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Masterson to teach you the art, craft, and business of copywriting. Michael started his first business – a fifth-grade publishing venture – at age 11. After finishing grad school at the University of Michigan in 1975, he spent two years in the Peace Corps, where he began his writing career. Several years later he was working as a writer for a small newsletter publishing company in Washington D.C. Then, in 1982, he learned the art of copywriting and launched the first of dozens of successful direct-marketing ventures, many of which have become multi-million dollar companies. All told, he‘s been directly involved in the generation of over ONE BILLION DOLLARS of sales through the mail and online. He‘s also a highly successful author. He‘s published more than a dozen books, including several which have become Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com or New York Times bestsellers. Today, Michael consults mainly for newsletter publishing giant Agora, Inc., and writes regularly for Early To Rise, one of the most popular self-improvement newsletters on the Internet, and for The Golden Thread, AWAI‘s weekly copywriting newsletter. But there‘s more to Michael Masterson than just his writing and business skills. Michael also has a knack for taking just about anyone with a burning desire to upgrade his lifestyle – no matter what his background or education – and transforming him (or her) into a topnotch copywriter: He‘s the one responsible for transforming Paul Hollingshead from a 35-year-old minimumwage grocery store stock boy into a copywriter earning upward of $300,000 a year … and Don Mahoney from a woodworker to a $300,000-a-year copywriter living in Miami Beach … He‘s mentored other copywriters who have gone on to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in sales each year through their copy … He‘s shown people in their 50s and 60s – people preparing for retirement – how to successfully change careers and become well-paid freelance copywriters … He‘s taken young people fresh out of college – with no ―life experience‖ at all – and turned them into top-notch copywriters and newsletter journalists … He‘s taught housewives, bartenders, and laborers to excel … He‘s even helped ―professionals‖ – doctors and college professors – leave successful careers to enjoy the big money and stress-free lifestyle copywriting offers …
Discover how Michael can do the same for you with his AWAI Accelerated Program For Six Figure Copywriting. Michael Masterson
Fear and Greed: Two Overrated Emotions How to Become a Smarter and More Powerful Copywriter
Way back when I was learning how to write advertising copy, it was commonly believed that the way to get high response rates was to appeal to our prospects‘ greed and fears. I don‘t know who first made this pronouncement, but it was practically a commandment of direct marketing in those days. All the ―experts‖ I listened to espoused it. All the copywriters I admired seemed to do it. On the surface, it seemed to be a good, practical rule. One I should follow. But I thought it was stupid. I didn‘t need a degree in psychology to know that reducing human motivation to two, very obvious, emotions was wrong. I knew in my bones — based on 30 years of experience (first with my mother, then with my teachers and eventually my colleagues, wife, and children) — that there were better ways to be persuasive than by stirring up fear and greed. Sure, using fear sometimes seemed necessary — to keep the kids from riding their bikes in the dark without headlights, for example. But mostly it paralyzed the person I wanted to motivate. I found it to be both heavy-handed and clumsy. There were many other emotions and desires I could stimulate that would get the job done. And greed? I grew up in a household where greed was considered a deadly sin — ―the devil‘s instrument.‖ I had no desire to use it as my own. I wanted to build my career by working with, and selling to, people who, like me, were subject to greed and fear but wanted to rise above those base impulses.
I wasn‘t being altruistic. Not really. I didn‘t want to associate myself with greedy, fearful people because I knew I couldn‘t trust them. I couldn‘t trust them as friends. I couldn‘t trust them as business partners. And I couldn‘t trust them as customers either. So even before I got into marketing in a serious way, I knew something about persuasion that most of the experts writing books and giving lectures did not seem to know. And I had enough common sense to recognize that just because something is often said and generally believed doesn‘t make it so. I‘m happy to say that the myth about fear and greed has been eroding. I believe Bill Bonner had something to do with that. The great promotions he wrote in the early 1970s relied on other emotions and instincts to sell his products. Gary Bencivenga and Clayton Makepeace, too, wrote copy that helped disprove this lie. The biggest move forward came, ironically, from a man whose intention was to warn consumers against marketing. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini, a professor of social psychology at Arizona State University, analyzed dozens of very successful promotions. He didn‘t choose the ones that relied on greed and fear. Instead, he focused attention on those that used more subtle, clever approaches. The consumers he was hoping to enlighten hardly read the book. But it became a great hit with a lot of marketers who applied Cialdini‘s insights on the psychology of persuasion to their promotions. Among Cialdini‘s insights were these: We instinctively try to reciprocate when someone does something for us. Once we‘ve made a commitment to do something, we strive to be consistent with that decision. We tend to look to others to determine what our decision should be in any given situation. We prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like. Cialdini eventually crossed the river and became an authority on marketing. His later books and seminars taught how to do the kind of subtle marketing he had
despised. Good for him. Good for us. (I say ―good for us‖ because I believe this kind of marketing is not only more effective, it is more honest. But that‘s another subject for another essay.) As I said, the idiotic ―rule‖ about fear and greed has been eroding — but it‘s never going to completely disappear. Why? Because many marketers still believe that fear and greed are the most motivating of all the emotions. And there is some evidence to support this. Let‘s begin with fear. Fear is a primal emotion — one that was inherent in man at a very early stage of human evolution. It is also an essential emotion, one that is necessary for survival. Neurobiologists tell us that our primal emotions are rooted deeply in our ―reptilian‖ brains and are instinctive. Because they are instinctive, they can be very strong and very difficult to overcome. And there is no doubt that fear is effective in selling all sorts of products — from burglar alarms to baby monitors to almost every form of insurance. But just because an emotion is strong doesn‘t mean it should be used to market everything. The reason is simple. Human beings have three ―primal‖ responses to fear: to fight, to flee, or to be paralyzed into inactivity. And a copywriter doesn‘t want his prospects to do any of those things. In selling investment advice (something I‘ve done a good deal of), fear has sometimes been useful. But I‘ve noticed that if you crank up the fear, you reduce the responsiveness to your ad. A little fear can go a long way when you are trying to motivate people to worry about their savings or their job security, for instance. But you must quickly follow that fear with hope of some kind. And that brings us to greed. Proponents of the fear-and-greed approach often argue that the smart thing to do is to follow a fear-based lead with an appeal to the prospect‘s greed.
But I have found that if you do that, you wind up attracting the kind of customer you don‘t want: someone who is gullible and greedy. You can‘t build a business by selling to the gullible and greedy. You can make scores, sometimes big scores. But you will never have a sustainably profitable business. About six months ago, I had a conversation with a copywriter who‘d had amazing success with several fear-and-greed promotions. In fact, his commissions on all the sales from those campaigns should have come to more than a million dollars. I say ―should have,‖ because his clients discovered that many of the buyers brought in by his fear-and-greed promotions asked for refunds. And those that stayed were not good buyers of their other products. So he made out temporarily, but eventually lost most of his clients. I suggested that he learn to appeal to other emotions. He wasn‘t interested. He just kept on using his credentials to snare new clients… until they, too, experienced the same disappointing results. And now I hear through the grapevine that he‘s finding it harder and harder to find anyone who will buy his copy. (By the way, he sent me an e-mail this morning. I haven‘t read it yet. I wonder if he‘s ―seen the light.‖) Greed doesn‘t work because good customers, the kind that will stick with you and continue to buy from you year after year, don‘t think of themselves as greedy. They want to be successful. They want to make more money. But they don‘t want to be greedy. Here‘s what I want you to take away from this: Use fear as a primary emotion to sell insurance products (which include such things as burglar alarms, baby monitors, etc.). For other products, you can try a little fear… but don‘t go too far with it. Then concentrate on giving your prospects hope. Hope is far and away a much stronger selling proposition than fear. And never use greed. Greed-based promotions will only attract customers who will ruin your business. Let Michael take you by the hand and show you how to tap into the raw power of human emotion to sell more products and services than ever before with the
AWAI‘s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Use those skills to sell your own products and services or get paid handsomely for them by becoming a six-figure copywriter.
How to Enjoy the Writer’s Life Even if You Can’t Write Like a Professional
The most productive and, next to JK Rowling, richest writer in the world is James Patterson. If you don‘t know him, he is the author of ―Don‘t Blink‖ and ―The Postcard Killers‖ as well as 48 other best-selling books in the past 10 years. By almost any perspective, Patterson is a hugely successful writer. But he doesn‘t have the normal gifts that one would typically attribute to writers: a brilliant mind, a passion for his work, etc. Instead, he has a certain set of skills that he employs over and over again and then leverages by hiring apprentice writers to do most of his work for him. They do 80% of the work, following his directions. Then Patterson edits their manuscripts for pace and tension – key elements in narrative fiction. By providing the outline and the editing, Patterson insures that his books have the Patterson feel. This is something that any successful Master Copywriter or Internet guru can do. In fact, I know quite a few well-known gurus who have junior writers ghost writing their essays. In some cases these ghostwriters are good, in others no. When they are not good they degrade the reputation of the guru. But what Patterson does is smarter than that. He gives his apprentice a byline. That makes the transaction more honest and it provides the apprentice with a reward that is much greater than money. Several of my clients – well known financial and health authors – could have bigger businesses if they could produce more copy. But so far they have refused my suggestions to do so. They don‘t want to use apprentices, they say, because
they don‘t believe anyone can write as well as they can. Another reason – one they don‘t admit – is because they don‘t want to share the credit with anyone else. These are both ego problems. And as you‘ve heard me say many times, ego and laziness are a writer‘s primary vices. Patterson proves that you can maintain quality (such as it is) in your product, continue to promote your name and expand your production in multiples by using apprentices. By taking advantage of competent researchers and writers who are willing to work for him, Patterson puts out eight or more books a year. And in 2010 his annual earnings are estimated at $70 million. This essay, though, isn‘t about James Patterson. It‘s about Peter de Jonge and Andrew Gross and Michael Ledwidge*, three of the many researchers and writers who have earned lots of money and in some cases became best-selling authors on their own simply by working as an apprentice to the master. I‘m talking about aspiring writers who, for whatever reason, never were able to break through the glass ceiling that keeps more than nine published authors out of ten to sell fewer than 100 copies of the books they write. The opportunity to become an apprentice writer for Patterson at this moment is limited, but there are hundreds or even thousands of chances right now to make a very nice six-figure income helping professional writers do their jobs. I‘m talking about a new profession – one that before the Internet did not even exist. I‘m talking about becoming an apprentice writer/researcher to the direct response information business. I‘m talking about a pretty exciting opportunity. It‘s exciting because it‘s brand new and growing fast, which means the barriers of entering it are very small and the rewards are still very great. Let me give you an example.
Several years ago Judith Strauss and I wrote and published a little book of diction calledWords that Work. It was a selection of words that appeared in Early To Rise‘s ―Words to the Wise‖ column that has been running daily for almost 10 years. At the beginning of this year I wanted to do another edition but, for some reason, Judith was not available to work with me on it. So I reached out to AWAI to find someone to help me. Typically when I call Katie, I‘m looking for a copywriter. But this time I wanted someone who could do some basic research and compose simple sentences. Finding a skillful copywriter, even when you have Katie Yeakle next door to you, is not easy. But it‘s a much simpler job to find someone who knows how to track information down and summarize it in simple, concise sentences. I found someone – a retired grant writer and sometime artist who began working with me last month. Her job was pretty straightforward. I‘d send her lists of words that I wanted to cover and she‘d look at several dictionary definitions and craft one that was the simplest version she could of the various iterations. It was a three thousand dollar job and it would have taken her, I figure, about 45 to 60 hours to complete the task. After I had edited a dozen or so words she understood both what I wanted in terms of a definition and also my style of writing, so I could see it was going to be easy for both of us to finish the job. Her compensation, because we were moving quickly, was going from $50 an hour to $75. In addition we have become language buddies along the way. We send each other interesting articles on language (including whatever Bob Bly writes) and have fun talking about usage. From this good experience I decided to expand the book from just another collection of words that work to something I‘m calling ―One Thousand Words to Know Before You Die‖. My idea is to present one thousand words or terms that comprise much of the most important thinking in Western literature from the time of Homer to the
present. Instead of limiting my usage comments to diction and grammar, I‘m going to talk about how these words added to or subtracted from the history of knowledge from Greek times to the present. It‘s a more ambitious book to be sure, but it‘s also a book that‘s more fun to write. My researcher‘s job is pretty much the same, but she‘s having more fun now in helping me select and cull words and in learning about the many artistic, cultural, political and literary ideas that have shaped the way smart people think today. Plus, she‘s also got a bigger assignment now. I upped her compensation from $3,000 to $10,000 and I‘m going to give her a percent of sales as well. Her compensation has now gone up to about $100 an hour and it could end up being two or three times that if the book sells well. The point of this anecdote is to introduce you to a new industry that is developing thanks to the explosion of information publishing since the Internet exploded in or around 2000. It‘s a new type of career, one that allows you to enjoy all the fun and challenge of being a professional writer (and some of the upside income potential) without having to have mastered the fine art of fiction or persuasive writing. I mentioned this idea to Katie and Rebecca several months ago when I was looking for someone to help me with another book Don Mahoney and I are working on, a monograph on Barnett Greenberg, an obscure painter whose personal collection of works Don and I bought from his family‘s estate. The person we‘ve selected to help us with that book will also be doing research and writing sentences, but will not be responsible for shaping the book or revising it. It‘s pretty much the same thing James Patterson‘s apprentices do, but instead of fiction the subject is biography. If Don and I make this artist a known and collected name among collector‘s of Jewish art and artifacts (a very lucrative niche market) this person will also enjoy a big pay check and plenty of perks including (if he wants) appearing on radio and television programs.
In the old days (prior to 2000) researchers were drones that got paid little for endless work and were never recognized for their hard work. In today‘s world of information publishing there are tens of thousands of writers and publishers looking for people who can help them produce the many published products that proliferate the internet. Just think about the demand: books, reports, essays, blogs, web content, eletters, e-magazines, surveys, research reports, scientific studies, marketing studies, religious writing, non-profit pamphlets, annual reviews, critiques, auto responder series – the list is endless. And thanks to the Internet, the market is growing. According to Google, the Web has already exceeded 1 trillion unique web pages (it‘s estimated they index about 15 billion of those pages for search purposes). There are millions more pages created daily. If the market for professional writers has increased tenfold since 2,000 then the market for Internet Research Specialists has probably increased a thousand fold. What does this mean to you? If you‘re thinking about becoming a professional writer but haven‘t yet reached the level of compensation you want, this is the perfect opportunity to make great money as you go. If you would love to live the life of a freelance writer but don‘t have the patience or talent for it, this is also a great way to do that without mastering the craft of writing. One of the biggest future opportunities for Internet Research Specialists is in the direct marketing industry. Based on sales, direct marketing, as you may know, is a $2 trillion industry. It is bigger than traditional Madison Avenue-style advertising, as well as newspaper advertising. And since 2000 it‘s growing at a rate of 5-7%, making it one of the fastest growing markets in the world today.
If you read ―Automatic Wealth‖ then you know that the fastest way to become rich is to become an essential employee or contract worker for a fast-growing business in a fast-growing market. Information publishing is exactly that. Although many of them may not know it now, the easiest way for a professional copywriter to double his income is to double his output. But doubling your output without diminishing the quality of your work is not easy because of the enormous demand of research. I‘ve said this a thousand times to AWAI members over the past many years. The most important single aspect of successful writing depends on the production of good ideas and the production of good ideas depends almost entirely on good research. That‘s where the opportunity is for those who might want to get involved in this wonderful new industry. Gradually writers will begin to realize that they, like James Patterson, can make much more money if they can have apprentices helping them with all the research. And once they become comfortable using other people to do the research, they‘ll ask for more (simple sentences) like Don and I are doing. Eventually, this will mean great, lucrative new careers for thousands or even tens of thousands of smart, capable people who – for whatever reason – have decided they want the benefits of the writers life without putting in all the ―hard‖ work. The job of the Internet Research Specialists will be largely tracking support and documentation for the claims that professional writers want to make. Again, this is especially true in the area of direct marketing of published products. As Roy Furr recently pointed out in an essay in The Golden Thread: "Because the average prospect is skeptical, proof is an important part of any letter. People won't believe our claims just because we say so. Unless we're established experts, our claims are just opinions." What kind of research are Internet Research Specialists likely to be doing? Collecting and organizing information for: Media mentions of the client or product Prestigious publications talking about the product, idea, or industry
Scientific studies to back claims Scientists' opinions related to claims Charts, graphs, and graphics Real or implied expert endorsements Real or implied celebrity endorsements Quotes from credentialed sources Process information, or how the product (or ingredient) works Other highly-specific supporting information
Here‘s what I‘m saying: There is already a market for Internet Research Specialists It is likely to be one of the fastest growing markets in the world By getting in now you can start making $50 an hour As your skills improve you can easily be making $100 or more in no time
To get in now at the bottom floor you will need to do two things: Quickly learn how to do quick and helpful research. Find clients. You can do the first by investing in AWAI‘s new program that teaches that. It is called Secrets of Becoming an Internet Research Specialist: How to Surf the Web for Freedom and Profit. It‘s an online program consisting of 13 chapters, split into two main parts. The first part — Chapters 1-6 — is all about what to do and how to do it. This is how you go from landing the gig to giving the client exactly what they want. This is what you do in your everyday life as an Internet Research Specialist. The second part — Chapters 7-13 — is what it takes to get paid. This is how to attract clients, get other people to sell your services for you, and develop the client relationship so they'll come back over and over again.
It also includes: Access to AWAI's exclusive members-only DirectResponseJobs.com Online Job Board. (Recently updated to include Internet Researcher gigs!)
Special reports onHow to Deliver Superior Research by Learning One Crucial SEO Skill…Proof and Credibility: 10 Ways Your Research Can Make Your Client‘s Copy Sizzle… andFive Other Research Projects to Boost Your Income A 3-part webinar series on marketing yourself as an Internet Research Specialist A brand-new white paper you can use to market yourself to writers called "Writers: How to Write Faster, Better, and Make More Money While You Do."
I wrote the first draft of this essay in 90 minutes (as opposed to several hours) by writing out the draft and leaving X‘s where I needed facts and figures to support my argument. I sent it – as is – to my editor Jason, who contacted one of the AWAI-trained Internet Research Specialists he has on his contact list. That person got and finished the job in 24 hours and earned about $75 an hour for his efforts. It was good for him. It was good for me. And it can be very good for you if you contact AWAI. Find out more about AWAI‘s Internet Research Specialist Program
* Peter de Jonge is a former copywriter who spent several years on the Patterson assembly line before writing his first solo novel (Shadows Still Remain). Andrew Gross is president of HEAD Ski and Tennis and co-wrote some of the Women's Murder Club Series with Patterson before signing his own 3-book deal with William Morrow in 2005.
Are You Honest, Hard Working, and Financially Solvent? If So, Read This – You Won’t Like It, But You Should Read It Now
Just about every adult I know is wondering about the economy. MB, who owns a large furniture wholesaling business, is wondering when consumers will start shopping again. ―I‘m just treading water now,‖ he says. ―But not making any profit. My employees are getting paid, but I‘m not.‖ PE, a real estate developer, fled the US after all his hundred million dollar developments went bust. Now he‘s building homes in Panama. ―I wonder if I‘ll ever get back home,‖ he said. My sister, a high school teacher, has seen many of her friends lose careers due to budget cutbacks. She wants to know whether we‘re in a ―recovery‖ that will protect her job or will things get worse next year? Nobody knows for sure what will happen. But when I‘m not sure about the future my rule is hope for the best but plan for the worst. The best we can hope for? A gradually improving economy with full health restored in 5 to 7 years. Theworst? A massive, worldwide Great Recession as long and as bad as the Great Depression. In this essay I hope to do two things. 1. Show you why I believe the worst-case scenario is about 100 times more likely than the best-case one. 2. Give you a three-part plan to survive and prosper.
Why Things Are Likely to Get Worse Since the real estate bubble inflated and collapsed trillions of dollars have disappeared from American households. And millions of Americans – actually tens of millions – are now, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt. My view of what happened differs a bit from the story you‘ve been told by our government and most economists. Wealth didn‘t magically appear and disappear. What happened was that the government, banks, brokers, and real estate professionals colluded in the biggest wealth transfer in the history of the world. Wealth (stored assets) shifted from the bank accounts of teachers, plumbers, merchants, and people like you into the bank accounts of bankers, brokers, lawyers, and others who participated in the scam. The wealth I‘m talking about is not the tens of trillions in trumped up property values that disappeared. That wealth never really existed. The money that was cleverly shifted from one large group of people to a much smaller one consisted of hard-earned savings and now-depleted retirement accounts. A significant portion of that transfer came from fees – the billions and billions of dollars in fees charged by the bankers, brokers, and lawyers for all the new and second mortgages, the appraisals, the insurance, the legal vetting, etc. But even more of it came from mortgage payments. While property values were falling, millions of Americans did their best to keep up with mortgage payments, often emptying their bank accounts in a futile attempt to maintain ―good credit.‖ That transfer was probably in excess of a trillion dollars. And it hasn‘t stopped. There are still tens of millions of Americans ―under water‖ who will keep paying till they can‘t do it any longer. Eventually, they will enter into settlements that will, essentially, leave them bankrupt.
So most Americans are poorer now or will be very soon, while the banking and brokerage community – protected as it has been by the government – is richer and will become richer still. But that‘s not the entire problem. Our government itself is bankrupt. Its debt far exceeds its assets and that debt has been spiraling skyward since the Clinton administration. Whether it was to fight the ―war‖ on terror, finance fraudulent brokerages and irresponsible banks, the federal government has been taking on debt faster than at any time in its history. We are talking about tens of trillions of dollars. And finally there are all the future financial obligations our legislators have voted in. Financing the baby boomer‘s financial and retirement needs in the next 20 years will cost additional tens of trillions of dollars. The total, by any count, is more than a hundred trillion. And one way or the other every single dollar of that must be paid back. Who Will Pay That Back? Not the financial masters of the universe that planned it all… .not the banks, brokers and lawyers that promoted it… and certainly not the government (which never pays back anything). No, these trillions will be paid back by a small percentage of the population who have been foolish enough to (a) work hard, (b) start businesses, (c) employ other people, (d) create new products and services, (e) make profits, (f) save those profits and (g) not fall for stupid scams and schemes like the real estate bubble.
Those are the people who are going to have to pay back the debt. There aren‘t many of them. They comprise less than 20% of the population. But they will pay back 80% of the remaining debt. That is a 100% certainty. And why will the sins of the 80% be paid for by the 20%? Because no one else can pay it back. Our government can‘t pay it back. It‘s bankrupt. The bankers and brokers and lawyerswon‘tpay it back. They have been ―saved.‖ Eighty percent of the population won‘t be able to pay it back because they don‘t have anything. So it must be paid back by the honest, frugal taxpayers who still have wealth – the middle-class and upper-class Americans who still have assets. If you have assets that means you. It doesn‘t matter whether you are a billionaire or have a net worth of $10,000. They – the 80% of America that is (or will soon be) bankrupt are coming after you. And they will have the government and the financial community at their sides. There are three ways they will come at you: 1. By taxing you more. If you have a good income, they will make you pay more taxes. If you have assets, they will make you pay a higher ―wealth/property‖ taxes on those assets. And they will introduce consumption taxes. 2. They will make create alternative, private taxes on every product or service you purchase. (These private taxes will take the form of increased banking, insurance, transportation, purchasing, and other fees – all tied to regulations meant to ―protect you.‖ 3. They will make your income shrink while your expenses rise, making you ultimately poorer unless you do something radical. This is the primary way they will make you pay back their debt. With many years of stagflation. The economy will be sluggish. Income, on a relative scale, will decrease. And prices will rise. Getting us 20% poorer is really the best and surest way to pay back all the bad debt.
If you think this is crazy speculation, do this. Post this now on your calendar for 2015 and then read it again then. See how crazy it seems then. If you don‘t think I‘m crazy and want to do something to protect yourself, pay close attention to the rest of this message. Recognize that you will not be able to avoid the three-stage assault I outlined above. You will not be able to avoid the extra taxes you will have to pay. If you do try to get fancy with your taxes, you‘ll end up in jail. This is not an avenue worth pursuing. You‘re not going to avoid paying all the extra ―private taxes‖ on everything you buy from now on. These will all be buried in the fine print. You won‘t find them. And even if you do, you‘ll be required to pay them because the laws that are being written right now to ―protect‖ us contain clauses that allow banks and brokerages and so on to pass along the extra costs to their customers. And finally, you are not going to be able to avoid the effects of stagflation. The value of your cash-based assets (it doesn‘t matter they are in dollars or Euros or what) will diminish. Prices will increase. But your salary will not. But there is something positive you can do. Actually, there are three things: 1. Keep your job. There is a good chance that the business you work for will continue to make payroll cuts in the months and years ahead. That means your income or possibly your job is threatened. The best way to protect your job is to become an invaluable employee. When your boss has to make the tough decisions about who gets cut, who gets cut back, and who stays, you want him to want to keep you. You can do that by becoming an invaluable employee. 2. Put your savings in tangible assets: gold, real estate and, if possible, your own private business. 3. Create additional streams of income. This is the only way you can actually hope to build your wealth during the coming Great Recession. This is the most important of the three solutions.
I am a big believer in multiple streams of income. I started working on it about twenty years ago. At first the streams were mere trickles. Now each one of them is more than I need. And I have about a dozen of them. That‘s why I‘m not personally worried about the great recession. But if you don‘t have additional streams of income, you should be. How to Create Extra Income If you have at least a half million in cash, you can create income two ways: 1. You can invest in rental real estate. I‘m doing that now and I‘m getting cash flow of between 5% and 10% on my money. 2. You can invest in quality, dividend-bearing stocks. I suggest you follow Andy Gordon's recommendations in the Sound Profits newsletter. 3. If you don't have a hundred grand to invest, then you really have no choice. To create a viable second stream of income you must start a side business – something you can do evenings and weekends. You could mow lawns or clean windows. But that's hard work for modest pay. The kind of business I recommend is one that (a) doesn't require very much start-up capital, (b) provides you with job satisfaction, and (c) could eventually allow you to quit your day job. That‘s exactly what American Writers & Artists Inc. (or AWAI for short) can help you to do. AWAI specializes in helping people create multiple streams of income… all from learning just one financially valuable skill. AWAI has more than a dozen opportunities for you to choose from. Opportunities like copywriting, being an internet researcher or publicist, writing resumes, desktop marketing, self-publishing, writing grants graphic design becoming a travel writer … to name just a few.
These opportunities can give you a sizeable second (or third) stream of income doing something enjoyable. And more than that, they can be leveraged into building even more opportunities. Let me give you a couple of examples of AWAI members who have done just this: Ann Kuffner originally became an AWAI member so she could promote her retirement/relaxation development in Belize. But things changed – and changed dramatically – after she attended her first Bootcamp last year. While she remains Vice-President of Sales of the Grand Baymen development, she also has become a full-fledged copywriter enjoying her second stream of income… ―Earlier this year, I reached one of my primary goals. I landed a significant assignment with a reputable international lifestyle publication. I‘ve already completed and been paid for the job. And, I‘m expecting more follow on work… I would never have come this far, this fast, if not for Bootcamp…‖
Member Roy Furr wasn‘t expecting any big changes in his life last year. He actually liked his job, but he knew he was limited there. Today Roy‘s enjoying a recession-proof income stream and has no ceiling on how much he can make… "This time last year, I had no clue how my life would be changed when I attended AWAI's FastTrack To Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair. I was holding on to my full-time job, only dreaming one day I'd tell my boss, 'Adios! I'm off to do what I want to do and make myself rich!' "I wasn't sure if I was ready, but I invested in Bootcamp anyway and to my surprise (and my former employer's) I launched my full-time freelance copywriting business 3 months and 3 days after returning home. "Now I can tell you flat-out: AWAI's Bootcamp was the best investment I could possibly have made in launching my freelance copywriting career.‖ Ann and Roy‘s stories are far from unique. They tell typical stories of doors opening when you put yourself in the fast-paced, high intensity environment of AWAI‘sFastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair.
Bootcamp opens doors by providing master-level training, training packed with copywriting and marketing secrets. It opens doors by giving you opportunities almost every moment you‘re there to network with other members and with master copywriters and marketers who are presenting at Bootcamp. And the most exciting opportunity of all: AWAI‘sFastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair opens doors by letting you meet face-to-face with representatives from companies at the Job Fair… who are there specifically to hire new writers. That‘s how Ann and Roy starting building their second income streams and how you can too. There are many others too. Like Susan Clark. from HawthorneCalifornia… “Last month I made $13,210 from writing copy. I never could have done it without AWAI's FastTrack to Success.‖ Or Eric Gelb… "I attended my first Bootcamp last November. The event changed my life. I learned new and essential techniques and skills. I became friends with two copywriters and we brainstorm ideas that help me make money. I landed two clients at the Job Fair. And the best news is within six weeks of Bootcamp, I received $4,350 in fees." This year‘s Bootcamp features an amazing lineup of professionals willing – no make that eager – to share their insights, their lessons, and their secrets with you so you can get started on building your second, third, or fourth income stream quickly and surely. These are pros like… Bill Bonner – whose famous International Living letter ran as a control unchallenged for 30 years, and whose Agora Publishing is now one of the largest publishers in the world… Ted Nicholas – whose copywriting has produced over $5.9 billion in sales for his companies and his clients' companies, in industries as wide ranging as candy products to incorporation to marketing to natural health. Mark Everett Johnson – copy chief for legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz, his 15-plus year control for a major health provider has generated over 3.3 million paid orders and over $80 million in sales. And, of course, I‘ll be there too. This year I‘m teaching a systematic way to write million-dollar copy again and again. This is just a glimpse of what you can expect to experience at this year‘s gathering of the greatest minds in direct marketing and copywriting. Perhaps, you will walk away from Bootcamp this year with an experience like Susie H‘s…
"My expectations for Bootcamp were that I'd learn loads, get psyched up, be exhausted by the end, and meet plenty of eager AWAI members, generous seminar leaders, and Bootcamp coordinators. I was not disappointed in any of those expectations… “What I didn‘t go expecting, even though I've read these stories myself, was to walk away with a paid assignment from this Bootcamp… but I did! Networking happens, whether you consciously do it or not (unless you talk to absolutely no one while you're there). “Let it take you where it will, because you'll be thrilled when it does. And, when you get home and the phone rings the next day with another paid assignment, you can grin, make the deal, then hang up and scream, and jump for joy. Go ahead. Expect it all. It happens." If you want to create an extra stream (or streams) of income for yourself, your opportunity to start begins at the AWAI FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair. It is the best way I know of to do it. It works. It‘s worked for these copywriters you‘ve already heard from. And it‘s worked for many others who‘ve used it to generate their own income streams. Bootcamp opens its doors in just two months. And when those doors open, they will open doors for you… if you‘re willing to take the first steps. Click this link to learn even more about the exciting adventure awaiting you at Bootcamp. And the fulfilling life a second and third income stream can provide for you. This is a great chance – maybe the best chance you will ever have – to get to the next level of financial success. If you're serious about taking charge of your future, be there! As I said, the most significant thing you can do to protect yourself from what I predict will be a disintegrating economic environment is to get an extra (or two) stream of income. But this is NOT something you should wait to do next year. The longer you put it off, the more challenging it will be. There‘s still a significant opportunity to create a lifelong cash stream if you act immediately.
The Power of One – One Big Idea
One of the biggest lessons I have ever learned about writing came very late – in fact, more than twenty years after I wrote my first piece of copy. It happened about a year after I began writing the Early To Rise(ETR). I was looking over issues I'd written that year and noting which ones readers rated the highest. Without exception, those achieving the highest scores presented a single idea. It struck me that readers didn't want to hear everything I had to say about a topic every time I wrote. They were looking for a single, useful suggestion or idea that could make them more successful. That was one of those "aha!" experiences for me. As a reader, I had always most enjoyed stories and essays that tackled one subject effectively and deeply. As a writer, I sensed my readers felt this way too. But it wasn't until I looked at the ETR results that I recognized the power of a narrow focus in writing. I checked to see if this same phenomenon applied to advertising copy. I pulled out my box of "best promotions of all time." While not all of them were on a single topic, most of the very best hit just one idea strongly. It seemed I was on to something. I presented this idea as one "powerful secret to publishing success" when Agora had our first company-wide meeting for publishers in France.
Bill Bonner reminded me he'd learned about the Power of One from the great advertising guru David Ogilvy. Ogilvy's concept was that every great promotion has, at its core, a single, powerful idea that he called "the Big Idea." At about that same time, John Forde was rereading the classic 1941 book, "How to Write a Good Advertisement" by Victor Schwab – the man Advertising Age called the "greatest mail-order copywriter of all time." In that book, Schwab listed his choice for the "Top 100 Headlines." John found that of those 100 top headlines, 90 were driven by single, Big Ideas. Note how instantly clear and engaging these "Big Ideas" are… "The Secret of Making People Like You" "Is the Life of a Child Worth $1 to You?" "To Men Who Want to Quit Work Someday" "Are You Ever Tongue-Tied at a Party?" "How a New Discovery Made a Plain Girl Beautiful" "Who Else Wants a Screen Star Figure?" "You Can Laugh at Money Worries – If You Follow This Simple Plan" "When Doctors Feel Rotten This is What They Do" "How I Improved My Memory in One Evening" "Discover the Fortune That Lies Hidden In Your Salary" "How I Made a Fortune with a 'Fool Idea'" "Have You a 'Worry' Stock?"
At ETR, we made this concept a "rule" for writing. The mandate was clear. Write about one thing at a time. One good idea, clearly and convincingly presented, was better than a dozen so-so ideas strung together. When we obeyed that rule, our essays were stronger. When we ignored it, they were not as powerful as they could have been. Here's an example of the Rule of One as applied to an advertorial taken from ETR: Subject Line: The Easiest Product to Sell Online Dear Early to Riser, Would you be interested in investing $175 to make $20,727? That's exactly what Bob Bly just accomplished! See how he did it below… and how easily you could do the same. MaryEllen Tribby, ETR Publisher
Dear Friend, There's no product easier to create or sell online… … than a simple, straightforward instructional or how-toe-book. Why are e-books the perfect information product to sell on the Internet? 100% profit margin. No printing costs. No inventory to store. Quick and easy to update. No shipping costs or delays. Higher perceived value than regular books. Quick, simple, and inexpensive to produce. My very first e-book has generated $20,727 in sales (so far). My total investment in producing it: just $175. Now, I want to show you how to make huge profits creating and selling simple ebooks – in my new e-book "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit." Normally my e-books sell for anywhere from $29 to $79, and later this year, "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit" will sell for $59. However, to make it affordable for you to get started in e-book publishing, I'm letting you have "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit" for only $19 today – a savings of $40 off the cover price! For more information… or to order on a risk-free 90-day trial basis… just click here now. Sincerely, Bob Bly P.S. But, I urge you to hurry. This special $40 discount is for alimited time only.And once it expires, it may never be repeated again. Let me explain how the Power of One operates here. In the lift letter (signed by MaryEllen Tribby), Bob asks a question and then tells a single sentence story. The question is an inverted promise. The story validates the promise. The sales letter follows. This, too, is a beautifully simple piece of copy. It leads with a statement that expresses one clear idea: "The easiest way to make money on the Internet it to market e-books." That statement is supported by a number of bulleted "facts." Then, Bob validates the statement by mentioning his own experience. The reader is already sold. Bob makes the sale irresistible with a strong, onetime-only offer. Short, sweet, andsimple.
The Power of One is not only one big, central idea. It's a fully engaging piece of copy with five necessary elements. Using Bob's example: One good idea: "There's no product easier to create or sell online than a simple, straightforward instructional or how-to e-book." One core emotion: "It is simple! I bet I can do it!" One captivating story: Told brilliantly in 11 words: ―My very first e-book has generated $20,727 in sales (so far).‖ One single, desirable benefit: "Now, I want to show you how to make huge profits creating and selling simple e-books" One inevitable response: The only way to get this book for $19 is "click here now." To create blockbuster promotions time after time, you must understand the difference between good copy and great copy. The Power of One is the driving force behind great copy. Veteran advertising consultant James Loftus, who's worked with Anheuser-Busch, Holiday Inn, McDonald's, and many other clients, agrees: "Also keep in mind that the more points you try to cover, the less effective each point, and therefore your ad, will be. An effective ad will actually have only one central focus, even if you discuss it from two or three perspectives. If your points are too diverse, they compete with each other, and end up pulling the reader's attention in separate directions." When challenged with an advertising assignment, most writers conjure lists of features and benefits, then mention as many as possible. Their thinking goes, "I wonder which of these benefits will really push the buttons I want? I'll throw them all in. That way if one doesn't work, another one will." This is B-level copywriting. It's not the way to create breakthrough advertising. The Power of One is commonplace now at Agora… it‘s taught by AWAI… and you‘ll see that most top copywriters follow it. You can use the Power of One to create your own blockbuster copy. Ask yourself: "What is the Big Idea here?" "Is this idea strong enough to capture the hearts of my customers?" Or "Are my ideas all over the place?" The challenge is to find that one good idea the reader can grasp immediately. And stick to it. So the idea has to be strong, easy to understand…and easy to believe. Put the Power of One to work for you in all your communications. You'll be amazed at how much stronger – and successful – your copy will be.
For more breakthrough copywriting tips and tactics check out the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
Making Omelets, Breaking Eggs and Sexist Ads
Katie sent me some of the comments given byGolden Threadreaders of an essay I wrote on ―The Most Interesting Man in the World.‖ The ad reminded me of David Ogilvy‘s classic advertisement campaign for Hathaway Shirts. It propelled Hathaway from a local company with no reputation at all to the most recognized shirt brand in America. I said that while the Dos Equis ad was in many ways a creative knockoff, it fell short of the Ogilvy classic by failing to make the brand name itself a prominent feature of the commercial. For Ogilvy, the name of the product was critical. It was so important to him that he put the brand name in almost all of his headlines. One reader, Christine, had this to say: ―While this may have worked for a men's shirt in Ogilvy‘s day this present ad "The Most Interesting Man in the World" is disgusting and painful to watch. She found it ―offensive to women.‖ Besides the content (a bearded man surrounded by beautiful women) it suggests, she said, that women don‘t drink beer when they do. Christine says she would ―go out of (her) way NOT to buy this beer.‖ ―Some ads are just too offensive. Copying old ‗Mad Men‘ ads per se without a few updates is ‗madness.‘ If I were this guy's wife and I found this beer in the fridge, I would throw it out! Let's get 21st century.‖ I think it‘s interesting that Christine imagines herself married to ―this guy.‖ Is it possible that the most interesting man in the world got her pulse racing, even though she objects to his image?
That‘s the thing about edgy advertising. It offends as many people as it attracts. But does that mean it shouldn‘t be done? It reminds me of the scene from Howard Stern‘s movie, ―Private Parts‖. Pig Vomit, the network executive who has been trying to get Stern fired, finds out that the ratings for his show have shot sky high, despite his puerile, offensive-to-some humor. ―Howard‘s fans,‖ he is told, ―listen to him for two and a half hours.‖ ―Well what about all the people who hate him?‖ he asks. The researcher looks at his notes, ―People who hate him listen to him for five hours.‖ There is no question that if you want to grab attention, being outrageous is an effective tactic. But the question still needs to be asked: How far should you be willing to go to sell your product? What boundaries, if any, should you be willing to cross? Is it okay to be sexist if it sells more beer? Moral issues aside, the criterion for making such a decision has to be the advertisement‘s effect on sales. Looks like Dos Equis made the right decision: According to Dos Equis brand manager Ryan V. Thompson, since Dos Equis introduced The Most Interesting Man in the World in 2006, sales have shot up significantly every year, leaping 26% since January alone. He recently told Austin Carr of FastCompany.com. "We're now the fastest growing beer import in the country.‖ To create breakthrough-advertising campaigns you must be willing to break through convention. You have to be willing to offend some people so long as the increase in sales that you stimulate is greater than any loss of business you get from the offense. It‘s not that you want to offend anyone. You don‘t. But you recognize that in a world as diverse and opinionated as ours is, some breakthrough ads will offend. Elsewhere I have explained that the two greatest vices of a marketer are laziness and egotism. And the two greatest virtues are empathy and courage. You must be empathetic enough to understand what your core customers think and feel and believe (their Core Complex). And, then you must have the courage to use that empathy to create an ad that tells them you understand.
That, in my view, is what the Dos Equis commercial does. It ―gets‖ guys. And it has the courage to tap into what motivates them most of the time. It‘s not sex, by the way. And it‘s not the objectification of women. It‘s much more about a man‘s relationship with other men. Thus, the most interesting man in the world. It reminds me very much of the new viral marketing campaign to sell Old Spice. In that, ex-football player Isaiah Mustafa stands topless, showing off his six-pack, promising women ―he‘s the man your man could smell like.‖ Last time I checked the original ad had attracted 13 million hits. Christine‘s mistake, if I can judge from her short message, was that she let her own feelings and thoughts and beliefs (her own core complex) interfere with her ability to see this ad for what it is. It‘s no more sexist than the Old Spice campaign. It‘s clever. It‘s compelling. And it‘s full of self-referential humor. If Christine thinks this ad is offensive, what must she think of the blue-jeans ads that Calvin Klein introduced in 1980. Older readers will remember the 15-year-old Brooke Shields telling the world that ―nothing comes between me and my Calvins.‖ People were offended by the millions. But the campaign not only put Calvin Klein on top of the heap, but also virtually created the multibillion-dollar designer jeans market. There is something else that needs to be understood about this ad. It not really about attracting women per se, but about becoming more interesting than other men. Men are very competitive. And in the world of wooing women, their desire to compete is at its evolutionary height. The liminal* promise of the ad is a competitive one: to be more interesting than other men. Yes, the payoff is being surrounded by beautiful women. But the real issue is other men. Marketers of women‘s clothing sometimes make the same mistake. They incorrectly believe women dress to impress or entice men, when in fact they dress to impress and entice other women. The point I‘m getting to is this: if you are empathetic enough to really understand what motivates your core customers at a very basic level, then you will be able to create outrageous, breakthrough ads that work. Ask yourself: what is it that my customer really wants? And don‘t be satisfied with the first or second answer that pops in your head. Spend some time thinking or talking about his core emotions. Figure out what he desires, what he thinks and what he believes.
And finally, don‘t forget about the product. It‘s great to get the attention you want but you don‘t want to forget the product. Here are some other comments on the essay: “Excellent. Michael Masterson is spot on about the Dos Equis ads. I love the ad but am always left wanting to know what the product is. I had to actually force myself to concentrate on the commercial so I could know what the product is. Further I enjoyed the Golden Thread example. I've been struggling with that in my writing but with this concise example I now fully understand the Golden Thread.”– Shawn Maus “Excellent. Inspiring and great information!! I will read this article a dozen times and when I get home. I will pull out my AWAI books and start changing my career… with results this time!”– E.Oneill “Excellent. WOW I love those Commercials so that was number one when I saw "SAW" the "GUY" I was compelled to read on and now I understand some more about this business I love but never knew how much until this article.”– Dan Slaughter Jr “Excellent. Great article Michael. Makes perfect sense and a very interesting insight into David Ogilvy as well!”– Gus G. “Excellent. What a gift… Thank you Michael!!! There is so much marketing wisdom in this simple article… Thank you for sharing so generously.”– Laurie Attwood “Excellent. Very Interesting and informative. Also reminiscent of Commander Whitehead's beard. ”– Mike Rodriguez “Excellent. What a wonderful and insightful piece! You have written this piece like a good painter that paint work of art you are the masters. The sequence from thought to purchase and how to influence elegantly if there is such a word.”– Avihu Kiselstein YOU‘RE INVITED to continue this discussion with Michael at this year‘s Fast Track to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair. Anything else you want to talk to him about? You‘ll have plenty of opportunities during the 3-day event. Plus, you‘ll have access to Bob Bly, John Forde, Ted Nicholas, Bill Bonner and the dozen other master copywriters and marketers who will be there… ready and eager to share their experiences and strategies with you. *Ed Note: In case you‘re curious about the meaning of the word ―liminal‖, it means just at the edge of consciousness. It‘s not to be confused with ―subliminal,‖ which means just below the threshold of consciousness.
The Man in the Hathaway Shirt
Have you seen The Most Interesting Man in the World? I'm referring to the TV commercials for Dos Equis beer. They star a rugged-looking, silver-haired man who is always surrounded by beautiful women. In one version of the commercial, he arm-wrestles a Third World general and releases a grizzly bear from a trap. In another, the narrator relates that even his enemies list him as their emergency contact and that the police often question him just because they find him interesting. If you are a student of advertising, you know this is a knockoff of David Ogilvy's famous ad campaign: The Man in the Hathaway Shirt. If you don't know the history of this ad, you should. In Brief: It was 1951. Ellerton Jette, a shirt maker from Waterville, Maine wanted to grow his little business into a national brand, but he didn't have much money. He had heard about the advertising prowess of David Ogilvy. So he booked a meeting with him. "I have an advertising budget of only $30,000," he told Ogilvy. "And I know that's much less than you normally work with. But I believe you can make me into a big client of yours if you take on the job." If he'd stopped there, Ogilvy would have thrown him out of the office. But then he said something that sold the great salesman. He said, "If you do take on the job, Mr. Ogilvy, I promise you this. No matter how big my company gets, I will never fire you. And I will never change a word of your copy." There is a big lesson here. So let's stop for a moment and talk about it. What Ellerton Jette did was a little bit of genius, in my opinion. In two short sentences, he changed the mind of one of the most powerful men in the world of advertising. At the same moment, he made himself a very rich man. Not a week goes by when I don't get a letter from a complete stranger who sees me as his David Ogilvy. They are direct and to the point. "I know I can get rich if you help me, Mr. Masterson," they say. "So how about it?"
What makes them think I have the time, if not the inclination, to help them? It never even occurs to them to offer me something in return for what they are asking. Jette's $30,000 budget might have put $3,000 in Ogilvy's pocket. Though it was a paltry sum then and a mere pittance now, at least it was something. But what really cinched the deal was the two promises Jette made. Going into the meeting, Jette knew he had one chance to forge a relationship with Ogilvy. He somehow understood that Ogilvy, as successful as he was, had two big problems. He worried that his biggest clients would walk away from him. And he hated it when his clients screwed with his copy. So, instead of thinking only of his own goals, Jette took the time to figure out how he could offer Ogilvy something that would be of immense value to him. (This, by the way, is one of many lessons I teach in mySpecial Theory of Automatic Wealth.) When Jette made his two promises, Ogilvy realized that he was talking to a businessman who would eventually become a partner. He could see that Jette was a man of good faith who would let Ogilvy be in charge of his marketing. And that he would reward Ogilvy with a lifetime of loyalty. Now, let's get back to the story of the Hathaway shirt ad… After accepting Jette's offer, Ogilvy spent days doing in-depth research on Jette's client base. He came up with dozens of ideas. The one he settled on was a campaign built around the image of a distinguished man in a romantic location dressed in a Hathaway shirt. He selected a model that looked like William Faulkner and booked the first photo shoot. On the way to the shoot, he passed a five and ten cent store where he bought a few cheap eye patches. At the shoot, he asked the model to wear an eye patch for a few shots. The moment he saw the photos with the eye patch, he knew. The Man in the Hathaway Shirt campaign was an instant success. The ads were carried in papers around the country, and were mentioned editorially in Time, Life, and Fortune. Before long, hosts of imitators appeared. Other companies ran ads featuring eye patches on babies, dogs… even cows. A cartoon in The New Yorker shows three men looking into the display window of a shirt store. In the second panel, they are coming out of the store, with eye patches on.
Ogilvy got the idea for the patch, he said, from a photo of Ambassador Lewis Douglas, who had injured his eye while fishing in England. But he got the idea itself – the idea of this aristocratic man with a romantic life – from the James Thurber story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." (Actually, Kenneth Roman pointed out inThe King of Madison Avenue, it could have been from the secret life of David Ogilvy. As a young executive, Ogilvy was prone to wearing capes and bowties while everyone else was in grey flannel suits.) Of course, it wasn't just the eye patch that made the ads work. It was the combination of the model, the situation he was in, and the copy itself. And the copy was brilliant. Here's the first line of the first ad: "The melancholy disciples of Thorstein Veblen would have despised this shirt." Most readers of the ad had no idea who Thorstein Veblen was. But they got the idea. Veblen was some sort of snobby aristocratic. By posing a handsome, silverhaired model with an eye patch in a Hathaway shirt and putting that line underneath the photo, Ogilvy struck a chord in the American imagination. We all hate aristocrats, but we would like to be one. There was another brilliant thing about the ad. Putting the model in a romantic location gave the pitch a fictional element. It had "story appeal," as Ogilvy put it. Ogilvy said he discovered the concept of story appeal in a book by Harold Rudolph, a former ad agency research director. This was the first time, Roman says in his book, "that shirt advertising focused as much on the man wearing the shirt as on the shirt itself." And now, back to The Most Interesting Man in the World… I am a fan of these Dos Equis commercials. I like them both because they are a salute to David Ogilvy and also because they successfully replicate the key elements in Ogilvy's ads for the Hathaway shirt. They have the handsome, silverhaired model. They have the eye patch. And they have the anti-aristocrat touch. (The product is beer, after all.) They also have the romance and the story. Each new edition of the commercial is another episode in this most interesting man's life. They fall short only in one respect. They don't do a great job of equating the product with the concept.
When I remember a Dos Equis ad, I remember the actor's face. I remember the pretty girls in the background. I'm aware that he is a man that women find irresistible. And that when he drinks he drinks… Wait a minute. What does he drink? There's the rub. We find out that The Most Interesting Man in the World drinks Dos Equis. But he could just as well drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. The creative people behind this very good ad campaign get a big demerit for that. Ogilvy, on the other hand, put the name of the product in the headline. The fact that his man was wearing a Hathaway shirt was integral to the story. Grabbing the prospect's attention with an entertaining story or idea or photo is essential for any sort of advertising campaign. But you have to do more than that. You have to sell the product. And to do that, you must link the initial sentiment created in the headline with the final emotion needed to close the sale at the end. In AWAI's copywriting program, I call this "the Golden Thread." It's pretty simple. The product is at one end of the thread. The prospect's heart is at the other end. Every element of the copy must be connected to the product as well as to the prospect. And the connection must be taut. If the thread goes slack, even for a second, you lose the sale. I will end this essay by saying this: You have just read about half a dozen of the most powerful marketing secrets I know. If you put this essay down and forget about it, you will be making a terrible mistake. Read it at least half a dozen times and think about it. If it doesn't make you a multi-millionaire, I'll eat my shirt. Hathaway, of course.
How to Write Well: The World’s Simplest Formula
My income is based almost entirely on writing. And it has given me a very rich life – rich in every sense of the word. It can do the same for you. I spend half of my working time coaching writers on how to write better. I spend the other half writing memos. My memos are almost entirely persuasive: their object is to encourage my clients to make business and marketing decisions that will make them more profitable. If I fail to persuade them then my ideas don‘t get tested. If they don‘t get tested, then I can‘t help them make money. If I can‘t help them make money, they will stop paying me. To date I have never lost a client. (Knock on wood.) I attribute my track record to the persuasiveness of my memos. Over the 30 odd years I‘ve been doing this, I‘ve developed many complicated theories about what good writing is. But now I‘ve jettisoned them all in favor of a very brief, straightforward definition. My definition of good writing applies to every sort of non-fiction writing that I can think of. It applies to writing books, magazine articles, and direct-mail sales letters. It applies to business correspondence, telemarketing scripts, and speeches. Here it is: Good writing is the skill of expressing compelling thoughts clearly. That‘s it.
When I say this to writers, I get incredulous looks. ―How could it be that simple?‖ I can hear them thinking. And then I explain. And re-explain. And eventually some of them get it. And when they do, their writing gets much, much better. And their income gets better too. Let‘s go over that definition in detail. It has two parts: Compelling Thoughts and Clear Expression By compelling thoughts I mean ideas that make the reader think, ―Boy, that‘s interesting!‖ Or, ―I never thought of that before!‖ Or, ―I‘ve got to remember this!‖ Good writing, then, has nothing to do with correctness. It doesn‘t matter if the idea you are expressing is well reasoned or even factual. What does matter is that your writing engages your readers intellectually and emotionally and then motivates them to do or think what you want them to do or think. Notice I said intellectually as well as emotionally. I have Don Hauptman, a living legend in the advertising business, to thank for that additional word. After a speech I made once to a group of 300 writers, he wrote me to say that I had reiterated a common phrase he objected to: that people buy for emotional reasons. “This lie,” he says, “just invites all the leftist critics of advertising and capitalism to charge that everyone is „manipulated‟ by evildoers who exploit our emotions and irrationality. So we‟re cutting our own throats if we perpetuate the „it‟s all emotion‟ fallacy. I know you don‟t want to encourage that, any more than I do. “FYI, there‟s an old adage that expresses the point of your article another way: „Write the way you talk, if you could edit what you say.‟ DM agency panjandrum Emily Soell once said something like: „Write it square, then add the flair.‟ I‟ve found these tips useful throughout my career.” Don is absolutely correct. Not including the intellect in this discussion is incorrect and potentially harmful. It invites critics of advertising to accuse persuasive writers of pandering. And it encourages writers to believe that if they pander, they are writing well. The most successful marketers and copywriters know that good writing requires that we engage our readers on both plains simultaneously. Ezra Pound had the same theory about writing poetic images. He called them ―emotional and intellectual complexes in an instant of time.‖
Creating the Ah-Ha! Effect And that is what I mean by a compelling thought: an emotionally and intellectually engaging idea expressed clearly and succinctly so that the reader can apprehend it in a moment of time. That is what provides the ah-ha! effect. Malcolm Gladwell is an expert at this. And that is why he has become a multimillionaire writing books about arcane and academic subjects. His critics naively knock him because they argue that some of his ideas are incorrect. I made that point before: the correctness of the idea is not what makes for good writing. It is the effect it has on the intellect and the heart of the reader. If you want to be a wealthy marketer, copywriter or businessperson, you must be able to come up with compelling thoughts. You must be able to recognize ideas that are intellectually and emotionally engaging, ideas that arrest and charge up your readers and make them think, ―That‘s good! I never thought of that before!‖ How do you find intellectually and emotionally compelling ideas? In all the years I‘ve been struggling to answer this question, I‘ve found only one answer: you must read. Successful writers are all voracious readers. Their ideas don‘t spring fully formed from the thigh of Zues, they come from hours of reading – reading vertically and horizontally about the subject at hand. They read and read until they come across something that gives them theah-ha! experience. I‘d like to tell you there was an easier way. There are some well-known copywriting gurus who will tell you that you can steal good ideas from swipe files taken from successful advertisements past or present. This is horseshit, plain and simple. Stolen ideas are like luxury cars. They lose 40% of their value the moment you take them out of the showroom. The reason that my number one client is the dominant publisher in the information publishing industry is precisely because their 100+ writers have had this definition of good writing drummed into their heads. They know that they can‘t expect to write blockbuster promotions consistently without compelling ideas. And they know how to find those ideas. Ask any of them how they come up with all their great ideas and he or she will tell you: ―I read and read until I find one.‖
Where to Place the Compelling Thought The compelling thought must be placed in the lead. It cannot be lingering on page three or thirty-three. It must be up front so the reader can have his ah-ha! moment before he tosses the copy away. It is the same for writing essays or memos. Put your most compelling idea very early and your readers (prospects, clients, whatever) will be excited. If they are excited, they will read on with enthusiasm. If not, you will lose them. If you have the good fortune to discover several compelling ideas, put the best one first and let the others follow as soon as you can. Don‘t make the mistake of ―leaving the best for last.‖ You don‘t have the liberty to do that. Hit ‗em quick and hit hard with your best stuff and spend the rest of the advertisement/essay/memo proving your points. After you have put your compelling thoughts out there, then it‘s time to make supporting claims and promises and prove that each one of them is valid. You must do this because your reader is naturally skeptical. His intelligence requires him to weed out most of the advice and information he receives. If it weren‘t that way we could never get anything done. We‘d be eternally lost jumping from one idea to another. Our brains are hard wired to be skeptical of ideas – and that goes for compelling thoughts as well. The reader‘s subconscious tells him: ―You have just been seduced by an intellectually and emotionally compelling thought. Before you act on it, make sure it makes sense.‖ So this is where the good writer elaborates on his compelling thought by providing compelling proof of it. He knows he must support his ideas rationally by providing proof that they are ―true.‖ Truth, of course, comes in many shapes and sizes. And so does proof. The Three Faces of Proof There is factual proof. There is anecdotal proof. And there is social proof. Factual proof is easy to come by if your idea has been well researched. Anyone with an Internet connection can find all the factual proof he needs on most any topic if he knows how to do online research. And if you don‘t know how to do it, don‘t worry. AWAI is developing a product that will teach you.
Anecdotal proof includes stories — factual and non-factual — that support an idea by ―showing it‖ instead of ―telling it.‖ Anecdotal proof is very powerful, because it appeals so immediately to the emotions. People are not critical when they are reading a story. Their purpose is to be entertained. This gives you, as the writer, a strong advantage. Social proof refers to the influence that other people have on our opinions and behavior. As a writer, a good way to support your ideas with social proof is to use testimonials and expert endorsements.
So that‘s how you incorporate ―good thinking‖ into your writing. Now let‘s talk about the second part of my definition of good writing: clarity of expression.
Clarity of Expression By that I mean the ease with which your readers can ―get‖ your compelling thought and the proof that follows. This is a very important part of the definition. It is just as important as the compelling thought. Memorize the following sentence: The easier it is to comprehend, the more likely it is that your reader will find it to be true. There is a new science called Cognitive Fluency that supports this assertion. Among other things, it studies the effect of simple language on readers. What researchers have found is that a simpler statement has more credibility than a more complex one — even if they both mean the same thing. It appears, the scientists say, that our brains are hardwired to trust simpler (and familiar) things. New writers don‘t understand this. They operate on the theory that good writing is pretty or impressive. They strive to make their copy intellectually and emotionally impressive or even intimidating. They have been miseducated into believe that complexity is a sign of good thinking. And so they complicate their writing with complex sentences and arcane diction. This is a big mistake – a mistake that is obviously foolish if you think about it for a moment. After all, if you have gone to the trouble of coming up with a really good idea, why would you want to hide it from them with obscure words and references?
The best tool I have found to help writers keep their language clear and uncomplicated is the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. The FK (as it is known) looks at the length of your sentences, how many syllables there are in each word, and other data. The result is a score that indicates how easy the text is to read. At Early to Rise, our policy is to keep the FK under 7.5 — which means the average seventh-grader should be able to read and understand it easily. Let me give you an example of what I‘ve been talking about here. What follows is a paragraph by a seasoned financial writer. I had asked him for a brief summary of the ―big idea‖ for his next essay. Here‘s what he sent me: ―Simon Properties is making good on its promise to swallow up the minnows. It‘s buying mall owner Prime Properties for $2.3 billion and not even using up all the cash it‘s been hoarding to take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace. Simon is big and flush with cash. And it‘s doing what big bad companies should be doing… beating up their little brothers, grabbing the best deals out there… getting bigger… and capturing market share from other companies.‖
I emailed back, telling him that I could see, by reading between the lines, that he had a good idea in his mind. But he had failed to identify the core of it. He had failed to turn it into a ―big idea‖ that he could base his essay on. Here‘s what I said in my e-mail: ―You say that Simon Properties is a good buy because it is buying up smaller, cash-starved businesses. This is a sound proposition, but it‘s not a compelling idea. It‘s really just an assertion. To make it emotionally compelling, you have to make it both more universal and more unique. You have to find the idea behind your idea. ―In short, you have to find something that would make your reader sit up and take notice. You have to give him an idea — preferably in a single phrase — that he could repeat that night at a dinner party, something that would launch an interesting discussion. ―For example, you might have said, ‗There are companies — I call them Sharks — that outperform the market by three to one by eating up good profitable companies that are small and easy to ‗eat.‘ ―That is an engaging idea. The reader gets it immediately. He wants to know more. ―But to make this work, you would need to prove to your reader that, in today‘s market, Sharks are good investments. Only after you have done that will he be interested in your assertion about Simon Properties.‖
To help writers understand what I mean by a compelling ideas I ask them to write their compelling idea on top, above their copy. What I often get in reply is a full paragraph that explains the idea. When I see an entire paragraph above the copy, I know — without even reading it — that the writer hasn‘t identified a truly compelling idea. And if that paragraph contains long, complex sentences, then I know he‘s off base. Since recognizing the two key components of good writing — a ―big idea‖ and clarity of expression — I‘ve insisted that all essays or promotions given to me for review have at the top of the page a one-sentence explanation of the main idea and the FK score. If that one-sentence idea doesn‘t impress me, I send the piece back without reading it. I know the writing that I‘m being asked to review is muddled. And muddled writing is never good. If the one-sentence idea is good, then I look to another signal that I insist on: that the FK rating is posted just below the one-sentence idea. And if the FK score is above 7.5, it gets rejected too. I reject it because I have found over many years that essays and advertisements that have high FK scores don‘t get results. I used to think that was because they don‘t get read. That is certainly part of the reason. But now I understand from learning about Congnative Fluency, that it is also because they don‘t get believed. So that is the definition: Good writing is the skill of expressing compelling thoughts clearly. To come up with compelling thoughts you must read until you experience an ah-ha! moment. And then you must prove your promises and claims with clean, simple language – language that scores 7.5 or below on the FK score. This discipline has saved me lots of time and has accelerated the learning curve of every writer who has worked under my direction. I recommend it to you.
Using Daily Task Lists to Accomplish Your Goals
I didn‘t always plan my days. For most of my career, in fact, I didn‘t. I had written goals. And I referred to them regularly. My goals kept me pointed in the right direction, but I was always moving back and forth. Often for no good reason. Driving to work in the morning, I would think about my goals. That helped motivate me and often gave me specific ideas about what tasks I should accomplish that day. I‘d walk into work meaning to complete those tasks… but by the end of the day, many of them were not done. What happened? The same thing that may be happening to you right now. You sit down at your desk, and there is a pile of new mail in your inbox. You pick up the phone, and 15 messages are waiting for you. You open your computer, and find that you‘ve received 50 new e-mails since you last checked. You tell yourself that you will get to your important tasks later. Right now, you have to ―clean up‖ all these little emergencies. Before you know it, the day is over and you haven‘t taken a single step toward achieving your important goals. You make an effort to do something, but you‘re tired. Tomorrow, you tell yourself, you‘ll do better. Does that sound familiar? If so, don‘t feel bad. You‘re in good company. Most people deal with their work that way. Even people who set goals and achieve them. Over the long term, they get everything done. But on a day-to-day basis, they are constantly frustrated. Youcanbe successful without planning your days… but you will have to work a lot longer and harder. The reason? When you don‘t plan your days, you end up working for other people – not just for yourself. You feel that before you get to your own work, you should first deal with their requests.
Starting your day by clearing out your inbox, voicemail inbox, and e-mail inbox is just plain dumb. Most of what is waiting for you every morning has nothing to do with your goals and aspirations. It‘s work that other people want you to dofor them. If you want to be the captain of your soul and the master of your future, you have to be in charge of your time. And the best way to be in charge of your time is to structure your day around a task list that you, and only you, create. As I said, simply writing down my goals helped me accomplish a good deal. But my productivity quadrupled when I started managing my schedule with a daily task list. If you use the system I‘m going to recommend, I‘ll bet you see the same improvement. I have used many standard organizing systems over the years, but was never entirely satisfied with any of them. The system I use now is my own – based on the best of what I found elsewhere. At the beginning of the year, I lay out my goals for the next 12 months. I ask myself ―What do I need to achieve in January, February, etc. to keep myself on track?‖ Then, at the beginning of each month, I lay out my weekly objectives. Finally, every day, I create a very specific daily task list. Here’s how I do it… I begin each day the day before. What I mean by that is that I create my daily task list at the end of the prior day. I create Tuesday‘s task list at the end of Monday‘s workday. I create Wednesday‘s at the end of Tuesday‘s workday. I begin by reviewing the current day‘s list. I note which tasks I‘ve done and which I have failed to do. My new list – the next day‘s task list – begins with those uncompleted tasks. I then look at my weekly objectives to see if there are any other tasks that I want to add. Then I look through my inbox and decide what to do with what‘s there. I may schedule some of those items for the following day. Most of them, I schedule for later or trash or redirect to someone else. I do all this in pen on a 6‖ x 9‖ pad of lined paper. I divide the paper vertically to create columns for the tasks, for the time I estimate it will take to do each one, and for the actual time it takes me to complete it. I also create a column for tasks I will delegate to my assistant.
On most days, I end up with about 20 15-minute to one-hour tasks. Here is a typical daily list. I like doing this by hand, in pen and ink. You may prefer to do it on your computer. The point is to enjoy the process. Because longer tasks tend to be fatiguing, I seldom schedule anything that will take more than an hour. If you have a task that will take several hours, break it up into pieces and do it over a few days. It will be easier to accomplish. Plus, you will probably do a better job because you‘ll be doing it with more energy and with time to review and revise your work as you go. A typical day for me includes two or three one-hour tasks, three or four half-hour tasks, and a dozen or so 15-minute tasks. The kind of work you do may be different, but I like that balance. It gives me flexibility. I can match my energy level throughout the day to my task list. Ideally, you should get all of your important tasks and most of your less important tasks done almost every day. You want to accomplish a lot so you can achieve your long-term goals as quickly as possible. But you also want to feel good about yourself at the end of the day. You may find, as I did, that when you begin using this system you will be overzealous – scheduling more tasks than you can possibly handle. So set realistic time estimates when you write down your tasks. And double-check them at the end of the day by filling in the actual time you spent on each one. When you complete a task, scratch it off your list. One task done! On to the next one! I‘ve been doing this for years, and I still get a little burst of pleasure every time. Creating each daily task list should take you less than 15 minutes. The secret is to work from your weekly objectives – which are based on your monthly and yearly goals. This system may not work for you, but I urge you to give it a try. I think you‘ll like it.
Before your colleagues, competitors, and coworkers are even sipping their first cup of coffee, you‘ll have figured out everything you need to do that day to make you healthier, wealthier, and wiser. You‘ll know what to do, you‘ll know what your priorities are, and you‘ll already be thinking about some of them. You‘ll not have to worry about forgetting something important. And you‘ll have a strong sense of energy and excitement, confident that your day is going to be a productive one.
Heisting Hall of Fame Headlines
Old-time copywriters like yours truly enjoy a walk down Memory Lane now and then. We do it for fun, but it can be profitable, too. I‘m talking about rereading the best-known direct-marketing ads of the past. Copy written by such luminaries as Gene Schwartz, Claude Hopkins, and John E. Kennedy. It‘s fun to read through these old ads. Looking at them now — with their dated language and primitive graphics — you might think they could never work in today‘s hypercompetitive market. Yet some of them are still working. And, most of them live on as the arms and legs or blood and bones of many modern ads written by copywriters who understand their value. There are many ways to learn from these time-tested ads. One way is simply to read them — over and over again. Maybe even copy them down by hand or say them out loud. I‘m convinced that‘s the only way to understand all sorts of important but subtle things about good copy — diction, pacing, phrasing, etc. But the best way to learn from them is to analyze them from the inside out. Ask yourself: ―What is going on here beneath the surface? What are the psychological triggers that are going off in the reader‘s heart and mind as he reads this?‖
This is what I call determining the DNA of an ad. If you get the core structure right, you have a template — invisible to everyone else who looks at the same ad — of what really makes it work. So today, I want to introduce you to that kind of deep structure analysis. And I‘m going to do it by applying it to headlines — the smallest piece of the advertising puzzle, yet the most powerful. The headline you use has an enormous impact on the effectiveness of your ad. Pick the wrong headline and your response rate could drop by more than half. Select the right headline and you could double or triple response, and even create an ad which will last for decades.
The Best-Known Headline Ever Written Several years ago, Raphael Marketing compiled a list of 100 of ―the best print advertising headlines ever written.‖ As a group, these ads sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of products and services. (That would be tens of billions of dollars today.) I looked through the list this morning and thought, ―Boy, these are really good. I bet I could use some of them right now to improve my clients‘ copy!‖ I‘m not talking about copying them verbatim. A word or two or three, maybe. (And for a headline by a living writer, I wouldn‘t even do that.) But more than that is just plain dumb, because it doesn‘t work on so many levels. For one thing, it‘s cheating. And, it makes you a weaker marketer/writer. What I could do, though, is figure out what is going on beneath the surface (determine the DNA of those headlines), and then inject that into my clients‘ copy to invigorate it. With that in mind, let‘s take a look at one of the ―top 100‖ headlines. In fact, let‘s look at the headline that came in at number one. It was written in 1925 by John Caples for a correspondence course from the U.S. School of Music: They laughed when I sat down at the piano… But when I started to play! This headline instantly conveys all the key elements of a successful ad:
One One One One
strong idea desirable benefit driving emotion inevitable solution
In just 15 words, Caples tells a powerful story. You can see someone approaching a piano in a crowded room — perhaps it‘s a dinner party. You can see the look of disbelief on people‘s faces as he nears it. When he pulls back his cuffs, a twitter of laughter starts. Before his fingers touch the ivories, there is a chorus of abusive cackling. How can you not feel sorry for this guy? Surely you have experienced, sometime in your life, a similar moment of embarrassing derision. (Who hasn‘t?) Imagining this situation, you feel his need for revenge and approval — two of the deepest and strongest human desires. Now comes the second line — ―But when I started to play…‖ You can see the shock and disbelief on the faces of those who were laughing. Our hero has begun playing, and the music is flowing like wine. Men grow pale with admiration and jealousy. Women glow in appreciation. And then the thought hits you: ―Wouldn‘t it be wonderful if I could play the piano?‖ Based on Caples‘s headline alone, the reader of this ad is already half-persuaded to sign up for the course it is selling. As I suggested above, this is an astonishing amount of work to get done with 15 simple words. What’s Going on Here? One of the most important discoveries I ever made about advertising came to me years after I first read this wonderful headline. But, it could have been inspired by it. I call it the Rule of One. I said this about theRule of One:―Write about only one thing at a time. Because one good idea, clearly and convincingly presented, is better than a dozen so-so ideas strung together.‖
Caples‘s headline is a beautiful example of that. Had he taken the salad bowl approach — so popular with the whippersnappers who write copy today — it might have read as follows: Now You Can Learn to Play the Piano Quickly and Easily! After years of research, musicologist discovers the world‘s most efficient method for teaching the piano. Using this unique new program, you can master the piano in less than a year! You will amaze your friends and neighbors! Some may even be shocked at how well you can play! Plus, you can earn extra income on the weekends! This headline doesn‘t have nearly the force of the original because it has too much going on. Too many unnecessary details, too many unrelated emotions, and too many damn words! Another reason Caples‘s headline is so strong is because, as I pointed out, it tells a story. Of all the ways to get your readers emotionally involved in your copy, nothing works better and more consistently than the story lead. In the book I‘m writing with John Forde on copywriting, he has this to say about it: “I can think of a lot of people who balk at big promises. I can think of plenty more who couldn‘t care less about a bulleted list of shocking statistics. But I can‘t think of a single person who can resist a good story. Can you? Everybody loves a good story. “As a way to communicate, nothing feels more natural. “So doesn‘t it make sense that when someone says, ‗Let me tell you a story… ‘ you perk up and listen? There‘s no better way to melt resistance. Of course, if you don‘t tell the story well, you can still lose the reader. And telling the right stories well isn‘t always easy. “But get it right, and a story lead lets you sneak into the psyche sideways, like no other lead can, delivering anecdotal proof and promises… and a setup for the rest of your pitch… long before the reader even realizes what you‘re doing.‖ Caples‘s ad was an instant hit, selling thousands of correspondence courses. Many call it the most successful ad of the 20th century.
And the structure of his classic headline has been ―borrowed‖ time and again by other copywriters. You may have seen this one (thanks to AWAI Board MemberDon Hauptmanfor these examples): They grinned when the waiter spoke to me in French… But their laughter changed to amazement at my reply. Or this one: They laughed when I sent away for free color film… But now my friends are all sending away, too. Or this one, which I just saw inSmall Business OpportunitiesMagazine: They laughed at me when I started my cleaning business… But when I quit my day job… So what can the modern marketer/copywriter learn about headline writing from Caples‘s classic example? First, the Rule of One: One strong idea/emotion/benefit is better than half a dozen mediocre ones. Second, the power of the story: There is no stronger way to engage your prospect than with a simple story. Third, that adhering to the ―rules‖ of good storytelling will produce the greatest effect. That means beginning in the middle with a conflict — expressed or implicit — that affects a protagonist the reader can identify with. And offering an emotionally satisfying solution. You don‘t have to use Caples‘s words. Just borrow the deeper structure of his headline: The hero, an ordinary person like your prospect, attempts to do something extraordinary. People doubt him. He proves them wrong. There are countless ways to apply this structure. If you are selling an investment system, for example, you could tell a story about how all the experts doubted the system when it was first unveiled. If you are selling inexpensive domestic caviar, you could create a story about how a group of gastronomes ridiculed your product until they tasted it. Spend a few minutes right now jotting down notes on how you could use it in your next advertising campaign.
Many copywriters spend just as much time on their headlines as they do on the rest of their sales copy. After all, the headline is the most important part of the ad. I‘ve just revealed several secrets of writing million-dollar headlines. And, as you work your way through AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you‘ll discover even more: the seven things your headline must do — and what it should never try… the deceptively simple secret of the ―Four U‘s‖… why cleverness is not a virtue. It‘s all in there, along with hundreds of tips for supercharging the rest of your copy. At this year‘s Bootcamp, I‘ll spend ten minutes reviewing another classic headline that has been running, in one form or another, since I was a kid. We‘ll analyze it like we did this one and I‘ll give you examples of how you can ethically knock it off to make your own copy stronger. If you haven‘t booked your ticket to come to Delray Beach yet, it‘s not too late. The experience of being at a Bootcamp – learning from some of the world‘s best copy masters and getting hooked up with other copywriting students — not to mention attending the Job Fair — is without doubt the single most effective thing you can do right now to make your dream job come true.
The 10% Solution – Mastering the Lead
As a copywriter, 90% of your success depends on 10% of the copy you write. Get that 10% right, and you‘ll have a golden career. Fail to master that 10%, and you‘ll be eating ketchup sandwiches. The 10% is the 300-500 words that make up the ―lead‖ of your promotion or advertorial. In the coming months, I‘ll be teaching you everything I know about writing great leads. To begin, I‘d like to take a look at one of the most common lead types – the ―problem/solution‖ lead. In Monday‘s issue of The Golden Thread, up-and-coming copywriter Penny Thomas does a very effective job of using a problem/solution lead to engage her reader‘s interest. Let‘s see what she does, starting with the headline: How I Went From Layoff to Payoff – 3 Steps to Becoming the Copywriter You Really Want to Be By Penny Thomas, Professional Freelance Copywriter
This is a ―how to‖ headline. The ―how to‖ in this case explains how the author of the article overcame a big problem the reader of the article might be experiencing himself or – at the very least – is worried about, especially given today‘s economy. Penny does three things to add gripping power to this very classic approach: 1. She uses a rhyming phrase: ―From Layoff to Payoff.‖ Studies show that most readers respond to and remember rhyming phrases. 2. She adds some specificity to the solution: it will come in three steps. Three steps is a judicious choice for the implicit promise here. The reader is willing to read three steps. He may not be willing to read 33. 3. She deepens the promise. The standard promise would be ―six-figure copywriter.‖ She is going after another desire here, a subtler and deeper one, by broaching this promise of personal fulfillment. 4. I also like the byline. It establishes Penny as both an expert and a role model. Most of the people reading this publication, customers of AWAI, want to become professional freelance copywriters too. Now let‘s take a look at how she handles the lead: Having survived four layoffs, every day at work felt like a gamble. All I could think was, ―Will I be next?‖ It was Christmas time, and the investment banking firm I worked for decided on a fifth layoff – effectively cutting out 25% of the staff. As luck would have it, my name was on that list. Fortunately, in October – a few months before the layoff – I got a letter from AWAI in my mailbox that read,―Can You Write a Letter Like This One?‖ Initially, I didn‘t give it much thought. But once I sensed things might go south at my company, I decided to order AWAI‘s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting as an ―insurance policy.‖ In only nine sentences, Penny has done an awful lot of work here. It‘s really very impressive. What she has done is to introduce a problem/solution lead with a story. Rather than state the problem (that many employees today face uncertain futures), she creates a little story in which she is the hero with the problem. Since it is first of all a story, Penny begins in the middle of the conflict: ―Having survived four layoffs, every day at work felt like a gamble. All I could think was, ‗Will I be next?‘‖ She makes the story more visible by establishing location (an investment banking firm) and time (Christmas, 2002). She raises the stakes by making the problem worsen: the fifth layoff had just taken place.
And then, she suggests the solution: sending away for the AWAI program. That is exactly what you want to do when you use a problem/solution lead: get the reader to feel the problem as quickly as possible, and then focus on the solution. Let‘s see what Penny does next: And now that I was jobless, the freedom copywriting offered seemed a perfect fit with my love for writing. To support myself, I did a little resume writing on the side, and took various temp jobs. I studied copywriting every moment I could… my rise to success was slow but steady. By 2006, I had enough copywriting clients that I felt confident in focusing on copywriting full-time. What‘s more, now I‘ve achieved the goal I set for myself at last year‘s Bootcamp. To return a year later as a ―Wall of Famer‖! In explaining the solution, Penny discloses that her progress was ―slow but steady,‖ and yet it doesn‘t seem that way to the reader. Because she was sparse on those details, the reader feels like Penny‘s writing success came very quickly – which is just what the reader wants. Let‘s continue: Much of my success comes from what I call ―WSM.‖ It‘s a system I use to make sure I‘m always using my time to do the things that guarantee I‘ll achieve the copywriting goals I‘ve set for myself. Now Penny is doing something else that is rather clever. Now that the reader understands the solution to the problem, he might put the article aside, feeling that he knows what is going to follow. So she creates a little secret by referring to the ―WSM‖ system – the secret she used to succeed. A secret, she says, that is so good she would ―guarantee‖ that it will work for the reader. By now the reader is fairly well hooked. He wants to read on to find out exactly how Penny achieved the success she has. Thus, the article continues: Here‘s what it stands for, and how it can help you achieve the writer‘s life: W = Write You‘re not a copywriter unless you write copy every day. Writing is how you actually gain the skills and find your ―voice.‖ Don't get caught up in the easy mistake of wanting to learn it all and never finding the time to write. If you don‘t
have any clients to write for, write spec assignments, re-write any one of AWAI‘s promos, or write an article you could submit to a potential publisher or use as a self-marketing piece. S = Study In addition to writing, you constantly need to be learning and sharpening your skills. And that doesn‘t mean only studying copywriting. Read books on marketing to give you a deep understanding of how this business works as a whole. The more marketing you know, the better copywriter you‘ll be… and the more valuable you‘ll be to every potential client that comes your way. M = Market As soon as you feel competent at writing copy, market yourself! It‘s the only way you‘ll land paying assignments. And if you‘re feeling a little timid about ―being a copywriter,‖ simply fake it till you make it. Although cliché, there‘s a profound truth in it. To market yourself, write a self-promotion selling yourself and send it to companies you‘d like to write for. When I started out, I marketed myself to small, local companies. As my skills grew, I went to my local library, and got a copy of Direct Marketing Market Place– a reference book listing companies who use direct mail. Then I picked out a few companies and sent them a promo selling my services. In giving the reader an explanation of the ―WSM‖ system, Penny is providing a benefit, one that many readers will feel emotionally obliged to reciprocate. And she adds to that by providing another benefit: she tells the reader how to solve a related problem (an objection) he might be having. And finally she ends by repeating the original promise – the solution to the problem: Once you follow WSM, you‘ll be living the writer‘s life before you know it. It worked for me…See you at Bootcamp! Penny demonstrates an advanced knowledge of how to use the problem/solution lead. It‘s not surprising that the article got a lot of positive feedback and some Bootcamp sign-ups.
[Ed. Note: Be there when Michael Masterson and Penny Thomas continue this conversation at Bootcamp next month.See the latest agenda and claim one of the few remaining spots at this life-changing event…]
How Long Should a Sales Letter Be?
Sales letters – how long should they be? In this age of multitasking and the Internet, isn‘t it more sensible for marketers to send short ones to prospective customers? That‘s the question posed by Connie Prin, an AWAIer from Grand Rapids, MI. “As a decently educated busy parent and community volunteer trying to build a new career, I cannot, do not, and would not invest the amount of time in reading sales letters that often come to resemble written „infomercials,‟ whether via Internet or direct mail. Only for this copywriting program do I suffer through as many as I do. MORE and more people must share this same perspective in dealing with increasing competition for our attention in this era of the „information availability‟ explosion. “Even Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, whose writing you featured a while back in ETR, advocates nixing newspapers and uninvited e-mail completely in order to take control of productively scheduling your time. “Wouldn‘t a more effective style of copywriting concise the sales message to a page or two? Unless your intention is that more people base a letter‘s credibility (and thus, their order) on the amount of content rather than actually having to read the whole thing. “My gut tells me in order for people to read through them, effective letters will have to be shortened in the overall picture. You and your successful team know far more than I - but I can‘t be that wrong about this… or can I?‖ The answer, dear Connie, in a word, is yes, you are wrong. At least when it comes to want-to-know information products. Let me explain.
There are two kinds of information products that can be sold by mail (posted mail or e-mail): need-to-know products and want-to-know products. The need-toknow products would include information about food, clothing, fertilizer (for gardeners), auto parts (for mechanics), labor law case analyses (for labor law lawyers), etc. The want-to-know products would include just about everything Early to Rise sells: how-to information on becoming healthier, wealthier and wiser. Do you see the difference? Need-to-know products don‘t need long copy because the customer needs them. In order to sell a need-to-know product, the copywriter has to do two things: establish the product‘s USP and make the offer irresistible. You can do those two things relatively quickly – usually in two pages or less. That‘s why need-to-know products are so often sold by catalog and by space ads – two direct-marketing methods that don‘t give the copywriter much room. To sell want-to-know products, you need more length. That‘s because you have to do something you don‘t have to do with need-to-know products: you have to stir up a desire for the product where none existed. People don‘t actually need another book, newsletter, or CD collection on negotiating or investing. But when a good copywriter gets finished talking to them (via a long sales letter) they think they do. It‘s counterintuitive, but it‘s true: When it comes to want-to-know products, longer letters usually work better than shorter ones. That has always been true and it‘s still true today – even with e-mail sales letters. The feeling you have is based on logic and your own experience as a consumer. You are very busy. You don‘t have time to read long letters. You throw most of them in the trash or delete them. Like Tim Ferris, you are annoyed by all this long copy. So if you hate long copy so much, doesn‘t everybody? Well, yes! Everybody hates long copy. At least that‘s what everybody says. But the truth is that though we think we don‘t like long copy, we respond to it. If you have bought any want-to-know products in the past, Connie, you probably responded to a long sales letter – even though you don‘t like them. (AWAI‘s Retire This Year promo is 32 pages!) I used to do focus groups with my clients‘ customers. I would ask those people which they preferred: short sales letters or longer ones. They all said they
preferred shorter sales letters. Yet they had all become our customers by responding to the longer ones my clients were sending out! I have personally overseen at least a hundred long copy vs. shorter copy tests. When the leads were the same, the long copy always did better. I had Jason Holland, my research assistant, contact three of the top copywriters working today and ask them, ―How long was your best-selling sales letter?‖ John Forde said: “My most successful promo this year, measured in subscriptions sold, clocked in at 32 pages. And this, by the way, is a promo I actually wrote seven years ago and have been revising and updating ever since. It‟s added thousands of readers to a resource-investing newsletter, and it‟s made me a pile of cash. I have a 24-pager that‟s done about $1.3 million since the start of 2008. This one, I probably could have written shorter, but not by much.” Mike Palmer said: “The best package I wrote in the past year was a 52-page bookalog, which translates to at least a 25-page letter. You know, I hear this all the time from new copywriters - „Why can‟t we write shorter copy?‟ One important reason, I tell them, is because good copy must „startle‟ your reader with an idea he‟s never heard before. That‟s the only way to have a breakthrough promotion. And an idea that truly startles your reader takes a lot of explaining… proof… answering objections. You simply need a lot of space to get your point across.” Paul Hollingshead said: “My best mailing recently was a financial package that ran about 22 pages. In fact, when I look back at most of the financial packages I‟ve written, they typically fall within the 20- to 24-page range. The main reason, I think, is because that‟s how long it takes to get in all the needed elements of a strong financial sales letter - your promise, your credibility, the track record, the offer, bonuses, and whatnot. Also, I tend to write in a more conversational „chatty‟ tone, which can lengthen a letter. And I make an effort to keep paragraphs very short so there‟s a lot of „white space‟ in my copy for easier reading.” You see, direct-response marketing is not about fitting your sales pitch into the small amount of space most people will read. It‘s about finding the one person in a hundred who will give you the time you need to sell him.
Have you ever walked down a city street and seen people canvassing for some charitable, political, or religious cause? What do they do? They say something – a short, catchy sentence - to get you to stop and listen to their pitch. In most cases – perhaps 99 out of a hundred – passersby won‘t give them the time they need to make the sale. They listen for a few seconds and then shake their heads and go on. But those canvassers are pros. They don‘t worry about the people who don‘t have time for them. They focus on the ones who do stop and listen, because those are their prime prospects. Imagine if, instead, they tried to fit their entire sales pitch into the 10 or 15 seconds they could get by following a prospect partway down the block. What chance would that strategy have? It all boils down to this fact: the Internet has changed the world, but it has not changed human psychology. If you are going to convince someone that he needs something that he really doesn‘t need – you need time to do it. So, Connie, don‘t resist this part of the copywriting program. Go with it. Later, after you‘ve proven yourself as a master of long copy, you can try shorter copy and see if it works. By the way, you should know that copywriters who can write long copy (i.e., want-to-know copywriters) make about twice or three times the money that need-to-know copywriters make. Keep that in mind as you go through the AWAI program.
“Romance That Lasts a Lifetime”
“Many marketing experts like to compare business to war. ―I don‘t like the martial metaphor, because it views the customer as the enemy – as someone to be tricked or bullied into submission. As a short-term strategy, this can sometimes seem to make sense. And the direct-response universe abounds in promotional copy that badgers, beats, or bullshits the customer into making a purchase. Smart marketers and copywriters avoid this sort of approach, because they know that, in the long run, it is destructive and self-defeating. ―Business should not be like war. It should be like love. And not a steamy, one-night-stand kind of love, but a mutually beneficial, steadily improving romance that lasts a lifetime.‖ – Michael Masterson
Your “Super-Sized” Goal for 2011
Last year at this time, I told you about one New Year‘s resolution I had made: to write a poem a day for 365 days. I got the idea from a playwright who had done something similar. She wrote a play every day for a year. I liked the boldness of that ambition. It seemed to me that it was the kind of goal that could change a life. It did for that playwright. One of the plays she wrote made her famous. I have written poetry on and off my whole life, but never seriously. Maybe, I thought, I could improve my skills and even write some good poems this way. There were no guarantees, but I was optimistic that something good would come of it. When I revealed my personal goal to AWAI members last year, I recommended that they set an equally ambitious goal for themselves related to copywriting. Read a new promotion every day, I suggested. Or write one. Many people who read that article in The Golden Thread probably thought I was dreaming. ―What‘s the point of making a resolution you can‘t possibly keep,‖ one person wrote me. I was concerned – maybe even a little afraid – that the objective was too grandiose. And that I wouldn‘t follow through. But I was also hopeful. The cleverness of the idea was the sheer size of it. By setting a super-sized career goal, I thought one could break through a lifetime of failed smaller objectives. An Extra-Extra-Extra-Large New Year‘s resolution might
be big enough to crash through whatever psychological barriers were holding one back. That was the idea. And guess what? It worked for me. I did write 365 poems in 365 days. I skipped a few days when I was busy traveling, but I made up for them when I had spare time. Many of the poems I wrote were only a few lines. And many weren‘t very good. But at the end of the year, I had more than 100 poems that were – according to a few editors I sent them to – good enough to publish. So that‘s what I‘m working on now: publishing them in literary journals and collecting them for my first book of poetry. It feels good to have accomplished this goal. It feels great to have improved my skills as a poet. This brings us back to you. Did you read that article last year? Did you set any similar goals related to your career as a copywriter? If so, we would really like to hear about it. We‘d like to know, in particular, how tough it was, how you coped with whatever setbacks you encountered, and what you gained from the experience. If you didn‘t make a gargantuan resolution last year, consider doing it now for next year. You know how quickly time flies. And with every passing year, it will move more quickly. Seize the day, as they say. Capture the moment. Make 2008 your year for taking a quantum leap forward. To remind you, here is what I suggested last year: Set some unthinkably big task for yourself that, when completed at the end of the year, will have made you a much stronger and more highly compensated writer. And my specific suggestion: Write one effective mini-advertisement per day.
If you‘d like to take on that goal, here‘s how you can do it in a way that might also dramatically increase your income:
1. Get on the mailing lists (snail mail and Internet) of six or eight directmarketing businesses you‘d like to work for. (Long-term AWAI members should have already done this.) 2. Build a ―swipe file‖ (that is, a borrower‘s library) of ads that these companies are currently using. 3. Every day, before you do any other work, take out one of the ads from your swipe file and study it. Spend 15 to 30 minutes figuring out what the copywriter is attempting to do, evaluating how well he‘s doing it, and identifying other approaches that might work equally well or even better. 4. Pick one of those alternate approaches and make that your daily assignment. 5. Spend the next 30 to 45 minutes writing and editing a little ad based on the theme you‘ve chosen. 6. When you are done, file the completed mini-ad in a large envelope addressed to the CEO or marketing director of the company it applies to. 7. Once a month, send out all those envelopes (each of which will contain one or several samples of your work). Include a letter that briefly explains who you are and why you are sending them this free copy. The letter should be some version of: ―I admire your business and hoped that, if you saw what I could do, you might have a spot for me on your freelance rotation.‖ Don‘t spend any more than 60 minutes a day completing this task. In the beginning, you will find that you will be able to write only a limited number of words. But as the weeks pass, you will see your speed improve dramatically. You‘ll almost certainly double the speed at which you write. You may quadruple or quintuple it. And you‘ll also see that the quality of your writing will improve – which may surprise you, considering how much faster you are getting. You will have sharper, more tangible ideas. Your language will be crisper and cleaner. The trick is to focus on quality, not quantity. So your daily objective will be to come up with just one good marketing idea – and then, when you have it, to write it as simply and powerfully as possible.
If you don‘t want to do this every single day of the year, make it a workday goal … which would mean you‘d be writing about 250 little ads this year and sending them out to potential clients. That goal is plenty big. And it allows you two days a week to do something else first thing in the morning. In addition to this ―write one ad a day in 2008‖ idea, here are some other ―unthinkably‖ big goals to consider: Identifying your goal is the first step. As soon as you do that … and I hope you do it today … write it down and make it happen. Let Michael Masterson take you by the hand and transform you into a six-figure copywriter as he has done for thousands of others. Find out more about the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. Learn a marketing secret a day. Scan an educational book a day. Contact a potential client a day. Call/write a friend a day. Practice a self-promotional speech a day.
How to Improve the Clarity of Your Writing
How to Consistently Score 8.5 or Below on the Flesch-Kincaid Grading Scale In most areas of life, getting high grades means you are doing well. When it comes to writing, however, the most popular grading system works inversely. The Flesch-Kincaid (FK) scale is a statistical program designed to measure simplicity of expression. Simplicity of expression, some publishers believe, is an important quality of good writing. I am a big proponent of simplicity of expression. And I‘ve been recommending the FK to fellow writers and publishing clients for many years as a useful tool to achieve simplicity.Early to Riserequires its written submissions to be graded on the FK scale. And Stansberry & Associates uses it for all its promotional copy.
The FK program calculates the average number of words per sentence, the average number of syllables per sentence, and the frequency of passive and complex constructions. Most magazine and newspaper writing falls between grade levels 8.0 and 12.0. Academic and scientific text is generally in the 10.0 to 14.0 range. Dialog tends to be graded at the 4.0 to 6.0 levels. The text you have been reading in this article so far, for example, has an FK score of 10.2. A grade level close to 11 is considered moderately difficult to understand. Some writers feel ―moderately difficult‖ is perfectly okay. But I don‘t want my writing to be moderately difficult. I want it to be easy to understand. An FK score of 7.0 to 8.5 is my goal. But does that make any sense? Is it reasonable to want to achieve a low FK grade for every essay I write? Shouldn‘t some essays – those that express more complex thoughts – have higher FK grades? Can you really bring down the FK score without also bringing down the quality of the copy? The short answer is yes. Yes, you can get your FK scores into the 7.0 to 8.5 range even if your copy is full of big, beautiful ideas. Not only will your ideas be preserved, they might even be improved by the simplicity. Let me prove it to you. Let me rewrite this article using a few of the tricks I‘ve learned about good writing. Let‘s see if I can get it down to 8.5 or below. Are you ready? Here goes: Take Two! How to Consistently Score 8.5 or Below on the Flesch-Kincaid Grading Scale Steve Sjuggerud‘s investment newsletter,True Wealth, has 70,000 subscribers – one of the highest circulations in the industry. It also has one of the highest renewal rates at more than 75%. Steve‘s e-zine gets super-high open rates. And when he publishes a new report, his readers buy it in droves. By every standard of measurement, Steve is a very successful writer. What‘s his secret? At a writing seminar in France last summer, he explained it: ―When I started writing, Michael told me I had to learn to write more simply. He told me that successful writers have two skills: coming up with good ideas and expressing them clearly. I agreed with him about good ideas.
―But I wasn‘t sure that writing simply is that important. So I conducted a secret study. I scanned all of Agora‘s writers and rated them on the grading scale Michael recommended. What I discovered surprised me. There was a direct relationship between simplicity and success. The writers who had the lowest Flesch-Kincaid scores had the highest renewal rates. ―In fact, the three most successful writers all had the lowest FK grades. I decided Michael was right. I started using the program to simplify my writing. It was difficult. But gradually it became easy, almost automatic. I am convinced that the reasonTrue Wealthhas 70,000 readers today is because it is so easy to read.‖ Steve is not the only successful writer who believes in simplicity. Michael Palmer, who heads up Agora‘s most successful copywriting team, insists that all his writers keep their FK scores below 8.0. That‘s been the standard for The Golden Thread and Early to Rise recently, and it‘s becoming a standard throughout Agora. Simplicity of expression is not the most important quality of good writing. Content ranks first. If you want to be a good writer, the most important thing to do is present your reader with good thinking. If your thoughts have quality, your writing will too. But if you express your good thoughts in a complex or clumsy way, you make it difficult for your readers to grasp them. Good ideas have the greatest impact when they are expressed simply and directly. A good thought, like a beautiful woman, should not be cloaked in a bundle of rags. The best tool I‘ve found to measure simplicity is the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale. Flesch-Kincaid calculates the average number of words per sentence, the average number of syllables per sentence, and the frequency of passive and complex constructions. Most magazine and newspaper writing falls between grade levels 8.0 and 12.0. Academic and scientific text is generally in the 10.0 to 14.0 range. Dialog tends to be graded at the 4 to 6 levels. The text you have been reading so far in this rewritten article, for example, achieves a grade of 7.8. Does that surprise you?
In less than 10 minutes, I was able to reduce my score from 10.2 to 7.8. You‘ve just read what I did. None of the details were sacrificed. Nor was the main idea. In fact, my second effort is stronger. Don‘t you think? I‘ve had lots of conversations with writers about the FK program. Many of them went as follows: Self-Important Writer: Why should I get my writing below 8.5? That‘s not even high school level. Me: The grade level has nothing to do with academic reading levels. That‘s a popular myth. Self-Important Writer: Still, I don‘t want to dumb-down my writing. I don‘t want to write for people who are too dumb to understand me. Me: It‘s not a question of dumb. It‘s a question of efficiency. If you write simply, then all your readers, smart and dumb, can grasp your ideas more easily. Self-Important Writer: Let them work to understand me. My thoughts are worth it. Me(thinking): Maybe. Or maybe your thoughts are not so good. And you want to disguise them with complicated and confusing writing. I do believe that. When the thinking is weak, the writer senses it. Rather than expose its weakness to the light of clarity, he obfuscates it with clumsy expressions. By the way, the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of this rewritten article is now 6.6. Is that amazing? Would you like to know how I did it? My Top Techniques for Scoring 8.5 or Below 1. The most effective way to keep your writing good and simple is to write about one – and only one – big idea at a time. Figure out exactly what you want to say. Stick to that and eliminate other, unrelated ideas, even if you think they are interesting. 2. Whenever appropriate, introduce that idea with a story. Stories have two advantages. First, they are concrete, not abstract. That means they are usually told with simple, active sentences. Such sentences get low scores on the FK scale. They are quickly read and easily comprehended.
The second advantage is that stories involve readers emotionally. They make the reader care about the idea. In my first effort at writing this piece, I started academically, with an abstraction. Read it again and you will see how abstract it seems. Unless you already had a special knowledge of or interest in Flesch-Kincaid, you probably wouldn‘t want to read past the first paragraph. In rewriting it, I began by introducing Steve Sjuggerud as a successful writer and telling his story. That made a big difference in the sentences I used. It brought the score down from 10.2 to 7.8. 3. By sticking to one idea, it is much easier to avoid complex sentences. Complex sentences are those that are linked by coordinating conjunctions, such as since, whereas, inasmuch as, notwithstanding, therefore, etc. Complex sentences are not always bad, but they are often unnecessary. When your thinking is unclear, they are more likely to appear. 4. By starting with a story, I got my writing in the active voice. Active sentences (―John kicked the ball.‖) score lower than passive sentences (―The ball was kicked by John.‖) They are easier to understand. And they carry more emotional power.
5. To get my score even lower, I used my secret Kincaid crusher – a technique I only recently discovered but will happily share with you. I dealt with possible objections to my thesis through dialog. Dialog, I‘ve found, generally has a very low FK grade. If it is natural – i.e., the kind of speech that ordinary people engage in – it will grade at 4.0 to 6.0. Using dialog is not just a trick to fool the system. Like storytelling, it makes an idea come to life in an emotionally compelling way. There are certainly other secrets to be discovered. But if you employ any or all of these five, you will see a quick and dramatic reduction in your FK grade. Getting your grade down means bringing the clarity of your writing up. Despite what the self-important writers say, that‘s a good thing. My final FK score for this entire rewritten article: 6.7
How to Fail Forward – to Ensure Success
I recently received the following email … Dear Mr. Masterson: My name is Carol and I am enrolled in your Advanced Program for SixFigure Copywriting. I am overwhelmed at this point. I thought I was doing well with each assignment, but now that I have my letter pretty much in order and complete, I find myself reading and re-reading – which leads to writing and re-writing. I just feel like I can‟t get it together anymore. Am I the only one who is overwhelmed or do others get this way? I keep reading and re-reading information in the lessons and I get more confused. What can I do? Do you have a suggestion for me? I appreciate any thoughts you can give me. Again, thank you. Carol Snyder Yuma, AZ
Here‘s my advice for Carol – and anyone else who may be feeling the same way … First, I can‘t say the AWAI copywriting program is mine. It was originally based on my observations about good copy. But it has been consistently improved since then to include the insights and specific copywriting techniques of many of today‘s most successful Master Copywriters, including Bill Bonner, Bob Bly, Paul Hollingshead, Don Mahoney, John Forde, Clayton Makepeace, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jennifer Stevens and others. Carol‘s problem is not uncommon. At last year‘s Bootcamp, I had a conversation with a young man who was dealing with the same issues. He called himself a ―perfectionist.‖ I told him what I‘m going to tell you now. When you‘re writing copy, you can‘t know what perfect is until you test it in the marketplace. Copywriter A may believe his copy is better than Copywriter B‘s, but if the latter outpulls the former, then copy B is better.
Direct-response copywriting isnota subjective arena. It‘s like sports. The team with the most points at the end of the game is the better team. When you find yourself rewriting and re-editing your copy constantly, it is because of one of three things: You have the idea that there is some ideal, perfect copy out there that you can achieve by refining your copy You are writing copy before you have identified your prospect‘s core complex. You lack self-confidence and are afraid to subject your writing to criticism. Do any of these reasons seem relevant to you? If so, here‘s what to do about them: 1. Banish the idea that you can create perfect copy. There is no such thing as ―perfect copy.‖ There is only copy that works well and copy that works less well. The marketplace is the judge of copy, not you and not anyone else you know – not even your mentor. The closest approximation you can get to the market is by doing a peer review (properly) with five or six people. Create a network or support group of fellow copywriters and subject your leads to peer reviews as soon as they are pretty good. Don‘t wait for them to be perfect! The great thing about peer reviews is that if the copy rates a 2.8 or above on a scale of 1 to 4, you can usually bump it up a little in less than half an hour – in other words, take it from good to very good. Remember, very good is good enough to mail. Nobody – no matter how experienced – can predict how well very good copy will perform. Good marketers know this. They know that their job is to get good copy up to very good and then test that very good copy as soon as possible.
2. Discover your prospect’s deep core complex. Sometimes you end up rewriting copy a lot because deep down you know the copy is mediocre. Rather than wasting a lot of time on revisions, subject it to a peer review after you‘ve completed the first draft.
If it scores low – below 2.7, say – then go back to your product and customer research and keep digging until you come up with a new and more exciting core complex. Remember, the core complex is a single, subtle feeling combined with a single tipping-point idea that, together, create an intellectual/emotional impulse to buy. 3. Often, rewriting is simply a way to avoid criticism. You don‘t want to find out what you secretly suspect: that your writing isn‘t so good. Nobody does. If you feel that way, consider this: Every Master Copywriter began as an incompetent copywriter. To become masterful at any skill, you have to be willing to endure the reality of being incompetent … and then the reality of being simply competent when you want to be better. You have to put in the time. With good instruction and mentorship, you can achieve competence in about 500 to 600 hours and mastery in 2,500 to 3,000 hours. And if you use the AWAI peer review system, you will avoid unnecessary and hurtful negative criticism and you will learn faster. I strongly recommend you master that. In short – and as odd as it sounds – you should take a ―ready … fire … aim‖ approach to your copy. Get it ready. But don‘t spend too much time aiming it. After you fire, you can see where the bullet hits and make any necessary adjustments. Fail forward! It‘s the fastest way to succeed. Did you miss the AWAI Fast Track to Success Bootcamp last year? Don‘t despair. Now you can still learn from some of the best copywriters in the business for a fraction of the cost with the AWAI Fast Track to Success Bootcamp Homestudy. Find out more here.
2 Essential Keys to Surpassing the Best in Your Field
“It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don‘t worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond.‖ – David Joseph Schwartz When I rewrote the lead for a promotion that GX – a successful copywriter – had been paid to write for one of my clients, I felt good about my revision. The sales copy GX had sent in was standard, run-of-the-mill professional palaver. My take on it felt fresh and strong. It was better. But when I sent it back to my client, I worried that GX might not like that I had changed it so much. Perhaps he would feel slighted and reject it. We couldn‘t force him to use my copy. If he insisted on using his original copy, my client would be in an awkward position. She could risk offending a potentially good source of future copy by insisting on using my version. Or she could mail what we both believed was weaker copy and suffer the economic consequences. Luckily, she didn‘t have to make that choice. After getting my new lead with suggestions on how to finish out the rest of the package, GX wrote: “I read it and thought: ‗Why couldn‘t I write it like that?‘ But then I realized that‘s why MM‘s so successful. I‘m honored that he took the time to do that. I appreciate the effort. My challenge now is to make the rest as strong as MM‘s contribution … to make us all proud.‖ This story has two morals. The first is about ego and its opposite – humility. The greatest challenges we face in life are always obstacles that reside inside of us. When it comes to learning complicated skills like writing (copywriting, editorial writing, writing for blogs, ezines, books, etc.), the one thing that will keep you from learning quickly is hubris.
Hubris is Aristotle‘s term for excessive, blinding pride. It is the sin that foiled many great tragic heroes, from Oedipus to King Lear to Scarface. When writers believe – or desperately want to believe (which is sometimes worse) – that their writing is above reproach, theycannotpossibly get better. And what is true for writers is equally true for musicians, tennis players, salsa dancers, Sumo wrestlers, and skateboarders. Those who are willing to say ―I can do better‖ – do better. Those who say ―I am the greatest‖ soon take a fall. What you want in your career is the confidence that follows accomplishment, not the pride that precedes a fall. When I saw the note GX wrote, I was mildly flattered by the compliment. But I was really happy by his willingness to think ―This copy is better. I‘d like to do that.‖ So that‘s the first lesson: No matter how good you are at doing what you do, someone out there can always teach you something. Think about your strongest skill, the talent or capability you have that is most important to your goals and objectives. Now ask: ―Am I confident in my skillfulness? Am I willing to acknowledge that there are people in my universe who are better than I am?‖ If you can confidently accept the limitations of your strongest skill, there is no limit to how far you can develop it. And now we come to the second lesson: The only good way to improve a skill is to practice it. Reading about it is certainly helpful. Talking about it may work too. But all the talking and thinking in the world won‘t do nearly as much as regular, focused practice. And that‘s what GX should know about his future as a copywriter. If he continues to practice writing by learning from his mistakes and borrowing from the skillfulness of others, then the likelihood that he will be great one day will be better than 99 percent. I am certain of that.
Why? Because I‘ve seen it happen. I have worked with more than a dozen copywriters over the years who have moved from bad to pretty good(and GX is pretty good) … and then from pretty good to very good… and then from very good to better than the best. All it takes is practice. With practice and a willingness to keep learning, GX will almost certainly surpass the best copywriters in the business. It is just a matter of time. He should think of himself as hurling balls at a target in one of those carnival booths. Every hour he spends practicing is another ball in the hole. More balls, more progress. It‘s as simple as that. Human beings are designed to get better through practice. Everything we ever learn to do, from walking to talking to writing concertos, is done better through practice. Practice makes our fingers move faster, our hearts beat stronger, our brains think smarter. Practice is everything. What do Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods say when they talk about their careers? It‘s not that they were gifted with extraordinary natural talent. It‘s that they work harder than their competitors. Self-improvement is not a fad. It is the essential design of the human animal. And here‘s a final thought on the matter. Nothing in nature stays the same. If you are not getting better, then you are surely getting worse. That is how I feel about submission wrestling. I don‘t worry that I have no natural talent for it. I don‘t sweat the fact that I‘m 56 years old and most of the guys I wrestle are less than half my age. I don‘t worry about my past mistakes or my present ineptitude. I just keep working at it. I know for sure that if I keep at it, I‘ll keep getting better. So far, that has proven to be true. When I started actively training in Jiu Jitsu about five years ago, I wasn‘t very good at all. Most of the guys I trained with were much better. Some of them still are. But I have caught up to others. And even surpassed a few. What did I do? Nothing but acknowledge that I had room to grow … and keep practicing. If you ever feel that you are not as good as you want to be, remember this: It is good that you accept your limits. If you felt any other way, it would be hard to get better.
Humility is a strength to cultivate. Confidence will come when you deserve it. Avoid boastfulness and pride, because they will slow you down. And most important: Practice with conscious attention, and eventually you will surpass even those you most admire. Learn copywriting secrets from the masters with the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
Why This Headline Works
One of the oldest ideas about headlines is that they should be short – fewer than eight words. So let's take a look at some of the super-successful direct-mail promotions published in AWAI's "Hall of Fame" to see how this theory holds up: Trout Spoken Here. (Also Bass. Salmon. And Bonefish.) What Never To Eat On An Airplane Profit With The Insiders Without Breaking A Law Read This Or Go Broke! Burn Disease Out Of Your Body A Rare Opportunity To Turn $5,000 Into $3.52 Million Tax Saving Information Most IRS Agents Don't Have Fearless Conversation! The Lazy Man's Way To Riches Endangered Antidotes 11 Medical Breakthroughs That Will Rock The World The Plague Of The Black Debt When it's all said and done, 26 headlines in the "Hall of Fame" contain no more than eight words.
And if you stroll through Carl Galletti's "2001 Greatest Headlines Ever Written," you'll find that about 60% of the headlines contain eight words or less. Most tellingly for me, however, is this: Of all the direct-response promotions that have worked well for my clients, the lion's share had short headlines: Fed Up? Unlock Wall Street's Secret Logic! The Coming Oil War! Not Just For Millionaires Any More The Greatest Opportunity Of Our Times So what can we conclude from all this? How about this: Although there are plenty of exceptions, it seems clear that when it comes to headlines brevity is a virtue. What's so good about brevity? Let's start with the obvious. Short headlines are easy to scan. A headline of five or six words, printed boldly on top of a letter or across an envelope, cannot be missed. Its power to attract the eye is almost 100%. Contrast that to a headline that is almost a paragraph long. It may very well "work," but only after a significant number of prospects have dumped it in the trash basket because they (a) recognized it as advertising and (b) made an instant decision that they didn't have 15 or 20 seconds to read it. That never happens to a short headline. However, getting your headline read doesn't guarantee success. Unless your headline says something that links with your promotion's Big Idea, is compelling, and implies a benefit, it will end up in the same trash basket – just a second or so later. Great headlines – breakthrough headlines – are "tipping-point" phenomena. They encapsulate the cutting-edge thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that a given group of people feel about a specific thing. When, for example, Lee Euler wrote his blockbuster headline for Strategic Investment, "The Plague Of The Black Debt," he correctly identified what was, at the time, a major investment anxiety. The black-plague metaphor was just the
thing, it turned out, to quickly summarize a complex and powerful fear about U.S. debt and the financial markets. The importance of limiting the length of your main headline doesn't mean you have to scrap longer copy as part of your headline. If your main headline grabs your prospect's attention in 5 to 8 words, you can build on your prospect's interest and curiosity with strong, compelling deck copy – copy that comes between the main headline and "Dear Friend." To be successful, deck copy needs to be as powerful and compelling as any headline component. If it doesn't build on the excitement of the main headline, you have condemned the promotion. Learn all the secrets of writing breakthrough packages with the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting
How to Become What You Want to Be
"If you want to be a writer, you have to write." I was 16 years old when my father said those kind-and-cruel words to me. I never forgot them. The first time I can remember wanting to be a writer, I was 11 or 12 years old. Back then, I had no idea that there was such a thing as copywriting – the kind of writing that would eventually make me a very rich man. I just wanted to be a writer. Any sort of writer. I'd written a poem for Sister Mary Something at school. My rhyming quatrain (AABB) was titled, pretentiously, "How Do I Know the World Is Real?" I was at the kitchen table when my father started reading it over my shoulder. I felt anxious. My father was a credentialed writer, an award-winning playwright, a Shakespearean scholar, and a teacher of literature, including poetry.
I'd seen him, on Saturday mornings, hunched over student essays, muttering and occasionally reading out loud passages to my mother that sounded perfectly good to me but elicited derisive laughter from them. My father understood the secret-to-me clues of good writing. I didn't feel at all comfortable having my fragile young poem exposed to the awesome danger of his critical mind. So there I sat, hoping he would go away. But he didn't. I felt his hand on my shoulder, gentle and warm. "You may have a talent for writing," he said. I wrote a lot of things in the months that followed, and began to think of myself as a writer. I liked that feeling. But soon other interests – touch football, the Junior Police Club, girls – crowded themselves into my life. Gradually, I wrote less and less. I still yearned to be a writer and so I began to feel guilty about not writing. To assuage my guilt, I promised myself that my other activities were "life experience," and that I needed life experience to become the good writer I wanted to be. In developing this excuse for not writing, I was building a structure of selfdeception that many people live inside when they abandon their dreams. From the outside, it looks like you are doing nothing. But from the inside, you know that you are in the process of becoming, which, you convince yourself, is the next best thing to being. That was the shape of my delusion when my father said, "If you want to be a writer, you have to write. A writer is someone who writes." So many people live their lives failing to become what they want to be because they can't find the time to get started. How many times have you heard someone say that, one day, they will do what they always wanted to do – travel the world or paint paintings or read the classics? And when you hear sentiments like those, what do you feel? Happy because you are confident that one day they will accomplish their long-held goal? Or sort of sad for them because you are pretty sure they never will?
And what about you? How does this apply to your goal of becoming a successful copywriter? I give aspiring copywriters the same advice my father gave me. "Copywriters write copy," I tell them. And by that, I'm saying two things: You lose the right to call yourself a copywriter when you stop writing copy. You can regain the title the moment you start writing copy again. If you spend a while ruminating on this, you may find it both disturbing and liberating. Back when I was 16 and deluding myself about becoming a writer, my father's advice was disturbing. I wanted him to say that the way to become a writer was to read books about writing and then take courses on writing and then perhaps become an apprentice to a writer and then begin writing little bits here and there. And that, finally, after 3 or 10 years of education, preparation, and qualification, I would somehow automatically be a writer. But as long as I was studying writing or preparing myself to be a writer – and yet not actually writing – I wasn't a writer. It was as simple as that. Lots of people feel that they can keep their dreams alive and derive some of the ego satisfaction they hope their dreams will give them simply by living in a state of becoming. "I am not yet the person I want to become, but so long as I continue to express a wish to become that person, I keep that possibility alive and deserve credit for doing so." To become a copywriter, the first thing you have to do is refuse to accept any psychological credit for wanting to be one. After the initial disappointment of giving up the delusion that becoming is as good as being, you'll have no choice but to jump over the becoming stage and simply be. You do that by writing copy. Every day. The easiest way to become something special is also the fastest: Just start doing it. Don't wait for the "right" time. Don't worry about not being qualified. And don't worry about getting paid for it. Just start doing it. You want to become a musician? Play that piano. You want to become a basketball player? Shoot those hoops.
You want to become a copywriter? Learn how to write copy. Don't spend another minute talking about what you will do … one day.
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