Michel: We have everybody here now we're going to start. And I, I want to welcome you all to the call because tonight is going to be an amazing call that's nothing short of astonishing and it's going to be something that I, I really am proud of because you see if you want to learn how to write killer copy there's something that you need to learn above all that.
And, and this is so important because if you want to learn how to write killer copy that mesmerizes your audience and almost rips the money out of their wallets and, and make them feel good about doing it too, you're in for a real treat. Because the person that's going to be on tonight is a person that can actually teach you how to do that.
The person I'm going to introduce you to very shortly is a person who I followed for a while and somebody who's taught me more about the single greatest deal you'll ever learn about business, about copywritingand I mean it's not about copywritingby the way but about business, copywriting and marketing in general. You see before I introduce you to John Carlton let me tell you a little bit about myself.
You may or may not know me but my name is Michael Fortin and, and people know me from my web site. For example at Thecopydoctor.com. I've been a copywriter for over 15 years and I've written a hard hitting sales copy for many of the world's top direct marketers and Internet gurus like Jay Abraham, Michael Campbell, Yanik Silver, John Reese, Steven Pierce, etc. When I started out I was in sales. I sold everything.
I sold vacuums, I sold insurance, you name it. But of course I was really lousy and it and I even went bankrupt when I was starting out because I just didn't make any commissions. And, and when I finally got it not only did I become a top flight salesperson but I later dove into copywriting and, and eventually was the person who was instrumental in selling over $35 million worth of products and services. And, and I say this because it's really important.
You see tonight's guest is a master copywriter. But you know you may or may not know John Carlton. You've probably heard of Gary Halbert and I talking about John last call. But John is, is still pretty unknown to a lot of people because he's been like the secret weapon working under the radar for many, many years and, and the person which top direct marketing agencies have slipped through the backdoor so to speak to spice up their dull, unproductive ads and sales letters into profit pulling mega masterpieces that are still being mailed out to this day.
John Carlton now commands fees as high as $15,000.00 plus royalties for his copy and, and his clients pay him more than cheerfully because they know that his copy kicks butt. Of all the copywriters out there that I keep learning from there's only one person who teaches more about this single greatest skill you will ever learn and need to learn to make it in copywritinglet alone direct marketing.
And what's this single greater skill that I'm talking about?
It's selling. Salesmanship. Get-them-hooked, close-the-deal and get-their-money selling. Because copywriting is really a printed form of face-to-face, toe-to-toe, belly-to-belly selling and this is what we're going to be talking a lot about tonight.
If you want to learn about copywriting you go to learn about selling. So get ready because tonight's call, this person that we're going to be, if you're listening tonight to tonight's call is going to teach them on other things. How to throw icy cold water into the face of your inner salesperson so you can snap that person out of their slumber and get down to writing killer copy that grabs your readers by the eyeballs until they buy your product or service. And that person is none other than my guest tonight, Mr. John Carlton. Welcome John.
John: Hey, how you doing Michel?
Michel: I'm doing, I'm well. Thank you so much. You want to do a little bit of an intro?
John: That was a nice intro. I can't wait to hear what I have to say. I got to live up to that. By the way Michel, grab your reader by the eyeballs, I, I've never used that. I think I'll steal that line. Hey you know I, I want to start off with something that just occurred to me.
Right when I was waiting around for the call and it's about something that's been coming up a lot recently when I've been speaking at seminars, when I've been talking with people, and it's about writing for the web. And I think you know that a lot of people you know we kind of roll our eyes but it's, it's a serious thing for people who are just getting into this.
They ask about writing for the web. They ask if you should write differently for the web and they, and they get caught up in the technology of the web.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: And I just wanted to address that right off the bat so we're kind of clear on, I think what has become a basic obstacle to a lot of people getting into copywriting and salesmanship and that is a lot of us old caveman marketers like Halbert, me and, and you know Jay Abraham and other guys, we kind of trash the web a little bit. We talk down technology. Now I want to tell you why we do that.
Even though you know we use this cutting edge ourselves you know. I, I did blast email before this call, I've been on numerous teleconferences. I've even got a geek sprucing up my own web site. But the truth is you know I'm making a killing online. I'm using a lot of the cutting edge stuff. But the reason that we tend to talk down the technology a little bit, the technology of the web and the Internet is because, let me, let me tell you a brief story.
About 15 years ago during one of the first seminars that I produced with Gary Halbert, we had a guy raise his hand and he had a very important question. And he says I just bought the most tricked out computer that is made. I think he even, it even had a mainframe he said. And he told us about all the, all the whizzing stuff he had on this, all the bells and whistles he had on this, on this computer. And then he paused. He says so I had the computer. Now will you guys tell me how to make money with it.
And you know we just, we kind of rolled our eyes and we went you know it's been a standing joke with us for a long time.
Because the computer isn't going to make you any money at all. The computer is merely another medium of which to get your sales message out. I, I think about that guy a lot when I hear people talking about the web being so new and a lot of things happening because I was all, I've been on the cutting edge so to speak of a lot of different technologies. That's just a factor of me being really, really old now.
I wrote one of the first infomercials back when we would literally go into the studio using scrap time at a local studio shoot and hours with a film for an hour infomercial, slap it up on time which we got for free from the cable channel because the cable channel had no idea what that late night time was worth. And if it worked we'd run it again and we'd know it worked right away because the phones would ring.
And if it didn't work we'd slap up the next one we would've made that afternoon. In three hours we could do an entire hour long infomercial. It was just, it was wild and wily and there was no, there was no, reason not to be kind of sloppy about it.
Then things started to change. People just, to be able to do an infomercial now you have to be ready to spend six, excuse me $100,000.00 or more just to get your foot in the door to make a, an infomercial. And you're going to spend a lot more than that on buying the time to be able to run it. And this is before you even know if you have something that works a lot.
So I, I just want to make clear that people understand that the web is going to change on you. So thinking that the bells and whistles and the tricks and stuff that, that are part of the web and part of the structure of the technology, this is all going to change. And it's going to change on you sometime soon. They're already talking about charging for email.
I have an article here from the Washington Times says the outgoing CIA director said that we need security measures to guard against attacks on the United States through the Internet. He calls it our potential Achilles' heel and whenever the Feds start talking about protecting you know a resource like the web then you know they're going to screw it up horribly.
So, I, I just want to you know it's, and you know it's, you and I were talking earlier Michael about new music. It's like, it's like the technology of music you know that we can go, in our homes now on our computers we have better technologies than the guys who were using even ten years ago to make the hits that dominated the radio. Yet just because we have that technology to be able to sound as good as the hits were ten years go doesn't mean we're going to have a hit because the technology has changed, everything has changed. So what you got is a really good sounding demo you know.
So what, what this all comes down to, what this longwinded kind of intro comes down to is that kind of plays off of what, what your introduction was which is all of this comes back to the caveman principles of pure salesmanship. It hasn't changed since the first caveman traded a cave with a view for his cave and an extra slab of mastoid on it.
He had to sell the guy on doing that, he had to be persuasive, he had to give reasons why. All of this stuff happened at the dawn of civilization. And the stuff that works is the stuff that's going to work no matter where you are, whether you're on the web or you're writing a letter, whether you're on the TV or on the phone, whether you're face to face with somebody.
And this is probably something that, that you know you came to grips with you know in your own personal story when you said you know that the long path to getting really good at selling. And so I just wanted to lay that out there to kind of, because salesmanship is so important and sometimes when I talk about copy and then I, I wander off into salesmanship you know people get lost and they think salesmanship how important is that. Well, guess what it's the most important thing because everything else is going to shift from under you.
Michel: It's the oldest profession in the book, not that other job.
John: Well they had to sell too so.
Michel: Well, well John it's really a pleasure to have you on the call because you know one of the things that you've taught me and the thing that I've been always a strong proponent of is, is you know you made a reference to grabbing people by the eyeballs and I think it's something that, that a lot of, especially web sites and web letters as well as direct mail pieces really lack is something that's going to hook people into reading the copy. And, and one of the things I do a lot is critiques and I critique copy and I critique web sites and 90 percent of the copy that I critique it really boils down to a really crappy headline.
Michel: And, and/or the lack of a hook you know. If you watch a good movie or read a good book there's a plot. There's something that keeps you riveted through the whole movie. If you read a good book there's something that keeps you reading almost every page in a single sitting.
And, and I discussed this very quickly with Gary Halbert, the last call about long copy and short copy and I want to bring it back up again. But the idea is if you're a Steven King addict and Steven King puts out an 800- page book if it hooks you in you're going to probably read it all in one single sitting and you probably wish the book was either longer or you'll re-read it because it's so good.
And one thing that you've taught me John and the thing that I also stress to a lot of my students and my clients is the power of the hook. If you want to talk a little bit about that because that's so powerful.
John: Yeah. I read a lot of Steven King myself and you know what the main hook of Steven King was especially when he was just getting started on those first six novels or so?
John: It was the unsaid promise that buy this book and you will have the living crap scared out of you. And people just lined up in drools. And they know that's one of the reasons still when you go to the airport reading racks, I mean half of that is you know Steven King, the other half of that is Daniel Steele you know and then Grisham and all those other guys.
But it's, it's because of you know it's, it's, it is an unspoken hook that's, that brings you in. But he's very clear about it. Everything from the illustration on the front cover to the few words that, that he allows on his covers to kind of start the story going.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: And the hook is the single most important thing and it's also the most misunderstood thing. I have people who have been reading my stuff and have been getting critiques from me for years who still struggle with getting the hook.
And I think, I think you know you had talked about before you know how talking about that you wanted me to talk about the actual structures of going through this process and you know this, that's something that I think a lot of us really blow past when we try to teach people. It's like you know you just tell somebody you need to have a hook in your story.
Well that doesn't help them so much if they don't understand how to get the hook. Well one of the ways that you can start learning about a great hook is to go look at a bunch of great hooks. Now one way that's, you can do those by getting those swipe files together of ads that are proven winners and start paying attention to how those things hook.
But you know an even easier way is you can just go down to your local liquor store or drug store or even the Wal-Mart and just go to the magazine rack. And see how those magazines, the bestselling magazines in the world sell themselves and the way they do it is that they hook you and some of the best ones to do this are like Reader's Digest, Cosmo is really good and of course our favorite, The National Enquirer.
My, the people who write the headlines and the blurbs, the little copy blurbs on the cover of these bestselling magazines are some of the highest paid writers in the world. And they are highly paid because when they write a hook on the cover of a magazine or a tabloid that, that moves those tabloids off the, you know off the shelf then they make a mint.
And if they don't write something that works the tabloid will languish until the next one comes out. And those are some pretty hefty stakes. And you're going to know right away whether you're writing good stuff or bad stuff.
So the guys that have been on the job for a long time know their game. I, I, I say this a lot, people have heard me speak before you know have heard it but my favorite, National Enquirer headlines two of them. One was the headline “Boy eats own head”. And I, I love that. I have a copy of that still somewhere. It's kind of rotting now but I loved it.
And not more than a couple of issues later in the same year, the same writer I think wrote this one, “Preacher explodes on pulpit”. What those, that one actually has a little liberation going with the P thing but what those are, those are hooks.
And the greatest hook that you can come up with and I want everybody to listen very carefully to this, is the incongruent jexta position of seemingly unrelated things or items or events.
So in other words the, the skinny guy beats the big guy up and gets the girl, the dumb guy wins out over the smart guys, the you know the weak vanquish the strong. And I'll you know I'll give some examples of some of the headlines I've used but it's very important that you not just come out and be another voice in the wilderness.
As you've told people Michel you know the, the advertising world is a wilderness out there. It's not a wilderness, it's like a white sheet of, of storm ice coming at you. There's so much commercialism, there's so much advertising going on, so much marketing going on that the average American can't get up, listen to the radio, look at the paper and drive to work without getting bombarded by advertising messages. So it becomes a white blur to them.
John: And you have to stand out. You can have the best product in the world and it aint going to do squat if you don't get people to pay attention. You know the marketing graveyard is filled with you know really, really good products that just never caught on. So when we're talking about the hook and we're talking about that's why I like those National Enquirer headlines “Boy eats own head”.
Well there's no way that you know if you have this compels you excuse me to read to find out what the hell the guy is talking about.
“Preacher explodes on pulpit”. How did he explode? Was it a bomb, was it spontaneous combustion, what? You are, you are led in just reading a few words, you are led in to what will be a story. And, and of course just like we talked about with Stephen King, the, there was a natural glee going on as the reader is pulled in. A reader you know isn't saying oh well here's something I should read. He's saying oh boy this is something I really want to read.
John: So a lot of this has to do with hooking into the person's, your reader's passionate sweet spot. And of course this is the basic, of course the No. 1 problem that most people have with writing good copy is that they're writing to the wrong person.
John: You know you can't sell a snowmaking machine to you know people who live in, in Alaska. I mean it's, you have to identify your market first. And of course that's the No. 1 thing is to find a hot passionate market. But a lot of people fall down even when they find a market. They have a product that the people they're writing to should want or really would want if only it was explained to them clearly.
But to get to that point where you're going to explain it to them you've go to get their attention. So you know it's like, it's like if you're going to bowler sometimes the simplest hook you can use is hey bowlers you know how would you like to bowl your first 300 game one month from today.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: You know and, and that's an interesting kind of bland way to put it and you'd probably get a lot of, a lot of attention that way. But you know what if you twist it around? Of course and in golf one of my more famous and most knocked off ads by the way, I now claim the title to the most ripped off writer in America.
I say that rather proudly but the headline for the first ad I wrote for the golf market was this, “Amazing secret discovered by one-legged golfer ads 50 yards to your drives, eliminates drives and slices and can slash up to 10 strokes from your game almost overnight.”
There's no question there where the hook is coming from. The one-legged golfer is the boy eats own head type of thing. Now I didn't make this kind of thing up. Where did this come from? Of course this is the story which again a lot of people have heard. I'll tell it very quickly.
You do sales detection work and when you do sales detection work what you're doing is you are, you are digging for the story that nobody's talking about or that nobody really realizes is the story you want. Often what you're looking, you're looking for something past the company line.
It's easier when you're dealing with a client like if I, if I'm working with another client and I get to interview him, I interview the secretary, I'll interview some of the people in the street to find out. But I want to find out about the rumors and I want to find out the stuff that they're either afraid to talk about or don't talk about or forget to talk about when they're trying to sell it because they're trying to talk about wants the product to have dignity whatever the hell that is.
Michel: Yeah what's that?
John: Yeah more, more companies have gone belly-up you know striving for dignity than, than I think any other problem that's presented himself. In searching for this, for the hook for this golf video I was doing I interviewed a lot of people and I finally interviewed the talent, the guy who was actually on the thing. And it wasn't until like two hours almost into the conversation where I, I asked a question, what was your inspiration for this you know this new swing that you had. And I really wasn't expecting much.
I was digging, I was desperate. I didn't have anything to write about except hey golfers how would you like to hit farther and longer and whatever, you know the same old boring stuff. And he said well one day I was golfing and the group ahead of me one of the golfers was this one-legged guy and I saw him hop up there and when he took a swing I realized hey this is something two-legged golfers could, could use to hit farther because the guy hit the straightest, farthest, most gorgeous drive I'd ever seen on one leg and it was all about balance and he had the high experience you know.
And I said you know I realized this was the hook right away you know. And you know it's like why didn't you tell anybody before and he said oh that old story nobody wants to hear that stuff anymore. And what was, what the problem was it isn't a problem if you're writing copy for yourself because you have, you have to interview yourself.
You have to step back and be able to dig deep into your own psyche when you're writing ads for your own product because you can get buried too deep into your own product. But you have to, you have to strip away the, the company line again, the you know now only that quest for dignity that quest for what you think is a serious sales position you know.
And you have to find, you have to think about how this thing got started, where the motivation came from, what was the imputes for getting your business together. And you have a lot of times your personal story is the greatest hook you're ever going to come across. I was you know I just interviewed another guy, I don't think he minds being mentioned, Ron LaGrande. The No. 1 you know real estate you know guru in the country.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: And he admits you know he was a broke redneck car mechanic who didn't have a clue what was going on and he went through one simple little discovery he you know he made this realization that his sense created his empire you know.
You know he's not only made beaucoup bucks himself but he's helped untold actually who knows how many people he made because he has piles of testimonials, thousands and thousands and thousands of people he helped them become millionaires and change their lives. All because of just a small little thing and yet he came, he was that, that incongruent jex position. That guy with no education, with no advantage, with no money, with no nothing but a small little incendiary piece of little information that he took to the to Fort Knox.
Michel: I was browsing the web the other day and sometimes whenever people subscribe to my newsletters I get to see some of the domain names and some of them just out of interest I'll check out. And there was this one lady, I'm not sure she's on the call tonight, but she's a professional speaker in the MLN network marketing business.
John: Uh huh.
Michel: And when I hit her web site it really hit me. It was something to the effect of the fact that she was some, some abused housewife who was kicked out. She was homeless, she was thousands of dollars in debt and she became a multimillionaire in less than a year, bla, bla, bla, bla.
John: Uh huh.
Michel: And that really just, just you know just grabbed me.
John: Yes, exactly.
Michel: And it's the same thing with the one-legged thing because I, I did this before too and this is actually before I even heard about you John was, there was this guy who, who called me up and he wanted me to critique his copy. And what he did was he invented, he was like an inventor and he created these special straps that would sort of help to lessen the stress of whatever backpack you have, the weight of the straps or the weight of the backpack on your shoulders.
And the same idea as you, the same thing that happened is I interviewed the guy and he mentioned something just so casually as if it was nothing.
He says well you see I lost a leg in a car accident many years ago and I started to you know do these inventions at home too because I can't work, I can't do the same work I used to be doing before. And I said ah ha, one-legged man lighten hikers' loads or something like that I decided to, to tell them on.
And that was the hook. And I think it requires a little bit of sales detection side you know. What you were mentioning before and some of the stuff that I've actually learned from you John is that you have to sort of put your sales detection hat and dig deep and find that passionate sweet spot.
John: That, that's right and especially when you're interviewing yourself you've got to put on and I call it the sales detection hat, you have to do detective work on yourself. You know an interesting side point, when the client I was working with saw how potent that hook was, and by the way that ad ran for I forget it was like eight to ten years.
John: Running in magazines and in direct mail and just it's just been a monster it. And they've retired it since. They pull it out every year anyway and when it goes to a new line it's just still works just as well. But by the way, now I'm getting ahead of myself, what was my point. Anyway, the ad also shocked the market it was in. The golf market was a very boring, serious market. And people turned their nose up at it.
But the people that turned their nose up at this kind of ad were the people that these guys weren't going to sell anyway. They, it was the pros or the guys that had too much you know “dignity” to get involved in those kind of stuff. But the guys who are average golfers knew immediately this is something they wanted to get their hands on because it made sense to them, because you know most guys, you know the average golfer in America can't break 100.
John: And yet in most golf magazines they assume that you're almost you know pro quality. And, and the vast majority, there was an untapped market of, of people out there. Oh and I know what I was going to say. Once the client saw the power of the hook he actually went out and started finding clients who had hooks for me.
So it was, it was great. I mean we had a blind golfer. A true, true thing. There was actually a little club of blind golfers out there and they know some interesting things about striking the ball and proved wrong a lot of common, what is considered common sense about striking the ball. Hey, I'm blind you can't keep your eye on the ball. Guess what so you know there's, you know you can go looking for a hook.
Sometimes when you're interviewing or you're thinking about you know how am I going to position myself in this market. I'm in a, say you're in a crowded market and god knows the weather's getting more and more crowded all the time. So even if last week you had whatever niche you were in all to yourself by, by two weeks from now you're not going to be alone anymore because people are sniffing this stuff out.
But if you're looking at a niche you know one of the questions to ask yourself when you're figuring out your USP which I call the unique sales position you know how you position yourself to sell within this particular market.
Think about how you can position yourself. Now in the, you know and people respond to personal stories. One of the most popular is I was dumb, broke and clueless and you know I made a discovery and that discovery led me to become rich, handsome and you know well loved. I mean you, you know you can make that claim or you know you should never lie about the stuff because it'll show. It'll shine like a searchlight and people will search you out.
But if you've got the real story to tell your passion will come through. Because one of the best things you can do is to hook into the true story of your own life or the life of the person who is behind the product or somebody that's close to you. And, and do that because this, it's back to the Stephen King thing about why good novels sell. They tap into that human part of us that's, that craves human, human connection and human contact.
We hate being sold by robots. We hate being just, being thought of as just another number, just another you know clog in the machine. All of us have our own stories to tell and we respond to other people who have broken through the clutter and the noise and the distraction of modern life and, and broken out of that. And we all secretly yurn to do that.
You're the monster that I've been teaching for a long time is that the one thing I don't care what market you're in, the one common thread through your, the people you're trying to sell to is that they don't get to do anything interesting, they don't get to meet interesting people and they don't get to go to interesting places. They are, they are living lives of quiet desperation. This is true across the board. 99.9 percent of the people are just you know at best are walking around in a daze.
John: And they're just getting through their lives. There are small joys here and there but really those of us who have made it you know and Michael you , me, the other guys that you know have calls like this, we know there's so much more to life. I think Betty Davis or Joan Crawford, somebody said life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.
John: And it just has to do with stepping up and you know don't wait to be invited you know. You got to step up and do this.
Michel: Well this actually brings up another thing that's so.
John: Yeah, let me just finish this.
Michel: Oh go ahead, go ahead.
John: The idea that your, your customer is leaving an uninteresting life of quiet desperation, that's your opening. You come in and you be that guy, you be that one thing he reads today that wakes him up, gets him going, lights a fire under his ass and, and moves him. Because he's going to welcome you into his life.
Right now as an ad you are an unwelcome distraction in his life. Even if it's something he wants. Even if your ad has the right kind of hook and stuff, you are still an unwelcome presence in his life. Because now you're forcing him to stop doing his, his semi-asleep routine and he's got to think about this and maybe pull out his wallet and god forbid send money to a stranger for something he can't see, hold, taste, see or feel.
Michel: Absolutely. And you mentioned, the reason why I was, I didn't meant to cut you in.
John: No that's okay.
Michel: But you were mentioning about motivation and, and getting people to come out of their “lives of desperation”, one of the things that you talk a lot about that I love learning from you is operation money suck.
Michel: And that's something that you maybe you want to discuss a little bit because it's so important to especially the copywriting but even selling in general.
John: Yeah it is. You know the, I'll give you the short version of the story. Halbert and I, I just started working for Halbert and I was going down to his office and we were having like little one and two-hour meetings where we would discuss clients and then discuss ways we would write for them and things like this and this is how we brought money into the firm.
And that's how you know I made my money and Gary made money I made money and I was on a percentage thing so the more he made the more I made. And I went down one day and when I sat down before we could close the door to his office the secretaries came running in and they said oh my god this is really a disaster, the computer was down, the phones had been cut off, the landlord was banging on the door for some…
Michel Fortin is a certified digital marketing expert and renowned copywriter who specializes in a unique combination of SEO, CRO, and UX to improve traffic, leads, and revenue for his clients. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless wins, generating in excess of $300 million in sales and results that have broken many industry records. He has worked with thousands of businesses ranging from individual entrepreneurs to enterprise-level multinational companies. He's the author of two top-selling books and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.