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This week's Copy Insiders: How to unleash your product's "secret sauce"

Issue #97—March 27, 2020

In today's issue--as part of a tribute to one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived--we're going to start digging deep into Clayton Makepeace's copywriting "secret sauce". I've 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 this 5-part formula that was a big part of 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? We'll be going "behind the scenes" the next few days and taking a look at this. I'm going to start with revealing the 5-step exercise 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. Later today I'll be sharing with you step #2 of this 5-step process to digging out features and benefits...and turning them into the best-performing copy you've ever written! So keep an eye out for it. Yours for smarter marketing, Kim

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