Does Your Copy Have Personality?

Some people don't mind hard-hitting copy, while others prefer newsy copy. Some people prefer long copy to get as much information as possible, others prefer short, brief, to-the-point copy. Some like drama, stories, and testimonials; others data, statistics, and facts.

Does it all matter? Absolutely.

What makes one style of copy more favorable than another? Why does one person buy from one type of copy and not from another? It really comes down to the buying behavior of your market. And in fact, there are four major personality types.

Before I tell you what they are, remember that the style you choose will not appeal to everyone. It never will. Roy Williams, author of The Wizard of Ads, once noted, “Even some of the best ads miss the mark with at least half of their target audience.”

You may have heard me say this before, but it's important. Don't be all things to all people. If you do, you have no choice but to paint your copy with broad brushstrokes in order to appeal to everyone. Instead, give your copy personality. Even if it offends some.

Otherwise, ads crafted so as not to offend anyone will be counterproductive. They may even backfire. And more importantly, they might be more offensive than you think.

When your target market reads your bland, vanilla copy, it will often shrug it off because they feel you are not catering to them specifically — even if what you're selling does.

Therefore, the more you try not to offend anyone, the more generic you become with your copy. And the more generic you are, the more your copy will be disconnected from your audience. In short, appeal to everyone and you will appeal to no one.

In other words, to your prospect, you appear as if you don't understand them, because your copy doesn't cater to their specific, individual needs, goals, concerns, budget, and unique set of circumstances. Even if the product is perfect for them.

As a result, you alienate most of your market that way.

Sure, your sales copy may avoid offending a minority. But in turn, by genericizing it you inadvertently offend the majority — perhaps in a subtle, indirect, or unconscious way — because you appear as if you simply don't care.

You see, ads are distinctive. They're alive. They're like pieces of art. Each one has a certain personality. And no matter what you do, like it or not that personality may attract some people and repulse others at the same time.

Your goal, therefore, is to directly and distinctly appeal to the majority, in spite of the minority. Otherwise, try to be too general (or better said, “too generic”) with your copy, and the result will be copy that's bland, anemic, and unproductive.

Your copy offers more than just information. It also presents that information in a way that the majority of your target audience better appreciates, absorbs, and acts upon it.

Catering to the majority won't just be conducive to the greatest results but also begins the all-important process of building a relationship with your market.

A lot of marketers think that targeting your market means you must put your ad in front of qualified buyers. But it means more than that. It also means to write and mold the copy in a way that the message targets them, too. That is, it targets their personality.

Therefore, it's not only best to target one market at a time but also to target one predominant buyer personality at a time, too. That way, your information is presented in a way that your market feels the copy is centered on them. And them alone.

So how do you do target your market's personality?

Over the years, psychologists and behavioral scientists have categorized personality styles. They may have labeled them differently, but they are generally the same. They all come down to essentially four different personality styles.

Is this some new science? No. Around 400 B.C.E., Hippocrates, in “Air, Water And Places,” dubbed these four types as Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric, and Melancholic.

In recent times, Roy Williams, in one of his articles, calls them Spontaneous, Humanistic, Competitive, and Methodical. Behavioral scientist and motivational speaker, Dr. Tony Alessandra, labels them as Directors, Socializers, Relaters, and Thinkers.

They are essentially all the same.

(For more, visit Dr. Alessandra's “The Platinum Rule.” The Golden Rule states that you should do unto others as you would want to have done unto you. But Tony defines The Platinum Rule as: “Do unto others as they would want to have done unto them.”)

However, the most common labels given to them — the ones most marketing textbooks use, including the same textbooks from which I used to teach marketing management in college — are: Driver, Expressive, Analytical, and Amiable.

Those are the labels I prefer and will be using for the remainder of this article.

Where do these labels come from and what do they mean?

Essentially, personality styles are defined by two key behavioral characteristics, which are assertiveness and responsiveness. The category — or label, if you will — is based on one of four combinations of how assertive and responsive they are.

For example, a person can be:

  1. High assertive and low responsive, or a driver.
  2. High assertive and high responsive, or an expressive.
  3. Low assertive and low responsive, or an analytical.
  4. Low assertive and high responsive, or an amiable.

Responsiveness, which is expressed outwardly, is how well a person responds to others. Assertiveness is expressed inwardly, and it's how well they assert themselves.

For example, some people are task-driven while others are results-driven. Some people are more emotional than factual, and others vice versa. Some are ego-driven and self-absorbed, others are people-pleasers and focused on those around them.

But to explain it visually, and one of the more popular models (and the best one for copywriting purposes), is by looking at these styles in the form of a quadrant. The key is to determine where one's level of responsiveness and assertiveness intersect.

With all things being equal, your target audience will predominantly fall into one of these styles. Granted, it may not precisely fit into a single, neat category, and your entire market may not fit one specific style.

But keep in mind, the keyword here is “predominant.”

(If they do fall into multiple categories, you might want to create different products, offers, and sales copy for each one. The more congruent your message is with your market, the more sales you will make. I'll come back to this later as it is important.)

Nevertheless, depending on your product, your industry, and both the demographics and psychographics of your target audience, it is safe to say that the majority of them will likely demonstrate one particular style more than any other.

To give you an idea, here's a brief look at them:

Drivers Prefer Results

They are practical, impatient, and time-sensitive. A Driver is a person who usually is more concerned with the bottom-line. They want to know how long does it take to get your product, what kind of results they can expect, and how much does it cost.

Bankers, sales managers, purchasing agents, businesspeople, corporate executives, and so on are typically Drivers. They don't care how to get from point “A” to point “B.” They just want to know if and when you can get them to point “B.”

Analyticals Prefer Details

They don't care much about results. They're driven by facts and far more interested in the inner workings of your product. They might want to know what is its exact size, where and of what is it made, what are the ingredients, what features does it possess, what kind of guarantees do you offer with it, and what, precisely, makes it work.

Scientists, developers, mathematicians, engineers, computer programmers, doctors, and so on are mainly Analyticals. They want facts and just the facts. So give them statistics, data, specifications, ingredients, measurements, etc. The more, the merrier.

Expressives Prefer Feelings

Status and recognition are important to Expressives. How they perceive things and how other people perceive them take precedence. They are mostly impulsive, colorful, ego-centric, undisciplined, and spontaneous. They prefer to talk than to listen.

Actors, teachers, musicians, artists, graphic designers, movie directors, comedians, etc fall in the Expressive category. They buy mostly for the sake of prestige of ownership, or to boost their standing in their communities, organizations, or peer groups.

(For instance, Expressives are the types of people who intentionally park their brand new luxury car on the street so that the neighbors can see them.)

Amiables Prefer Relationships

They are emotional, caring, and humanistic. They're social-minded and care deeply about the relationships they hold. How your product will help others and strengthen the relationships they maintain with them will be of utmost importance to Amiables.

It's not uncommon for Amiables to hold careers as salespeople, social workers, human resource personnel, consultants, and so on. If your product solves a problem, that's good. But if it allows your prospect to solve other people's problems, that's even better.

So how do you appeal to your buyer's personality?

At this point, you should have an idea of how to cater to buyer personality styles.

With Drivers, be pithy and give them the bottom line. With Analyticals, offer cold, hard information rather than hype and stories. With Expressives, tell them how you will make them look good. And with Amiables, use testimonials, stories, and anecdotes.

For instance, avoid lacing your copy with feelings and emotions when your audience is comprised of Analyticals. Be specific, objective, and factual, and refrain from hyperbole or drama. Analyticals are also highly skeptical, so offer as much proof as you can.

Sure, you can — and must — be emotional. All humans are. Even analyticals make purchasing decisions based on emotion first. But don't do so at the expense of facts. Back it up with logic and lots of it with which they can justify their decisions.

While an Analytical will never have enough information, don't drown your visitors with needless details when they consist of Drivers. Be quick, pithy, and straight to the point. If you use long copy, make sure it makes a point and sticks to the point. Consistently.

However, be sensitive and friendly when pitching to Amiables. Use stories, case studies, and testimonials. Take your time with them. Be warm and interactive. In fact, your relationship with them is just as important as the benefits of your product.

For Expressives, talk about how the product will make them feel, boost their status, and get others to notice and compliment them. Or how the product will make others around them cringe in horror, turn green with envy, or even be humiliated.

Here's a real-life scenario. A patient visits a dentist for an initial consultation.

The Analytical will be preoccupied mostly with the details of dental work. Knowing precisely how much freezing will be applied, which specific teeth (and parts thereof) will be repaired, and what kind of filling will be used are of enormous interest to him.

On the other hand, a Driver will want to know how long will the procedure take, how fast can he return to work after the procedure is done, and, of course, how much will it cost. Everything else is unimportant and irrelevant.

But for the Amiable, they are mostly concerned with their ability to please their spouse, friends, or boss with their improved appearance. They want to know if going ahead will improve their relationships and make others happy, as well as secure others' approval.

The Expressive, however, will be interested with how good will their new teeth look, how much pain such a procedure might incur, how their teeth will change their appearance, and how attractive the procedure is going to make them.

Again, your market will likely fall into one predominant category. In other words, the majority of your market will fit into one category more than any other.

Depending on your type of industry and the kind of product you're selling, the style of your message should chiefly appeal to that one specific personality style.

For example, if your product caters to expectant mothers, you will definitely speak to them differently than if you were to cater to entrepreneurs or sports fanatics.

But what if your market consists of more than one?

What if your market consists of strong, identifiably different groups? In other words, what if you have more than one predominant personality type in your target audience? If so, I submit that you can have a different ad or salesletter directed at each different market.

It's market segmentation, pure and simple.

You split your market into groups, and cater to each one separately and individually. Large corporations and retailers have been doing this for years. Take Coke versus Diet Coke, or Levis' Red Tabs sold in high-end stores, versus Wal-Mart's Orange Tab Levis.

Even if it's the same product and they happen to fall into more than one category in high enough numbers, then you might want to cluster your market into groups, and create a new offer and sales copy that target each distinct segment.

For example, a clever entrepreneur can take a product and package it, price it, and sell it to two different audiences on two different websites — and thus maximize sales from all potential market segments. Even creating her own competition, in some cases.

The bottom line is, give your copy personality, and your response will shoot through the roof. Sure, you might alienate a few. But what would you rather have: generic copy that pleases more but sells less? Or targeted copy that offends few but sells more?

As the late, great copywriter, Gary Halbert, used to say in response to his detractors regarding his pointed, discriminate personals ad: “Don't be so preoccupied with upsetting the dogs when you're trying to sell the foxes. Concentrate on the foxes.”


The Oft-Confused Features And Benefits

If you've been a student of marketing for some time, then I'm sure you've heard of the saying: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

That quote by Theodore Levitt is probably one of the most quoted passages in marketing in trying to explain the difference between features and benefits.

However, I believe the quote is incomplete and leaving out something that, to me, is far more important. And that is, what's the purpose of this quarter-inch hole? What does the reader plan on doing with it? Even better, what's the end-result the reader wants to achieve with it?

The answer to that question is, in my estimation, the real benefit. The ultimate benefit.

Not the hole. And certainly not the drill that created it.

Sure, it is a benefit to some degree. But “benefit,” defined in the dictionary, is “something that improves, enhances, or promotes well-being.” So let me ask you, how is one or one's well-being enhanced by a quarter-inch hole?

To make offers truly irresistible, words should appeal to specific buyer motives. Common copywriting wisdom dictates that the first rule in doing so is to stress benefits over features. Think benefits, benefits, benefits. Sounds simple, right?

Not really. For if it were, a website would be successful simply if it listed a product's features and its subsequent benefits. And we all know that is not true. Many benefit-laden copy have failed. So you need more than that.

In an attempt to provide you with some guidance on how to dig deeper to find better, more compelling benefits, here's a tool I've used to help you.

The Product Analysis Worksheet

One of the classes I used to to teach in college was Professional Selling. In it, the curriculum's textbook was “Personal Selling: An Interactive Approach,” by Ronald Marks, Ph.D., a professor of marketing at the University of Missouri.

In this book, Dr. Marks discusses the ability to convey benefits over features using a tool he calls Product Analysis Worksheet. The way it works is quite simple.

Product benefits usually consist of four principal levels. They are features, advantages, motives, and benefits. Each layer has its own set of attributes and characteristics, which varies depending on the product type and the market to which the product caters.

To illustrate, here's a description of each layer:

  1. Features — what products have. For example, say you sell an accounting software. You can say, “This accounting software has a reporting feature.”
  2. Advantages — what features do. To continue our example, “Reporting provides real-time, on-demand, updated mission-critical information to key personnel.”
  3. Motives — what motives do features satisfy. For example, “Cost-savings, greater control, increased production, better decisions, etc.”
  4. Benefits — what those features mean. This is where you attach the advantages you outlined to specific motives those features satisfy. To continue our example…

    “With this powerful reporting feature, managers are able to keep their finger on your company's financial pulse at all times, thereby reducing costs by as much as 50%, maintaining greater control over expenditures, increasing their output by 10-20 times at any given time, and avoiding making decisions that could cost them thousands if not millions of dollars — all in just a few clicks.”

What does this do? By digging deeper and communicating what benefits really mean to your audience, it adds weight, purpose, meaning, relevancy, and power behind the benefits you initially come up with. It gives your benefits legs.

Obviously, coming up with a list of benefits may be easy if you know your product well enough. But describing them in a way that's appropriate for, and directly related and targeted to, specific audiences is not an easy process.

Market research helps to solve that challenge. In fact, researching your market before you put pen to paper or electron to screen is the most important component of good copywriting. Not the headline, not the offer, and not the price.

The market.

The market is the single most important component of your sales copy. The more you learn about your market, the better and more effective your copy will be.

For example, a common problem among marketers is to develop content using a language their readers will understand. Sure, readers may understand what's being said to some degree. But comprehension of a message doesn't mean they will relate to it.

The problem is, marketers often use words that only they can relate to.

This is quite normal as we write in the way we think or talk.

However, the goal in writing good, compelling copy is to think like our readers, talk like our readers, and connect with our readers. This is where much of the copy I see fails.

Even yours truly is guilty of this from time to time. We're too married to our product, or we're too disconnected from how and what our readers think, feel, and communicate. This is where the “product analysis worksheet” can become very helpful.

Here's how it works…

First, list all of the features of your product or service, including standard, technical, supportive, even abstract features. Then, with each feature, develop a subsequent list of relative advantages. Write down what each feature listed does.

Some people think that what a feature does is the benefit. But this is where most business owners and copywriters fail to relate those benefits to their readers.

They assume an advantage is a benefit and stop there, when those benefits are too broad or one-sided. Instead, the feature's function or purpose, not how it actually serves, relates to, and benefits the reader, is merely an advantage.

While a feature is what a product has and an advantage is what that feature does

… A Benefit is What That Feature Means.

A benefit is what a person intimately gains from a specific feature. It's the ultimate end-result. When you describe a feature, say this: “What this means to you, Mr. Prospect, is this…” Followed by a more personal gain your reader gets from the feature.

Turn it around. don't focus on a certain feature's benefit. Rather, focus on how those features specifically benefit the individual and what those benefits truly mean.

Here's an example using my private membership website, where members get access to videos of me tearing sales copy apart, and revealing copywriting tips, tricks, and actual, tested conversion strategies in the process.

  • Feature: Watch a top copywriter in action as he writes killer copy, all recorded on video, using real salesletters and real websites from real clients.
  • Advantage: You get to learn how to write copy faster by understanding the logic behind successful copy (not just how to write it), and also learn copywriting tips, mistakes, shortcuts, and proven split-test results in the process.
  • Motive: What you want is to reduce the learning curve, risks, effort, and costs involved in trying to do it all yourself. Therefore, what this feature means is this…
    • Benefit #1: This means you get real-world examples from real case studies and actually see the process done before you, instead of plain textbook theory or mere swipe files that leave you scratching your head.
    • Benefit #2: Using real-world examples means you can understand what goes into world-class copy and appreciate how they're being used, so you can easily repeat the process on your own, in the future.
    • Benefit #3: Repeating the process on your own means you don't have to pay an expensive copywriter to write it for you or fix it if it's not performing well.
    • Benefit #4: Not having to pay for a copywriter means you save money and get it done faster by learning proven strategies you can apply immediately, without waiting for someone to do it for you or explain it to you in some “how-to” course.
    • Benefit #5: And learning proven, tested strategies means you eliminate the need to search for, find, test, and learn everything yourself, and avoid making costly mistakes by having to figure out what works and what doesn't on your own.

… And on and on.

Can You See The Difference?

Now, once achieved, look at your worksheet.

Did you cover all the benefits that a specific feature has? Did you go deep and specific enough? 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.

Coming up with the first batch will be easy because they will be at the top of your mind. But forcing yourself to dig deeper and come up with stronger, more intimate benefits, although it will be more challenging, will provide you with some of the best ones.

To help you, here's a simple exercise.

Once you've listed one benefit tied to a specific feature, just keep asking, “What this means to you is this…” And work it until you run out of reasons.

Or use what copywriter Peter Stone calls the “so that” technique. Same idea, but add the words “so that” at the end, like, “With this feature, you get [benefit], so that [deeper benefit], so that [even deeper benefit],” and so on until you can't go any further.

Once you're done, you then move onto the next feature.

Remember that features tell but benefits sell.

Above all, make sure you communicate those benefits in a way that truly reflects and caters to the situations, problems, needs, and desires of your target market. Express benefits in terms that relate directly to each individual in that market.

Some people shy away from describing benefits because they assume they generate hype or puffery. Not so. As illustrated above, they are effective tools to get your readers to fully understand and appreciate your product's true purpose, meaning, and relevancy.

After all, different words mean different things to different people.

In other words, forget features and what they do, which is what most people think are benefits. Think of what a feature means to the customer and the words that communicate this meaning at an individual, intimate, and emotional level.

Because the more intimate your benefits are, the more real, vivid, significant, and meaningful they will be. And subsequently, the more sales you will generate, too.


How to Write a Persuasive News Release

The most profitable and often overlooked free publicity generator is the news release (also called “press release”, although news release is a better term).

News releases are not only great marketing tools but also far more credible and believable than advertising since they appear to come from an objective third party.

While publicity is the most powerful promotional tool there is, it is the one that is the least effectively used.

All too often, business owners view news releases as a form of advertising. The copy is self-serving, promotional in tone, and one-sided, and offer no real value to a news-reading audience.

Don't get me wrong. The media's goal is to report on stories that affect, or are of interest to, their readers or viewers. So, news releases are their best friends — but only if they follow a few important guidelines.

The media are constantly on the lookout for good stories that are of interest to their audience. Reporters, writers, producers, and editors have a particular interest in reporting on stories that help to enhance sponsorship interest in the medium that they represent.

The first and most important thing to keep in mind is, news releases are not ads. The media are not in the business to provide free advertising. If you're guilty of this, they will most likely tell you that you should have called the advertising department instead.

But if done right, they can provide an incredible amount of free exposure, generate instant credibility, and persuade audiences more effectively than most paid advertisements can.

So, what makes a good story?

While the answer to such a subjective question can be difficult, here are a few pointers in order to guide you in writing and targeting your news releases.

Be Newsworthy, NOT Promotional

Reporters are always looking for newsworthy items on which to report — that's what reporters do. But they specifically like human interest stories, stories that are related to current events or important issues, or those that have some emotional appeal.

Larger media also like stories that appeal to a wide audience. Targeted or specialized media, on the other hand, love to report on stories that appeal to their specific market and thus help capture more of it. In turn, they can qualify interested prospects far more effectively than some mainstream, large-circulation medium.

Of course, the foundational component of the news release is the news aspect. A good story must be newsworthy for it to be considered.

While there are thousands of ways to present a news release, there is no one “correct” way of doing it. There are as many different ways to present a news release as there are publications out there.

For example, in my experience the news release should not tell the entire story. If you do have a good story to tell, your news release should provide enough information to generate interest and it must say just enough to incite the media to want to know more.

A news release is like a resume, which is not meant to land a job but to land an interview. In the same way, a news release is not meant to get instant media coverage but should be used as a tool for sparking interest and curiosity among a very busy and exceedingly leery staff of reporters and editors — and it must do so quickly and efficiently.

Therefore, the headline as well as the first few lines should instantly communicate something worthy of their attention. In fact, news releases should at least possess certain key elements, which are:

  • A strong, compelling headline;
  • An appealing, informative story;
  • A professional, tasteful appearance;
  • A number of quotes and reactions;
  • And the sender's contact information.

More important, your news release must be devoid of any conspicuous fluff. Unlike hard-hitting, hype-filled salesletters, news releases are more intriguing, content-driven, and informative or educational in nature.

Remember that a reporter is not just a middleperson whose job is to report your story for you. Your release must sell the reporter on your story as well. Therefore, write it to read like a story. Look at it from the reporter's perspective. In other words, write the story for them.

An excellent news release can also be a powerful business tool for gaining free media coverage for your company, product, or service — and keep in mind that media coverage tends to be a more effective form of promotion than advertising since it is coming from an objective third party.

It can be used for announcing important company changes, special events, new appointments or recruits within your organization, or the launch of your company's new product, service, or website.

Be Unique, NOT Superior

Focus on leadership rather than superiority. This can be easily achieved by being the first in some category. When you're the first in something or in some way, you not only attract attention but also generate implied superiority, which is more powerful than some nebulous claim or platitude.

Other than using controversy, or better yet riding the coattails of a major news item or an important social issue, being unique in some way helps to generate a lot of buzz almost instantly. It's an effective tool that can also help spark more interest in your news release.

Remember, your news release is selected because — and often, only because — of what it can do for the medium.

Buzz generates higher readership. Since the media profits by selling advertising, and prices it based on their audience size, then the more interesting your story is to their readers the greater the chances will be they will select your story.

For example, if you can support the fact that your product is the first in its category, that your service is the first to be delivered in a certain way, or that your event is the first or largest of its kind, you can and should use that information in your news release.

Obviously, a company claiming to be the best is never a news item. But a company claiming to be the first at something always is. Capitalize on it when approaching the media. Look for ways to market your story differently by presenting it with a different angle or a unique twist.

For example, think of the times you've seen a story about someone starting a business. While it may sound trivial or insignificant, if that person is also a local politician, suffers from a disability, or has 10 children, then the story isn't as trivial.

In other words, bring your own unique angle or experience into your news release. Never discount the power of telling your own personal story.

Here's a real-life example. One of my clients was an inventor and entrepreneur. His product was a backpack with special, large straps that made carrying it a little more comfortable.

The funny thing is, after some questioning I later discovered that he lost one leg in a car accident. After some prodding, he confided that his invention was the result of wanting to lessen the pressure of the backpack's weight on his shoulders because of his single leg.

At first, he felt his story was insignificant. Since most hikers are two-legged and comprise the bulk of his target market, he concluded that his story would take away from the benefits of his product.

Well, I told him to capitalize on his seemingly “insignificant” story.

Even though he wasn't a hiker, the news release talked about his lack of one leg as being the inspiration behind the creation of his backpack. The headline? “One-legged man lightens hikers' loads.”

The key is to be able to capture the interest of reporters who are bombarded with literally thousands of news releases each and every business day.

As in this case, human interest aspects are wonderful tools to spark interest. Adding a special human element or some emotional appeal — even blending it with an important social issue — will up your chances.

Don't Inform, Connect!

For a great sample of an effective news release, take a look at this one by work-at-home mom Leslie Spencer. She operates an online professional association called “Home-Based Working Moms (HBWM),” which offers education and resources for mothers who run home-based businesses.

Her goal was ultimately to get exposure to, and to increase memberships of, a specific target market. (By the way, Leslie follows another important rule of online marketing — niche marketing, which is also a great way for gaining attention from the media.)

She wrote an excellent news release that successfully tied-in the benefits of her business with the current challenges faced by most stay-at-home moms — women who want to be more involved with their children while at the same time contributing to the family's income.

Her news release, entitled “The New Entrepreneur: Shorts, Shirt and… a Stroller? Moms Find Ways to Combine Career with Children,” provides the media with a great story to tell.

That said, you may feel that you're not a skilled writer — either that or you probably don't have the time to write one let alone distribute it.

The following are great sources for help in writing, targeting, and distributing news releases, particularly electronically. Many provide the full service while others only provide guidelines as well as lists of media contacts.

Target Your Market… And Your Media

A news release sent to the general media often gets lost in a sea of others. Most often, it will end up on some editor's desk where your story will be screened and, if judged newsworthy, passed along to a particular reporter in the organization.

However, special features writers, columnists, radio show hosts, news anchors, specialized media representatives, special interest publishers, trade publication editors, specialty channel producers, radio show (or segment) hosts and so on are particularly beneficial.

First, a news release sent to a specific person (and not the general newsroom or media entity) has definitely better chances of being noticed and reported — it doesn't have to go through so many hands.

While it may require a little research, remember that the media are made up of people too. They like the personalized approach just as much as your clients do.

Second, targeting your news release is far more effective, for the results you want your release to achieve will be substantially higher when reported in a medium that targets your specific market as precisely as possible.

Ask the following: “Where does my niche or target market hang out? What do they read? What shows do they watch? What programs do they prefer? To which ezines or blogs are they subscribed? What websites do they surf? On what discussion boards or forums do they participate? With what associations or trade organizations are they affiliated?”

The media's greatest concern is their audience and especially their ratings (because it leads to advertising revenue), not the stories on which they report. Therefore, targeting your media is just as important as targeting your market.

Often, specialized publications or media will be much more receptive to your news release than a larger, more generic entity, since it specifically and more directly relates to their audiences.

But the added benefit is, not only your chances of being reported will increase, but also you will, in turn, attract qualified, targeted prospects.


How to Make Your Name Memorable

Part of my job as a copywriter includes, from time to time, creating names for businesses, products, and services. Choosing a name may be the single, most important business decision you will ever make.

We are constantly bombarded with marketing messages. Limited by people's very short attention span, your marketing message has to be effective to the degree that it must communicate its essence and create top-of-mind awareness within an extremely short amount of time.

Names are often the best tools — and sometimes the only ones — for accomplishing this efficiently.

In the game of positioning, your name has to stick firmly in the mind of the marketplace and must do so instantly. While uniqueness is an important factor, there are many other elements that can help the anchoring process — elements that help a name become memorable as well as chosen when a customer experiences a specific need or desire.

So, here are some simple rules to follow when choosing a name for your company or product.

What Does it Do?

To make a company or product name truly memorable, it should convey its main feature or benefit. It should be suggestive. Even if it's unique, it should, in some way, communicate what it is or does in one fell swoop.

If I give you the word “Die Hard” for instance, you will think of a battery that dies hard. If I tell you “Jiffy Lube,” you will naturally assume that it's a garage offering oil changes in a jiffy. If I tell you “Band-Aid,” you will picture an adhesive bandage that comes to your aid. If I said “Minute Rice,” you will assume it's rice that cooks in minutes.

Suggestive names don't have to be genetic, either. You can easily create a unique name, which somehow communicates its core benefit, its purpose, or at least its nature.

Think of names like “Kleenex” (cleanliness), “Windex,” (windows), “Duracell” (durable battery cell), “Nicoderm” (nicotine skin patches), “Cusinart” (kitchen accessories), “Pine-Sol” (pine solvent or cleaner), “Travelocity” (travel), etc.

Names that do not convey at least the basic nature of a company will be easily forgotten. This includes hard-to-pronounce words, abbreviations, and acronyms such as “MGF Holdings LLC.”

It also includes self-titled companies such as “Michel Fortin International” (which was, believe it or not, the name of my original company close to 20 years ago — one that nonetheless failed — and later changed to The Success Doctor, Inc.).

Benefits are particularly effective because such a name would make a company or product instantly appear as if it had some added value. When placed alongside a competitor offering an identical product, a benefit-based name positions itself above the competition in the mind.

As a result, the name will thus be quickly remembered when people make their decision to buy.

Rhymes Move Minds

Since the invention of the printing press, the written word has made it easy for us to forget names. Consequently, the process of rhyming has in the same way gradually fallen out of favor.

But strangely, what we remember the most are, for example, the nursery rhymes that we were told as children. In today's memory management courses, people are told to use rhymes and word association in order to improve their memory.

Rhyming is therefore effective because it is pleasing to the ear and helps to hook words easily in the mind. Beyond ease-of-recall, rhyming also tends to add credibility.

Psychology professor Dr. Matthew McGlone, in his article “The Keats Heuristic: Rhyme as Reason in Aphorism Interpretation,” has found that rhymes not only make a phrase more memorable, they also make it more believable. According to his research, people preferred “woes unite foes” over “misfortune unite foes” or “woes unite enemies.”

We are a beauty-driven culture, and words are not excluded. The esthetically pleasing sound of a rhyme makes it cognitively easier to assign greater perceived value, accuracy, and believability. In other words, rhymes confer a greater sense of credibility.

As Dr. McGlone points out, “People often attribute the aesthetic quality of a rhyme to the statement's validity, which suggests that people may unknowingly equate beauty (a rhyme's singsong quality) with truth.”

(According to his research, while it may not be the only reason, a major factor that played in O.J. Simpson's acquittal during his murder trial was certainly Johnny Cochrane's incessant claim, “If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!”)

While some names can easily rhyme since they use multiple words (e.g., “Blinds of All Kinds,” “Lean Cuisine,” “Reese's Pieces,” or “Ronald McDonald”), most names are made up of only one word.

If they can not rhyme at least within themselves (e.g., “Rodeo,” “YouTube,” or “Coca-Cola”), then the job would be conferred unto their taglines — those small sentences that follow and complement names.

For example, if I said “It takes a licking but keeps on ticking,” you will probably remember this phrase if not instantly recognize the product with which this tagline is associated. And if the tagline rhymes with the name (such as “Uh, Oh! Better get Maaco!” or “When you need an edge, use Pledge”), the name will stick even more effectively as a result.

(For instance, a recent example is Windows® Vista's “The Wow Starts Now.”)

Repetition Resonates

What do “Saran-Wrap,” “Coca-Cola,” “Krispy Kreme,” “Chucky Cheese,” “Willy Wonka,” “Barbie,” “Google,” “Hamburger Helper,” “Crispy Crunch,” “Blockbuster,” and “Pipeline Profits” all have in common?

Rhymes are not limited to vowels (often called “foot rhymes”). Sometimes, head rhymes (or “alliteration”) can create the same effect as the other. Why? It is because they all do the same thing. It contains repetition.

The repetition of consonants give a name that pleasant and obviously effective singsong quality. Repetition makes a name memorable by making the pronunciation more simple. In other words, it is definitely easier to remember a string of similar sounds than it is to remember a combination of totally different sounding words.

(Did you “see the softer side of Sear's” lately?)

In fact, consonants are great for many other reasons. Studies show that strong-sounding or “choppy” consonants (like the sound of “P,” “D,” “T” and “K”), used particularly at the beginning, help recall by adding emphasis.

They are called plosives. And according to naming guru Steve Rivkin, who co-wrote “The New Positioning” with Jack Trout, “It makes linguistic sense to start a brand name with a strong-sounding consonant or plosive.”

Plosives, and rhymes and alliteration specifically, help to make a name more memorable. These are called mnemonics. Mnemonics are not only useful but also effective, particularly in the branding process.

Bottom line, from the simplest product to the most abstract or complex technical service, a memorable name helps to make the company or product memorable as well. In fact, it may even become genericized and used as the term that defines all others in its category.

(By the way, can you Xerox that document and FedEx it, please? If you don't know how, just Google it.)


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:


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:


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:


What Performs Better: Long Copy Or Short Copy?

Here's a reprint of an answer I gave a student in another forum who asked:

“Long copy? Or short copy?”

1. Long copy versus short copy has been the single greatest debate since the beginning of the printing press. But long copy always outperforms short copy. Don't be long for the sake of being long. Be long for the sake of providing as much information as is needed to make the sale — and not one word more.

2. People object to reading copy because: a) they are not targeted and b) the copy is boring. “Length” is the excuse because it's a common currency. “Boring” is subjective. “Long” is objective. When copy starts to bore you, you naturally are inclined to say it's “too long.” It's too long because of the fact that it started to drag, causing the reader to lose interest.

3. Speaking of targeting, this is crucial. The previous poster said, “I would read it if it's something I'm interested in, like John's” And that's exactly the key. As Dan Kennedy said:

The person who says ‘I would never read all that copy' makes the mistake of thinking they are the customer. And they're not. We are never our own customers.

There's a thing in copywriting I teach called ‘message-to-market match'. It is this: when your message is matched to a target market that has a high level of interest in it, not only does responsiveness go up but readership goes up, too. The whole issue of interest goes up.

The truth about long copy is that, first of all, there's abundant, legitimate, statistical research, that's split-testing research, to indicate that virtually without exception, long copy outperforms short copy.

There's some significant research has been done that indicate that readership falls off dramatically at 300 words but does not again drop off until 3,000 words.

— Dan Kennedy

As Dan says, what you can pull from that is this: people who dropped off at 300 words weren't qualified for your offer in the first place. They wouldn't have bought from you after 300 words much less after 50 or 5,000 words.

4. Recent web usability studies show that people respond more favorably to more copy on less pages. Here's an interesting study on long scrolling web pages by the folks at User Interface Engineering. They found that people prefer longer scrolling copy over short, multiple pages.

I particularly like these 3 passages:

1. “Our research shows that fewer, longer pages may be the best approach for users. In the trade-off between hiding content below the fold or spreading it across several pages, users have greater success when the content is on a single page.”

2. “Increasing the levels of information, similar to adding sections to an outline, also seemed to help users.”

3. “Users may tell us they hate scrolling, but their actions show something else. Most users readily scrolled through pages, usually without comment.”

Read the results of the study here.

5. Plus, here's my reasoning behind long copy sales pages over multiple, smaller pages. For a single product-focused “mini-site,” this process is proven to have the best results in split-tests. Clicking to another page causes what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” (Also known as “buyer's remorse” or having “2nd thoughts.”)

The idea is that, by clicking to another page while one is engaged in the reading process of sales copy forces readers to think twice, as it causes a brief, mental dissassociation or distraction, which interrupts the flow, momentum and intensity of the sales pitch.

6. And best of all, recent tests conducted by prove, without a doubt, that long copy outperforms short copy. Reprinted:

In the first test, we sent traffic to two landing pages using Google AdWords. The first page was the home page, which contained short copy describing the product. The second page was similar, but featured a much longer article about the product. Both pages prompted visitors to click through to the order page, from which point they would be taken to the shopping cart.

Our initial results were gathered after a five-day period:

Test 1 – Short Copy
Clicks = 810
Cost = $94.29
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $271.75
ROI = -14%
Conversion = 0.37%
Test 1 – Long Copy
Clicks = 1,163
Cost = $135.61
CPC = $0.10
Revenue = $547.50
ROI = +21%
Conversion = 0.52%

In our initial micro-test, long copy outperformed short copy by 40.54%. Click-through traffic sent to the short copy page was unprofitable (-14% ROI), while traffic sent to the long copy page produced an ROI of 21%.

In this first micro-test, it appears that the long copy page performed much better than the short copy page. However, a five-day period is not enough to account for statistical fluctuations that may skew our real results. So we continued to test.

We maintained the same test, expanded our keyword bidding slightly, and gathered additional results over the subsequent five days:

Test 2 – Short Copy
Clicks = 1,700
Cost = $258.62
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $295.75
ROI = -66%
Conversion = 0.18%
Test 2 – Long Copy
Clicks = 1,440
Cost = $218.83
CPC = $0.15
Revenue = $1,094.15
ROI = +50%
Conversion = 0.69%

Again, long copy outperformed short copy, this time by an even greater factor of nearly four to one. Our ROI was a dismal -66% for the short copy page and a very respectable 50% for the long copy page.


In general, long copy offers the following advantages:

1. Your visitors will have most of their questions answered and will have less anxiety about ordering from you.

2. Long copy can reduce customer service by qualifying your customers to a greater degree.

3. Long copy with bolded or emphasized points can allow some of your visitors to skim, while others more interested in specifics can find all the information they want. In this sense, long copy gives visitors more options.

4. Long (and interesting) keyword-rich copy often performs well in natural search engines.

Even more…

The long vs. short debate often overlooks the most important factor when it comes to website copy: quality. High-quality short copy will outperform poorly written long copy every time.

The best possible copy should be developed and tested before you even begin to worry about the long vs. short debate. Utilize an A-B split test. This will ensure that other factors (such as time, traffic source, and so on) do not skew your results.

And finally…

Copy should be long enough to do its job effectively, and not a word longer. Long copy for the sake of long copy is not to your benefit. Always keep in mind the primary goal of your website's copy (to sell your product or service, to solicit subscriptions, etc.).

Utilize bullets and/or numbered lists where appropriate. These make it easier for visitors to digest your information and prevent your pages from becoming one long block of gray. Utilize testimonials. Praise from your satisfied customers is much more effective than self-praise.

While our initial Long Copy vs. Short Copy micro-tests returned results clearly in favor of long copy, true optimization of your own website's copy will only come through your own testing. However, the guidelines above should give you a good place to start. We will continue to revise our own testing and share our results.

Read the issue here, with specific results:

An interesting discussion is going on in one of my favorite online forums, The Warriors Forum, about short copy winning over long copy. And the author of the thread cited a study he conducted, where he proved that shorter copy won over long copy.

Some people are screaming “heresy!” Others agreed.

Personally, I believe the study conducted is indeed valid because it makes sense. In this particular case, short copy was warranted for this particular market with this particular offer.

But is this true in all cases? When you look at his study closer, you realize that it lacks information about the variables involved, which makes the study, and its findings, a bit misleading.

Here's what I mean.

I truly believe that long copy sells better than short copy. But I base my opinion on the average, not the universal. Because, in some cases, shorter copy does sell better. But there are very specific reasons for this, and I want to go over a few of the important ones that I see all the time.

However, before I give you some of those reasons (and there are many, which I cannot go through in the scope of this one article), I'd like to make a distinction, if I could, so you understand the factors that come into play.

When people often look at short copy, even test it and then realize that it works better than long copy, there are many variables that one fails to look at. The price, the industry and particularly the target market play a significant role.

But there are also two others that I'd like to go over today: a) the product category or type, and b) the pre-selling process (i.e., the mindset of the market).

First, the product type.

When I used to teach marketing principles in college (part of the Business Administration curriculum at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada), my students learned that there are four textbook categories of products:

  1. Convenience products
  2. Shopping products
  3. Specialty products
  4. Unsought products

Each product category has a different sales process and marketing requirement. Why? Because the level of commoditization of the product delineates how much marketing, promotion and relationship-building is required to sell the product.

(And when I say “marketing,” I mean all types of marketing, from branding to pricing to availability to distribution.)

To give you some examples, a “convenience product” is one often purchased to fulfill immediate needs. The purchase is done at an almost unconscious level, too. Pricing is often moderate to low, and brand equity, reputation and relationships do not make a big difference if any.

The product has penetrated the market en masse. It is widely available. And more often than not, convenience products are impulse purchases. They are also staples, in most cases.

Take, for example, bread, milk, batteries, etc. These are often the types of products you find in convenience stores or in the supermarket checkout lines, where people just grab them and add them to their orders just because “they're there.”

No real thought has been given into making the buying decision. Price may either be low or a non-issue, in most cases. And copy, if any is used, will be relatively short and brief. A small POP display (point of purchase stand, cardboard ad, logo with product name and description, etc) is all that's required.

As for “shopping products,” those are less commoditized products. They are a little higher in price. A little more thought is required into making the purchase. And people tend to “shop around” when deciding on buying such products.

They either weigh the pros and cons before buying it, or they make the decision to buy relatively quickly — albeit less quickly than a convenience product.

Other times, they take a bit of time to decide, depending on the price, the availability and the market. They will analyze first, and they often require a bit more copy to gather enough information to justify their decision.

Products like cars, appliances, computers, etc are shopping products. (They can be more or less in price too, such as videos, movies, homes, vacations, even software and online services.)

As such, a little longer copy is required, often to differentiate the product from its competitors, and sell the uniqueness and the specific benefits of the product.

Third is the “specialty product.” This is a product that definitely needs more copy and a lot of selling is required. Specialty products are higher priced, highly targeted and more valuable — especially for very specific target markets.

(That is, they might not be of any value for others but of high value for a select group of individuals.)

Exotic goods, luxury cars, expensive jewelry, art and so on are specialty items. Take Mont-Blanc pens, Porsche cars and Pearson yachts, for example.

(A popular magazine is the Robb Report, which is a magazine for the affluent. Take a look at some of the ads in it, and you'll see exactly what I mean.)

In my marketing classes, the example given was a particular brand of gourmet bread that was gluten-free, created with an exotic herd of mountain sheep's milk grazing on the alpine slopes, flavored with rare spices and condiments grown in the Amazon jungle, fire-oven baked to very specific temperatures, and gift-wrapped inside a special, ornamentally carved wooden box shipped directly to people's doors.

(And yes, a loaf can cost you up to $500 each.)

Therefore, longer copy is definitely needed in this case. The goal would be not to differentiate it from its competition (since there's very little of it) but to create value, justify the purchase and add reasons why.

In other words, why would someone pay $500 for a loaf of bread? There are very specific individuals who would and very specific reasons they would, too.

Finally, “unsought products” are exactly that: unsought. Products that no one would have ever known about or looked for. Now, this doesn't mean exotic and fancy products, either. This means products people don't necessarily look for or believe they don't need. At first.

Preventative type products fall in that category (i.e., life insurance, pre-arranged funeral services, financial investment services, etc). Almost all information products fall in that category too, by the way. (If not, they probably fall in the “specialty” category.)

Consequently, long copy is a must in these cases. And the copy is not only meant to differentiate, add value and justify the purchase, but also to create a need and a desire for the product.

What I mean is, you need a lot of copy to educate the market on why they need (and subsequently want) this type of product. You need a lot of copy to really build a compelling case for buying it.

Granted, these categories are not universal. Because another element comes in, which is the second one in my list mentioned earlier.

And that is, the process.

The process can help identify, isolate or even create certain markets (and therefore certain mindsets) that will buy a product with more or less copy. And that process is not limited to words — or to selling itself, for that matter.

Long copy is often attributed to a long copy salesletter. But that is not often the case. Copy is not limited to a salesletter or website. It can often take many forms, take place over time, and communicated and delivered in many different ways.

When all added, they take the form of, and replace, a long copy salesletter that would otherwise be required if none of these other steps were taken.

For example, if you have an affiliate program, then your affiliates can and should “pre-sell” the product for you. Their “copy,” in other words, is part of the entire sales engine. When they hit your site, and if they're highly targeted and qualified from moment they hit it, then you need less copy to sell them.

In fact, if your affiliates did their jobs right, they've already sold your prospects even before they read your copy.

Even if your affiliate (or even yourself, when you sell to an established list of paying clients) doesn't use a lot of copy to pre-sell, the “uncommunicated” copy was delivered in the form of building the brand (and that brand can also be you and your expertise), trust, credibility and relationships.

For example, when you promote a new product to an established audience (or if your affiliates promote your product to their established lists), a relationship already exists. The process didn't start with that promotion but a long time ago.

How many times have you already sold this audience in the past? If you have done so, particularly several times, the likelihood that little copy will be required for the next promotion.

You don't need copy to build credibility or educate your market, in this case, because that job has already been done.

In other words, copy was already used, albeit indirectly.

How much copy in other promotions have you used? How many times did they read your articles, websites and blog posts before they bought from you? How great is the relationship you created with them before you sold them anything? How much did they read about, learned from and educated themselves on: you, your expertise, your business or even your affiliates' businesses?

That's copy. All of it.

It's all part of the sales process. And “copy,” in the case of selling to an established, qualified market, didn't start with that salesletter. It started a long time ago through other means.

Try to sell to a brand new market for the first time, one who has never heard of you, and you'll need copy. Lots of it.

Hire a sales representative to sell for you, and that's copy too, albeit delivered incrementally, in different ways, over time. For example, include all the prospecting steps, qualification questions, needs analyses, phone calls, sales presentations, written proposals, objections handled, and closing attempts the salesperson did.

But it's still all one big piece of copy. Remove all of those steps and start fresh with just a salesletter, and you will definitely need a long copy salesletter. Without question.

In other words, if you had to replace all those steps with just one, the process would have taken the form of one long-copy salesletter.

Finally, there's also a correlation between my two points, i.e., between product categories and processes.

Because a product, which may at first be an unsought product — with a bit of copy, awareness, brand equity and credibility built over time — can change and be promoted to another category.

They can go from unsought, to specialty, to shopping, and even to convenience, after a specific point in the sales/life cycle.

Take bottled water, for instance.

Bottled water was once unsought when it was first introduced. Over time, it became a specialty product. After a while, it then became a shopping product.

(And in some cases, I'd even venture to say that bottled water is now a convenience product, especially in certain markets such as gyms, schools, offices or certain locales where water quality is known to be poor.)

So when you really look at it and think about it, long copy always wins. Always. It's just not a long copy salesletter every time. Granted, after a period of time, it's not always needed when the audience is pre-sold, or when the product is a low-priced convenience product.

Bottom line, copy doesn't need to do a job that's already been done. So the question is not “how long should your salesletter be?” But rather, “how qualified, targeted and sold is my target market before they even read my salesletter?”

And therein lies the key: the market, not the copy.