Copywriters: Sharpen your pencils … school’s in session

Dear Business-Builder,

Whether you’re a copywriter or a direct marketer, the next few minutes will prove to be the most effective use of your time – if you want to make more money selling your products and services.

Because in today’s Total Package Clayton’s got a special challenge for you involving a direct mail piece he received. 

Clayton’s inviting you to "evaluate" this direct mail package:  What can you learn from it?  What stands out?  What makes this package work?  We’re interested in your comments.  Do you think you can beef it up any?

We know there are gifted copywriters and marketers among our readers who could do a really bang-up job here.  Here’s your moment to shine.  We’re not expecting a complete critique – just pick an aspect of this piece you would like to comment on.  For instance, what do you think of the headline, subhead, body copy and response device?

Then Clayton himself will give you an "over-the-shoulders" view as he works through this package pointing out what he sees that works, and what suggestions he might offer to boost response.  Don’t miss this rare opportunity to watch the master at work.

But to get the most benefit out of this highly beneficial exercise you need to get involved.  So go ahead, click here now to review the package and tell us what you think.   

Wishing You Every Success,

Wendy "The Redhead" Makepeace
General Manager

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45 Responses to Copywriters: Sharpen your pencils … school’s in session

  1. Sean says:

    I would make the following changes…

    Teaser & Main Headline:

    You Could be Part Owner of The Cure to Diabetes for 17 cents…


    Diabetes is a serious disease affecting 247 Million people everyday. It destroys lives. And most sufferers would pay nearly anything to avoid the pain, hassle and embarrassment of another insulin injection.

    Now you could be part owner in the very company that has found a unique way to tackle this growing epidemic…for as little as 17 cents.

    Best of all your new company is just days away from having full approval in the world’s 3rd largest diabetic market.


    Thanks for letting me play along.

  2. Swans Paul says:

    Dear Clayton:

    Here are my observations.

    1-The ad looks like an ad. The text on the envelope tells me that there is a commercial message—not necessarily useful to me. I’d be more intrigued by something like, “Revealed Inside: 17-cent a share South-Korean Company That May Skyrocket to $4.17-A-Share In the Next 4 Years”. I am not diabetic, but I don’t find the idea “almost-cure” a really exciting one.

    2-The sales letter also reminds me of another sales letter written by Dan Rosenthal, for a natural resource financial newsletter.

    3-There is very little credibility on the Envelope. Nothing to back up the claim that “shares are going to double or triple” within a week.

    4-There seems to be a problem with the structure of the sales letter itself. In the Dan Rosenthal letter, almost every claim is immediately backed up by facts and explanations. In this letter, there are claims and comparisons, but very little facts to support the main claim that this company’s stock could double within a week.

    5-The facts on page 7 seem irrelevant to the thing that needs to be proven : “Stock that could double within 1 week”.

    6-Positioning: It seems that the company is positioning itself as a cheap newsletter, but not as an expert on Asian Stocks That Are Poised to take off. It does that by focusing on the 8 bucks offer.

    Well, now, for disclaimers: This is my input based on the limited knowledge I have about this market. I don’t know anything about the list this letter was sent to. I don’t know what kind of “built-in belief” the editor has with that group of people. I don’t know how investors feel about the stock market, right now. And most importantly, I don’t know what other promotions these investors are receiving.

    Swans Paul

  3. R.T. Bucher says:

    Dear Clayton,

    I think the headline is perfect. It reveals a dirt cheap stock option you can jump on now and be rewarded with later.

    The kind of savvy move only smart investors would make.

    Everyone knows diabetes is on the climb, so the world point of view is yes it’s on the rise and people need their insulin to survive.

    So this stock is bound to sky rocket.

  4. Andrew says:

    The One thing I did like about the ‘mailer’ was the handwritten scrawled note regarding reading ” No further” if you don’t wish to purchase. This has the affect of a tranquilizer dart hitting the little skeptic hanging over our right shoulder. Taking him out of the game for a few moments.

    Otherwise, the piece seemed a mish-mash of fundamental elements conversion tools and techniques,presented in an incoherent fashion.

    The ‘offering ‘ feels like it was created in the mid-90′s,pre-internet, lacking in sophistication/professionalism ( I’m not convinced on the authority and authenticity of the author/publication and its sources ).

    The Attention getting ” Funnels ” are shakey and undynamic,and flip-flop around like a knocked over bucket of Bass in the bottom of an aluminum boat. You got a hand on one slippery spliney fish and a foot on the other,while your free hand is trying to fill the bucket again.. and Whoooops ! the boats doin’ that quick slow down turn on ya !

    HOLD On! and dang my coats getting wet..geez my wallet too, oh there’s my credit card..Now ,what was it they wanted me to Buy again..

    GIL FISCHER’s Tip ‘O ‘ the Day – ” Use small fish to catch big fish “.

  5. John Sky says:


    Although I’m fairly new to copywriting, even I know a bad letter when I see one. I’m sure there are more things wrong with this letter, but let me list what I found:

    1. “Almost Cure”…either it is or it’s not. Being vague is the best way to say “I never said it was…” anyway it’s not a cure but a way to take less meds. Or just spread them out.

    2. The whole thing rambled and had highlights that made no sence.

    3. The envelope would have made me throw it in the trash when I first read it.

    4. The whole letter was written with an accent.

    5. Statements were made with no reference sources given. Most were just plain false.

    6. The overall letter was a boast on how good he was, and not supported well with the testamonials.

    7. The letter looked like a cut and paste.

    8. The math in his offers just are not correct (8 X 12 is 96 not 144.) Maybe he’s working off a chineese new year calendar. As you can see all the savings are really wacked.

    9. How did he get the return card “postage paid” when he is a foreign owned company.

    10. I found three seperate addresses, San Francisco, Ca, Berkeley, Ca, and Hong Kong. Where is he really from?

    I’m sure that if you signed up with this letter your credit card would be sold to many individuals…some that would not be in your best interests.

    This was fun! Let’s do this again.

    John Sky

  6. Alan says:

    Quite honestly what a load of C**P. For the following reasons:

    1) Would you open the envelope in the first place Duh

    2) The contents are designed to appeal to our base instincts – get rich quick

    3) The messages are convoluted and mixed

    4) It appears to be a report on information which, if I was interested, is available from the WHO

    5) The product is full of unsubstantiated claims

    6) The handwritten piece does nothing to endorse or add to the content (if there is any)

    7) As a DM piece it is nothing more than the internet scams that have been around for ages promising much without any real substance.

    The bin would have been the initial target for it without doubt.

  7. Walter Daniels says:

    I would change it as follows. Assuming it’s either a DM or e-mail piece.
    Headline: Are you a diabetic who dislike for needles?

    Next line starts: Let’s be honest, even if you’re not a diabetic, few of us enjoy sticking ourselves up to five times a day. I’m not, and I cringe at the thought. How much would any normal person like to go from up to 5 times a day, to once every three months. A Russian Company (use original copy to complete)

    Last para: Even the non diabetic should understand the furor that will result, when this becomes available. If you have a willingness to risk equal to profit, now is the time to invest.

  8. Chris says:


    Thank you for sending this.

    My mom is an adult onset Type I diabetic so I read this with interest from not just the copy, or the investment potential but the “almost cure” health viewpoint.

    Here’s my observations:
    1. Whole copy is vague. It’s a “Big Money Easy” proposition.
    2. Headline not specific.
    3. Same with the body – no specifics, reference to where stats came from (did he make them up??), no examples or case studies. Just hype. I don’t buy hype.
    4. Didn’t answer any objections that were popping up.
    5. What am I investing in??!!! I was expecting to see something for a large potential investment and it turned out to be an $8/month investment in what I don’t know.
    6. The flow was choppy. Reminded me of reading translated fairy tales to my kids, where you know the story but it just doesn’t “feel” right.
    7. Does a good job in getting interest and kept me somewhat interested although I found myself getting disappointed since it led with great expectations and fell off faster than a fat boy falling off of a cliff.
    8. Liked the envelope teaser.

    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Clayton.

    I wanted to review the copy as you requested but i couldn’t download it. It isnt my conncetion’s fault either.

    Dunno what happened.


  10. Let’s see, where do we start:
    Not a great build-up of trust or credentials
    Unattributed testimonials
    From the headline, I don’t know that he’s trying to sell me on his stock advice, rather than on this particular product

    I could go on for quite a while but I’ll leave it there.

  11. David Foley says:

    Dear Clayton and fellow copywriters,

    The headline (used on both the outer envelope and the letter) really struck me as (a) out of touch with today’s investor – who is more cynical than ever and likely still suffering financially – and (b) missing the real benefit. And, as another post stated, What’s an “almost cure” anyways?

    A possible fix…

    Headline: 17c-a-share company frees diabetics from daily insulin injections

    Outer Envelope Copy: In the next few weeks, XX million people with diabetes can be freed from the daily insulin injections they have endured for years. Their richer, fuller life awaits.

    At the same time, the share price of a small research company will be set to soar as its patented technology spreads like wildfire, first in the country where clinical trials are in the final stages, then, worldwide.

    Get the full story inside …


    David Foley

  12. Cathy Chapman says:

    This caught my attention because my brother died from diabetes. His life revolved around testing and injections.

    As to the letter … it gives me great hope of breaking into the copywriting market.

    For these purposes, I decided not to focus on the entire letter. Others did a great job. I wanted to play with the headline and lead.

    This is what I came up with:

    Watch your 17c per share stock double or triple in profits with the approval of a revolutionary diabetes drug cutting injections by 99.995% .

    Dear Investor,

    Compared to the hoped for “miracle” cancer drug, a diabetes cure is hardly talked about … unless you or your loved one is taking 2-5 injections a day to stay alive.

    Imagine being a human pincushion having to shove a life saving needle into your arm, leg or belly multiple times a day.

    Wouldn’t you be on the next plane to half way around the world if a “miracle” drug decreased your injections to once every three months?

    Diabetes is a life threatening, vision threatening, heart threatening disease. Living with it requires a carefully balanced life.

    This one new drug, from this little Asian company, can result in a dramatic positive change in the lives of diabetics all over the world.

    If you’re diabetic, this is news to be shouted from the mountain tops.

    If you’re an investor, this bit of news can make you wealthy.

    Remember Viagra and what it did for Pfizer stock? The same thing can happen here.

    I dont’ have time to do more, but this was fun. The headline needs tweaking. Two ideas there instead of one.

    See you at bootcamp!

  13. Bill Abbott says:


    I agree with the others regarding the crap headline “almost cure” and weak lead. The story needs an overhaul as no one wants to hear about an “almost cure.”

    How about focusing on comparing the…ahem…growth potential of this drug to the Viagra launch? Maybe something like…

    New Headline:

    “In 1998, Pfizer shocked the world by introducing Viagra and soon after their shareholders pocketed over $100 billion.

    Now, a tiny Chinese bio-tech is about to shock the world AGAIN by introducing a treatment for 246 million people suffering with diabetes!”


    “Here’s your chance to get in at .17 cents/share before the news hits Bloomberg & CNBC and the rest of the world starts piling in.”

    Dear Fellow Investor,

    I can’t give you a time machine, but I’ve got the next best thing.

    Instead of going back to 1998 and making a fortune on Pfizer before they introduced Viagra, I’m going to introduce you to a little known bio-tech that can make Pfizer’s story look flat out B-O-R-I-N-G.

    It all started when….

    End of re-write. Truth be told, I like compelling stories. Give me a story to believe in dammit!

    The biggest problem with this piece was the fact that there was no compelling story for me to believe in.

    If you like my re-write–good, because I’ll be introducing myself to you in person at the AWAI shin-dig in a few weeks.

    All the best,

  14. Bill Abbott says:


    Forgot to mention one thing:

    I believe a headline and lead tying investment themes together will work better on an investor prospect than a lead on a diabetes treatment.

    Reason? Not many investors care about a diabetes treatment unless they or someone they know has it. Their resident emotions are linked to investment gains, not medicine.


  15. David Foley says:

    Oooops! Hit “submit” before I finished, so here’s Part 2:

    - The letter needs work, including a new headline that pays off the envelope teaser … much more dramatic proof points (something fom the clinical trials?), more about the success that the company’s had in other countries (like New Zealand), the endorsement of a respected medical authority and a relevant “case study” (surely there’s something more relevant than Viagra) … and less of the other investments that Asian Growth Stocks has recommended. This will give the letter more focus and allow for a future stream of messages.

    - With an audience that is cynical beyond belief, consider an offer that’s absolutely compelling: Give the name of this company for FREE – just provide your e-mail address. This would then allow the above-mentioned stream of messages to be unleased, each story adding credibility to the premise of Asian Growth Stocks’ recommendations.

    - If “Claire” works 24/7, then apparently this call if routed to a call centre. FAX the form anytime, or accept the offer online anytime, or speak with us during business hours. A live call provides the opportunity for some upselling.

    - As another post has stated, fix the math.

    - Finally, a Chinese Panda coin as a bonus? How does this complement the business proposition of Asian Growth Stocks?


    David Foley

  16. Clayton, you’ve got to be kidding. This stinker of a DM piece reads as though somebody picked up “Direct Mail for Dummies” and decided that if a headline on the envelope is good, a paragraph would be better.

    Throughout the piece the overkill is amazing! By “protesting too much” at every turn this package comes across as sleazy and insincere instead of as exciting and personal. For example, 3 or 4 testimonials is both believable and readable, several pages says, “I’m trying to hard.”

    The other thing that’s wrong with this piece is the emphasis. So much time is spend on things like the “almost” cure for diabetes that it took me far too long to realize that they are selling a newsletter. I thought it was a stock offering!

    Hopefully, you included this as an object lesson that too much of a “good thing” is definately a bad thing!

  17. Sid says:

    Hi Clayton, Thanks for the opportunity to participate.

    The Headline with an “almost- cure” reminds me of “close only counts in horse shoes and handgernades” and it sure doesn’t count in copywriting.

    My headline re-write and sub head would read:

    “This 17 Cent a Share Company has a Lock on a Treatment that Cuts the Need for Insulin in Diabetics by Up to 99.3%.

    That Means just 4 shots a year instead of 1.825 a year!”

    I’d also change the order of the testimonials putting the best ones at the top with the just OK ones in the middle and end up with a couple of better ones.

    My rational: Get their attention with the best ones first. The avergae reader I think (if I’m an average reader) will skip down a long list of testimonials (perhaps impressed by how many), but will not take the time to read each one.

    I would also cut down the number of testimonials and sandwich the others into the long body copy in a shaded windows to break up the body copy and continuously reinforce in the mind of the reader how good the product must be that so many people are happy. (The herd instinct).

    I think I hit the product has a WORLD MARKET harder.

    Compare it not to just Viagra to Cialis, Google, Yahoo, Windows, and Apple … and they all made it big time and are each others competitors (stressing this firm has no competitors).

    I like the reference to the volunteers in New Zealand which proves the demand is there for the product, not just that the marekt is potentially large.

    The Graph showing the growth expected for World Diabetic Population is good.

    The writer uses “I” too much. What happens if this guy dies.

    Better to stress the record of the newsletter with it’s team of experts (describe the core group of experts and their specialities and how the reader get’s all of their expertise for the very small investment in the newsletter.

    The copy wastes a lot of print and switches gears too many times and does overkill talking about Medical tourism in Asia. The reader needs to have his/her attention focused on the benefits of the newsletter, not being taken off on “rabbit trails” of how great medical tourism is.

    But see my other comment below using this as an added benefit for the reader.

    ZERO detail on how well the readers who invested in the Medial touism hospitals actually did (as others ahve said – not enough specifics in many of the claims.)

    (The close)

    Rather than ask the question;

    “What can you lose?” which encouages the reader to consider what he/she could lose like his/her $8 dollars a month to the point he decides to cancel or his time in reading potrentially worthless information.


    “You have nothing to lose if you subscribe and Everything to Lose if you ingnore this limited time opportunity to look over the shoulders of the best team of experts on Asian Growth Stocks to come along the pike in a very long time.

    Just look at our record and read the unsolicited letters from our subscribers who wanted to thank us for making them rich.

    (Perhaps they will go back and read a few of the testimonails if they still are on the fence about subscribing. This may be the nudge to get them off the fence they need.)

    “Will you be left out…just guessing about which are the hot new Asian Stocks you could ride to potential riches beyond your dreams?

    Id didn’t think so. Here’s how to order!”

    I do like the added benefit of including the paragraph

    “Whether You want to make an appointment to see a doctor or buy shares….”

    However, I would revise it to say,”Whether You want to make an appointment to see a doctor or buy shares OR BOTH….”

    A great exercise Clayton (I guess you noticed I swiped your “look over the shoulder of the expert line from you”. I could resist it’s such a killer line.

    See you at Bootcamp in Del Rey Beach, Fla.

    I’ll be the old bald headed guy wearing a ball cap.

    Thanks again,

    Sid “The Lake Chapala – Ajijic Mexico Information Guy”

  18. Clayton,

    From the envelope the focus for me is confusing. The letter seems a confusing mix of focus on diabetes advances, but then suddenly interjects some headline associated with the stock price– which is the real selling point.

    This subhead:

    “1% of the boost that Viagra gave Pfizer would be enough to send this stock from 17-cents to $4.16″

    and this bit of copy:

    “Subscribers who’ve been following my recommendations on this company are already up a modest 26%…”

    could both be moved much further up in the copy–that alone would make this much stronger for me (at least out of the gate).

    This was fun–thank you for trying to reach out and engage your subscribers in conversation.

  19. Barnaby Jones says:

    These are some of the changes that I would make to the headline and deck. I think almost cure works it makes you curious about what it really is. I really didn’t

    17 Cents a Share “Almost – Cure” for Diabetes
    The Next Viagra EXPLOSION Waiting to Happen…

    ****Deck Copy***

    New Life altering Discovery puts an End to the sometimes 5 daily injections
    A diabetic requires and replaces them with just 4 injections – In 1 Year…
    The life changing Explosion of Wealth that savvy investors will reap from this discovery is about to
    Rain down on the lucky few who take advantage of this 17 cent a share stock
    As it prepares for final regulatory approval from the Russian (FDA) Drug Regulatory
    Commission for release into the world’s 3rd largest diabetic market.
    The Doors will open for Sales to grow into the Billions, frenzied brokers will fight for a piece
    of this Miracle like drug, and I believe, these shares will Double or Triple in just one Week.

    That’s my two cents. Hope you enjoy it.

  20. Kathy says:

    I thought this was written on a manual typewriter circa 1959, complete with double spacing between sentences, I saw a reference to Viagra. I’ve seen more professional copy from Nigeria! Fix this? Nah, scrap it!

  21. chris says:


    What a snoozer of a letter. I was lost at the Don’t open me insert. The letter did not catch my interest and was BLAH! I could not read past the first page – guess my ADD is hitting me hard tonight after an extremely busy day.

    If this is actually getting results, I would be shocked. I will look at it with fresh eyes in the morning to be fair.

    My rating right now: Trashcan fodder.


  22. Beau Smith says:

    One word… FOCUS!!!

    This thing is a sales piece for an investment newsletter or advisory service of some sort (I’m not sure exactly because I couldn’t get through the letter), but he spends most of his time talking about the medical field. Fascinating for someone who can’t afford the treatment he needs, I’m sure. But that’s not the prospect. The prospect is an investor who is looking to get better ROI.

    Of course, there’s a lot more than that wrong with it. Like credibility. Or the lack of it. Speaking to an investor’s greed, when most of them are feeling fear.

    I could go on, but I’ll take my own advice and focus. A sales letter must focus on one prospect. It must speak to his own self interest, in his language. It must paint an emotional picture of how much better his life will be after he buys the product. It’s all about him.

  23. Pingback: Net Biz In Buzz » ‘Copywriters: Sharpen Your Pencils … School’s in Session’ by Wendy Makepeace

  24. Solomon says:

    Hi Clayton,

    Greetings to you!

    The headline is not only catchy but downright boring to say least!
    When you ask a reader to invest: you first need to exude so much confidence and sound you’re convinced of it first.
    Here “almost-cure” sounds doubtful.

    As a headline it needs to portray the benefit the customer is going to experience.

    Even the subheads lack the big punch: say it with certainty and with a big twist!

    “Let your retirement worries fade into thin air…”

    Subheads: should prompt us to see the next benefit in a lively way.

    A copywriter can really turn it more interesting … I feel it’s written by a journalist who is more overwhelmed with his research rather than the ONE who is going to read it the READER or CUSTOMER who needs a solution and who has a heart besides a curious mind. The customer goes by his/her emotions from the heart!
    Thanks for asking us to give our opinion!

  25. Ron Surface says:

    Hi Clayton and Wendy,

    Here’s my two cents.

    An ‘almost cure’ is kind of intriguing, but if I was going to try and beef it up, I would try something like this –

    (Headline) A Virtual Cure For Diabetes!

    (Deck Copy) This Scientific ‘Miracle’ practically eliminates the need for insulin injections . . . from 4 shots a day . . . to only 4 per year!(Last part emphasized)

    And get this – the ‘little company that could’ that pioneered this treatment is selling for only 17 cents a share! Talk about profit potential!

    They could also use that for teaser copy on the envelope and put ‘see inside for details’ or mention some of the authors other picks.


  26. Sam says:

    Impression: A typical front-running, pump and dump boiler-room type blast.
    Teaser: “billions of dollars in sales” is hard to believe.
    Testimonials: Should include a chart listing dates and prices before, during and after his list of promotions. And if the companies are still in business.
    Endorsements from doctors needed.
    Promotor’s firm: Need proof about its past, years in business, BBB membership, etc.
    Diabetes data: Clinical studies’ results, experiments, Russian test results presented by authorities should be included.
    Unclear: Can diabetics self-inject, or do they have to go to a clinic for the injection?
    Change or eliminate: The reference (page 2)to “modest 26%”
    gain. 26% gain to 17 cents is nothing to brag about.
    Promoting many other companies while pushing this diabetes
    firm: A chart with the transactions – as mentioned before – would be more impressive.
    Blue Cross: Good proof – enlarge on this.
    Special Reports: Should be highlighted
    Order Device: More info about the Panda coin needed.

  27. Nathan says:

    This looks like a scam which means that either
    a. It’s a scam, or
    b. The writer didn’t add enough credibility.

    If this company offered me this job I would want to look into their credibility first, until I was satisfied that it wasn’t a scam.

    And I would make sure to include every bit of credibility boosting information that I found in the promotion; because unless people are way dumber than I’d like to think, any Asian Penny Stock Promoter is likely to set off alarm bells and BS meters for miles around.

  28. Ryan says:

    Hi Clayton,

    I’m not an expert copywriter (yet) but a few things occurred to me. I think the job of this piece should be to (1.) focus on the need/problem of the audience and (2.) establish the credibility of the service in fulfilling it.

    Put in context of today’s investment market, that should mean regaining financial security by rebuilding decimated investment portfolios by investing in more aggressive opportunities in foreign markets. That’s really what this guy is trying to say.

    Focusing on one or two interesting companies is like focusing on one or two whizbang features in a product. Tell me the benefits of investing in these companies right now. Show me the results you’ve consistently gotten from past recommendations. Convince me investing in asian markets under your guidance will help me rebuild my destroyed portfolio. Or, if I don’t have a portfolio, this is a fast-track opportunity to get some financial security in a scary economy.

    Rebuild Your Portfolio in Record Time by Investing in Exploding Asian Markets

    I’d then go on to show a long list of recommendations he’d made and the results achieved in timeframes. Then include current opportunities and expected returns (don’t have to include names). He sort of did this in the little “don’t open this unless…” card, which I really liked.

    I think the fact that there is no website included by the offers is a credibility killer.

    Thanks! Fun to play along! I look forward to hearing what you saw.


  29. Lee Smith says:

    One of the biggest points that stands out to me is that this letter is written for investors, not diabetic patients. Diabetic patients would be interested in the potential of the treatments, but investors are quite frankly, “looking to make a buck, or 100″. The headline seems a little salesy, but then again a 17 cent stock may cause investors to jump all over this because it’s a low-entry, high-return possibility.
    The offer really isn’t even for a diabetic product. It’s for “stock guesses” the guy is giving away that have the potential to make money. With that, I’d have to look at this from the eyes of a potential investor who’s looking to make a KILLING!

    They may think, “Yea, this product does this, that, yea, yea, yea…good for diabetics – BUT WHAT’S THE RETURN ON THIS BABY??”

    One thing I’ve noticed about SERIOUS investors – they watch stocks like teenagers watch Twilight movies. So they’ll watch this stock from the moment of inception into the market until they make their money. (or pay someone to watch it…)

    I’m relatively new to the copywriting world (taking the AWAI course now), but I do know you have to know your customer inside and out before writing a piece. This is targeted at investors, written as an investor would talk.

    I would include a few other subheads for the double reeadership path so it wouldn’t seem so congested and long-winded.

  30. John B says:

    Overall weak header.I’m under the conviction that the headline would capture the attention of a diabetic more than an investor. Huge mistake. The headline is also vague.
    Try: “New Underground Investor’s Newsletter Reveals 17 cents Shares That Are Going To Skyrocket” . . .
    Only Those Who Get In Now Are Almost Guaranteed An Easy Fortune.

    Too much emphasis is placed on the disease of diabetes. No credibility element. Who is speaking to me? Weak lead. Vain attempt at raising curiosity in the reader. Lead ideas are buried in the copy.

    Why should I listen to this guy? No rifle shot logic. Ideas are all over the place. Failure to anticipate and resolve objections in the copy. Demsionalize the “tiny” idea. No apparent close. No urgency to order now. The guarantee is almost non-existant.

    Not too bad. Make the response device look more official. Create urgency and scarcity. Newsletter (product) has no high perceived value. Profit margins are too low creating a strain and poor ROI.

    This product already has an air of differentiation. But it needs to be given dimension, creativity, and re-vamped.
    John Babin

  31. John B says:

    Clayton and Staff,

    First off, its about time the Total Package gets down with some real copywriting action. Its fun and exciting for us copy cubs to take a working promotion, rip out the autopsy tools(that I stole from this blog) and cut this sucker open and study whats inside.

    After all, whats this blog all about anyway? Learning to sell in print. Just admit it, we all see ads that need an over-hall in magazines, the mail and Online. And everytime that happens, we turn green with envy… Hell, we want a piece of that action. We secretly want to make that copy better.

    I just recieved a mail piece that is wimpy like Paris Hilton’s puppy. The Total Package and it’s products have given me plenty of audacity. I know I could kick the tar out of that promotion. The headline says “Foods That Explode in Your Bowels.” Have you seen it?

    Today’s issue is just the thing to get us cubs off our ass and start to do something with our skills and knowledge. TP readers would agree; We are greatful that you’ve decided to create this blog.

    Please keep posting promos, display ads and such. Its such a powerful way to jam us with copywriting knowledge. This stuff is “the Bomb.” Keep the fire burning.

    John Babin

  32. Janis says:

    Hello Wendy & Clayton,

    Here’s a slightly contrarian view…hope the ‘thundering herd’ doesn’t trample me.

    Several members of my family are diabetic, so the phrase ‘almost cure for diabetes’ got my attention. I admit it – I thought the envelope was OK.

    It reminded me of Blimpie’s ‘World’s Second Best” and Avis ‘We try harder’ campaigns. Being runner-up to a non-existant cure for an incurable disease is pretty darn good, in my opinion, so i opened the letter with interest.

    Once inside though, I was alternately infuriated by the writer’s condescension and just plain confused by his intentions.

    He refers to ‘well-to-do’ sufferers. Is this product so pricey that it will be unavailable to the masses?

    He refers to “foreign insulin-producing…”. Although he means produced outside of one’s own body, the American reader could mistake this phrase as ‘produced on foreign soil.’ Not a good thing in today’s insular mindset.

    He refers to ‘your wife’…surely many readers are women themselves. He probably won’t get their business.

    It wasn’t until I read the references to Viagra that i finally caught on…this is a sales letter for an investment service, not for the diabetes stock itself.

    Rather than trying to sell one thing – his investment letter – he wastes his head of steam by selling his entire inventory of stock offerings…mostly hospitals. Hospitals give people (OK, me) the creeps.

    And if this service is so valuable, why is it so cheap? For no contract and $8, i can go to the racetrack.

    The order device clarified his confusing offers somewhat…until the very end. I might be tempted to buy his product just to get a silver panda coin, because i like panda bears. But, he should have talked up the pandas as a REALLY exciting freebie instead of just a tag-line.

    Why don’t YOU offer panda bears, Clayton?

    best regards,

  33. Jerry Y says:

    Many of the comments above say this package is an utter train wreck.

    I don’t think it’s that bad. Although there are key areas that could use some improvement.

    - I like the teaser copy headline. It’s specific and arouses curiosity of the target audience. Calling it an “almost-cure”, and then explaining the reason why, makes the teaser copy believable. Better than just screaming “amazing breakthrough” which is overused and would probably come across as hype.

    - I think the teaser copy gets attention and is a good readership sell. But unfortunately, it misses an important fundamental. It doesn’t tell the reader what you want them to do next: see inside for free details!

    - The teaser copy could be made more exciting by mentioning the mechanism behind the “almost cure”. Namely, that this new technology helps diabetics produce insulin within their own bodies, thus drastically reducing the need for injections, from 2-5 times a day to just once every 3 months.

    And I think the part about “you probably haven’t heard of this ‘almost-cure’ because the company pioneering it is Asian” should also be on the teaser copy, as it increases curiosity and believability.

    - The sales copy doesn’t fully payoff the teaser copy, because it doesn’t reveal the name of the stock. This is probably because the client wants to offer the report on the diabetes “almost-cure” as a bonus. However, this could be a mistake. The reader may feel the letter didn’t live up to the promise of the teaser copy, which could damage the client’s believability.

    It may be a better idea to name the stock in the sales letter, to payoff the teaser copy and also to give valuable actionable info to the reader in the sales letter itself. This increases readership, enhances the client’s believability, and invokes reciprocity in the reader. The client could still offer a bonus report with full details on how to maximize profits with the stock. Or just offer a different report, about a different hot Asian growth stock, as a subscription bonus.

    - Even if the client decides not to name the stock in the sales copy, there should at least be a mention of the bonus report on page 3 (before the editor introduces himself), to segue into the sales pitch. Otherwise the copy feels disconnected, and the reader gets the feeling of “what’s the point of what you just told me about this ‘almost-cure’?”

    And of course, the bonus report needs to have an attractive title! And it should be given a value, in dollars. If possible, add a picture of the report to make it more tangible in the prospect’s mind.

    So on page 3, after the second paragraph, there should be some copy like, “With your permission, I’d like to rush you a FREE report titled …”

    - The sales copy could do a better job of dimensionalizing the benefits. For example, the part about “1% of the boost Viagra gave Pfizer would be enough to send this stock from 17c to $4.16″. What does that mean to me? What percentage increase is that? What well-known growth stocks would that be comparable to — for example, would it comparable to investing in Microsoft before their exponential growth? What returns would I get from, say, a $2,000 investment?

    - This package could use more proof elements. Such as quotes from authority figures or media articles to support the assertions in the letter. For example, what’s the size of the diabetic population in Russia, and how much do they currently spend on treatments? Does the scientific team behind this new technology have credibility elements we could use (e.g. have they been involved in developing other breakthroughs before)? Has the editor been featured in the media before?

    - Somewhere on pages 4 and 5, when the copy is going on and on about Asian hospitals, I lost track of “how is this relevant”. So I think the copywriter needs to insert some sub-heads throughout this part, to remind the reader that this is relevant to a hot Asian growth stock.

    And, like I just mentioned, this part could use more proof elements as well. Such as media reports and statistics on American “health tourism”, that support the growth projections made in the sales copy.

    - Again, after the 3rd paragraph on page 6, the copy feels disconnected. At this point, the copy should mention the bonus report on the Asian hospital company. And again, the bonus report should have a compelling title, and be given a value in dollars.

    Then the copy can tell the reader that they can get the bonus reports by subscribing to Asian Growth Stocks. This would provide a smooth segue into the offer and closing copy.

    - Again, adding pictures of the bonus reports and the newsletters would make them more tangible to the prospect, and boost perceived value.

    - I find the closing copy confusing. For example, the part about “send me your email address” is unnecessary and confusing (some readers may think, “do I need to subscribe to Asian Growth Stocks to get the report, or just send you my email address?”). The order form, or the phone operator, would ask for the email address anyway — so why ask for the email address here in the copy?

    - The closing copy also lacks urgency. It doesn’t compel the reader to act now.

    - I think the client is unnecessarily suppressing the size of his average order, by offering the $8 monthly subscription as an option. He would probably increase his average order size — and his profits — by offering 1-year, 2-year and 3-year subscriptions instead, with a pro-rated refund policy.

    - Speaking of refund policies, where’s the guarantee? Adding a risk-free guarantee would almost certainly increase response, and also increase the average order size. A risk-reversal would be even better. Otherwise prospects would probably be iffy about committing to a 1-year or 2-year subscription without a guarantee.

    - The order form is also confusing. For example, the prospect has to do some mental math to compare $8/month to $82/year to $154 for 2 years.

    The options on the order form should allow for an easy “lowest common denominator” comparison. For example, if the client insists on keeping the $8/month option, then the order form should mention that the 1-year deal works out to $X/month and the 2-year deal works out to $Y/month. This way the prospect can easily compare the savings on the different options, and figure out the best deal. Otherwise, at first glance, some prospects may think $8/month is the best deal, because $8 is so much smaller than $154.

    - The copy at the top of the order form shouldn’t just repeat the envelope teaser copy. Instead it should summarize the benefits of subscribing, as well as the risk-free guarantee, in the customer’s voice.

    And assuming the client prefers phone orders (because they are immediate, so there’s less chance of losing the sale due to delay), the phone number for the order hotline should be featured prominently at the top of the order form.

    - Instead of offering a silver coin as a 2-year subscription bonus, I think a 3rd report on another hot Asian growth stock would have a higher perceived value, and get more prospects to choose that option.

    - The testimonials in the lift note only have first names and initials. This isn’t very believable to me. I’ve always wondered why so many direct mail pieces — even your “23-cent Life Saver” package, Clayton — use this kind of testimonials. (Help me understand this?)

    I think using full names, city and state (at minimum) in the testimonials would increase the believability of the testimonials. Adding some pictures, if possible, would be even better.

    Thanks Clayton, I enjoyed this exercise.


  34. Fred Coombs says:

    Re: “almost-cure” for diabetes sales letter.

    The best way to save this piece would be a speedy send-off to the landfill and starting over.
    The reader cannot discern whether the Asian Growth Stock editor is touting Asian/Russian health care or trying to sell his newsletter.
    Reading the copy as it’s presented, the following comes to light;
    1. 23% is devoted to a discussion of diabetes.

    2. 12% is a questionable comparison to pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

    3. 12% discusses unsubstantiated “secrets of success”, focusing on investment in China resources and land (China is still a communist country and these areas are most likely nationalized).

    4. 39% touts Asian hospital procedures with no underlying proof.

    5. Finally, 14% presents the one and only offer. However, he seems to have the offer in reverse of what it should be. He’s charging $144 of a full-year subscription but only $96 for a pay-by-the-month deal, with cancellation at any time. What’s to stop a reader from taking a peek for 1 month at $8, getting the “almost-cure” special report bonus then pulling the plug on the subscription? The sum of the monthly price should be higher than a full-year commitment so the subscriber is locked in for that period.

    Also, there are NO guarantees offered, as is common with other newsletters (“we’ll refund the unused portion of your subscription”, etc.).

    And the above is just for openers. Here’s more…
    1. Scattered throughout the copy are phrases which tend to alienate the prospect rather than bring him into the fold. For example, (a) “puny $8”, (b) “(on my dime)”, and (c) “modest $3,000” remarks talk down to the reader.

    2. An “almost-cure” is not a cure, such as there is no such thing as being “almost-pregnant”. I doubt whether a flood of desperate Americans are going to be flooding into Russia ($700+ airfare, 18 hours flying time) to partake of an “almost-cure”. A quick Google search will show you the average American insulin cost for a 3 month period ranges form $365-$820.

    These common-sense facts and figure numbers knock the skids out from the claim this company is poised to hit the jackpot and dissolve the credibility of the newsletter itself.

    3. The teaser on the envelope (which is poor to begin with) is repeated word-for-word 2 more times in the copy. Boring, boring, boring.
    I could rant on and on but there’s little sense in investing much more time in this. In short, this sales letter violates or ignores almost every copywriting tenet; (a) no headline benefit, (b) no proof and no believability, (c) no flow to keep the reader going, (d) no early offer, (e) no firm benefits, (f) no dimensionalization and (g) as Ron Popeil would say…there’s more. much more (lacking).

    Good luck, Mr. Tycangco.

    Fred Coombs
    Wheeling IL

  35. Kevin says:

    I liked the 17 cents-a-share company letter.

    1. The teaser copy on the envelope (mainly the headline) caught my attention. The “almost-cure” seemed awkard, but his explanation of why he said “almost-cure” was acceptable to me. (Side note: I would have tried to find a better phrase to use). Since I come from a family that have a lot of diabetics I was intrigued by the cutting-down of taking insulin injections. I would buy into this company for personal and financial reasons.

    2. The headline and lead did a good job of laying the groundwork of a “jump on the bandwagon: new medical technology is going to take the market by storm” type of thing.

    3. The proof elements aren’t the best, but he did include 17 testimonials. He alluded to a couple of clinical trials, to back up claims made to support the claims he’s making about the company. (I would have definitely tried to follow those studies). One caveat: One of the studies was done in Russia…need I say more.

    4. His comparison to Viagra was good.

    5. Back to proof elements: Throwing around Aetna and Blue Cross’s name was a good move, because this could easily be verified by just calling those companies and asking a few questions. If what he says in the letter about them checks out, then he could be on to something.

    5. His offer was a no-brainer to me. I burn over $8 every 2-3 days buying smokes. If I add in the pepsi I buy when buying my smokes i’m spending $8 every day and a half. I could make $8 a month just by collecting cans and bottles. The risk/reward ratio is too great not to get this information in hand. My young kids could afford to buy this stock. Of course, i’d do some research on the company. But, you could potentially turn $170 (1,000 shares) into $4,000 over the “long-term” or $1,000 in the “short-term”. Plus, you can cancel at anytime. An excellent try-it-out price.

    6. I think from the gate he is teasing the dominant emotion, greed and fear of losing out on an opportunity to leverage a small amount of money to make big gains. A sorta
    “I have this great inside tip but you have to subscribe to get this information” thing going on.

    7. I would have definitely subscribed to this offer.

    8. He kept drumming 17 cents-a-share into the readers mind. I was sold at 17 cents-a-share. I know from experience when I was investing in penny stocks that finding these type of quality “bargain” stocks take lots of time to find, then the research on the company begins.


  36. John March says:

    envelope–this is weak “almost cure” not too exciting and approval in Russia–who cares?

    Lift Note–Testimonials with first and no last name–suspect.

    return reply–no opportunity to sell here

    Letter: repeats what’s on the envelope–nothing new, nothing to grab attention–this letter died with the envelope–nothing to draw me into wanting to read any further

    This is a chessey letter, without facts, but with prophecies about the future based on a comparison with Viagra–there is nothing to compare here…I hate this letter. I would throw it in the garbage. The letter is confusing and it made me sick. LOL

  37. Dave says:

    I didn’t like it.

    Overall it looks crude and unsophisticated, especially unforgivable given the fact that it was about something scientific and cutting edge.

    A little design would have gone a long way to making the piece more appealing.

    I think that a more inviting and informative headline on the outside of the package would have been enough to make the reader open the envelope.

    The content of the piece made my head hurt. I didn’t want to read it…so I stopped doing so.

    The message was clear, but it felt like I was being hammered over the head with it again and again.

    No time to suggest actual changes to make it better. I just wanted to get my comments in to see how they compare to Clayton’s.

  38. I.A. says:

    Here’s a link where you can download the PDF report of my quick critique.

    I had to go to tiny URL because the link YouSendIt gave me was way to long.

    P.S.: The last line at the bottom of the report is meant as a compliment, without Clayton, it would score an embarassing 0.3 out of 10 points.

  39. I.A. says:

    @John March ….

    “I would throw it in the garbage. The letter is confusing and it made me sick. LOL”


    My sentiments exactly… love your writing style too : )

  40. I.A. says:

    Me thinks that Clayton’s people didn’t like the YouSendIt link to the quick critique so I’ll paste it here in plain vanilla text form:


    First impressions…looks like a very weak opener to me.

    Can’t imagine anyone getting excited about what looks like some sort of tongue twister.

    “17c –a- share company with an “almost cure” for diabetes”

    Sounds very limp and logical… and medical too.

    My first reaction was:

    “Is this an ad for diabetics?… can they get an almost cure for just 17c??”
    “Sounds like a good deal for people with diabetics.”

    But then, I read the copy and its actually an investment ‘thingamajig’.

    Reading through it fully, I see that the claim of


    I like this headline better. The theme presupposes a profit boost, not too sure if you’re allowed to say this, something along the lines of, someone the reader can see holding a sack full of money.

    …you know the canvas bag with the green $$$ sign on it.


    Never Ignore Asian Investments Again.

    “They’ve Given My ‘Insider’ Subscribers
    824%, 938% and Even 1,101% Profits.”

    “Now’s Your Turn To Get The Same Profits
    Or Even More By Riding High
    On A Little-Known & New Medical Discovery.”


    (Credibility about track record here in bullet point fashion…The whole of page 3 of the document should be bullet points here, about 5 of the best)

    Dear investor,

    We begin in Russia where the story unfolds. A country with a humungous portion of people with diabetes, a staggering 246 million strong and all of them desperately need medication to stay alive.

    Why is this important?

    Because, a company in Russia has created a patented technology to deliver that life saving medicine….

    “450 Times More Effectively!”

    This is not a joke.

    Diabetes is not a joke. The patient has to painful prick himself up to FIVE TIMES a day to inject life saving medicine into his body.

    Imagine yourself going through the same situation, falling victim to a merciless illness that turns you into a human pin cushion.

    Then… imagine a company that tells you…

    “No More Going Through Painful Injections 5 Times A Day”

    “FINALLY!” You yell in utter jubilation… Justice from the drudgery of being forced into poking yourself…

    Relief from painful needles and most of all…

    Washing yourself in dignity you once enjoyed, now you’re no more chained to the hurtful process of piercing your skin with a needle.

    What does this have to do with you?

    Plenty, if you’re keen on cashing on this phenomenon, because there’s going to be a mad stampede towards the drug stores that sell this miracle medicine and…

    “It Will Rock Your Share Value Upwards,
    If You Were Sharp Enough To Spot & Grab
    The Immense Opportunity This TechnologicaL
    Discovery Presents…”

    (Begin credibility about the product here, build your case for the Russian market…)


    What on earth does Viagra have to do with anything???

    It’s a bad idea to talk about a drug that has had published reports about people dying after they’ve used it.

    Here’s What You Do With Pages 4, 5 and half of page 6:

    Remove it gently and carefully from the package, you don’t want to tear off any portion of it because it’ll come in very handy when you run out of toilet paper!

    Use As Needed When Proper Supplies Are Low
    And There’s No Soft Tissue At Home.


    The pages should have had illustrations depicting the awesome-ness of this miracle medical discovery.

    Some testimonials from people who have used the product would be great.

    Include pictures and proper details of the people who provide testimonials.

    “Randy R., MA” is simply not going to cut it.


    The transition from body copy of the letter to making the sale copy is more bad news.

    He goes from… “If you’re prepared to sit on the shares for up to 5 years, I think you’ll see profits as large as 500%” (sidenote: I sincerely doubt anyone wants to spend 5 years sitting on shares based on the sole “thoughts” of someone who wrote this letter.)

    To making the sale copy… “Subscribe to my Asian Growth Stocks for as little as $8 a month”.

    Not justified at all.


    More can be done to help this copy out. For starters… graphics of people who have used the medical discovery, graphs and charts of winning picks and potential returns, sidebars on the types of investments that are available in Asia.

    A “How easy it is to invest in Asia” section.

    More of a focus on the medical discovery is needed, right now the focus is scattered, it’s all over the place.

    –>> Enough with the “almost cure” already!

    Build up a Mr.X who’s an expert with an almost perfect track record working inside Russia’s stock exchange to admit that he knows how much the Russian company will explode in share value once it gets the regulatory nod. Why?

    Because he’s seen it before with other medical discoveries.

    Also, there should be a section on the company Asian Growth Stocks and why it’s in a position to give such good advice. What makes it different from the others out there?


    Out of no-where, I have to pay $8 a MONTH. I thought this was about a discovery of some medicine. What’s going to be included in month 2, 3, 4, 5 ???

    Why am I even paying monthly for?

    What’s going to arrive at my doorstep or email address??

    No guarantee? …. How am I going to get the reports? No “order by phone bonus”…

    Overall Score:
    2.3 / 10.0

    (2.0 points “pre-added” because it came from Clayton’s website.)

  41. Mr. Subtle says:

    Since Wendy asked to comment on just ONE aspect of the mailing I thought I’d do a quick MAKEOVER of the envelope.

    Since a picture is worth a thousand words… in this case maybe under a hundred here is a link to the graphic:


    One of the above links should work (I hope).

    Just remember, this is a really really FAST makeover. Pardon any spelling errors.

  42. Mr. Subtle says:

    Since Wendy asked to comment on just ONE aspect of the mailing I thought I’d do a quick MAKEOVER of the envelope.

    Since a picture is worth a thousand words… in this case maybe under a hundred, here is a link to the graphic:

    Just remember, this is a really really FAST makeover. Pardon any spelling errors.

  43. Elizabeth says:

    My father had diabetes and my husband has it. I find the idea of an “almost cure” both exciting and honest. However, I agree that the rest of the letter could have been much better organized and written, and that the claims need proof.

  44. Pingback: Net Biz In Buzz » ‘Copywriters: Sharpen Your Pencils … School’s in Session’ – ‘The Total Package’ Week in Review

  45. Shane Arthur says:

    For starters, let’s talk word count.

    17¢-a-share company with an “almost cure” for diabetes

    Shorten by three words to:

    17¢-a-share company “almost” cures diabetes

    Then spice it up with something like:

    How a 17¢-a-share company’s “almost cure” for diabetes will cure your stock woes

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