Posts Tagged ‘copywriting’

My Brief Career as a Criminal

September 2nd, 2017 1 comment

“Talk to an attorney, he said, “before you bring a world of hurt on yourself.”

That’s one of the comments I got when I posted my business idea on a private forum I belong to.

Damn! I was this close!

I had figured out how to perform a badly needed service at virtually no cost. I knew how to streamline the process into a repeatable system. I was going to outsource most of the work.

I was going to create a training program out of the business, and sell it to thousands of investors across the country. In fact, I already had a small group of real estate investors lining up to pay me, thanks to some of the most effective copywriting I’ve ever done.

This was it! I could finally buy a villa in southern Italy and retire by the age of 50. Except for one glaring detail. I was breaking the law.

You need a real estate broker’s license to do most of the things I was proposing. One reader who vetted my copywriting for me said, “The ad is effective. The activities are illegal.”

There are some big lessons from this. The first one is hopefully obvious: When you have an idea, don’t keep it to yourself! Run it by other people. I’m saying this because it’s usually something I don’t do.

Lucky for me I’m trying to be less of a hermit and involve more people in every aspect of my life. Otherwise, I’d be telling you this story from a prison cell.

The second take-away is related to marketing and copywriting. If that’s something you want to learn about, here’s the rest of the story.

“Landlords! I’ll bet you $25 I can find you a dream tenant in 14 days”

My criminal business activity was to help landlords find and screen new tenants. My wife and I have done this twice for our own property, and this summer I helped fill a few vacancies for a friend.

I wrote a Craigslist ad explaining what I do and why it’s needed, and asked a bunch of people for feedback.

One of my mentors, Gary North, was impressed enough to publish an open critique of the copy. I got so excited, I tweeted the link to the world–right before I realized that only paying members of his website can see it.

The copy was based on one of Gary Halbert’s methods for writing an ad. (If you’re interested enough in marketing to have read this far, you’d better look up Gary Halbert and read his stuff.)

His suggested first step is to write a fact sheet about your product or service. I usually do this, but not Halbert style. I typically come up with a few dozen facts. Gary Halbert wants a list that’s 15 pages long. I had to rack my brain to think of more and more ideas.

This in itself is a great way to promote your business. It greatly increases your chance of finding a Capo D’astro Bar. But there’s more to the story.

After you have your fact sheet, Gary Halbert wants you to copy an advertisement by hand. It’s the one David Ogilvy wrote for the Rolls Royce. If you’re a copywriter, I recommend you copy the ad, too. If not, at least Google the ad and read it. You’ll get a deep new respect for the power of simple facts.

Anyway, I did my homework and loaded facts into every stage of my ad. Aside from the glaring legal issue, the responses to this ad were positive. Gary North had this to say, before he critiqued my ad almost line-by-line: “I want to go through it here to show you why I think it’s going to work.”

He did say the last third of the ad was weak. And I’ll tell you why this makes sense.

I filled my ad with concrete facts…until the close. The result was that I left readers wondering what they were going to get, and what they had to do.

One comment read: “My only question at this point is this: ‘What is this really going to cost me?'”

In other words, the deal killer was the uncertainty. The lack of facts at the end.

Since I can’t legally offer this service, I pulled the ad and I won’t post it here. But I’ll tell you what my closing says:

“If this sounds like something that could help you, please reply to this ad. I’ll send you a simple questionnaire, follow up by phone or email if necessary, and then I’ll get to work.”

Here, a few facts could have dispelled the uncertainty. I should have said, “I’ll send you 11 simple questions to answer, and if anything is unclear I’ll follow up with a 10-minute phone call. No matter what, you will only pay x dollars, as promised.”

Now the reader won’t be left wondering what this is really going to cost them, either in time or money. 14 questions, x dollars, and maybe a 10 minute phone call if I need it.

The number one reason people don’t buy from you is that they simply don’t want what your selling. But the number two reason is they don’t believe you. For whatever reason, they don’t believe you can provide what you say you can provide.

The best way to strengthen your close is to be a fanatic about dispelling every last trace of doubt and uncertainty. You can go a long way towards accomplishing this by backing up your claims with facts. And that’s a fact.

What are the 3 most important facts a potential client should know about your business? Leave them in the comments below.




What every copywriter doesn’t want you to know

August 2nd, 2010 No comments

Don’t tell anyone I revealed this. I’ll get enemies left and right. But here’s the reason I always talk about missing 20% of your best opportunities. Because even the best copy only accounts for 20% of your results. There are two other factors that are twice as important: Your list, and an offer.

But before you even get started writing copy, or especially before hiring someone else to write copy for you, get clear on the two things that may account for up to 80% of your marketing success: The right offer to the right people.

Be the demanding client for a moment, and let’s see how this works.

The backpacker principle

Suppose you’ve earned some free time, and you want to do something special. You’ve always wanted to go backpacking in the remote parts of Hawaii. You want to climb volcanoes and watch them erupt at night. Hey, you’re even going to sleep in a lava tube if you get the chance.

Four hundred travel agents are competing for your business. But they’re not all on a level playing field. After some initial research, you start getting emails from 100 travel agents that are based in Hawaii, and specialize in travel there.

Which one will you choose? Out of 100 possible agents, fifty of them advertise on outdoor adventure websites. You now have 50 agencies that specialize in outdoor Hawaiian adventures. They know where to find the most comfortable lava tube beds. They can get your camping gear safely on and off the plane, and bring you to the best trailhead.

Ten of these companies are offering special discounts or premiums for the month you want to travel. Guess what? Out of 400 competitors, these 10 are the only ones in the running, based on choosing the right list and the right offer.

Who will be the winner? Assuming the 10 finalists offer comparable value, then and only then will the copywriting make a difference.

What the research says

A lot of market research over the last 30 years has produced the same conclusion. Getting the client is 40% list-building, 40% the offer, and only 20% the copy. A good copywriter will help you write a good offer, and could therefore contribute 60% to your success. But finding the right list is critical. Don’t waste your time selling lava tubes to clients who want a 5 star hotel.

Does copywriting still matter?

These are tough times. There are still plenty of people spending money, but everyone is more careful about where and how they spend it. Focusing on a narrow list is critical. (You can have multiple lists, but you need to market to each one separately.) Constructing a worthwhile offer is vital.

But then, in the end, when you’ve done all your hard work and research and you’ve made the right offer to the right market, all of your efforts can go to waste. Because when you’ve fought your way into that last handful of carefully-selected candidates, you’re competing with businesses that did all of their homework too. You’re up against the toughest and smartest competitors, and they’re going to fight you with everything they’ve got.

This is when you need a copywriter at your back.


How to use copywriting to reduce your costs and lower your risk

June 19th, 2010 No comments

Response Magazine often talks about a low-cost way to test your infomercial, before you spend a fortune on DirectTV.

They suggest running a long radio spot with the same or similar script that you plan to use for your infomercial. Many long-copy radio spots have been successfully morphed into high-yielding infomercials. And if your radio spot bombs, you can change the script or the concept before you’ve spent a fortune on TV advertising.

But even a simple radio ad will cost your company thousands of dollars but the priciple is useful no matter how small your advertising budget may be: It’s better to discover a failing campaign before you when the costs are low.

Since copy is the backbone of every ad campaign, along with a solid offer, you’re best off testing your copy and your offer as cheaply as possible. If it’s successful, you can invest more money to get your message out there on the expensive media.

Start with a sales letter, and make 2 slightly different versions so you can compare the response.  Maybe change the headline, or they layout, the “p.s.” at the end or the call to action.

Mail each one directly to 100 or 1,000 of your most likely prospects. Send out the different versions as an email to everyone on your list. Post them on your blog, and link a few relevant Google ads to the pages.

Track your results, and find out what works This is the time to tweak and test your message. Copy is the foundation of every effort. Once you’ve got it right, then you can re-apply it–with amplified results, over other media such as radio and TV.


Business owners: Choose the copywriter you want to write a FREE direct mail campaign for your business

April 3rd, 2010 No comments

Warning: You best ideas are being stolen from you as soon as you implement them online. Anytime you come up with something new and clever, and it works, thousands of Internet-surfing competitors are going to swipe and deploy it. Online, innovation has an expiration date.

One of the best things you can do is figure out ways to market invisibly, doing things that your competitors can’t see.

That’s yet another reason to use direct mail. When you deliver your best marketing content straight to the people you’re trying to reach, none of your competitors will see it. They may notice that you’re beating them, getting more business, stealing market share, but they have no idea how or why.

If you’ve heard people say, “direct mail doesn’t work,” I’m about to prove to you that it does. Not only that, but I’m going to get you a bargain on a powerful campaign.

Here’s how it works. I’m having a contest. A group of ambitious, talented writers will take a look at your business and propose a direct mail campaign. You simply pick the best campaign and implement it. I’ll pre-screen the contestants  so you only have to deal with the best.

I only ask a few things from you. First, you should sincerely intend to use the campaign in the near future, and you should have a way to measure the response (I’ll help you with this). This way, the writer will at least have a solid sample for his/her portfolio with quantifiable results.

Second, your business should be on a growth trajectory that will create a need for future copywriting. I want you to build a relationship with your copywriter. If she makes you rich and famous, you should have the resources and the ambition to engage her again in the future. In fact, you’d be a fool and a loser if you didn’t.

This is meant to be a 3-way, win-win-win scenario.

  • You get an invaluable professional service for free
  • The writer gets a stronger portfolio and excellent prospects for future work
  • I get to add a talented, proven writer to my stable, someone to whom I can outsource work in the future

Drop me an email or leave a comment below if you’re interested.

The rest of this is for copywriters (I know a lot of you read my blogs and newsletters).

If you’re interested in doing this, it tells me two things. First, you’re ambitious and energetic (good). Second, since you’re willing to work for free you’re probably not getting all the work you want (not necessarily bad).

Send me an email about your writing career. Maybe you just finished the AWAI course (or the pricier DMA version), you read Peter Bowerman or something happened that convinced you to take the plunge and go into business for yourself .

Anyway, send me an email about you, your writing, your life. (HINT #1: The subject line is basically a headline. Write a good one or I might delete you unread) Experience and training are important, but not critical. I assume most of the contestants are going to be relative newbies. Your email will show off your copywriting skills, and this is far more important than just sending me a digital resume.

Finally, the disclaimer. I’m doing this because I’m planning to strictly limit the amount of copywriting I take on in the future. I’d rather strategize, plan, and delegate. This means I’m very eager to build good relationships with good writers who will hopefully work for me and my clients.

But there’s no guarantee you’ll ever get any paid work out of this. I know from personal experience that writing for free is usually just that and never anything more, even when people have the very best of intentions. I wouldn’t enter this contest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

So what will it be? Are we on? Go for it, if you dare.


Copywriting Secret Number One

November 26th, 2007 No comments

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Always do this.

Every time you deliver content or info to a prospect, give them a specific step they can take to do business with you.

Don’t just put your phone number at the bottom of the web page. Tell them to pick up the phone and call you for an appointment, and give them several good reasons why they need to do it today.

Every piece of text should actively prompt readers to do something: Sign up for a newsletter. Download a white paper. Buy this special deal at this special low price that will only be good until Saturday.

On top of getting more sales faster, writing for specific results gives you something tangible you can measure.

When you know that 3 out of every 1000 visitors to your website call for a consultation, and you get 5 appointments for every 100 newsletters you send out, you can start to understand what works and what doesn’t.

This will let you put more time and energy into useful activity, dump the tactics that aren’t working, and increase your Return On Investment (ROI).

There are a lot of clever ways to put in your “call to action.” but all you really have to do is include a reason why they should take the desired action.

For example, “Tax time is just around the corner. I want to make sure you get a chance to review your portfolio before my I’m booked solid, so call me before the end of the week and you can take advantage of our annual IRS vaccination special.”

Be sure to repeat your call to action at the end of your piece, in the form of a p.s. Over 75% of the people who don’t read your copy word-for-word will still read the p.s.

Only businesses based on mail order, catalogs, and e-commerce seem to use this tool consistently. Do you?

The next time a marketing piece grabs your attention, ask yourself, “So what am I supposed to do now?” See if it answers that question.

Then look at your own website, sales letters, presentations, or anything else you use, and ask the same question.

You’ll learn a lot of surprising things about your business and your customers. And on top of your new wealth of knowledge, you’ll also gain a wealth of…er, wealth.

To get ahead in business, you have to stand out from the competition. You have to do something different. You have to be bold.

Subscribe to the Bold Words newsletter, and you’ll get tips and content you won’t find posted on this blog.


The 1000% Growth Secret

November 11th, 2007 No comments

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You shake hands until your palm rubs off. Your eat glue for breakfast and mail postcards to qualified leads in 400 zip codes. The list of networking groups you belong to could fill the yellow pages of a small suburb.

But according to a Wharton School study, only 3% of the people you contact are going to whip out their checkbooks and credit cards and become your clients. However, a simple change in strategy can build up that 3% and increase it to 30% or more.

I’m going to tell you how to do this in the next paragraph, but don’t run off and try it out as soon as you read it. There’s a seemingly “obvious” way to make this secret work, but if you spring the trap you’ll trip over your shoelaces.

And then there’s a more effective way that you’ll miss if you don’t keep reading.

Here’s the secret: Once your prospects have gone through a getting-to-know-you phase, had their questions answered, learned more about your company, or reached the moment when they have the time/budget/immediate need, they’re ten times more likely to respond.

They somehow “raised their hand” to find out more about you. Now they’re on your list, and even though you might have to wait six months or a year, if you keep in touch with them it’s likely to pay off with either a sale or a referral.

The “obvious” way to make this happen is to keep on cranking out white papers, newsletters, direct mail, and the like to everyone who has ever expressed an interest in the products or services you offer. A lot of successful marketers recommend this, and it will bring results if you’re patient.

But here’s the twist: When you contact someone for the second, third, or ninth time, are you still treating them like it’s the first time? Or do you acknowledge the relationship you’ve started to build?

For most businesses, sending out the same generic mailing or email to everybody, month after month, isn’t going to cut it.

The way to make repeated contact is to develop a marketing pyramid. Send out different material to your prospects, depending on their level of importance.

For example, at the base of your pyramid, you’ll have your lead-generating content. This could include your elevator speech, cold-call script, and the general e-mail and tree-mail you send to cold suspects.

Your next tier would be generic “reminders.” Contact everyone who has responded to your lead-generating efforts whenever you have an announcement, such as a new product or a special offer. You want to keep in touch with this group. Treat them better than your cold leads.

This second level is where newsletters and direct mail come in handy.

Most businesses stop at the second tier. But if you want to cultivate relationships that will pay off over the long term, add a few more levels.

Your third level should be for highly-interested prospects. These are people who have approached you unsolicited. They’ve taken the initiative, so don’t let them go.

If they don’t close a deal with you right away, keep reminding them how you’re qualified to solve their problems. For example, you could break a long silence with a friendly letter and a useful article. Email them a link to a white paper the following week, and then follow up with a phone call. Keep up a steady flow of fresh information and you’ll stay on their radar.

The highest level is people who have put money in your pocket, either by doing business directly with you or sending you referrals. You want to woo them and keep them at this level.

Give them something extra that’s not available to the other levels. This is where special gifts, offers, and incentives have a role.

A decision-maker who knows your name is much more valuable to you than a stranger on a list that you compiled from a directory. And since we do business with people we know, you want to stay familiar.

These are simple concepts. Yet very few people apply them. Maybe all you need is someone to write something for you. Or a kick in the pants to actually get your content into the hands of all those prospects.

If you’re looking for ways to get more information out to more people more often, call me at 213-427-9288 and I’ll give you at least 2 ideas you can get started on immediately.

Or read the next issue, where we’ll look at 5 classic copywriting ingredients to turbo charge your company information and create high-performance marketing magnets.

To get ahead in business, you have to stand out from the competition. You have to do something different. You have to be bold.

Subscribe to the Bold Words newsletter, and you’ll get tips and content you won’t find posted on this blog.