Turning Research into Gold

Dear Business Builder,

Not a very sexy subject this week – just one that can make you tons of money.

Yep, I’m talking about research – the one thing that most copywriters dread. Because after all: We’re writers, so we make money when we’re writing – not researching … right? So the time you have to spend reading instead of writing costs you money. Right?

Actually, no. Not at all.

The fact is, the success of your direct mail piece, print ad, online sales page is determined to a tremendous extent by the quality of the research you do before you write a single word.

You need to know what competing companies are doing. What prospects are thinking and feeling. Most of all, you need to know what your product does.

And no, I’m not talking about how the financial newsletter you’re writing for provides recommendations … or about how the nutritional supplement you’re promoting gives users tons of vitamin C … or about any of the other things you think your product does.

I’m talking about digging much deeper; all the way to the bone. Because chances are, that’s where you’ll find the facts that will turn your “OK” promotion into a barn-burner with many times the response rates you’re seeing now.

So let’s take a quick look at some pointers that will help you get better research done and to get it done in a fraction of the time it takes you now …

How to know what’s working

Whatever you’re promoting, someone else – in most cases, a LOT of someone elses – are promoting similar products right now. Monitoring what they’re saying to prospects is the best way I know to get a big head start on creating a promotion that will rake in big bucks.

Every time you look at a successful promotion, you’re looking at more than simply the product of months, sometimes years of trial and error and exhaustive testing – you’re getting an insight into the fears, frustrations and desires that are moving prospects to action.

So your first step is a simple one: Get your name on every competitor’s online and offline list as soon as is humanly possible.

Create a rule in your e-mail client that automatically moves promos for each niche into a sub-folder in your inbox. Then, study those e-mails and the sales pages they link to for valuable clues as to what’s working best now.

If you’re writing direct mail, buy a product from each industry leader to get your name on its customer file. Then, monitor your mail carefully, writing the date you received each promotion on it. As a rule, the more often you receive a promotion, the better it’s working – so be sure to study the promos you see most often.

When you put your name on these lists, use a middle initial that represents the name of the list. You might subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, for instance by using your real first and last names, but using the middle initial “W.”

Then, when you receive a promotion from another company that’s addressed to John “W” Smith, you know you got the promotion because you’re on the Wall Street Journal’s list (handy especially if you’re looking for the lists that are working best).

Your next step? Get thee to a library. Or better yet, sign up for the Standard Rate and Data (SRDS) directories of direct mail and e-mail lists at SRDS.com. SRDS can give you tons of useful information about each company in your niche.

You can, for instance, study the number of hotline names (new buyers) to see how quickly each company is growing its customer file. You can see how many of their customers are male or female. You can see their price points and average sale. And more.

Chances are, your company or your client’s company rents its list to these companies – and before the rental can take place, the company has to submit a sample of its promotion for approval. So at this point, I often call my client’s list department and ask to see copies of promotions that the fastest-growing companies are using right now.

Product research pointers

Doing these things gives you a tremendous advantage because you know what’s working now and you can spot the headlines, benefits and offers that are working best now.

But there’s a whole other area of research that still needs to be done: Researching all the benefits your product provides.

Now, in some cases, this kind of research is easy. Sometimes, not so much.

Recently for example, I had to create an online promotion for a health product that bolsters the immune system. The key active ingredient is gluten – a nutrient I had never written about before.

So, we used PubMed.com, WebMD.com and other medical databases to research gluten like it was going out of style. Know what we found? We found scores of studies showing that gluten does a heck of a lot MORE than just improve your immune system!

We found that it protects your heart by eliminating free radicals from your body, by inhibiting the process that turns cholesterol into artery-goo and by reducing inflammation in your arteries.

We found that gluten has actually caused cancerous tumors to shrink in major studies at world-renowned research centers like The Mayo Clinic and Tulane. We found that it also helps balance blood sugar and reduces inflammation in arthritic joints – and, believe it or not, much more.

Then, armed with this documented information from many of the world’s most highly respected medical institutions, I wrote a promotion that is very different and far more effective than I could have written if I had focused exclusively on the benefits my client had unearthed for the product.

Want to see the research document and the sales copy?

OK …

Click here to see some of the research we dug up online and how the raw research was presented. And then, click here to see what I did with it.

So let’s talk about research in the blog below this week. What sites do you use to learn about your competitors, your prospects and to research your products?

Let’s build a list that will help all of us turn research into gold!

Yours for Bigger Winners, More Often,
Clayton Makepeace Signature
Clayton Makepeace
Publisher & Editor

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12 Responses to Turning Research into Gold

  1. I use Google Alerts so I’ll know when something is published about topics I’m interested in.

    Just go to Google Alerts and type in the keywords you want to keep up with, and Google sends you the links to the web pages as they’re indexed.

    It’s a win-win. You get the info you want, while Google gets to learn more about you. (Hmmmm…. maybe I should start having those updates sent to my anonymous Yahoo account….)

  2. Love the use of pre-suppositions in that sales-letter. You’ve assumed the reader believes free radicals are “bad” and turned-up the fear by claiming they scar the arteries. I’ve never heard this hypothesis about free radical damage before so I’m not saying it’s not true or that it is – just that emotionally it’s a pretty cool hook.

  3. Wow Clayton!

    Excellent. Great way to show “Do this, get this.”

    Terrific learning vehicle.

    Thank you.


  4. Clayton, this is awesome-I was going to write you or contact you to see if you could write more on doing research-probably the most overlooked part of a writer’s job.

    One key question–say you are writing for the fundraising/non profit market and your client doesn’t have a ton of research to give you.

    I suppose the thing to do would be to sign up for non profit
    lists like RedCross, United Way, etc. I don’t know the big
    mailers or the big companies to be able to determine
    which lists I should be on.


  5. John Klein says:

    Another awesome guide! – Total Package is the ONE newsletter out of 25 that I make sure I read every single day.

  6. Kamil says:

    Really amazing. I think, you are worth every cent you make. I am reading every post you make. Thank you. Kamil

  7. Clayton, Thank you so much on emphasizing studying the competition – When I apply this I get such a jumpstart on my promotions.

    I use pubmed all the time. Also as a health copywriter, I like sciencedaily.com. Here’s where I find press releases regarding most of the research published and listed in pubmed and the real gold is the quotes from the researchers about their work in laypeople’s terms.

    Another favorite – nutraingredients.com. Again, in addition to pointing me in the direction of new research listed on pubmed, I get some quotes and analysis about the research.

    Bottomline, I absolutely agree with you – Research is the foundation to a good promotion. Any tips on organizing raw research so it’s easier to quickly write copy and keep references for legal purposes?

  8. Will says:

    I believe you guys are one of the most intelligent persons/companies in the whole world. I love evcerything you guys send.

    I would tell you that I know for a fact that if you guys
    put a guide/report/course on how to do research on any subject there are lots of your readers including of course me that would buy it on a heartbeat.Please look into that asap.

    Thank you.Best wishes.

  9. David says:

    Like everything else, copywriting has become very competitive. Quality research is a great way to differentiate yourself. Nice angle!

  10. Briony says:

    Thank you for an excellent article. Very much appreciate seeing the research and what you did with it.

    I was confused at first that ‘gluten’ (referenced in your article) could have so many health benefits but then I saw from the research and your copy that it’s actually Glucan!

    Anyway, this article is an excellent learning tool. Thank you!

  11. Zunaid says:

    Brilliant article Clayton and impressive marketing piece.

    Just two questions I was wondering about

    1) based on the poll would you look at changing the follow up copy

    2) secondly, when I click on order the store page comes up and says item no longer available. Would it not be a good idea to capture the email address here?


  12. Manane says:


    I couldn’t agree more …

    Not a very sexy subject … talking about research – the one thing that most copywriters dread. Yet an activity that can make you tons of money.

    Below is my modest contribution. There’s will be an overlap between the databases and categories.

    Website to learn about:

    Products: en.wikipedia.org/wik/List_of_scientific_journals, BioChemWeb.org, scientificjournals.org

    Prospects and Competitors: ReferenceUSA.com, ThomasNet.com glassdoor.com,


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