John: First in the men's room down the hall, it was just hilarious. I folded up my, I closed up my briefcase and I thought well, we're not going to get anything done today and Albert, you know, bless his soul, stood up, pushed the secretaries gently out and closed the door, and sat back down and said let's get to it, and I realized, that's operation money suck.
If you are the guy who brings in the money into your business, then that's your most important job. That's your second most important job, your third most important job and on down the line.
If you're the guy who brings in the dough, that's what you've got to be doing. Every hour you spend fixing the copier or being on the phone talking to the post office about some postage problem, that's an hour that robs you twice. That hour is gone and you haven't spent an hour of bringing in money.
If you're the guy, and especially for small businesses, if you're the writer or the guy who's doing the marketing or all of this, the only thing that should be important to you is to stay focused on operation money suck, bringing the money in. It seems simple when you hear it, but it's really, it's the crux of business and it's where a lot of people go wrong — they get caught up in all the flotsam and jetsam of business life.
You know, my office looks like a bomb went off in here. I've got stacks of stuff that has been there for a year. There's dust settling. I just — I don't let the maids in. I don't let hardly anybody else in here. This is my work space, and I like clutter because I like the discovery of seeing “hey, what's in that pile over there.”
But I'm always — I don't waste a lot of time trying to keep my desk clean, you know, it's not important to me. In fact, it gets pushed back farther every day because there's always — especially in my life — there's always something I can do to — that involves operation money suck as opposed to just dusting off my, you know, my desk.
Michel: Well **** marketers are not immune to this because a lot of people who — especially the people who complain a lot are the people who, they like to browse forums and posts, and read forums and read email and download email and email their friends and –
John: Michael, let's be honest, the web is like junk. It's like heroin. There is so much to be done, you kind of scratch the surface if you — and then you can go a little deeper and God forbid you discovery pornography or something. It's just — you know guys are gambling, it's horrible for people who have gambling addictions, they just — you know, I guess people pass out from hunger. They just won't leave the computer console.
So as a species, we don't know yet how to deal with what this — what the web has wrought in our lives. But we're learning as we go along. And one of the things you have to learn is if you want to be a top business man, or hell, not even the top, if you want to make it in business on any level at all, you have to exert a little bit of discipline.
And this is, there's a common story in Hollywood about the — it usually takes place in the front lines of World War II or World War I or the Civil War or something. What happens is that a guy is a private and he's bitching and moaning about the sergeants and the lieutenants and stuff because they're always telling him to do stuff and the privates all get together and they think that they know better than the guys who are running the war, and then what happens is somebody gets shot or something and suddenly one private is plucked out of the crowd and suddenly he's put in a position of authority.
And the story — the crux of the story is that, that splash of cold water in your face when you're no longer one of the guys, you're now the guy making the decisions and you're responsible for the bottom line.
John: When you do your business, a lot of people don't understand this. A lot of people don't understand the responsibility and the concept and the whole idea of consequences, you know, that if you decide to not work today, there will be consequences tomorrow. If you decide to work today and do A, B and C, there will be consequences maybe later that evening.
And, you know, you can't not take responsibility for everything you do and be, you know, in command of your business. And this doesn't matter what part of the business you're in either. You've got to be responsible for it. This is a huge shock to most people.
Michel: Oh yeah, and thing is especially with what we were talking about — the hook. Um, the internet, I'd say of course the internet is just a medium. But people don't understand that whenever you're selling your product, your widget and you've got a long copy sales letter, if you don't hit them in the face with your headline right up front, they're probably downloading a gazillion emails and one side, they've got about two or three or four or five browser windows probably opened up, they're checking Google here, they're doing a whole bunch of stuff and just as much as you need to sort of focus on operation money suck, you also have to focus on the hook that will grab those people into your copy.
John: That's absolutely right, and you know, that gets back to salesmanship, the seam of what we were talking about. Most people write from their heels, and the reason — and when I say write from heels, it's like you're saying I got this would you please just maybe take a look at this.
You're not doing anything else, you know, if you're busy, I'll come back later. You've got one foot out the door already. You can't do that, you gotta be bold, you've gotta be that person that stands up and says “hey, I've got something you want. Here it is, here's how to get it, blah, blah blah.” And this gets back to salesmanship. This gets back to making that bold statement and getting back to that responsibility thing.
When you are responsible for making the sale, whether you're just the writer or whether you're the marketer, whether you're the guy who's running the business or whether you're all three, which I have a sneaking suspicion that most people online are, then that's your responsibility — is to stand up and make the damn sale. You have to ask for action.
I think I talked about the six stages of a basic sales pitch. Um, I'll rattle those off so I make sure I cover everything I do. You know, I say this over and over again to people, it's simple, it kind of flies right pass. But listen to this, this is like the most simple checklist you're ever going to have.
When you're thinking about how you're going to write your letter, here's how you do it. You say, here's what I've got. Here's what it can do for you. Here's why I'm the go-to guy that you should be dealing with. Here's the story of the whole thing. Here are the details. Here's how you can get it. It's so simple. It's so straightforward, it's pretty much how most world class sales pitches operate.
Then, you start figuring out, once you can just get that idea down, answer those particular — well they're not questions — fill in those blanks, then you go back and figure out — then you put yourself into the head of the person you're talking to. You figure out where their passionate sweet spot is, then it's a lot easier to figure out what the hook is to get them into that, because you start thinking about the benefits that you're going to get.
You know, and then the USP comes about from the juxtaposition of your — of the benefits of your product and what the guy needs, how that fits together. That's your unique sales position. And then you establish your credibility, then you get to boas and you start teasing and riling them up and then you offer to relieve the discomfort you created with the best offer you can come up with. And really it doesn't get any more complex than that.
Michel: That's perfect. That's actually well said. I was –
John: I get paid for that Michel.
Michel: I was once asked you know what are the five questions you should answer with your copy. I was at a seminar somewhere –
John: Uh huh –
Michel: And my friend, Peter Stone, who's actually the producer of this call, he was there, and the question was, what are the five questions? And I said, why? And the person said, well, can you elaborate. I said, why me, why you, why this name, why this product, why now and why at this price.
John: I like that.
Michel: You mean, why me and why should you listen to me? Because the worse thing and you said this John in your newsletter so much, is the worse enemy of the copyrighter is the reader that says so what.
Michel: Then why you meaning why do I, why you, Mr. Prospect, should read this. Why is this important to you and there is a qualification process just as much as you would do in selling when you're knocking on doors selling encyclopedias as much as you do in copywriting.
Then why this meaning why this product, why is it so meaningful to you? Why now using scarcity and like you were talking about how to get them into a lather where they can't say no, and then why at this price — the value build up and the bullets and all of those things that go into the sale.
John: That's right. You know, um, that also reminds me, the biggest blunder that rookies make, you know when I was listening to you talk just now — it's something — the biggest mistake that folks make is that they bore people, you know, they just write boring copy and they just — you know, if you don't have any, you have to look into your own passionate sweet spot too, but the one problem that people make when they aren't natural salesmen and they think they've woken their salesman up but they really haven't is they try to bully the reader into buying, and that's not salesmanship.
Salesmanship is about persuasion, um, it's not over the top stuff, and people get really confused, and I have to clarify that with people all the time because they look at my copy and think, wow that's really ball to the wall and I have to think really aggressive and just knock them over. That's not it at all.
That's, it's what I'm doing is uh, very careful persuasion and I'm staying in the emotional sweet spot of the person I'm writing to. I said emotional sweet spot that time, a passion and emotion, that irrational side of that person because almost all purchasing decisions are made irrationally.
We have, Mark Twain said there are two reasons why a man buys anything, the reason he'll tell you he bought it and then there's the real reason. That's very important to understand when you're selling stuff because the real reason that people want it often isn't even known to them.
But the act of getting someone to open their wallet and giving you money is the hardest thing to do in business, and yet that's the beginning and end of a successful business.
Michel: Gosh, it just hit me that something that you taught in the past, and I'm sure you teach it now still that I mentioned on the call with Gary Halbert and this is the problem I get a lot when I critique copy is that a small business, a small company, sometimes a one man operation, will want to write copy like Wal-Mart and Microsoft with this third person in highfallutin' corporate speak and I mentioned on the call before this that I think the best kind of copy is just the guy you meet at the bar, you sit down and you “God, I got to tell you about this thing” and you know, blah blah blah.
That is, you know, like the just you and me talking kind of thing that you talk about a lot.
John: Right, the best kind of writing that's done is I call it just you and me. I think there's an official term back in the '20's I and thou copy. But basically, what it is, um, write like you would talk if you could edit how you, what you've said after you have spoken.
So, of course, I like to take it down to like being in a bar where you just overhear somebody mention something to somebody else and what he meant the problem that he complains about is exactly what your product solves. What would you say to the guy, how would you introduce yourself? Would you say, you know 95 percent of people, you know, with hemorrhoids, you know find — you know you don't do this kind of stuff. You're talking to another human being.
A lot of people make the mistake when they're writing on the web or they're writing a letter, you know they think they're writing to this large audience — they're not. It's just you and the reader. Now there's a lot of readers out there but each time, it's one reader. It's you and one person. It's just the two of you.
So it's just you and me sitting down and talking about a shared passion. And that's you know, just understanding that, getting that down and you know, what's funny is I was just interviewing somebody for an ad and he has these really blas‚ corporate-sounding ads and I asked him, I had a list of questions to ask him, but I never got to question No. 2 because question No. 1 was, you know if you were sitting down at a bar and I sat down next to you and you heard me say, hey I have this problem, and I didn't even finish my question, he said here's what I'd tell you.
He went on for 30 minutes. And it was the most brilliant stuff that I had ever heard. He, it was a great sales pitch, it was full of persuasion, it was full of emotional little check things that made the hair on the back of my head stand up because he was hitting me smack between my eyes.
It was like, you know, how do you, do you have enough money, is money going to be a problem? Are you, how does it feel to be 48 or something and not have enough money to be able to spend 100 bucks for something you really want.
Michel: Um hm –
John: And I said, have you ever just recorded this and transcribed it and sent it out, and he says well no, nobody wants to hear this stuff. It's what everybody wants to hear and that's the stuff that works really well. It gets around to what I call the voice and when reading is the passive behavior.
Be very, very aware of that. It's not an active behavior on the reader's part. When you hook somebody and bring them in, you want a voice that is going to join the conversation already in their head, so you want to be a voice, not some printed matter down there. You want to be a voice on the page because unconsciously, he's going to be absorbing what you're saying.
However, you are not letting him stay unconscious in this. You are not letting him stay submissive in this. You are building enough tension in him by teasing the Bejesus out of him so that when it gets down to the offer, if he puts your letter aside or goes off of your website or put your DVD aside or whatever, he'll wake up in the middle of the night and just go Goddammit and he'll get up and he'll have to dial because he'll know the answers to the s tuff you teased him about or he'll have to have that product to see if it's real.
Michel: Um hm
John: That's the goal of the whole thing. And you can't do that meekly. That's why I write a little bit aggressively. You know, I don't bully. I don't go over the top. I go just under the top, I get attention and I want to always aim towards riling them up on the inside because you don't want them to be comfortable.
You want them to be very uncomfortable reading this ad because you are — it's kind of like that Roberta Flack song, you know, telling my story, what the hell is that called –
Michel: Killing me Softly?
John: Yeah, killing me softly. Killing me softly, that's the whole idea. This person goes to listen to somebody sing and they think they're singing about them, and it's to the point that they think people are looking at them in the room. That's what you want.
You want to get so deep into the psyche of the person you're writing to. Now what does that mean you have to do? Part of your sales detection.
Okay, people understand the idea of doing sales detector work on the product. Guess what? You have to do it on your customer too — on your prospect or whatever. You have to understand that guy as well as you understand anybody else in your life. What moves them? What makes them tick? What makes them happy? What makes them sad?
Michel: Um hm
John: And especially, what makes them whip out the wallet and buy stuff. It is often not what you think it is. Common sense doesn't exist. If people relied on common sense to become wealthy, then everyone you know who thinks they have common sense would be wealthy. Are they?
Michel: Right, right. It's like the thing in salesmanship in sales training where they say that wimpy salespeople have succeeding kids.
John: That's funny. I like that. Wimpy salespeople. You know, you don't have to be the big — I've said this before 100 times you don't have to be the big handsome guy who comes in and bowls everybody over with his charisma and stuff.
You can be the schlepy little mutt, and often that's the guy who's the best salesman. Dave Thomas of Wendy's was the greatest example. I wrote about that in my last newsletter. He was so boring and so dull and so doughy and so nothing that the ad agency hated him because they couldn't win any awards when they had him.
John: Every time they took him out, sales would plummet. Now they had to put him back in. Now they're putting him in posthumously because he's dead.
John: I mean, they need the guy's mojo, so you don't have to be something that you're uncomfortable with. Guess what? When you share a passion with an audience, what you're comfortable with is what they're comfortable with.
Michel: Very often when I write copy, I have a questionnaire, but that always is the — like you were mentioning about the one reason and then there's the real reason. And I always get all that stuff that's really not what I want.
So what I do is I — using the power of technology — you were talking about technology earlier, is I would three-way the call with a transcription service and I just — you know — I just ask probably a few questions to let them talk a little bit about their copy — about their product, but they'll always say a few things about oh yeah, we've been in business since 1985 — whatever, blah, blah blah, but then they get to tell me some little stories, you know, oh yeah, that's interesting, tell me more about that. And then they just go off into this big passionate blob, you know, and I let them spill all their guts –
Michel: And then I record that, and I get this transcribed, and half of my copy is written right there.
John: Yeah. That's absolutely true, because you tapped into the passionate sweet thought — you tapped into that conversation already going on in their heads.
Michel: Exactly. Well, this is something that ties into the next point I wanted to bring up. and it's a point that we've covered in a previous call, but it's something that I keep getting all the time anyway, and I thought that you would be the perfect person to ask is this issue of writer's block.
John: Oh yeah.
Michel: What do you think would be some of the tools and tactics that people can use in order to either avoid or remove writer's block?
John: Yeah, I'm sorry, my mind just went blank while you were talking to me –
Michel: You have speaker's block.
John: Yeah, I have speaker's block. You know, so many people that I work with who want to be writers, here is the most common problem, and this is more common in like the novel side — people trying to write literature than it is, well, it's probably the same. Most people think they want to be a writer, but the truth is they don't want to be a writer. They want to have already written something and be enjoying the rewards of their labor.
When you become a writer, you really have to learn to either love or hate, but at least feel strongly about the whole process. And this is where operation money suck comes in because sometimes people sit down and they go, you know it's like they're staring down the blank screen, you used to be staring down the blank page, but now everybody's working on computers, so you're staring at a blank screen essentially.
You know, you got that square there — it's on the Microsoft window and how do you write the first word? How do you get the stuff down? Um, as Howard mentioned in the last call, there are tricks like just sitting down and writing down the bullets of everything, and the bullets mean, basically you say, you know let's just do a future benefit thing, and what that does is that gets you writing, that gets you started. What's easy to do or should be easy to do is the feature benefit thing. Just write it down.
Now, we should all know what the feature benefit is. I'll explain it in a minute, but basically, if you don't know it, then you don't have enough research to write anyway, so you shouldn't be sitting down staring at the blank screen.
You should be on the horn talking to somebody or you should be reading something or doing something, you know hitting the streets, to find out what the features and benefits are of the thing you're trying to sell.
A feature is the physical property of the thing of, you know, how big it is, how much of it there is, what it looks like, the color, things like that. The benefit is what the feature does for the person using it. And this gets back to one of the biggest mistakes that rookies make when they try to sell. They confuse their product with their product.
Guess what? If you're selling a five-CD, 15-DVD, 4 manual, you know, personal teaching course or something like that, that ain't your product. That is merely the vehicle with which you have decided to deliver the wonderful stuff that you have, the information that you have. Your product is what all of those things do for the person.
So your product really is what you are delivering, and in a lot of cases, it's a better life, money, it's respect, it's better position in your market — whatever. But what you offer is the benefit to the person, not the physical aspects of it.
So by sitting down, staring at the blank screen, you should be able to sit down and say let's map this sucker out. What are the physical parameters of the thing I'm trying to sell. That would be the features. Then you list all of those. Hopefully, you have a lot of them.
Michel: Maybe you have six –
John: Maybe you have a dozen, maybe you have 500. It doesn't matter. Just exhaustively write all of those down. Well, it goes really fast, it looks really cool. It's, you know, it comes in six different colors, it comes in eight different shapes, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Um, you get it in CD or cassette.
Then go back to each of those and assign each of those a benefit. This is the simplest thing to do and this will start to kick in your inner salesman who for most of us is fast asleep and has been asleep your entire life.
You know what's interesting about salesmanship, Michel, is that most people sit down and try to be the salesman in their business, and that's where you are if you're doing the writing — you're the top salesman. They try to do it, and they don't even have the chops to be able to convince a friend to go see a movie that the friend would enjoy.
Michel: Exactly –
John: You know, what's the first thing most people do when they — if I tell people, go sell, go see a movie, now go sell somebody on seeing that movie. Now what's the first thing they try to do? Hey, you really got to go see this movie, you will really like it, blah, blah, blah and they do this. What does that do — almost all the time, that sets up resistance to the person hearing it.
They think, yeah, well, I'll make up my own mind about this. Then they wind up not seeing it, you know, they wind up not doing it. If they hear it from a third party or something, it's their own discovery.
This gets back to the fact of bringing in third party endorsements, you know with testimonials and things. You know, if you can't do basic salesmanship in your life, you're not going to do it to a stranger when you're asking them for money.
If you can't get, you know, somebody who loves you to do a simple task for you, you're not going to get a stranger to pull out 100 bucks and send it over for something he can't see, feel, hold, or taste.
So, by getting the features down of the thing and getting to the benefits, what you're doing is mapping out the entire psychological profile of the product which is, you know, and especially the benefits. That's going to be the most important part. What does the thing do for the person using it?
And that means you gotta get into the mind of the user, you got to be the user yourself, you got to understand all of the ways that people get benefit out of this thing. And really, so when you sit down to write, maybe you're still staring at the blank screen, so what you do is, you know, I work off of notes, anyway, I like these little 5×7 notepads.
I've got stacks of them all over the office because they contain about one thought. Enough writing for one thought. And I like to get all of those thoughts down.
Think about what the USP is or what is the unique sales position. And then, you know, write down who is the competition? What are they doing? What are they offering? What are their benefits? You know how you find that out? Hey, you go to the website or you get on their list, or you go look at their ads and you find out what they're doing and then you write down all of that stuff, and then you get that and you say where's the niche in here, and all of this — it sounds like work, but it should be fun because if you're doing it for your own business, guess what you're doing?
You're doing operation money suck. You're building the foundation for wealth beyond your wildest dreams. If you're doing it for a client, then you should also be doing it, you should also be focused on the wealth that's going to come in because when you get to be a good writer, you should be tied into a piece of the action anyway.
Michel: John, this is something that I learned from you that I usually say to my clients is this thing that you talked about, I heard you say this at the seminar one time is a really good way to dig deeper into benefits is to always, when you mention a benefit or what you think a benefit is, is you end up asking this one question at the end is what this means to you Mr. Prospect is this?
Michel: And, this is the way I explain it and you tell me, John, if I got this right, what I usually tell my clients is, sometimes when people say what a benefit is, I usually tell them it's not a benefit, it's an advantage. There's the difference between features, advantages and benefits.
What I mean is this: a feature is what a product has, an advantage is what it does, but a benefit, a real true benefit is what that feature means to the prospect, and here's a great example. I'll tell you a story. This lady comes up to me and she had a website selling this cream, facial cream and she called it like, microdermabrasion which is a cream that helps to reduce wrinkles.
Michel: She had on her website these features. She had, it reduces wrinkles, it comes in an easy to use home care kit, it's pH balanced and all that stuff, and I told her those are just features.
Then I said, take a 3×5 card, create three columns, put your features under one column, now in the second column, I want you to tell me what you think are benefits and she wrote down like because it reduces wrinkles, it makes you look younger and because it comes in a home care kit, it's easy to use at home, and the third one is it's pH balanced, so it's gentle on your skin, so I said okay, those really are advantages, and I used your technique about so what this means to you.
And I said in the third column, what's the ultimate end result, the ultimate benefit that people can pull from it?
Okay, well, she says well, if it makes you look younger, then it means you'll be more attractive, you'll get that promotion at work, you'll feel more confident, nobody will guess your age, you'll fall in love all over again or you'll be able to attract that person that you've been eyeing on.
The second one was that since it's easy to use at home, you don't have to be embarrassed by going to a doctor's office, you don't have to waste time, you know, it's like a face lift in a jar in the comfort and privacy of your own home, and the third one was it's gentle on your skin. She said well, there are no risks, no pain, no healing periods like those harsh chemical peels like people usually get, or surgery. I said, aha! Those are benefits. Am I on the right track?
John: Absolutely. Um, what was I going to say? I was thinking about the facelift in a jar thing. The whole thing, often what you will find when they start talking about benefits is, and likely you broke it down, because a lot of people that read a book on copywriting come away with weak benefits and you call them advantages, and I like that.
It should be set apart like that because the real benefits dig really deep. They touch on the emotional and passionate sweet spot of the person using it.
Michel: Yeah, the benefit within the benefit.
John: Pardon me?
Michel: What you teach, the benefit within the benefit.
John: Right. And so when you're thinking about that, you'll often be astonished at some of the benefits that come about. Like you mentioned, not having to go into a doctor's office.
Now I don't know, but from my experience, I would bet that that's huge. But I would want to find out. I wouldn't guess because I don't use that kind of product, I don't need to, you know, I think it's mostly a female, or a product that women use.
So if I'm not sure about that, I will double check, and I'll try to find out. If you have somebody that understands it like this woman — it sounds like this woman did. She probably also got into it because she was using the product or needed the product or was frustrated because this product didn't exist so she created one.
When you start doing that, often, she will be astonished too at what some of the benefits that she comes up with like that thing about you won't have to go into the doctor's office, so people will be unable to guess your age. I know that when people get older, one of the things that they really get happy about is when somebody seriously underestimates how old they are.
John: It makes them beam. So that's something. You know, one of the big, I talk like 30 motivations too. Never underestimate — now I was going to talk about this — the whole jungle thing. You know, one of the problems that people have when they write is they have an unrealistic idea of who their audience is.
Michel: Um hm
John: People — it's okay when you become a true salesman, your life is going to be different forever. You are never going to be able to look at anybody else the same because you're going to have to get into the psychology of people.
When you do, when you understand what the basic things that move people are, you're going to find out that most people get motivated by greed, by lust, by the desire to have something to lord over somebody, one of the greatest advantages I've ever found that I try to work in a lot is your neighbors and your buddies are going to hate you…
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.