Somehow I ended up at the Warrior Forum, I think it was…
In a conversation about copywriting…
And someone had brought up Gary Bencivenga — and was trashing his copy.
In addition to being one of my copywriting heroes (which means very little, relative to what I’m about to say), Gary was widely regarded by clients as “The World’s Best Copywriter,” while he was working.
That is, if you wanted to hire a copywriter who’d have the absolute best chance of writing something that would outperform your current best ad (probably already written by a world-class copywriter), you’d hire Gary.
Sure, you’d have to pony up big bucks to get on his dance card.
And you’d probably have to wait months.
But it was worth it.
He’d regularly write promotions that could be mailed to practically an entire established market, and then some.
His best promotion mailed over 100 million pieces.
100 million copies of a direct mail booklet.
Let’s say those cost only fifty cents each to mail. (It was likely closer to $1.)
That means the client spent at least $50 million just to get the marketing out.
How much revenue do you think that generated?
Gary’s royalty on that promotion was based on the number of pieces mailed. At five cents per piece mailed, 100 million pieces is a $5 million royalty.
That one piece of copy bought him an oceanfront home in the Hamptons.
Back to the Warrior Forum.
Some fool commented that they didn’t see what was so special about Gary’s copy.
No doubt this is an internet-era copywriter who came up on Warrior Special Offers that unload needles full of adrenaline into your greed glands. Copy that, in the grand scheme of things, is limited in its utility to a market of easy marks who’ll fall for anything, and then fall for it again tomorrow.
If you want to move the mass millions, you need more.
You need a lot more.
You need to be able to pull of incredible promises with credibility.
You need to make the unbelievable believable.
You can’t just promise the moon. You have to take them on a test ride in the rocket that will get them there.
And, you need to do it in a way where the magnificent promises you’re making actually don’t feel all that magnificent at all, because they sound so incredibly reasonable and rational.
It’s a subtle strength.
I was fortunate very early on in my copywriting career to run into Gary’s friend Ken McCarthy, who is practically the inventor of modern internet direct marketing.
Ken is also really freaking generous.
So when I was writing copy for him, he sent me a bunch of CDs.
Included was his exclusive interview with Gary, lasting 3 1/2 hours, where he got Gary to spill his secrets shortly after retirement.
That CD set was one of my earliest copywriting treasures…
I listened to that interview over and over and over again, in my car, driving back and forth to my full-time marketing job.
Now, I’ve agreed not to share ALL of the lessons in that interview.
(Through Brian Kurtz, I did end up getting Gary and Ken to agree to give away that CD set to all the Titans of Direct Response attendees and later DVD buyers.)
But there’s one thing that Gary has become well-enough known for that I feel confident sharing it with you…
It was a critical part of his Bencivenga Persuasion Equation.
It was fundamental to every piece of copy he wrote.
It’s also one of the biggest secrets to making the unbelievable feel completely believable, real, and even plainly rational.
Gary was a MASTER of proof.
And because of that interview, I became a student of proof, and how to use it in your marketing and selling messages.
I’m not talking “how to use testimonials and social proof.”
That’s just scratching the surface. Powerful? Yes.
But you’re handcuffing yourself if you think that’s it…
The last control I wrote had ZERO testimonials…
What do you do, for example, if you’re helping a client launch a new product or service that doesn’t have a track record yet?
What if there are no testimonials?
What if there’s no built-in social proof?
There are ways to get it, yes.
But there’s also so much more you can do.
If you’re willing to put in the work. If you’re willing to research.
Frankly, this is the ugly part. It’s unglamorous. It’s frustrating.
But if you want to write really powerful selling messages in any market, this is what you’ve gotta master.
You have to understand all the different types of proof that are available. And how to use them to support your selling message.
There are subtle distinctions between some of them — they can feel almost identical, except that important 5% difference. (E.g. — What’s the difference between a testimonial, a case study, and a celebrity endorsement? Each has a place, and each can be powerful, when used correctly.)
There are types of proof that originate with your product or service. Others that come from you or your client — the voice of the selling message. Others still in the market, or in the news, or somewhere else entirely.
This isn’t nearly as titillating as coming up with a super-secret whiz-bang formula…
“Secret” leads are all the rage among copywriters these days.
And for good reason — pulling off a good “secret” lead is a great way to attract attention, build interest in your selling message, and make a small fortune for the results they can generate.
Yet many rookie copywriters just get excited about the secret and the promise, and ignore what it really takes to pull it off…
And so they come up with a big idea for some new name for a tired old concept, make it a “secret,” and slap the biggest promise on it that they can get away with.
Then, it doesn’t work.
It leaves the unbelievable unbelievable.
It presents the incredible, but forgets the credibility.
It promises the moon, while standing on the ground.
No copywriter I know really likes the process of digging up proof, but…
The best of the best are just like Gary — they’ve learned to love it.
“Oh yeah, prove it!” they say, when your copy makes a big promise.
“I don’t believe this,” their feedback when you get a little ahead of yourself.
Because they know the only path to real profits in marketing is paved in proof and credibility.
They know that without believability, you don’t get a response.
Most copywriting training will teach you 100 headline formulas to make you feel good, because you feel a sense of accomplishment when you write 100 headlines to formula. I haven’t intentionally followed a headline formula in years, because that’s rookie Warrior Forum copywriting BS. That latest control I mentioned above? The headline was simply a compelling presentation of the most powerful proof I could find.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,