The "Gift" of a Big Idea [Flashback]

Issue #79—August 30, 2019

If you're like me, you're furiously wrapping up your work week before the long Labor day weekend here in the U.S. With that in mind, I wanted to share one of my longer Copy Insiders issues from last year. It reveals some of my most valuable strategies for finding the "big idea" for your promotion. Plus there's a super in-depth "What's in Kim's Mailbox" on a bone health supplement (and a fun story before it about a big fat royalty check I apparently should NOT have gotten...) You can read the full issue and promo breakdown below right now. One other thing... If you missed out on any of my 2018 Copy Insiders issues (or even if you didn't), aside from the occasional "flashback" the only place you'll find them is in my 260-page compilation e-book. I've been offering this special deal all summer long for 50% off, but those savings end tomorrow night (the 31st) at midnight. If you want some leisurely---and immensely profitable and edifying---beach or sofa reading this weekend, you'll want to grab your copy now right here. Use this for your discount code to get it half-price while you still can: CIHALFOFF

Issue Flashback from July 26, 2018:

As I write this I'm listening to the rain come pouring down. It feels like it's been doing this for days on end.

Normally my favorite thing in the world is to write copy on a rainy day, but this is getting to be a bit much.

In any case, this week's issue is longer than you've seen in a while. That's because "What's in Kim's Mailbox" is back! And we'll be looking at a bone health supplement promotion targeted at women. (I was so excited to get this out, I'm sending it a day earlier than usual!)

But first, I want to share one of my biggest takeaways from the "long-form" improv workshop I took this past Sunday...

How not to miss the "gift" of a big idea

I took a 3-hour workshop taught by an improv performer with Upright Citizens Brigade (and saw him perform with 3 others that evening). I was really interested to try out"long-form" improv, where you get deeper into a story line versus some of the short-form improv I've done in the past.

And I was curious to see if there were any parallels with long-form copywriting or any insights I could draw from it that could be applied.

My biggest takeaway was how much more powerful it is, when performing improv, to stick to one big idea or story line. It's very hard to do---it takes practice and concentration.

So many random things can come up when two people are engaged in dialog that it's tempting to chase after each one of them. But this dilutes the impact and confuses the audience. Instead, the instructor talked about and showed us how to do the opposite...

Unpack that big idea and run with it

All you really need is that one thing---recognize that "gift" of a big idea--and then cleverly and creatively "unpack" that idea as you weave it into an impromptu story.

For example, two students in my class acted out a scene where a teacher was talking to a student about a project that had been turned in. The student said he couldn't find any posterboard, so he ended up doing his project on his bedsheet. Then the conversation turned to something else completely.

It was amusing how it turned out, but it became quite clear that had the duo stuck with one idea and run with it, the story would have been even funnier.

They could have taken the "couldn't find posterboard" and made it about some bizarre worldwide posterboard shortage...or even funnier, made the whole thing about his presentation being turned in on his bedsheet.

With improv, there are no do-overs, and hindsight is always 20/20. But it's important to realize we have a human tendency to think "more is better".

So we pile on with our story, add more details, and end up diluting its power and risk losing the audience. The same is true with long-form copy.

Once you've identified the "big idea" or theme for your long-form promotion, make sure you flush it out fully and dimensionalize it. Don't make your promo about 16 different things... this can be one of the biggest challenges for copywriters who are new to long-form copy.

Maximize the power of your copy

Sometimes there are so many ideas and benefits and proof points you've compiled, you may be tempted to try to squeeze as many of them as possible into your promotion. But you'll create a much stronger promotion if you take that one big idea and stick with it.

Obviously, it needs to come across in your main headline and lead. But you should also weave it throughout your promo, in the close and "future pacing", and wherever else it works.

The late Jim Rutz's promo I talked about several issues ago, "Read This or Die", is a classic example of taking an eyeball-grabbing big idea and unpacking and dimensionalizing it throughout a long-form promo.

Think about applying this lesson to your main headlines and how you structure sentences and paragraphs. Don't try to cram too many different benefits or promises, no matter how good they are, into one headline or sentence.

Otherwise you'll deflate the power of your copy and it'll lose its punch (and likely confuse your reader!)

One of the best copywriters I know at writing clearly and sticking with one powerful idea is Parris Lampropoulus. He's reviewed my copy on many an occasion for promotions I've written for Soundview/Advanced Bionutritionals (he copy chiefs all of their copy, not just promos written by his "cubs".)

I'm not sure if Parris or one of his cubs wrote the following promotion we're going to look at, but it's very much in the "Parris" style...

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

While not as big of sellers as some supplement categories like joint pain, digestion, or memory, bone health supplements are a strong niche category targeted to women. That's part of the problem---primarily women buy them, so it cuts the potential market by nearly half since it excludes men.

There's also the issue of selling a product for "prevention" versus solving a problem someone is experiencing right now. The constant joint aches of arthritis or chronic indigestion or forgetfulness trigger repeated pain points. And because there are few if any good solutions, it fuels the market for alternative solutions to these problems.

But osteoporosis? Traditionally these supplements are taken for prevention. And prevention doesn't sell as well--at least that's been the conventional thinking.

I'll never forget many years ago sitting in the back of the room during a "writing for the health market" presentation at AWAI Boot Camp. Jenny Thompson, then head of Agora's health division, was talking about good supplement niches to write for. She mentioned staying away from those that were more prevention-focused, like bone health.

At that same moment, my Blackberry beeped (told you it was a while ago) and I checked my email. It was from one of my clients telling me they were mailing my bone health supplement control promo again later that month. And the quantity meant I'd be getting a royalty check for more than $11,000 for that one mailing alone. I thought to myself, "Keep talking Jenny... let's not let on just how well this niche is actually performing!"

Some things started changing with respect to the osteoporosis "industry". Women were getting screened earlier. There was a new quasi-made-up diagnosis being handed out called osteopenia, or pre-osteoporosis, and women were being prescribed drugs for prevention.

New concerns were cropping up about the most popular one, Fosamax. All of this was creating increased demand for a better solution to taking drugs as a "preventative", or for women who wanted to reverse their early stages of osteoporosis without taking drugs.

As a result, bone health supplements have become solid performers---especially when they have a strong promotion like the one I got in my mailbox a few weeks ago while away on vacation.

This particular promotion is for a product called "True Osteo" from NatureCity. To be clear, the promotions I feature here are not ones I've written. I don't know who wrote this one, though I see a lot of the "Parris" touch here. Let's take a look at the cover:

This direct mail promotion is a 32-page "slim jim", about half the size in terms of width and about the same height as a "magalog". The main headline is making good use of curiosity (combined with a touch of fear). It balances out the negativity by offering hope of a solution (..."what you can do to protect yourself...")

The bullets in the "table of contents" are strong, though the stress and longevity ones don't tie in with bone health. And the calcium-artery connection isn't something many people may know about until it's explained, so they may not know it's an issue.

There are also huge risks with using a Dr. Oz endorsement unless it's for real. In this case, I looked up the ingredient it's referring to and it does seem to be endorsed by him (and I'm left wondering just how strong his endorsement power still is these days as a result).

Now let's take a look at the second page of the promotion...

The headline at the top of this page throws me off a bit--what jumps out is "7 times more likely to suffer a bone fracture". This is a negative statement, and what I expect to see so prominent here is something more positive and offering a solution.

The copy here does do a great job of revealing the big surprise culprit--cortisol--and explaining what it is. I think for a particular type of audience who wants to "know things", it's very effective. I'm wondering, however, with women being more emotional beings than men (yep, I said it), if it couldn't benefit from more emotion.

The emotion here would be frustration. Why not play up that frustration point early on, maybe even on the front cover, that here you are doing everything right for your bones. You're taking calcium. You're walking every day. You're avoiding sodas and eating healthy. Yet it's still not enough...

that's because of one unavoidable factor: stress. Yet no one ever tells you what to do about it!

You could even agitate some more and get into the role most women see themselves playing--carrying the weight of the family and all the stress that goes with that---yet it's destroying their bones and setting them up for a debilitating hip fracture, or worse.

The copy gets into some of this everyday stress, but it could be applied to a man or a woman the way it's written. (Perhaps this was intentional if they are selling some to men, but on the back cover it says "Women's health exclusive!")

Also, make note at the top of the second column, the words "As you may know". This is a definite "Parris" technique, though I use it as well, as do other copywriters. It's a way of conveying what may be new info to the prospect, without making them feel dumb for not knowing... and if they do know it, they feel smart. So win/win.

Now let's look at the next page...

The main running copy continues here, and it's very clearly written. You could follow this if you were half asleep or had a few glasses of wine or the TV's on and the dog is barking.

You don't want your copy to be challenging to read. It should flow smoothly like you're sliding down a snowy hill in one of those saucers. No bumps to trip you up along the way.

When you write in shorter sentences, without changing subjects within the same paragraph, it makes your copy read much more easily. Same for not combining too many different thoughts or ideas within the same paragraph. It'll also get your F-K (Fleisch-Kincaide) score to come down a bit as the readability improves.

My only concern here is the sidebar quiz. If you're going to use a self-test, you want the average person to check a lot of boxes so it emphasizes their need for what you're selling. It's really the only reason to have one.

But I wonder how many prospects are going to say their health is fair or poor (even if it's not great, most I talk with feel like they're doing well)... and the medical conditions aren't worth the claims risk to include since you can't really expand in the copy on how they're relevant to bone health.

Similar issue with the medications. Again, many people on supplement mailing lists (at least that I've talked to) are surprisingly healthy and take few medications, since they're really into alternatives. I'd have kept the quiz to just the first part only and eliminated the "fair" or "poor" health question.

Let's wrap this up by taking a look at one of the many inside pages. This one I felt was particularly strong...

As you can see, this page comes much later in the promotion (page 25) after all of the ingredients in the supplement have been introduced. The promo does a good job earlier in introducing and explaining the several branded ingredients. If this isn't done well, it can be confusing.

And while someone could say, well I'll just go buy that ingredient or that one separately, the promo makes the case for taking all of them. And this full-paged value sidebar does a great job of visually demonstrating how much you'd spend to put it together yourself versus the savings you'd enjoy by taking TrueOsteo.

Because even if you're reeling someone in with curiosity, or addressing an underlying emotion, or providing convincing proof it works, people still like to feel like they're getting a "deal" and making a smart purchase decision. And sometimes women, especially older women, need to rationalize spending money on themselves even more than men do.

You're only going to know these things about your market if you really do your research and regularly talk to your customers or prospects. It's one reason why, when my clients let me, I like to interview past repeat buyers of their supplements so I can really see who it is that I'm writing to.

The more you can do that with your market, the more successful your promotions will be. Make sure you never "wing it" when it comes to really knowing your avatar.

Yours for smarter marketing,



If you liked the insights here, and the detailed promo breakdown, there are 45 other packed issues and 23 other "What's in Kim's Mailbox" promo breakdowns from 2018 you may have NOT have seen. You'll get all of them and more in my 2018 Copy Insiders: The Complete Collection e-book right here. Use discount code CIHALFOFF to save 50% when you act by midnight August 31st. Find out why other Copy Insiders are raving about this in-depth book (even if they already received the emails!)

Here's the lavish praise Copy Insider Mary Rose Maguire sent my way via email as soon as she got her copy of my Copy Insiders 2018: The Complete Collection...don't miss this last chance to get your copy at 50% savings...

Hi Kim,

I just bought your MAMMOTH "Copy Insiders 2018: The Complete Collection." Yowza!!! It is gorgeous!

I have kept all your past Copy Insiders emails. I tried to save them but you know what? It was hard! Even saving emails as a PDF isn't easy because the formatting isn't perfect.

Plus, I really wanted to have them in one easy-to-access volume. So this was well worth the money and the value is incredible. This year I'll be focusing on studying my swipe file a lot more closely and your CI collection will be instrumental. I might even get it professionally printed simply because I do like looking at a book rather than a screen.

But no matter what, I finally have it. Thank you for making this available and also thank you for putting so much time and effort into sharing your expertise with us!

With gratitude,

Mary Rose

22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All