ultimate-sales-letterIf a novice copywriter thinks they can write a sales letter in 10 days, they’ll quote the client a 10-day deadline.  The best copywriters I know will give themselves at least 20.

These days aren’t exact.  They are only to make a point.

The best copywriters prefer to spend longer on putting together a sales letter or other marketing piece.

Not because they take longer to write.

In fact, they often write faster.

Rather, it’s because of everything they do to prepare to write.

The following lesson comes from Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Sales Letter.  Which is probably the best-selling and most influential MODERN book on writing sales letters.

The chapter is titled “Get ‘Into’ The Customer.”  And it’s about what the best copywriters do in those 10 extra days they give themselves in addition to their writing time.

Dan Kennedy’s “10 Smart Market Diagnosis and Profiling Questions.”

Here’s the list.  The commentary follows.

  1. What keeps them awake at night, indigestion boiling up their esophagus, eyes open, staring at the ceiling?
  2. What are they afraid of?
  3. What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
  4. What are their top three daily frustrations?
  5. What trends are occurring and will occur in their business or lives?
  6. What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
  7. Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions? (Example: engineers = exceptionally analytical.)
  8. Do they have their own language?
  9. Who else is selling something similar to them, and how?
  10. Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?

What you need to understand: your copy is in the answers to these questions.

I actually heard this list cited the other day by Dan Meredith, one of the hottest new superstars of the copywriting world.

Dan has taken a stratospheric path — seemingly out of nowhere — to become hugely successful as a copywriter, consultant, and coach for fitness entrepreneurs and others.

Dan says he doesn’t start a copy project without first answering these questions about the specific market he’s writing to.  And you could do worse.

I’ve internalized these questions and a number of others.

All the best copywriters I know have a list.

Some have written it down.  Others have it in their heads.

Either way, they have a list.

And it’s all this prep work — driven by a set of questions that need to be answered — that drives their copy prep process.

In fact, the better your prep work, the easier writing becomes.

So let’s analyze Dan’s questions in this regard.

Dan’s questions 1 through 6 really get into the head of the prospect…

  1. What keeps them awake at night, indigestion boiling up their esophagus, eyes open, staring at the ceiling?
  2. What are they afraid of?
  3. What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
  4. What are their top three daily frustrations?
  5. What trends are occurring and will occur in their business or lives?
  6. What do they secretly, ardently desire most?

What these reveal are a handful of different angles you can use to enter the conversation already taking place in your prospect’s head.

Since identifying a problem and solving it is a very effective marketing strategy, Dan has found a few ways to approach that.

What keeps them awake at night?  A problem that may motivate action.

What are they afraid of?  That’s a problem.

What or who makes them angry?  Another problem.

Daily frustrations?  More problems.

What trends are occurring?  Well, keeping up with those trends can be a problem.

What do they secretly desire most?  Not having it is a problem.

Any one of these points to a compelling way to start a sales message.

Dan’s questions 7 and 8 reveal how to talk with your prospect…

  1. Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions? (Example: engineers = exceptionally analytical.)
  2. Do they have their own language?

Both of these reflect communication styles you may need to use to connect with your prospect.

This is a little different than how to find out what motivates them.

This helps you know how to present yourself in a way that says, “I’m one of you.”  Or at the very least, “I understand you.”

Even if you’re speaking to someone about a problem they have and how to solve it, it can be easy to turn them off if the way you communicate is jarring.

On the other hand, if you’re reasonably targeted with your problems but your communication style communicates subconsciously that “I are you,” you get deep credibility and believability.

And finally…

Dan’s questions 9 and 10 reveal competitive and comparable intelligence…

  1. Who else is selling something similar to them, and how?
  2. Who else has tried selling them something similar, and how has that effort failed?

It helps to know what others are doing to successfully sell to your prospects.

This tells you a couple things.

First, if all your competitors list certain information in their ads, you can be confident that is something you should list in your ads.

Second, you’ll find something you do that nobody is using in their ads.  This can be your point of differentiation.

This is common practice, but should not be overlooked.

Also, it helps to know what failed.  If possible, gather examples of ads that didn’t work, or from companies that have gone out of business.

While there are many reasons ads can fail and companies can go out of business, you may learn a lesson or two about what not to do.

Also, you should consider not just competitors’ ads, but comparables.

This means other companies selling other things to your customers.  Not only are these potential joint venture partners, you may learn a thing or two you won’t learn by looking at direct competitors.

Use this for your next piece of copy, or your current one…

How much prep did you do leading up to the current piece of copy you’re working on?

How much prep time did you set aside for your next project?

My bet, if you’re like the vast majority of folks who write copy, is “not enough.”

At the very least, before you write a single word, you should go through this list.

Answer these questions, about your audience.

Use your answers to inform what you write.

Do it well, and you may have a big breakthrough in response.

Oh yeah, and the rest of Dan’s book is pretty dang good, too.  So if you don’t have it yet, you should buy it today and read it ASAP.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets

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