Using your powers for good or evil

Well, to say this has been a bit of a distracting week would be an understatement. I'm sure we'll still be mired in some degree of uncertainty in the coming days as to who won the U.S. presidential election... But the recent antics of the current incumbent inspired today's issue. In short, I wanted to share some perspective about using our powers as copywriters and marketers for good or for evil. When you have strong influence or are seen as an authority by others--whether you're the "doctor" behind a product or newsletter, the "guru" behind a financial advisory service, the spokesperson for a diet cookbook or fitness program, or the president of the United States, your influence and authority are in many ways a marketing "superpower". And with that superpower comes responsibility for how you use it. As copywriters, we use our persuasion superpowers to understand our prospect's deepest wants, desires, fears, dreams, and frustrations. We then show them how our product or service is uniquely able to help them become "better off in ways they desire", to quote the late Bob King, president of consumer division of the former direct response behemoth, Phillips Publishing. We do this responsibly with stories (preferably true ones), that help spark a connection with the prospect. We do this with studies or other data. We do this with testimonials and other social proof. We do this with borrowed credibility from respected institutions or publications that reinforce our claims. We also do it--when it's copy that's coming from one of the doctors, gurus, or other influencers I mentioned earlier--by leveraging their "authority power"...namely, telling our followers what they should believe, what they should accept, and what they should do next. As we are seeing play out in the U.S. right before our eyes, this is definitely a superpower that can be used for good or for evil. I like to believe that, as ethical and responsible marketers and copywriters, we use it for good. Back when I first joined Phillips Publishing, the company had just launched the highly-successful Health & Healing newsletter, the first-ever alternative health newsletter. Dr. Julian Whitaker was a passionate M.D. who pioneered and made popular many natural therapies and treatments for beating heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems without drugs or surgery. He wasn't afraid to take a stand...and he had devoutly loyal followers who eagerly wanted to follow him and his recommendations to the moon and back. Dr. Whitaker had that "authority power" that carried weight with his devoted subscribers, who not only paid for his newsletter, but bought tens of millions of dollars of his recommended, personally-branded supplements in just the first few years after I helped launch Phillips Publishing's Healthy Directions subsidiary. My passion for the alternative health market really took off during these years. During that time, and still to this day, I feel the products I've helped bring to people over the years have made them better off in ways they desired. In fact, because of the research my clients put into creating these supplements, and the dedication they have for creating quality solutions, on top of the testimonials and success stories that poured in, I've felt it was my moral imperative to educate my prospect as to why they wanted to take these products. And that's still true about many of the supplement, skin care, and other products I write for to this day. (In fact, I use many of them myself and even give them to my mother, who has benefited greatly from taking them.) This mission of bringing better solutions to people to help them solve their most stubborn and pressing problems, and convincing them why a particular product will be able to solve that problem, isn't "manipulation" or something else immoral. It's all about finding and speaking to your prospect's hidden desires. As Gene Schwartz put it in his lecture years ago at Phillips Publishing (I was in the room), "That’s why you’ve got to read the things that people buy. Anything that people buy. Vanity Fair. You’ve got to read Vanity Fair. You won’t know what’s going on unless you read Vanity Fair, People Magazine, The Weekly World News. I don’t know whether you are advocates of the Weekly World News. You’ve got to read that because it shows the extent of people’s ability to believe." Now, this is NOT about trying to figure out what your prospects are gullible enough to believe. It's about finding out how willing they are to accept your claims and believe that your product or service can work for them...based on the depths of their deepest wishes, fears, frustrations, and desires. This is especially true in mature, saturated markets like supplements or skin care or fitness or investment newsletters. There are many that have come before you. You have to understand what they're willing to believe. Take a look at this copy from one of Gene Schwartz's most successful direct mail packages... HOW TO RUB YOUR STOMACH AWAY "In just a few weeks, she had lost five inches in her waist, hips and thigh area." MAIL ENCLOSED CARD FOR FREE COPY. I got a call from him...and he told me...that he had already lost...his best. "THE SIMPLEST AND MOST NATURAL WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT IS BY THIS EFFORTLESS TWO-MINUTE EXERCISE. "By such apparently simple means, the superfluous areas of the stomach and abdomen are literally rubbed away." Could this copy work today? Maybe not the exact approach...but the idea of something being easy, providing quick and dramatic results, and backed by social proof is timelessly effective. On the other hand, telling your prospects--or your followers if you have authority power--things they want to hear even if they're not true can have massively destructive consequences...something authoritarian leaders throughout history have demonstrated. So be careful with those "superpowers", my Copy Insiders...use them for good, and not for evil. Now, because we were just going back in time talking about the launch of Health & Healing, the success of which had a major impact on my career trajectory, I want to take a look at a promo originally written by the late Clayton Makepeace nearly 2 decades ago...that's still being used today. What's in Kim's Mailbox? Clayton wrote the initial launch promos for Dr. Whitaker's Health & Healing newsletter that were so wildly successful, there were more than 300,000 paid subscribers within the first few years. This led to my job being created, where I first marketed everything from weight loss videos to air purifiers to these subscribers, and then helped launch the Healthy Directions business to make Dr. Whitaker's own formulas available to his subscribers.  Clayton obviously wrote scores of other highly-successful promos throughout his career, but this one I'm about to share with you I remember seeing mailed in the millions in the early to mid-2000s. So to see it pop up in my email inbox the other day and seeing it "reincarnated" as a long-form sales page, with the same compelling (and memorable) copy being used, is a testimony to the power of Clayton's copy...and how the principles of good, strong, persuasive copy really never change. Here's the "reincarnated" email that arrived with the subject line, "Dissolve dangerous artery plaque", ripped from Clayton's original magalog headline...

See how brilliantly the headline teases about an intriguing story...but also immediately brings the prospect into the picture by offering up what's in it for THEM (using curiosity and tapping into fear and distrust). Then the email copy starts with a dramatic opening sentence that puts the reader in the middle of the action and opens up a loop. It then continues with the compelling story and uses the photo of the white powder to create even more intrigue. It's pretty much the exact copy and approach that was so powerful in Clayton's long-running chelation supplement control...except when you click through to the sales page (you can do so by clicking the images above), it's selling an e-book instead. (I'm sure at some point they will also be offered a supplement; I didn't go through the whole funnel to find out). I do encourage you to click through and read the sales page copy, especially the lead since it's such a great example of a powerful story lead. And the email above that's using copy from the original promo is worth studying, too! It's also offering a smooth and seamless transition from the email story hook to the sales page by keeping the messaging consistent, repeating part of the story at the beginning, and generally keeping the prospect smoothly gliding down the "greased chute" by giving them what they expect and want to hear next. (I talk about this story lead some more, along with other 5 other types of powerful leads with examples of each, in my Copywriting Velocity training. You can use the WELCOME200 discount code at checkout to save $200). That's it for today's issue! I now need to focus on my own copywriting projects...a task that feels impossible seeing how we are all sitting on pins and needles awaiting the election results here in the U.S., and it's a beautiful, 70-degree day outside...and did I mention it's Friday? Lol... Good luck getting your own work done today! Yours for smarter marketing, Kim

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