Updated: Feb 18, 2019
Issue #56—February 15, 2019
Wherever you are, I hope it's as beautiful a day as it's supposed to be here in the Washington, DC area today. Sunny, high of 60 degrees Fahrenheit...not bad for the middle of February. It's a nice break from the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures.
And it won't be long before this wintry weather is behind us. In the meantime, let's warm things up with some copywriting lessons from what you may think is a surprising source.
In the past week or so I've gone back and looked at the workbook for a course I completed in the mid-1990s (yes, I was a mere child then--lol).
And I've been struck by how many applications it has today not just for business and life in general, but for copywriting. In fact, all of the top copywriters and the most successful sales promotions I've seen incorporate many of the principles taught in this course. What course is this?
It's the Dale Carnegie course, of course! I mentioned it in last week's issue (which by the way, if you missed it--and any other Copy Insiders issues going back to the beginning of this year--you can find on my Blog here.)
Here are just a few copywriting lessons I gleaned from reviewing it again recently. Any of them can warm up your prospect and make him or her much more likely to want to buy from you.
Lesson #1: Pull them in with a compelling story that preps them for action
The same "magic formula" taught in the Dale Carnegie course to help with making effective presentations can (and should) be applied to copy. This is particularly true if you're using a story lead in your sales letter. The "magic formula" consists of the following 3 steps:
The "Incident" is where you tell the opening story. Ideally, it's one where some kind of valuable lesson can be gleaned. You want to be sure your "Incident" captures the immediate attention of your prospect. You also want to draw the prospect in by being conversational.
The "Action" is what someone should do that will help them--something learned as a result of the "Incident".
And the "Benefit" is, of course, fairly obvious: how the prospect will benefit by applying this action or lesson learned. (This, of course, is what your product or service will do for them.)
Here's a great example of applying this "magic formula" in a story lead from a promotion I believe Clayton Makepeace wrote years ago for an oral chelation circulation-boosting supplement. Let's take a look...
As you can see, the opening sentence pulls you into the copy and makes it impossible to stop reading. The copy that follows dramatizes and dimensionalizes every detail of the story for maximum effect, tapping into the prospect's fear of suffering a sudden heart disaster.
And it makes the product the hero without tipping its hand that it's selling something...and already begins to overcome objections (FDA-approved, safe enough for babies, etc.)...while painting a picture of life thanks to having this product...all of which primes the prospect to buy while keeping him or her reading and insatiably curious to learn more.
This incredibly well-written story lead is also a great example of this next lesson...
Lesson #2: Always talk in pictures
We've all heard great speakers and orators who have a way of moving the audience by painting vivid pictures...whether it's sharing a hard-luck origin story or showing a dramatic transformation.
It's an age-old approach to storytelling that works while making a presentation, in blockbuster Hollywood movies, in fiction books on the New York Times bestseller list...AND in your sales copy. Don't TELL your prospect something, SHOW him or her.
As humans we're wired to not only hear stories, but to "see" something--whether it's an image shown to us on the big screen, or an image conjured in our heads while escaping into a novel--or while being pulled in by copy we can't stop reading.
Can you "see" that villainous white powder in the start of the copy example above literally moving through John's arteries--setting him up for a deadly stroke? Can you "see" the heroic, life-saving capsules entering John's bloodstream and sweeping away the "rogue calcium deposits that had super-glued this plaque to his artery walls"?
You can probably also see why this promo, and the many different versions of it Clayton wrote that mailed to millions, is one of my favorite supplement promos. These kind of vivid word pictures were used brilliantly throughout it. He also expanded the benefits beyond heart health to other side benefits of enhanced circulation--like enhanced sexual function...with some "spicy" sidebars and images scattered throughout.
True story: When my son was 10 or 11, I happened to look under his bed one day. He had a copy of Clayton's promo stashed under his bed...he was reading it like porn! It was that engaging and captivating...
Let's wrap things up here with one more lesson on copywriting I want to share with you courtesy of Dale Carnegie...
Lesson #3: Always ask yourself how your audience will benefit
Clearly, this is a crucial step in creating any kind of presentation for an audience. Obviously it's something you need to do in your sales copy as well.
The problem is you can blast all the benefits in the world of your product or service...and end up turning off your audience, and your prospect. It's not enough just to offer strong benefits and present them in your copy, you need to do it in a way that doesn't come across as self-serving.
Parris Lampropoulus tells a story of a promotion he wrote many years ago for Agora. He had his copy reviewed back then by Bill Bonner, the company's founder and an incredible copywriter in his own right.
In Parris' copy, the way he presented the product prompted this comment from Bill Bonner: "How convenient. Your product just happens to be the one that does these things or overcomes that problem."
This can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. It's best to present whoever is the signee of the sales letter (company president, doctor who formulated the product, or other product endorser) as some kind of crusader...the one who's looking out for YOU unlike those other greedy scoundrels.
After experiencing this kind of surprising and remarkable transformation himself, this doctor can convincingly say that he had NO other choice but to help bring this breakthrough solution to the world for other joint pain sufferers like himself.
That's it for this week's issue of Copy Insiders. I've got piles of deadlines waiting--and a beautiful sunny day here in DC to enjoy. (It is Friday, after all!) I'm always surprised just how timeless some of the greats like Dale Carnegie are for learning so many copywriting and life lessons. If you haven't read "How to Win Friends and Influence People", you should definitely add that to your copywriting reading list.
Maybe curl up with that and a hot mug of hot chocolate to get you through the snowy weekend ahead (yes, we'll be reverting from Spring back to Winter here within the next 24 hours...)
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. Interested in joining me and few of my copywriting/direct marketing pals here in DC in late March? It'll be in the heart of Cherry Blossom season--and more importantly, we'll be going deep into copywriting and direct response marketing strategies that are working well now to dramatically boost your profits and results. (Tentative dates: March 29 and/or 30--more info coming soon!) Reply back to this email and let me know if you're interested, if you haven't done so already...