Whatcha Selling Online?

Issue #67—May 31, 2019

About a month or so ago, a group of my Improv pals and I started having Monday night practice sessions at our local library.

Honestly I hadn't spent much time there since my kids were younger and we'd make regular trips to check out books. So after Improv practice was over, I couldn't help myself.

I ended up browsing and checking out way too many books for me to have time to actually read (no wonder I've already renewed them twice!)

I finally started leafing through one of them last night. It's a remake of the classic book, "Ogilvy on Advertising". It's called "Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age" by Miles Young, a former executive of Ogilvy & Mather. Early in the book there's a timeline of the "digital revolution". I was surprised to hear, though, just how early this whole internet thang actually started (though my late father, who was an engineer, worked on computers way back in the 1960s).

Today we use email all the time for our marketing as well as business and personal communication. Heck, you might be young enough you've never known life without email. For me, it wasn't until the 1990s when it really became widely used.

But according to the book's timeline, the first online data communication system, i.e., email, was the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). And it dates all the way back to 1969.

ARPANET was funded by the U.S. government and formed the basis for the internet as we know it. It connected research centers at Stanford, UCLA, University of Utah, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. It wasn't long before MIT's research lab joined the group as well.

At first, ARPANET was strictly used for sharing research data and other related communications. In fact, a handbook published by MIT after it joined the network stated the following:

"Sending electronic mail over the ARPANET for commercial profit or political purposes is both anti-social and illegal."

Yep, we'd all be considered scofflaws back then based on what we do today!

The seminal act of e-commerce

Despite the ban on commercial use, it didn't take long for the first-ever act of e-commerce to occur. And do you want to know what the first online product to be sold was?

It was pot. You know, marijuana, weed, what-evah you want to call it.

In 1971, supposedly (though it's in the book, so it must be true) a group of Stanford students working in their Artificial Intelligence lab hooked up some MIT students using the ARPANET.

And they did some bid-ness. A little weed transaction.

So you know what's funny? I ran into a guy I know last week when I was in San Diego at a dinner during Bo Eason's event. He founded Nutrition Business Journal and is one of the nutrition industry's top advisors and thought leaders.

During our conversation he told me CBD supplements are going to be completely dominating the supplement industry before long.

Now, I haven't written for any CBD supplements yet, but I've reviewed others' copy who do.

So based on what this guy says, it sounds inevitable that if you're a health or supplement copywriter, at some point in the near future (if you're not already doing so) you're going to be selling weed. That's right...

We're all going to be selling pot!

Using email. On the Internet.

Just like those nerds from Stanford and MIT who got this whole e-commerce party started. And the circle of life in the direct response world continues...

But wait, you say you don't want to sell pot on the internet, like our forefathers? Then you can always write financial copy.

(Although pretty much every major control out there has to do with, you guessed it, weed!)

Okay, I know I've been playing lots of catch-up the past few days with "What's in Kim's Mailbox" (and if you missed any of my write-ups or joined my list recently, you can check them out on my blog here).

So without further ado, let's take a look at yet another magalog promotion that landed in my mailbox while I was busy traveling the western hemisphere...

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

This morning we're going to look at a magalog self-mailer for the alternative health newsletter Health Alert. To be clear, I did not write this promotion (nor have I worked for this company in the past); it's just one of the many self-mailers that have hit my mailbox in recent weeks. And I like some of the things they're doing here.

Let's take a look at how it arrived. This 8 1/2 x 11-sized promo was folded vertically in half to save on postage by mailing at the letter rate. On the right side of the folded back cover, this is the first thing I see...

To the untrained eye, this does not appear to be marketing-type copy. It appears to be something urgent. There's built-in curiosity to find out which medications it's referring to. (Since it's going to older folks, it's assumed most of them are on at least one drug...and I ain't talking about weed.)

I like the use of the exclamation point graphic at the top, similar to what might come up on your car's dashboard if you have a tire low on air...and I also like the miniature picture of the front cover, which is what they'll see when they break the tabs and open the folded promo. This gives it visibility even though it's currently obscured.

Let's take a look at what's on the other half of this folded back cover...

This copy appears to the right of the addressing area, and it's been turned to read horizontally the same way the address is printed. This is either the first or second thing the prospect sees, since most people check to see who the mail is addressed to.

They've used personalization here, printing the prospect's first and last name (I've been on this list so long it was before I took my husband's last name after 8 years of marriage). This copy is preaching to the choir as these folks are probably already suspicious of "big pharma", so they're likely to buy into this messaging.

And while it's stoking their underlying fear and concern about prescription drugs, it's also giving them hope for a "revolutionary drug-free approach". So you can see how the sales process starts before you even open the promo. In fact, this serves as an ad for reading the ad.

Another note: you probably already know this, but since this is a promo for a newsletter, you can use disease names like Cancer and Diabetes freely as this right is protected by the First Amendment. However, you can't say these disease names in your supplement promotions (unless you want your client to get a Cease and Desist order and land them and you in other heaps of trouble).

Now let's look at that front cover which the prospect sees once they open the promo:

This cover doesn't look promotional and has the look and feel of a medical journal or report. It's continuing the theme of what big pharma is trying to hide from you. The main headline points you to a graphic of some kind of cardiogram test.

You don't really "get" what it's saying about it until you get to page 2 and read about how a fast-acting phytonutrient complex is able to restore heart rhythm. It does inspire some curiosity but it's kind of a risky bet---I think it'd be better to use a headline and/or graphic that immediately communicates something more clearly.

However, assuming I keep getting this in the mail, it may well be working. The rest of the copy consists of short blurbs, some with more curiosity than others, and then at the end in what I feel is way-too-small print it does a whole laundry list of diseases in order to cast as wide of a net as possible.

My overall takeaway: while they're maximizing that "real estate" on the back cover that Soundview/Advanced Bionutritionals usually leaves almost completely unused, the front cover would benefit from stronger copy and maybe a more updated journal design look (I at first thought this was an Agora Health Sciences Institute promo from the late 1990s!)

Let's wrap things up by looking at the offer/order form page, just as we've done with the past 3 "What's in Kim's Mailbox" magalog analyses...

Here we see the use of a "Best" vs. "Great" deal, like what we've seen with supplement offers. I'm finding a few things confusing here though. The first thing that jumped out to me is what is the difference between the "COMPLETE"  Doctor's A-Z Phytoceutical Guide versus the ABRIDGED.

On closer examination it looks like you get 50 special reports with one and 20 with the other, but that's confusing, too, since it's not it looks like a 50+ special report for folks 50+ vs. one for folks 20+.

And that "personal access to Dr. West" could be misleading. Inside the promo it's not clear who's answering your emails or letters ("you'll get an immediate response"). I can see it being a good thing to promote people writing or calling in since it gives you opportunities to sell more stuff and know your customers better, and further cementing their loyalty to you.

But there are so many ways, legal and otherwise, this could go wrong...and knowing this market like I do, and having worked as a publisher before, what the subscriber expects based on this promise, and what will likely be delivered, are two very different things...and this could end up disappointing and driving valuable subscribers away.

Plus I'm not sure what the base "regular" price per year is (it's not mentioned), so those percentages off to me become meaningless since it's impossible to do the math. I do see how they've further convoluted the offer, though perhaps it's working, by having a $49 price for 1 year ($87 for 2 years) that drops to $39/$77 with the "senior discount".

"Where's my senior discount?"

While senior discounts are popular if not expected by the older market, I think it'd be better to lead with just the lowest discounted pricing and compare it to the "regular" price. I'm wondering if this has been tested. There's always danger in presenting too many numbers and price points (except for us math majors!)

I also find it odd, and adding to the potentially deal-killing decision point confusion and paralysis, to have an optional charge with the 1-year subscription to express-ship the bonuses for an extra $5.95. And then you expect the average Joe to total up all these numbers correctly? (Especially if he's stoned on weed or CBD pills!)

Then there's the overly cluttered-up Fast-Response offer. My feeling is you don't need 3 different reports here when you can have just one. Just pick the one with the strongest, broadest appeal and go with that. And how valuable do they seem when you're supposedly getting 50 of them for free with the 2-year offer already?

This offer structure screams for more testing. Maybe they've tested into this for each component---or not. The bottom line is this: no matter how good your front or back cover, no matter how compelling your lead and body copy, no matter how dripping with curiosity your fascinations are...if you screw up your offer and create confusion on the order form, you're dead in the water!

Hopefully folks getting this promo end up calling instead...though that toll-free number is SO tiny at the top and bottom of the form, I wonder if they can see it!

I'll keep an eye out for this promo and see if the same one arrives again, or if anything's different...assuming they don't kick me off their mailing list.

I hope you're enjoying the insights you're getting from Copy Insiders and my "What's in Kim's Mailbox" write-ups. I know a lot of you do because you write to tell me so (I love hearing from you, so feel free to reply anytime to me.)

I do give you a true "insider's" glimpse into the copywriting world and specific strategies and tactics for writing successful long-form promos. But I'm really just able to scratch the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, with these free issues and write-ups.

I've spent the past few years distilling all my best, most successful copywriting strategies into training programs I've used with copywriting mentees who paid me $12,000 or more for six months of coaching.

I then put together the most in-depth Copy Intensive I've seen on writing million-dollar controls from start to finish when I did my Copywriting Velocity live event in March, for which people spent $3,000 or more just to be there in person.

So when I say my new COPYWRITING VELOCITY Complete Virtual Program is worth at least $15, can see why. And when you add in the 4 weekly live group coaching calls starting this Wednesday with A-listers Richard Armstrong, Carline Anglade-Cole, "Big Jason" Henderson, and Lori Haller...PLUS the free one-on-one coaching call I'm throwing in if you choose to do both by tomorrow...

Well, I think it's pretty darn urgent that you take a look here and get all the latest details. And if you've been kicking it around, NOW is the time to act if you want to save up to $800 and get that invaluable one-on-one coaching call with yours truly.

This offer will NOT be extended, so if you don't act today or tomorrow, you'll be out of luck.

Hope to see you on the calls next week! (And you can grab your own slot with me as early as this Tuesday---I have evening hours available, too.)

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S.I'll be sending out a few more reminders later today and tomorrow, but there's no time like the present to take action, before you get busy with your weekend plans. Make sure you go to and get your hands on this in-depth training program and not-to-be-missed coaching calls while you can still get them at special introductory savings.

If you're not up for the marketing emails, you can always unsubscribe---which means you'll no longer receive Copy Insiders or get my "What's in Kim's Mailbox" write-ups. This is a marketing list with a marketing e-letter, so I recommend you read my emails even if you're not going to buy anything. You might learn something or get some new ideas.

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