How To Succeed As A Copywriter Without Ever Lying

My partner Michel Fortin recently introduced me to James Chartrand’s MenWithPens blog.

James speaks with the authority of a grizzled veteran of the marketing trenches.

His recent post on KissMetrics unsparingly carves up the seamy underbelly of the world’s third oldest profession -”salesmanship in print” – or copywriting. (You did know the copywriting profession had a seamy underbelly, right?)

It took James just 10 swift strokes to run-through the most egregious “worst practices” engaged in by certain of our brethren – and if you’ve dealt with copywriters for very long at all, you’ve no doubt been subjected to some of them yourself.

I’d quibble with a few of James’ points.

In fact, in well-defined situations, some of the statements James calls “lies” are easily defended. But that’s not my objective here – and for the most part he’s giving solid advice.

Without question, the copywriting craft attracts a fair number of sleazeballs.

After all, we get paid to persuade – and in the big bad world out there, the lines between selling, seduction, manipulation and flat-out skulduggery seem to be violated as often as they’re honored.

But I’m of the opinion that the overwhelming majority of copywriters want to do a good job. I’d even wager James agrees with me.

Because even if your heart is blacker than Hannibal Lecter’s, it doesn’t pay to continually shank people.

And the copywriters I’ve been fortunate enough to meet – especially those that enjoy long-term success – are for the most part extremely generous.

They’re also honest about their capabilities and the limits of their craft.

Now it’s true there are some real reprobates out there. But you’ll find those sorts everywhere – especially when one group of people (marketers) is paying another group (copywriters) – for the express purpose of inducing folks to part with significant sums of money.

If you’re new to marketing, and want to avoid paying the naive tax… print up James’ harangue, tape it to your computer and read it before during and after you get on the phone with a copywriter (or anyone else who’s asking you to pay money for services for that matter).

I don’t need to add much to James’ warning to marketers.

Instead, I’d like to speak directly to you – the fledgling copywriter – about the best ways to avoid taking even that first step down the road to copywriters’ perdition.

Now I trust you take your standards and ethics seriously, but here’s the thing…

Any copywriter worth their fee has to have the ability to convince a target market that the widget they’re selling is absolutely the BEST widget ever created.

But you’ve got to go even further than that.

You have to leave no doubt in your prospects mind that buying this particular widget – and ONLY this widget – is the surest path to true salvation.

In order to do that, you have to believe it yourself for at least as long as you’re selling that widget. If you want to keep your self-respect, you should believe it for the rest of your life – or until someone makes a better one.

And as long as you’re a freelance copywriter, the most important widget you’ll ever sell is your services.

Not you, your services. (Remember that – it’s important.)

Because when you’re selling high-ticket items, the temptation to bluster, bully and b.s. can quickly rear its ugly head. It’s also when those practices are most easily rationalized.

Of course, your services are a high-ticket item – or they should be. The question is, “Do you provide value in excess of your fee?” … And…

How much in excess is the value you provide?

Because a good copywriter is more than a hired word-slinger. You are or should be a valuable asset, confidante and advisor. You also are or should be the one who’s most critical of whatever it is you’re selling.

Everything you sell should be run through your personal b.s. detector well before you ever accept any money for selling it.

I think you see where this is headed…

What I’m leading up to is this…

The one thing you can never afford to hype is your own capabilities – and the one person you can’t ever afford to b.s. is yourself.

That’s why it’s important to remember you’re selling your services, not yourself. Because as hard as we might try, we can’t be objective about who we are. It’s just not possible.

It’s a bit easier to be objective about what we can do. How? By looking at what we’ve already done.

Direct response is all about measurables. And your past clients usually know your value down to a couple of decimal places.

When someone’s thinking about hiring you, that’s really all they’ve got to go on. Keep that in mind the next time you’re selling a prospective client on what you can do for them.

Now you might think, “Well, if I can deliver the goods, it’s ok to bluster my prospect a little bit.” I can’t say I haven’t thought that way myself – especially early in my copywriting career when I was trying to figure out how to pay my bills and considering going back into restaurant management.

But here’s a bit of hard experience I hope you can learn from…

On the one or two occasions when I did resort to that sort of thing to win a job, I found out the person I was working with was a jerk. Very likely they thought I was a jerk as well.

And they were right.

So here’s the thing… Keep your self-b.s. detector running at all times. If you feel yourself tempted to fall back on one of James’ “lies”, don’t.

And then make time to ask yourself why you thought it was necessary.

Usually it’s a sign of a weakness that you need to address.

If you’re telling prospects or clients “I missed your email,” it means either one of two things. You’ve been goofing off when you should have been working (a huge trap for the newly self-employed)… or… you don’t have a good follow up system.

If you’re telling someone “All you need is good sales copy,” you better know that’s the case.

Because sometimes that’s true. Your prospect may just have everything else in place and all you need to do to set “Operation Moneysuck” in motion is plug in a sales letter, but usually it’s the other way around.

In fact, at least a few times a year we turn down projects because the prospective client doesn’t have the necessary pieces in place.

And for sure if you hear yourself using more than one of the statements James mentions in a single conversation, it’s probably time to politely tell your prospect, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m a good fit for this project.”

You’ll have your self-respect. And the respect of anyone else you may want to do business with.

Going Beyond “Chameleon” Copywriting

Recently a marketer came to us for help. He’d pulled the plug on a high-profile launch – with some heavy-hitting JV partners – because the sales copy he’d paid good money for turned out to be sub-par.

Scratch that.

Frankly, the copy sucked.

Rather go into a major launch armed with a pea-shooter, he decided to get the copy rewritten.

He was up-front about the fact that he was interviewing several copywriters, and asked for samples from our portfolio. We obliged.

A sticking point was he wasn’t sure our copy samples gave him a feel for our ability to write an effective sales letter for this particular project. One of the key demographic descriptors being “independent professionals.”

To be fair many of the samples in our online portfolio are geared to Internet Marketing niches. We do that for a couple reasons. One is because some of those letters have been extremely successful, and we’re justifiably proud of them.

Another is that many of the letters were written for marketers with high name recognition. So even if someone isn’t primarily marketing to the IM market, it’s likely they’ve heard of or even bought products from marketers we’ve worked with.

But as we state on our website, “If you prefer to see samples of non-salesletter copy, such as standard websites, direct mail pieces, magalogs, autoresponder email series, TV infomercials, advertorials, or other, contact us and ask for a specific example of what you want to see.”

I sent over some other samples not featured on our website that were well outside of the market in question. In fact, the samples I sent were in a market I’d previously not written for.

But They Were for a Similar Demographic.

And the clients were quite pleased with the response we achieved.

After drilling down a bit more in our discussions, our marketer asked us this:

“Many copywriters have told us that a good copywriter can be sort of a ‘chameleon’ in their ability to emulate the client’s own style of communication.

So we’re wondering if you would take a real good look at our sales letter and let us know if you think you can write copy that will harmonize with our style.”

This was my response,

“There is always a balance that needs to be struck when writing direct response sales copy.

By way of illustrating that balance, let me speak to the notion of “chameleon” copy. It’s a term I’ve used myself.

“And if by ‘chameleon copy, you mean the ability to write to several different markets, I have no problem with it.

But to be frank it’s a notion that doesn’t really capture what a direct response copywriter’s main job is, which is to make the sale and advance the relationship with the buyer.

The Primary Purpose of Becoming a “Copy Chameleon” is Not to Blend in to The Background

The primary purpose is to enter the conversation going on in the prospects mind.

It’s to discover the deep desires, wants, fears and needs that keep the prospect up at night, and present the product as the fulfillment of those desires.

Yes, it’s also very important to maintain integrity with the seller, to make sure that the style and tone of the sales message does not betray the “brand” and does not sell in a way that alienates the target market.

But the primary motivation must always be to make the sale in such a way as to leave the buyer excited about the product (even if that product is a person or brand) and to ensure they want to business again in the future.

cut across many target markets, from Realtors, to self-help coaching clients, to Internet Marketers, and otherwise wealthy, successful professionals seeking alcoholism treatment.

In each case, our task was to elicit the desired response, whether that be a phone call, signing up for a Seminar or buying a product. Of course it was important to make sure our sales message was consistent with the client’s brand.

Most of our clients have taken years to build a personal relationship with their markets

And they value that relationship immensely.

Sometimes they also found in the process of working with us that just a slight modification in their voice meant an increase in sales. But in all the cases I presented to you, our client’s have always been satisfied that we wrote the letter as if it was coming from them.

So there is often a bit of give and take as we harmonize the message with the client’s. We keep that in mind at all times.

Even more importantly, we want to resonate with the prospect’s interior conversation.

It’s the prospects ear that is always of primary importance. As important as it is to emulate the client’s voice, the primary virtue of “chameleon copy” is to speak to the prospect in the voice that triggers their “buy buttons” – while being consistent with the client’s image.

I know I went on a bit, but this is something I feel strongly about. Part of our job is to develop a strong sales message that the client can call his own.

But even More Important, Our Job Is Not Only To Write Chameleon Copy.

Our job is craft a message that motivates the reader to take the desired action.

It’s really that just that simple.

Overcoming Objections

One of the more difficult parts of writing a marketing message is overcoming objections.

When you’re speaking face-to-face, you’re able to hear prospective customers verbalize their concerns and immediately answer them. But when you’re writing sales letters, website copy, direct mail, ad copy, etc., you can’t ‘hear’ the objections so you must ‘think’ for your prospects and imagine what might stand between them and the sale.

Here are a few common objections that could arise as people read your copy and how you might consider dealing with them:

  • “I don’t need/want your product/service” – Oftentimes what this really means is that people don’t see the value of your product or service so they don’t want to spend the money. To overcome this, you must assure them that their life will improve when they buy your product or use your service. How do you do this? By talking about benefits.
  • “I’m not interested” — If the person has come to your website as a result of a search engine or if you are sending your direct mail letter to a targeted audience, you can be fairly confident that they have at least a spark of interest. But if you don’t write your message to further that interest, you’ve lost the sale. This usually means you must address the specific areas in which your product or service will add something to the person’s life (benefits again).
  • “I’m satisfied with my current _________.” — It’s been said that no one is ever entirely satisfied with anything. Assuming this is a truth, you can speak to any dissatisfactions by (1) emphasizing the advantages that your product or service has over your competitors, (2) use testimonials to show how your product/service is different/better than the rest, and/or (3) offer samples to demonstrate your superiority.
  • “What if something happens and I don’t like your product/service?” — This one is easy. Always offer some type of guarantee.

People rarely reach for their credit card unless they’ve been convinced that your product or service is something they want or need. To get them to this point, it’s vital that you see your offering through the eyes of your prospects. Write down the reasons people might not buy from you. Then methodically go through the list and counter each one by writing down the advantages (benefits) they’ll receive when they purchase what you’re selling.

How to Copywrite for More Sales

If your visitor count and your website sales have remained stagnant for several months, it may very well have something to do with the copywriting.

The message you have on your website is one of the most important elements in determining your success on the internet. You may have a great design, excellent graphics, a convenient and safe ordering system, but if you haven’t given your visitors a reason to buy, your sales are going to suffer.

However, you can’t just sit down and write a promotional message about your product or service without knowing how it will affect your intended audience. There must be a strategy behind every word and phrase.

Beyond that, you need to write with the search engines in mind. This means using the appropriate key words and phrases throughout your copy. Not ‘stuffing’ the content, but writing so that visitors, as well as the search engines, ‘get the message.’ It can be a tricky balance, but it is possible.

There are numerous resources on the internet that offer advice and suggestions on how to copywrite effectively. Most of them simply contain the most basic principles of copywriting. Few of them address such important issues as:

  • How to get each of the four personality types to respond to your message
  • How to determine the difference between how men and women buy  – and then using that information to your advantage
  • How to use emotional triggers in your copy to stimulate the buying process
  • Where (and how often) to use key words and phrases in your copy to get the best search engine ranking

And hardly any of them provide you with realtime examples and actionable advice.

Copywriting Tips To Help You Boost Your Conversion Ratio

If you hope to succeed in Internet marketing, developing your copywriting skills is crucial. It helps you sell more products than anything else. There are multiple factors that go into good copy that truly converts well. Let us discuss a few tips which you can use to improve your copywriting technique.

When writing sales copy, it’s important not to get carried away with hype. Some copywriters start with a good sales letter and then destroy the effect by overdoing it with hype. You can tell people the value of a high quality product and it will mostly sell itself. People prefer to be given real reasons why they should buy something rather than overinflated statements. You have to give your readers a healthy dose of free information along with the hype. People read sales copy in order to learn facts that will help them decide if they want to buy it. If you want people to believe what you’re saying, use a friendly and casual tone in your writing. Another mistake some copywriters make is using too many bold headlines and italics in their copy. If you have a particular point you want to emphasize you can use these. It’s better, however, to limit your use of them. Your readers will start to distrust you if you use these too often. And that’s the last thing you want to do with your copy. Make your copy truthful and straightforward. Write copy that you would enjoy reading yourself.

It is possible to increase the products value when writing a sales copy in many ways. Including a free bonus is also one way to increase the value for the user. Everyone loves the idea of free bonuses. People like things which are cheap but effective. By Giving away free bonuses with the main product it give the customer the impression that the value of the product is greater and their price is a killer deal. The bonus material alone has also been incentive for people to buy the product.

Yes, it can be that powerful. However, the type of bonuses you offer will have an impact on your success. They have to be exclusive and compliment your main product, only then you’d be able to see actual results. Don’t put in the bonus just for the heck of it.

For an increase in sales the third tips should be followed, use the post script when ending your sales letter. Once done the right way a few simples sentences can do the trick. Research has shown that people who read the headline are highly likely to read the p.s. Besides, most people will stop to read this little message, which keeps them on your page longer. Write a summary of what customers are getting from your offer and give a call to action.

At the end don’t let a sale slip away from you. With a quality copy you can reach a level of success that you never imagined. After all this is business.

Effective Copywriting Tips That Give Results

You have to be able to do more than write if you want to convert with your copy. It requires you to understand the needs of your readers so they can be persuaded that your product can solve a problem for them. Let’s take a look at some effective copywriting strategies you can use to improve your conversions.

Your headline is perhaps the most crucial element of any copy. That’s right, if your headline is weak, then it won’t even matter how well the rest of the copy is written. Browsing is being done very quickly, as internet users are going from page to page at a fast pace. So your sales letter should be eye catching. So how exactly do you know your headline is good and really worthy? Using various headlines and rotating them will give you the info needed on which is more successful. When creating a headline there are no hard rules. The goal is to have the customer attentive and wanting to read your sales copy. In fact, there have been instances where copywriters have used absurd headlines, yet received outstanding responses. The real goal is not in what exactly you write as a headline but rather how you write it. For you to separate from your competition you need to start thinking out of the box. There are also other elements that play a part in determining if your headline is good or not. You should also try to keep your headline short and to the point.

When creating a sales copy you can increase the value of your product in various ways. One such way is to include a bonus for the user with the product. Everyone loves the idea of free bonuses. Customers like to pay less for more. By Giving away free bonuses with the main product it give the customer the impression that the value of the product is greater and their price is a killer deal. There are also instances where people only bought the product for the free bonus included.

Yes, it is that effective. Depending on what bonus you included and how you position yourself will affect the success of the product. Try to offer something of value that compliments your primary product in some way. Don’t put in the bonus just for the heck of it.

Having a copy short or long or vice versa is a topic that some agree and others disagree. The decision for either a long or short copy is up to you but studies have shown that a long copy gets better results. Longer copy allows readers to learn more about the product and absorb more information before buying. For those prospects who don’t want to have a long lecture on the product a short copy would be best for them. All in all, copywriting is all about how you express the benefits of your product and show your prospects the real benefits. It may take time to master but it is very much possible.