Right Brain Copy Secrets, Ted Nicholas
I would estimate 99% of all copy written is dull. Boring. Most of it is unsuccessful. And instead of being a delight, an
incredible chore to read.
The biggest reason for this lack of success is, in my view, because it is "left brain" copy.
Left brain copy may be logical. The copy may make sense. But there is just one problem. No one really wants to read it.
And clearly if prospects don't read the copy, of course there is no way they will respond to it.
Successful responsive copy must be exciting. Emotional. Passionate. Interesting. Unique. It must be created in the right
Unless you find a way to make it so, you are just kidding yourself if you expect to succeed with any offer.
That's why today I'm presenting to you what has never been offered before by me or anyone else. A formula that will
help you create:
"Killer" right brain copy!
Imagine this. You'll get a blueprint. A template for creating what the world is crying out for and desperately needs more
of. Powerful right brain copy.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what I can do to help improve the copy of all those I influence.
The key is activating the right brain. Killer copy is all about the right brain. Once activated and combined with a big
central idea, this is the real secret behind great copy.
Yet no one addresses it. Or discusses it. Therefore I can't help but wonder how many people are actually aware of the
miracles the right brain can achieve.
A small handful of great copywriters seem to be able to turn on their right brain almost at will.
But, the good news is this. Right brain copywriting is a learnable skill. The human brain can actually be switched into
right brain mode.
With a series of specific actions that trigger the right side of your brain. These actions can help you program your
incredibly powerful right brain.
I've broken down into steps what I see as the key brain triggers to writing successful sales copy.
The first step is to do what you probably are already doing. Using your left brain.
Please don't misunderstand me. I don't mean to disparage left brain functions in any way. These can also be very useful
in copywriting. I'll explain how in a moment.
So first activate the left brain.
To start the process, simply study and isolate every single feature and benefit of your product.
Write out these benefits. Use a 3 x 5 card for each one. Answer the "so what" question in each benefit.
Here is a quick review of the left brain action you must take.
Left Brain Actions
• Isolate benefits
• Write bullet points
• Answer the "so what" question
• Put your 3 x 5 cards aside for now
Now you are ready to take steps that will help you access the powerful and more creative right side of your brain.
The very first thing you should do is prepare a powerful right brain headline.
I call this technique the "hidden benefit" headline.
The hidden benefit headline does not have to be directly involved with any of your previously prepared left brain
Nor does it need to be directly related to your product or service.
Many of my most successful headlines in space ads, e-mails, post cards and sales letters are hidden benefit driven.
To create your hidden benefit headline answer this question:
"If I had unlimited God-like powers and could grant my
product or service the biggest benefit I can imagine,
what would that be?"
Read that key question at least three times before answering.
Remember, 73% of the buying decision is made at the headline. So it's really important. In fact, you don't have a chance
to succeed without it.
Once you've got your headline "nailed," follow it with a series of action steps.
Here is a step-by-step summary of exactly how to do the whole process:
Activate Right Brain
• Discover hidden benefits using the above Ted Nicholas formula. To turn this headline into a huge promise, you must be
able to prove and support. Remember, you need a big idea to drive the whole process.
• Envision your buyer as a bright 21-year-old who you love and care for very much, but who needs a crystal-clear
explanation of your offer. Keep it simple.
• Begin roughing out copy. Just discuss the emotions of your prospect only. Do not even talk about the product at this
• What keeps your prospect awake at night? What are his/her aspirations? Goals? Wants?
• Briefly explain what hooked you emotionally enough to want to market this product in the first place. Describe why it is
fun for you to sell it? Make yourself as real as possible.
• Don't hesitate to briefly include key factors about your lifestyle and personal life. Include those close to you such as
your wife, husband, significant other, children and even friends.
• Find your unique voice and stay consistent with it. Write informally just as you talk. Avoid sounding like you're
teaching a course in English literature. Instead communicate as though you are having a drink or coffee with your
• Use testimonials from passionate, happy customers. Make sure their comments support your hidden benefit promise.
• Offer a guarantee that is beyond your comfort zone. The longer the better. If you have in mind a 30-day money-back
guarantee, make it 90 days. If 90 days, make it six months. Even better, use a full-year guarantee. Offer to give a prompt
and courteous refund. Even on the 364th day
• Always sell dollars for pennies. To offer dollars for pennies, the actual value of the product including the value of all the
free gifts must be several times the purchase price.
• Make sure you offer at least 3 to 6 free bonus gifts if the prospect orders now or "within 7 days."
• "Blend in" some or even all of the left brain benefits into your final draft.
• Offer financial terms that are simply unbeatable.
• Offer a dramatic payment plan that increases the appeal of the offer as well as its risk-free nature. Make it easy to buy.
For example, offer a choice of three payments over three months instead of one large payment. Perhaps offer free
shipping and handling
You can also include this in your offer. "Your credit card will not be charged for a month. Nor will your check be cashed
for at least 30 days from shipment. In that way you can decide whether you want to keep the product or return it. In
such a case it will not cost you a single penny. And in such a case we will return your un-cashed check!"
Once you complete the above steps you will be at, or very close to, a huge direct marketing winner online and/or
offline. Of that you can be sure.
I'd love to hear about your big right-brain inspired winners!
10 Ideas for Staying In Touch With Prospects, Steve Slaunwhite
By some accounts, upwards of 80% of prospects who are genuinely interested in your services
won't hire you right away. There are many reasons for this. Some might need time to get to
know you better. Others might not require any copywriting help at the moment.
Regardless, you need to stay in touch with these prospects on a regular basis.
Otherwise, you'll quickly drop off their radar screens.
How do you stay in touch? Here are some ideas.
1. Publish an ezine. There's no guarantee a prospect will sign up for it. But if they do, there's
a good chance they'll read a few issues.
2. Share a helpful article. I find actually printing and mailing the article works best, rather
than emailing it.
3. Watch the news. Has the prospect launched a new product? Opened a new facility?
Received a glowing product review? Send an email or card congratulating them.
4. Find out where they "hang out". Is the prospect active in an industry forum or
association? It might be worth your while to become active there, too.
5. Make a special announcement. For example, you can send an email announcing that
you've recently added press release writing to your list of services.
6. Share a success story. Many prospects will want to know how you've helped your other
clients solve a specific problem or get a specific result.
7. Connect on the social networks. Is your prospect active on LinkedIn, Twitter or any of
the other popular social networks? If so, there are plenty of opportunities for you to touch base
with them there.
8. Brag a little. It's okay to share a glowing testimonial you just received from a client, or
other news that relates to your credentials and track record. Just won a writing award? Tell
9. Do a mini-survey. This has worked particularly well for me in the past. I send out a mini-
survey -- no more than three questions -- on a topic that's of interest to both the prospect and
myself. Then I offer to share the results.
10. Invite them to a virtual "lunch and learn". This is another technique that has worked
well for me. Invite prospects onto a teleconference for a complimentary tutorial on a high
interest topic. For example, "How to write Twitter posts that get respect AND leads." Keep it
short; no more than 15 minutes. There are many low cost and free teleconference services
available, so this stay-in-touch technique won't cost you much.
5 Negotiating Tips Every Freelancer Should Know, Steve Slaunwhite
Say you provide a project quote to a potential new client, and she says, "Your price is a bit too
high for us." Do you now need to drop your price to get the job?
You can negotiate. By that I mean offering the client an alternative plan that gets her what she
wants -- your freelance service -- and gets you what you deserve -- your professional fee.
Here are five ideas for doing just that.
1. Offer to get the job done sooner.
If the client wants the job done in three weeks and you can do it in two, offer to do that as a
bonus. The client may be willing to pay your price in exchange for getting the project done
sooner. It's a stress reliever.
2. Throw in an extra.
Can you offer some value-added extra that doesn't cost you a lot of additional time and
money? Perhaps you can submit the press release (if that's the project) to the media release
company, saving your client time? She may be willing to pay your full fee for that extra
3. Ask for more time to get the project done.
For many freelancers, getting a few extra days or weeks to do the job is a real benefit -- one
that may be worth being paid a little less. So if the client wants a better price, offer a discount
if you can get four weeks to do the job instead of two.
4. Offer a discount for paying your full fee in advance.
I learned this technique in Alan Weiss's excellent book, "Million Dollar Consulting". I say to the
client, "I offer a 10% discount when my quoted project fee is paid in advance." That savings
may be all the client needs to award you the work. (And it sure is nice to get that cash in the
bank right away!)
5. Offer a volume discount.
Query the client about upcoming projects and offer him a package deal. For example, if you've
just provided a ballpark quote for a new sales brochure, ask her about other sales materials
she may need created, such as a web page and email series. Then offer a lower overall price
for all three projects.
I know it's tempting to just drop your price. But I encourage you to give these negotiating
tips a try. Clients will respect that you stand behind your professional rates. And, more often
than not, you'll stand a good chance of getting the project.
Le formule di Gene Schwartz, di Bob Bly
Gene Schwartz was one of the greatest advertising writers who ever lived.
Yet he eschewed the so-called creativity of Madison Avenue, and many of his ads were written
Here are 10 of his favorite ad writing formulas:
Example: "The Seven Deadliest Crimes Against Yourself."
Example: "How to Make Anybody Like You!"
Example: "Secrets of Eastern Super-Men Revealed at Last!"
Example: "Why Haven't TV Owners Been Told These Facts?"
Example: "Why Models Stay Young Till Sixty!"
6-Make a big promise.
Example: "I'll Make You a Mental Wizard as Easily as This!"
7-Reference to a foreign or exotic location.
Example: "Doctors in Sweden Say There is a Cure for Arthritis."
8-Put a time reference in the headline.
Example: "One Day with This Man Could Make You Rich!"
9-Use the word "now" in the headline.
Example: "Now-Run Your Car Without Spark Plugs!"
10-"Don't pay one penny."
Example: "Don't Pay One Penny Till This Course Turns You Into a
Note: once Schwartz found a formula that worked, he would adapt it to many other ads for
many different products.
10 Lessons Learned from 15 Years in the Communications Business, Jonathan Kranz
I'm approaching my fifteenth anniversary as an independent copywriter. In addition to accumulating inches
around my waistline and gray hairs on my head, I've gathered a few insights over the years I'd like to share.
Some of these pertain to service providers, like myself; some to service customers, like my clients. I hope that
both perspectives will be valuable, regardless of your role.
1. Beware the "it's only . . ." project
Surprisingly, the big projects rarely take you down. Perhaps because they're incontestably challenging, these
efforts usually come with adequate preparations that temper the difficulties. But the "it's only" project -
introduced as a minor consideration that should hardly take any time or thought, really - will bite you in the
ass every time. The simple thing is never simple, especially when little time or thought has gone into its
conception, purpose or execution. When a client says, "it's only," they really mean they don't want to pay a lot
for it, not that it won't take a lot of work.
2. Get (or give) creative briefs for everything
The antidote to the "its only" disasters is the creative brief, a document that articulates the project's purpose,
use, audience, key messages, proof points, etc. Creating creative briefs takes time, so it's tempting to skip the
step. Resist that temptation. Time "saved" on the front end almost always leads to unnecessary confusion
that wastes much more time on the back end.
3. Safety rules
What really motivates the B2B buyer? Sure, features and benefits are important - vital, in fact. But if we're
honest with ourselves, we'll recognize that our competitors make promises very similar to our own. Inside the
buyer's mind is a fragile, timid little creature with one ardent desire: "make me feel safe." This creature
cowers before the multiplicity of competing offers, the complexity of conflicting information. Instead of being
inspired by hope, it is numbed with fear; after all, in the B2B context, the rewards of a successful choice are
far less vivid than the immediate and painful results of failure. Above all else, when you're marketing to B2B
influencers and decision-makers, you have to communicate the certain conviction that choosing you is the
safe choice to make.
4. Perfection is a waste of time
True story: I once worked for a bank on a direct marketing campaign that was delayed for well over a year as
the client tweaked and retweaked the offer, the wording, the value prop, etc. Why? They wanted to get it just
right. Here's why they were wrong: while they spent months making incremental adjustments, they lost
momentum, leads, opportunities and revenue. Had they taken action when they were 80% there - damn the
remaining 20% -- they would have gained new business and important lessons for improving their marketing
program. Instead, they stalled and got nowhere. Moral of the story: Get moving. Perfection is for dreamers.
5. Fads come and go
Speaking of perfection, remember "excellence"? That was the big thing businesses were supposed to achieve
back in the 90's. After all, the pursuit of excellence made Japan the rising sun in the global economy. Then
Japan's economy sank and that sun, set - and the "excellence" fad went with it. Today, there are gurus who'll
tell you that blogging, Twitter, Facebook, mobile, video or the social media app du jour is the must-have
thing for any with-it marketer. Now, I'm not saying any of these things are bad, just watch the bullshit. In
business, the real question isn't whether a given thing is worth doing, but toward what ends and at what cost?
If you're not weighing costs against benefits, you're just following a fad, not leading a business.
6. Simple, cheap, effective: pick two
The fuel for every fad engine is the promise that this thing (whatever it is) will be the magic marketing bullet
that every marketer craves - one that is simple, cheap and effective. But think about it: even if such a thing
were possible, it couldn't possibly last because everyone would do it and the competitive advantage would be
lost. Truth is, you can only have two of the three virtues at a time: it can be effective and cheap (like
blogging), but it won't be simple; it can be effective and simple (like good PPC), but it won't be cheap; and
there are tons of simple and cheap things that aren't worthwhile whatsoever. Abandon the fantasy. If you're
going to succeed, you're going to pony up cash or sweat or both.
7. Direct marketing methods remain relevant
Direct isn't dead, but dominant. You know when the Web turned from a faddish plaything (late 90's) to a
real, commercial power (early 00's)? When Google allowed us to apply tried and true direct marketing
principles to the Internet: testing, metrics, offers and a relentless focus on specific audiences. If you think
social media is any different, think again. The people who are successful aren't merely "sharing the love" -
they're creating platforms for targeted offers with carefully crafted response devices. Watch and learn.
8. Brochures suck
I'm exaggerating - there are times when brochures are useful. But why are they the first thing that comes to
mind when marketers are launching a new product/service, when they should be the very last thing to worry
about? When was the last time anyone bought anything on the strength of a brochure? Worry about creating
a real marketing plan that complements a workable sales pathway. Worry about creating content that attracts
attention by addressing your audience's interests. Only worry about brochures when you're satisfied with
9. Measure twice, cut once
It's a classic piece of carpenter's wisdom that easily translates into the world of client correspondence: think
twice, press the "send" button once. In the heat of the moment, it's all too easy to react emotionally to
communications that seem unjust, irrational or just plain stupid. Unfortunately, the very instantaneity of
email can facilitate an impulsiveness that writing a letter, stuffing an envelope and finding a stamp once kept
in check. Resist temptation: the more intense your feelings, the more you need a cooling-off period. Go for a
walk, get a cup of coffee, goof around on Facebook. Then cast a cold eye on the correspondence and respond
in your best interests - that is, rationally.
10. Expect change
I started out writing consumer catalog copy, then moved into healthcare communications and B2B direct
marketing. Today, most of my work is Web-content related. Things changed and my business has changed
with the times. Ten years from now, who knows what I'll be doing? How about you? You can't predict the
future, but you can prepare for it by rejecting overly-narrow specializations and embracing flexibility.
Digital evolution of branding
8 Secrets that Reveal How Buyers Really Think, Dean Rieck
Too many direct marketing gurus profess simplistic ideas about psychology. They insist that
people - perhaps the most complex creatures on earth - can be understood by using a
checklist of motivators or pyramid of needs.
But I can't even figure out why the teenage bagger at the local grocery puts three hundred
cans of cat food in one bag and a single bunch of celery in another. So how can I possibly
summarize the whole human experience in a few words?
Simple psychology is attractive, but ultimately limiting. When it comes to people, you have to
observe closely, continue learning, and keep an open mind. Because just when you think you
have everything figured out, someone does something you never expected.
With this caveat in mind, here are just eight of the hundreds of secrets I've learned about our
People make decisions emotionally. They decide quickly, based on a feeling, need, or
emotion. Usually, therefore, intangible benefits are the key to persuasion. Even for offer-driven
promotions and business-to-business marketing, there is an emotional core to every decision.
Always ask yourself, "What is the emotional hot button here?"
People justify decisions with reason. Example: A woman sees a dress in a catalog and
instantly wants it. But she hesitates because it's so expensive. However, the copy provides
details on the quality of the fabric, the close stitching, and how buying the dress is an
investment. This justification allows her to act on her emotional impulse.
The lesson? Give people reasons to help them justify a purchase.
Another example: I know a guy who bought a huge backhoe because he needed to dig one
hole in his back yard. He went on for an hour reciting his reasons for owning this mammoth
machine instead of just renting it. Pure justification.
People put off making decisions. Psychology and sales experience reveal two interesting
facts: 1) The longer a decision is postponed, the more likely a decision will never be made. 2)
The sooner you can provoke a decision, the more likely it is to be in your favor.
Therefore, you should simplify the decision-making process in every promotion and force a
quick response whenever possible. Specific deadlines are particularly powerful.
People are egocentric. Not "egotistic," but "egocentric." That means centered on the ego or
self. Anytime you ask someone to do something, you must answer that person's unstated
question, "What's in it for me?" On a deeper level, the question might be, "How does this give
me feelings of personal worth?"
We all see the world and everything in it in terms of how it relates to us personally. That's why
features must be translated into benefits.
People are unpredictable. Even those of us who ponder the psychology of selling can never
predict with any certainty how people will act in a real-world situation. The equation is just too
complex. You can formulate hypotheses about why people do what they do. You can ask
people what they think and like. But in the end, the results to your tests are the only data you
can trust. So test and keep testing.
People seek fulfillment. Love. Wealth. Glory. Comfort. Safety. People are naturally
dissatisfied and spend their lives searching for intangibles. At its simplest, creating selling
messages is a matter of showing people how a particular product or service, or even a
particular cause, fulfills one or more of their needs.
However, remember that motivations always have deeper motivations. You seek wealth for
security. You seek security because you fear change. You fear change because ... well, you get
People usually follow the crowd. We look to others for guidance, especially when we are
uncertain about something. We tacitly ask, "What do others think about this? What do others
feel? What do others do?" Then we act accordingly.
A related concept is what I call the Bandwagon Effect. When lots of people do something, that
thing becomes more than acceptable, it becomes desirable. This is one reason why
testimonials and case histories are so influential.
People fear loss. In general, the fear of loss is more powerful than the hope of gain. And this
fear includes (1) losing something you have and (2) losing the chance to have something you
want. By properly manipulating the instinct to avoid loss, you can trigger a favorable response
to your offer.
Be careful. Don't turn every appeal into fear. Fear is powerful, but tricky. A positive approach is
usually easier to pull off.
The 10 essential ingredients of succesful sale pages, Dave Navarro
When you see dozens of copywriting formulas promising “the perfect sales page,” how do you know which
ones to trust?
After all, each formula seems to have a successful direct sales superstar behind it, and each one looks like a
solid plan. What do you do in the face of these wildly different sales letter styles?
The first step is to realize that copywriting is more than any one “formula” — it’s an exercise in
communication and persuasion.
Just like a recipe, different formats will give you different results. The recipe you’re looking for will depend on
your audience — and you’ll have to test yours to find out what they respond to best.
But whatever sales page recipe you choose to follow, the important thing is to understand the reasoning
behind the “ingredients” that go into it. Let’s take a look at what every successful sales page should have —
regardless of how your recipe gets stirred up.
1. Headlines that make promises and demand attention
Here at Copyblogger we’ve talked extensively about writing great headlines — and the importance that a
solid lead-in has for getting your copy read.
If you don’t nail the headline (the single most important part of your sales letter), no one will stick around for
Your headline must pre-qualify the reader based on their needs and wants, as well as promise them an
intriguing result if they’ll stick around and read what comes next.
Want to get good at making this happen? Practice. If you’re not cultivating a headline swipe file and honing
your attention-grabbing skills with each blog post you write, then you need to get started now.
2. Opening paragraphs that promise and persuade
Presuming your headline piques your readers’ curiosity, you then need to lead readers to a psychological
commitment to read every word of your copy.
You can do this by using those initial paragraphs to draw them in, establishing rapport, and expanding on the
promise you made in the headline.
This is the place to get more specific about what your readers are about to learn. Most important of all, let
them know how that knowledge will get them closer to their desired result.
There’s a reason opening paragraphs are often called “teasers” — they’re meant to show just enough to
make the reader want to see more.
Continue to help your reader understand they’re in the right place (and that there’s juicy knowledge to be
gained by scrolling down), and they’ll keep reading all the way to the very end.
3. Stories that reveal the reasons behind the offer
The old expression “Words tell, stories sell,” is still 100% true — people become more emotionally connected
with copy that tells a story. You’ll do well to create a compelling (and true, of course!) backstory to why the
offer you’re making came into existence, because that pulls the reader into your copy on a deeper level.
We all want to see how the story unfolds — and that’s precisely why so many effective sales pages include
transformative stories about the product’s author (or the people the author has helped). The reader wants a
result via your offer, and they’ll pay close attention to storylines that involve that result coming to pass.
If you’re not a natural storyteller, then revisit some sales pages you’ve seen in the past and read them again
with an eye for story. You’ll be surprised how you see good writers work these seamlessly into their copy.
4. Details that foster rapport and credibility
Many sales letters include a “Who am I and why should you listen to me?” section meant to establish
credibility (and more backstory) about the product author. You can definitely emulate this straight-to-the-point
delivery, but there are other ways of achieving the same result with more subtlety.
Let’s go back to the story — this is the perfect place to weave in the writer’s background — the results
received, the credentials that establish authority, and the reasons that make that person the perfect choice
for satisfying the reader’s needs.
Readers buy from those they trust and like. Pepper your copy with details that make the product author an
interesting and authoritative source, and the overall message becomes much more compelling.
5. Subheads that stop scrollers and make reading easy
Solid subheads serve two powerful purposes in a high-conversion sales letter.
First, they make it easy for the reader to know why they need to read the section of text below. Essentially,
they are mini-headlines designed to set up a promise and entice the reader to keep going.
For each text block in your sales letter, ask yourself “Why should anyone read this?” and translate the
answer into a compelling sub-head. Revisit blog posts you loved reading, and watch how the author kept you
hooked with solid sub-headlines.
The second purpose of subheads is to convey such an attention-getting promise that the people who “scroll
and scan” stop in their tracks and say “I’ve got to go back and read this.”
Don’t let a subhead into your sales letter without first asking if it’s “stop-worthy.”
6. Anxiety-reducing testimonials
Most people treat testimonials as an exercise in stroking the product author’s ego.
But readers don’t care about that. They care about their own problems (and specifically, getting them solved)
and they care about the objections they have when they consider clicking that “Add to Cart” button.
They’re going to be thinking things like:
“Will this work for my situation?”
“Is this going to be too hard?”
“Will I have time for this?
“What if I need to return this?”
“How can I trust this person?”
It’s your job to anticipate their objections and gather testimonials that show an antidote to the anxieties
behind them. Take a look at your testimonials and ask if they’re doing their job. If not, you know what to do.
7. Proof that your product or service actually works
If “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” then you need to have some full bellies to show to your soon-to-
Walk them through specific examples of how the product or service worked for you (which incidentally, you
can easily do by weaving these elements into your story).
If you have customers on hand with success stories, here’s where you work these in as well — taking special
care to position the results in a way that reduces customer anxiety.
Look for ways that previous customers were able to get results despite the obstacles, setbacks, or
circumstances that your new customers are likely to be worried about. Then use those examples to show
how your new prospects can do it, too.
8. An offer they can’t refuse
Remember, you’re selling more than just a product or service — you’re selling solutions, outcomes, and
Break out every detail of what your product does for them (and weave that into your story as well), and get
very specific as to how much each benefit is worth — financially and emotionally.
Paint a clear picture of everything they’re getting. Stack value upon value until your readers are filled with the
sense that your offer is exactly what they need — and furthermore, that the price is a no-brainer bargain.
Shoot for the “10X factor.” If you can show the reader that your offer is truly worth ten times what you’re
charging, the buying decision becomes much, much easier. And if you can show how the product pays for
itself (essentially becoming “free”), so much the better.
9. A risk-free environment
People are terrified of being oversold, scammed, and taken advantage of on the internet — and so their
shields are up when it comes to trusting what you say.
That’s why it’s such a good idea to offer a strong guarantee that takes all the burden of risk off of their
It’s called “risk reversal,” and it’s easy to do. Simply offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee — if they don’t like
what you’re giving them within 30 or 60 days, let them get their money back.
Never make refunds difficult — the goodwill you generate from being a no-hassle provider is worth any cost
Of course there are some exceptions — when a return is truly costly to you (for example, for a physical
product), you may need to put some guidelines on returns so that you don’t get taken advantage of.
But if what you’re selling is digital, the downside just isn’t there. The small and temporary cost of refunds will
be more than made up by the word-of-mouth referrals of happy customers.
10. A solid close that gets your “buy” button clicked
All good things must come to an end, and when your sales message does the same, you need a strong call
Remind your customer what benefits they’ll get when they buy, and resurface the pain and inconveniences
that will go away when they’ve fully used your product or service.
Once you’ve done that, ask them explicitly to buy. Not doing so will cost you conversions, and it’s an easy
mistake to make because we can be hesitant to ask for things.
You don’t have to do the “hard sell” here — just invite them to “join you,” or “get access,” or “download” —
just by clicking and making a purchase.
And that “P.S.” that’s such a sales letter cliché? Works like a charm.
When people get to the end of your letter, all their lingering objections get put on one end of the scale, and
your price tag gets put on the other. Here’s your opportunity to tactfully let them know that they have the
chance to get the benefits they want, and solve their problems at the same time.
Your call to action: Tell us what else you think is essential to a great sales letter
As I said at the beginning, there are dozens of copywriting formulas out there, and all of them serve their
purpose and have solid avenues of conversion. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it’s meant to give you
the basic framework for persuasive copy.
Why don’t you join us in the comments below, where you can add your wisdom and get access to the ideas
of others? Click in the comment box below and tell us what other essential “ingredients” you would add to
this list. We’ll see you there.
About the Author: Dave Navarro is a product launch manager who can’t wait for you to join the 7,000+
people using his free workbooks in the Launch Coach Library (a crowd favorite in the Third Tribe
Don’t forget to bookmark this page after you leave your comment, so that every time you return to it in the
future, you can learn even more about writing great sales letters.
The golden key of persuasion, Gary Bencivenga
Dear Marketing Top Gun,
If you’re willing to use a little imagination, I will now place in your hand a golden key.
Ready to play along?
OK, vividly picture in your palm a large, gleaming, golden skeleton key.
Feel how heavy it is? It’s made of solid gold.
See how brightly it shines? It seems to pull extra light out of the air itself!
Notice how cold it feels? It’s as if it’s been stored in the refrigerator.
Can you see and feel this key in your palm now? OK, squeeze it. Feel its heft and coolness. See it gleam.
Now you start to feel very pleased to have been given this golden key, because it is priceless!
As you will soon discover, this rare key will enable you to open numerous treasure chests hiding in plain
sight all around you. It will make you uncommonly effective as a persuader, someone known and respected
for being able to unlock many hearts and minds with only your words.
Such is the power of the key I hand you now – the golden key of metaphor.
"Metaphor" is based on a Greek word meaning to "carry something across" or "transfer." Today we use
"metaphor" to mean a direct comparison between two or more seemingly unrelated subjects.
You’ll get the idea in a minute, but first let me promise you that this is no mere grammar lesson …
If you heed my advice today about how to use metaphors, you can easily become one of the most
persuasive people on the planet. As Aristotle said about the art of persuasion, "The greatest thing by far is to
be a master of metaphor." And the Big A was right too, because nothing persuades as quickly, effectively,
memorably, or permanently as a well-crafted metaphor.
As an added benefit, just as the God of Genesis breathed life into man’s nostrils, metaphors will breathe life,
color, and power into everything you write.
Let’s Look at a Few Examples …
Let’s say you are an ad agency executive pitching a new account. You could drone on about the necessity of
having "impactful ideas that capture consumer awareness …blah, blah, blah."
Or you could begin your presentation like David Ogilvy, with a deft metaphor …
"Ladies and gentlemen, unless your advertising is built on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night."
Instantly, your audience thinks, "A ship in the night? No, we can’t have that!"
That image perfectly sets up a show-and-tell presentation of the big ideas you’ve come up with to boost your
With a good metaphor, you fuse at the hip two different things and, by a mysterious alchemy, instantly
transfer the qualities of one into the other. Good metaphors are wizardry that work real magic in your
prospects’ minds. That’s because this process of transferring the qualities of one thing into another takes
place instantly, bypassing critical analysis and resistance. All you do is compare A to B in an effective way
and voila! your point is made instantly without disagreement. This can make you a magician of persuasion!
A perfect example …
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan won the understanding and acclaim of the entire country – from
Washington to Wall Street to Main Street – when he proudly reported that he presided over "a Goldilocks
economy. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right." That simple metaphor – "a Goldilocks economy" – was
more persuasive than a 10-foot stack of economic reports.
Let’s say you are writing about the wisdom of starting early to invest for retirement. You could write a sleep-
inducing treatise on the subject. But look at how effectively master investor Warren Buffett does it – with a
simple metaphor …
"Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago."
Or consider Ben Franklin on the wisdom of frugality …
"Small leaks sink great ships."
Do you see how tight, how irrefutable, how powerful such arguments are when phrased in an apt metaphor?
They yield instant agreement, and that is their magic.
Float Like a Butterfly …
Do you remember Muhammad Ali in his prime? His wit was as quick as his left jab. In prefight banter with
reporters, Ali could verbally out-shadowbox even the cleverest reporters, leaving them laughing with
metaphors like these:
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
"Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine
"Joe Frazier is so ugly that he should donate his face to the U.S. Bureau of Wildlife."
"I’ll beat him so bad he’ll need a shoehorn to put his hat on."
"I’m so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the
room was dark."
Novelist and journalist Norman Mailer, who covered Ali and was himself a master of metaphor, described the
champ’s wit this way: "He always held aces to your kings."
A Personal Story
When we were young, Pauline and I, while driving on vacation, came upon an adorable little cottage for sale
on a little bluff overlooking the ocean. We fell in love with it.
Prices of Hamptons real estate were much lower then, and we bought it, signing a contract to close in May.
We couldn’t wait for our dream summer at the beach. But as the closing date drew near, the scheming seller
realized he could make even more money if he rented the cottage out to someone else for the summer, so
he insisted that he had to postpone our closing until mid-September.
"No way!" howled my lawyer. And then he lowered the boom on the seller’s gambit with this telling metaphor:
"You want to sell Gary and Pauline a toy store on the day after Christmas. No fair!" The seller caved;
we closed in May and enjoyed the first of many enchanting summers in our cottage by the sea.
Best Sources of Persuasive Metaphors
Your richest sources of metaphor include the Bible, fairy tales, sports, the movies – any source of images
that we all know by heart. And I do mean "by heart," because the mere mention of certain images will
automatically trigger in your audience powerful emotions they already harbor, which often enables you to
For example, when writing to investors, I would shamelessly massage their greed glands by describing "a
Sleeping Beauty stock" or "Cinderella opportunity" or "ugly-duckling company about to become a
swan." If you manage a team trying to outperform a superior competitor, you can instantly give them more
confidence by describing them as fearless David’s about to take down Goliath. If you’re putting a work
group together for a special project, it’s motivational magic to tell each member that he or she has been
selected for an all-star team …or that they are about to move from summer stock to Broadway …or get
the chance to compete "in the Super Bowl of our industry," etc.
You can instantly illustrate a charismatic leader’s strong hold on his followers by saying that, to them, "he
walks on water" or she could "part the Red Sea." You could call a crooked politician a liar, but it’s so much
more amusing – and devastating – to quip, "With his every statement, his nose grows longer."
You can give a metaphor a humorous twist to enliven any speech or ad. In the keynote address at the
Democratic National Convention of 1988, former Texas Governor Ann Richards lampooned the first
President George Bush. Describing, in her view, his fumbling attempts to connect with the American people,
she lamented …
"Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
You Can Do This!
First identify the point you want to make. Then imagine, just as you did with the golden key above, a
metaphor (or comparison) that makes your point for you. It’s fun, like a treasure hunt, like looking for money
as you walk down the street in a city where everyone’s pockets have holes. (Hey, I just penned a metaphor!
When you get into the habit, it becomes second nature.)
Start looking and you’ll notice useful metaphors everywhere. Collect them like coins and you’ll find many
opportunities to spend them on more colorful prose. Just the other day I heard Jacob Teitelbaum MD
speaking on the radio about the effect of too much coffee:
"Caffeine is an energy loan shark. What it lends you in the morning it takes back with heavy interest
in the afternoon."
Please don’t turn up your nose at the more familiar metaphors. I love clichés, and you should too! They are
clichés precisely because everyone already believes them, so using them gives your copy greater credibility.
Some examples …
"Old as dirt."
"Smart as a whip."
"Cool as a cucumber."
"Dumb as a box of rocks."
"You can’t teach an old dog new tricks."
"A leopard doesn’t change its spots."
"Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire."
"The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree."
"This product gives your portfolio Gibraltar-like security because …"
"The lion’s share of the profits will go to the few who realize …"
"You are opening a Pandora’s box of problems."
"A sea change is sweeping across this industry …"
"Overall, we like the agreement, but this clause is a bone in our throat."
"While most products of this kind are punched out cookie-cutter fashion, ours are custom-made. You
will instantly notice the difference. For example …"
"Asleep at the switch."
"Tip of the iceberg."
"Roller coaster of emotions."
The list is almost endless.
Mistakes to Avoid
As with all claims in your copy, don’t exaggerate with metaphors. That reduces credibility and depresses
response. Recently I saw an online promotion for a bizop that "sucks in money like a vacuum cleaner on
steroids." A little over-the-top for my taste. I find myself automatically reacting, "Yeah, sure."
Also beware of using "mixed metaphors." On page 178 of her entertaining grammar book, Woe Is I, Patricia
T. O’Conner features a sidebar cleverly titled "Metaphors Be with You." In it she writes …
"If you’ve heard it’s unwise to mix metaphors, this is why: The competing images drown each other out, as
in, the silver lining at the end of the tunnel or don’t count your chickens till the cows come home.
"Some people are so wild about metaphors that they can’t resist using them in pairs. This may work, if the
images don’t clash: Frieda viewed her marriage as a tight ship, but Lorenzo was plotting a mutiny. Since the
images of tight ship and mutiny have an idea in common (sailing), they blend into one picture. But usually
when two figures of speech appear together, they aren’t so compatible. In that case, the less said, the
Speaking about metaphorical gaffes, I heard one of my all-time favorites when a New York TV reporter was
doing man-on-the-street interviews about the meaning of Presidents’ Day. She buttonholed a passerby,
asking him, "What would George Washington say if he knew that his holiday has become famous for sales of
mattresses, underwear, and used cars?" To which the man somberly intoned, "If George Washington were
alive today, he’d roll over in his grave."
To get better at coming up with metaphors, read John Updike’s stories or Shakespeare’s plays and poems.
Let me leave you with this magnificent example …
Libraries are lined with acres of bookshelves groaning with tomes on the nature of life. Most of these books
will remain closed, gathering dust for all their days because they’re impenetrably long and boring. By
contrast, marvel at how economically Shakespeare captures a world of wisdom with this single metaphor …
"All the world’s a stage,And all the men and women merely players:They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts …"
Top Gun, when life gets you down and your days grow heavy with worry or crowded with idiots (or, as my
Scottish grandmother called them, "eejits!"), remember Shakespeare’s metaphor and it will give you solace.
It’s all a big play. Perform your role with gusto, but don’t take anything too seriously, at least not for too long.
Soon this act will be over, the curtain will fall only to rise again, new players will assemble onstage in fresh
costumes, and perhaps you will star in a different role. Shakespeare’s eloquent metaphor can change your
whole perspective any time you think of it, which is exactly what a good metaphor does.
Sincere wishes for a good life and (always!) higher response, Gary Bencivenga, Guest Editor,
The Total Package
Encoding advertising in the mind, Dan Hill
While the ﬁrst job of advertising is to get itself noticed, the second job is to be remembered. Otherwise,
the third job, being persuasive, won’t typically have a chance for success until the advertising is being
experienced directly at the point of sale. So, from both my study of how memorable advertising works as
well as my decade-plus experience in using facial coding to scientiﬁcally quantify emotionally effective,
impressionable advertising, what actually works in generating high recall?
Here’s a short primer, involving nine possible variables:
The scientiﬁc estimation is that a visual impression enters the brain’s sensory storehouse for no more than
half a second. In that brief time interval, consumers intuitively make a decision as to whether the image if
worthy of retaining. Everything else gets discarded, given that the brain is like a paper-shredder constantly
trying to avoid overload. Radical simplicity is therefore the ﬁrst secret. Just like the joke that has to be
explained to you is never as funny as the joke you just get, visual complexity kills recall potential. Since
half the brain is devoted to processing visuals, failure to leverage imagery is fatal.
Invoking emotional engagement through relevance continues to be another key attribute of memorable
advertising. But relevancy isn’t only whether the offer ﬁts our needs, or wants of what we don’t want (our
fears). It could be that we relate to the talent shown on screen or in print, to a problem that’s being
depicted, or to a story line or theme. Because visuals serve as metaphors to help us understand the world
around them, leverage them to establish a need or want. A case in point: the famous Maxell audio tape
advertising that shows a guy in a chair inside his house or apartment, the lamp shade and the guy’s scarf
both blown back from the force of the music coming out of the guy’s loudspeaker. There, the visual
metaphors being exploited consist of conﬂating loud (versus soft) and fast (versus slow), given that the guy
is also dressed to resemble a motorcycle rider (think, Easy Rider). Excitement and rebellion is the evoked
want, reminding me of the funniest request I ever heard on a radio station. A mousy, timid sounding girl
calls in to ask the DJ to play Steppenwolf’s hit song, “Born to Be Wild.”
Associations aided by familiarity provide another point of leverage. The storage of memories is often based
on the degree to which the information is associated with or linked to what else we’ve already retained.
That’s because people are inherently lazy, like house cats, are what they already know and have retained
works because it’s easier and ties in to what they have already deemed to be important, interesting, et
cetera. The greater the number of these links (evoking stories already in our hearts and minds), the better
the chance of recall. The Maxwell ad takes advantage of a number of associations we have regarding the
outlaw status/myth of bikers. Link a key product attribute to a meaningful memory and use the latter to
hook us on the former.
Speaking of associations, since neurons that ﬁre together, wire together, yes, repetition does work. But
since that approach can cost you lots of money (you may not have) and runs the risk of alienating people,
let’s go on three more ways to generate recall.
The opposite of repetition is novelty. What’s new and surprising and of interest can literally make our eyes
go wide with curiosity. Just make sure the mind’s eye has time to absorb it and let it register emotionally,
which is at least 1/6th of a second (or 5 frames). That sounds easy to allow for, but believe me in testing
advertising I’ve seen many instances of “bald spots” where consumers aren’t engaged because everything is
happening too fast.
Change works, because real or implied motion gets our attention. The explanation is from an evolutionary
point of view, survival. Any change in the status quo may provide an opportunity or pose a threat. When
the change involve intensity, even better. What’s red-hot invites or even demands scrutiny.
Finally, make sure your advertising involves an explicit or at least an implicit story, and that the story has a
peak or climax to it. Nothing bores people more than a story, or joke, without a pay-off or punch line. Way
too many commercials are like a drive through Kansas, instead of Colorado. Everything’s ﬂat, with the
problem/solution scenario not really working because the problems depicted are as dull as the outcome. A
great ad should have at least one peak, maybe even two. Our research furthermore shows that a peak that
comes later is better, leading the emotional momentum build. For the TV spots we’ve tested, peaks that
come later enjoy a true-smile, top-box emotionally pay-off that’s 12.8% greater than a peak that occurs at or
before the mid-point of a 30-second spot.
Writing to the 2010 customer, Luke Sullivan
What follows is one of the single most interesting passages I’ve read in my 50-some years of reading. It’s
from a marvelous book called 1939: The Lost World of The Fair, by David Gerlernter.
It paints a picture of an America that no longer exists.
“Question: What is wrong with this picture? [Rhetorical; there was no actual picture in the book.] It
appeared in a 1939 survey of New York City: a construction site with pedestrians walking past in front, leafy
trees and apartment buildings to the rear. Painted on the fence around part of the work site are the words
‘DYNAMITE STORED HERE – DANGER EXPLOSIVES DANGER.’ It is a tall, solid board fence. But
there is no barbed wire, no policeman; Women and children [walk] by a fenced-off magazine of high
explosives,” the caption reads.
I ﬁnd this observation amazing.
To think that there was actually a time when you could safely store dynamite in an unprotected shack in
New York City; and to feel so certain of the character of your fellow Americans that a simple danger sign
would be sufﬁcient to keep people away. It’s hard to believe such a world ever existed but clearly there was
some social force in play that kept this dynamite safe. This force, Gerlernter proposes, was the fact that in
1939 “people lived in an ‘Ought’ culture.”
Such a marvelous insight, and all gleaned from one photograph in a yellowing magazine – America as an
“Ought culture.” We ought to eat our vegetables. We ought to doff our hats in the presence of ladies. We
ought to report neighbors who we suspect of communism.
Later on Gerlernter expands the deﬁnition to what I’d describe as “Authority culture.” In fact, it’s arguable
the entire period from ‘30s through the early ‘60s was all Authority culture. Citizens trusted authority
entirely, wherever it was; in a corporation; in a policeman’s uniform; or just the voice over the radio. (“Hold
on, ladies and gents! I’ve just received this important telegram!”)
For purposes of discussion, I tender here a few advertisements typical of the times, copied from my
collection of old magazines. I regard advertisements like these as windows into the soul of the times;
emotional Polaroids of ancient evenings; the zeitgeist in rotogravure.
Note how Plymouth baldly states – with neither hesitation nor proof – that big-ass cars are glamorous.
Saying it’s so, makes it so. General Electric decides for us that spring has a new color. And don’t get me
started on this ad for Gaylord shaving supplies ad. I will note however also that illustration seemed to be
the preferred visual style of the ‘40s through the ‘60s. Screw photography; illustrations let advertisers show
life the way they wanted it to be and showing it so, of course, made it so. Note, too, that all three ads use
exclamation points. (Hey, when you're an authority, you can bark your orders.)
Simply running an ad in a magazine made you an authority. (“See, honey, it’s printed right here. In a
magazine!”) A cigarette ad could claim there wasn’t “a cough in a car load.” The government could deny
radioactive iodine 131 was in the nation’s milk supply. Facts didn’t count. Authority did.
Pick up an old magazine sometime and see if you don’t agree; almost every ad and every article feels like a
pronouncement from an authority.
Sometime in the mid-‘50s, however, this omnipresent voice of authority started to lose its credibility. How
this came to be is perhaps a story for another day, but it happened. Somewhere in the cultural whirlwind
of the times (the dethroning of McCarthyism, the quiz show scandals, the arms build-up), Americans
developed the ability to be skeptical; to doubt; to question authority.
For my generation, I’ll wager many of us date the last days of unquestioned authority with the Vietnam war
– its ﬁnal public humiliation, the resignation of Dick Nixon. America ﬁnally had evidence – on tape even –
that authority could be more than just wrong, it could be corrupt.
FROM AUTHORITY TO AUTHENTICITY.
Let’s turn the yellowed magazine page now to the year 2010.
Imagine we were to run that Plymouth ad in next week’s Time magazine. I’ll bet that even if we updated
the ad’s look and feel, its presumptuous tone (“Big is glamorous, dammit!”) would still make today’s readers
snicker at its authoritarian cluelessness. We simply wouldn’t get away with it today. It is a different America
We’ve become a nation of eye-rollers and skeptics. We scarcely believe anything we hear in the media any
more and marketers can’t make things true simply by saying they’re true.
So, what I’m wondering today is this: where people once looked to authority to tell them what was true and
wasn’t true, perhaps what people look for today is authenticity.
Merriam-Webster says something is authentic when it actually is what it’s claimed to be. Which makes
authenticity in advertising an especially tricky proposition given that advertising is at its heart self-
promotion and driven by an agenda. And yet while Americans today are suspicious of anyone with an
agenda, being authentic doesn’t always require the absence of an agenda, only transparency about it.
Admitting that your commercial is a paid message with an agenda is one way to disarm distrust. Under-
promising and over-delivering is another. Even self-deprecation can help establish authenticity; VW’s “It’s
ugly but it gets you there” being perhaps the most memorable example.
DDB’s early Avis work was similarly authentic whether it was admitting to shortcomings (“We’re only #2.”)
or giving customers with complaints the CEO’s actual phone number.
In my opinion, Canadian Club’s masterful print series is an excellent modern example of an advertiser
leveraging reality, warts-and-all, to sell its wares. An unapologetic statement of “Damn right your Dad
drank it” coupled with images of ‘70s dads (somehow still cool in their bad haircuts and paneled
basements) leveraged authenticity instead of authority.
So too does a marvelous campaign for Miller High Life. Here the beer truck delivery guy takes back cases
of his beer from snooty people who aren’t truly appreciating the Miller High Life. Grumbling on his way
out the door of some hoity-toity joint (“$11.95 for a hamburger? Y’all must be crazy.”), he is himself a
spokesman for authenticity.
But even with these good examples of authentic messaging, it’s now time to question the supremacy of the
format itself – that of paid messaging. It worked ﬁne in the ‘50s when TV was new and citizens were happy
to listen to the man tell them Anacin worked fast-fast-fast.
But everything is different in 2010. As Ed Boches said, “In an age when the manufacturer, publisher,
broadcaster and programmer have lost power to the consumer, reader, viewer and user, … the power of
controlled messages has lost its impact.”
AUTHENTICITY IS THE WALK, NOT THE TALK.
It may be getting to the point now where marketers can’t make anything happen by employing messaging
alone, no matter how authentic. Doc Searles, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, agrees, stating that a
brand isn’t what a brand says but what it does. What all this suggests is that perhaps the best way to
inﬂuence behavior and opinion in the year 2010 is to do things instead of just say them.
Where it once served our clients to make “claims” on their behalf, it may be better now to do things that
are less claim-based and more action-based, or reality-based, or more experiential – to demonstrate in the
ad itself a brand’s promise or a product’s beneﬁt.
For example, a print ad promising that VW is a fun brand, well, that’s nice. But bringing this claim to life
with a subway stairwell of working piano keys was more powerful in a number of ways. Instead of making
some happy claim about an emotion, it created the emotion right there on the stairs. And of course there’s
the P talk value of such an interesting execution.
I’m reminded also of Denny’s offer to America: a free breakfast during a recession. This is an event as
much as it is an ad, and America took them up on it. Also from Goodby came the Hyundai Assurance
Program, which allowed customers who bought a new Hyundai to return it if they lost their job within the
year. These are not ads so much as they are events. They are not “claims,” they’re actions.
In the end, these musings suggest several possibilities.
• Marketers cannot simply list a product’s beneﬁts and tell customers why they should want it. It doesn’t
work very well anymore.
• Persuading a nation of eye-rollers requires a message, tone, or platform that is authentic.
• No matter how authentic your message, you cannot become X by saying you are X. You must actually be
X. So, after you ﬁgure out what your brand needs to say, ﬁgure out what it needs to do.
• Same thing with customers: after you ﬁgure out what you want customers to think, what is it you want
them to do?
• Similarly, don’t try to tell customers how they’re going to feel. Help them actually experience the emotion
by doing something.
The bottom line: Brand actions speak louder than words. Brand experiences speak louder than ads. Walk
BIG PHILOSOPHICAL CLOSING
My college psychology professor once wrote on the board, “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.” It means
the life of the individual organism is often reﬂected in the life of the species.
I confess I see in my own life a similar pattern of authority-to-authenticity. As a child, I blindly ascribed
authority to many things (ﬁrst was my parents; second, the Beatles) and in so doing came to know the
world. But as I grew up, black-and-white authority became nuanced with the greys of authenticity.
Perhaps the nation grew up the same way. We don’t need Dad-Brands anymore, wagging their ﬁngers at us
with nothing by way of proof beyond “Because I said so.”
I got some much-needed advice on this essay from the delightful and brainy Nicole McKinney here at
COPYWRITING TIPS Dave Trott
Iʼve been asked to write an entry for D&ADʼs Copy Book.
I just found this list of tips in my desk drawer.
1) Avoid alliteration. Always.
2) Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
3) The adverb always follows the verb.
4) Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
5) Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
6) Remember to never split an inﬁnitive.
7) Contractions arenʼt necessary.
8) Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
9) One should never generalise.
10) Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
11) Donʼt be redundant; donʼt use more words than necessary; itʼs highly superﬂuous.
12) Be more or less speciﬁc.
13) One word sentences? Eliminate.
14) The passive voice is to be avoided.
15) Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
16) Who needs rhetorical questions?
17) Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18) Donʼt never use a double negative.
19) Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
20) And donʼt start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to
end a sentence with.)
21) Donʼt overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!!
22) Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
23) Avoid trendy locutions that sound ﬂaky.
24) Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague; theyʼre old hat; seek viable alternatives.
Like most lists of rules for creativity, this one is long and thorough.Itʼs detailed and proscriptive.Itʼs
conﬁdent and dogmatic. And itʼs about as useful.
A couple of my copywriting colleagues from Germany came to visit me in my
office, and as we were chatting, the question came up: “When you sit down to
write a promotion, where do you start?”
While there is no right answer – you should do whatever works for you – an
informal survey of copywriters reveals that these are the most common starting
1. Headline. Many copywriters start with the headline. They write many different
headlines. And then agonize over which one is best.
James Web Young recalls sitting at home one evening when the thought “Why does
every man hope his first child will be a boy?” just popped into his head. He
wrote it down and later used it as the headline for a successful ad.
Other copywriters just write a rough headline as a placeholder and write the
entire promotion. Often, something they write in the body copy makes a stronger
headline than their placeholder.
I prefer to get a strong headline (with subhead) down on the screen before I
start writing the rest of the piece. Reason: the headline is your most
articulate expression of the big selling idea behind your package, and if you
can write a strong headline on it, you probably understand that big idea pretty
2. A theme or big idea. Porter Stansberry and his team of copywriters write
virtually all of their promotions around a big idea, theme, or story. I believe
they actually build products (in their case, newsletters) around big ideas they
think will work in the mail.
One of the early promotions Porter wrote had the headline: “There’s a new
railroad across America.” As I recall, the new railroad was a large fiber-optic
data network. The big idea was that just as the railroads connected us in the
early days of America, communications networks now connect us in modern times.
3. The prospect. Copywriter Don Hauptman says, “Start with the prospect, not the
product.” Another top copywriter, Sig Rosenblum, advises: “Don’t talk about
what’s interesting to you. Talk about what’s interesting to the prospect – his
hopes, dreams, needs, fears, problems, concerns, and desires.”
Traditional advertising often centers on the product. Even Bill Bernbach’s
classic Volkswagen ad, “Think Small,” focuses on the product, not the prospect –
at least in the headline.
But a better approach is to start with what’s on the prospect’s mind – what he
cares about – and then connect your product to the prospect’s major need or
4. The list. Ed McLean’s classic letter for Newsweek began: “If the list upon
which I found your name is any indication, this is not the first – nor will it
be the last – subscription letter you receive. Quite frankly, your education and
income set you apart from the general population and make you a highly rated
prospect for everything from magazines to mutual funds.”
Physician’s Desk Reference, a directory of prescription drug data, beat a long-
time control when they focused their mailings to specific lists. For instance, a
mailing to a list of people who had bought their PDR three years earlier said,
“Your PDR is now three years old and woefully out of date. Do not make
prescribing or clinical decisions with PDR until you replace your dated edition
with the new volume.”
5. Core emotion. Superstar copywriter Clayton Makepeace says the most important
thing to nail first when writing a promotion is a lead that somehow resonates
with what he calls the prospect’s “dominant resident emotion” – the strongest
feeling he has relating to your product or the problem it solves.
Once he has a lead capturing that emotion, he writes a headline to get prospects
to read it. Example: “LIES, LIES, LIES … we investors are fed up with everyone
lying to us and wasting our money!”
6. The core buying complex. Michael Masterson, co-founder of AWAI, uses a
similar approach, except he starts with what he calls the “core buying complex.”
This consists of the beliefs, feelings, and desires the prospect has that relate
to the product or offer.
A training firm launched a new seminar by making the title of the workshop the
headline of the letter: “Interpersonal Skills for IT Professionals.” It did not
While analyzing the core buying complex, the marketing team determined that a
key feeling of prospects – IT managers – was the adversarial nature of the
relationship that often exists between IT professionals and end users.
They tested against the control a new letter with the headline: “Important news
for any IT professional who has ever felt like telling an end user ‘Go to
hell.’” The test pulled 6X more leads than the control.
7. A big problem. A great question to ask your client is, “What’s keeping your
prospects up at night?” Then write a lead that acknowledges that problem.
My friend Sy Sperling became a multi-millionaire by founding the Hair Club for
Men. He began with tiny space ads in the Daily News. These small space ads had
no room for long headlines. If he wanted the headline in big, bold type, he only
had room for a few words. His one-word headline focused on the biggest problem
of men who had lost their hair: “BALD?”
8. Body copy. Write the body copy first. Then read it several times. Highlight
any strong sentence or phrase you think should be moved closer to the front. One
may be strong enough to move to the very front, as your headline.
Jim Rutz said in an interview he used a similar method to beat controls. He’d
read the control until he found something buried in the middle that would make a
stronger headline and lead than the one the copywriter had used.
9. The offer. If the offer is extremely appealing, or your audience is one that
responds to offer-driven promotions (e.g., book and record club buyers), you can
start by writing the offer.
Years ago, the Chemical Engineer’s Book Club introduced a new offer: join the
club and get the major reference work in the field, Perry’s Chemical Handbook.
The package I wrote worked very well. The outer envelope teaser was: “Why are we
giving away this new 50th anniversary edition of Perry’s Handbook practically
10. Order form. An effective way to overcome writer’s block, especially when
writing longer documents, is to start with the easy parts. When writing a
magalog, DM package, or landing page, that means for some copywriters starting
with the order form.
To get something down on the screen, you can even copy the order form from the
old promotion. Why not? Having that part done can energize you to move forward.
And you can always come back to the order form and improve it later.
11. Word file template. Another way to overcome writer’s block is to create a
template for your new promotion in Word. Just copy the file from your last
promotion, delete the text, and leave the outline: subheads and breaks
indicating where the various elements go. Then start filling in the blank
sections on the Word template.
12. Your swipe file. Keep a swipe file of controls in your market as well as
strong mailings in other industries. Look to both files for ideas and
inspiration when facing a blank screen on your new copywriting assignment.
Copywriter Milt Pierce says: “A good swipe file is better than a college
Robert W. Bly Guest Contributor THE TOTAL PACKAGE
18 Ways to Walk the Talk on Content, Valeria Maltoni
A couple of days ago I wrote a post about exposure and visibility and how quality content that is
valuable takes time to create. Everyone agrees with that sentiment. However, when push comes to
shove, with very few exceptions, people tend to spread content that is more popular -- even when
popularity means less helpful, sometimes incomplete.
The ability to think critically is a gift -- it's also the underpinning of an effective business strategy,
where you work from your core competencies. I worry that much of that ability gets lost to the desire
to fit in and become popular -- to make the quick list, in blog parlance.
Popularity doesn't equal value to your customers, the messenger is not the message.
It's counter intuitive because there is so much more content online than just a few years ago, however
content that addresses the needs of your customers is not plentiful. You get that, and you're ready to put
some resources against content creation.
Here are 18 ways to walk the talk on content for your consideration:
(1.) Have a clearly defined goal before you start on the writing assignment -- what is that white paper
or case study for? What part of the buyer's decision journey does it map to? Does your PR read like this,
(2.) Eliminate jargon or minimize it -- some industry talk is part of what endears you to search. However,
make sure you're using terminology your customers are using to find services like yours and not inside-
(3.) Map the proof points and benefits to the selected phase in the buyer's decision journey -- if there
are opportunities to make it specific, you should take them.
(4.) Match the benefits to the specific needs of an industry vertical -- if you're looking to attract a
specific group, it pays off to know the industry and play back those issues. Expertise is a sought after
(5.) Build context around your content -- either articulate what is already there, or provide a framework
to guide the reader, in your case the customer. Your narrative overall can help guide you with context.
(6.) Develop a sense of timing -- know when to be opportunistic in joining an existing conversation, and
offering your expert advice and information. This is easier to do when you've established a presence in
networks. Hire people who can seize the moment and time you well in social networks.
(7.) Get creative -- is there a unique approach you can take? Is there opportunity to make clarity in a
space where there is a lot of information that is hard to digest? David Weinberger does it with the
Internet as a topic. I should do more of this. Here are 50 content ideas that create buzz.
(8.) Be more authentic -- this goes hand in hand with clarity. Is there an opportunity in your industry or
niche for a business that communicates what it stands for? Could you be communicating more from your
core beliefs and values?
(9.) Use your platform for your customers -- I'm liking what Dave Winer is doing with the announcement
of a proposed panel Sources Go Direct. He's gathering a talented group of speakers around a topic
where there is a lot of passion: news that serves users/readers.
(10.) Organize the distribution system to appeal to your customers -- in a fragmented media landscape,
having a media strategy helps you tremendously. First you figure out where your customers and
prospective customers are, then you learn what they're talking about, what engages them, etc.
(11.) Put people in front -- although we see many examples of this point in social media and blogs, I think
content overall can use a refresh to be less stodgy and more accessible, to have a point of view. Bring
forward the personality of the expert with the expertise.
(12.) Embed ways for them to talk back when they share -- downloading a white paper after registering
on a form is not the only way to learn if your customers like your content and share it. Embed share this
widgets in your newsletter, for example, and learn where they share it.
(13.) Hire good writers and pay them well -- everyone can write just like everyone can do marketing and
communications, right? Writing that sells is a whole new level of skill, and you should appreciate the
difference. Online, you can measure it all the way to the cash register, metaphorically speaking.
(14.) Refresh your content with what you learn -- although evergreen content will give you a lot of
mileage, more specific content needs a refresh. Remember you're writing to zero in on needs and specific
is a good thing to support conversions. Monitor what gets shared and what doesn't and test new iterations.
(15.) Include what your customers say in your content -- with permission, please. What Jonathan Fields
points out here is a common trend. Permission marketing should include asking for permission to quote.
(16.) Recycle the best, with something new -- when you've invested in a piece of content, you want to
make sure you leverage it across multiple media. There's nothing wrong with recycling the ideas and
concepts in forms that are appropriate for the medium and the goals you're looking to achieve. You'll know
what's best from sharing and downloading numbers.
(17.) Make it easy to find -- how many layers are there on your Web site? Do you have an intuitive site
architecture? Is it linked to from pages that are natural complements or high in search? Are there simple
calls to action begging to be followed?
(18.) Write with the future opportunities you have in mind -- much of the current activities undertaken
in marketing communications focus on the present opportunities and learning from the past. The biggest
opportunity stands undiscovered in the future.
Well written and effective content that is tailored to the needs of your customers is worth gold to your
business -- it's your online body language, and it cannot easily be duplicated by other businesses.
How easy is it for you to write helpful content? What do you find challenging about the process? What
tools do you feel you're missing to make it work?
20 Ways to Make Your Copy More Believable, Daniel Levis
“If you can channel the tremendous force of belief behind only one claim, no matter how small, then that one
fully-believed claim will sell more goods than all the half-questioned promises your competitors can write for
the rest of their days.” – Gene Schwartz
Dear Web Business-Builder,
When planning a promotion, “there are always things you need your prospects to believe before they will
buy. The idea that not buying your product or service right now would be the epitome of dumbness is just one
of them. On the way to that end goal, there are always supporting conclusions that must be hurdled …
You may need to convince your prospect that a certain process or method is superior to all others when it
comes to solving his particular problem.
You may need to prove to him that even though your company is small, you can meet his needs.
You may need to lead him to the conclusion that despite what he perceives as his own limitations, he can
succeed with your help … and so on.
Every selling situation has its own unique supporting conclusions.
I think we’re all familiar with the idea of substantiating claims with proof, in the form of testimonials, customer
success stories, expert endorsements, the credentials of the seller, and so forth … but these are just a few of
the factors that impact belief.
Indeed as I sat down to write this article I counted 20 different mechanisms for getting your prospects to
believe what you need them to believe… on the road to buying your product.
There are mechanisms that can be applied to a conclusion itself. There are mechanisms that can be applied
after a conclusion has been stated, in order to substantiate it. There are mechanisms that can be used
before a conclusion is even introduced that will make that conclusion more believable. And all of them work
together to produce conviction.
Here’s a convenient checklist of things you can do to enhance believability. Use it as an idea starter on your
Credentialize — Credentials answer the question, “Why should I listen to you?” They are like badges of
authority. They do not always have to be formal designations received from professional bodies or
Demonstrating your track record for producing results is a powerful facsimile of credentials. This is especially
true when those results are especially relevant to what you’re promising to do for your prospect.
When voiced by someone other than yourself — ideally a recognized authority figure within your industry —
these informal credentials are every bit as impressive as real credentials, perhaps more so.
Reason with Them — to reason with someone is to offer evidence and to draw conclusions based on that
In selling, you use reasoning to answer the questions, “how does this work?” and “why is this so?”
Show a person how and why something works and they are much more likely to believe that it does. Explain
why the price is going up next week, and they are much more likely to believe that it will. Offer reasons why
your product is worth more, and they’re more likely to believe that it is.
If you want people to believe, give them reasons for doing so.
Gradualize Your Copy — Gradualization is a term coined by legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz. You can
and should get the full scoop by reading or rereading his book, Breakthrough Advertising, available in THE
TOTAL PACKAGE bookstore. I’ll give you the Cole’s notes on gradualization here …
In a nutshell, gradualization is achieved by beginning with statements your prospects already believe, and
then gradually extending and molding those beliefs to new ones that are required to make the sale.
To give you an oversimplification, if you want people to believe the statement, “no matter how many times
you may have failed in the past, you can do this,” you can make it more believable by prefacing it with a
number of truisms — things the prospect already believes — like so:
“You want to be the best you can be. You want the best for your family. As you sit in front of your computer …
as you read this message … now is the time to believe that no matter how many times you may have failed
in the past, YOU CAN DO THIS!”
Give Away Samples — Giving away a sample of your product is a very powerful and often overlooked way
of convincing people of your product claims when you don’t have much of a track record.
With information products, it makes total sense to turn your sales copy into a sample of your product. The
advertorial approach, were you give away valuable information in your sales copy in exchange for readership
is in effect, a product sample.
The quality of that information and the experience it creates, are potent proof of the claims you make in your
Make a Damaging Admission — in the hilariously funny 1987 comedy “Tin Men”, Ernest Tilley opens his
aluminum siding pitch by handing the home owner a silver dollar, saying he found it lodged between the
Surprised by Tilley’s apparent honesty, the homeowner lets down his guard and Tilley handily makes the
sale. Yes, Tilley was a con man, but you don’t have to be one to use the damaging admission.
Your prospects are naturally resistant to sales arguments. They are actively looking for “the catch.” When
you say something apparently damaging to your own self-interest, voluntarily admitting a flaw in your
product, it communicates your honesty. And they stop looking for the catch.
Use Testimonials — Contrary to popular belief, more testimonials are not necessarily better. Many
testimonials I read online are just a waste of pixels and actually undermine the sale.
To be of real value, testimonials should demonstrate results, as in “I was having horrible hair days and all the
girls at the office were laughing behind my back until I starting using XYZ — now they‘re all green with envy
over my soft curly locks and my new boyfriend.”
Bonus points if the testimonial helps you to overcome an objection. “I was totally grossed out by XYZ when I
found out it’s mostly frog pee. I mean, come on … gag me with a spoon. But when I saw the awesome
results people were getting, you know, I had to try it. And I’m so glad I did!”
Voice and video testimonials are more believable than straight text. If you can’t get audio or video at least try
to get a picture and permission to use the person’s full name, location, Web address etc. The more details
Use Authoritative Quotes — This one’s a little sneaky. If your product is based on a particular process or
contains a particular ingredient that has been endorsed by recognized experts, then using those
endorsements in your copy makes your product claims infinitely more believable.
Here’s an example of how the big guy used this technique to amp up the believability of one of his client’s
health product promotions — for a formulation that promises to blast plaque out of your arteries. Its active
ingredient is an amino acid called E-D-T-A.
… So what is this miracle of nature?
… This 23-cent capsule that works the wonders that the world’s most expensive prescription drugs can’t?
Scientists call it “ethylenediaminetetraacetic.” But please don’t be put off by the fancy- schmancy jargon. The
rest of us refer to it with four little letters E-T-D-A.
In a nearby sidebar appears the following authoritative quote …
“Published research and extensive clinical experience showed that EDTA helps reduce and prevent
arteriosclerotic plaques, thus improving blood flow to the heart and other organs.” – Dr. Linus Pauling, Two-
time Nobel Prize Winning Scientist
You can use authoritative quotes to increase the believability of virtually any supporting conclusion you need
to make in your copy.
Use Repetition — Have you ever taken stock of how you’ve come to believe something? Chances are it is
because you heard that something many times, and from different sources.
By drawing a conclusion repeatedly, you make it more believable. Find captivating ways to make your point
by direct statement, by example, through story, visually, through third party testimony, and more.
Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
Be Specific — Details are convincing. Generalities arouse suspicion. When quoting figures, be exact.
Ivory Soap, as we all know is 99.44% pure. Would it seem as pure if it were advertised as "almost absolutely
When naming nouns, be precise.
It is more believable to say “styles now reigning from Rue de la Paix, Paris, to Fifth Avenue, New York" than
it is to say, ”styles now reigning from the fashion centers of Europe to those of America.”
Use the Language of Logic — The very appearance of certain words can help your prospects to feel
justified in their decision to buy your product, beyond the actual presentation of proof.
Words and phrases like “Because” … “The reason being” … “Why?” … “The truth is”… “The facts are” …
“If_____ then_______” … “Proven to” … “Scientifically tested and validated”… “Borne out by research” …
“Studies prove” … etc., all increase the believability of your copy.
They can lend believability to even the most absurd claims.
Play show and tell — If you can demonstrate visual proof with before and after photographs, screenshots or
video footage — do it. Seeing is most definitely believing!
Graphics are also useful when presenting reasoned arguments. If you can demonstrate a process
graphically, it lends believability to your reasoning.
Be emphatic — When you are emphatic about something, people tend to believe you.
The arrested man who says dispassionately, “I am innocent” and then stops, is probably guilty. But he who
proclaims his innocence empathically and incessantly shakes the strongest conviction to the contrary.
When the conviction of the person communicating the copy is obviously extreme, it tends to rub off on the
prospect. What’s that? You want an example?
In sheer dollar terms, unadjusted for inflation, we have just witnessed the largest loss of wealth in the history
of humanity, dwarfing the “great” stock market crash of 1929 by a factor of 23 to 1.
And that crash lit the fuse on the worst depression this nation has ever suffered.
You can bet your bottom dollar that the devastating losses we’ve seen recently guarantee economic
catastrophe and ANOTHER vicious slaughter of US stocks and equity funds in 2002.
Use presupposition — Statements that presuppose a conclusion lend credence to that conclusion.
If you want hockey players to believe your new graphite hockey stick could double the speed and accuracy
of their slap shot, you can make that conclusion more believable by presupposing the inevitability of that
Note how the second phrasing does this:
“Imagine what it would mean to your game if you could slap the puck with twice the speed and
accuracy.” “Imagine what it means to your game when you’re slapping that puck with twice the speed and
Be congruent — The moment of conviction — that moment when the realization that not buying right now,
would be about the dumbest thing in the world — is a very delicate moment.
I believe there is a split-second gut check that takes place, something akin to our primeval ancestors looking
around in all directions, to see if it’s safe, before descending on a patch of berries. Does everything add up?
Is this a trap?
A congruent sales argument is believable, because everything about it communicates a consistent meaning.
It fits together so tightly from beginning to end that it couldn’t possibly be anything but genuine and honest. It
just rings true. There is no weak link, simply no room, for doubt to exist.
Get them to like you — There is a strong connection between likability and believability. So anything you
can do to inject personality into your sales copy is a step toward producing conviction.
We tend to like people who are like us. Therefore the more you can demonstrate that you share the same
hopes, dreams, ideologies, ideals, faults, and frailties as your target audience, the more they will like you.
And when they like you, they will allow themselves to believe what you have to say without much critical
thought or resistance.
Use metaphor and analogy — we trust what we know. Our beliefs are very comforting to us, because they
And one of the fastest ways to help someone to become comfortable and familiar with an idea is to compare
that idea to something already known and understood.
To say that accomplishing something new and unfamiliar is easy has no meaning to someone. To say it is as
easy as falling off a log, gives them a point of reference.
Use short words and simple phrases — Plain talk sounds like the truth.
Lengthy, highfalutin-sounding words woven into flowery rhetoric give the impression you’ve got something to
Establish buying criteria before talking about your product — One of the best ways to avoid skepticism
is to introduce supporting conclusions before even mentioning your product.
This is, of course, yet another benefit of the advertorial approach to selling. Because people feel like they are
being educated rather than sold, they are much less resistant to accepting the ideas you present.
Tell Stories — We resist other people’s conclusions. We embrace our own. That’s why a conclusion
embedded in a story is more believable than a conclusion expressed as a direct statement.
The prospect can take ownership of the moral of the story. Nobody told him what to think. He arrived at his
own conclusion when he grasped the moral of the story. The moral of the story just happened to be the
conclusion you needed him to accept.
Answer Objections before they Arise – If you can answer an objection before it arises you strengthen the
believability of your claims.
By doing so, you prevent doubt from festering in your prospect’s mind. The longer an objection bounces
around in his noggin, the more difficult it is to overcome.
Inoculate against objections while you have the chance. They may not have arisen on their own, prior to the
sale, but you can be sure they will — sooner or later.
Your prospect may have to justify his decision to his spouse or his buddies. And he will most certainly have
to re-justify it to himself at some point in the future.
Give him the ammunition he needs to defend his decision.
Offer a bold guarantee — A powerful guarantee is more than risk relief.
It should communicate to your prospect that your claims must be true. How could you possibly afford to lay
money on the line and guarantee them if they weren’t?
So there you have it, a whole score of belief-inducing ideas for detonating response on your very next
promotion. Can you say, “THE TOTAL PACKAGE over delivers?”
Until next time, Good Selling!
1. The Emotional brand
People may like your products or prices, but there will be someone with a better product or a lower price
sooner or later. To survive the market you need to build relationships with customers. People are loyal to
brands because of emotional associations that align with their own belief systems.The emotional brand is the
heart of your brand, what you stand for: Values, beliefs, ethics, culture, norms, customs.A durable product
makes us feel tough or secure. A stylish product makes us feel fashionable. We buy products or services
because of how they make us feel. The emotional brand should be at the core of how you communicate your
brand, linguistically and visually.
2. The linguistic brand
We love the grassroots entrepreneurial stories of today’s big brands, such as how Steve Jobs started
Apple. Why? We are trying to understand or confirm how we feel and like keeping a diary, stories clarify how
we feel. The linguistic brand is how you use language to communicate your emotional brand: Slogan, value
propositions, mission & vision statements, stories, themed words.
3. The visual brand
A second of exposure to a logo has the potential to strike a fire of emotions in us. Visual elements are
placeholders for everything a brand represents. They are portals into the stories and emotions that represent
our brand. The visual brand is how you visually communicate your emotional brand: Logo, colors, common
design patterns, office design, visual artifacts, photos. Emotions and language convey meaning
independently, but a logo is nothing but a pretty picture by itself. Emotions and language give it meaning.
Use your visual brand to reinforce the emotions and language that give your brand meaning to the customer.
4. The customer brand
At the end of the day the customer brand is the brand. It is the sum of customer (stakeholder) experiences.
You can tell yourself who you think you are all day, but if the customer doesn’t experience that, then it’s all
smoke and mirrors. Your customer brand is a melting pot of experiences. Good and bad. Fun and boring. All
of it. The closer the emotional, linguistic, and visual brands align with what the customer experiences, the
better. The more these elements align with the customer’s belief system, the better.
So what defines the most powerful brands? Powerful brands have clear values communicated through
language and visuals that align with customers at an emotional level.
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