One of the most dangerous things you can do when selling is to get too creative…
I still remember, in the middle of selling seats to The Titans of Direct Response, when there was a battle going on inside The Warrior Forum about whether or not I’d written a good sales letter.
I had a good group of supporters, who read the letter and were convinced it was great.
Then, I had a mix of detractors, who called it nothing special, and who were quick to trash it.
I read for a little bit. I even commented. Before I woke up to the fact that fighting that fight in The Warrior Forum was a waste of time.
The high-priced VIP sold out in a matter of days. The hotel conference room was filling up.
The votes that mattered — the ones cast with prospects’ wallets — were tallying up in favor of my sales letter. If not great, it was at least good enough.
And, one of my biggest heroes, whose opinion on sales copy I respect, the great Gary Bencivenga did write to me to say my promo “sings.”
So, the promotion did its job of filling the seminar room. And, it received high praise from insiders at the upper echelons of direct response.
But what was up with the haters?
From what I gathered…
The peanut gallery hurled insults because I wasn’t creative enough!
Frankly, although well-executed, The Titans of Direct Response event promotion was not very creative.
It said what the event was. It gave the big reason why it was happening. It walked through every Titan, giving Brian’s back story as to why that Titan deserved a spot on the stage. It made an offer. It piled on the bonuses. And it asked for action.
Simple, straightforward. Nothing special.
It wasn’t clever. It wasn’t inventive. It wasn’t nearly as titillating as a good secret lead, or some other styles of copy that require more creativity to pull off.
Nobody really argued about it being well-written.
It just didn’t feel like anything that added an X-factor to the event itself.
And yet, that meant I did my job.
Shortly after Brian Kurtz called me up and asked for help with the letter, I was working with David Deutsch to nail down the positioning and the lead.
We’d played with a few headlines. A few angles.
But it was all falling flat.
Until we did something crazy.
We decided to make the event itself, and the Titans who’d be on stage, the big appeal.
The headline? “The Titans of Direct Response.”
There was other copy, but there wasn’t much before we showed a huge panel of pictures of the Titans themselves, famous marketing minds including: Dan Kennedy, Gary Bencivenga, Greg Renker, Jay Abraham, Ken McCarthy, Perry Marshall, Joe Sugarman, Fred Catona, Eric Betuel, David Deutsch, Arthur Johnson, and Parris Lampropoulos, (plus Brian’s personal mastermind of Michael Fishman, Jim Kwik, and Ryan Lee).
We included their bios, again, well-written, but nothing too creative.
And then, in the body copy, we launched into Brian’s story.
How the event came about, as a tribute to his mentor and partner, Boardroom’s partner Marty Edelston. How much Marty valued people and especially the best-of-the-best in direct response. How they’d meant to do this before Marty passed away, but how he went too soon. And how this once-in-a-lifetime event was Brian’s tribute to Marty, bringing his friends and most valued business associates together for this event.
Then starting with Dan Kennedy, who helped Brian put on the event, the copy continued with Brian’s stories about how each Titan got involved with Boardroom and the event, why they were relevant, and so on.
Again, I certainly wouldn’t win any creative awards.
And, in fact, if you’re a novice copywriter enamored by the secret promos put out by Stansberry and other Agora divisions, all of this sounds like run-of-the-mill B-list copywriter stuff.
But Marty Edelston used to say something to the effect of, “It takes a good copy chief to know how to improve a piece of good copy. It takes a great copy chief to know when NOT to.”
I’ll put a spin on that to make my point here.
“It takes a good copywriter to know how to create a really interesting piece of copy. It takes a great copywriter to know when not to.”
After talking with David and Brian about how best to sell Titans…
I knew the biggest thing that stood in the way of us filling that room was ME…
If I made my copy the star of the promotion, I’d be doing a disservice to Brian, Marty, the Titans, and all the potential attendees who wouldn’t come because they couldn’t get past my creativity to realize what a special event it was going to be.
It was only in setting my ego aside and making the copy about the OFFER that I was really able to create the perfect promotion.
I had to set myself aside. The copy wasn’t about me. It was about the Titans. Any creativity I tried to use would only muddy the message, and depress response.
I’m reminded of this because I got to review a promotion from one of the world’s top online marketing experts earlier this week.
I’d worked with him on the first draft of the promotion, and it was good.
I couldn’t argue with how well it was written. And it was gripping. But for the wrong reason.
I told him it was like The Grateful Dead jamming.
If you’re a Dead Head, you’re going to go to the show and you don’t care if they open with a 30-minute jam session. You love the band so much, you’ll embrace that creativity.
But if you’re a friend of a fan and like their best-known songs, you will be lost before they get to the hits.
So the Dead — like Jazz musicians, like other improv artists — start with the hits. Play a quick medley of a couple hits, so the crowd is into it. Then dive into the creative stuff.
Give people a reason to get into it, before you start to riff.
I told this guy that his first draft would certainly hold the attention of his core market — the 20% of his email list that make up his biggest fans. That the ones who’ll give him attention anyway will certain be into this as well.
But all that jamming won’t work for the other 80% at the outside of his market, who may still be happy to buy, but who won’t read automatically just because it’s him.
He tweaked the whole letter. Took the riffing, and buried it deep. Put the big promise of the offer up front. Really went to town. Draft two was powerful, and I only had a few small tweaks for him.
Then, I was writing him an email with the draft attached, and realized something.
With all the edits he’d made to the letter, the headline was still the original riffing.
Which worked, except it didn’t.
It still referred to the core elements of the message below. But it was still jamming. Not playing the hits.
It was still to creative for that point in the selling message.
So I opened the document back up, wrote a headline that basically said, “This event has this many seats, and here’s what’s going to happen to the people who grab one of them…”
That’s not the headline, but the idea behind it.
Not that creative. But very focused on the sale. And specifically, calling out the people in his broader target market who would want the core benefit of his offer, and who’d be most likely to want to take him up on the proposition.
Plus, with the “limited seats” bit, it did a lot to hit on scarcity and establish value out of the gate.
Again, not that creative. Pretty formulaic, in fact. Definitely not jazz or jamming.
But sometimes, that’s exactly what you need to open (then close) the sale…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: If you want a line-by-line analysis of The Titans of Direct Response promotion, including what I believe made it work so well (in light of the above), it’s included with the Story Selling Master Class. Just $37 gets you a month of access at zero risk or obligation. Plus a pile of other incredibly-valuable training. Click here for details.