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Copywriting

How to Hook (More) Copywriting Prospects

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The other day, an aspiring copywriter asked me a question that I hear all too often: “How do I distinguish myself from other copywriters?”

The answer is not an easy one. It takes some thought, some time, and perhaps some inspiration.

But time after time, I have found that most people tend to overlook one of the most effective and frequently used copywriting and marketing tools. And that's your “Unique Selling Proposition,” or USP.

(I prefer to call it a “Unique Selling Position.” If you've read my book, “Power Positioning,” or if you know my personal story, then you'd know that I'm a big fan of positioning rather than prospecting.)

Your USP is also your “hook.”

A USP is what distinguishes you from the pack. It increases perceived value, expertise, and credibility — without needing to state it outright.

But since I hear this question often, particularly from copywriters just entering the field, it's because it's never an easy process. You either have to dig deep to find your USP, or create one from scratch. And that's why people need a little help in defining it.

I understand. So to help you, here's a tip.

In marketing, every product or service has three levels. They include:

  • The core product.
  • The product itself.
  • The augmented product.

What does this have to do with developing a USP? Before I share it to you, let me explain what these three product levels mean.

  • The core product is the actual end-result, the benefits, that the product offers. It's what the product does for people. As Theodore Levitt once said, people don't buy quarter-inch drills. They buy quarter-inch holes.
  • The actual product is what the product is and consists of. This includes the things that make the product a product. Those are the features, the components, the ingredients, even the packaging.
  • The augmented product is what is added to the product or offer to augment it. Things like free shipping, guarantees, customer support, premiums, etc.

Now, in the context of copywriting (the business or the service of copywriting, that is), you can look at it this way (please note this is an example and not the example):

1) Core Product: Generate and/or increase response.

That's the ultimate result, or at least the reason why most clients hire copywriters.

2) Actual Product: The copy itself.

Writing the copy includes research, writing the first draft, and delivering the final draft. It includes all the elements that help to achieve the core product: headline, storyline, bullets, product details, offer, response device, etc.

The actual product is also directly tied to the market. Therefore, it also includes the market you're selling to, such as focusing on a specific industry or audience, or a particular kind of copy such as sales letters, direct mail, websites, etc.

3) Augmented Product: Whatever you add beyond the actual product.

Things you add to the service to “beef it up,” such as extras, value-adds, add-ons, bonuses, premiums, gifts, additional promises, and so on, which can vary tremendously from copywriter to copywriter, and industry to industry.

For example, it can include formatting, graphic design, layout suggestions, project management, market research, rewrites, guarantees, split-testing the actual copy before the final draft, exclusivity, rush service for quicker turnarounds, etc.

How do you use these three layers to define a USP?

Think of these three layers in the form of a bulls-eye, where you have three concentric circles. The center of the bulls-eye being the core product, the middle layer being the actual product, and the outer layer the augmented product.

Now, here's the fun part. To develop a unique selling proposition, you can add, remove, change, or give a unique twist to any of these three levels.

The easiest way, of course, it to go from the outside in. (It's easier to aim for the outer circle than the bulls-eye itself.) That is, find ways to augment your product that few do or that no one does. It may not be one single thing. It may be a combination of them.

Bulls-eye analogy aside, why is this the simplest way?

Because coming up with different angles or variations of the center of the bulls-eye requires a bit more creative thinking. It's easier to add to the existing product or its market than it is to repurpose it, rebrand it, or redefine the market for it.

(Mind you, developing a USP from within usually produces the best “hooks,” the most prospects, and the greatest perceived value.)

Nevertheless, here's an example of working with the outside layer.

You can offer design suggestions, layouts and mockups, additional tips on how to best use the copy, offer free revisions, writing copy for other parts of the sales funnel (opt-in page, order page, thank-you page, autoresponders, etc), and so on.

Here's an extra tip.

Don't offer these willy-nilly. Always place a value on these augmented elements or add-ons. Why? Because if you don't, people will assume that it's part of your original offering. It may even decrease your perceived value.

The idea is to increase the perception of higher value. And to do that, you must not only add value to the core offer but also make it visible.

For example, don't say your copy comes with formatting and layout suggestions (or worse yet, assume clients will know the implication). Instead, say you will throw in formatting and layout suggestions, which are additional services, free of charge.

Plus, add a dollar value on those add-ons as if you were to sell them separately. Don't say your copy comes with one or two revisions. Say your copy comes with an additional revision, free of charge, worth $500.

Aside from the increase in perceived value, this tactic also helps to prevent freeloaders and deal-seekers from asking for concessions. If they want “a good deal,” doing it this way will make them feel like you're already making concessions.

If they start to haggle at any point, then you have tools to work with — by removing the extras and their associated dollar value. This is better than offering discounts.

(Never discount! Never.)

Next in the layers is the actual product.

What can you change, add, or remove from the actual product to make it unique?

For instance, how do you conduct your research? Do you interview the client or the client's clients? Do you have a preparatory questionnaire they must fill out before work commences? How is your copy written and delivered, exactly?

While it is easier to work with the augmented product first, there is also an easy way to work with the middle layer. Which is, of course, defining the market.

Specifically, niche marketing.

Niche marketing is “to find a niche and fill it.” But with an existing product, it's to focus on a particular audience segment, an industry, or a certain style of copy.

You could be a copywriter specializing in, say, health products. You could even hone it down to, say, nutrition and foods. You could even be a copywriter who focuses on diets and weightloss exclusively.

But don't just focus on industries or niches.

Remember, it's the “actual” product. What you choose to work on and deliver can also be specialized. You don't have to add or change anything, either. You can simply remove something to make yourself unique.

They say that less is more. In fact, offering less or focusing strictly on a certain type of copy can create instant demand and credibility, because being a specialist creates the perception of greater expertise and skill.

I know a copywriter who focuses strictly on catalog copy. I know another who does email campaigns only. I know a third who writes for social media. I know some copywriters who specialize in a combination of niches and copy types — such as direct mail for the financial industry. And they're doing extremely well.

But that's not all. Don't restrict yourself to the medium, either.

For example, you might be a copywriter who focuses strictly on headlines. As a result, you become known as the headline expert. When people (or other copywriters) need help with their headlines, they turn to you.

Or you might be one who only focuses on initial drafts in plain text. While that might seem like a lesser offering, you can say that this is a benefit since you're entirely focused on the research and the content — unlike other copywriters who offer too much, overextend themselves, and dilute their value as a result.

A neurologist is still a doctor. But you wouldn't have a general practitioner work on your brain, right? Much less a podiatrist or coroner. You want a doctor who specializes in the specific problem or area that needs attention.

Copywriters are no different.

Finally, the innermost layer, the center of the bulls-eye, is the hardest part.

Copy is copy. And copy has one principal function. And that's to sell. But let's say that your copy's goal is to increase the client's existing response, as it is with most copy. Ask yourself, what other benefits do you offer?

I don't mean additional benefits provided by the augmented product. I'm talking about the copy itself. What else does your copy do for your clients? What else does your copywriting service specifically bring to the table?

Sure, the ultimate goal is to boost sales and profits.

But perhaps it's to make the client look good as to increase referral clients. Maybe it's to increase visibility or generate more word-of-mouth. Or perhaps it's to attract qualified staff or potential investors.

You can and should think of all the benefits your copy delivers.

Don't just stick with the obvious.

Take some time (even write a list, if you have to) of all the advantages your specific copy offers. What kind of results have you achieved in the past? What other benefits (including unsought benefits) did your clients receive?

(Sometimes, asking for or re-reading client testimonials can offer some clues. If not, take some time to interview some of your past clients. Ask them what your copy or copywriting service did for them, beyond just increasing sales.)

Here's a “off-the-top-of-my-head” example. Say your client is also looking for copy that “sounds like them.” In other words, they want a copywriter with a knack for writing in their voice, their language, and their communication style.

In this case, it makes your ghostwriting ability far more effective than other copywriters. That's a USP right there. (As your “hook,” you might call yourself “The Chameleon Copywriter” or your copy service “The Copywriting Cloner.”)

What about you?

Again, you need to sit down and take some time to really think about this. It might not come overnight. For me, as an example, it took over a decade to find the various benefits my copy specifically brings to the table.

It won't take a decade. The difference here is, you have a leg up because you have some tips in this article to give you a headstart.

In the end, there are so many ways to develop a good USP. There are so many variants, too. Each way comes with a plethora of possibilities. The idea is to be a bit creative, a bit of a contrarian, and a bit different.

Sometimes, you have to look at and copy from (and not just think) “outside the box.”

See other industries. Look at other services. Check out non-competing products. You never know. In one of them may lie the seed of something amazing.

And being amazing doesn't have to require a massive change, either. Just by being 10% different, unique, original, or special is enough to make you stand out like a sore thumb in an overcrowded, hypercompetitive marketplace.

Categories
Copywriting

Risk-Reversal’s Role Reversal

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The greater portion of my career has been in copywriting, selling, and direct marketing. And one of the common denominators I've found in any successful piece of copy is the power of risk reversal.

That is, taking more of a risk from the sale than the purchaser of your product.

Risk reversal is a powerful method to increase sales by easing the buying decision and allaying fears consumers might have.

When people are considering an offer, and if the offer is “too good to be true,” they will invariably seek out more secure means to benefit from it. Otherwise, they will have a tendency to think, “What's the catch?”

The greater the guarantee, the greater the sales. This has been consistent in almost every industry in which I've worked, and with every split-test I've conducted.

For example, a 30-day guarantee will outsell no guarantee. A 90-day guarantee will outsell a 30-day one. And so on and so forth.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule.

Sometimes, shorter or more creative guarantees can outperform longer ones.

Why? Perhaps this is because, in a promise-filled industry oversaturated with, and burned by, over-the-top hype, long, unrealistic guarantees make the offer suspect.

People might be left scratching their heads wondering if the guarantee is an attempt to pull the wool over their eyes.

Guarantees that are too strong (like one or even multiple years, lifetime, etc) can unconsciously convey that the product is so poor that either the purchaser will forget about the promise during the guarantee's extended lifespan, or the seller is trying to build perceived value in areas other than the product itself to make up for the lack.

But length doesn't always mean strength.

In other words, the strength of a guarantee is not limited to its timeframe.

Creative guarantees work extremely well, especially in an industry where people encounter typical money-back guarantees. These include guarantees that don't necessarily have anything to do with refunds or money. By being different, a unique guarantee can provide a powerful twist to an offer.

Notwithstanding the legal requirements to offer a money-back guarantee, think of guarantees that include gifts, discounts, credits, vouchers, etc.

For example, just recently a friend of mine launched an intensive and pricey classroom-style training program, but with a very interesting angle. Whether you succeed or not, or whether you like the program or not, you get your money back.

It sold out in just a few hours.

Ultimately, guarantees exist because we fear making bad decisions.

And a purchase is a buying decision.

But remember that a guarantee's job is not to remove fear. Not in a direct sense. It's to increase the customer's confidence that the product will do as promised.

In fact, in an article titled “The Great Customer Service Hoax,” the author, Belinda (who is also a copywriter), said it perfectly. “The simple truth about customer satisfaction,” the author writes, is this:

You might think that to maintain awesome levels of customer satisfaction you need to have outstanding products and services, diligent processes and reports and excellently trained staff who know when to make a decision that’s right for the customers. Well, you do need those things but the truth about consistently good customer satisfaction is much simpler.

Customers are satisfied when you met their expectations.

Guarantees help to communicate this important promise. A guarantee communicates not only that the product has value (e.g., “it's so good, I guarantee it!”), but also that the product will meet their expectations.

A guarantee encourages sales and profits. (Sales is self-explanatory. But profits? Yes! Guarantees can also decrease refunds. I'll come back to this in a moment.)

So objectively, add a guarantee that's easy, strong, and reasonable (that is, it's not far-fetched). If it has the appearance of being too long or unbelievable, either reduce it or add copy to justify your attempt.

Just like the power of “reasons-why” advertising, don't forget to back it up. Provide a logical, commonsensical explanation behind your guarantee to justify why it's so strong. The more you do, the more believable your guarantee will be. Otherwise, an overzealous guarantee will make it questionable.

(For example, with a “lifetime guarantee,” people will often ask, “Whose lifetime?”)

But in the majority of cases, if you failt to offer a guarantee let alone a strong one, you're losing a great percentage of potential sales.

In addition to communicating value of and confidence in a product, a guarantee can also become a powerful positioning tool.

Take for instance the story of the Monaghan brothers. The two ran a small business in order to pay their way through college. While one worked the day shift in order to attend school at night, the other did the converse.

After about a year in the money-losing venture, one of the brothers sold his share of the business for a beat-up old car. The other, however, with a good dose of stick-to-it-iveness, decided to make something of his fledgling pizzeria.

According to some interviews he recently gave, Tom Monaghan said that, at the time, he wasn't quite sure that his decision to put a guarantee on his pizza delivery would change much. But obviously, history tells us that his decision was a good one.

By simply marketing the strength of a guarantee (i.e., “Pizza delivered fresh in 30 minutes or it's free”), Domino's Pizza became the multimillion-dollar franchise operation we know today.

Online, strong guarantees are more than just sales tools.

The Internet has opened many doors, including those to many unscrupulous entrepreneurs. Scams and snake oils are rampant online. Millions (if not billions) of dollars are lost to these scamsters each month.

The Internet is rife with fraudulent offers, phishing attempts, and shoddy products. Even laws and anti-scam tools won't stop crafty entrepreneurs who are determined to bypass the systems to scam the unsuspecting.

So people are understandably leery, skeptical, distrusting, and cautious.

Obviously, the use of testimonials, demos and tours, statistics, laboratory tests, clinical trials, case studies, free trials and samples, real pictures of the product in question, and so on are all incredibly important.

But in addition to these methods and elements of proof you can and should add to your copy, strong and creative guarantees are equally powerful proof elements and probably some of the most underutilized.

Why? Mostly because business owners are leery themselves of adding, extending, or creating guarantees because they fear the onslaught of losses from returns.

If the product is mediocre, then this fear is sadly justified. But most products are good. (Granted, there are just as many fraudulent consumers out there as there are scams. Businesses fear them equally as consumers fear buying from fraudsters.)

But generally, guarantees will increase sales.

Chris Ayers, former publisher of Unlimited Traffic!, gives an astonishing real-life example. Writes Ayers:

“One of my first direct mail products years ago was a self-study program. When I first offered the program in a magazine, my sales weren't even enough to cover the cost of the ad. I changed my ad and sales letter to include a guarantee. The number of responses to the same ad increased by a factor of 20 and my conversion rate from my sales letter rose from 10% to almost 40%.”

Remember that adding a guarantee might increase returns and refunds. But try it and do the math. In some cases, a small increase in refunds might be greatly overshadowed by a disproportionately larger increase in sales.

For example, in one test I've conducted with a consulting client, we raised the guarantee from a 30-day guarantee to a 6-month, double guarantee.

(The “double” included a 100%-money-back guarantee within six months, and a double-your-money-back within the first 30 days.)

The result? During the test, there were no refunds within the initial 30 days. But refunds within the first six months increased from about 4% to 6.5%.

Of course, that's significant.

But look at the increase in sales…

Sales conversion went from a little less than 3% to 7%. Mathematically, it means refunds increased by 62.5%, while sales increased by over 133% (i.e., twice as many more sales as the increase in refunds).

The lesson is this: while a guarantee might increase refunds, the increase will be negligible when contrasted by the more significant increase in sales.

This is true in the majority of cases. But in other cases, net profits can increase quite substantially. Even more than the norm.

Why? Because, unbeknownst to many marketers, one of the most important benefits of using a guarantee is the fact that it can actually reduce returns.

If you have a professionally-looking website, an ethical sales approach, and a proven product or service, the lack of a strong guarantee will still, particularly on the Internet, cause most prospects to perceive your offer as questionable in the very least.

But adding a guarantee — particularly a strong one — not only increases sales because it removes the risk from the buyer's mind, but it also increases perceived value and therefore overall confidence in the product and the seller as well.

Guarantees also grant you an almost instant credibility with potential customers.

And finally, strong guarantees also help to raise tolerance levels.

Customers are more apt to ignore or even accept a few flaws, thereby reducing the need to return the product at the slightest imperfection.

This is because they feel they are in good hands, whether they know this experientially or not. The confidence level that the guarantee created acts as some sort of psychic security net.

In other words, a guarantee not only reduces the skepticism around a purchase, but also contributes to what psychologists refer to as “The Halo Effect.”

Ultimately, add a strong guarantee to your offer. But don't stop with just at increasing its timeframe. Be creative with your guarantee.

Think about multiple-money-back guarantees, add-on guarantees, gift certificates, credit or discount vouchers, the ability to keep bonuses if they return the main product, keeping the product even if they ask for their money back, etc.

Bottom line, guarantees will increase sales. The stronger the guarantee is, the larger the increase will be.

Categories
Copywriting

60-Minute Naked Truth Salesletter Formula

One of the most popular threads on my now defunct discussion forum for copywriters was one started by my friend Dean Jackson.

If you don't know Dean Jackson, he is a Torontonian, a real estate mogul, an information marketing millionaire (author of many programs, including the highly successful “Stop Your Divorce!”), and a darn-fine copywriter.

This post was extremely popular for a number of reasons.

In it, Dean shared his quick-and-dirty formula for writing salesletters really fast. It's a great shortcut if you want to write a barebones salesletter in less than an hour.

Above all, the idea behind this formula is to get you to start writing. Too many marketers and copywriters get stuck at the beginning, such as at the headline, and they fail to get any traction. They often blame it on “writer's block.”

According to Dean, this formula has helped him write several million-dollar salesletters for himself and others. With his gracious permission, I'm reprinting it here on this blog, along with some of my own editorial comments and tips…

Please note, this is not going to result in an extensive or exhaustive salesletter. But it will provide you with a skeletal outline you can either use as is, or easily expand from.

Remember, most people find that the hardest thing to do is to get started writing. It's easy to get caught up in trying to figure out the best hook or headline.

That's why its power lies in its simplicity. This formula is an easy, kick-into-gear way to get a really quick headstart. As Dean noted, “I'd rather be golfing than sweating out a sales letter, so I'm very interested in achieving quick results.”

It all starts with deciding exactly what you want someone to do. Once you've determined that, then it's to sit down for 60 minutes or so to write an unedited, rough-draft, handwritten letter baring the “naked truth” of what you really want.

Without any distractions. Without going into any tangents. And without stopping.

Dean suggests taking a pen and a legal pad, and start writing a stream of consciousness, by hand, to one individual person you imagine as your ideal prospect.

I personally don't mind using my computer, but I believe Dean suggests doing it by hand because it's harder to edit yourself when doing so. Editing as you write is one of the biggest crutches for copywriters that impedes their writing.

Also, getting to know your perfect prospect is crucial.

In our course, we share with you the exact process we go through to find markets and create “buyer personas” using spying techniques, sideways strategies, and unique and unconventional keyword research methods.

In it, we show you how to create a perfect prospect profile, a “buyer persona.” It's a perfect complement to Dean's technique as it will allow you to develop a clear understanding of who your prospect is, what do they want, and how do they want it.

Knowing this beforehand will allow you to sit down and write a salesletter faster than you've ever dreamed possible. The reason is, the information you uncover during that research will provide you with a ton of information you can use in your writing.

Nevertheless, the key is to write the letter as if they are the only person who is going to receive the letter. You write to that person and that person only. Personally, one on one.

At this point, you shouldn't concern yourself about the grammar, the look, or the techniques of copywriting.

As they say, “Write first, edit later.”

No one is actually going to see the letter at this point, anyway. You can edit it yourself afterward, or have someone else or hire someone else to edit it for you.

The key is to do it and do it as quickly as possible. Get yourself a timer, if you can. Limit yourself to 60 minutes. That way, you won't be tempted to stop along the way to edit yourself. Don't do it. Keep writing, and write like there's no tomorrow.

You must get yourself to sit down with the thought of having to get it all done in less than one hour. Write down just the essentials at this point. Keep it simple, keep your perfect customer in mind at all times, and keep it flowing.

Now, here's the 10-part letter formula.

Start with “Dear Dean,” which can be the name you give your perfect prospect. Remember, you can change it later. Don't worry about the headline at this point. Next…

1. Start with the purpose of your letter.

“I'm writing to you because I want you to…” Insert your naked-truth reason you're writing, as if you were making your request known to a lamp Genie who could grant your wish, like, “Take out your credit card and pay me $39 for my new book called…”

2. Reasons you are writing to this specific person.

“The reason I'm writing to you specifically is because I think you want…” And then list the reasons in bullet form, such as reason #1, reason #2, reason #3, and so on.

3. List the features and benefits of your product or offer.

“Here is a list of what you get when you [buy my book]…” Again, use bullets. First list the feature followed by the benefit after “which means,” such as “You get [feature], which means [benefit].” Write as many as you can drum up at this point.

4. Top 10 questions and/or objections.

You can say, “If I were to guess the top 10 questions or objections you will have about buying my product today, they would be these…” You then follow that by another bulleted list of the top 10 most asked questions or most pressing concerns.

5. Answers to those questions or objections.

“So here's how I would clear those up for you…” Same idea as point #4. List, in bullet form, the answers to each and every question or concern you've uncovered.

6. Explain the guarantee or how you are removing the risks.

“I want you to be completely without risk, so here's my guarantee…” Then explain how your guarantee works, how it reduces or removes the risk from the purchase in their minds, and how to take advantage of it if they need to.

7. The most important part: the call to action.

“It's really easy to get started. You just…” (whatever it is they must do, such as “click this button,” “fill in this form,” “call this phone number,” “return this coupon,” etc). Provide the exact, step-by-step instructions on how they can take action.

8. The result of their taking action.

“Once you decide to get started here's what's going to happen…” Describe what's going to happen once they go ahead. Educate them on how they will get their product, and how they will consume it. Tell them how to make the best use of their new purchase.

9. Add an element of scarcity or a sense of urgency.

“You need to do this right now because…” Tell them why they need to take action today. Is there a limit or a deadline? What will be the consequences if they don't take action? What are the ultimate costs of not going ahead today?

10. Finally, testimonials from satisfied customers.

“Here's a list of people who have already [done this] and exactly what happened for them…” Add testimonials or case studies from other customers. Of course, I don't need to remind you that they must be real and genuine. 😉

There you have it.

When you're done with this exercise in hopefully one hour or less, it's easy to start taking the barebone copy elements from it and dressing them up to take out in public.

You can add more, rearrange the elements, expand points, add proper transitions between each section, make it flow neatly, tighten it all up, and so on.

Once you've done this naked-truth, skeletal salesletter, headline ideas will naturally jump out at you. You will have some groundwork from which to come up with several headlines and possible hooks that will appeal to your perfect customer.

Remember, the headline's job is only one thing: to get your prospect to read your letter. Once you've accomplished that, the rest should be smooth sailing.

Tell me (or Dean Jackson) what you think! We would love to get your feedback.

Categories
Copywriting

P.S.: Don’t Forget to Include This in Your Copy

One of the most venerable and common elements of good salesletters, following the headline, is the postscript or “P.S.” at the end.

The end of every great sales letter should be capped with a strong P.S. We are often told that the P.S. is the second most read part of a salesletter, because after reading the headline many people tend to scroll or jump to the bottom.

It's like the “second headline,” so to speak.

This is particularly true when we know that most people tend to read the headline or the “Dear Friend” salutation, then turn to the closing of the letter to see who signed it or who is it from. Partly out of curiosity. Partly to justify reading it in the first place.

Including a P.S. in your copy may not always be necessary. I've seen some great, proven salesletters that did not have any postscripts at all. But if you do include one, don't add it just for the sake of adding one. Make sure it does the job.

In fact, you shouldn't use a P.S. the way it's supposed to be used…

In traditional letter writing, a P.S. is an afterthought. An additional, incidental, or forgotten piece of information. Hence the meaning of the word “post script,” as in, “after writing.”

And the reason it exists is because, in the old days of handwritten or typewritten letters, where you couldn't go back to edit their letter or insert new pieces of information, the P.S. would allow the author to add final bits of information after the letter was finished.

Back then, we did not have the luxury of real-time editing or correction fluid as we do today, so adding a P.S. was common practice. Now, it is no longer necessary.

But salesletters keep using them, and they work extremely well, in large part because they look more personal and informal, and less like a professional, formal sales pitch.

However, with salesletters, a postscript is not really a place to introduce new pieces of information — unless those pieces are supported or discussed in the letter, or meant to arouse curiosity, forcing the reader back into the copy.

But it is a perfect tool to get the reader to take action.

As the last opportunity to convert your reader into a buyer, the P.S. is a final statement that supports the copy that came before, reminds or reinforces an underlying principle of the letter, or emphasizes the need to take action quickly.

To that end, it can be a great place for adding new, undisclosed information, such as a few surprises or twists, in order to clinch the deal. (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

But the easiest and most common use for a P.S. is to provide a brief summary of the letter, reiterate its main purpose or objective, or restate any of its key points, such as the big idea, the compelling promise, the major benefits, or the call to action.

This follows with the three major steps in delivering presentations. And what is a sales letter at its core but a written presentation? As a refresher, the three major steps are:

  1. Tell them what you're going to tell them.
  2. Tell them.
  3. Tell them what you told them.

Your P.S. can be part of that important final step.

Specifically, you've already told them everything in your sales letter, especially if it's long copy. Now it's time to choose the one aspect you believe is most likely to be holding them back from buying after reading all the way through, and to resolve it.

A strong P.S. does not beg, but rather invites the reader to take the final step before purchasing. It's a strong and clear statement that contains the final call to action.

You can use the P.S. to recap the entirety of your offer. Tell them again what your offer includes, list the important benefits, add up the dollar value (including the value of your bonuses), and outline the extras to reinforce the value of the offer.

An effective technique is to restate your headline, or something important you've expressed in the headline. You won't necessarily copy the headline verbatim, but present the same information but paraphrase it in a benefit-driven manner.

For example, your headline says:

“The Accidental Weight-Loss Discovery of a Juggling Career Mom Who Lost Six Inches of Baby Fat Around Her Waistline Without Any Exercise of Diets — In Just a Few Weeks!”

The postscript can then say:

“P.S.: If you're a career mom or about to become one, and you're concerned about unwanted, stubborn baby fat, then this product is perfect for you. Imagine turning heads as you melt away those few extra inches amazingly fast — in just a few short weeks! — while avoiding exercises or diets you don't have time for, anyway.”

Also, using the “oh, by the way” approach is an effective one. This resembles the original purpose of a P.S., since it is indeed intended to be an afterthought or an important piece of information one has forgotten to mention after the letter was written.

That's why they are perfect places, not only to add additional information we failed to include in our letter, but also to use this seemingly accidental omission to highlight a specific piece of information we want our reader to remember, absorb, and appreciate.

So while you can use a postscript to restate the primary benefit of your product or service, you can also use it to introduce a completely new surprise benefit — such as one or more special, “last-minute” bonuses you are including with your offer.

Thus, a P.S. is a great way to strengthen the offer and “sweeten the deal.”

However, one of the most powerful P.S. techniques is to highlight the sense of urgency — either by creating or increasing the scarcity factor not mentioned in the letter, or by restating or emphasizing it if one was already mentioned.

This way, the P.S. prompts the straggler to take immediate action, whether it's buying your offer now, or at least going back and reading the letter before it's too late.

Nevertheless, let's not forgot the proof element. In fact, a postscript is a perfect opportunity to increase buyer confidence, reduce skepticism, and lower resistance.

At this point, you want to alleviate any lingering doubts. Expressing you understand your reader's hesitancy — especially once they've read to that point but have yet to take action, which is a great indicator — can be a bridge to overcoming their final objection.

Adding another proof element may be your chosen tactic in this case.

Personally, this is my favorite. I love using P.S.'s to enhance the credibility of my offer in some way, perhaps by including an additional testimonial or endorsement, or by adding or restating the guarantee. Perhaps a newer and even stronger guarantee.

What you are looking to do with your P.S. is identify the one objection you foresee as being the key to holding your reader back from ordering. If you decide on using a testimonial, then choose the one that inherently answers this lingering objection.

To handle this objection further, a postscript may be the place you repeat an important or unique aspect of your offer. Since this is what sets your product or service apart from everything else in the market, it may be important to point it out to your reader again.

However, in doing so it's best to paraphrase as to make it easier for the reader to understand and truly appreciate its meaning, and make it appear less repetitive.

In other words, reword the original information that was previously introduced as to specifically deal with the objection. Ideally, it will be the last piece of the puzzle your reader needs to push them over the fence and make the decision to buy.

Finally, a proven technique is to include more than one postscript (e.g., “P.P.S.” and “P.P.P.S.”), and using them with a variety of different methods discussed in this article.

If you decide on more than one P.S., then you should stick to three. Why? It's because studies and split-tests show that, in a triad of P.S.'s, people tend to read, remember, and respond to the second one more than they do the first and last ones.

In other words, include your biggest benefit, a major selling point, or an element you want your readers to focus on the most in the second or middle P.S.

Bottom line, try adding one to your salesletter. As with all aspects of the sales letter that come before, you will have to experiment with your P.S. until it is just right. It can take a while to adjust the angle and the wording until it reaches the peak of effectiveness.

Though shorter and less intense than most other aspects of your sales letter, no less care should be taken with the crafting of this aspect. Considering its position and purpose, it's a feature you don't want to forget to include in your sales copy.

Categories
Copywriting

The Seven Deadly Sins of Website Copy

Throughout my research, I'm always surprised when I stumble onto websites that are professionally designed and seem to offer great products and services, but lack or fail in certain important elements.

Elements that, with just a few short changes, can help multiply the results almost instantaneously.

Generally, I have found that there are seven common mistakes. I call them the “Seven Deadly Sins.” Is your website committing any one of these?

1) They Fail to Connect

Traffic has been long touted to be the key to online success, but that's not true. If your site is not pulling sales, inquiries or results, then why would it need more traffic?

The key is to turn curious browsers into serious buyers. Aside from the quality of the copy, the number one reason why a website doesn't convert is that the copy is targeting the wrong audience or fails to connect with them.

First, create a “perfect prospect profile.” List all the attributes, characteristics and qualities of your most profitable and accessible market.

Don't just stick with things like demographics and psychographics. Try to get to know them.

Who are they, really? What are their most pressing problems? What keeps them up at night? How do they talk about their problems? Where do they hang out?

Then, target your market by centering on a major theme, benefit or outcome so that, when you generate pre-qualified traffic, your hit ratio and your sales will increase dramatically.

Finally, ensure that your copy connects with them. Intimately. It speaks their language, talks about their problems, and tells stories they can easily appreciate and relate to.

Since this is the most common error that marketers and copywriters commit, and to help you, follow the following formulas.

The OATH formula helps you to understand the stage of awareness your market is at. (How aware of the problem are they, really?)

The QUEST formula guides you in qualifying and empathizing with them. And the UPWORDS formula teaches you how to choose the appropriate language your market can easily understand, appreciate and respond to.

2) They Lack a Compelling Offer

“Making an offer you can't refuse” seems like an old cliché, but don't discount its relevance and power. Especially in this day and age where most offers are so anemic, lifeless, and like every other offer out there.

Too many business believe that simply offering a product or service, and mentioning the price, are good enough. But what they fail to realize is that people need to intimately understand the full value (the real value and, more importantly, the perceived value) behind the offer.

Sometimes, all you need is to offer some premiums, incentives and bonuses to make the offer more palatable and hard to ignore. (Very often, people buy products and services for the premiums alone.)

Other times, you need to create what is called a “value buildup.”

(In fact, premiums are not mandatory in all cases, particularly when the offer itself is solid enough. But building value almost always is.)

Essentially, you compare the price of your offer not with the price of some other competing offer or alternative, but with the ultimate cost of not buying — and enjoying — your product or service.

This may include the price of an alternative. But “ultimate cost” goes far beyond price. Dan Kennedy calls this “apples to oranges” comparisons.

For example, let's say you sell an ebook on how to grow better tomatoes. That might sound simple, and your initial inclination might be to compare it to other “tomatoe-growing” ebooks or viable alternatives.

But also look at the the time it took for you to learn the best ways to grow tomatoes. Look at the amount of money you invested in trying all the different fertilizers, seeds and techniques to finally determine which ones are the best.

Don't forget the time, money and energy (including emotional energy) people save from not having to learn these by themselves. Add the cost of doing it wrong and buying solutions that are either more expensive or inappropriate.

That's what makes an offer valuable. One people can't refuse.

3) They Lack “Reasons Why”

While some websites are well-designed and provide great content, and they might even have great copy, they fail because they don't offer enough reasons for people to buy — or at least read the copy in the first place.

Visitors are often left clueless. In other words, why should they buy? Why should they buy that particular product? Why should they buy that product from that particular site? And more important, why should they buy now?

What makes your product so unique, different and special? What's in it for your customers that they can't get anywhere else? Not answering those questions will deter clients and impede sales.

John E. Kennedy, a Canadian fireman and copywriter at the turn of the last century, talked a lot about the power of adding “reasons why.” His wisdom still rings true to this day, and we know this from experience.

Once, my wife had a client whose website offered natural supplements.

It offered a free bottle (i.e., 30-day supply). But response was abysmal. Aside from being in a highly competitive industry, the copy failed to allay the prospect's fears. They thought it might be a scam or that there's a catch.

So all she did was tell her client to add the following paragraph:

“Why are we offering this free bottle? Because we want you to try it. We're so confident that you will see visible results within 30 days that you will come back and order more.”

Response more than tripled.

Similarly, add “reasons why” to your copy. To help you, make sure that it covers all the bases by answering the following “5 why's:”

  • Why me? (Why should they listen to you?)
  • Why you? (Who is perfect for this offer?)
  • Why this? (Why is this product perfect for them?)
  • Why this price? (Why is this offer so valuable?)
  • Why now? (Why must they not wait?)

4) They Lack Scarcity

Speaking of “why now,” this is probably the most important reason of all.

A quote from Jim Rohn says it all, and I force myself to think about it each time I craft an offer. He said, “Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.”

People fear making bad decisions. With spams, scams and snake oils being rampant on the Internet, people tend to procrastinate, and they do so even when the copy is good, the offer is perfect and they're qualified for it.

Most websites I review fail to effectively communicate a sense of urgency. If people are given the chance to wait or think it over, they will. Look at it this way: if you don't add a sense of urgency, you're inviting them to procrastinate.

Use takeaway selling in order to stop people from procrastinating and get them to take action now. In other words, shape your offer — and not just your product or service — so that it is time-sensitive or quantity-bound.

More important, give a reasonable, logical explanation to justify your urgency or else your sales tactic will be instantly discredited. Back it up with reasons as to why the need to take advantage of the offer is pressing.

Plus, a sense of urgency doesn't need to be an actual limit or a deadline. It can be just a good, plausible and compelling explanation that emphasizes the importance of acting now — as well as the consequences of not doing so.

For example, what would they lose out on if they wait? Don't limit yourself to the offer. Think of all the negative side-effects of not going ahead right now.

5) They Lack Proof

Speaking of the fear of making bad decisions, today's consumers are increasingly leery when contemplating offers on the Internet.

While many websites look professional, have an ethical sales approach, and offer proven products or services, the lack of any kind of tangible proof will still cause most visitors to at least question your offer.

The usual suspects, of course, are testimonials and guarantees. Guarantees and testimonials help to reduce the skepticism around the purchase of your product or service, and give it almost instant credibility.

(I often refuse to critique any copy that doesn't have any testimonials. It's not just to save myself time and energy. I would be wasting my client's money if the only recommendation they got from me was to add testimonials.)

Elements of proof is not just limited to guarantees and testimonials, either.

They can include the story behind your product, your credentials, actual case studies, results of tests and trials, samples and tours, statistics and factoids, photos and multimedia, “seals of approval,” and, of course, reasons why.

Even the words you choose can make a difference. Because, in addition to a sense of urgency, your copy also needs a sense of credibility.

Today, people are understandably cynical and suspicious. If your offer is suspect and your copy, at any point, gives any hint that it can be fake, misleading, untrue, too good to be true, or too exaggerated to be true…

… Then like it or not your response rate will take a nose dive.

So, help remove the risk from the buyer's mind and you will thus increase sales — and, paradoxically, reduce returns as well. Plus, don't just stick with the truth. You also need to give your copy the ring of truth.

To help you, follow my FORCEPS formula.

6) They Lack a Clear Call to Action

Answer this million-dollar, skill-testing question: “What exactly do you want your visitors to do?” Simple, isn't it? But it doesn't seem that way with the many sites I've visited.

The KISS principle (to me, it means “keep it simple and straightforward”) is immensely important on the Internet. An effective website starts with a clear objective that will lead to a specific action or outcome.

If your site is not meant to, say, sell a product, gain a customer or obtain an inquiry for more information, then what exactly must it do? Work around the answer as specifically as possible.

Focus on the “power of one.” That is:

  • One message
  • One audience
  • One outcome

If your copy tells too many irrelevant stories (irrelevant to the audience and to the advancement of the sale), you will lose your prospects' attention and interest.

If it tries to be everything to everyone (and is therefore either too generic or too complex), you will lose your prospects completely.

And if you ask your prospects to do too many things (other than “buy now” or whatever action you want them to take), you will lose sales.

Use one major theme. Make just one offer. (Sure, you can offer options, such as ordering options or different packages to choose from. But nonetheless, it's still just one offer.)

Most important, provide clear instructions on where and how to order.

Aside from the lack of a clear call to action, asking them to do too many things can be just as counterproductive. The mind hates confusion. If you try to get your visitors to do too many things, they will do nothing.

Stated differently, if you give people too many choices, they won't make one. So keep your message focused or else you will overwhelm the reader.

7) They Lack Good Copy

It may seem like this should be the number one mistake.

While it's still one of the top seven mistakes, it's last because the ones above take precedence. If you're guilty of making any of the previous six mistakes, in the end your sales will falter no matter how good your copy is.

Nevertheless, lackluster copy that fails to invoke emotions, tell compelling stories, create vivid mental imagery, and excite your prospects about your product or service is indeed one of the most common reasons websites fail.

Top sales trainer Zig Ziglar once said, “Selling is the transference of enthusiasm you have for your product into the minds of your prospects.”

Copy is selling in print. Therefore, its job is no different. In fact, since there's no human interaction that you normally get in a face-to-face sales encounter, your copy's job, therefore, has an even greater responsibility.

It must communicate that same enthusiasm that energizes your prospects, excites them about your offering and empowers them to buy.

Aside from infusing emotion into your copy, give your prospects something they can understand, believe in and act upon. Like a trial lawyer, it must tell a persuasive story, make an airtight case and remove any reasonable doubt.

Above all, it must serve your prospect.

Many sites fail to answer a person's most important question: “What's in it for me?” They get so engrossed in describing companies, products, features or advantages over competitors that they fail to appeal to the visitor specifically.

Tell the visitor what they are getting out of responding to your offer. To help you, first write down a series of bullets. Bullets are captivating, pleasing to the eye, clustered for greater impact and deliver important benefits.

(They usually follow the words “you get,” such as “With this product, you get.”)

But don't just resort to apparent or obvious benefits. Dig deeper. Think of the end-results your readers get from enjoying your product or service.

Do what my friend and copywriter Peter Stone calls the “so that” technique. Each time you state a benefit, add “so that” (or “which means”) at the end, and then complete the sentence to expand further.

Let's say your copy sells Ginko Biloba, a natural supplement that increases memory function. (I'm not a Ginko expert, so I'm guessing, here. Also, I'm being repetious for the sake of illustration.) Here's what you might get:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can be clear, sharp and focused… so that you can stay on top of everything and not miss a beat… so that you can be a lot more productive at work… so that you can advance in your career a lot faster… so that you can make more money, enjoy more freedom, and have more job security… so that (and so on).

That could have turned another way depending on the answer you give it, which is why it's good to repeat this exercise. Here's another example:

Ginko supports healthy brain and memory functions… so that you can decrease the risks of senility, Alzheimer's disease, and other degenerative diseases of the brain… so that you won't be placed in a nursing home… so that you won't place the burden of your care on your loved ones… so that you can grow old with peace of mind… so that you can enjoy a higher quality of life, especially during those later years… so that (and so on).

Remember, these are just examples pulled off the top of my head. But if you want more help with your own copy, my FAB formula is a useful guide.

Bottom line, check your copy to see if you're committing any of these seven deadly sins. If you are, your prospects won't forgive you. By not buying, that is.