One of the most popular threads on my now defunct discussion forum for copywriters was one started by my friend Dean Jackson.
If you don't know Dean Jackson, he is a Torontonian, a real estate mogul, an information marketing millionaire (author of many programs, including the highly successful “Stop Your Divorce!”), and a darn-fine copywriter.
This post was extremely popular for a number of reasons.
In it, Dean shared his quick-and-dirty formula for writing salesletters really fast. Of course, I'm a big fan of Robert Plank's Speed Copy Secrets. But this formula is a great shortcut if you want to write a barebones salesletter in less than an hour.
Above all, the idea behind this formula is to get you to start writing. Too many marketers and copywriters get stuck at the beginning, such as at the headline, and they fail to get any traction. They often blame it on “writer's block.”
According to Dean, this formula has helped him write several million-dollar salesletters for himself and others. With his gracious permission, I'm reprinting it here on this blog, along with some of my own editorial comments and tips…
Please note, this is not going to result in an extensive or exhaustive salesletter. But it will provide you with a skeletal outline you can either use as is, or easily expand from.
Remember, most people find that the hardest thing to do is to get started writing. It's easy to get caught up in trying to figure out the best hook or headline.
That's why its power lies in its simplicity. This formula is an easy, kick-into-gear way to get a really quick headstart. As Dean noted, “I'd rather be golfing than sweating out a sales letter, so I'm very interested in achieving quick results.”
It all starts with deciding exactly what you want someone to do. Once you've determined that, then it's to sit down for 60 minutes or so to write an unedited, rough-draft, handwritten letter baring the “naked truth” of what you really want.
Without any distractions. Without going into any tangents. And without stopping.
Dean suggests taking a pen and a legal pad, and start writing a stream of consciousness, by hand, to one individual person you imagine as your ideal prospect.
I personally don't mind using my computer, but I believe Dean suggests doing it by hand because it's harder to edit yourself when doing so. Editing as you write is one of the biggest crutches for copywriters that impedes their writing.
Also, getting to know your perfect prospect is crucial.
In our course, we share with you the exact process we go through to find markets and create “buyer personas” using spying techniques, sideways strategies, and unique and unconventional keyword research methods.
In it, we show you how to create a perfect prospect profile, a “buyer persona.” It's a perfect complement to Dean's technique as it will allow you to develop a clear understanding of who your prospect is, what do they want, and how do they want it.
Knowing this beforehand will allow you to sit down and write a salesletter faster than you've ever dreamed possible. The reason is, the information you uncover during that research will provide you with a ton of information you can use in your writing.
Nevertheless, the key is to write the letter as if they are the only person who is going to receive the letter. You write to that person and that person only. Personally, one on one.
At this point, you shouldn't concern yourself about the grammar, the look, or the techniques of copywriting. As copywriter Peter Stone says, “Write first, edit later.”
No one is actually going to see the letter at this point, anyway. You can edit it yourself afterward, or have someone else or hire someone else to edit it for you.
The key is to do it and do it as quickly as possible. Get yourself a timer, if you can. Limit yourself to 60 minutes. That way, you won't be tempted to stop along the way to edit yourself. Don't do it. Keep writing, and write like there's no tomorrow.
You must get yourself to sit down with the thought of having to get it all done in less than one hour. Write down just the essentials at this point. Keep it simple, keep your perfect customer in mind at all times, and keep it flowing.
Now, here's the 10-part letter formula.
Start with “Dear Dean,” which can be the name you give your perfect prospect. Remember, you can change it later. Don't worry about the headline at this point. Next…
1. Start with the purpose of your letter.
“I'm writing to you because I want you to…” Insert your naked-truth reason you're writing, as if you were making your request known to a lamp Genie who could grant your wish, like, “Take out your credit card and pay me $39 for my new book called…”
2. Reasons you are writing to this specific person.
“The reason I'm writing to you specifically is because I think you want…” And then list the reasons in bullet form, such as reason #1, reason #2, reason #3, and so on.
3. List the features and benefits of your product or offer.
“Here is a list of what you get when you [buy my book]…” Again, use bullets. First list the feature followed by the benefit after “which means,” such as “You get
4. Top 10 questions and/or objections.
You can say, “If I were to guess the top 10 questions or objections you will have about buying my product today, they would be these…” You then follow that by another bulleted list of the top 10 most asked questions or most pressing concerns.
5. Answers to those questions or objections.
“So here's how I would clear those up for you…” Same idea as point #4. List, in bullet form, the answers to each and every question or concern you've uncovered.
6. Explain the guarantee or how you are removing the risks.
“I want you to be completely without risk, so here's my guarantee…” Then explain how your guarantee works, how it reduces or removes the risk from the purchase in their minds, and how to take advantage of it if they need to.
7. The most important part: the call to action.
“It's really easy to get started. You just…” (whatever it is they must do, such as “click this button,” “fill in this form,” “call this phone number,” “return this coupon,” etc). Provide the exact, step-by-step instructions on how they can take action.
8. The result of their taking action.
“Once you decide to get started here's what's going to happen…” Describe what's going to happen once they go ahead. Educate them on how they will get their product, and how they will consume it. Tell them how to make the best use of their new purchase.
9. Add an element of scarcity or a sense of urgency.
“You need to do this right now because…” Tell them why they need to take action today. Is there a limit or a deadline? What will be the consequences if they don't take action? What are the ultimate costs of not going ahead today?
10. Finally, testimonials from satisfied customers.
“Here's a list of people who have already [done this] and exactly what happened for them…” Add testimonials or case studies from other customers. Of course, I don't need to remind you that they must be real and genuine. 😉
There you have it.
When you're done with this exercise in hopefully one hour or less, it's easy to start taking the barebone copy elements from it and dressing them up to take out in public.
You can add more, rearrange the elements, expand points, add proper transitions between each section, make it flow neatly, tighten it all up, and so on.
Once you've done this naked-truth, skeletal salesletter, headline ideas will naturally jump out at you. You will have some groundwork from which to come up with several headlines and possible hooks that will appeal to your perfect customer.
Remember, the headline's job is only one thing: to get your prospect to read your letter. Once you've accomplished that, the rest should be smooth sailing.
Tell me (or Dean Jackson) what you think! We would love to get your feedback.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.