Secret to keeping a successful promo alive and kicking

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

I got back this weekend after attending Copy Accelerator in Las Vegas last week, put on by Justin Goff and Stefan Georgi.

There was so much value packed into this event...including speakers and attendees who generously and openly shared what was working for them as far as selling to cold traffic, upsells, and more.

I also got the wonderful chance to meet and hang with some of you folks on my list. And what I kept hearing from everyone I met in person was how much you love my "What's in Kim's Mailbox" emails! (So here ya go...)

And I even got to shoot a round of pool with Copy Insider Joe Barton at the after-party. (We only got in one game since others were waiting for the table to play some bizarre abomination of pool where people run around the table and use their hands to hit balls into each other...though it looked like they were having fun.) It was a close game, but I beat Joe when we were down to the wire and he scratched on the 8-ball.

Another thing I kept hearing at the event were the huge boosts that came as a result of testing leads (along with optimizing everything else). Just changing the lead alone has been resulting in increases of 78% to 93% in conversions...not even touching the main headline. (I just convinced one of my clients to test a new lead on one of my newer sales pages, based on this insight alone. We'll see how it does!)

Now, TESTING TESTING TESTING isn't some new insight--anyone who's in direct marketing can tell you that testing offers, headlines, leads, upsells, formats, and other components of your promo can be huge needle-movers. It's also the secret to keeping a successful promo alive and kicking for years.

But for many reasons, most marketers--even though they know better--don't get around to doing as much testing as they should. As a copywriter with multiple ongoing controls, I find myself getting a bit frustrated that my clients aren't actively testing new headlines/leads/offers/etc. as often as they should, at least until a promo starts fatiguing enough that's it's literally on its last legs (and prone to getting beat).

When I'm earning solid royalties on a promo, I'm incentivized to keep it "alive and kicking" for as long as when they do reach out and need a fresh new traffic-driver email (like one client did while I was at Copy Accelerator) or new Facebook ads or whatever else, I hop on it right away and don't charge them extra.

(This is one big reason why companies who don't pay royalties or otherwise incentivize copywriters are missing out on a huge "win/win" advantage.)

In any case, I was pleased to see that one of my long-time clients is testing a new headline and lead. It's for a promo I didn't write...but have seen in my mailbox for a very long time. It was copy chief'ed by top A-lister Parris Lampropoulus and I'm pretty sure one of his brilliant "copy cubs" wrote it.

This "issuelog"-style magalog is for a protein powder called "Perfect Amino" and I've been seeing it for at least a few years in its current control form. Let's take a look at that front cover I've been seeing again and again...

I'm not sure exactly when this promo was first written, but I know it's been years since it was. The prospect was in a different stage of awareness about the issue of losing muscle mass. It's a real condition called Sarcopenia that's running rampant in elderly people...but it starts happening as early as your 50s if you're not working out.

The headline and deck copy are focusing on a problem the prospect may be aware of, and teasing about the hidden cause. But it's not the kind of problem that the prospect is constantly experiencing, like having excruciating joint pain every time they move, or not being able to sleep at night, or suffering from memory lapses and "brain fog".

So the main headline and deck copy have to stop the prospect in their tracks and call out a problem that they can recognize in themselves, but maybe aren't losing sleep over (just yet). The deck copy does a good job of expanding on the problem set-up, with the compelling stat in the first sentence. It then offers promise/hope of a solution, without giving away anything about what it is.

It then uses a story lead about a doctor that pulls the reader in and get them reading. It continues onto page 2...

The opening story continues with the doctor's amazing transformation, and all the incredible Ironman and triathlete feats he's able to achieve in his sixties as a result.

This promo has been working great, but I can see why it likely started to fatigue (which would happen regardless no matter how good the promo is). For one, there's no hint at a unique mechanism early on or specifics about the solution. One might read the main headline and lead and think the solution is exercise.

Or they may guess it's a protein powder, and that it's not unique enough of a solution or not something they haven't heard before. So they may stop reading.

The triathlete/male doctor opening story may also have limited appeal. There are the "fitness nuts" (or those who aspire to be) to whom the idea of getting in buff shape and running marathons may be attractive. But most older adults--and this being direct mail, it's going to the older end of the spectrum: 70s/80s--just want to stay independent and do their normal activities of daily living.

This is all 20/20 hindsight for me, I admit, as I review the brand NEW version of this promo that arrived in my mailbox while I was soaking up knowledge bombs and otherwise enjoying my time in Las Vegas last week. So let's take a look at that new front cover...

The main headline, a play on the classic "The Lazy Man's Way to Riches" book title, immediately does two important things. First, it overcomes the immediate objection that it involves strenuous exercise. Two, it hints at a unique mechanism.

The deck copy that follows cites the same shocking statistic as the control deck copy's first sentence. But it more succinctly gets to the point that it's providing an easy way to achieve their desires (stay strong and independent) without "killing yourself at the gym" (using the own prospect's language to do so).

The opening paragraph continues on the same train of thought as the headline and deck copy which brought the prospect in, so it keeps them reading. It then sets up the problem of trying to build muscle the usual ways and why they don't work, and hinting at a better, easier way.

It then gets into David the Doctor's story, which continues on page 2...

In this shortened version, you still get all the essential details, but with the copy about David's Ironman and marathons and other athletic feats taken out. It's still aspirational (flat and hard abs, anyone?), but it doesn't feel like something unattainable or that many older adults wouldn't want to do.

I don't know at this point if this version is the new control for Perfect Amino (I'm sure I'll find out soon), but I think it's doing a lot of things right. The new headline and lead are bringing the unique mechanism to the forefront. That's important since a lot of other muscle-building solutions are now competing against it.

(Note: the unique mechanism is the ideal blend of amino acids your body can use to build muscle, vs what you get from food or other protein powders, and it's revealed in detail later in the promotion.)

The other thing this new headline and lead are doing is expanding the product's appeal to a broader audience. This version is more likely to also appeal to women and the "old" old...those in their 70s/80s.

Nothing else in this 16-page promo, aside from some copy on the back cover, has been changed. Even the bullets on the front cover are the same. It's just the main headline and lead...or less than a page-and-a-half of copy--that will likely be the big needle mover that breathes new life into this long-running promotion.

Hopefully this will give you some new ideas about how to freshen up one of your existing successful promos. There's no reason to wait for it to start to weaken and falter...just give it increased "muscle mass" with a brand new headline and lead.

(Better yet, get that copywriter you're paying royalties to to do it!)

Yours for smarter marketing,


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