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Clayton-palooza...Remembering the copywriting and direct response legend we lost in 2020 (Part 1)


The year 2020 is coming to an end...and none too soon for many of us.

One of the biggest losses of the year was the passing of my friend and, in many ways, mentor, the great Clayton Makepeace this past March.

If you ever had the chance to meet Clayton, work with him, or hear him speak, you know what a brilliant mind he had...and how generous he was about sharing his knowledge with others. Maybe, like me, you've collected and studied as many of his sizzling hot controls over the years as you could get your hands on...and gained countless ideas you've used with your own copy. Throughout his career, Clayton paved the way for the rest of us copywriters, me included. In fact, if it weren't for Clayton writing an incredibly successful promotion to launch Phillips Publishing's Health & Healing newsletter, I wouldn't have been hired there. His promo (and the in-house team he worked with) helped create multiple jobs--mine included. And it created a large and loyal following we were able to sell other products to--namely supplements...which allowed me to help launch and grow Phillips' Healthy Directions business. I remember studying the promos Clayton wrote when I was an in-house marketer...and getting to meet him for the first time. Later as a freelance copywriter, I had the opportunity to work with Clayton on a few promos, and learned tons...much of what I still apply to this day when I write copy. Clayton was also one of the first top copywriters to begin sharing his vast copywriting knowledge with others. In the mid-2000's he launched "The Total Package". He put on a $5,000 event in DC (which I attended and was worth every penny and then some). So as a tribute to Clayton, I'm re-running some excerpts from a series of emails I sent out earlier this year after he passed away. There's lots of copywriting "gold" and some examples pulled from some of Clayton's many successful promos. I'll be breaking this "Clayton-palooza" up into two separate emails...so look for Part 2 coming out later this afternoon. Alright, let's get started with...

How to unleash your product's "secret sauce"...

In today's world of saturated markets and hundreds of lookalike, "me, too" products, Clayton's copywriting "secret sauce" has never been more valuable or necessary. I've personally used this "secret sauce" to write dozens of successful controls, as have other top A-list copywriters who I greatly admire...namely Carline Anglade-Cole, who was very fortunate to have Clayton as a long-time mentor and friend. So let's dig into how Clayton was able to create emotionally powerful copy like you see on this front cover of one of his past supplement controls...

See how every word and phrase is carefully chosen to pack as much emotional punch as possible? Notice how the copy resonates with the target prospect's deepest wants, fears, frustrations, and beliefs? And see how he teases about the solution and gives the prospect hope? How did Clayton DO this? Let's go "behind the scenes" take a look! I'm going to start with revealing the 5-step formula that brings your product's benefits to life...and helps you masterfully connect them with your prospect's most powerful, response-boosting emotions. It's a 5-step process that goes beyond simply listing features and turning them into benefits. Many copywriters only do these two steps. When you leave out the other three steps that I'll be sharing with you, you run the risk of killing your sales copy with "faux" benefits. Clayton defines a "faux" benefit as a feature masquerading as a benefit. It results in headlines like "Get off the hormone rollercoaster" or "Balance your blood sugar levels naturally" or "Flush deadly toxins out of your colon". None of these are necessarily terrible copy...and you may find you're limited by compliance that results in your copy being "neutered". (I do realize the copy I'm showing here of Clayton's, which is from well over a decade ago, is a lot less compliant than many companies are comfortable with these days.) But there are always creative ways around these barriers. It starts with entering the conversation that's already going on in your prospect's mind. No prospect is waking up in the middle of the night and saying, "Oh my God, I've GOT to balance my blood sugar levels naturally" or "get off the hormone rollercoaster" or "flush these toxins out of my colon". So determining your prospect's top resident emotions is key. But before that, you've got to first dig out the "secret sauce" that your product or service offers. That way you can CONNECT these dominant resident emotions to what your product does. This process starts with step #1 of the 5-step formula: Create a comprehensive inventory of your product or service's FEATURES. Yes, this is a big part of the research process you need to get done before going any further. Do not rush through or skip over this step or you'll simply sound like everyone else. I probably spend at least half of my time on this one step alone. Here's everything you want to take a look at... 1) If your product revolves around a spokesperson, doctor, financial expert, coach, or other "guru", you need to interview that person. Find out what degrees, certifications, and other credibility boosters they have that make them uniquely qualified. If they have a certain process they follow to do what they do, find out what it is. If they're the one who developed or created the product, find out the backstory. One of the first promotions I wrote when I worked at Phillips Publishing was for a $395 air purifier. We tested an insert to sell as a back-end product to health newsletter subscribers, and it did really well. It all started with this crucial step of interviewing the inventor behind the product, and even flying to his factory in Buffalo, New York in the dead of winter to see exactly how the product was made. When Clayton Makepeace was hired by Phillips to write the launch promo for their Health & Healing newsletter, he flew cross country to spend a weekend in Newport Beach, California with Dr. Julian Whitaker, the "guru". He knew Dr. Whitaker was the product and he was selling his leadership, and a relationship with this person, NOT simply a health newsletter. So he observed how Dr. Whitaker interacted with his patients, dug out what motivated him to take the alternative path he did, and all the other brain-picking that led to him creating one of the most successful promotions and launches of all time. You don't necessarily need to travel or go to these same extremes, but you can accomplish a lot of this by having one or two in-depth interviews by phone. 2) List out all the different features of the product or service. If it's a supplement, ask the "guru" or formulator behind it why those particular nutrients were chosen. Go further and find out why that specific form of the nutrient was used. If it's a patented nutrient, find out what makes it special and superior to other forms. Same approach for any other product or service. Every one of the features may contain a hidden benefit you want to bring out. For example, if it's a physical product, how does it compare to competing products...bigger? lighter? longer-lasting? If it's an information product, how many pages does it have? Is it written with clear, concise directions? How many times does it come out? Are there updates in between? Are there bonuses? What other regular features are included? 3) Look at any performance metrics that are available. How quickly does your product produce results or complete the desired task? How does it perform compared to the competition or other alternatives? What results has it produced for others in the past? If it's an investment newsletter (very timely right now), how did it perform at other key turning points, i.e., the 2008 financial crisis? For health products, how does the prospect know it's working? What unique mechanism does it have to produce these results--i.e., XX% better absorbed if a supplement? 4) Several other potential features to look at include the guarantee...credibility boosters like testimonials or media mentions...speed of delivery...ordering options...offer and other incentives...how the product is priced compared to the competition and what you get (value)--think "cost of doing it yourself". Yes, some of these may not sound like "features", but they should be treated as such for this inventory stage. You'll want to dimensionalize and tie them to dominant emotions later.

The "why" secret to amplifying your product's features... Let's move on to the next step, which follows after you've put together an exhaustive inventory of your product or service's features. It's to take each of those features and attach a "why" to it. This is where you flush out "why" was that particular form of calcium used? "Why" does the air purifier have a 3-way dial? "Why" are there flash alerts sent in between monthly issues of that investment newsletter? Ask yourself "why" that feature is included..."why" is it important, useful, or unique? For example, that particular form of calcium is used because research shows it's ten times better absorbed. That 3-way dial lets you control the flow of air. Those flash alerts keep you up to date on changing conditions or fast-moving opportunities. Attach as many "whys" as you can to each individual feature. You'll likely need to do more research in order to do so. This is when you might want to dig more into the studies or ask more questions of the formulator if you're writing for a supplement. Or hop on another call with the editor behind the newsletter or their marketing team. You may also need to do more competitive research at this point to determine how differentiating a particular feature and the "reason why" behind it is. Or find more specific examples of proof of result or credibility enhancers. Be as exhaustive in doing your research as you are in listing out all the features. Don't simply settle for what the client has given you. Go deeper. Be relentless. At this step, you're still focused entirely on the product or service, and the company or "guru" behind it. And surprisingly, many copywriters might stop there. But that'd be a huge mistake. Because the next step is even more crucial.

I'll tell you more about it in Part 2 of my "Clayton-palooza" series this afternoon. It's got some great lessons on identifying the key dominant emotions of your prospect, so you can tap into them with your copy. You won't want to miss it! Yours for smarter marketing, Kim P.S. Clayton Makepeace's widow, Wendy (a.k.a. "the Redhead") has worked with the folks at AWAI to make a priceless collection of his past Mastermind sessions and other copywriting training available. It's called the Makepeace Mastermind Alliance and when it was first released, people gladly ponied upwards of $3k just for the series of in-depth sessions Clayton did with a slew of top copywriters and marketers. Now, as part of this special collection, you can not only get access to all 35 Mastermind sessions, but also Clayton's key checklists for copywriters...a 500-page swipe file of Clayton's "greatest hits"...his $20 Million Sales Letter Masterclass...plus the Makepeace Mastermind Alliance newsletters and Clayton's personal "video shorts" packed with his copywriting and marketing insights. And you can get all of this for HALF what folks forked over for Clayton's mastermind sessions alone. But these 50% savings end at midnight Pacific time tonight. Yes, it's still a bit of a splurge, but it's an amazing investment you may not be able to get again at this special price. Get all the details here while you still can.

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