This is a call with John Carlton. It’s about two hours long and the recording is split into 30-minute segments. (In the early 2000s, broadband wasn’t fully adopted yet, so the split was to help with downloads.)
You can listen to each part, download the MP3s, or read the transcripts below. Here are links to other calls, including Gary Halbert and a list of resources mentioned on the calls:
- Gary Halbert and Michel Fortin – Call #1
- Gary Halbert and Michel Fortin – Call #2
- Resources mentioned on the calls
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 Michel 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…
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…
John: This, this, this thing going on and, you know, it digs deep and the reason it, the reason we don’t understand when, until you get into classic salesmanship, you may not understand those, those kinds of benefits, is because we have this unrealistic idea of who we are.
Everyone thinks we’re, you know, either very noble creatures on the planet who deserve a special place or at worse, they think we’re a couple of steps out of the jungle and, you know, we’re still, you know, moving along, but basically we’re, you know, we’re at a very advanced stage. In reality when you’re a salesman you understand we’ve got one foot back in the jungle and one foot out. We haven’t moved hardly at all.
John: Civilization has brought all the accouterments that let us believe us that we’re okay, and when you watch TV, you never see people like, you know, go to the bathroom or, you know, do the things that, that, that, you know, eating, and, and getting sick.
They gloss over a lot of this stuff. The reality of life and especially the reality of marketing life and selling is closer to what happens in bad parts of town. You know, where there is no law, where there is no safety zones. You know, where there is no such thing as a quiet evening at home.
Michel: The biker bar mentality.
John: Pardon me?
Michel: The biker bar mentality.
John: Yeah, exactly. So by understanding that, and also I talk about, you know, I’ve, I’ve a degree in psychology and part of that was looking at animal behaviorism, how it related to possibly humans. You know, some people get upset about this. Just get over it. Go watch the gorillas at the zoo.
Stop being, stop pretending that we aren’t related to them and watch how they interact and what they do and, after a few minutes, you will recognize Uncle Bob, or you may even see yourself in these, and it’s the way they act, it’s the way they protect things, the way they get what they want, the way they decide what they want, the maneuvers they go through to get what they want when they’re not the top guy.
You know, how the top guy gets everything, but is tricked by his, by the females, or you know, when I’m talking about gorillas, typically the top gorilla has all the females, as all anthropologists know, the females are cheating on him constantly because otherwise the gene pool would get too screwed up.
So, and it just goes on and on and on; and the reality of, of, you can’t have shades over, you can’t have rose-colored glasses on your eyes and be a great salesman. You have to be able to see things as they are. Not as you wish they were or not as you were told they were.
John: How they really are, and what motivates people is often something you may, a lot of people may not even want to talk about. Like greed, for example. People have either a problem talking about how this is going to make you filthy rich. It’s gonna make you filthy rich really quick, you know, and so when they, you know, they’re kind of uncomfortable with this whole greed thing.
So when they get around to actually putting it into the copy, they either overdo it, you know, “You’re gonna get so filthy rich that, you know, Donald Trump will be, you know, asking you for a loan or something.” And it just becomes unbelievable and unreal and over the top, or they undercut it so much, they say, “Well, you know, you could make, you know, you could, you could up response by 2, maybe 3 percent by this time next year, you know.
John: And usually when you talk to the guys that are doing this, you know, you say, is, is that the best you can do, and he says, well no, there’s a guy that’s working with me who’s getting, you know, 25 percent, you know, every week, you know, in a bump.
Well, why don’t, you know, that’s the stuff you talk about is what people can attain, not the average middling stuff. You got to be bold, you got to step out, you got to make your case because you’re tickling a very deadened sense inside of your, of your prospect.
Michel: Mm-hmm. Well, that’s one of the things that I, that I usually tell people, especially when copy seems to be a borderline or even over-the-line hypie, or what people think is hypie, or what people are scared about –
Michel: — being hypie is that it’s just laced with adjectives and adverbs and one of my prized possessions being in your insider’s club is my power word list.
John: Right. Yeah, that’s, once, you know, it took me awhile to realize what I was doing, but, Michael, you’ve read “Struck and White” right?
John: The element to start with.
John: The one main thing, the one main lesson from that is stop using adjectives. Okay, so that’s one step, but the next thing that they talk about, which changed my life, was use action verbs.
John: And it’s like one verb, you know, he walked down the street. He waltzed down the street, he floated down the street, he ran down the street in a panic. I mean, too many times we rely on, is it have, you know, to have, you know, verbs like that.
John: I’ve got something for you, you know. You start to explore. You should have a beat to death thesaurus on your desk. Don’t use the one on your computer, because you should have the actual physical sensation of going page to page looking for the word you’re looking up to find other words that mean the same thing or antonyms, and go to them because you’ll have happy accidents when you have the actual thesaurus in your hand and in your lap.
I’ve been using the same one for the last 25 years. It is, it is decrepit beyond belief, but I, it’s a, it’s a friend, you know. You just, when I flip through it, sometimes I’ll just stop and read a page because a word will catch my eye.
Guess what? When I’m flipping through a thesaurus and a word catches my eye, when I’m looking for something in the Ws and something in the Rs catches my eye, guess what that word is? It’s a power word.
John: So, you know, it’s, that’s another thing about caveman technology. Well, actually Gutenberg technology, you know, having the written actual dictionary and actual thesaurus in front of you, it’s just, you know. Technology changes and sometimes it makes our lives easier and sometimes it, it, it hurts us. People, you know, I’m running into more and more people who have had their little addiction to Grand Theft Auto, you know.
You don’t want to get in the car with them until they’ve calmed down, after a ten-hour session with it. And guess what? They’re gonna, the first time they cop an attitude in a, you know, in a store or something, you know, thinking that they’re gonna pull out their secret machine gun and, you know, gun them down, it ain’t gonna happen and they’re gonna get their clock cleaned.
Michel: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
John: You know, reality is very much different. So technology has its drawbacks.
Michel: Right. Well, it’s, it’s coming back to, when you say the process of looking for a word and very often, even an action verb, it’s not necessarily the fact that it’s an action in itself. I think personally it’s because of the fact that people can instantly, in their mind’s eye, think and see the action being taken.
John: Well, there’s with words like humiliate, for example, or embarrass. All of us have a visceral reaction to words like that.
Michel: Right, exactly.
Michel: Because, I, I, I tell this story often where if you tell, you know, there’s a, I took a media communications course many years ago and, and they were talking about the fact that the mind thinks in relative terms, it never thinks in direct terms, because it goes back into its memory bank and its databank to find something that it has like a reference point that it can compare it to; and it’s like, you know, saying to people, “Think of a garbage can.”
Is that person gonna start thinking G-A-R? No, of course not. They’re gonna picture a garbage can in their mind, and this media communications course had this news report about a forest fire that was devastating the Midwest, and, and the show had this news anchor with the background picture of a helicopter view of the forest fire, and he, he turned around and he says, “Sally’s in the station helicopter right now above the scene of the fire.
Sally, how big is the fire?” Sally responded, “Oh, it’s about 104 acres of land” or whatever, I can’t remember the exact number.
Michel: But what she said after it because see, acres are 104, the numbers right. The mind doesn’t think in numbers, it thinks in pictures Mark Twain said. So she said it’s about 200 football field back-to-back for you and me.
Michel: Boom. You know, the mind had something it could fall back on.
Michel: And, and it’s the same thing with your power words because who wants to beat their competition? Who wants to increase your sales over the competition? They don’t want to do that. They want to murder –
John: That’s right.
Michel: — the competition.
John: That’s right. Slaughter them.
Michel: And that’s, that’s something that you’ve, that you teach a lot that I just, it just really is the key.
John: Well, you know, it’s interesting, Michel, that the literacy of America is actually going up because of the net. My, I have family members who haven’t written a letter in sometimes 50 years, and they got email and their first emails were obviously hunt and peck, very short, misspelled little missives.
You know, hi, got your, got your gift, thank you, that kind of thing. Now, they’re writing novels, and they’re very comfortable. Their typing skills have come back and they’re doing it, and I think, you know, there’s a resurgence of interest in writing with the web, especially with the amount of sales copy that’s being written for the web.
John: So, it’s you, what I’d like to see, you know, I, you know, I don’t want people to think wrong of me. I love music. I’m a musician. I love stuff, but in a lot of ways, the current kind of music that’s out there right now, the popular music, is degrading the language too much.
Back when I was listening to rock and roll, and you too, language was still very much a part of it. It was, you know, the large part of the hook of the song was the way the words rolled off your tongue.
Michel: Oh, yeah.
John: On the chorus or something like that, and some of the great writers like Mick Jagger were, were excellent wordsmiths.
John: And you have, you know, to love the way, you know, Americans don’t love the language enough. French love their own language. Unfortunately it’s not the lingual franca of the world. You have to learn English. English, guess what, is more rich than French because we have more power words.
We have more ways to say the same thing and to, you know, to just tweak it a bit here and there; and by having a thesaurus, by having a dictionary, when you’re, you know, your main tool as a writer are the words that you use.
When we speak, and especially if you’re speaking to someone, you have the advantage of, you know, of, of using facial expressions, of pounding the other person in the chest with your finger, or jumping up and down or making little, you know, charade-type things. When you’re writing, you don’t have that advantage.
However, people may be thinking, hey, soon we’re gonna be selling with video on the web. It’s gonna all be video all the time. That isn’t gonna happen. Reading is always, and to my mind, always will be the secondary to the face-to-face sales job. The reading. It engages a part of the brain that isn’t engaged when you’re watching video or TV or something.
John: And it’s a more active part of the brain.
Michel: This is just a little comment and I’ll let you go on, but I was asked that question one time. Mike, do you think that the video is going to take over the web or should I do all my, my, my copy in audio, or whatever? And I said, you know, the, the eye needs to have some kind of thing that makes it, that keeps it busy.
If you are, especially on the web, if you’re going to try to sell with audio and video while it’s going on, that person’s gonna, you know, check out another couple of windows, they’re gonna Google something, they’re gonna have somebody pinging them on MSN, they’re gonna download their email. They’re gonna be so busy that they haven’t captured maybe that one little thing you mentioned on your video that might be the key, the hook, the pivotal point that’s gonna and close a sale.
John: And also need to be able to go back to it. How many times have you read a sentence and said, what the hell did I just read, and have to go back and read it.
John: Can’t do that on video. Well, you can, but the physical action of that is, you know, kind of, you know, mitigates the, the advantage to it.
John: So that’s, sure, that sounds good. I forgot what else I was talking about, Michael, so let’s move on. Oh, you know what? I wanted to say something about, I think, would you agree that people are a little concerned about the spacing, the blank page thing. Do you want me to say a little bit more about that?
Michel: Yes, yes, please actually.
John: Um, I say that writer’s block is a myth. It’s because there’s always something to be said, there’s always something to be done, but when I first started out as a writer, facing down the blank page and writing that first couple of words or getting going was kind of hard to do.
So there’s a couple of rules that I felt that really worked, and one was kill trees. Use as much paper as you can. Whenever I write, fortunately, on the, on, now that I’m working on a computer all the time, you know, I started out working on a typewriter. Not just a typewriter, but a manual typewriter at that, so that’s how old I am.
Anyway, you know, thank God we can go back and edit without having to print. However, I print all the time anyway. I print every hour or so when I’m working on a draft of something, ‘cuz I don’t, I don’t want to permanently erase something that may have been there when I’m trying it some other way. You want to keep a log of that.
So writing by long hand actually has its advantages if you can see what you crossed out or how, you know, where the genesis of where you’re at now, where your verbiage comes from. But getting those first words down sometimes is a real drag.
So just start writing. I think Howard actually talked about that before, you know, it’s, it’s the idea of don’t be afraid to write something you’re gonna throw away later. One of the great tactics that copywriters know about when they’re doing it professionally is that even for bettering copywriters, when you’re finished with a piece and you have an 18-page letter or something, the first page and a half to three pages, you can toss.
Michel: You can call it clearing your throat, I think.
John: Right, clearing your throat. It’s, it’s, you know, we do it all the time. When I’m going back and I got to edit something, say it’s gonna, it was a letter and now it’s gonna go in as a magazine ad or something, I got to edit it. I’ll look at the first part I write and I’ll say, you know what, I said the same thing six times and here’s a whole paragraph that’s absolutely irrelevant and, you know, often when I’m critiquing things, I’ll just go to the second page.
You know, halfway down the second page, I’ll, I’ll close my eyes and just stick my finger down and there’s a thing that starts and the guy will say, “Hi, my name is Jim Smith and what I’m about to tell you is going to up your, you know, your response on the blah, blah, blah”, you know, and it’s like before that, what was he talking about, you know, you know.
I imagine that you’re really frustrated with business you know, and all this rambling and mumbling and all the stuff that goes on. It’s like, hey, here’s where you start. Get rid of all this stuff.
Michel: My –
John: So don’t be afraid to be able to do that. Be brutal with yourself. Here’s, here’s another tactic when I was first starting out. I had writing clothes. I had a hat that I put on. I had a stinky set of sweats and a T-shirt and I had big floppy socks that would not allow me to put shoes on.
Now, when I put that on, it did two things. One, these were my writing clothes. You don’t, they could have been a Superman costume or they could have been women’s lingerie, you know, and it didn’t matter. When I put those on, I was gonna write. So I sat down.
The other advantage to make sure that I was gonna write was I couldn’t go outside dressed like that. I wasn’t, I wasn’t fit to meet people, so I wasn’t gonna go anywhere and I was sitting in front of the, you know, sitting at my desk and there wasn’t anything else going on.
You know, the TV was in the other room and I don’t have a radio in there and I’m sitting in there and, you know, okay, fine, so let’s just, you know, sometimes I’d food myself and say, and again with these little five by seven notepads, I would say, I’m just gonna write down a list of a couple of features. I’m not even gonna be exhaustive about it. And then you write those down and you say, I’m just gonna write a couple of benefits. In other words, give yourself room to be a loser, I guess.
John: What happens is that once you engage, once that thing kicks in, once your, once your inner salesman wakes up, he doesn’t want to go back to sleep. So you will find a common problem with writers, and I’m sure you’ve had this too, is writers asphyxiation.
John: Writers tend to slump in their chair, breathe very, very shallowly, and the kind of sweat you produce is actually the kind of sweat you produce when you’re starving yourself. It’s like ketosis. It’s a very stinky sweat.
But what’s happening is that you’re breathing very shallow, you’re hooked into a part of your brain that is connected right to your fingers whether you’re writing longhand or whether you’re typing, and it’s just, and, and, I’m sure, you know, I’d be astonished if you didn’t have the same experience that, that I’ve had which is I’ll look up and two hours have gone by, just like that. I have no idea where those two hours went. I’ll look up and suddenly I’ve got all this stuff written and all this stuff down, and it’s because of total immersion.
Michel: John, I wrote my best copy and it took me a couple of days, and I realized I didn’t bathe, I didn’t shave, I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep.
John: Yeah, yeah. It’s hard to, it’s hard to have people living with you at that time, and I’ve got a very, very understanding person living with me, you know. She, she knows that there’s gonna be some quirky stuff and there’s gonna be me walking through muttering to myself and I’ll be staring at the wall sometimes, you know.
So as long as they understand, but writing is taking the internal voice that’s going on in your head and setting it all up and, and bringing it all out onto the page. So having writing clothes actually works. I don’t do that anymore, well, actually sometimes I do. But you know the hat was great. It was one of those Sherlock Holmes hats, you know.
John: You can’t wear outside ‘cuz they’re ridiculous. But I always liked them, you know. It could have been a Greek, you know, war helmet, or something. It’s just, you know, and, but a part of that that I didn’t cop to or I didn’t understand until later was the idea that I was also stalking the computer
What would happen is I’d stand there, I’d look in the room, and it’s kind of like if you’ve ever lifted weights, what you have to do before you life a very large weight? You got to stand, you take a deep breath, you kind of move your shoulders around and you look down, and then there’s that moment of truth where you’re gonna reach down and grab it and you’re either gonna pull it up or you’re not. And until you get to that stage, you’re not gonna pull it up.
So you just, and it’s just like, finally it’s like jumping in the pool. It’s like, I talk about, you know, in other ways people standing on the edge of the pool of life bothering everybody that’s already in with questions like “How deep is it? Is it cold? Will the chlorine sting my eyes?”
When really what you got to do is jump in, whether you dive in, fall in backwards, do a belly flop, doesn’t matter. Get in the damn pool.
Well, that’s the same thing with writing. You know, you just, and when I talk about stalking the computer, sometimes I will circle the desk because it’s not time to write yet, it’s time to be thinking about this, and I’ll be, I’ll just, sometimes I stalk the desk, sometimes I actually go outside and take long walks.
Sometimes I take long showers, and I just, I’m thinking, I’m thinking, you know, and I’m mad and I’m getting, and I’m trying to get in touch with that part of me that is passionate.
And sometimes I’m not passionate because I’m a freelancer. Sometimes I couldn’t care less about this product. Well, I got to. That’s where the idea of the writer is the prostitute comes in because you, you know, you got to love the product at least at the time that you’re writing the thing. And we learn how to do that, we learn how to just turn it on and you, and guess what, you can do it too.
However, if you’re writing for your own stuff, you’ve got to have that passion there anyway, so just hook in there and think about it. Think about this when you’re sitting down to write. There are, if you really have a product of value, then you owe it to the world to sell that product to the people, to let them know you have it, to let them know that here’s how they can get it, and to wake them up to the fact that it’s out there. That’s your job. That’s why you’re here on earth.
Now, think about this. You know, your job is to sit down and do this. There are people walking around out there who want, need, and will thank you for letting them know that your product is available out there. If you have a product of value, then that’s what’s gonna happen.
Here’s the part that pisses you off. There are a bunch of people walking around out there with money in their wallet that belongs to you. It’s in their pocket right now, it should be in yours. The only reason that they haven’t taken it out of their wallet and put it into yours is because you haven’t asked them the right way; and if that doesn’t piss you off, then you’re not, then there’s not much I can do for you.
Michel: Well, it comes back to what you were saying earlier about technology and one of the downfalls of technology, and this is probably why in your case so good to use a typewriter, is technology also gives you the convenience to procrastinate or it gives you the convenience to edit yourself constantly.
Michel: And I tell this to a lot of people that there’s a difference between a copywriter and copyeditor, and tons of people know, you were talking not too long about switching on the inner salesman, and I tell people switch off the inner editor.
John: Oh, absolutely.
Michel: And the one thing that a lot of people do that’s a big problem is they’ll, they’ll, you know, you call it the Ernest Hemingway disease where people stop halfway and they, you know, they think that they’re gonna be selling to grammar cops.
John: You know, and they’re not. You’ve got to keep on writing. Who cares, like you just said, who cares if it’s lousy, and then you can edit, you can go back and edit. Of course, you’re not gonna put out some really crappy copy, but in the process of writing, don’t stop.
Michel: Sometimes you will. Sometimes crappy copy does it. I use a lot of slang and I use a lot of words that would cause Mrs. Williams from, you know, the woman who tried to teach me English in the, in junior high, would cause her to have a heart attack and just keel over, and it’s because you’re not writing to please an English teacher.
You’re writing to get the message across, and when you start writing more in the way people talk or in the way people think about copy, then you’re getting farther and farther away from the very, very stilted way that people who have too much education write.
You want to write as, you know, when, when, one of the funniest things that happens when you transcribe something, it’s like what I just did before. I said that I stuttered for about three or four things, you know, just little words come out, and I’ve actually had transcriptions come back with every single um, aw, and you know.
And it’s hilarious ‘cuz you’ll look at it and you don’t know, I don’t notice it and most of the time people that you’re talking to don’t notice it. You, we’ll leave out words, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll finish thoughts with incorrect, you know, we don’t speak in correct sentences all the time.
Now, I’m not saying you should write like that all the time because as I said, you should be able to send out a piece that is like you would talk if you could go back and edit what you said.
So you take out all the “ums” and “ahs” and all that stuff isn’t there, but basically, you’re presenting it the way you would if you were speaking, if you were speaking, if you had a really good command of the English language.
Now some of us, through the years, have a, somewhat of a good command of the English language, but I don’t speak as well as I write. When I write, I’m hooking into, there is some kind of selection process that goes down. But sometimes I can stop and say, no, let’s not use that verb.
Let’s try this one. Oh, and there’s another verb I’ve been waiting to use for a long time, you know. That, that’s where the love of language comes in, you know.
Michel: And you get to throw that word in, and it becomes second nature so quickly. And you know, we almost all write, can write right now better than we speak.
John: Um, but you know, we still want to, you know, you don’t want to get rid of the slang. You want to keep that, that freshness, that aliveness, you know. The sales letter that goes out is a living being. It’s a, it’s something that is vibrant in the person’s hand if it’s a letter or on their screen that they’re reading. It’s not, it’s not this boring recitation of what’s going on.
It’s the difference between the old boring cooking shows, you know, where they go, okay, three eggs, you know, crack now, whip it. And guys like Emeril, you know, bang, you know, and all this stuff. It’s theater, it’s the, it’s having a little fun with this because remember, people aren’t, you know, they’re not leading interesting lives. They don’t get to do anything. They don’t have any interesting friends.
You, you can be that interesting friend who shares their passion. You know a lot of guys, like bowlers and stuff; if you’re really passionate about bowling or if you’re an accountant. Say you’re selling stuff to accountants.
You know what that accountant doesn’t get to do. He doesn’t get to go home and talk about his day to his wife because she’s been sick of hearing about accounting since the day after he met her. He doesn’t get to regale the kids with stories about how the books weren’t balanced in the X-Y-Z perforation ‘cuz they could care less.
John: They don’t understand it anyway. You get to come in and be that guy where you can share not only what he knows about it, but guess what? You’re gonna let him inside a world that he can’t otherwise get into.
And you’re gonna share inside secrets and give him the, you know, the ability to expand his passion and be able to indulge in it to his heart’s content. I should have written that down, that’s pretty good.
Michel: This is the point. I think you’ve mentioned also in either a seminar that I’ve been on or went to or heard you from, and ties it a little bit in with this.
You know, we’re talking about switching off the inner editor and it’s the same thing I think whenever you present your copy to a client, and this is a question I keep getting from my clients with web copy is, “Should I have a page for about us, another page for pricing, another page for this, another page for that”, and there are ample studies and tests, split tests have been done to prove that long copy, long schooling copy outsells multiple-page copy. This is for a single offer.
But the problem that people don’t understand is, it’s just as much that we have a tendency to procrastinate at every opportunity, readers will procrastinate at every opportunity.
Michel: And by putting multiple pages or giving, you know, or putting lengths to other web sites or whatever, you’re giving them every opportunity to procrastinate or to go on a tangent or to click on pages that will give them specific information that does not follow the flow that you want them.
You know, to me, to me copy and sales copy is like music. You know, you’ve got the intro, you’ve got the verse, the chorus, the solo in the middle, and then you’ve got the outro.
John: That’s right, and before the solo, you don’t stop the music and say, by the way, we did another song ****. Hey, Bob, play a stance of that song. Then you say, okay, now we’re going back to the song.
John: It’s a greased slide ride.
Michel: You mentioned this, and this is what you said I think on a previous seminar is where you said, “Do you actually sit down with a client and do a presentation face to face, belly to belly, and in the middle of your conversation, you say, okay, hang on, stop, one, two, three, okay, now keep on going?”
John: Right. And you know, you say you’re giving an excuse to procrastinate. Guess what? You’re inviting it. You are almost, you are, you are gonna murder your bottom line by doing that stuff. Links are one of the worst technological advances that have ever been invented for as far as the sales pitch goes. Now you can link the stuff, you know, later.
You know, you, once you’ve sold them, then you have another page where you can have links up the ying-yang ‘cuz it doesn’t matter ‘cuz they’re in your fold at that time, but to bring them in the first time, oh, my, God. Think about that process of what you’ve got to do. We didn’t talk about the synambulant blob welded to the couch.
John: But, you know, basically that’s the way I look at all of my prospects. I imagine this huge gelatinous mass of humanity welded to the couch that wouldn’t move to save itself from the burning building, and I’ve got to get it to, to watch something for a few minutes, you know, or read something and actually, you know, lean over and kind of pull it’s wallet out and pick up the phone and call or fax in an order form and fill it out.
My God, what a, what a difficult process that is ‘cuz this synambulant blob is snoring, doesn’t want to be woken up, doesn’t want to move and sure as hell doesn’t want to give me any money. So I’ve got to make the case. I’ve got to get this guy motivated, and you know how you make a synambulant blob move from the couch? You light a fire under its ass.
Michel: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
John: So, you know, this is why we have things, this is why we talk so much about urgency, about limits, about making this a one-time offer, about, about making the most famous copywriting acronym or whatever, A-I-D-A.
John: That’s the most common one that’s been used, it’s the best. I think John Caples came up with it. It’s the one, it’s A-I-D-A, stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
You know, so when you break copy down to four basic things, the fourth one is action, and that’s where people, people really miss the boat, because you are asking this guy to do something he doesn’t want to do, doesn’t normally do, may not have ever done before in his life, you know, the whole idea of sending money for something.
Think of the fire you got to light under his ass to get him to move to take out his wallet and do that.
Michel: Very, very similar to something I teach often, John, is the, my, I call it my three simple steps to writing profitable copy.
Michel: And the three simple steps is it’s not easy specifically. It’s easy in the sense that if people get those three down, they, they can write world-class copy and it’s basically based on three immutable laws, and the first law is that people never read anything at first.
Michel: The second law will never believe anything at first. And the third law is people will never do anything at first. So the three steps, I call it the three P’s. Pull them in, prove your case, push them back. And copy, when you should pull them in, the headline, people will scroll down a web page.
So you’ve got tons of things that you can do to pull them in. Headers throughout the copy, the story. Prove your case is of course credibility and proof and all that stuff, and your offer and value buildup and guarantees and testimonials. And push them to act is of course asking for the order, making the offer.
Don’t be wimpy about it, don’t be shy about it. And I think that that tsunami, the **** story that you just mentioned is something I read a lot too from you, is so important because people are inherently lazy.
Michel: People are all lazy. And they will procrastinate at every opportunity. And if you have that in your mindset, in the back of your mind when you are writing copy, you know, rather than writing something about how great your company is or it’s been founded in 1985, blah, blah, blah, who cares about that?
John: That’s right.
Michel: Did you — We have just a little bit of time left here, and you have mentioned to me that you wanted to also talk about a bit of marketing, I guess, and you talked about, for example, the passing parade and easy picking from the goldmine. Did you want to talk a little about that?
John: Yeah, I think we’ve covered –
Michel: We’ve covered it, yeah.
John: I actually think we’ve — I was thinking about have we covered that or not. You know, one of the phrases that I use, I don’t know where I picked it up at, was get into the conversation already in your prospect’s mind. That taps into the getting into the passionate sweet spot.
People are passionate about stuff. There are a number of people who aren’t passionate about anything, they’re called dead. To any market you go to, for every hundred people there’s going to be five probably that buy from you. You know, so you’re never going to sell everybody.
But, you know, when you start narrowing that down, so rather than just going to a hundred people, what if you went to a hundred bowlers. You know, instead of just a hundred people, you know, out of the general population.
Michel: Right, right.
John: What if you went to — What if you narrowed it down even more and went to a hundred bowlers who have bought something before on bowling. What if you narrowed it down to a hundred bowlers who have bought something before over $100.00. You know, keep narrowing that down.
What you do is you start updating the value of that customer. And eventually that’s what you’re house lists at. If you go to a hundred thousand people and you get a thousand people out of that who buy something from you, then they buy again, well, right then that’s the beginning of your hot list.
And your hot list is people who have raised their hands and said, I want what you have and I’ll buy even more of what you have. And those are the people that are going to create the wealth for you.
Michel: Okay, well –
John: You talk about the easy pickings out there.
John: You know, some of us have been blessed, and you know when the web started really being used by a lot of people it opened up a lot of markets where people were just walking in. And it was just like walking into a, you know, say you’re a caveman in the forest and you walked in the part of the forest where nobody had been, and there’s all this low hanging fruit.
You know, you’re hungry, you’ve got a hundred peaches and pears right there, you don’t even have to work at it. So if you’re the only guy there you don’t have to work very hard at all. Anything you send out. If you’re the — you know, if you’re the only guy selling hamburgers to a starving crowd, you know, as Halbert has talked about quite a bit, you don’t have to have good hamburgers.
You don’t have to have anything at all. And in fact, you may only have to whisper to one guy at the edge of the crowd, I’ve got hamburgers. And that’s all you need to do. So you can get away with bad copy, sloppy marketing tactics and stuff when you’re the only person in the market.
I don’t think there’s any markets left on the web or anywhere else in our capitalistic society where you’re the only guy anymore. So you don’t have — all that low hanging fruit has been picked. All the big chunks of gold in the mine have been picked up.
So you’ve got to start getting to, you know, start refining your tactics, you know, be able to climb the tree or be able to find new parts of the orchard, you know, that hasn’t been picked over or, you know, find other ways to do it.
Or, at some point, you’re going to have to find a way to — like they do, you know, in Nevada here, we have silver mines that are 150 years old and every five or ten years technology advances to the point they go back through the dirt that was taken out of the mine, you know, back in the 1850s, go through it again and they find enough silver left over that previously technology didn’t find that it makes it worth while, you know.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: But they have to wait another five or ten years for the technology to advance again to do it again. So they’re constantly going through the pilings, as they call them. So, you know, it’s — looking at your market, it’s like what I was talking about with the changing nature of technology.
You know, things change. And you know, don’t get — a lot of people either start out as rookies and they try to go into really crowded markets like diet markets or, you know, how to be a web guru, you know, how to, you know, something where they’re just going to be up against people who know more than they do, have been in it for longer, have learned more and have better skills.
You know, there are markets out there that are crowded but guess what, they aren’t crowded with the kind of people that have direct marketing savvy. They don’t, you know, they don’t have good ads. Just like that first golf ad, that was the first really good direct response golf ad that has ever appeared in Golf Digest or Golf Magazine or Golf Tips, ever.
And it just — it was — you talk about low hanging fruit, it was like you walked through the orchard blindfolded and you just pull your shirt out and the fruit drops in, you know, it was just massive.
And then of course other people caught on and this has happened with several markets I’ve been in, you know, it actually changes the nature, the look of the magazine as more and more people start realizing, well, copy works and I can’t get away with the bullshit Madison Avenue type of ad they were using before. So, things start to change, so. Does that answer your questions? Did I go off on a tangent?
Michel: No, no, no, no, that was perfect. I was just mentioning a little bit earlier about something you teach a lot is the power of personalization and you were talking bowling earlier and going after the, you know, the easy pickings.
Michel: Well, I think, I think one time you mentioned about if you’re trying to sell a bowling product to, you know, bowlers — any kind of one specific type industry is always going to be passionate about that one industry. You know, people that fish, the golfing industry, etc., etc., but you were saying something like, if you can even be more specific, like rather than saying, dear bowler, you say, dear left handed arthritic bowler.
John: Yeah, right.
Michel: To do that.
John: Keep knocking it down, keep, you know, you know, the best list you’re always going to mail to is the house list that loves you dearly.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: And every step you take away from that you’re going to have up the ante a little bit, it’s not going to be so easy to sell yourself to them. You know, even to your house list, by the way, seller personalization, you know, never forget that people’s lives are like 15 year old girls, you know, a 15 year old girl’s life will change three times in an afternoon because so much stuff is happening. Your — The person you’re writing to, he may have just bought something from you for $1,000.00, but tomorrow he’s not going to remember your name, necessarily.
John: So don’t take that kind of stuff for granted. There’s too much stuff going on. You know, there’s — getting back to that 15 year old girl, she may have loved Brittney Spears yesterday, Brittney Spears is old news, you know, tomorrow, you know, that kind of thing. You just — It changes so rapidly and you’ve to, you know, you’ve to keep re-establishing yourself in the, in your buyer’s mind.
That’s where really knowing your USP comes down, you know, just talk about the unique sales position that you’re in, unique, that’s, you know, how you fit into this person’s life as the go-to guy, essentially as the person they should be going to.
Michel: If you use those detections and you can’t seem to find anything unique, then manufacture it.
John: Well, you can do that or, you know, when you start thinking in that way. You know, I never recommend that people lie, I think that’s –
Michel: That’s not what I meant.
John: Yeah, but I’m kind of clarifying that because it almost sounded like you did.
John: You know, you don’t want to — you know, you don’t want to start — People think it’s so easy to lie, and that just puts you in a whole different group of marketers and shame on you and all the horrible things that will happen to you should happen to you if you lie.
But the reason you shouldn’t lie is also, you don’t need to, there’s always something there, you know. That’s why I use the example of, you know, Dave Thomas, the dull boring guy, you know, he’s nevertheless, somebody that stands out, somebody that people trust. You have — Everybody has a story.
I wish we had some time, that’s probably another call, to get into the art of storytelling. Most people think they can’t tell a story. It’s because they just don’t try.
You know, yeah, if you’ve never told a story in your life or if you never got to talk around the table, you know, the dinner table at home or you always had older siblings who told you to shut up, then yeah, your first couple of attempts at telling a story are going to bomb.
John: But each one’s going to get better and better and, you know, storytelling is so essential to the human, you know, the human experience, especially in modern days, that the more you think about it and the more you actually try it, it’s — it just happens quickly. It happens very, very quickly.
It’s like the first time you try to wad up a piece of paper and throw it across the room into the trashcan. Yeah, you might miss, especially if you have no skills like that, but the third, fourth or the fifth time you’re going to get closer and pretty soon you’re going to be nailing that thing, you know.
So just — People are so afraid of a little bit of discipline. You know, I’m one of the laziest guys on the planet and a little bit of discipline goes so far, and especially when you say, okay, that didn’t work, let’s try it again, well let’s try it again, and have some fun with it.
Start moving away from your comfort zone. You know, branch out a little bit, spread your wings, stop being timid, just be bold. And one of the best things you can do to be bold in your market is to realize if you have a product of value then there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t be just as bold as the boldest guy out there because you can stand up with pride and say, I have something that is going to change your life, I really can.
And then back it up, tell your story, give your credibility, your testimony, let other people brag for you.
Michel: Just to clarify what I meant by manufacturing, is to create something and maybe to even create either a new product or add a different twist in order to match a specific market or to change your offer by adding something to it or taking something away to make it unique.
John: Absolutely, great idea.
Michel: It’s the story of the Monahan brothers with Dominoes Pizza, you know. Thirty minutes to your door or it’s free kind of a hook.
Michel: And that’s what I meant by manufacturing, is that if you really can’t find one –
Michel: — you know, you could create it. I’m not saying lying, I’m not saying create it in your copy, I’m talking about the hook itself. You can create it so that it makes it unique.
John: That’s a very good point. In fact, you know, it’s funny I didn’t know it was the Monahan brothers, so I knew that somebody had to do that 30 minute thing, I didn’t know it was them, but you know it and so, you know, that’s part of your homework as part of Operation Money Suck is to, you know, know enough of that stuff to have it a functional part of your plan, of your market planning.
So if you sit back and say, what have — you know, just come up with — to start off your marketing come up with ten ideas that people used, just like you said, Dominoes was in a market that was crowded, all they had was pizza, it wasn’t even necessarily better than anybody else’s, but they knew that people wanted it fast and they were getting it in like an hour and a half, they were getting cold pizza in an hour and a half.
John: How can we position ourselves. And do it some ways that other people are doing it, you know, Coke against Pepsi, just think about the various things. This will help you read books on marketing and not be bored by them.
You shouldn’t be bored by them anyway, but some of them are kind of boring, but if you’re thinking, you know, how does this apply to me? How can I take the lesson here, you know, like the old — one of the famous is Claude Hopkins writing for Schlitz Beer, you know.
Michel: Yeah, right.
John: Schlitz Beer was just like very other beer, but he sat down and he said, and he went and he interviewed people and he came back and said Schlitz Beer is made with pure spring water and it’s purified six times through a, you know, pure copper, whatever, he went on and on and on.
Michel: Yeah, he said it was sterilized.
John: He didn’t mention that all beer was made that way at the same time. So he just came out and said — the other beer manufacturers squealed like stuck pigs, we do that too, but it was too late. They came in with me too and other people were talking about fresh beer, they were talking about Schlitz. You still there?
Michel: Yeah, sorry, just dropped my phone here. As you’re talking I stand up a lot, whenever I’m on these teleseminars I don’t sit down, I usually walk because I can — I think better on my feet. And –
John: I do the same thing.
Michel: And it’s strange because this ties to what we’re talking about. Very often, when you were talking about stalking your computer –
John: Uh huh.
Michel: — I do that. I very much do that.
John: Yeah, it’s like a predator hunting prey, you know, and your prey really is the person that you’re after, but the medium you’re going to go through is that computer. He’s the master of your dominion.
Michel: Yeah, well the thing is it’s pure salesmanship, really. And one of the things in salesmanship I was taught when I started out my career from my mentor in those days was the ability to think on your feet. And it’s nothing to do with wit, per se, but the ability for example, to overcome objections and the ability to be able to be ready for any kind of killing question, objection, whatever.
And very often, when I’m on my feet, when I’m standing up, it’s the same thing as if I’m speaking at a seminar or I’m on the phone or when I’m thinking about what I’m going to write in terms of my copy, I usually tend to stand up, I walk around and I get all these things and these ideas going in my head, not because it’s what I really want to talk about but it’s sort of these little springboards from which the whole copy and the whole hook and the whole sales pitch and the flow of the sales pitch will come from.
Michel: And I think storytelling is so important, you were mentioning that. And I think we should spend almost an entire call on that because this is something I’ve been teaching for God knows how long is all great copywriters and all — are great sales people but the one common denominator from both copywriters and sales people is that they’re great storytellers.
John: That’s true.
Michel: And if you can tell a compelling story, heck, very honestly when I first started out I always bombed. But when I got better it wasn’t because I had gotten better it’s because I was noticing how people, their body language was changing when I was telling the story.
Michel: What thing I said to cause them to lean forward, to rub their chins, what have you.
Michel: And then I realized, and this comes back right exactly down to what you were saying about the passionate sweet spot, when you’re telling a story, first of all you get them hooked with your story but to keep them hooked is to tap into that passionate sweet spot, and I think if you tell your story — talking about stories here, this guy comes up to me and he had a copy, his name was Mark. He created a software — He was one of those guys that goes to these, you know, self-helpmotivational seminars.
Michel: And he had a software that helped you track your goals. And I critiqued his copy and his copy was not bad, but when I dug deeper I found out that this guy used to be a geek for billion dollar companies like, I can’t remember the names, but like Hertz and all that stuff.
Michel: And I found out that his strength was making systems or creating software processes that would bring normal traditional business processes that took weeks to create or to do down to seconds, you know, almost.
And I thought, there’s your hook. So we talked about the story in his copy and said, if I can do this for billion dollar companies, wow, what can I do for people — ordinary people like you and me trying to reach goals.
Michel: I can help you, you know, squeeze your goalachievement time down to whatever, you know, a fraction or whatever the case may be. But the power of his story was so — it was so huge. And I think that everybody has that story in them.
John: Exactly, especially when you’re really passionate about it. One of the problems that people have is that they have trouble, like the accountant coming home to a, you know, to a wife who doesn’t want to hear about it. You know, they think, well, I don’t have anything interesting to say. That changes.
If you go to a convention of accountants, you know, and I’ve actually, I’ve actually been in a bar once with a bunch of accountants when they’re drinking, I mean they are, they are wild. To us it’s so deadly dull, but to them, their eyes are lighting up, they’re like, oh, oh, I can top that. And, you know, you can just see the passion coming out about what, to the rest of us is the most boring thing in the world.
You know, it’s just, you know, you’ve just to, if you can just tap, you can be a lot less skilled salesman if you tap into the passion and you offer something of value.
A lot of other stuff can fall by the wayside, a lot of the techniques and tactics and stuff, because basically if you can, you know, if there’s a bunch of people and they’re all noisier than you and they’re louder and they’re taller and they’re better looking and they have stuff, you know, eventually, if you can just be heard just a little bit and what you have fits better with what the people want, then you know you’re going to do okay, you’re going to get something going there.
Then you can get — you know, I talk about the three different kinds of copy there is. You know, there’s bad copy, mediocre copy and then there’s world-class copy, and the reason I divide it that way is, you know, bad copy just makes you go broke.
You know, there’s, so there’s bad copy and then you’re gone, you’re out of there. The world-class copy is everything above a homerun. In other words, what we all want to hit is that thing that the ad runs over and over again, that keeps, continues to pull and gets the business just moving forward either quickly or at light speed or whatever.
Everything else is mediocre.
And the — and while bad copy will murder your bottom line, mediocre copy will just break your heart because you know you’re only getting a dribble of what you should be getting if you had world class copy out there.
So, but still with mediocre copy you can survive off it. And then start to build your skills, start to get that stuff up, but you’ve got to get something out there right away. So the best way to do that is to tap into the passion of your market and share that passion.
Okay, we’re about at the, I show about the 10 minutes left, is that right?
John: Okay. I — Is it okay, I wanted to tell people they could get something.
Michel: Yeah, absolutely, go ahead. I apologize because a lot of this stuff, we’re passionate about our craft.
John: Well, you know, I never get to talk about this stuff — well, I do actually, I talk about it all the time, but you know, I’m on the phone, I call people up. I have a phone network of people, you know, Halbert and a lot of other writers and other marketers, you know, just hours go by and I don’t even realize it because we’re talking about something that we truly, you know, share a passion about. So –
John: I was just going to say, I was — I have a bunch of cassettes here from the Scuttlebutt Interview series I did, and I’d just like to offer some people, I think it’s something that’s kind of relevant.
I interviewed a lot of movers and shakers and if you will — if these people will just send me their snail mail address, I need that because I’m sending the actual product, my email is [email protected] and just give me your snail mail address and your name, I’ll send you a cassette of me and Gary Halbert shucking and jiving on probably what I think is the number one lesson of world class business, and it’s something I touched on before and the name of the tape is The Go-To Guy and we both talked about this so much over the years when we talked that I finally said, we’ve got to get this down on tape.
And I have about 50 copies of this thing here, it’s a cassette. I know that’s a hassle for some people but that’s what we got. And so the first 50 people that email to me, I’ll keep track of it and I’ll send out this cassette to you. No problem.
After 50 I have other cassettes, I have to dig into my — into the scuttlebutt tape archive, but I’ve got cassettes by Dan Kennedy, I’ve got other ones by Halbert and me and a bunch of really great stuff covering topics like prospering in a rotten economy, that was me and Gary talking.
This is great, six really easy ways to screw up your business, me and Jeff. Classic salesmanship, the secrets, that’s a great one with Sam Fishbine.
Dan Kennedy and I talk about the secrets to success is to scare most people half to death. So we were, you know, these were very specific things, I was very happy. And the product, you know, is something I offer but I wanted to give away something free for the people on this call because I know they sat through two hours of blabbering and I wanted to reward them.
There’s a few people on the call, I think, who are already in my world, a lot of people from my hot list knew about this. I wanted to thank them for sitting in and I hope you learned something. That’s about all I’ve got to say.
We thanked Peter Stone, didn’t we? He, you know, actually sold me on doing this. We had a conversation a couple of weeks ago, what, it’s peterstonecopy.com.
Michel: Peterstonecopy.com, absolutely.
John: Yeah, you know, I was happy that he kind of lit a fire under my ass, you know; Michael, you and I have had email contact but we’ve never really explored ways that we can help each other out or actually spread the word or get, you know, do this kind of stuff.
And you know, this stuff is fun, I mean, and it’s necessary. And it’s not, you know, it’s — we’re not all going to be around forever, and there’s a lot of really bad information out there.
John: So to get the chance to clarify stuff and to bring home the truth, you know, it’s a wonderful thing. So I’ve got to thank Peter for lighting a fire under my butt.
Michel: Well, he’s one of the guys, you know, there’s only a few — and when I say guys, I mean gals, too, because I know Lori’s, she’s another copywriter and so many other people that I know in my entourage, and Peter’s one of those guys. He’s really the guy that got it.
John: Uh huh.
Michel: Give you a small example, one time there was somebody — I have a form for copywriters. And we all congregate and we sort of give ourselves mini critiques. And one person asked a simple question and Peter gave a little suggestion that literally doubled, I think it was 117 percent his response ratio. I’m talking about increase here.
John: Uh huh.
Michel: And that’s just one of the many, many things that Peter does. So Peter is a great copywriter in his own right, and he’s, he’s also my go-to guy. And if you want to get the scuttlebutt tape, I have that tape by the way.
Michel: And a few others too, John.
Michel: But I think you sent it with your insiders or I have it from buying videos from Halbert or something, but –
John: Yeah, I’ve sent them out, and I’ve got a pile here. I was thinking about what I could offer here and I saw this pile, we have about 50 there, so — but even after 50 I will honor sending one of the scuttlebutt tapes to people.
That first one, the go-go guy, just so important because it’s a misunderstood concept about what it is to be a go-to guy, what it is to have go-to guys in your life and the importance of both having and being and understanding the nature of the go-to guy.
Because most people sort of wander through life like they’re in a pinball game, you know, they just kind of bounce from one thing to the other. And to get ahead, to really settle down and get your, you know, your focus and everything going and put operation money into full bloom, you’ve got to understand what it takes to move quickly, efficiently and with, you know, money making vigor through life.
And it’s not the skills that you came out of school with, it’s not the skills that you learn in most businesses and it’s not the skills that you come across naturally, you have to learn these.
Most people have to be shown these things. They have to come across them in life. That’s why guys like us, who offer this stuff out there, our stuff really is guidelines.
I, you know, I have no trouble at all standing up on a stage in front of a thousand people and just telling them, you need to get this stuff right now, it’s mine, it’s going to cost you, but here it is. I have no trouble with that because I have something of value.
Michel, you’re in the same position. You know, there’s no embarrassment, there’s no, you know, thinking, well, I’m really sorry to have to be pitching this, screw that.
You know, if you’re in business and you want to make moneyand you want the independence that comes with having the skills like copywriting, like understanding marketing, like being a go-to guy and understanding how all this stuff fits together, you know, you’re an idiot not to buy everything you can.
You know, people — one of the big mistakes rookies make is that they think, oh, geez, this is a hundred bucks, this is two hundred bucks or it’s a thousand bucks or whatever it is, gosh, how am I going to fit that into my budget. Well, you know, if you’re buying the right stuff from the right guys, and there are a few of us out there, it’s not an expense, it’s an investment.
John: And that investment pays off sometimes the same day, like you just mentioned — Peter Stone just mentioned one thing. Most of my testimonials that I run on my marketingrebel.com web site, you know, there’s a whole bunch of those, people say, hey, that one tip you gave me just quadrupled sales, you know, that one word change in the headline just, you know, doubled response, you know, things like that. And that’s because these things are so powerful. You know, these little things.
And you know, once you learn that trick you can use it again, and then if you learn another trick then guess what, you’ve started your own little bag of tricks there.
Michel: That’s something that I’ve learned a lot from you, John, is that gun to the head mentality.
John: Right. Yeah, you’re right.
Michel: And a lot of people have — There are a lot of rookies have to have that in order to get to the point of world-class copy, is to think or to have or even force yourself to have a gun to the head almost.
John: That’s right.
Michel: And the thinking process –
John: You know, it’s like these calls, you know how pumped up you and I get.
Michel: Uh huh.
John: I think a lot of people listening to this also get pumped up. Hey, use that. It will go away. In a few days your enthusiasm may start to lag and your motivation starts going, you may start thinking, ah, geez, but you know one of the things — one of the reasons that copywriters, top copywriters talk to each other and, you know, walk around and spend two hours on the phone is because we thrive on that kind of, on that motivation, we thrive on that feeling of being pumped up, you know, and you know, being part of the network.
We’re always pumping each other up. Halbert’s calling me all the time to pump him up and I call him all the time. And there’s, you know, a dozen other guys I call and we talk to.
And it’s like you and I were talking about music before, you know, we were trading emails about music. I mean it’s just, after I talked to you, I went out, you know you mentioned the Stones and I went out and listened to the Rolling Stones for an hour –
John: — and I just got all pumped up again, you know. We thrive on this stuff. Because it can get you down. Because sitting in an office all day or thinking about how you’re going to make money from your site and just, you know, just — if today is the same as yesterday and the same as the day before and it looks like it’s going to be the same tomorrow, then there’s no passion going on there.
You know, a really vibrant business, things are happening, things are hopping and it’s kind of, it’s the feeling you get when you write an ad, you sit down and you get excited about it and you think you’ve hit it and you send it out and you get to see what that little puppy does in the real world. There’s no other feeling like that.
John: So I guess we’re at the two-hour mark.
Michel: That’s perfectly fine, we’ll end it here. But before I do that I just want to repeat a couple of things and I want to — First of all, I want to thank you, John.
Man, it’s always a pleasure to talk either with you or on a seminar like this because you’re not only a wealth of knowledge but, you know, you were talking about the passionate sweet spot, well you’ve hit mine by talking the way you talk and it’s just so incredible because the information you give is, I mean, I’ve been writing copy for 15 years.
I’ve broken records and I still learn every single day and I still learned today on today’s call. And I’m the first person to admit that. And I want to thank you so much for taking some time. And people, if you want that free tape from John, please send your snail mail address to [email protected]
John: I also wanted to say, I started my Blog today. It’s — you know I was talking about getting involved in some of the geekier stuff. I actually started a Blog. I don’t know how often I’m going to be putting it up there, but I think we’re going to be putting it up there a fair amount, and that’s at john-carlton.com. If anyone wants to just check that out and maybe bookmark it and go back and see what kind of blatherings I’m going to have on that.
Michel: And Carlton without the E.
John: Yes, john-carlton. I noticed in a past thing you put the E in. Dan Kennedy is still putting the E in my name after 15 years. You know, it’s — What’s great about the people that are in this is that we, you know, when you start getting involved in the personalities and stuff of the people in marketing, it really is fun.
It’s just a passionate group of people who are moving and shaking and doing a lot of stuff. And you know, the ability to get invited to that big damn roundtable of insiders is just a matter of succeeding. It’s just a matter of getting down and working at it and share that passion to the point where at some point you are one of the guys.
Michel: Oh, yeah. Many of the seminars that I go to, that I even speak at, the bulk of my business is not done in that seminar room or even on stage.
Michel: It’s in the hallways, it’s at the restaurant, at the bars. At that seminar, it’s outside. It’s, you know, it’s where we share the passion rather than just being in a seminar room.
John: Yeah. The big marketing group hug.
John: All right, listen, this was great, really enjoyed it, I think my voice is about to go. I hear yours about to go.
John: So what do we do, do we just hang up or?
Michel: Well, this is what we’re going to do, we’re going to hang up but I want to thank everybody. Thank you so much for being on this call, it’s been an amazing call and thanks to Peter Stone, the producer of this call, peterstonecopy.com.
John, of course, your web site is marketingrebel.com. Mine is thecopydoctor.com. And hopefully we’ll see you again on another call. Thanks, John.
Michel: Goodnight folks.
John: Okay, bye, bye.