I linked to the following essay in yesterday’s issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets — but I consider it to be so valuable I’m just going to give it a full-on reprint here…
When I got started in copywriting, I followed a 20-point outline from Clayton Makepeace to write really powerful long copy sales letters.
And while that outline is still pinned to the bulletin board behind my desk and often gets a glance, it’s not my top “formula” that I use today.
That honor, instead, goes to the formula below. Which thankfully is a lot easier to remember than all of Clayton’s 20 points! It’s also incredibly powerful.
Have a read, and let me know what you think…
The Fastest, Easiest Formula For Effective Sales Copy…
Hey Rainmaker, what a small world it is…
I got on the phone earlier this week with David Garfinkel. I was talking to him about direct response copy coaching — which is a service he specializes in providing. (Very high-end, for working copywriters only. Contact me if you think you’re a fit and are considering it. I’ll probably tell you you’re not, but that’s okay.)
Anyway, you may or may not remember the other week that I wrote about the movie The Wrecking Crew, the group of studio musicians who played on practically every hit record in the 1960s.
Well, David had watched that movie, too.
And, being an active guitarist, he’d noticed a little magic when Carol Kaye, the leading woman in an almost all-boys circuit, played.
Anyway, David saw that movie, and sought her out. Turns out, she now teaches guitar and bass. So David sought out her videos, and then direct lessons with her.
And it was in one of those lessons that David was playing, trying to get a part right, and she stopped him.
She told him to stop thinking about it.
He was making the mistake that will ALWAYS keep you from playing pro-level guitar. He was thinking about playing.
To get to the Carol Kaye, Wrecking Crew level of magic, you can’t think about playing.
You have to just play.
It’s not about chord progressions, fingering, strum patterns, or any of that.
It’s about letting go, and playing music.
Yes, of course, this isn’t advice for total beginners. When you’re a total beginner, you have to learn chord progressions, fingering, strum patterns, and all of that.
But at some point — and maybe this is the 10,000 hours magic — you have to stop focusing on that.
It will still come naturally, if you’ve trained yourself well.
But you can’t think about it more, or else your playing will always sound stiff and unnatural. Novice, at best.
Will you be playing music? Yes, technically. Will your audience FEEL the magic? Not at all.
It strikes me how similar this is to copywriting…
And in fact, it points to a fast and easy formula for effective sales copy, one you can apply right now.
First, the context.
I first heard this in a presentation Bill Bonner gave at AWAI, maybe back in 2010.
For those of you who don’t know, Bill is the founder of Agora, Inc. His copywriting chops were definitely the seed that grew into Agora, in no small part because he shared his experience and wisdom with so many copywriters that worked under him.
Much of what is taught by AWAI today, in their core copywriting courses, has roots that go back to Bill. Because he worked closely with Mark Ford (Michael Masterson) for years, Bill’s ideas made it into AWAI’s programs through Mark. But not only Mark. ALL the AWAI founders knew Bill, I think most (if not all) had worked for Bill, and he’d definitely shared much of his wisdom with them.
The Master’s Program through AWAI, the highest-level direct response copywriting course they offer, is built on Bill’s foundational principles for high-level copywriting.
Well, with all this buildup, you’d think Bill knows a lot about copywriting.
And, in fact, he does. But what Bill said at AWAI in 2010 was very interesting. He said that over the course of his long career in direct response publishing, he’s learned maybe 5,000 tricks, techniques, and rules for copywriting. Some he learned directly from his teachers and mentors. Others he developed in his company. Together, they’d be enough to fill encyclopedias with copywriting wisdom.
But when Bill sits down to write, he doesn’t go through his mental index of these 5,000 rules, and figure out which apply to that particular project.
He’s also not prone to using swipe files, or similar novice tools.
What Bill does — and his writing is revered publicly by the best of the best copywriters alive today — is just write.
Like Carol Kaye with the guitar, he’s figured out that he’s most effective when he sits down, and just tells a story that he believes will be highly compelling to his target audience.
He doesn’t even go back and check his copy against his 5,000 rules. He just tells his story, then asks for action.
Even if you’re a novice copywriter today, you may benefit from — at least for your first draft — taking the advice Carol Kaye gave David, and the advice Bill gave the room full of copywriters at AWAI in 2010…
Don’t think, just play. Tell your story, and ask for action.
This is ultimately the fastest, easiest formula for effective sales copy — but it can be broken down even further to make it even more useful…
To help you bridge from the style of writing where you’re focused on formulas and swipes and all that crap, to just being a real human, and writing your story, and asking for action, you can follow a more detailed outline.
A good start? Simply type these elements into your word document before you start writing, and write a big section of copy for each…
Almost all products that actually sell are solutions to a problem. The core of your market will be those who are already aware of the problem, but don’t have a solution yet.
Tell a story about the problem. Show the reader you empathize with their challenges and pain and frustration. Connect with them by recognizing the difficulty they face.
Amplify the negativity inherent in the problem. What happens if it goes unsolved, unchecked? How bad could it get? What’s the worst thing that could happen from inaction?
How can you present that in a “soft” way that doesn’t offend the prospect, but rather makes them feel like you’re on their side and trying to protect them? (Hint: more story.)
Preferably, give at least three ways of how things get worse.
Compare all the other solutions out there in the market. Explain how they don’t really solve the problem, or may provide relief now but are an inadequate total solution. Give specific details of where others fall short, but your product succeeds.
IMPORTANT: In most cases, you haven’t talked about your product or service yet. You’re bonding with your reader through a negative shared experience, through recognizing their pain.
Again, the rule of threes applies. If you have three ways to invalidate the competition, or three specific areas where they fall short, use all of them if possible. More than three? Use at least the strongest three.
Now, you introduce your product. It’s the solution that succeeds when all others fall short. It’s the solution to the problems the other solutions had. Plus, it solves the original problem.
You’re not actually selling the product, yet. You’re not trying to close the deal. You’re just ticking off the boxes on the buying criteria you’ve created. Does it solve the original problem? Yes. Will it relieve the agitation? Yes. Does it fulfill where others have fallen short and proven themselves as invalid or inadequate? Yes.
Now, you ask for the order. At this point, the sale should really already be made. Your prospects should be predisposed to buy from you, because you’ve connected with them and given them a clear solution to their problem. But you can’t assume.
The Ask section — the offer — deserves more detail…
First, underscore the product’s benefits, to show the prospect that they’re getting exactly what they want (in fact, more than they ever wanted, but in a good way!).
You can then compare it to other solutions — preferably the inadequate ones — that cost more. Or if they don’t cost more money, that are “expensive” in other ways like time and frustration.
Lay out the value, or the “retail” price for your product.
Give a “reason why” they’re not going to have to pay that much today. IMPORTANT: this should be real and believable. Everybody loves a discount, but they don’t trust it if it seems overly manufactured.
Make an offer for the product at a discounted price.
Underscore the savings or advantage offered in the discount — what does that mean for the prospect behind just a number?
Make your discounted price feel trivial. With this deal, the prospect should feel like their money is going so far, like it’s a steal, like it’s an incredible investment.
Justify the price — the product is worth every penny, this is the minimum we could offer it at.
Add value. It’s time to stack on the bonuses. Now that they already think they’re getting a good deal, make it even better. “But wait, there’s more!” If possible, the value of the bonuses should far outstrip the price they’re paying for the main product.
Take away the risk, or reverse it completely. Guarantee satisfaction. Guarantee results, if possible. Take on the risk of the transaction, so the customer doesn’t have to. Stretch the guarantee out as long as possible. Give them a year or a lifetime to make sure the product is right for them.
Set a deadline. All good things must come to and end. Make it clear that this deal won’t stick around forever, so if they want it, they better get it now.
Ask for the sale. Ask for action. Tell them how to order, and that they need to do it now, to get in on the deal.
If you want to write highly-effective sales copy, fast, you could do much worse than by simply making this into your “formula.”
But as soon as you can, try to internalize it so you’re just playing, not following the formula.
That’s where my head was at when Gary Bencivenga, widely considered to be the best copywriter alive today, told me that my promo for the Titans event “sings.”
So — do you use a version of this formula? Something different? What’s your go-to approach to writing copy that resonates?
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,