- How to become a better marketer
- Writing for the Internet vs. direct mail
- What to do when you have no testimonials
- How new copywriters get gigs
- 5 ways to get your envelopes opened
- Long copy or short copy – what’s best?
- Do you have to be an American to make it as a copywriter here?
- Warm and fuzzy vs. hard-hitting copy: Which is best?
- Why I’m really doing this …
- And (as they say), Much, MUCH MORE!
We get a lot of e-mails at The Total Package. Here are a few I’ve answered personally – and I’m hoping my answers could help you too …
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Can you offer some examples of how to expand my skills?
How do I immerse myself in the science of direct response? Where do I find courses? What books would you recommend? How do I find out about seminars?”
Congrats – expanding your skills is the quickest way to multiply your income!
I'd suggest you jump on Amazon.com and buy …
1. Successful Direct Marketing Methods by Bob Stone
2. Complete Idiot's Guide to Direct Marketing by Bob Bly
I'd also suggest that you Google Jay Abraham, Marlon Sanders and Dan Kennedy. They all have great books and courses on direct marketing techniques.
Also, keep reading THE TOTAL PACKAGE.
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I'm enjoying the hell out of your e-mails … keep-em coming buddy!
I'd love to know how you transition smoothly into the close.
As a salesman I enjoyed a high closing rate (I assumed the close) and the presentation was so heavy with benefits that the customer would just come right out and say: “So how do we get started?” Or, “Do I write you a check now or at delivery?”
Sometimes they'd even say, “You've got to go see my brother or sister” – or who-ever. Hell – one time, a customer not only gave me 27 referrals … she even made all the appointments for me!
I'd love to know how to transfer that into my copy.
Sure, I can write about that – it's easy in my business.
I just spend the first half of the package selling a great free gift, then say something like, "How to Get Your FREE Copy of XXX."
Then, I tell 'em it's free for anyone who accepts a risk-free trial of the newsletter, or buys the book. Then, I sell the heck out of the main product, justify my price, relieve their risk and ask for the order.
Or, if I lead with the product instead of the premium, I just insert a price justification section.
They've seen all my benefits and are thinking, "Wow! This is great! I bet it costs a fortune!" So I make the value of my product the superstar. "Normally, you'd expect to pay a gazillion bucks for something this cool. But I don't want you to pay that much. So for a limited time …" yadayadayada.
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Do you feel that the same headline works as well in direct mail and on the Internet?
People are driven by the same fears and desires when standing at their mailboxes as when sifting through their e-mail or browsing the Web.
However, the media are very different.
The negligible cost of posting an ad on the Internet or blasting an e-mail promotion has attracted a lot of unsavory characters to the Web. Some make all kinds of ridiculous and irresponsible claims. Others are nothing more than rip-off artists.
As a result, I believe that prospects are far more skeptical of promises made in on-line sales copy than they are of benefits promised in direct mail, television, radio, or print. And so, I try to address this skepticism very aggressively when writing for the ’net.
The Internet also gives you the opportunity to respond instantly to current events – a huge advantage when writing for the financial markets, for example.
Say Greenspan shocks investors by raising interest rates a half-point (instead of a quarter). There’s no way I would go with a general benefit-oriented lead in an e-mail blast when I had that kind of fresh meat to work with!
Conversely, in direct mail, you have a much larger area to work with. A 24-page special report or tabloid-sized self-mailer gives you a LOT more real estate to present your headline and proof elements than you get on a Web page or in the subject line of an e-mail blast.
So in most cases, my headlines and decks for direct mail are often quite different from what I do on the Web.
And of course, direct mail pieces tend to be longer copy and have a longer shelf life in your prospect’s home than Web-based campaigns do, so response differentials driven by the added copy, credibility elements and so on can be significant.
All said, I’ll consider the results of headline tests done on the Internet, but I never assume that the results will be replicated in the mail – and vice-versa. The only way to know for sure how one headline will work in a given medium is to test it in that medium.
Hope this helps …
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I'm a novice copywriter (living in England). I have written some e-blasts for Apple Computers Inc. and have compiled a spec direct mail sales letter and some critiques of other weak sales letters (but not sent them to anyone).
I have two related questions for you.
(1) When you want to get a first assignment from a project manager/creative director, do you have to make an appointment and see the project manager in person, or can you conduct the transaction over the phone, in the mail or by e-mail?
(2) What is the best way to approach a manager/creative director the first time? By phone or with a letter (followed up by a phone call)?
Your newsletter is inspiring!
Great to hear from you all the way from jolly old England!
Hope these answers will help …
1. 99% of the time, everything you need to do can be handled long-distance. No need to do the face-to-face thing. e-mail, phone, mail and FedEx pretty much do it all.
Project managers don't care what you look like – only that you can write kick-butt copy. However at some point in the relationship, it wouldn't hurt to find an excuse to get eyeball to eyeball with them. Kind of helps smooth out the work process over the long haul.
2. I'd start with an e-mail. Project managers spend too much time in meetings, and you're likely to wind up as just another message in his voice mail.
I'd fire off an e-mail introducing myself, and letting him/her know that I’m sending some samples. And I’d say that if I don't hear from him first, you'll give him a ring in a few days.
Then, I'd make sure my samples were on his desk the next day and cool my heels for two to three days. If he doesn't call, I’d ring him up.
If the manager is out, I’d leave a message, then fire off an e-mail saying I’d like to discuss my samples with him and ask when would be the best time to call – try to set an appointment.
I hope this helps!
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Thank you for a valuable n'letter.
One of the biggest limitations facing the promotion process of new products (particularly in the sales letter) is a lack of testimonials. How do you overcome this?
I'd get a bunch of samples of the product and pass them out to everyone I know, everyone my client knows and everyone his employees know.
Send them to friends around the country (so your testimonial attributions are well-distributed geographically). Ask them to read it, use it – whatever – for a few weeks and then tell you what they think.
If you don't hear from them in a couple of weeks, call and get their testimonial over the phone (be sure to document the time of the call and date for substantiation). Or, write the testimonial yourself – accurately reflecting their views, of course – and ask them to sign it.
Also: Ask for photos of the folks who are kind enough to help you, and use them along with their testimonials in your promotion.
It takes a little time, but if you get the ball rolling at the beginning of the writing process, you should have some great testimonials well before the drop date.
Thanks for writing!
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I would like to know if you have any advice for young copywriters starting out. I am just finishing the AWAI accelerated CW course by Mike Masterson.
I want to be a freelance copywriter and I really want to be in the top 1%.
I understand that copywriters get agents to assist them and others ghost write for other master writers. Do you take on new young CW and assist them?
Regarding your questions …
1. John Finn is the dominant agent for copywriters in the information industry. He's an old friend of mine (since 1974) and a great guy. His Web address is http://www.johnfinn.com/. I'd suggest that you send him a nice note with samples of things you've written, and see where it goes from there.
2. At the moment, I have all the help I need, but as copywriting jobs come available at my agency, ResponseInk, my Total Package readers will be the first to know.
Good luck – can't wait to welcome you to the "A" list!
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Your e-newsletter is marvelous and is a pleasure to read.
I read the issue How I Bagged $5 Million In Internet Sales In 5 Short Weeks and am even more intrigued with the information now than I was before I read it.
Is it possible to see/read (or receive) copies of the pieces you wrote for the promotion … especially since it has already been completed?
As a beginning student of “the art of copywriting,” I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to study them.
Thank you very much in advance for your response.
I tried to get samples of these promotions from my client when I was writing the article – no luck.
My suggestion is that you subscribe to a couple of financial and health newsletters. You'll be amazed at how many promotions you get to study!
All these guys rent names from each other and mail their promotions to each other's names. So by subscribing to just a few newsletters, you'll be deluged with promotion packages – and I guarantee you, a bunch will be mine.
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Dear Clayton …
I’m a blooming copywriter in need of some water and fertilizer.
I get the meat and potatoes of writing a good sales letter … but what about the envelope or packaging of it?
What are some ways to put the "junk mail radar" out of commission long enough to open?
Do I create a completely new teaser headline to include on the envelope?
If you're looking for "fertilizer" you've definitely come to the right place!
The five most common strategies for getting envelopes opened are …
1. Offer something free inside.
2. Address a dominant emotion that the reader has about the subject at hand – a fear that you assuage or a desire that you fulfill.
3. Directly address your product's most powerful unique benefit (your U.S.P.).
4. Key in on a hot topic currently in the news and connect your lead benefit with that.
5. Make the envelope look like something the prospect would open normally: A bill, a letter from a friend, etc.
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As a full-time freelance copywriter over here in the UK, I have one question: How can guys like us land the ‘big fee’ assignments? Are they only open to US copywriters and, if so, how can we make ourselves known to US firms?
C'mon over, Mark … the water's fine!
At least one of the top guys over here is a Brit – does quite well for himself. His name is Richard Stanton-Jones.
If you can produce sales, nobody cares where you're from. Heck. My clients would even hire a FRENCHMAN if they thought he could beat their control.
Anyways, welcome aboard – and if you ever decide to jump the pond and check out the climate over here, let me know …
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I got a bunch of e-mails asking how long I think sales copy should be.
Here are two …
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Just subscribed to your Total Package material and it looks great!
Could you please possibly cover something on 'long copy versus short copy' sometime in the future?
As you are aware this has always been a bone of contention in marketing circles, and it would be great to have your thoughts on whether long/short copy is best or whether it doesn't make any real difference.
Wow. Third e-mail from England today. You guys must be busy over there!
Short answer: LONG COPY!
I've never seen short copy win in a heads-up test.
In the early 80s, I tested an 8-page letter against a 16 pager. 16 pager won.
So I tested the 16 pager against a 24 pager. 24 pager won.
So I tested the 24 pager against a 32 pager. 32 pager won.
I tried to test a 40 pager, but it wouldn't fit in the envelope!
Just this year, I've tested several #10 envelope packages with 8-page sales letters against 8.5" X 11" self-mailers with 24 pages of text. The long copy beat the short copy by 50% to 70% each time.
Now, granted – my only frame of reference is in my own business: The marketing of books and newsletters on health, finance and investment, as well as nutritional supplements. And with an average sale around $150-$170, my clients have plenty of margin to work with.
The cost that goes along with longer copy plays a big role in this debate. If your margin is smaller, you may have no choice but to go with shorter copy. And if your market is best reached with print ads, TV or radio, you're also limited.
My philosophy: Write until you run out of benefits. Then go back and make your copy as tight as a drum. Then let the sales message TELL YOU how long or short it wants to be!
So long as you're speaking to the prospect's self interest … so long as you're deftly stroking his dominant emotions about the subject at hand … and so long as the copy is clear, concise, even fun to read, he's going to stay with you.
And of course, if he's sold before you finish, he knows where to find the order form.
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Do you normally believe in the long copy theory that longer copy brings in more customers or the brief copy theory?
Are too many people learning copywriting these days?
I'm a long-winded, long-copy guy. I write until I run out of benefits and reasons why my prospect should buy.
Usually, for information products (books and newsletters on finance, investment and health), that takes me 30 to 50 pages of single-spaced 12 pt. type. Then, for direct mail, I cut it down to fit a 24-page special report or magalog, or if I'm lucky, a 24-page tabloid-sized piece.
For the 'net, I've never done a promotion longer than 12 pages – so far. But you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be testing longer copy soon!
When the medium forces me to "write to fit" – print, TV and radio – I, of course, comply. This often turns out to be more difficult for me than writing longer copy. Choosing which benefits to keep and which to get cut is not a Sophie's choice I'm comfortable with.
Can I imagine a situation in which short copy would work better?
Yeah. If your product meets a need no other product does … if the proof is a dead cinch … then a few lines of text in a print ad, a 15-second spot or on a postcard might do the trick.
In almost every project I've done, though, long copy wins every time. Fact is, copy sells. And in my experience, long copy sells better.
The answer to your final question is an absolute, unequivocal "NO!"
There are NOT too many people learning to be copywriters today. Direct response companies are starving for great sales copy. The demand is huge and growing by the day. And the number of writers available to meet that demand is tiny by comparison.
The American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI) and others are doing a great service to the economy, direct response business owners and, of course, to young writers by bringing the next generation along.
I'm absolutely convinced that our best years ever are still ahead – and will be for decades to come.
So start window shopping for the new Mercedes and the big Gulfstream jet now … it won't be long!
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I first would like to say how much I enjoyed your informative piece on "grab your prospect by the eyeballs."
It has come to my partner and I at a very crucial time whilst we are about to launch our services. In announcing our company’s offer, my partner and I have a disagreement on our approach concerning headlines.
When promoting to people who don’t know you, would you grab them by the short and curlies and "get their attention" by using a loud in-your-face headline? Or would you do a softer, warmer initial approach introducing our company and services – and then do a few follow-ups prior to hitting them in between the eyes with what we are offering?
Hopefully you can be of help and lend us a bit of your wisdom.
I can't tell you how many times I've had that debate. Fact is, softer and warmer just doesn't cut it with me.
Today and every day, your prospect receives some 650 advertising impressions. To get yours read, you need to lift it head and shoulders above the others.
That means standing up and boldly addressing his/her fears and desires – and how your product/service addresses those dominant emotions. And it means doing this in a way that both seizes the prospect's attention and then converts that attention to readership.
Nine times out of ten, the "softer, warm initial approach introducing our company and services" with follow-ups is a waste of time and money.
Marketers who prefer the warm, soft approach tend to be folks who are uncomfortable with selling and who rarely buy anything as the result of a direct response promotion – if ever.
Tell your partner that being an enthusiastic, unapologetic advocate for your company and product is professional – losing money on your promotions is not.
Test if you must, but my suggestion is, let your partner pay for his test and suffer the loss. You pay for yours – and keep the profits.
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I've read all the greats like Gary Halbert and John Carlton and you are in a class of your own.
Here's a simple question many starting copywriters must have that I've never really seen any of these newsletters address …
How do you identify companies that would make ideal prospects for copywriting?
Who are the big players hiring copywriters today and where do you find them?
Thanks for the kind words!
As far as the big players go, the biggest in my industry are still Phillips Publishing, Agora, Boardroom and Rodale. But to get good writers, a lot of the smaller fish are paying just as well.
Google the Direct Marketing Association, Denny Hatch’s Target Marketing and others to see what directories of major mailers they have available. If you’re interested in working for newsletter publishers, get a copy of the Oxbridge Directory.
My suggestion is to go looking for companies that find customers through direct mail and/or the Internet, call to ask who hires copywriters, and introduce yourself.
You'll probably get a great reception. There are FAR more projects looking for copywriters than vice-versa!
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I loved the contrast between the following two e-mails.
The first is from a skeptical guy in Chicago who’s never heard of me.
The second is from a fellow copywriter who has …
* * * * *
I never heard of you before but your story was spellbinding, informative and inspirational.
I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth. No on second thought – that's exactly what I mean to do.
Because I don't get it.
If you are focusing full-time on one client …
And you apparently have made so many millions from ongoing royalties that you could be enjoying it like Scrooge McDuck riding his bulldozer in his swimming pool full of money …
And all this was developed with quiet stealth and relatively undercover …
So why this coming out party?
Why take the time to sweat out 26 newsletters to us less fortunate creative types?
Is this a philanthropic gesture to give something back to direct marketing which has been so good to you?
Are you a compulsive performer who will miss the applause?
Is this your crack at immortality – to pass on your secrets so they don't get buried with you?
Or are you secretly "trolling the waters" for your next project in case the romance with your one client develops unforeseen complications?
Or something else I missed?
Forgive my impertinence but I would love to hear your answer. So would your other readers.
Well, you caught me red-handed.
You’re right: This is anything BUT a philanthropic enterprise. My motives are purely, unabashedly selfish.
Mentoring the seven young writers I've worked with over the past few years has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done.
When each of them hit the big time, I felt like a proud papa. When they began having copy cubs of their own, I felt like I had grandkids.
Now, I get to do the same with HUNDREDS of young writers, marketing folks and business owners – even BETTER!
And I get to have fun doing it. (Can you imagine a stodgy financial client letting me mention The Redhead's cute CAN in his copy?!)
Finally, it makes me think about how I do what I do – and why. And that makes me a better copywriter and marketing consultant.
As far as your other possible explanations are concerned, I figure "direct marketing" will do just fine without me after I'm gone. Heck. It probably won't even send flowers to the funeral.
And heaven knows, others are equally well qualified to share winning direct response strategies. But why should they have all the fun?
As far as "ulterior" motives go, hey – if THE TOTAL PACKAGE puts me into contact with a great young company that's ready for some explosive growth, I'll chalk it up to good karma.
But that will have to wait. I have more than I can say grace over for at least the next year or two!
If I was doing all this just for filthy lucre, I'd be an idiot. I get much filthier (rich) from spending that time writing hot new controls.
Great to have you on-board!
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It’s an absolute honor to have been mentioned in your first issue.
Your work is legendary. I just scored a copy of one of your early, classic, ground-breaking magalogs, and it still puts most of today’s efforts to shame. It remains a killer template for how to do it right. And your depth of knowledge in this biz is just stunning.
I can’t wait for your next issue. The “deep pocket” revelations you’re sitting on are gonna change the landscape of the direct marketing world, and raise the bar (again) for everyone.
With you, and Bencivenga, and others finally coming clean … it’s like we’re all sharing some virtual online Algonquin Table of top ad writers.
There’s never been an opportunity like this before in the history of direct response, and anyone who isn’t soaking it up is a fool.
– John Carlton
Hi, John! Great to hear from you.
Yeah … I decided to take the plunge into teaching. Not sure I'm very good at it yet, but I'm hoping I’ll improve with time.
Thanks for the testimonial. You can bet your bottom dollar we'll be using it!
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Keep the questions coming!
I love hearing from you – answering your questions is a kick. Please send an e-mail to email@example.com and let me know what I can do to be of greater help to you.
Yours for Bigger Winners, More Often,
Publisher & Editor
THE TOTAL PACKAGE
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