The most important part of your copy is not your headline, not your offer, and certainly not your benefits. The most important part is your customer.
Sounds obvious, right? But in the last few weeks, I’ve been critiquing some pretty good copy. Very well-written and compelling, too. But if the conversion rate is low (hence, the reason why I was hired to do a critique consultation), it’s because these sales letters do not target the right audience for the offer, or the copy fails to connect with their readers.
Researching your customer in depth is vital to the success of your copy. It’s not only an important component of targeting and qualifying the best prospect for your offer, but also an effective way to discover new ideas, different angles, captivating storylines, unsought benefits, and appropriate length and language of your copy that will convert more.
The question is, how do you target and connect with your readers?
For over 15 years now, I’ve been teaching the concept of “storyselling,” a term I coined about using the power of stories in the sales process.
It’s nothing new. It’s a technique I learned way back in my early career, especially from one of the most brilliant minds in copywriting and a master at the art of storytelling: Gary Halbert.
Gary passed a few years ago, and I sure do miss the old fart. We used to talk on the phone, sometimes for hours, discussing the industry, people in it, new techniques, and upcoming seminars.
When Gary wanted to make a point, he didn’t state it. He would tell me a story. It often had nothing to do with the point (not at first, anyway), but it drove his point home beautifully, brilliantly, and poignantly. Even now, years after his passing, I still remember the stories he told me quite vividly.
That’s because Sir Gary of Halbert was a true master at telling stories that sell.
When I critique, edit, or rewrite sales copy, I discover that many clients commit some common errors.
Granted, not all of them are writers. But most of them fail to drive customer actions not because they lack writing skills but because they fail to look at their copy from their readers’ perspective.
Although unintentional, they’re so involved with their business or product that they tend to forget their prospects. They tend to explain things in ways that only they understand. They tend to forget the number one element in copywriting. And no, it’s not the copy. It’s not the offer, either. It’s…
After my wife passed, I decided to relocate into a smaller home and my current home is up for sale. Moving always reminds me of something that happened when I was shopping for a new home in the past.
Part of the process was furniture shopping. Since we were slated to move several months down the road, I was looking for an extended layaway plan that would help me temporarily store the furniture until I move into the new house.
But something strange happened, which reminded me of the power of applying pressure in copywriting.
After shopping around a few stores, I came across a big chain department store that carried what I was looking for — a bed, a couch, a dinner table, and chairs, all at reasonable prices. (In fact, they were all on special, which was nice.)
I walked in, spoke to a salesperson and asked if they had an extended layaway plan. After I asked him, he used what seemed to be the “good cop, bad cop” routine on me, which is a common sales tactic I’m all too familiar with.
“Let me check with my manager,” he said. He left, spoke with someone in the neighboring electronics department who obviously didn’t look like a “manager.” (In fact, the person seemed like a normal sales rep from the electronics department.)
A lot of people ask me how I write copy. I don’t mean the actual writing process (such as how I come up with headlines, bullets, offers, etc), but how I tackle the actual task of composing a new sales piece from scratch.
Everyone is different. My writing process is one developed over many years, and many people may adopt or dislike the same techniques. But in the hope that knowing my process may be helpful to some writers, I’d like to share it with you.
Of course, if I were to describe all of the steps, there would be way too much information to squeeze into one article. But for now, I can offer you a basic look at my methodology by giving you a short list of the seven steps I take.
“I don’t want to tell people because I want tears of joy, not sadness.”
Sylvie said this when she was asked if she wanted to tell people at the wedding about her breast cancer diagnosis just a week before we got married.
Fast-forward 8.5 years later, here we are at another wedding.
My son, Tyler Fortin, and Priya Randell got married in the hospital room before Sylvie passed. The ceremony ended at 11:15, and Sylvie took her last breath at 12:15PM — literally one hour later. It’s as if she held on for this excruciatingly beautiful moment. She even opened her eyes when they exchanged rings.
Obviously, tears of sadness were mixed with tears of joy this time, and we had no choice. (Sorry, Sylvie. There’s no working around this one.)
My son recorded the ceremony and shared it on Facebook. What my son said was so beautiful, I’ll simply quote him below as he explains this highly emotional day.
This is without a doubt the most emotional piece of film I have ever seen. By now most of you know that my mother, Sylvie Fortin, recently died of cancer at the young age of 45. When she was in her last stages of decline, Priya Randell Fortin and I decided to get married in the hospital, so that my Mom could see it for herself before she passed. I also decided to get this viscerally candid moment on my GoPro camera. What I’m about to show you was filmed on, by far the most emotionally crippling, and transcendentally beautiful day of my life. I have chosen to show this to you, completely uncut. Keep in mind this is also the first time anybody has seen this footage, other than myself. Please join me by honoring the memory of my Mom Sylvie, as she touched myself and so many others, and will be truly, truly missed. I love you Ma, always and forever.
After my wife passed, my grief was compounded by not only the loss of my business partner but also the loss of some major client accounts — and a huge chunk of my income along with it.
An understandable reason for this is that some of these clients prefer to deal with my late wife or fear that I may not live up to her level. After all, it was her baby that she built from the ground up in the last 20 years, and with which she built some very close client relationships.
I get it. I totally understand it. Business is business. Sure, losing clients literally a week after losing your business partner, and being alone trying to learn and take over everything, is not easy.
But while I may appear to be in my darkest moments, I’m actually relieved, strong, and determined. Why? Because I remember something Sylvie would often say when it came to dealing with her cancer and her refusal to “fight” the disease:
“Don’t fight the darkness, just turn on the light.”
I keep that quote firmly in mind when confronting obstacles, and remind myself this is also a perfect opportunity. After the initial shock, I started to realize that it allows for a few things:
Starting fresh and getting new, longer-term clients.
Working with clients who will appreciate my work ethic.
(Now, let’s not forget that I also became a grandfather and a father-in-law in that time, too! I guess I became a lot of things in such a short period of time.)
Anyway, I never thought of myself like that until then. It made me realize the implications, which was the fact that my life has dramatically changed — and will continue to change — in such a short period of time. But I refuse to accept darkness. I find a way to turn on the light.
Thinking like this is not some “secret” or Pollyanna attitude. Attitude is indeed important, but you’re not trying to wish or visualize the positive in your life. You still have to work at finding the lightswitch and flipping it, so to speak.
In that sense, and besides relocating, I have new goals going forward:
Sylvie and I were members of a mastermind coaching group called AM2, founded by Armand Morin. Part of that membership includes a monthly magazine with online marketing and business-building tips, articles, and news.
Armand and his wife Marianna were so moved by Sylvie that they have dedicated this entire month’s issue to her.
This has, in turn, touched me deeply.
Not only that, but the magazine, which is normally available to members only, has also been made freely downloadable so that everyone can read and share it.