Categories
Copywriting

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Copywriting is often labelled as “wordsmithing.” A wordsmith is someone who uses words to sell a product, a service, or an idea.

But, is copy only about words?

Copywriting comes down to two fundamental tasks: knowing what to say and then how to say it. The first part is the most crucial. After all, the success of your copy hinges greatly on coming up with the right message — i.e., the right angle or story — that moves your readers and makes them move.

To do this, you need to choose the right words to communicate your message, express your story, and connect with your audience.

The second part is just as important. Choosing the best words to not only say what you mean but also add meaning to what you're saying is a wordsmith's most prized weapon in making copy significantly more potent.

Sometimes, the right message isn't enough. It needs to jump out at the reader, grab them by the eyeballs, and shake them into action if not reading further.

So knowing how to say it is communicating the right message in the right way.

But what about formatting, visual aids, graphics, and cosmetics of the text? What about the “design of the copy”? Are words alone enough, especially in today's visually driven world? Some copywriters claim they distract and take the reader's focus away from the message. But I disagree.

Words are extremely important. The words you choose can make or break the sale. But don't discount the cosmetics.

Copy cosmetics give your copy eye gravity. They help to direct the reader's eyes into the story and throughout the page. They also help to drive important points home and may even influence how people perceive you.

But above all, they help to replace the cues, nuances, and nonverbal subtleties that occur in traditional, face-to-face sales encounters.

In my early career as a teacher of professional selling in college, I taught about the nonverbal aspect of communication that can dramatically affect sales.

There are four: Paralinguistics, Kinesics, Haptics, Proxemics, and Chronemics.

Chronemics

Chronemics is the science of timing, which is an important aspect of nonverbal communication. Things like speed of speech, pausing (in sales or professional speaking, it's often called the “pregnant pause”), pacing, and punctuality.

All of these convey deeper meaning and may alter the meaning of the message. Think of comedians: timing is the single, most important aspect of their standup routine. As they say, “It's all in the delivery.”

Poor timing can make any good joke fall flat. Even with theatrics, from tragedies to comedies, actors use timing skillfully to captivate their audiences.

Proxemics

Proxemics is the science of personal space. It's the implied message communicated by the distance between individuals during, for example, a conversation, a meeting, or a shared activity.

This isn't some “Feng Shui-ish” thing. I'm talking about our psychological (and often subconscious) reaction to the distance we maintain with other people.

When someone speaks so closely to you that their nose is almost touching yours, you feel uneasy, as if they're invading your personal space. It's also our tendency to avoid people by standing in the opposite corner of an elevator.

In sales, for instance, sitting across from someone at a desk may unconsciously convey that the other person is being confrontational. That's why some sales training programs tell you to sit side by side with your prospect.

Haptics

Haptics is the science of touching. Psychologists have studied the effects of touching during conversations and how it can influence others.

Like proxemics, too much can seem like an invasion of personal space, and certain parts of the body are obviously off-limits. But a little, done respectfully and appropriately, can add a whole new level of understanding to a message.

For example, they tested how people would react when they were told a certain statement. Here's what research discovered.

A speaker would simply tell the listener a story. Then, they were told another story, but this time the speaker would touch the listener on the forearm lightly and for only a few seconds, particularly when saying something important.

According to the study, subjects in the second test felt the speaker was more believable. They had higher recall scores. Physiologically, they felt more relaxed and comfortable with the speaker. They felt a certain “connection.”

Kinesics

Kinesics is the science of body language. Nonverbal gestures, postures, and facial expressions that communicate nonverbally with others various physical, mental, or emotional states.

Uncrossing of the arms or legs. Raising of the brows. Rubbing of the chin. Leaning forward. All of these can indicate that you're interested in your client — or if the client does it, it can tell you she's interested in your offer.

Kinesics (all forms of nonverbal communication, for that matter) can support, emphasize, or contradict what is being conveyed.

Paralinguistics

Paralinguistics is the most important one. It's how we convey urgency, subtext, intent, and emotion in and of a message. Things like intonation, volume, inflection, resonance, and pitch can affect and even alter the meaning of the message, sometimes quite dramatically.

In a face-to-face sales presentation, these verbal cues are often used to drive important points and emphasize key benefits, which go beyond words.

Here's an example I use in my class.

Inflection is the musical quality of the voice — the verbal ups or downs a word, a syllable, or a series of words. In selling, vocal inflection is probably the most used form of nonverbal communication. Why? Because it can virtually change the entire meaning of a message, even when inflecting a single word.

Take, for example, the following sentence: “I didn't say I love you.” It's pretty straightforward, right? But if I stress one word each time I said it, like this:

Then it could change the meaning completely:

  • Inflecting the word “you” could imply I love someone else.
  • Emphasizing the word “love” might imply I simply like you.
  • Stressing the word “say” could mean I said something else.
  • Accenting the word “didn't” might imply I never said it at all.
  • Or focusing on the first word “I” could mean someone else said it.

It's not what you say, but how you say it.

It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It 1 | nonverbal communication

In copy, we're limited, not by what we want to say but how we want to say it. That's where cosmetics, formatting, and certain visual triggers can become enormously helpful.

Don't add graphics willy-nilly to your copy. Be judicious and strategic.

If you can add a photograph of your product (or if you sell a service, a picture of you in action delivering that service or a client enjoying the benefits of your service), you will likely achieve greater results.

But graphics and pictures aside, the look of the copy is just as important as the words themselves. That's why, when I write copy, I usually pay close attention to the cosmetics. I even call it “copy designing.”

Incorporate visual triggers, cosmetic “commands,” and response devices into your copy, usually with formatting, in order to boost readership and response.

Use it to emphasize certain keywords or keyphrases. I'm not talking about going crazy with different fonts and colors. Otherwise, it will do the opposite of what you intended. Emphasize everything and you emphasize nothing.

I'm talking about strategically placed bolds, italics, typestyles, font sizes, boxes, bullets, colors, white spaces, borders, and so on. (Take, for instance, the way I emphasized certain words in the inflection example earlier.)

As copywriter Martin Hayman noted: “Michael Fortin is right. The way the copy is set out on the page makes a massive difference to the way the reader responds. Typographic practitioners have known this for, oh, centuries.”

Here's just one example.

Over 60 years ago, Frank H. Johnson, a direct mail copywriter, started a new technique to boost the readership and impact of his salesletters.

He would highlight the offer in a centered, rectangular box placed at the very top of the letter above the salutation. Why? Because he wanted to summarize his offer upfront in a way that saved his readers' time and hassle.

Instead of forcing readers to wade through a mass of copy before making the offer, he gave them the essentials, right upfront. The results were astonishing.

Direct mail copywriter Ivan Levinson reports he has seen claims that adding a “Johnson Box” to a plain letter can shoot response rates up by 40%.

You can apply this technique to boxes placed within the heart of the copy in strategic locations, such as right before any call-to-action or when highlighting some of the most important points of your copy.

If your readers skim and scan your copy, J-boxes can often stop them in their tracks and force them to read their contents. They help to inculcate key points you want to drive home.

Consequently, these are perfect locations to put your bonuses, premiums, guarantees, testimonials, factoids, key points, stories, and sidenotes.

There's little your prospects will remember from your copy. But if you use Johnson Boxes, the likelihood they will remember their contents more — and over any other point stated in the rest of the copy — will be stronger.

Nevertheless, the moral is this:

Copy is not just about what you say. It's also about what you mean to say.

Categories
Copywriting

When And How To Use An Alias In Business

A member of my coaching program asked a question about the legality of using a pseudonym or alias when writing marketing communications.

In other words, can he use a pen name?

Stated differently, is it legal to write the copy in the voice of a fictitious character? Or telling the story of, say, a fictitious character enjoying the benefits of whatever you're selling? The short answer is, it depends.

Using an alias or fictitious characters in business is a common practice. However, if you're considering using one, there are a few things you need to know to avoid getting in hot water.

I'm not a lawyer so this is not legal advice. But with my years of research and experience in writing copy, I know enough to say this…

Using an alias or pseudonym is generally fine, as long as within the intrinsic nature of the alias there's no false or misleading information, mentioned or implied, meant to induce the consumer to buy based on that information.

If the alias is used to misrepresent the facts, or indirectly does so by its mere existence, you're breaking the law.

It's like the difference between making a promise versus making a claim.

If your story implies what your clients will get, then you're making a promise. And a promise made by a fictitious character is fine since the character represents the business making it. As long as you deliver on your promises.

(And keeping promises is a different legal ball of wax.)

But if it states what your past clients have done (results they have achieved by using your product or service), then it's a claim. Because the fictitious character represents an implied testimonial, or presents information as fact.

Therein lies the difference.

So ask yourself, does your alias make a promise? Or a claim? If the latter, is the alias a part of that claim? In other words, is the claim fake, too?

Here are two examples to clarify.

1. Alias as Narrator

Your marketing material tells a fictitious or dramatized story of a person who benefits from your product or service.

The story shows your prospects what they should do, and what kind of results they should expect, by watching the story play out. The teller of the story, or the person in the story, is completely fictitious.

This is fine as long as what is promised is true, and you deliver on your promises.

For example, remember this commercial? John Doe gets into a car accident. He picks up the phone and says, “Uh oh, better get Maaco!” The screen fades to a scene in the future with John and his repaired car in the background, shaking hands with a Maaco mechanic and a huge smile across his face.

How many times have you seen commercials like that?

Now, here's the exception…

The fine line is when the story doesn't imply what one should do to benefit from your product or service, but what one has actually achieved, which represents or implies what the person will get based on what was represented as fact.

In other words, it's no longer a promise.

It's a claim.

Stated differently, when the advertisement states or even just implies that John is an actual client, a real person who got that exact service, in that exact way, with those exact results, you are misleading the public.

The story implies people will get the same. Specifically, it is no longer a story but a testimonial. And testimonials, by law, must be true.

The subsequent sale, should any occur, is therefore acquired fraudulently, because people believe that John is a true client and offering a real testimonial for Maaco. The story is presented as fact when it is not true.

And that's illegal.

Remember the story of the Wal-Mart couple who drove their trailer across the United-States, going from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart, camping out in Wal-Mart parking lots, and blogging about their (seemingly only) positive experiences?

The backlash was massive. And merciless.

Legality aside, it became a PR nightmare. Some argue that the stunt would have been safe — and even that's arguable, too — if the blog had a proper disclosure informing readers that the characters were fake.

(In fact, the massive backlash inspired the popularity of the terms “flog” and “flogging,” which means “fake blogging.”)

2. Alias as Provider

If you call yourself a pen name to tell or narrate the story in your copy, and this pen name doesn't mislead, you're OK — as long as it is clear that people are not buying from your fictitious character but from the business it represents.

They are buying from a real business with a real business name. For example, you don't buy burgers from Ronald McDonald himself, right? You buy it from McDonald's restaurants, the business Ronald represents.

Here's a scenario.

When a sales letter is signed by “Mr. X,” and if Mr. X is telling the story in the role of a narrator (not a business entity), then you're fine. In this case, Mr. X is telling the story, and the promise is made on behalf of the commercial entity you're doing business with.

The fine line, in this case, is when you state that Mr. X is a real person, and that person makes claims or presents information as fact on behalf of the commercial entity, such as past experiences, clients, or results.

Generally, this is OK too, as long as the facts are true, and the alias is not the provider with whom you're doing business.

But if you do this, you not only need to include real facts in your story (as always), but also be fully prepared to prove them when asked by either the public or government.

If the FTC ever comes knocking at your door, you better have proper documentation and real proof to back up your claims and save your anatomy!

What about a business name?

Having a business with a fictitious name is definitely legal, provided that you have filed the proper documentation (such as registering your business, incorporating, or filing a “doing business as” statement), and carried out the proper trademark searches.

This is a normal part of doing business, even vital for branding purposes.

The issue is not with the name but when the existence of the business, its actual clients, or any results achieved are works of fiction.

Ultimately, the question to ask is, does it tell a story to make a point? Or does it tell a story to mislead in an attempt to make a sale? Whether intentionally or not, the latter is fraud.

Using an alias is fine as long as you are not making claims as that alias and the alias is responsible for those claims.

You, using your real name or your real business name, can make claims until the sun goes down. You own them and you're on the hook for them. And people know who to turn to if the claims are false.

For example, an alias can state a guarantee if it's doing it on behalf of a company. But the alias is not the one making the guarantee directly, and the company is not trying to hide behind it.

Also, if you use an alias to tell a story, whether dramatized or written in a sales letter, you're generally safe. However, if you make claims under an assumed name, then it is illegal when the assumed name is presented as fact.

Of course, before you ultimately decide to use an alias, particularly if you're concerned about whether or not you're crossing a line, consult with an attorney.

I'm not a lawyer and the above should not be construed as legal advice. Plus, this article should be viewed only as a partial or general opinion and commentary, as every individual case is unique.

It is based on my years of experience, especially working with doctors and lawyers in my early career when I first established my company, originally called The Success Doctor, Inc., which used to focus strictly on doctors and service professionals.

Finally, props go out to my friend Mike Young, Esquire, an Internet marketing lawyer who reviewed my response. (Thanks, Mike!)

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
Interviews

Copywriting Legends Gary Halbert and John Carlton

Calls With Gary Halbert and John Carlton

Recently, I held three rarely given teleseminars — a call with Gary Halbert, another with John Carlton, and a second follow-up call with Gary Halbert. These men are undeniably two of the world's most in-demand copywriters.

Each interview lasted for two hours for a total of six. Both Gary and John kept listeners riveted as they answered pressing questions from people like you and me about how to write effective copy that sells.

Listen online to these copywriting aces as they shoot the breeze and reveal some of their most prized tips. The recordings are available online, and the transcripts are included, too.

Links to The Interviews

First, you can listen to them online as streaming audio. Simply click on the “play” button below each section (it's the first one with the arrow) to start listening. Second, you can also read the transcripts of the calls.

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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.

Categories
Interviews

John Carlton Interview

Call With John Carlton

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:

Categories
Interviews

Gary Halbert Interview #1

First Call With Gary Halbert

This was an interview with the late Gary Halbert. A few weeks later, we did a follow-up call. So be sure to go listen to that one, too.

In the early 2000s, technology wasn't as advanced as it is today. This interview was so overwhelmingly popular, it reached our 1,000-line capacity before the call started. So apologies for the quality, which was less than desirable.

The recording is about two hours long and split into 30-minute segments. (As broadband wasn't fully adopted yet, the split was to help with downloads.) You can listen to each part, download the MP3s, or read the transcripts below.

Other calls and links:

Categories
Interviews

Gary Halbert Interview #2

Second Call with Gary Halbert

This is the 2nd call with Gary Halbert, a few weeks after the first one. It's about two hours long and the recording is split into 30-minute segments. You can listen to each part, download the MP3s, or read the transcripts below.

As with the other calls, keep in mind that, in the early 2000s, broadband wasn't fully adopted yet. The call was also maxed out at capacity. So quality is less than desirable and the split was to help with downloads.

Links to other calls and resources mentioned on the calls: