Categories: Content

Sales Letter Secrets Part 2

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NB: This article is a continuation of last week’s, which you can find here.

Why Just “Writing Copy” Isn’t Good Enough.

If you pick up most copywriting and marketing books, they’ll teach you how to do the basics. They’ll show you how to write a headline, close a sale, and insert “hypnotic commands” in your copy. They might even include templates you can “swipe and deploy” for your own business so their products are as “cut and paste” for you as possible.

But what very few copywriting and marketing courses do is teach you how to do the nitty-gritty leg work necessary to create a great promotion. It’s that research (which we’ve done for you) that will put YOU and YOUR offer at the top of the food chain!

So… you’ve gotten this far. You’ve done the heavy lifting. Now it’s time to fill in that template from last week with the nuts and bolts of your offer.

Write Your First Draft!

As we’ve said before, your goal is to write like you talk and write your first draft as quickly as possible. Turn off that editor in your head. Just write…. Go on… we’ll wait….


Okay. Now that you’ve got a solid draft complete, let’s go over some common mistakes to look out for as you review your copy…

Big Mistake #1: Not Telling People Why They Should Do Business With YOU Over Someone Else

But one of big mistakes we see in a LOT of submissions (e.g., through Copy Confidential and other materials sent our way) is there’s no unique selling proposition.

One classic example of a unique selling proposition is FedEx. The founder Fred Smith wanted to emulate the banking industry’s method of clearing checks overnight. So what he did was create a hub-and-spoke system in Memphis that allowed him to ship packages overnight-while UPS and the post office were shipping everything in 3-5 days. Overnight shipping was great, but FedEx had to sell it. That’s when he came up with the slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight”, that ran in every single advertisement. As a result, FedEx quickly gained market dominance by promising the unique selling proposition of overnight delivery.

Another example is Domino’s Pizza. Tom Monaghan turned a small pizza joint in Michigan into the 2nd largest pizza chain in the world with the unique selling proposition, “Fresh Hot Pizza To Your Door In 30 Minutes, Or It’s Free!” They stopped this slogan when pizza delivery drivers were getting into car accidents, but it enabled them to gain a huge market share in the hyper-competitive pizza business.

These are just a couple examples of unique selling propositions that have worked for big companies in the past. So how do you determine your unique selling proposition? Is there something about your product or service that makes it faster, more varied, slower, cheaper, easier to work with, prettier, and more highly recommended? Perhaps you can have a killer guarantee? Another way to distinguish your product is to narrow your focus to a single niche.

Even though we didn’t go big into USPs earlier, way back when we had you define your offer in detail, we asked you to identify that “One Big Promise” you could make…. Remember?

Well, that “One Big Promise” is essentially the core of your USP. Make a note of that and then when you rewrite your letter, make sure that you’ve featured that promise prominently in your copy.

Big Mistake #2: Not Telling A Compelling Story That’ll Effortlessly Sell Your Product Or Service!

We have a section in the template where you tell your story. Now the best stories are the ones that are true so you can tell every single detail with vividness. It immediately wakes up the reader and gets them to pay serious attention.

You see, everybody loves a great story. They have the ability to get the inattentive person to perk up and pay attention. And they are an extremely powerful selling tool.

So as you go through your sales letter, think of ways to use stories in your marketing. Not just yours though, you could also use one of your clients, patients, or customers.

The best stories are “rags to riches” type stories that depict the solving of a problem. Stories will boost the selling power of your copy, and complement the direct statements that you’ll make in your copy that could easily be dismissed by your prospects.

Big Mistake #3: Not Having A “Hook” That Grabs Your Prospect By The Lapels And FORCES Them To Read Your Ad!

It’s not enough to have a unique selling proposition. You need to create a “hook” that’s going to grab people by the lapels and force them to read your ad!

Typically, you would put that “Hook” front and center on the first page of your sales letter as its main headline.

Probably the greatest hook in the history of copywriting and marketing was penned by John Carlton. This is the headline he wrote for an otherwise “ho-hum” product: a video that shows people how to hit longer drives:

“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drive, Eliminates Hooks And Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!”

Think about it:

If you were a golfer and flipping through Golf magazine and saw this headline, you wouldn’t be able to resist stopping what you’re doing to keep reading! And that’s exactly what happened for 8 straight years before the ad was retired from Golf Magazine…as all ads do “burn out” after a period of time.

The unique selling proposition was the “triple coil swing” that teaches golfers how to hit longer, straighter drives. But the “hook” that got people to read the ad was the “one-legged golfer” headline and story!

So how do you find the hook for your product or service?

The best hooks defy convention. And to choose the perfect “hook” for your ad you have to really know your target market and the “sophistication” of your audience—or how many ads they’ve seen in your market before they’ve seen yours.

Besides thinking about the unique selling proposition, finding the “hook” that’s going to glue people’s eyeballs to your ad is going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever do in your ad. But once you get that perfect “hook” you can use that in all your advertising campaigns…and the ad literally will write itself!

Finding the “hook” will take some detective work. John Carlton found the “one-legged golfer” hook when interviewing the product creator of this golf tape. He said he discovered this particular swing technique while watching a one-legged golfer hobble up to the tee box—thinking he was going to fall over. But he ended up hitting the ball 250 yards straight down the fairway!

Since Carlton had his “detective hat” on, he used this story as the “hook” to the ad!

Another thing: the hook has to have a sensational “you’ve gotta’ be kidding me!” factor—meaning if you read the headline you think to yourself, “You’ve Gotta’ Be Kidding Me!” That’s how you’re going to get people’s attention over your competition in your marketplace—and attract more clients, customers, and patients than you’ve ever thought possible!

Very often the “hook” of a product or service is right underneath your nose. The creator of the one- legged golfer tape didn’t know the selling power of the one-legged golfer story—yet he intellectually knew the story. But he just thought it was a mere afterthought.

So you can do 2 things 1) what excites and intrigues you about your product and what you do, and 2) ask your customers what excites and intrigues them about the product. Make a list of these and then test them if possible.

So think about your product or service right now. What makes it exciting to your prospects? What would cause them to read about your product and service and think to themselves, “You’ve gotta’ be kidding me!” That could be the perfect hook to your ad!

Big Mistake #4: Not Providing A Preponderance Of Proof That Your Product Or Service Is The “Go-To” Solution For Your Prospect!

This is one of the biggest errors we see in copy. There are claims abound about how a certain product/service is going to help them lose weight, get more clients, get back together with their ex, etc. But they forget one fact about their target audience:

Your Prospect Doesn’t Want To Believe You!

Listen: nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks to themselves, “Hey, I want to read some ads today!” Most of the time when they see your ad they see it as an interruption in their day…and they are, more than likely, going to be inherently skeptical.

Let me illustrate this: Think back to a time you bought something and felt like you’ve gotten ripped off. It could have been a product you purchased from Wal-Mart…or a book you read that you only read the first 10 pages… or a movie you walked out 30 minutes into it because it sucked. How did that make you feel? You probably felt like you got a little “screwed over” didn’t you?

Well guess what? Everybody has gotten “screwed over” after buying something. Everybody has been ripped off. So they’re not going to automatically believe your claims as gospel just because you say so. And that’s why you need plenty of proof in your promotions – such as testimonials, case studies, and demonstrations. Let’s talk about each:

1) Testimonials are usually rave reviews about your product or service from satisfied customers. It’s infinitely more powerful to have people brag about how great you are than it is to brag about yourself! The more specific and “results-based” the testimonial, the better.

2) Case Studies are usually longer testimonials that tell a story. This is another element of social proof you should be using in your promotions.

3) Demonstrations. This is extremely powerful. When writing copy, you’re usually selling something people cannot pick up and touch. So the more demonstrations you can put in your copy, the better!

The perfect example of a demonstration is the Oreck Excel vacuum cleaner. They demonstrate that you can actually pick up a bowling ball with their vacuum cleaner—the suction is that good!

Of course, is there any scenario where it’s necessary to pick up an actual bowling ball with a vacuum? Heck no! But that’s not the point—the point is to demonstrate the suction power of the vacuum and to get the prospect to imagine if the vacuum is strong enough to pick up a bowling ball, then it’ll pick up anything!

So by adding testimonials, demonstrations, and case studies to your promotion, you’ll be able to convince your skeptical prospect that your product DOES fulfill on its promises.

Big Mistake #5: Not Backing Up Statements And Claims With Facts!

Now I’m going to talk about a concept most copywriters and marketers don’t employ. But before I do that, read these 2 statements and see which is the most believable to you:

“More and more people are searching for local services through their smartphones.”


“According to the Wall Street Journal, 86.2% of cellphone users searched for local products and services online.”

Did you choose #2? If so, it was probably because there was a reputable source behind the claim…and an actual specific statistic backing it up as well.

Whenever making a claim or statement that’s critical for your prospects to “get” before they buy your product, you must always back it up with statistics. You’d be surprised at how some copywriters make claim after claim…statement after statement…without any statistics or facts to back them up.

This is critical when trying to get your prospect to “believe” certain things before they buy from you. For example, if I were selling prospects on the importance of research in copy, I would trot out quote after quote from many of the copywriting greats such as Gary Halbert, John Carlton, John Caples, Eugene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, and Gary Bencivenga to “back me up” that research is critical when it comes to copywriting.

If my prospects were to see these other well-known copywriting greats talk about the importance of research in copy, they are more likely to believe it than if I just said it myself.

Here’s a dirty little secret most marketers don’t know. If it’s published somewhere online or offline, you can quote it…as long as you quote the source! So if you’re selling a coral calcium supplement and you can find a peer-reviewed study that talks about coral calcium curing cancer, then you can use it in your copy as ‘borrowed proof” for your promotion (of course, coral calcium has never been proven by peer-reviewed studies to actually work).

Sources that the public immediately recognizes as reputable sources (Wall Street Journal, Investor’s Business Daily, Journal of the American Medical Association, etc.) are important here…but don’t ignore more esoteric sources—especially if it’s a niche publication.

Also be specific as possible in your claim. Saying 86.2% is more powerful than 86%…assuming the stat is true.

So before you write a word of copy, go through and find statistics to back up any statement your prospects have to believe before they purchase your product. Thankfully, hours in the library are not necessary since the Internet can serve as your ultimate research tool!

Big Mistake #6: Not Telling Your Prospect How Your Product/Service Is Going To Change Their Life!

People aren’t going to buy your product because it’s 10 CDs, 362 pages, you’ve been in business since 1974, or you played for the Washington Redskins. They only want what the product is going to DO SOMETHING for them. And this is where most copy falls short!

Think about it – most of your target audience lives extremely boring lives. They go to jobs they hate and don’t meet any interesting people. So your pitch has to be the most exciting thing they’ve read all day. That’s why you need to paint a picture in your prospect’s mind what your product or service is going to do for them. And that means digging into the DEEPER benefits than most of your competition…and most copywriters will delve into!

One little trick to use is the “So What?” test. For every line of copy, try to think about why your target audience would care about this… which will uncover the deeper benefits that could motivate your target audience to take action. In the business world, very often the motivation of business owners isn’t just to “make more profits”. It could be to show up the friend or family member who kept telling them they couldn’t “do it” when it comes to building a business. Or to show up a competitor they’ve been chasing for years—or to get an “unfair advantage” of some sort.

Let’s test out the “So what” test real quick. Here’s a “surface benefit” of getting more leads to a business…making more profits…and now let’s ask:

So what?

So you can make more money with your business

So what?

So you can feel less worried and stressed.

So what?

So you can have more certainty and control in your business.

So what?

So you can get more freedom and independence.

So what?

So you can spend more time with your family.

So what?

So you can leave a legacy for your kids and grandkids, etc.

See how this works? We went further than just “making money” when it comes to selling to the business owner. I mean, people just don’t want “money”…they only want what the money is going to DO for them. And the “So What” test is one way to delve at the deeper benefits of your product or service you can start using right now.

Big Mistake #7: Not Determining What You’re Up Against In Your Marketplace!

Products and services are not sold in a vacuum. Your product and service is not the only choice your clients, customers, or patients have. Yet most businesses write copy as if they’re the only “players” in that market.

As you do your rewrite, take a look at your competition and look for some kind of a “crack in the armor” to exploit for your promotion. Look at their websites, sales materials, Pay-Per-Click ads, etc.

Another good source of this is direct mail. If you sign up for mailing lists and actually buy some of your competitor’s products, you can get on their mailing list and start getting their promotions. If you see the same promotion over and over again, then that’s probably their control piece—or their best converting mailer.

Also look at comparables in the marketplace – that is, other companies that sell to your market but aren’t in direct competition.

This is something you should not only do for your copy, but also for your business in general. This will allow you to position your copy better so you’re the “go-to” person in your market!

Source: Dan Kennedy


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