“In the land of the blind…”

By Travis Lee

…The One Eyed Man is King.”
Erasmus (of Rotterdam)

We know that Erasmus wasn’t talking about copywriting when he spoke those words some 500 years ago, but he may as well have been.  In critiquing many 3D Mail sales letters the past 2 years it’s become obvious that many who do their own copywriting can be blind.  Here’s where you’ll find discussions on a bundle of copywriting topics.  First an introduction and the #1 thing you can do to kill any response.

“The answer to every problem in life is a really good sales letter.”
-Gary Halbert

The first thing you must realize when you create copy is that it is NOT advertising, but salesmanship in print.  That means you want to write like you talk, don’t write to sell.  The truth is the best copy would probably get you a failing grade in high school composition class.  If you’ve written copy and a high school English teacher can’t find anything wrong with it, throw it out and start again!

High School Composition has Absolutely-Nothing-TO-DO with effective sales letter writing.  Oh no!  I can’t capitalize Absolutely Nothing in the middle of a sentence – and there’s
no rule about bolding what so ever – and TO-DO certainly is not all caps!  And my GOD what are all these dashes!  Hey, only the G is capitalized in God.  And what am I doing starting sentences and ending sentences with prepositions – Ohhhhhhhh – I got an F.

Get it?  Most people’s writing is boring and stuffy at best!  Most people are not boring and stuffy.  Write like you speak!  Punctuate for effect not to follow rules!

Tip: Want to write a great sales letter?  Sit down with a good friend and a tape recorder and tell him why you and your product are so great.  Transcribe the tape – add the #1 Benefit at the top in a headline – and restate the biggest benefit, guarantee, and offer in the P.S. and you’re done.  (Much more on the P.S, offers, and headlines to come.)

Second, the same principles apply in business-to-consumers markets and business-to-business markets.  I hear this all the time.  The B2B people tell me it can’t work in B2B, and the B2C people tell me it can only work in B2B!  They are fundamentally the same.  Sure, there are some slight differences, but as a whole, the concepts and ideas we talk about can be easily applied to both group.

Below are the mistakes I see time and time again when critiquing and review my client’s work.

Copy Killer #1

Here’s the #1 thing you can do to guarantee to kill your response.  It’s what I call a Copy Killer.  It’s BEING BORING!  Your copy can never be too long, but it can be too boring, and we’ll discuss that a lot as we move on.

“The more you tell, the more you sell.”  Tell the complete story of your product.  Include every benefit you can.  Some of my sales letters are as long as 56 pages.  The biggest sin of any copywriter, even in a two-paragraph letter, is to bore the prospect.  The secret is to tell a complete story, but in the fewest words possible.  Eliminate every single unnecessary word.

Tip: Write only to those who are interested in what you are selling.  Do not be concerned whatsoever with those who are not interested.  Those who are interested need enough information to take the next step. Give it to them!

Copy Killer #2

I see this often and that’s writing from a ‘me’ perspective.  You’ve seen this and you’ve probably even done it yourself:

  • “We’ve been in business for 37 years…”
  • “We’ve got the most state of the art…”
  • “We’re the #1 supplier to…”

Blah, blah, blah.  Boring and WHO CARES.  You need to write your copy from a ‘you’ perspective, the ‘you’ being your customer.  So much advertising is full of this drivel. This is all about you.  No one in the world cares besides you.  Your prospects want to know exactly what benefits they will get from your products.  In other words, if you sell grass seed, don’t dwell on what it’s composed of.  Instead describe how beautiful their lawn will be.

Tip:  Here is the fastest way to improve your copy.  Review the first draft of your copy.  Eliminate all these words–I, our, we, my.  Substitute ‘you’ and ‘your.’  I promise you’ll be amazed and truly gratified with the result. It’s sure to blow your mind!

Here’s how we do it for our retail supply business when we sell point-of-sale computer systems (POS).  We’ve been selling and supporting POS systems since 1991, and have installed over 1,000 systems for retailers.  Big whoop, right?  We turn around and make that a benefit for the client using ‘you’ statements.

For example:

You’ll want the service and support of years of experience and 1,000’s of set up and installations so you’ll never be alone and never have to worry about your technical support abandoning you on a moment’s notice, leaving you standing around wondering what to do.”

See how we took what could’ve been a bunch of ‘we’ statements, and turned them into ‘you’ statements.

Here’s a challenge for you.  Go through some of your sales material and see how many times you say ‘we’ vs. ‘you.’  Then go and turn all those ‘we’ statements to ‘you’ statements with a benefit to your client.  It’s easier than it sounds and will make a huge difference.

Copy Killer #4

Placing your logo, business name, address, etc. above the headline.  This again pertains to any media you use, postcards, sales letters, online, yellow pages, etc.  If your advertising does the job that it’s supposed to, your prospect will find the information as long as it’s somewhere to be found.  If you can’t get by without having your name, logo, address on the letter, try putting it across the bottom of each page of your letter or postcard.

Copy Killer #5

Thinking that the prospect will figure out what to do instead of giving them exactly what action you want them to take and how to take it.  We’ll get more into this later in the offers and deadlines section.  Many sales letters do not make a clear, easily understandable offer. The result is few or no orders. The reason? When consumers are confused, they don’t act–they do nothing.  Confusion always breeds inaction.

Tip: Think through your offer very carefully and write it down before you prepare a single word of your sales letter.

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