Mark Elmo Ellis – Get more out of my site HERE
Years ago I was a telemarketer. If you want to talk about a brutal 6 hour a day grind that can really wear you down, then you should really give a whirl sometime.
Back when I was a wee lad I worked for a startup company in Dallas Texas called Tef-Guard which was an oil additive product. Basically, the product would be added to your oil to keep your car running better and to keep your engine cleaner.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve found out that the very same product that I was promoting to gas station owners and vendors was the very same stuff the oil companies were already putting into their oil in the first place.
The only difference about the product from current products on the market was it had a piece of gold foil on the lid. Other than that, it was pretty much the same thing that was sold in stores already.
I didn’t work in telemarketing very long, because as I said, it is a tough and brutal business.
First of all, if you didn’t have your script memorized perfectly and able to deliver it with confidence, you were going to have a hard time selling the product. The people that were in charge were hands-off in their training methods. They basically gave you a sales script written by a decent copywriter and told you to memorize it.
That was the whole training program.
Other than sitting in cubicles for 6 hours a day, the only thing I can remember that was semi-pleasant about the experience was this old dude that went off script when he got someone one the line.
That old fart sold loads of the product and I can only surmise that he had some sort of ninja selling skills prior to going into the job. Because the sales commissions were pretty good, he made a lot of commissions and he got bonuses.
We all hated his guts because while we were getting reamed out by disgruntled gas station managers and owners Mr. Moneymagnet was raking in the big bucks.
He would make a sale just about every half-hour and we could hear the managers singing his praises from the cubicle next to us. He actually was a very nice guy, and very approachable, but because he was raking in the money effortlessly we wanted to kill him.
If I hadn’t been so young and stupid, I would have made friends with him and tried to get him to mentor me rather than being such a dork.
To get to my point, in the world copywriting you are always in the process of learning from those that came before you. Yeah, you can sit back and envy their businesses and all the clients they have, but you really should try to learn as much from them as possible.
Even junior level copywriters have quite a bit of knowledge that you could glean valuable lessons from, so don’t blow anyone off.
Today’s Lesson: Learning About Structure
If you go back to my last post and take a look at the famous Gary Halbert Family Crest sales letter, you’ll probably be overwhelmed at how easy it looks. However, nothing could be farther than the truth. The fact of the matter is that even thought this is a simple looking letter; it has been crafted by a true master.
That’s what makes it so amazing. It looks so simple, like it was crafted by a little old lady that was sharing a wonderful and interesting product that almost everyone would want to get their hands on.
Truth be told, it was a masterpiece of marketing splendor, on a par with Leonardo’s simple depiction of a woman looking straight at you with a slight smile on her lips.
Halbert’s sales letter is pure genius, but don’t let its simplicity fool you for a second; writing copy this good takes years and years of study and solid practice.
The Structure is the Secret Sauce
One of the unseen things that make a piece of copywriting like this work is the structure.
Years ago, my wife and I bought a small house that the bank had held onto for years. We got a real good deal on it but the entire house was in a total shambles. The bank did absolutely nothing to it to maintain it at all.
Water leaked in from the roof, ruining the ceilings in almost every room. Vandals had broken in to rip the copper pipes out of the wall attempting to sell the copper for their drug habits. Hunters were using the laundry room window as a deer blind vantage point.
So, we had to rip out almost all of the sheet rock in the house and get rid of all the rotten smelling blown-in insulation. It was a nasty horrible mess.
Don’t believe me? Check out the pictures below:
Anyway, the thing that was great about this was that the structure itself was solid. We didn’t have any rotten wood in the walls and all of the trusses were in good shape.
The point is, if the structure wasn’t in good shape the entire house would have had to been demolished. Fortunately, we were able to salvage the property and now we’re living in it mortgage free!
So, if your structure is in good shape, the rest of your efforts will be so much easier.
It’s the same thing with writing good sales copy. If the structure of your sales letter is solid, the rest of the writing will fall into place. You need an overriding structure that leads the prospect through a series of logical conclusions to take action.
So, a clear understanding of how your paragraphs fit together is in order.
Start With What the Reader Needs…
Now, I could tell you what the very first thing you should do is to start writing your introduction, but let’s step back a second. Before we actually start writing, we need to do a little homework. We need to write a list of every single benefit that our product or service does for our prospect.
In other words, before we start building we need to gather our tools.
If you are writing copy for an already established business, then you’ll need to ask your clients to give you as much marketing documents from their business they possibly can. They need to give you their marketing and business plans, any advertisements that they have already used and if they have had copy written by a previous copywriter, tell them to send that on to you as well.
You should also build a swipe file that is relevant to the product or service that you are trying to write for. If you are writing a sales letter for a financial services company, try to get your hands on copy that has already been written in that area.
You are not going to be copying anything from the swipes you find, you are trying to get the FLAVOR of the type of writing you’ll be using.
You know, this is similar to when certain types of food sit open in the fridge right next to sour milk and then the food absorbs the flavor of the milk.
But we’re trying to do a good thing with this, not a negative one! So, what you should do is collect up as many swipes you can find that are similar.
What? You say you don’t have any swipe files? Then try some of these sources:
You can also find swipe files of copywriters by doing a Google search like this example:
“Gary Halbert swipe files”.
Rather than looking through all of the web pages to see if they have swipes, click on the Google “Images” link and usually you’ll see images of swipe files all over the place.
Also, you can get some great swipe files by going to Clickbank and swiping some of the top seller sales pages there. The top sellers usually get great copywriters to write their stuff on Clickbank.
Another great way to get swipes is to send off for information from companies that market direct mail. One of the best sales letters I’ve ever gotten in the mail was from Forbes Magazine. I’ve also gotten direct mail pieces from ministries, money making opportunities, colleges, etc.
You can also accelerate this process by buying money making magazines and responding to their ads. Also, if you happen to see email messages that really catch your eye, don’t think for a minute that those are not written by experienced copywriters. Start collecting the email messages and the series of them that really catch your eye.
Using a Swipe File
You don’t ever want to use a swipe file as something that you’re going to copy word for word. There are laws about plagiarism that would damage your business and reputation. However, you want to get the feel and style of writing in your head so your job won’t be so hard.
Gary Halbert’s advice on using swipe files was to collect as many relevant swipe files you can that apply to the type of business you’re writing for. Once you have the files that you need, copy them out by hand several times.
There are reasons for doing this.
First of all, you’ll get used to the voice you’re supposed to use on this particular piece of copy you’re writing. Face it, you wouldn’t write using the same slang, language, terms, and pacing on copy that sells skateboards as you would for a product in the financial markets, would you?
Second, the format of the overall letter will be different or more suited for different types of industries, so you’ll get ideas from using it that way as well.
Finally, swipe files give you more confidence and inspiration. Why wouldn’t you at least look at proven winners before you actually start writing? For myself, I find that it’s like being a trapeze performer using a net. If I feel like I’m going to land on my butt, I can study what the masters have done before me to get back on track.
So if you can take the time to use copy out relevant swipes beforehand, it will be a tremendous help to you.
Getting the Reader into the Picture
Once you’ve got your benefit list, swipes and any other tools on hand you can actually start writing. The first consideration you must have in your mind is that your prospects are not going to be consciously looking for a solution to a problem.
That’s what Walmart or Amazon is for.
When you walk into Walmart or go online with Amazon you usually know ahead of time what you need to buy, or at least have an idea of what you would like to purchase.
With copywriting, the prospect isn’t consciously thinking, “Gee, I’m fat. I’ll flip through this magazine and see what diet product I want to buy.” They may be thinking that they should lose weight, and then they happen to come across a diet advertisement or an article that is actually designed to sell them a product.
So you need to write your copy (in this case, a sales letter) in a way that catches their attention. Here’s a prioritized list of how to start a sales letter:
#1 Dear Joe, ― This is the best way to start a letter; using the person’s name. However, you need to have the person’s name in order to do this. If you don’t have the person’s name the next step is…
#2 Dear Entrepreneur, ― (Or Dear Golfer, or Dear Fellow Rock Collector, etc.) The next best way to address an audience is to hit as close to your target market you can. So, if you’re selling to people that are into fishing you could write, “Dear Fellow Angler”. The closer you get to your target audience, the better.
#3 Dear Friend, – This is what you’d use for a generalized audience. I started one of my sales letters this way on a photo editing software sales page because all sorts of people were using the software and I wanted it to be generic.
OK, so that’s the first step in starting your sales letter; identify your audience the best you can and call them out in your greeting.
Not too hard so far, eh?
The Most Important Ways to Start a Sales Letter
There are actually two ways to start a sales letter.
Way #1 – Emphasize a Problem and then Solve It
If you watch a bunch of the early morning infomercials on TV, you’ll notice a pattern. First, the infomercial will show you the problem you’re having and then it will show you how to fix the problem.
This part always cracks my wife and I up because, the copywriters will go out of their way making something appear to be a total hassle just so the advertiser can swing in with his product and save the day.
It’s a classic set up and dunk.
We’ll explore this structure in another post, but for now I’d like to tell you about…
Way #2 – Don’t Tell Prospects Why They’ll Like Your Product ― Tell Them What It’ll Do For Them
The number one thing that prospects are interested in is “What will you or your product do for me?” You want to tell them how they are going to benefit from using the problem right out the starting gate.
Remember the benefit list I told you to write out? Well, now you are going to go through that list and start prioritizing from the most important benefits to your reader to the least.
So, if you’re going to be selling photo editing software, you’ll want to hammer the biggest benefits first.
I did some research on photo editing software and people buying software of this nature had 4 main concerns:
- Easy to make crappy pictures look great
- Making pictures look great fast
- Easy to set up software
- Don’t want to pay high prices for it
The first two of these were the biggest concerns for most people that bought similar software. So you want to base your main premise or promise on these benefits.
The next objective that you’ll have to overcome is getting your prospects to actually picture themselves using the software in the context of the benefits.
(Now you see why copywriting takes training and a lot of practice.)
Take a look at the copy I wrote for PaintShop Pro image editing software below:
So, in the headline I’m leading with: Easily transform average pictures into great ones. (I underlined “Easily” because ease of use was one of the top concerns buyers had with this product.)
Then, right after the headline I’ve got: “Effortlessly create powerful images within minutes of opening the box. Once again, three main concerns and motivations are met:
- Creating great images
- Within minutes of opening box implies that set-up will be a snap
I’d like to point out that one of the best situations to be in when it comes to writing the copy for any product or service is to be intimate with it. I use PaintShop Pro all of the time and love it so much I’ve created my own DVD course on how to use it. So if you really like the product, then you’ll have a much easier time writing for it.
Getting Your Prospect to Walk a Mile In Someone Else’s Shoes
When I wrote the PaintShop ad, I was under a tight deadline and needed to get the ad written fast. I also wanted to write it as if you were reading a magazine article.
At this point I’d like to move to a different ad where the copywriter got the prospects to imagine themselves using the product as quick as possible.
Usually, right after you’ve written the headline and subhead you’ll want to get the prospect to imagine themselves using the product in a positive way. You also want to do that as quick as possible in your copy.
There are several different ways you can do this. The first way is to actually tell your reader to imagine themselves doing or using the product or service that you are trying to sell.
The other way is to get your prospect to read about how someone else benefited from the product. In other words, get your reader to imagine they are walking in some other person’s shoes.
Just to make sure I’m clear on this, let’s take a look at one of the most famous ads ever written by a guy named John Caples.
If you need a closer look at this ad, you can go get a better view here: Caples’ Copy (If I were you, I’d add it to my swipe file and write it out by hand several times.)
You can write the copy where the reader identifies and puts themselves into the place of the main character of the story. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that Mr. Caples not only mastered the art of copy, but he also learned how to write a sensory rich story as well.
If we were to break down this piece after the headline it would look like this:
Sections 1-3 : Tell a sensory rich story that puts the reader into the shoes of the lead character.
Section 4 : Talk about the program and product and explain how it worked.
Section 5: You to can learn how to do this!
Section 6:Validation and Proof
Section 7: Call to Action
Your Next Assignment:
Go to the link I have provided for you above, print out and read the entire piece 3 times. After you have read the piece, write it out by hand twice.
The second time, underline, highlight or circle the parts of the copy where you can see that the writer was subliminally or deliberately dropping benefits into the copy.
Underline, highlight, or circle on the copy the places where benefits are talked about, whether they are implied or blatantly talked about.
Here’s the advertising copy you’ll need: Quit Smoking Ad
If you really want to “kill it” in the copywriting world, you’ll have to continue your education… a lot. As a matter of fact, your education never really ends. It’s just like playing a musical instrument; if you stop practicing and playing, your chops start to wither away and die.
You should always be in the process of learning and writing even when you don’t have any clients or projects. In my next post, I’m going to show you were some of the most outstanding resources are on the Internet.
And the best part is most of them are dirt cheap.
So if you want to get real good at learning how to write sales letters and advertising copy, come check out my new post next week.
I’m going to show you where to get some of the best books and courses at very reasonable prices.
If you agree/disagree with what I’ve been putting down, please leave a comment below.
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