21 copywriting tips from Clayton Makepeace. Part 1.
“How can I spot powerful sales copy when I see it?”
The following article is taken from the archives of famous copywriter Clayton Makepeace’s blog: http://www.makepeacetotalpackage.com/archives/how-to-create-a-killer-ad/ The content is incredibly valuable, as you’ll see…
My mind reeled. I was so caught off-guard, I just blurted out the first thing that went through my mind: “You don’t know it,” I said, “You feel it.”
I explained that consumers almost never buy things because it is logical to do so and that the vast majority of purchases made in this country are made because they satisfy an emotional need.
So to be great, sales copy must connect with the prospect’s most powerful resident emotions – whether positive or negative – and demonstrate how reading the copy and buying the product will fulfill or assuage those desires or fears.
That’s why, I explained, instead of merely thinking through the writing, editing and review process, I feel my way through – making sure that the “tingle factor” intensifies with every passing paragraph until I literally can’t wait to order.
I explained how every sales message is like a chain designed to meet the reader at the point of his need … and then lead him, step-by-step, link-by-link, to the order form.
I showed them how the chain is only as strong as its weakest link: How the minute you lose the “tingle factor,” the reader gets bored, you lose him and the chain breaks. How if something you say feels unbelievable to him, the chain breaks. And how if you confuse him by losing your clarity of vision, the chain breaks.
I also pointed out that, even if you make sure that every link in the chain is unbreakable, your copy is also only as strong as its strongest link. The more compelling each section is, the greater your response and average order will be. And here, once again, feeling my way through lets me strengthen even the strongest sections of my copy.
I thought it was a pretty good answer. I still do. In fact, if you haven’t had the experience of reading your copy aloud, sensing how each passage feels to you, sensing how it’s likely to feel to the prospect, I highly recommend it.
But as I watched the young gun’s faces, I could tell that I had raised more questions than I answered for them. They needed something more tangible from me.
They needed a checklist – a handful of nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts tactics to look for.
And so, in a belated attempt to improve on my decade-old answer, allow me to offer 21 ways to spot strong copy – and to help make the ads, direct mail packages and Internet promotions you’re working on bigger winners for you.
THESE ARE NOT RULES. I hate rules. But they’re great “non-rules” – guidelines that have paid off for me time and time again in my 37+ years in the direct response trenches – and that I’m confident will strengthen your ad copy as well …
We tend to be skeptical, even suspicious of information given us by a corporation. We welcome – indeed, we seek out – advice from qualified guides and advocates who have our best interests at heart. And we welcome advice from someone who has solved a problem that we’re struggling with.
Putting a friendly and/or highly-qualified human face on a copy – and speaking in that person’s voice – will ramp up the impact of your sales messages by an order of magnitude.
Address your prospect directly.
Here, you actually get two maxims for the price of one:
- Talk to your reader: Instead of talking about how “we” age … how “we” encounter various health problems, talk to the reader about her life … her future … and most importantly, her feelings.
Use the word “YOU” as often as is humanly possible throughout your text. Remember: Your prospect really couldn’t give a flip about you, your company, your product or anything else. The prospect is interested in the prospect!
- Talk about the reader: Yes, it’s true that x million Americans have heart attacks each year. But saying it that way, you’re not talking about her; you’re talking about x million other folks.
Find ways to personalize these kinds of statistics: “As an American over age 40, your chances are one in x of having a heart attack this year.” Wow. Now, you’ve got my attention.
I often begin by closing my eyes and imagining that I’m talking to a friend about the subject at hand. How would I begin the conversation? What would I say? What would he say? What would I say back?
I would not refer to myself in the plural: “We want to help you …” I’d say, “Here – let me help you …”
Identify with your prospect.
Gary Bencivenga did this beautifully with his “Why we investors are fed up …” deck in his all-time classic “Lies, Lies, Lies!” package. Instantly, in the prospect’s mind, the person addressing him was transformed from a salesman into “a regular guy” – someone just like him.
Tell the reader what you have in common. Let him know that you empathize: You’ve been there. Reveal a non-fatal weakness or a petty frustration that the two of you might share. Anything that puts you on the reader’s level will endear him to you and engender trust between you.
Put a face on the enemy.
Why has the reader failed to solve this problem or fulfill this desire? Were all the other products he’s tried ineffectively? Were the “experts” who gave him advice wrong? Is someone intentionally using him?
This is a rich, emotional vein – so mine it! But instead of droning on about how unfair banks are, personalize it. Talk about how greedy bankers do this or that to the reader. Or about how callous drug company execs trick his doctor into prescribing costly and dangerous things that often don’t work.
Prove every point.
Never ask your reader to accept any claim at face value. Always include proof elements that suspend his disbelief with every claim. Best credibility devices could include:
1. Study data from respected sources
2. Expert testimonials
3. User testimonials
4. Statements that support your point from a major periodical – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, etc.
Don’t fear the occasional obvious overstatement.
No, I’m not suggesting that you should exaggerate when describing what your product does. But I often use an obvious over-the-top phrase to demonstrate how intensely my client feels about a particular point.
Once in a health promotion, for example, I wrote:
“Some surgeons are so greedy, they’ll gladly cut a hole right through you – just to get to your wallet!”
Was it true? Who knows? No, I didn’t have a story about a surgeon who had literally cut through a patient to reach his wallet in my substantiation files. I did know, however, that many of my readers had had hysterectomies, mastectomies and other surgical procedures that were later determined to be unnecessary – and that line got every one of them emotionally involved and on my side.
About CLAYTON MAKEPEACE
– A 43-year veteran of direct response industry, Clayton’s hard-hitting sales copy has enabled him to do wonderful things.
– Before Clayton, Security Rare Coin had monthly sales of $300,000. One year later, monthly sales hit $16 million.
– Before Clayton, Blanchard Rare Coin and Bullion had annual sales of $20 million. After Clayton, sales surged to over $120 million.
– Clayton sold two million subscriptions to Phillips Publishing’s Health & Healing newsletter.
– He generated more than $30 million in sales for Health Resources’ “Oral Chelation” supplement.
– He built three investment newsletters – The Money Advocate, Personal Health Bulletin, and Safe Money Report – into the largest of their kind in the world.