The next question is, what does Web 2.0 have to do with salesletters, if anything? And how does it affect them? For marketers, Web 2.0 presents a number of new opportunities and avenues that allow more interaction.
More specifically, tools created by Web 2.0 can help to not only humanize but also magnetize a website, which, in turn, gives marketers the ability to create better relationships with prospects, and supplies them with better tools to offer more proof, communicate more effectively and develop that trust they so seek.
In terms of marketing, it can leverage a viral marketing campaign by creating a certain buzz about the business, which can enhance a website’s traffic, exposure, stickiness and, to some degree, believability.
But in terms of salesletters specifically, which is what I really want to focus on, it can serve up a sales message in the way the user wants, not how the business behind it wants or thinks their users want.
Rather than being sold, people are literally telling you how they want to buy. And this brings a whole new level of interactivity to websites that either was previously unavailable, or, until the emergence of new web applications and the penetration of broadband, was impractical or expensive to do.
These web applications include audio, video, scripts, interactivity, personalization, database-driven content and data fetching and delivery tools.
A lot of the hype surrounding Web 2.0 is mostly generated by the creators of those web apps that facilitate interactivity. Either that or it is most often if not always inspired or instigated by someone who wants to make money from it.
(Ah, yes. Good old capitalism.)
But is this whole Web 2.0 just hype? No.
While the concept of Web 2.0 is overused, don’t let it steer you away from what it really means, particularly when it comes to web copy: interactivity.
The evolution of the Internet (which led to the creation of the applications that fed the buzz and created the frenzy in the first place) simply cannot be ignored, because it’s radically changing the landscape of the web — and above all, salesletters online (or more specifically, how people are buying online).
Let me explain by giving you a few insights of my own about what Web 2.0 means, how it’s changing things in terms of copywriting, and where it’s heading.
First off, you might be expecting me to make some “predictions.” I hate Internet predictions. Why? It’s because the Internet is, at its core, mostly unpredictable. It has become more user-driven (as it should be), and therefore, much like the stock market, volatility increases when more players enter the game.
(If it was predictable, we wouldn’t have gone through the dotcom bust.)
Some copywriters, like John Carlton among others, have recently said that Web 2.0 is a bunch of hoopla, and that copywriting and salesmanship are the same — regardless of the medium or how the medium evolves.
He’s not the only one. Dan Kennedy has been touting for years that the Internet is just another medium, and that salesmanship is salesmanship.
I agree, but to a degree.
I’m not contradicting these guys, who are actually my mentors. And I’m not saying that salesletters and salesmanship are dying, either. Not at all. And I’m also not saying that it’s not about salesmanship. It certainly is. Both Carlton and Kennedy, as well as many others, are 100% right.
However, there’s more to it than that. I think just relying on those statements alone, at least without a proper understanding of what’s really going on (and how Web 2.0 is affecting online sales mostly in indirect and subtle ways), is incomplete for a variety of reasons.
The salesletter is not dead. Of that I am certain. But the online salesletter with long-scrolling copy, especially the poorly written, lackluster, hype-filled salesletter, is indeed on its last legs.
What I am seeing is, better results with salesletters that are getting shorter, stronger, pithier, cleaner, and more “nichified.” But there’s even more than that.
They’re also becoming more dynamic.
Salesletters are changing not because people are changing — they are changing precisely because human behavior will never change.
New tools and processes have entered the ether, which allow us to cater to human behavior far more effectively. But such advances are subtle and not as dramatic as some of the Web 2.0 pundits have stated them to be.
Yes, there is a lot of hype and hoopla. But it’s actually because of the hype that the real changes are happening so subtly yet significantly, mostly behind the scenes, clouded by all the dust kicked up from the Web 2.0 buzz.
However, no matter how many times I hear people say “the Internet is just another medium,” I tend to ignore it or reflect on the true purpose of such a statement. (Admittedly, I have been guilty of saying this, too.)
True, the Internet is a medium. But human behavior is human behavior, and that will never change, regardless of the medium. So applying the rules and fundamentals of salesmanship, on any medium, won’t change things.
But the Internet really is different.
Let me give you an example.
Are infomercials salesletters? I mean, can you put a long-copy written salesletter on television, and force viewers to read it, to buy your product? Of course, not. You probably could, but you wouldn’t put up a long-copy salesletter on TV because, obviously, it would be nonsense for a variety of reasons.
Unlike a print ad or salesletter, television has movement and sound. It’s active and engages more senses than copy written on a piece of paper. And when people flip channels, their attention needs to be captured and their interest needs to be engaged far more vigorously than, say, a plain, static direct mail piece.
So if you don’t put a salesletter on TV, then why put one on the web?
Well, it’s because, in the days of Web 1.0, the Internet was similar to direct mail. It was originally regarded as an electronic version of the direct mail piece.
It simply offered a new opportunity to direct mail marketers to tap new markets and deliver more of their sales messages. It was easy to use the Internet as a form of direct mail, and not necessarily because it is or has to be like it.
So the web was, and was very successful at being, another “direct mail medium,” if you will. And given the very limited tools at the time (e.g., browsers were once only text-based), and the fact that slow dialup connections were the norm, text-based direct mail was perfect for the Internet.
But that was then.
(Keep in mind, when the Internet began it was fragmented and mostly used by geeks from Universities and institutions that interacted with each other using tools like bulletin boards, Gopher, and Usenet newsgroups, all of which evolved into the Internet of today. And “interaction” is the key, here, and I’ll come back to this because it’s truly important.)
When people say that “the Internet is no different than direct mail,” they’re not trying to sway people to using the web as a direct mail process. They’re referring to human behavior, salesmanship and the fundamentals of copywriting as being the same — regardless of the medium.
And that is what they really mean.
As a communications medium, the Internet is no different than direct mail, the radio, TV and so on, because they are all received by human beings. The way people respond to a direct marketing message is no different on the Internet than it is with a print salesletter.
But here’s the thing: it’s not the message that’s changing. It’s the delivery. The way people get interested in and respond to that message is what makes the Internet completely different. It’s how people interact with the message.
Let me put this in another perspective: in direct mail, you have one choice and one choice only. You read it or you don’t, period. It’s what Gary Halbert calls the “A-pile, B-pile” sorting process. That is, when you go through your mail, you sort the must-read mail (the “A pile”) from the junk mail (or “B pile”).
Two simple options… one choice… no interruptions (other than environmental distractions, such as background noise, gatekeepers, the reader’s busy schedule, screaming kids in the background, whatever).
Radio and TV are different, but just slightly.
For example, with television your options have multiplied by the number of channels available — from 12 in the antenna-based VHF/UHF days, to 50 with cable, and now to several hundreds with satellite and digital TV.
While you have several options to deal with, it’s still just one choice. Your choice is what one show will occupy your attention at that moment in time. From all the channels available, just one show on a single channel, at any given point, will be the one on which you focus your attention — for as long as it keeps it.
Now, enter the Internet.