Cheap Versus Expensive Copywriters – Which Should You Choose?

Sometimes small figures can make a massive difference.

For example, the difference between a 1% and a 2% conversion rate sounds small, right?

Wrong.

If a 1% conversion rate pulls you in $2,000 of sales a month, then a 2% conversion rate would bring you $4,000 of sales a month… doubling your revenue!

Ultimately, the difference between an “expensive” and a “cheap” copywriter might be a 2% conversion rate compared to 1%…

… but that additional 1% doubles your revenue. That’s one of the advantages an “expensive” copywriter could bring to the table – an additional $24,000 a year in revenue (in this example).

Or looked at from a different angle, a “cheap” copywriter would throw $24,000 of your money down the drain – year in, year out.

With that in mind, is it really a smart idea to hunt around for the “cheapest” copywriter? I don’t think so.

Of course, if you’re just starting out and you need a sales letter written, I understand why you’d want to keep your costs down.

Just keep in mind that by going the “cheap” route, you could be throwing a lot of future revenue down the drain.

If you were building a house, you wouldn’t skimp on the foundations. That would be foolish, and a little dangerous, don’t you think?

Well, your sales material is the FOUNDATION of your business. It’s what generates the sales! The last thing you want to do is skimp on this aspect.

Now, I’m not really pitching anything here. (I do have a stable of students who are willing to write for various budgets – contact me if you’d like me to put you in touch with one)…

… but the bottom line is this: with copywriting, the difference between a “cheap” and an “expensive” copywriter isn’t just the price, almost always it will be reflected in the results.

So lay a solid foundation for your business, and don’t skimp on the thing that is going to generate you the sales, the lifeblood of your business!

Ripping Apart The “Prevention” Example Sales Letter (Part 1)

Last post I shared with you a PDF file called The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time, edited by John Jantsch. (You can download it here if you haven’t already done so.)

Today, let’s go through one of the sales letters, to see why it worked so well. The one I’d like to review is Sales Letter #5, which sells a subscription to Prevention magazine. (This, by the way, is a direct mail letter that was actually mailed out.)

The first thing that immediately stands out to me is that…

There is no headline. The letter assumes it already has the reader’s attention, by virtue of the fact that they are reading the letter. This probably works best for a physical letter, because if you’ve already opened the envelope, you’ve already made a commitment to yourself to at least look at the letter.

Notice also the friendly, personal tone. It’s written almost like one friend writing to another, and it ends with a signature from the writer, Sandy Gibb.

It begins by immediately telling a story, which is something we humans like to hear.

What I liked about the story is that, while Sandy Gibb highlighted the wisdom of her grandmother (in recommending only the healthy stuff), she was quick to deal with the mental objection that “grandmother was hopelessly out of date” – by recalling back to how healthy they were back then, compared to what was happening with food and chemicals in the present time.

Notice also how Sandy’s observations are sufficiently vague, to allow readers to recall their own specific examples. For example…

I was stunned by the number of foods that were almost completely “fake” – most of the good things had been taken out and chemical substitutes put in.

By making it Sandy’s observation, it becomes a fact that can’t be disputed. We could perhaps dispute the nature of Sandy’s observation, but we can’t dispute that Sandy was “stunned” by her observation.

The next sentence builds upon this, and makes it an indisputable fact:

You read about threats and dangers to your health like these every day. In almost every newspaper and magazine you open.

So by this point, it is assumed the reader accepts that there are “threats” and “dangers” to their health – the problem has been explained (and hopefully accepted), and now they are in a better position to accept the solution.

In Part 2 we’ll examine how the solution is presented, in such a way as to build desire for the product. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure you’re signed up to receive free updates to this CopySnips blog.

Are These The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time?

I recently came across a great little resource edited by John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing, and since he gave permission to distribute it freely, I thought I’d share it with you good folks here at the CopySnips.com blog.

It’s a 25 page PDF document called The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time… and it contains 5 actual sales letters, written to sell products such as a subscription to Newsweek magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and a 20 volume Popular Mechanics Do-It-Yourself Encyclopedia.

These are “sales letters” in the traditional sense of the world – in other words, actual letters posted out to a mailing list. Still, regardless of whether you write to sell for the Web or in print, or even if you’re just here to learn about how to write copy, this is a great resource – you get to see the persuasive devices used by these well-known companies to sell their products through the written word.

We can learn a lot from these sales letters. You’ll notice, for example, the lack of hype. Yes, they’re enthusiastic for their products. (I’d particularly like to buy those Do-It-Yourself Encylopedias!) But they all carefully stay within the bounds of credibility. (Perhaps they can do so easily because these companies are, for the most part, pretty well known.)

Keep this resource handy on your computer, because I’ll be referring to it over the coming days and weeks, as I point out some of the specific persuasive devices being used, so make sure you’re subscribed to this blog as well.

You can download The Greatest Sales Letters Of All Time here.

In return, I’d be grateful if you could refer your friends and colleagues to this post, so we can expand the conversation about it here at CopySnips.com.

What Makes People Buy Now?

buy-now-or-elseIt’s probably happened to you many times before.

You see something you really want to buy. You get all excited about it, and you’re even ready to buy.

And then something happens. Maybe you get distracted. Maybe you have second thoughts. Maybe you decide to put it off for a day or two.

Then, for whatever reason, you don’t buy it – either now, or at any time in the future – even though right at that moment you really wanted it.

So what was missing?

It was a sense of urgency. You had the desire, but you didn’t feel an overwhelming need to buy it right away – so you didn’t.

A real sense of urgency is the “missing ingredient” needed in a lot of sales letters and marketing campaigns that I see online.

Often there is no sense of urgency at all, leaving the potential customer to make up their mind as and when they feel like it. (The problem is, most people put things off, including buying decisions… meaning they are highly likely to forget about the offer.)

Or the sales letter goes to the other extreme, barking “Buy now!” commands repeatedly and attempting to generate a false sense of urgency – “Hurry, because I can’t hold these prices for much longer… I may put the price up at any time!”

The trouble with this is it’s vague, and therefore weak. “At any time” could mean days, weeks or months – or, as is more often the case, never.

What copywriters need to create is a genuine sense of urgency – the feeling that the potential customer MUST have it now, and that they will lose out if they don’t.

We’ll talk more about this another time, but I wanted to tell you that I’m just putting the finishing touches to a free report which will explain precisely how to create a genuine sense of urgency in your sales copy, or with any offer you make.

As a regular CopySnips reader, you’ll be the one of the first to get hold of this free report once I’ve finished it. If you’re not yet a regular reader, subscribe to the RSS feed or by email. Oh yes, you’d better do it now, or you’ll miss out on this crucial information, and will forever be tormented by thoughts of what might have been. Or something like that.

How To Instantly Transform Poor Copy Into Great Copy

One of the world’s greatest marketing experts, Jay Abraham, is about to reveal to you a superbly simple technique for transforming poor or average copy into spectacular copy just about instantly, and it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

If you haven’t got time to watch the following 10 minute video, then I’ve provided a summary of his key points below, but you really MUST watch it… several times:

What’s amazing to me is Jay’s admisson that it took him years to figure this out, and yet here he is handing this technique out to us on a plate, in this video. So thank you, Jay Abraham.

The technique itself is deceptively simple. It involves using Amazon.com not only to do your market research, but also to get laser focused phrases you can use in your copy, that will touch your target audience and create empathy with them. Here is a summary of the suggestions, but please watch the video if you can – it will be 10 minutes well spent:

(1) Go to Amazon.com, and type in the keywords related to your niche. Look at the titles and subtitles of the products for “the big payoff”, i.e. the key benefits being offered. You can use these for your own headlines and subheadlines. (Each subheadline in your copy, every 4-6 paragraphs, should summarize the “big payoff” for the content below it.)

(2) Go to the reviews of each product. The editorial reviews usually contain good, professional copy that sells the book for Amazon.

(3) However, the customer reviews contain the polarization, where people either love it or hate it. These are (usually) real people writing their honest, heartfelt thoughts and feelings about the product. Pay attention to what people loved about it, and especially the phrases they use. Adapt these phrases for YOUR copy. Also pay attention to what people hated about it, so you can move your readers away from these things in your copy.

According to Jay Abraham, this is one way to make poor performing copy great instantly. Of course, you should watch the video because there’s even more valuable information in there than I could cover in this post. So what do you think of Jay Abraham’s “School Of Amazon” technique?

Perfect Copy – Why It Doesn’t Exist

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a perfectionist. Maybe there’s a perfectionist lurking inside of you as well. Like me, you want every single word to be lined up like disciplined soldiers, complete with polished black shoes, immaculately pressed uniforms, ready for their marching orders.

You don’t tolerate any lack of discipline in your word army. In fact, it took me 10 minutes just to write (and rewrite) that last paragraph, after I decided to use an army metaphor.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. Perfect copy doesn’t exist.

My definition of perfect copy is copy that “closes” 100% of our visitors, every time. In other words, every visitor takes the action you’re aiming for in your copy – whether that’s a sale, a subscription, or simply a “click” to give them further information.

The truth is, the average Internet sales letter converts an unremarkable 1% or 2% of their visitors into buyers. For many, even a “squeeze” or “landing” page, where you’re trying to convince a visitor to opt-in to some free newsletter, with some nice bonus reports thrown in, might only get 10% or 20% of visitors to sign up… and that’s for something free!

Your copy will never be perfect, and here’s why…

In the invisible and infinite world of possibilities, there is almost certainly some change you could make to your copy that will boost the response rate. (Unless you’ve already achieved a 100% response rate.)

Unfortunately for you, you don’t know what it is… yet. Otherwise, you’d already have factored it in to your copy.

That’s why we split test, where possible, or we encourage our clients to do so. Even with just 10 visitors a day, you can still split test, as I demonstrated in this free split testing report.

That’s also why, as copywriters, we shouldn’t be too “in love” with our own copy.

We haven’t created something to be put in a frame behind a pane of glass and hung in a gallery for all to admire. That’s called art.

Sure, there’s an art to writing sales copy, but if your clients split test the copy you gave them and find a headline that works better than yours, be happy for them!

So stop striving for perfection. The only perfect copy is copy that gets 100% response.

Instead, do the best you can.

And then encourage your clients to take what you’ve done, and split test different elements of it.

Artists strive for perfection. (And then society wonders why they only become famous after their death!) Copywriters strive to give birth, and then to help their clients nurture their “baby” further.

And on that note, I’ll stop, before I think up yet more metaphors, and double the size of this post. Just be proudly imperfect!

3 Copywriting “Traps” You Must Avoid…

It’s quite easy to fall into one of the three copywriting “traps” I’m about to share with you. I’ve done it myself more than a few times. What’s important is that you’re aware of them, so you can pull yourself out of the trap quickly. Without further ado, here are three common copywriting mistakes I see a lot, and what to do about them:

Fatal Trap #1: Thinking the reader cares firstly about YOU.

It’s amazing how many corporate sites still make this glaring mistake, where the first thing they talk about when a visitor hits their site is THEIR 28 years experience in business, or how many awards THEY have won, or how great THEY are.

Most visitors don’t care how great you claim to be – at least, not at first. What they do care about is whether their wants, needs and desires are going to be met, and whether you can demonstrate that you understand their wants, needs and desires in the first place.

Only once the reader has established in their mind that you care more about THEM than about yourself, will they entertain the possibility of doing business with you.

In other words, focus on the reader and their wants, needs and desires – because that’s what they’re going to care about most of all, at first.

That’s not to say your “28 years in business” claim isn’t important. It’s a useful selling point, but only once you’ve established that you truly care about the reader and want to help. Without this, it just sounds like bragging.

Fatal Trap #2: Showing off your writing skills.

I have nothing against creative, expressive and even flowery language – when I’m reading a novel. But the copywriter’s job is NOT to show off their language skills. Their job is to help the reader to take some action, such as to hit the order button, or to subscribe.

If the reader has to shoot off to find a dictionary, just to even understand what you’re talking about in your sales copy, then you’ve just placed an unnecessary hurdle in the way of them buying or taking the action you want them to take. Save your flowery prose for that next novel, or at least for the report they receive once they’ve purchased.

Fatal Trap #3: Selling features rather than benefits.

This is a big mistake made especially by those selling services. For example, it’s great to be able to boast about “28 years experience in the business”, but as it stands, it’s really just a FEATURE of your business. It’s going to have a much bigger impact if you can explain to the reader why this will BENEFIT them. Ask yourself what having 28 years experience means to the reader – and then convey this in your copy.

“Our 28 years experience in business means you’ll have access to some of the best and most established contact lists and resources in the industry, resulting in much more profitable connections.”

Can you think of any more common mistakes made by copywriters? What do you think of these mistakes? Are there circumstances in which putting YOU first, or showing off your writing skills, or selling features rather than benefits might help? Or just let me know what you thought of this post… in the comments section below.

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How To Become A Copywriter (Part 8 – Salesmanship In Print)

Many copywriters are familiar with John E. Kennedy’s famous words that copy is basically “salesmanship in print”. The key word to note is SALESMANSHIP.

“Print” is just the medium (although nowadays it could equally be the computer pixel) – so as a copywriter, you are also a salesperson; or more correctly, your sales copy will the online equivalent of a salesperson.

I’ve worked in face to face sales (called “direct sales”), and there was a lot involved in direct selling. Among other things, we needed to overcome the potential client’s initial skepticism, and cynicism towards salespeople in general; we had to provide a compelling and credible reason for them to buy from us today; we had to overcome all of their objections (although nowadays I prefer to eliminate them in advance using the Objection Eliminator Method); and we had to “close” them effectively (which is basically about getting the potential customer to say, “Yes!” to the sale).

All of these things are also true of sales copy. Your visitors may initially be skeptical and cynical. They will have objections, such as “I can’t afford this”. They still need to be “closed”.

In fact, these things are even more important in a sales letter, because, for example, if a customer has the objection, “I can’t afford it”, they’re probably not going to tell you – they’re simply going to close their browser window or tab, and move on!

So one of the best ways of getting good at the “salesperson” hat needed for copywriting is to actually become a salesperson for a while! I found it a truly eye-opening experience.

Alternatively, I could point you to many sales books, but it’s never quite the same as experiencing it in real life. Besides, many of the best sales books are written for “direct sales”. That’s why I wrote The Secrets Of A 10% Conversion Rate which shows you how to apply the techniques I learned in direct sales, in a copywriting context.

In this series we’ve discovered all the different “hats” a copywriter needs to wear, but the question remains: How do you acquire all of these skills in the first place? I’ll tackle that important question tomorrow.

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How To Become A Copywriter (Part 7 – Feature Converter, Desire Magician)

We’re nearly through with the list of “hats” that a good copywriter needs to wear. In this post, we’re going to look at the “Feature Converter” and “Desire Magician” hats, and what they mean. In the next post, we’ll come to possibly the most important “hat” of all.

Feature Converter

A good copywriter can convert FEATURES and ADVANTAGES into BENEFITS as easily as a professional translator might convert one language into another.

FEATURES are just what something has (i.e. “four wheels”), ADVANTAGES are what the feature can make happpen relative to not having it (i.e. “get there quicker”), and BENEFITS are what the customer will get out of the advantage; how it will help them.

Typical benefits might include…

  • It makes them money.
  • It saves them money.
  • It saves them time.
  • It makes their life easier or better.

So a copywriter needs to know how to convert every feature into a benefit, and convey that benefit in their copy.

Features may be important to some groups of people (i.e. people who always want the latest, cutting-edge technology and gadgets), but people often buy because of the benefits derived from the features.

At least, they do on the surface. But as we discussed in Part 2, there are often deeper reasons for buying, to satisfy their “core desires” as it were. Understanding this is part of the skill of the…

Desire Magician

A good copywriter is also a Desire Magician, building desire for the product. It’s about understanding what they REALLY want, deep down – and then appealing in some way to those desires.

Building desire involves getting them to IMAGINE and ANTICIPATE what it would be like if their problems were solved, or their needs and wants were satisfied, as a result of buying the product.

It’s also about TEASING them with the information or features provided by the product, and the benefits they will receive when they buy the product.

In this regard, I consider BULLET POINTS to be effective as what I call “desire hooks”. Each bullet point should take a feature, and convey the ultimate benefit from having that feature, or the ultimate consequence of not having it. For example, here’s a bullet point from my sales letter at WriteToMoreMoney.com for all non-fiction writers:

  • Invisible Selling. I’ll reveal my secret “Invisible Selling” technique to you right here. Get this… just this one technique by itself could have clients lining up to use your services… when you have this, and use it. (p34-37)

I currently have 19 bullet points in that sales letter. If that one got you even mildly curious, the idea of multiple bullet points is to raise the level from curiosity to wanton, drooling desire that makes you say, “I MUST get this!”

I made each of them by taking a piece of information from the product, turning it into a benefit (in this case, the possible ultimate outcome of using the technique) and – hopefully – getting people intrigued enough to want to find out more. I also mix up the language (so they’re not simply a list of 19 “How To…” statements) and add some other elements to build desire, which I explore in great detail in Video #10 (the “Bullet Builder” Technique) of my video copywriting series.

In the next post, I’ll share with you what I consider to be the most important copywriting “hat” of all, so make sure you’re subscribed to this blog to find out what it is, and why it’s so important.

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How To Become A Copywriter (Part 6 – Attention Grabbing And Interest Holding)

The very first thing a copywriter must do in a sales letter is gain the reader’s attention, and keep it. If your readers aren’t paying attention, then it doesn’t really matter what you say, the reader won’t buy.

Most of the time, being an Attention Grabber means crafting a powerful, intriguing headline that makes the reader go, “Hmmm… tell me more.”

Fortunately for the budding copywriter, great headlines are all around us. For example, newspapers rely on them to sell newspapers. The top blogs are where they are today partly because of their attention grabbing headlines.

Head over to Digg.com and the first few pages will be full of articles that have been highly rated, in part, because of the headline used. Often, it’s the headline that determines whether an article becomes popular or not.

Most copywriters have a “swipe file”. If they read a good headline, they swipe it for their files. It acts as a reminder for them, and they can model their headlines after the best.

Getting their attention is just the start. After that, the copywriter must keep it. Keeping their attention is a lot harder than it sounds, especially in this age of short attention spans and lots of other content to distract us.

This is a critical difference between, say, a fiction writer and a copywriter. For example, one of my favorite fiction authors occasionally likes to go on two page descriptive rambles. Personally, I find these boring and disrupt the flow, but I forgive the author because I’m enjoying the overall story, and because I bought the book in the first place.

A copywriter doesn’t usually have that luxury. There is no commitment from the reader. They haven’t “bought” the sales letter. So if you bore them, all they have to do is close the browser window, and your client loses the chance of a sale.

So a copywriter needs to keep it interesting. They can do that with writing the reader finds relevant, informative, fascinating and entertaining.

And they must also make it easy for them to read. A fiction writer might be trying to impress the reader with their language skills, but that could be FATAL in copywriting.

So a good copywriter keeps paragraphs short and punchy, and avoids words that are likely to cause their reader to rush off to find a dictionary (losing their attention).

Good copywriters write clearly and simply, because they NEED their readers to understand.

And they also know when to bend the rules of grammar. For example, I was taught at school never to start a sentence with “And”, and “But”.

But here’s what your grammar teacher didn’t tell you – they are great words to begin a sentence with in sales copy, because they compel the reader onwards. Your mind can’t help but read on when you see the words “And” and “But”, especially at the beginning of a sentence!

(There are lots of these sneaky devices hidden away within the English language, but some of them do involve bending the rules of grammar. You can see these devices in Video #3 of my series of copywriting videos.)

In Part 7, we’re going to look at how to be a Desire Magician, and Feature Converter, two more important “hats” worn by good copywriters. Make sure you’re subscribed to this blog so you don’t miss out!

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