. Notesfrom talking to the client.Just for the record, the research part of your copywriting process shouldalmost always take the most time. How much longer?A fair breakdown, if you‘re working with a product you don‘t know well, isabout 50% of your total time available spent on research. And then 30% onwriting the first draft. Plus another 20% for polishing and revision. 6. Try Writing in 3DYou would think that writing the beginning first, the middle second, and theend last would be the best way to go. And for many writers, that‘s preciselythe path the follow. However, I‘d personally recommend creating a writingsystem that‘s a little more non-linear.What do I mean?Research, ideas, phrases… tend to arrive in a disorderly fashion, just like aconversation that leaps from one topic to another entirely.So what I do is write in sections. I actually create separate, labeled parts ofmy file in Word. These sections match my outline or ―mind-map‖ of themessage I‘d like to deliver.Then, as I research and revise, I jump back and forth between sections,adding to one, tightening another, copying and moving pieces of ideas.Each area fleshes out at roughly the same time, then I reorganize them tofit the more logical, linear outline that will underlie the final piece.
  14. 14. 7. Write Your Close FirstHere‘s an interesting idea – start at the end. And I can give you at least twosolid reasons to do this.First, because the offer you write will, word for word, have more impact onthe prospect than any other section of the promo – save for the headlineand lead. If the offer stinks, you haven‘t got a chance no matter howbrilliant your copywriting.Second, because knowing specifically how you‘ll close the sale gives you atarget to shoot for. This, too, is a great defense against the tangents thatcan knock you off the trail of your sales message all too easily. 8. Give Your Lead Room to BreatheI know perfectionism is a killer problem for a lot of new writers. Get overthat. Really.Why?Because you‘ll kill yourself and your career trying to get the right word line-by-line. Especially when you sacrifice writing the bulk of the rest of thatpromo while you tinker and tinker… and tinker… with the lead.Here‘s an alternate idea… put the headline and lead copy in a separatedocument or somehow cordoned off from the rest of your promo. Open thatalternate writing area whenever you‘re working on the main document.Whenever you have an idea about how to make the lead stronger, dip intothat alternate writing window, make the changes and then jump back to therest of the piece.I do this a dozen or more times while I‘m writing, with the headline andlead changing 10… 20… or more times before I‘m through.
  15. 15. 9. Learn to “Copyify” Your Notes As You Research This takes practice. But you‘ll write your copy much faster if, when you take notes from resources you‘ll use, you record the notes directly into copywritten form. For instance, not ―Mention last year‘s booming commodity market to support resource buying op‖… but rather ―Last year‘s booming commodities market is the perfect example. Had you subscribed to my ‗Dirt, Rocks, and Other Investments‘ advisory service then, you‘d already be up XXX% on Mud Futures alone by now.‖ You get the picture. If you can record your ideas quickly in a form that‘s close to the sound you‘ll want for the final draft, obviously that cuts back future writing time. 10. Use Markers and Shortcuts This last one is a small thing. But very, very handy. Let‘s say you‘re writing and you need to cite a stat you don‘t have at your fingertips, try just dropping in ―XX‖ where that falls. Or let‘s say you need a subhead to transition between sections but the perfect one escapes you at the moment. Don‘t get stuck. Instead, drop in ―[SUBHEAD HERE]‖ and keep moving. The idea is to preserve the momentum at all costs. Just make sure you search the replacement phrases and fill things in after the writing is done.This list could go on, of course. But that‘s a pretty good start.John Forde will be sharing the secrets that have made him a modern daycopywriting legend at the AWAI 2011 Bootcamp and Job Fair
  16. 16. Is Copywriting the World’s Best Business? “I used to work in a fire hydrant factory. You couldn‘t park anywhere near the place.‖  Steven WrightYou‘ve heard about the oldest profession. And I‘m guessing you know thetoughest, too (parenting).What‘s the most dangerous? Fishing, believe it or not. Along with logging andflying airplanes.The worst pay, alas, goes to dishwashers and fry cooks, who scrape the bottom ofthe income barrel.If you‘d rather earn the big bucks, says a Forbes survey, you‘re better off learningto knock people out.No, not as a boxer – as an anesthesiologist.Heart surgeons and OB/GYNs are also way up there, along with 11 other medicalcareers, your average lawyer, CEOs, and even air traffic controllers.But what could be the world‘s BEST business?Dare I say it? Copywriting!How to Spot the Best Business in the WorldYeah… I know what you‘re thinking.How can I, a humble copywriter, dare to make that claim? After all, I‘ve yet toperform a heart surgery or land a plane.And I‘m a parent, yes, but just getting started. As for the world‘s oldestprofession – frankly, not for me. (I don‘t like the hours.)In short, you could say my experience is limited.
  17. 17. However, I recently stumbled across a classic essay that has me convinced I‘mright.It‘s titled ―The Ideal Business,‖ and it was written way back in the 1970s bylegendary financial guru, Richard Russell.(Just as an aside, you may have heard about Richard. He‘s been writing andpublishing his ―Dow Theory Letters‖ since 1958. And he‘s contributed to all themajor magazines. He recently celebrated his 85th birthday and he‘s still goingstrong.)No, he wasn‘t writing about copywriting specifically. Frankly, the copywriting wedo – in the manner we do it, remotely with a laptop – wasn‘t even imagined as apossibility back then.But what Richard did do was run down a list of criteria that described exactlywhat an ―ideal business‖ for anyone might be.With kudos and thanks to Richard, let‘s just take a look at the list from acopywriting perspective and see how it shakes out:  “Sells the World”– That is, it‘s not local, it‘s global. Now, I know lots of copywriters get their start writing for local businesses. And it used to be you had to dream of winning Fortune 500 clients to go global. Not so now, thanks to the huge demand forInternet copy.  “Enjoys Inelastic Demand”– Meaning that people need it, almost no matter what it costs. And with copy, that‘s true. Sure, they‘ll want to pay you based on your success record and experience. But there‘s no question businesses need copy to sell. If you don‘t advertise and do it well, you‘re just building yourself a future cobweb colony.  “Cannot Be Easily Copied”– Richard was talking about patents and copyrights in his essay. But you could at least make the comparison that every great copywriter has a style, and every great headline leaves an imprint. Sure, rip-offs happen. But it‘s the original ad writer who makes the big money and enjoys a lot more job security.
  18. 18.  “Has Low Labor and Overhead Costs”– In other words, to run a freelance copywriting business, you don‘t need employees. And you don‘t need a warehouse or expensive heavy machinery (unless, er, you‘re a VERY specialized kind of writer I‘ve never heard of). All you need is a laptop and something to sell. And coffee. “Takes in Cash Billings”– Freelancers might have to work out payment differences with new clients, but steady clients usually pay on time. And you know you‘re usually getting half your fee up front and half when you‘ve done the work. Plus royalties, if you‘re in a copywriting field that earns them. (I am, and it‘s nice to know you‘ve got a stream of royalties coming in, especially when they start layering on top of each other.) “Is Free of All Kinds of Regulation”– That‘s definitely NOT true when it comes to what you can say in the ad copy you‘ll write. Laws can box you in, and they can do it often. On the other hand, when you‘re working for yourself, at least you don‘t have to sweat the rules on office safety requirements. (Imagine suing yourself for getting your tie caught in your own fax machine or burning yourself with your own coffee machine!) “Is Portable”– I get asked a lot about how to set up as a copywriter in Paris or any of the other places I‘ve been lucky enough to work for an extended period (a London office, a New York City apartment, a French country farmhouse, etc.). It‘s not always easy (those pesky laws again, the challenge of long-distance clients, and the costs sometimes involved). But as a copywriter, it can definitely be done. In fact, I can‘t imagine another career – at least one that pays this well – being as moveable as this one. “Satisfies Intellectual Needs”– I love what I do. Because I love ideas, I love reading, and I love writing. I love learning things and then turning them back around in my own words, while still trying to keep the topics interesting. Of course, that‘s not for everybody. And if it‘s not for you, well, consider anesthesiology (as a job, not a medical alternative to career depression). “Leaves You With Free Time”– Okay, I‘ve got to hedge my response on this one. On the one hand, you‘ve got the freelancer‘s curse working against
  19. 19. you. When there‘s no whistle blowing, and your home is your office, it‘s possible to work all the time. Plus, as a writer, ideas will creep into your dinners, your walks, even the shower – and you‘ll dash to write them down. On the other hand, I kind of like the energy of gears that churn on autopilot. Plus, while I may not have lots of free time, I‘m master of what I have and how and when I decide to cash it in. Because my schedule is my own to shuffle around (though the older I get, the more I‘m sure routine is the secret to success).  “Is Not Limited By Personal Output”– Now here‘s the one where you might think I‘ve hit a sandtrap. After all, some copywriters get paid piecemeal, while others collect royalties. But that isn‘t what Richard meant. At least, it‘s not the only thing. Ideally, it means you‘ve got the chance to get paid exponentially for something you put effort into only one time. Like an information product you can sell over and over again. And certainly, once you‘ve figured out how to write copy that sells, that‘s an opportunity you‘ll have no matter what else happens. Because selling is the key to virtually every kind of repeat business there is.Maybe you agree with Richard Russell‘s list, maybe you don‘t. Or maybe you‘restill too new to this game to know, one way or the other.As for me, I think he‘s hit pretty much all the key points. And by that measure, Igenuinely couldn‘t imagine a better way to butter my bread than what I‘m doingright now (okay, maybe… maybe… some part-time work as a security guard in alingerie fitting room… or wine taster at one of Paris‘ best restaurants… but only ifthey came with stock options and dental).
  20. 20. The Next $100-Million SecretHow do you solve problems?It can‘t be done, said American tycoon J.P. Morgan, without reducing thechallenge to its simplest form.If you know stock market history, you know that Morgan solved a lot of bigproblems in his day.Twice, he rescued the entire U.S. economy. He helped build the railroads and BigSteel.And he managed to build, in today‘s terms, one of America‘s first billionairefortunes.What would Morgan have said about the three hours I spent recently, as MichaelMasterson laid down the details of another simple truth?I suspect he would have approved.See, it‘s been a little over a week since I got back from AWAI‘s Annual Fast Trackto Copywriting Success Bootcamp. I was there as both a speaker and anattendee.I got to deliver a few secrets of my own. I took away plenty more. And what wasstriking about the best of it was that one thread that ran through everything…That the smartest things you‘ll do, in a copywriting career or in anything, areoften profoundly simple. Even obvious, if you‘re paying attention closely.One of the simplest was something Michael calls the ―mini-review.‖ It has onlytwo steps. Three, if you‘re pushing it.Yet I think I can make an educated guess when I say that, properly applied, thisone new technique could easily bring in about $100 million in sales for thecompany that‘s already using it, under Michael‘s guidance.
  21. 21. To hit that target might take about three years. Maybe two. Or less, if it‘s applieddiligently.What could I be talking about?How the Mini-Review WorksLet‘s start with the background.Writing copy, like many things, is part nature, part nurture. That is, it‘s certainlypossible that you‘re born with at least a little of what it takes to becomesuccessful. But, just as much, there‘s plenty you can do to polish those skills.And it‘s the polish that makes all the difference.Trouble is, getting good enough at anything takes time. How long? As Michael‘sobserved in the past, you don‘t master anything without at least approximately1,000 hours of practice under your belt.With a strong mentor, you might cut that time by half. But 500 hours of hardwork still aren‘t small potatoes.We start. We stop. We forget to get going again. Sticking to the accumulation ofexperience isn‘t something that‘s going to happen for you accidentally.So what Michael simply did, as it applies to writing ground-breaking copy, wassystematize the process.And that‘s the secret of the ―mini-review.‖Every day, you write. You start in the morning with a single piece of copy. Just theheadline and the lead. Maybe 50-100 words, tops.It shouldn‘t take you long. In fact, the less time the better. Maybe 20-30 minutestotal.And then, here‘s the key: you send it.Email it to a regular review group of five or six people who you trust – preferablythose who know something about selling, marketing, and the product you‘retalking about – to get a ―grade‖ on how they received it.That‘s it. No long analysis. Just numbers, from 1 through 4, with the highernumber meaning a more powerful impact on the reader.
  22. 22. So how on earth could something so basic be worth $100 million? It‘s new, so thejury will have to wait to see.But I believe it‘s going to happen for three reasons. First, because I‘ve seensomething nearly like it – Michael‘s ―peer review‖ – already pay off twice as largeas what I‘m estimating.The ―peer review,‖ which you know if you‘ve been reading The Golden Threador following AWAI‘s teachings for long, is a way to get gut-reaction feedback andsuggestions on any piece of copy.At least one of the companies using the peer review extensively happens to be acompany I also work with regularly. And so far we‘ve seen, just by adding thissimple tool to the copy production process, cumulative results easily in excess of$200 million so far. And climbing.The ―mini-review‖ process is even simpler. It takes just five minutes to do thecopy evaluations. But what it adds is a second reason to predict a big payoff:quantity.See, because using the ―mini-review‖ effectively means making it a daily habit,you and the other participants are forced to keep revisiting what makes greatcopy work. And on a regular, frequent basis.Anyone who exercises or who has tried to learn, say, how to play the guitar or apiano, knows how this works.If you were to put in 10 hours in a single day doing pushups and skipping rope…or practicing scales… what value would that have if you only did this once everyfew weeks? Not much.But do those same things for 15 minutes a day, every day, and what a talentyou‘ll have. And in very little time, by comparison. Practice does make perfect.But frequent, short bursts of practice have a lot more value than infrequent, long,and laborious ones.
  23. 23. Thirdly, I predict huge success for the ―mini-review‖ process simply because itfocuses directly and immediately on measuring quality.Every ―mini-review‖ session leaves you with an instant ―score‖ on how well yourwriting was received. A gut reaction, but quantified in a number.When we tested the process during our three-hour demonstration session, we hadtwo writing sessions with six writers each.In other words, in about an hour, we were able to create and review 12 pieces ofcopy – each with a headline and lead.That was at my table alone. And there were approximately 300 writers in theroom, all using this tool for the first time.What was amazing was that, when we compared the scores each of these 300+writers got after just two rounds of ―mini-reviews‖… by vast majority, the scoreswere higher in the second round.That means just by being evaluated once, the writers had a quality benchmark tobeat. A measure they knew they had to beat, along with some idea – and a lot ofdetermination – on how to beat it.When you use the ―mini-review‖ daily, you get the same benefit. Each day thatyou follow the process, you‘re competing with yourself and the other scores inyour review group. Each day, you‘ll have yesterday‘s score as your benchmark.It‘s a practically painless way to sharpen your writing instincts.Like J.P Morgan said at the start of this article, the greatest problems are oftensolved simply.“The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form,‖ he once said,―is an essential element in thinking.‖
  24. 24. The Power of the Foregone ConclusionI‘m sure you‘ve seen the Miller Lite beer commercials over the years.From retired boxers to women in bikinis, wrestling in a fountain. And we join thesituation in the middle of an escalating argument. What are they fighting about?You know it, I know it, everybody knows it: ―TASTE‘S GREAT!‖… ―LESS FILLING!‖On the one side, a dedicated Miller Lite drinker loves the beer‘s taste while heclaims it goes down easy without filling up.In one recent, much-forwarded version on YouTube, the Miller Lite fans doing thefighting are wet women in tight shirts rolling in water fountains. You might thinkit‘s only the latter detail that kept this age-old ad slogan afloat. But is it possiblethat‘s not the only reason? Absolutely.See, what every version of those commercials does is more than just keep usentertained while they flash images of the beer label. In each, the prospectivecustomer is offered a choice.And here‘s the key – it‘s NOT a choice about whether or not the beer is good.Rather, the commercial assumes the beer has more than one virtue, and asks youto think instead about WHY it‘s good. The door to deciding whether or not to buythe beer at all is already closed.This is a classic way to coax a customer – or anybody – to move toward adesirable decision.For instance, I‘m sure you‘ve seen the same technique work with children …
  25. 25. ―Hey, Junior,‖ you say while trying to peel your 5-year-old‘s eyes from thetelevision at bedtime, ―Do you want to brush your teeth with the stripedtoothpaste or the blue stuff?‖No option there for Junior to opt out of brushing his teeth entirely. ―The bluestuff,‖ he shouts. And minutes later, Junior is tucked into bed, teeth brushed,staring at the ceiling and wondering what happened.You can use the same technique in direct-response copy.Especially in the sales close, where getting your prospect to commit to a decisionis key. For instance, imagine a sales letter that says in the close…You might choose a one-year trial supply of Sludge-O-Matic water filters, yours totry at no risk. For a full 12 months.Or you might lean toward my ―Discounted Lifetime Offer‖… which will have youguzzling crystal-clear water from now until judgment day.Really, it‘s your choice. Either way, you win. Just let me know soon what youdecide…This is called a ―foregone conclusion‖ close. It‘s assumed, in the copy above, thatthe customer has already decided to buy the filters. And now the only decision tomake is whether to get it for one year or a lifetime.Clever, eh?
  26. 26. Brainstorming for One"Brain-writing" is not my term. But were going to make it our own by revising it alittle to make it more productive…You brainstorm to get ideas when you have none.Ideally, you do so in a group. So you can feed off each other. So you canlegitimize sitting around drinking coffee. So you can get others to do all the hardthinking for you.In all those respects, group brainstorming is a good thing.But what do you do when youre writing in isolation?Brain-writing is a way to kick ideas around … jumpstart your engines … and getinto that "zone" of creativity that you normally hope to get in a group session.In fiction circles, theres something similar called "free-writing."USUALLY, it simply means setting a timer, putting pen to page, and letting theideas pour.Whatever it is, you write it down. You dont stop until your pen runs out of ink oryour elbow balloons like a grapefruit.But there are two problems with free-writing when you apply it to writing promocopy:  First, pens come with a lot of ink these days. Even the dime-store ballpoints could keep you scribbling well past deadline.  Second, sometimes its the very prospect of a blank page … the sight of a blinking cursor… and the notion of all that cerebral "freedom" … thats got you stymied in the first place. There is a more efficient way to get started.If you were about to make bricks, would you begin without clay? If you weregetting ready to make glass, would you begin without sand? If you wanted tomake punch, would you leave out the hooch?Of course not.So why is it writers of any kind so often try to start conjuring up ideas out of thinair?
  27. 27. For all the reasons to get "blocked," this is the easiest of them to resolve.Before you begin your solo brainstorming session (or a group one, for thatmatter), get yourself a hefty stack of "stuff" about the product.Aim for height. An inch is too little. A foot is too high. Somewhere in the middleought to do it.Next to this, put a fresh stack of index cards … a legal pad … and/or a computer.This is where the "brain-writing" comes in. Start reading. Start taking notes.The process remains "free" in the sense that you shouldnt try to organize theideas at this point. Record them as they come. Youll sort later.However, contrary to popular creativity myths, discipline has a role. For instance:Youll need to keep yourself from focusing too long on any one aspect of yourresearch.Youll need to force yourself to write in full-fledged ad copy, rather than justrecording notes.And youll need to make sure, always, that the central promise of your ad is themagnet pulling you through the muck of ideas youll produce.You should have at least six kinds of things in your "brain-writing" stack beforeyou begin: 1. Competitors ads. If you write direct mail, you know theres no excuse for not being seeded on competing lists. Keep a box of other peoples promos by your desk. 2. Samples of the competitors products. You can probably get comped, as a professional courtesy. But, at least once in awhile, go through the subscription process anonymously. You might learn something from the way they do business.
  28. 28. 3. Printouts of relevant web sites. Yes, printouts. If youd rather, you can make handwritten notes while scrolling a screen. But avoid the temptation to bookmark links, save pages, or copy and paste text into word documents. No matter what you think … the only way to really absorb the ideas is to re-interpret them for your own notes.4. Relevant magazines and newspapers. Big media has the budget to gather persuasive stats and anecdotes. Again, copy the information in your own hand. Dont just clip and count on coming back to it later. HOWEVER, make sure you note your sources with every factoid – both for legal reasons and because youll get extra credibility when you cite a respected source.5. History and non-fiction bestsellers. Sometimes, nothing can be more valuable than going down to your local bookstore to see what your prospects are reading. Its an excellent way to put your thumb on the popular zeitgeist. Restrict yourself, however, to buying two books … tops. If youre under any kind of deadline, you wont have time for more than that.6. Your product managers "best of." Any good product manager will give you the following items when you start a copywriting project: product-related e-mails, raw testimonials, 3rd-party reviews and endorsements, product- related news clippings, free "giveaways" that come with the offer, notes from past brainstorming meetings, past control packages, tapes or transcripts of conversations with customers, customer service letters, interviews with core people connected with the product, and phone numbers of people you can call to talk to about the product.
  29. 29. This is, of course, just a partial list. You could add more. But even with only theabove, you should be drowning in new ideas before days end.(At which point, youll have a different problem – more ideas than you can spendin one piece! Every copywriter should be so lucky, right? Save the leftovers forthe test mailing.)The beauty of this simple approach is that you dont need a soul around to helpyou make it pay off. In fact, isolation makes it easier.Tip: At some point, youll make it to the bottom of the stack or youll feel in yourgut that youve got all the key points somehow covered. AT that moment, stopand get up. Put on your coat. Go shoot some hoops, take a walk, knit an afghan(the sweater, not the citizen).While you take a break, your subconscious mind is mulling over everything youvecome across. Absorbing. Sorting. Editing.The next morning, put the pile of stuff in a box and get it out of your sight.Everything happens now inside your pile of notes. Re-read all the material. Twice.Take the points that stand out and re-write them on a fresh page. Some thingswill stand out. Others will strike you as complete garbage. Distill and polish.Narrow. If you need to accelerate the process, mail or e-mail the notes to atrusted (and patient) friend to read.If you try this technique and youre STILL stuck for ideas by the time you reachthe bottom of the stack, you might consider buying yourself a push broom. Orrunning for public office.
  30. 30. At Least 10 Books Every Copywriter Should Read – TwiceOn my first day as copywriter, master marketer Bill Bonner handed me a stack ofbooks. A collection I‘ve long since lost in the sea of books, tapes, and videos –only some about marketing – that followed.I read them on lunch breaks and while eating dinner. I listened to the tapes in thecar. I watched the videos on a borrowed TV (I had sworn off owning one of myown at the time.) Many were good. Some were better. A lot repeated the sameprinciples over and over, which wasn‘t necessarily a bad thing.Today, I‘d warn any new copywriter or marketer that you‘re not going to get a fullcareer education from books alone. Nothing beats hands-on experience, actuallywriting and reading the promotional pieces you hope to emulate and, one day,beat.Still, if you‘re hoping to catch up fast… if you‘re looking for inspiration or ideas…even if you‘re looking for shortcuts… there are definitely books, jammed full ofboth theory and examples, that can get you there.For some time, I used to keep just one or two titles in the back of my mind toshare with anybody who wanted a recommendation. But I started gettingrequests for a reading list so frequently that I pulled one together.On that list, books on Internet marketing and the new Age of Persuasion? Tomeson how the world of selling has changed and will never be the same again? Nothardly.In fact, most of these ―must reads‖ were probably written on typewriters. If notby hand. And of those that are more recent, some aren‘t about writing marketingcopy at all.Take a look. And if you haven‘t read any of these, hit the bookstore, are links below), or the library (remember libraries?) and pick up a copy ortwo…
  31. 31. A Copywriter’s Bookshelf Essentials  ―Scientific Advertising‖ by Claude Hopkins– This is the granddaddy of all ―how-to‖ books on writing advertising. It‘s also a lean, easy read with very direct advice on how to write copy that sells. You can find this one free online. Just type the title Or you can buy the printed version.  ―Ogilvy on Advertising‖ by David Ogilvy– There‘s no doubt about it, David Ogilvy was a genius. In this book, he not only shows you how to sell in print, but also how to run an agency, hire writers, pitch campaigns, and more. Also a very quick, easy read.  ―Tested Advertising Methods‖ by John Caples– This isn‘t exactly the kind of book you read in one sitting. It‘s simply so dense with tips and examples, you couldn‘t possibly absorb it all at once. A bit like reading an encyclopedia of what works. Essential, though, as a shelf reference.  ―The Copywriter‘s Handbook‖ by Bob Bly– Oft recommended by yours truly, as well as countless other copywriters. Bly, who is now a friend of mine and who‘s written not one but 70 books, has covered every possible question a new copywriter could ask. (If you read just this and Claude Hopkins, you‘ll have a jump on half the copywriters working out there today.)  ―Elements of Style‖ by Strunk & White– Writing copy isn‘t necessarily about writing pretty. But it IS about making the copy disappear so the message itself can shine. Strunk & White can teach you plenty about writing tightly. In fact, everything you would need to know.  ―On Writing Well‖ by William Zinsser– That said about Strunk & White, this one helps you come at the same key lessons from a fresh angle. It‘s a little dry in spots (it‘s about grammar, after all). But still a worthy read. Especially for the conscientious writer who cares enough to edit his or her own stuff.These are the obvious choices. But then, there are some other books you mightnot necessarily think of when you‘re stocking your copywriting bookshelf:  ―On Writing‖ by Stephen King– Don‘t laugh. I know, he‘s Stephen King. To some, a schlock-master. But there‘s no question, the guy knows how to spin a yarn. (Consider the incredible number of his books that have been spun into Hollywood blockbusters.) It comes highly recommended from several writers I respect.  ―Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion‖ by Dr. Robert Cialdini – This is a perennial recommendation of mine. I‘ll be frank: The science of psychology scares me. It always seems like those who study human behavior are driven a little over-analytical, even mad, by it. However, this book is still a brilliant portrait of what persuades and why. Every good copywriter I know has it on his or her reading list.
  32. 32.  ―The Tipping Point‖ by Malcolm Gladwell– This wasn‘t supposed to be a marketing book. It was just about ideas that move masses of people to suddenly change their behavior. But then, what IS marketing if not the effort to move the masses? A great read in that it‘s interesting and entertaining as it informs.  ―How to Win Friends & Influence People‖ by Dale Carnegie– This really belongs in any list of classics. And if Carnegie were around today, he might write a sequel with the words ―on the Internet‖ tacked onto his famous title. Online marketing is, after all, about relationships. And this book is all about how to start them. What else?One I‘ve since added to this list, which I didn‘t include on the original, was GeneSchwartz‘s ―Breakthrough Advertising‖. Anybody who does anything withbusiness-building or marketing should read it. Mostly because it was so hard tocome by. However, it‘s back in print and well worth getting.Also, a fun read that‘s not necessarily marketing, is the recentbestseller―Freakonomics‖… in which the authors make the point over and overthat the thing that makes virtually everything happen (or not happen) isconnected to the incentive. Fix the incentive, guide the action. Which, I guess,makes it a kind of marketing book – or at least key marketing insight – after all.And while you‘re adding fun reads from the fringes, let‘s not forget MalcolmGladwell‘s follow-up to ―The Tipping Point,‖ which is titled ―Blink‖. It‘s not as goodand maybe not essential reading (some of the examples seem off). But it‘s stillgot some points of interest. Mostly those about how people make decisionsquickly and emotionally, pre-logic.And, without betraying a bias, I think any recommended reading list wouldn‘t becomplete without Michael Masterson‘s latest and greatest (in my opinion)bestseller,―Ready, Fire, Aim‖. This is more about business building, but you can‘tbuild a business without selling – a point that Michael makes masterfully in thebook.You might also want to throw another of Michael‘s books onto the pile,―Power andPersuasion‖.
  33. 33. What else? How about these extras to sweeten the mix …Bonus Recommendations  To see what its like to ―write as people talk,‖ try reading selections from any book of collected interviews by Studs Terkel. Terkel simply taped conversations with real folk and then tried to accurately represent them – word for word – in books of collected interviews.  ―Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman‖is about Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. If you need a little jolt of imagination, this inspirational collection of Feynmans anecdotes will show you how its done.  You might also check out―The Story Factor‖ by Annette Simmons.  And, also,―Telling Lies for Fun & Profit‖ by Lawrence Block.However, If You Read Nothing Else…There is one thing that absolutely every copywriter, without fail, should read. Andthen re-read. And then copy out by hand, word for word. And that is: every best-performing promo you come across.This isn‘t optional. For any copywriter. This one exercise will probably teach youmore – and more quickly – than any of the other reading I‘ve recommendedabove.This is the best and fastest way for you to get into the gear-works of what makesa pitch work. Michael Masterson recommends it. Every good copywriter he‘strained has done it. I know I have. I know Paul Hollingshead and others have.
  34. 34. Guilt Marketing – A Vintners Secret WeaponIve got wine on my mind. Not literally, mind you. As I write this, its not even10:00 a.m., for heavens sake. No. Im thinking about wine thanks to an article Ijust read, which will interest anyone serious about marketing or copywritingsuccess.See, here in the Paris office where I sometimes set up shop, there workswinemaking royalty – the daughter of California vintner Manfred Esser.Recently, she brought each of us a bottle of her fathers wine. My wife and I drankours with dinner that night. Good stuff. After sampling the wine, I looked up thewine master on the Web.It turns out Essers talent is not just in making a good wine, which he does. Itsalso in applying "new" marketing principles that we could all benefit fromstudying – as a copywriter and as an entrepreneur.Esser, whos a Harvard grad, took over the Cuvaison Winery in Napa Valley in1986. The vineyard was headed south faster than a goose in February.Yet, within two years, Esser had turned it around. Not only was Cuvaisonsuddenly breaking even, they had cornered 25 percent of the export market. Andthey were selling as many as 70,000 cases of their top-end wine every year.Twelve years later, Esser sold his partnership in Cuvaison and launched his ownlabel. Esser Vineyards is now one of Californias newest hot contenders, despitecompetition with, as Esser puts it, "about 80,000 different competitors."How does he do it? Esser calls it "guilt marketing."
  35. 35. "You treat your customers SO well," says Esser, "that you create a senseof obligation to come back to your product or service. And, even morethan that, to become ambassadors for your company. They actually feelguilty if they forget about you."Hes not recommending tricks or jingles or cleverness or high-pressure selling toturn a buck. Hes recommending a quality product. And quality service. At a goodprice.Its relationship building. In other words, the same marketing secret it took somany new Web businesses a few years to "discover" … sells wine, too. And ithappens to work extremely well in selling other things as well – like yourcopywriting services.Essers done this before. In his early career, he took a Chicago wine-importingfirm from nothing to a multimillion-dollar business by providing high-qualityproducts and exceptional, high-quality service.Is this strategy new or reckless or revolutionary? No, quite the opposite. Its oldschool, time-tested, and one of the safest business plans anyone could imagine.Whats this mean to you as a copywriter?Well, the starting place is producing a high-quality product – which, in this case,is your copy. But unlike selling wine, the relationship building isnt just with theclient. The first and most important relationship you need to build is with yourreader.How do you do that? The same way Esser does. No hype. No high pressure. Notricks or jingles or cleverness. Just honest, specific copy that doesnt makeunsubstantiated claims. Copy that gets to the point quickly … that buildsexcitement … and that treats your reader with respect.Build this type of quality-based relationships with your reader and you will be agreat copywriter.The other side to this relationship building – with your client – is where "guiltmarketing" will take you from being a great copywriter to being a successful,great copywriter.
  36. 36. Always give your client a little bit extra.During harvest, Esser goes into the vineyard, cuts bunches of grapes, and tissue-wraps them. He sends them to people important to his business – by overnightFedEx overnight – with a note saying, "We thought you might be interested in thenew vintage." Relationship building. Guilt marketing.Treat your clients the same way. If you run across news thats relevant to theirbusiness – especially when youre NOT writing for them – send it to them. Byemail or FedEx. Theyll appreciate your doing it. And theyll remember you.And when you are writing for them, throw in a few extra services, things youdprobably do anyway. But dont charge for them. Or charge a ridiculously low fee.That lets them know you like working for them and that its not just about themoney.Because its never really "just about the money."Find out more about the secrets to becoming a successful freelance writer withThe Versatile Freelancer
  37. 37. How to Add Power Negotiation Tactics to Your Sales PitchRemember G. Gordon Liddy?He helped engineer the plan to break into the Democratic National Committeeoffices at the Watergate Hotel during Richard Nixon‘s presidency.The break-in backfired. The burglars got caught. And eventually, Nixon himselfhad to resign.Even though Nixon‘s advisors knew there were big risks in Liddy‘s plan, they wentfor it anyway. How did Liddy talk them into it?By using the power of something called ―reciprocal concession.‖Liddy first proposed the plan with a budget of $1 million. ―Ridiculous,‖ saidMitchell, Magruder, and Dean. ―You‘re an idiot.‖A week later, Liddy came back with the ―mission‖ budget trimmed to $500,000.Again, no go.But Liddy now had them where he wanted them.He made his final pitch for a ―bare bones‖ version of the original – a versionpretty close to what he had imagined in the first place before he pumped it upinto the grandiose plan.This one could be done for just $250,000. They went for it. Even though the planwas just as risky as the first version.Why?Years later, Magruder said, ―We were reluctant to send him away with nothing…‖
  38. 38. This is reciprocal concession in action. Both sides gave something, but Liddy got abig part of what he had wanted in the first place.Here‘s how it works…At UCLA, they did a study where groups of students negotiated for a pile ofmoney. They were told observers were measuring their negotiation skills.But beforehand, one student was secretly instructed to try three differentnegotiation tactics with three different sets of students.With the first group, he demanded all the money and wouldn‘t budge. With thesecond, he made a reasonable demand that was only slightly in his favor. Withthe last, he made the extreme demand first, and then backed off to somethingmore agreeable but still in his favor.Guess which group gave him the most money?In every test trial, the third group was the most generous.The study found that the third group was more satisfied with the outcome – eventhough they had given up more of the money. They were more satisfied becausethey believed they had controlled the deal.You can apply this principle in sales copy.How much are you asking for the product? Could it be worth more? If not, yourcopy needs to be stronger. If so, you can try this reciprocal concession techniqueby saying something like this…“My publisher wants to charge you $1,000 a year for this service. ‗Just to get thesame advice from a paid professional‘ he said, ‗would easily run a guy four andfive times that.‘“Honestly, he‘s right. And I‘m confident what you‘ll get is worth at least 10 timesthat.“But I‘ll tell you what…“Suppose one year of service cost you just $750. That‘s the price I‘m supposed totell strangers when they come talk to me at the end of seminars. And that‘sactually a very good deal.“However… you and I, we share a common interest here…“So I‘ve twisted my publisher‘s arm and worked out a special deal: One year ofmy service – with all the things we talked about earlier – will cost you only $500.“Sign up for two years, and you‘ll get each year‘s worth of full service for an evendeeper discount – just $450 per year. Doesn‘t that sound fair?‖Okay, ‘nuff said. I think you get the idea.
  39. 39. By presenting an almost preposterous offer and then backing off to the realparameters of the deal, you get more agreement more quickly. And, usually, youalso get a customer who‘s more satisfied after making the purchase.Find out more about the hidden art of persuading customers to buy withcompelling salescopy in AWAI‘s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Mastering the Hidden Power of Lift NotesWell thought out lift notes carry power many copywriters don‘t understand. If youunderstand and harness this power, you will not only improve response, you‘llalso gain a significant advantage over other copywriters.Lift notes – also known as lift letters – are short, one- or two-sided notesenclosed in a direct-mail package to ―lift‖ response rates. As simple as they mightseem, they can push reluctant buyers to your side of the fence.They can be quick to produce, and are often the first thing direct-mail prospectsread. And yet – as simple as they are – a good lift note can sometimes boostresponse rates by 25% or more.You can apply the lift note concept to all different kinds of formats, in all differentkinds of ways.Lift notes are used most often in envelope packages. They‘re usually fromsomeone other than the person who signs the main letter. It could be thecompany president, a celebrity endorser, a happy user, or the head of anindependent testing company.These have to be real people, and you cannot use their names without firstgetting their permission. And after writing the lift note, you have to get their okayon what you‘ve written.For self-mailers – a format that doesn‘t require an envelope – the lift note mightbe done as a cover-wrap, as a faux Post-It (R) note, or as an added note on theinside front cover.In e-letter promotions, lift notes are frequently neglected. However, they can bejust as effective here as on print promotions.E-letter lift notes typically sit above or to the side of the body copy. They can alsobe on a separate webpage connected by a hyperlink. In this case, have themopen in a separate, smaller page. Don‘t have them appear as pop-ups, sincemany browsers filter these.
  40. 40. Of course, the same rules of strong copywriting apply to lift notes. For instance,personal is far better than impersonal. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Andfocus on core promise and benefits.Special Things a Lift Note Can Do for Your PromotionHere are just a few ideas. Use a lift note to…  Counter key buying objections.  Test your ―second-best‖ or alternate promo headline or approach.  Give readers an extra testimonial.  Make your message sound even more important by getting your company president to sign it. (But don‘t make the lift note sound ―corporate.‖)  Get a more personal feeling by neatly handwriting it or by using an unfamiliar script font.  Emphasize the time deadline.  Focus on the best aspect of the offer (the premium, guarantee, discount, etc.).  Emphasize long-standing credibility.  Cover a recent event, giving the promotion a greater sense of immediacy.  Underscore your USP – the ONE THING that really gives your product an edge over everyone else‘s.  Emphasize track record, unusual and impressive credentials, or to make the benefits of the most important package feature especially clear.Let‘s Look at Theory in PracticeCopywriter David Yale wrote a lift note to boost sales of a book by a lesser-knowngolf pro.―It was tested,‖ Yale said, ―and the results speak for themselves. The lift noteboosted response by more than 25%… and added almost 33% profit per piecemailed.‖How did it work?Johnny Miller, a well-known golf pro, had written the foreword to the book. Itincluded a glowing endorsement. Yale just adapted Miller‘s foreword and turned itinto a lift note, complete with his photo.Now… here‘s how you can take advantage of the lift note idea right now. Find aworking promo that doesn‘t have a lift note – one that‘s been around a fewtimes… and offer to write a lift note for it.Someone did that with one of my own packages. He charged the publisher $300.I complained, but the complaints fell on deaf ears.His lift note had boosted the response of the package by 30%!
  41. 41. 11 Easy Things You Can Do Right Now to Fix a Client’s Website (and Yours!)The bigger the Internet gets, the more you‘ll find yourself being called upon byclients to "fix" websites that aren‘t working. And I‘m talking not only about saleswebsites that aren‘t making money but also about editorial-style websites. Hereare the 11 best ways I know of to do it: 1. Define the site’s purpose in five words or less. Is this a sales site? Then the goal is: "Sell ______________." Is its purpose to build an e-zine‘s mailing list? Then the goal is: "Get names for mailing list." The purpose needs to be that simple. Pick the most important result, make it narrow, and stick to it. The more you try to accomplish, the less the site will accomplish in terms of quality results. You can always create other websites to serve other purposes. 2. Get a headline at the top of the first page. Forget big logos. Forget splash pages. Get words up top in type bigger than you think you need. And not just any words. You need a powerful emotional "hook." A big problem identified. A shocking statement. A huge benefit. 3. Get a big benefit "above the fold." If your headline at the top of the page is benefit-driven, you‘ve done this. If your headline is fear-driven or something other than a clear benefit, apply the "no-scroll" rule: Make sure the reader sees the benefit before he starts scrolling down the page. 4. Get rid of "click here to continue" page breaks. For a fluid, more effective reading experience, you need one long scroll. The less clicking your readers do while soaking up your message, the better. Don‘t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  42. 42. 5. If it’s a site for building a mailing list, get your signup box "above the fold."If you‘re after email addresses, the sign-up box should be featuredprominently in one of the corners. And it should reassure readers thatthere‘s no risk to their privacy when they sign up (which had better betrue).6. Strip away pointless graphics and links.Don‘t risk having readers miss what you have to say by obscuring it withunnecessary links and graphics. You don‘t want images that aren‘t relevantto your message, no matter how cool, cute, or stylish. Nor do you want togive links to other websites (at least, on a promotional page) or anythingthat does not further the sale. Stay in control of the reader‘s attention.7. Eliminate technological "tricks."Flashing banners, java-programming, flash-programming or frames are notonly distractions, they take too long to load. Worse, they could crash yourwebsite or the user‘s Web browser. Obliterate them.8. Reread all your subheads.Skim through the document and read the subheads. Not all of them have tosell, sell, sell. But it‘s a mistake for none of them to do so. You needsubheads to keep hooking the interest of the page skimmer, which is whatmost people are when they read both online and printed direct mail.Subheads are there to pull the reader back in. Well-crafted subheads offer apath that the reader will want to follow.9. Check and recheck your offer.When sales go wrong, the offer is often the reason they flop. Is it the bestpossible offer the owner of the business can make? Is there an aspect ofthe sale that can be fulfilled online (to cut costs and motivate the buyerwith instant-satisfaction urgency)? Can you offer a better guarantee? Is theguarantee featured close to the push for action? Have you reassured yourreaders that your reply page and their information is secure?
  43. 43. 10. Read the copy out loud. This old technique still works. Print the page and read the copy out loud. You can even record it and listen to the playback. Do any phrases sound dull? Are there sections that are boring or long-winded? Or parts so good you realize they should land closer to the front? You‘ll discover flaws and opportunities this way that you‘ll completely miss otherwise. 11. Get a local usability test. Get at least three other people who know little or nothing about the product you‘re selling. Let them read the Web page without giving them instructions on how to navigate. Provide no warm-up about what to expect. If they all have similar complaints, fix the problem. If their best response is that they "like" it, you still have work to do. If they start asking questions about the product and how to get it, you‘ve got a winner. Click here to find out more about Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts Revealing Deeper BenefitsEvery good copywriter knows the difference between features and benefits. (You DO know the difference, dont you? If not, I strongly urge you to go back and review Section 19 of your copywriting course.)But do you know the difference between "benefits" and "deeper benefits?" And,just as importantly, do you know how to pack them into your promo copy?I realize Im hitting you with a barrage of questions here. My apologies.Lets slow this down and start from the beginning …
  44. 44. A feature is what a product is or does. A benefit is what it will do for whoeverchooses to use it. Quantitative vs. qualitative.Prospective customers need to know features because they want to know whatsincluded for the price. You want to translate those features into benefits just tomake sure the customer sees whats in your offer for him or her.So, whats a "deeper" benefit?A deeper benefit is the unseen part of the product iceberg. Its the greatgoodness implied between the lines of your pitch. The larger-than-life stuff.Often, its an intangible, emotional thing. Its the feeling beyond the feeling.Let me give you an example …When a local gym that is selling memberships talks about the equipment theyhave upstairs, thats a list of features.When they tell you how that equipment can get you slimmer and stronger thanequipment thats available at other gyms, thats a translation from feature tobenefit.But when they start flashing you photos of lithe-looking members in gym gear …chatting confidently … flashing big smiles and toned flesh. Well … thatsapproaching the deeper benefits.I could spell it out further, but I think you see what I mean.Trouble is, deeper benefits are more abstract. Intangible. So, conveying them canbe difficult. For instance, stating them outright doesnt work. Deep benefits sinkin much better when theyre absorbed or realized, rather than stated orexplained.So … how are you supposed to get these intangible benefits across?Recently, I heard Michael Masterson give a good speech. In it, he ran through hispersonal techniques for communicating these kinds of richer, deeper benefits tocustomers … 1. Tell a Simple Story. Everyone loves a story, said E.M. Forster. Every prospect loves a story that shows a product benefit hitting its mark. Testimonial stories are perfect for this. But, in the happy endings that result, you can also share other details of how the testimonial-givers lives improved.
  45. 45. 2. Keep Idea Clutter to a Minimum. Most good promos center not just around a big promise, but around a "big idea." That is, a core idea thats rich and original and engaging. That ties directly to the product and the problems it solves. But big ideas can be hard to handle. Sometimes, they multiply. They can bog your package down and wear out your prospect. Think of a blockbuster movie. The easier it is to sum up the plot in a single sentence, the better it seems to wash with a mass-market audience. Keep your core-package idea equally as simple, and packing "deeper benefits" between the lines will be easier. 3. Lay on the Details, Nice and Thick. Just because youre keeping your core promo idea simple, dont think that means you should skimp on detail. Rich details can be the strongest mules in your stable, pulling your reader relentlessly to the sale. Its details that make your pitch feel real, original, and engaging. Which brings us to this final point … 4. Keep It Real. Theres a reason testimonials with poor grammar and real customer snapshots out-pull polished quotes and airbrushed photos. Its because authenticity builds trust. And trust leads to more checks in the mail. To get to a trustworthy level, unfortunately, takes work. You actually have to BE sincere. Study the product until you see it in your sleep. Strike out every single cliche, every fake sentiment, every vague promise or contrived piece of logic.There are two big sins of the copywriter, says Mike: laziness and insincerity. Ifyou cant be sincere about what youre saying, write for another product. Or findanother career.
  46. 46. 14 Tips Copywriters Can Learn from Professional StorytellersAny storyteller will tell you – Plot is essential.But what else do storytellers do to engage an audience? And how can we applythose secrets to writing better marketing copy?Almost all agree on a long list of techniques that make stories sound good. Below,is just a small sample of these techniques – along with ways you can use them toimprove your copy.Good stories … 1. Appear spontaneous. In copy, the secret is to study the message, the benefits, and the offer until they become second-nature. 2. Give hope. Good stories and good copy give the reader hope for things to come. 3. Show passion. Passion in telling and selling is not an option, its a necessity. The key: Having faith in what youre selling. 4. Overcome obstacles. Drama is all about obstacles and how theyre overcome. So is copy. 5. Make it personal. From caveman to high intellectual, personal stories have a way of proving a point that logic and rationalizations just cant muster. 6. Name the hero. Court storytellers would make the hero resemble the king. In copy, you can do the same – by showing your reader how hell triumph with the help of your product. 7. Name a villain. What keeps your prospect up at night? Thats an ideal villain for your sales message to attack. 8. Reward and tease. Reward listeners with progress and theyll be grateful. Tease with more to come and theyll hang on for more.
  47. 47. 9. Enlarge and enrich. Good stories and good copy remind you of whats important. They raise the bar and inspire you to hop over it.10. Build a relationship. Beneath the surface, a good story strengthens the relationship between teller and listener. In sales copy, it does the same between marketer and customer.11. Commute facts to the subconscious. From the beginning, good stories have been vehicles for ideas, logic, even moral messages. Sales copy that engages with a story can commute facts just as painlessly.12. Have a good twist. A story twist: "The butler didnt do it after all." A twist for an investment letter promo: "Oil is going up – but though its too late to buy oil companies, its NOT too late to buy the company that makes the drill bits that are attached to every drill bit in the United Arab Emirates. Who else holds this company? Only the richest energy investor on Wall Street, J.P. Calhoun …"13. Make sense. "Realistic" stories arent always real. They just work harder to make elegant leaps of logic. In copy, the writer has to understand his product well enough to make good sense, too. Knowledgeable customers can spot a fake from a mile off.14. Leave them wanting more. "Whats the sendoff emotion for your sales message?" asks colleague Addison Wiggin. "How do you want them to feel when theyre finished reading? If you know that, you can write toward it from the beginning. But if you dont know, your copy ends up going all over the place."
  48. 48. 5 Shockingly Simple Ways to Influence Your BuyerDr. Robert Cialdini is neither copywriter nor marketer. Hes a psychologist. He has a graduate degree from Columbia. Hes also the author of the destined-to-be marketing classic, "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion."" I can admit it freely now," says Cialdini in the books forward, "All my life Ivebeen a patsy."He wrote the book, he says, because it occurred to him that he, himself, had beenpersuaded over and over again to do and buy things he didnt want or need. Hewanted to figure out how it had happened. And he wanted to share those findingsso others could avoid the same fate.A noble cause.Our cause, I believe, is equally noble.Were not REALLY out to use what Cialdini found to persuade people to do thingsthey dont want to do. Rather, were going to use what he found – at the risk ofsounding like Yoda telling you to stay away from the dark side of The Force – for"good."And by "good," I simply mean what I think the true purpose of advertising shouldbe:True marketing and honest advertising aims only to connect worthy sellers withinterested buyers.That is, responsible advertising builds relationships. GOOD, responsibleadvertising only hastens them.And with that in mind, heres my spin on some of Cialdinis most interestingfindings … 1. USE THE POWER OF "BECAUSE." In one of the experiments in Cialdinis book, a Harvard psychologist gives a subject a stack of papers and tells him or her to approach a line cued up at a photocopy machine. The subject is supposed to say, "Excuse me, Ive got five pages. May I jump in and use the machine?" In 60% of the attempts, the line let the subject jump in and make copies. But when the second sentence was changed to "May I jump in and use the machine, because Im in a rush" … an astounding 94% gave the go ahead! Why? Because reasons persuade reasonable people. Or so you would assume. But in the experiment, even when the words after "because" were
  49. 49. changed, the request still succeeded. Even when the "reason" was no good reason at all! ("…because I need to make some copies.") This simply suggests what Ive said before. People search for reasons to justify their actions. Even if what youre providing SOUNDS like a reason but isnt, it can almost be good enough. After reading about the above experiment in Cialdinis book, I find myself using "because" in copy a lot more these days. Of course, I try to follow it with true justification too.2. CRAFT A MORE CREDIBLE IMAGE. If youve seen "Catch Me If You Can," the movie about the 1950s conman who built a career on projecting the IMAGE of authority (fake uniforms, fake logos, carefully placed lingo) … you know this one already. In medical circles, they call it the "white coat" or "stethoscope" effect. Cialdini gives more than one example where patients in hospitals ignore doctors who are out of uniform, but listen like school children to lab techs in scrubs or lab coats. Nobody likes to admit it, but were inclined toward "shortcut" thinking. Stereotypes. And assumptions. Hence, the power of the uniform. Even holding a clipboard, according to Cialdinis research, can do the trick. If someone has the look of authority, its often assumed that they ARE an authority. A lot of bamboozling in the history of commerce owes its success to this insight. You are not, of course, out to bamboozle. But you need to take this into account nonetheless … especially when you compile the credibility of whatever worthy service or product youre trying to sell. Make sure it looks the part. Or lose the sale.3. AIM FOR A PUBLIC COMMITMENT. A student comes to your door and asks you to sign a petition … a soap company invites customers to write a "Why I Love Sudsy Soap" essay … your local supermarket gives you a free "I Shop at UberMart" bumper sticker.
  50. 50. Who would have thought they learned these techniques from the interrogators working for the Communist Chinese? Its true. Sort of. During World War II, the Japanese tried to torture confessions out of Allied prisoners. For the most part, it didnt work. The Chinese, however, held essay contests. First, they asked American prisoners to admit to small things, e.g., "The American system isnt perfect is it? Nothing, after all, is perfect." " Yes, thats true," the prisoner would have to concede. Then, the captors would invite the prisoner to list some of the ways America might not be perfect. Long lists were rewarded with small prizes (rice, cigarettes, etc.). The captors would invite the prisoner to read the list in a discussion group. And then hold essay contests – again in exchange for small rewards – to see who could make the best essay from the list. Small concessions. Kid stuff. But not quite. The concessions seemed painless compared to the torture the prisoners expected. But by the time the hook was in, the captors had the prisoners reading their statements on public radio. And after the war, back home in the U.S., telling others that maybe communism was a good idea for Asia after all. How could they, the prisoners, go back on what theyd defended so carefully … and publicly? The human mind isnt built for that. And heres where this bizarre little insight actually applies to LEGITIMATE marketing … If youve got a good product and a happy customer, give them a chance to boast about it. With gift offers for family and friends. Membership cards. Invitations to send in testimonials. And more. Same principle, but a more noble application.4. MAKE ROOM FOR A BUYERS "INNER CHOICE." You dont have to take my word on all this. Read the research for yourself and you decide. Im sure youre going to agree. Why am I so sure? Well, for one thing because Im giving you the opportunity to do so. Almost all of us like to make choices for ourselves rather than have others make our choices for us. Likewise, if were backed into a corner by a choice, even if we accept that decision … were less likely to feel good about it or loyal to it later. Cialdini gives an example of kids in a playroom.
  51. 51. Outright threats not to touch a certain toy ("Dont play with the robot or you wont get cookies.") stopped working when the observer stepped out of the room. Because it wasnt a choice. It was just a rule and a possible outcome, imposed without reason. Short term, this can get a result. But long term …or when it counts … those results dont always reproduce. However, when the reason was given and the responsibility for making the right choice was assigned to the kid ("Playing with the robot is wrong. If you play with the robot, Ill be very disappointed in you."), a shocking number of children wouldnt touch the thing. Even when left alone. Whats more, they would take it on themselves to encourage new kids to make the same decision. Now, I dont have kids yet. So you really SHOULDNT rely on my prodding. Take a look at the research for yourself and make up your own mind. But once you have, I think youll agree that its pretty convincing. That is, for better sales results, craft your offer so its the customer who has to make the choice. Rather than you, the seller, trying to ram it down his throat.5. PINPOINT THE PURPOSE. In the 1960s, dozens of New Yorkers heard a womans screams. They leaned out their windows. They listened. They did nothing. Catherine Genovese was stabbed to death that night. And for years, the story was used as proof that people – especially people in cities – were getting more and more cold-hearted. New research suggests the problem wasnt a cold heart, but a confused one. 38 people were interviewed afterward. They were terrified during the event and just after the event. But none of them knew what to do. They felt "helpless" as they tried to figure out what was happening. But, says Cialdini, in cases where the cry for help is specific and clear, people – even New Yorkers – actually spring to help. He even recommends, if youre in trouble, to immediately try to lock eyes with someone nearby and target them: "You in the blue suit, I need help!"
  52. 52. In four staged experiments in Florida, a "fallen worker" near power lines was able to coax emergency aid 90% of the time from passersby. But when he said nothing, most gawked, looked panicked, then hurried past. Its not just in requesting help where this applies. Its just as true when pitching something positive, like an offer. Its surprising how often a pitch seems clear but leaves the prospect not knowing what was offered. Be clear. Write the offer first. Write to one prospect only and know what youre selling, as well as what it will do, precisely, for the prospect … even before you begin writing your first word of copy. Just doing that can make a huge difference in your results.All the above is my spin on Cialdinis research. If you really want to readsomething fascinating, I suggest you pick up the original book. Of course, I leavethat to you to decide.
  53. 53. Seven Ways to Encourage Better Copy Critiques Great editors can make a piece of writing come alive.The same goes for all kinds of writing, including copywriting. The more focusedthe copy review, the tighter and more persuasive your copy will be in the end. Forthose reasons – and because its often very difficult to spot your own mistakes –its essential to get critiques on your copy. The earlier in the drafting process, thebetter.Unfortunately, getting the kind of in-depth feedback you require isnt always easy.Which is why, this week, were going to look at seven ways (among many) tokeep your copy reviewers on track and get them to do their best work for you.1) Quantify Your Demands:Let the person or people youre asking to review your copy know how much youwant from them. For instance, you could try saying something like …" This is a pretty important promo piece, so I want you to give it a thoroughreview. On an intensity scale of 1 to 10, give it at least a level 8 looking over."
  54. 54. Likewise, ask them to quantify the results: "Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, howwell does this package meet the goals youre looking for?"2) Give Them a Time Limit:My old friend and colleague Deeba Jaffri never lost sight of the value of adeadline. She reviewed copy quickly. A two-day turnaround tops.She also kept other reviewers on track.Occasionally, shed ask me to look at copy another copywriter had turned in: "Doyou think you could get your comments back to me by Tuesday morning?" shedsay as she handed me the draft. "Ive scheduled a conference call with the writerfor 11 am."If she hadnt made that preface a habit, who knows how many drafts would havepiled up unread until the last possible minute?3) Offer a Comparison:Handing someone a piece of copy and saying, "What do you think of this?" is anopen-ended request.Youll close off a reluctant reviewers escape routes much more effectively if youask instead for a comparative critique, like so:" Bob," you say, "Ive just e-mailed you the first draft of my new promo. It hastwo headlines. Which one do you like better?"And then, once youve hooked the reviewers attention, you can throw in, "Andwhile youre looking it over, any suggestions you have on the body copy would beterrific."4) Play Politics:One way to spur on a reviewer is to tell him or her – before youve been asked –that someone else has reviewed and rendered an opinion of the same piece.Be careful. Playing personal dynamics is always risky. Just the same, simplyknowing that the promo copy is being actively reviewed and opinions are formingcan help convince the laggards that your package is worth looking over. Andsooner rather than later.Tip #1: Dont reveal the opinion of the other reviewer unless you have more thanone to reveal. And only then if the other opinions have differed: