MORE answers to your questions: "big idea" research, showing empathy, and getting good

Hey, I'm back! Hope you're enjoying your Saturday.

I've got tons more questions that came in over the past week, so let me dig into my big red Santa "mail bag" and answer some more of them... Q: How do you do your research (go-to sources, etc.) and how do you come up with your "big idea" (that you KNOW should be a huge winner). Thanks! A: First off, no one ever KNOWS what will be a huge winner. We just make our best educated guesses, go with our hunches, and test, test, test! I've seen many people over the years (from top legendary copywriters to founders of major direct response companies) be in love with a promo or specific angle, and have it bomb once tested...and the one version everyone thought wasn't going to work turn out to be the huge winner. If huge, winning big ideas were something that were 100% predictable we'd just create a "big idea" app and run with whatever it said. (Hmm...maybe that's not a bad idea!) However, there are several indicators that your big idea could have some legs: 1) You've got a new way of showcasing or dimensionalizing a powerful benefit or unique mechanism--for example, my "liquid magnet" bone health supplement promo (or the millions of financial promos that came out the past few years positioning their products as offering "free checks" from the government, some of which got one major player in a bit of hot water) 2) You're saying something unexpected or that the prospect hasn't heard before that you can back up with proof (i.e., a strong claim or speed of result)--for example, my "Live to 120?" anti-aging supplement promo that ran for more than 3 years as an online control sales page 3) You're tapping into a powerful emotion or frustration in your market, that they can instantly relate to and see themselves in, while offering the promise of relief--for example, like my "They Lied!" skin care promo that uses an old ad as a "prop" near the headline to agitate further (here's the front cover below...)

(Note: you can get these full-length promos, along with more than 30 other proven controls, in my "Buy 'em All Complete KKS Swipe File". You'll also get automatic free updates whenever I add more, which I'm about to in the next few days since I just realized I'd left out one of my strongest digestive controls by accident, and there may be some others I overlooked. You can get this complete downloadable swipe file for half-price because I'm feeling generous this month with the discount code BEA50.)

You'll know you've stumbled across a great "nugget" of a big idea when you're doing your research if it stops you in your tracks, or makes you pause and say, "Huh?" It's harder and harder to find those kinds of things in today's advertising and media-saturated (and highly-distracted) world, but when you do, pay attention to them. My research process is highly organic, but it all starts with getting my hands on all the basics...including whatever I get from my client in my requested Start Kit. In my new "Ultimate A-List Copywriter's Promo Checklist" (which you should have received recently, but in case you didn't I've attached to this email), you'll find a list of items that I routinely ask for at the beginning of a project. (I get deep into my entire research process when writing promos, and including a start to finish "evolution of a control" session and more in my Copywriting Velocity Complete Virtual Program, which you can get at as $200 savings with the discount code CHECKLIST200.) Q: I want people to know that I understand their battles. Their situation. Their problem. I want to emphasize with them and make them feel understood. But, how do I tell this in a structured way? Have you got a framework for it? I feel like I'm all over the place when I try to convey this. Have you got any tips? Or should one just focus on the classic "feel, felt, found" framework? A: First and foremost, make sure you have a clear and accurate picture of who your avatar is. Know who they are inside and out. Find a way to talk with them, even hang out with them (i.e., attend a Money Show if you write for financial). I often ask for a list of repeat buyers of a supplement I'm writing for, so I can interview them and get a clear picture in my head of whom I'm writing to. It's another reason why specializing in a particular niche is good, because you really get to know who the market is. Secondly, in terms of structure, I don't have a specific go-to framework. Each promo or approach is different, depending on the product, where it is in the prospect's awareness of the solution and sophistication of the market, and the other copy fodder I have to work with--like really great proof or credibility enhancers. You can use the classic "feel, felt, found" framework, but often times that too quickly shifts the story away from the prospect to the person who's speaking (i.e., starting with how the prospect feels, "I felt that way once too, here's what I found works"). You want to keep it focused on the prospect as much as possible. And it's a delicate dance between being specific enough so that they feel you know THEM...and not so specific that you leave some of them out ("wait, I don't have backaches keeping me up at night..."), some of which you can get around with "wiggle" words like "may" or "perhaps". You can open with empathy-type copy, but then instead of diddling around too long, I suggest getting right into it. Here's an example of a long-running sleep supplement promo I wrote that does just that. Q: What's the best way to get into copywriting with no track record? A: Get one. How do you get a track record? Get good at copywriting. Get yourself opportunities to write copy that will see the light of day and get tested. A before B before C. One sample for a small, even unpaid project, can lead to a less small, lowly-paid project, which can lead to a bigger, get-paid-more project, and so forth. I don't know if I've written about this before, I think I talk about it in some of my programs, but I got my first long-form promo client by having ONE magalog sample. And I got that ONE magalog sample by initially working with one of my first clients to edit his sales letters, then suggesting he try a magalog, and convincing him to let me write it. I wrote it for him for a small flat fee, and got my sample. Then this next client hired me for 3 times more PLUS royalties. I ended up reworking the promo I wrote for him after the first test bombed, and turned it into a control that made me close to $200k in royalties over the next few years. And it all started with one sample. Q: What's the fastest way to grow in copywriting? A: By "grow" I'm going to assume you mean grow your copywriting career, in large part by earning more. Once you've started getting clients and gotten a few promos under your belt--even a control or two--it's no time to sit back and get complacent. You need to be constantly growing your client base (as Dan Kennedy says, the most dangerous number in business is "one"). And you need to continually develop your copywriting skills so you can keep getting better. You'll eventually get to the point that you are re-learning things you know again and again (aside from keeping up with new things that are working now)...but that's what MASTERY is all about. If you ever attend any copywriting conferences like The Copywriter Club In Real Life (TCC IRL) and Copy Chief Live, you'll see top A-list copywriters like David Deutsch, Parris Lampropoulus, and yours truly listening intently to each speaker and scribbling down notes. Even top A-lister (and friend) Carline Anglade-Cole and top email copywriter "Big Jason" Henderson traveled to DC to attend my day-long Copy Intensive last March (complete recordings available here, use CHECKLIST200 code to save $200), where they sat in and soaked up all the knowledge I shared, even though a lot may have been simply re-learning what they already knew. And you need to get yourself to live events whenever you can to meet potential clients as well as other copywriters who are often happy to refer you. Working with the right copy mentor can also greatly accelerate your copywriting career you'll see by reading the testimonials on this page from copywriters that I've mentored.

You'll get the benefit of my unique, A-List level copywriting training as well as access to potential clients via assignments and referrals, in my new Fast Track to A-List Copy Mentoring Program, which starts in about a month.

Spots are filling up for my Premium option, and the special charter pricing ends December 31st, so if you're interested in a faster way to grow in copywriting, you should strongly consider it.

Look for more answers to your "burning" questions to come tomorrow or next week. In the meantime, stay warm and cozy! (And get working on that dip...Wait, see my P.S.!)

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. Only one person asked for the recipe for my highly decadent 3-cheese artichoke dip I mentioned earlier this week. Assuming the rest of you aren't vegan or lactose intolerant, I've included it below, just in time for the holidays. It's absolutely delicious and addictive, and will be the hit of your party. Bon appetit!

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