MBA in Copywriting: It doesn’t exist (yet) but if it did, this should be the curriculum

As far as I’m aware, there is no actual Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in copywriting.

But there should be.

So in this blog post, I’m writing a curriculum for what I would recommend if I were in charge of putting a course together in copywriting.

Marketing Management

Topics include:

  • History of advertising, marketing, and sales from early marketplaces to online
  • Types of media and how different types of copy are used in each
  • Direct marketing/direct response versus other types of marketing
  • Developing marketing plans
  • Ethics in marketing

Mandatory reading:

Psychology, Sociology, and the Power of Persuasion

Topics include:

  • Psychological drivers for behaviors and decisions
  • Consumer habits (loyalty/disloyalty, trends, following the crowd)
  • Buying motivations
  • How to build rapport and connect emotionally
  • Persuasion and influence
  • Action, how to call people to it (and why people don’t act)

Mandatory reading:

Sales Funnels

Topics include:

  • Analyzing sales sales funnels for opportunities and troubleshooting
  • Connecting with people where they spend their attention
  • Creating end-to-end funnels (from attention to post-sale)
  • Strategies for growth and profitability

Mandatory reading:

Credibility and Reputation Management

Topics include:

  • What is credibility and authority and how do consumers ascribe it to businesses?
  • USPs — analyzing them and developing them
  • Positive versus negative reputations and what factors influence these
  • Components that contribute to credibility and authority (i.e. testimonials)

Mandatory reading:

Formulas and Structures

Topics include:

  • An overview of classic copy formulas and why they work
  • Attention/Interest/Decision/Action (AIDA)
  • Storytelling in copywriting
  • Components of copy (Headlines, Benefits, Overcoming objections, Calls to action)

Mandatory reading:

Attraction and Attention

Topics include:

  • Attention-getting with headlines and subheadings
  • Powerwords
  • Use of images
  • Basic fundamentals of color/design

Mandatory reading:

Measuring Results

Topics include:

  • The purpose of measuring
  • An overview of metrics, analytics, and statistics
  • Measuring the right things (and avoiding errors/assumptions)
  • How to split test

Mandatory reading:

Project

The student will be assigned a product or service and will create a marketing strategy for that offering. Then, the student will create an end-to-end sales funnel that is to include the following components:

  • Attention-getting marketing in at least 3 different media (and must include at least one broadcast media, one print media, and one online media)
  • Social copy
  • Sales copy for a sales letter (for web or magazine)
  • Website copy
  • Pre-sales relationship-building copy
  • Post-sales follow-up copy that drives additional sales

The student may deploy this copy in any appropriate sales funnel and must also defend each choice of media.

Use a P.S. in your copywriting: Why you need it, 18 ideas to create your own, and how to rock it

Whether you write copy for a living like I do, or whether you’re a business owner who creates your own copy for your marketing and sales efforts, here’s one way you can bump up the effectiveness of your copy efforts: A P.S.

Traditionally, the P.S., or post script, was used after the signature as a way to add more content — perhaps to clarify something you’d written earlier or as a brief update between when you wrote the letter and when you mail the letter.

No one writes by hand anymore, except my grandma (and her letters are always written on those impossibly thin shopping list notepads that real estate agents send out for free. My grandma is awesome). But everyone else in the world writes on a computer and doesn’t really need to add a PS because they can just go back and edit what they wrote or send a second email.

In copywriting, the P.S. persists and is a useful tool. When possible and appropriate, I try to include a P.S. in my copy (yes for sales letters and autoresponders, sometimes for blog posts, no for reports).

WHY YOU NEED A P.S.

It’s been said by someone (attributed to a couple of different people, most frequently to copywriting master Gary Halbert) that the P.S. is the second headline.

Less succinctly, my copywriting studies frequently urged that copywriters need to write a great headline and a great P.S. and just about everything was secondary… because it was usually skimmed (or even overlooked completely) by readers.

In practice, it seems that people tend to read the headline and, if the document is short, they’ll scan to the bottom and read the P.S. and then they’ll read the body copy. If the document is longer, this practice doesn’t happen as often (because of the work required to scroll down to the bottom) but the P.S. is almost always read, even if nothing else is read.

Since a headline and a P.S. are the two pieces in marketing copy that are almost always read, you need a P.S. as often as possible because it’s a second way to get your message to your audience.

Copyblogger gives another good reason to use the P.S.: In a list of things (and your marketing or sales piece IS a list of things), people tend to remember only the first and last thing. So your headline and P.S. are going to be remembered when everything else is forgotten.

Want some numbers to back up my pro-P.S. position? Here’s a compelling statistic from The Toppled Bollard, a British site about direct mail. They report on a split test between a sales letter without a P.S. and with a P.S.: The letter without the P.S. resulted in zero sales while the letter with the P.S. resulted in a 2% response and ultimately over 20,000 pounds in profit. Nice.

18 IDEAS TO CREATE YOUR P.S.

There are many ways to create a P.S. I’ll gather what others have said and I’ve added my thoughts in parentheses beside each one.

Michel Fortin says: The P.S. is a place to…
1. State or restate your call to action (this one’s my favorite)
2. Disclose a new piece of information (save a great piece of info to really hit home)
3. Summarize the main points of your letter (good but can make for a longer P.S.)
4. Recap your offer (similar to above but shorter)
5. Strengthen or sweeten the deal (especially good for a reluctant prospect)
6. Add a proof element (statistics work well here)
7. Overcome an objection (I recommend the most common objection)

Procopy tips advises to use the P.S. to…
8. Increase urgency (one of my favorites)

Ryan Healey adds these ways to use the P.S…
9. Reinforce the guarantee (make sure your guarantee has teeth!)
10. Restate the big idea (I haven’t seen this done very well)
11. Add social proof (especially your strongest testimonial)

Mike Kim lists these ways to use the P.S…
12. Restate the terms of the offer (be careful! This can sometimes be long or boring)
13. Add a bonus (similar to sweetening the deal, above)

HubSpot adds these great ways to use the P.S…
14. Provide a hook (including a link for the person to take action)
15. Give a final plea (similar to call to action but I like the sense of “plea”)
16. Personalize the offer (great to use if your offer has a corporate feel to it)

Copyblogger has this nice simple way to use a P.S.
17. Reiterate what the customer stands to lose (Love it! I’m going to try this one).

The Toppled Bollard gave this really interested idea…
18. Add a non-sensical P.S. (it creates interest, response, and drives people back into the letter)

HOW TO ROCK YOUR P.S.

Here are some tips I’ve developed over the years when writing P.S.s:

  • Use it! When possible, use the P.S. Don’t waste the opportunity.
  • Use it with purpose. A P.S. isn’t a throwaway piece of your marketing. I like to spend a large portion of my time working on my headline and P.S. If I nail that, there’s a lot of room for error in the body copy and I still get a good response. The skill-set I use to write a headline is the same one I rely on to write my P.S.
  • Use only one P.S. Although some people practice using more than one P.S., and I have done multiple P.S.s in my sales letters, I prefer to use just one. I tend to think that multiple P.S.s clutter things up and you lose the edge you gained with one.
  • Be succinct. I like shorter P.S.s. Yes, you might be able to argue for longer ones but I tend to think of a P.S. as a headline and headlines should be succinct.
  • Test and measure. Key the links in your body copy separate from the link in your P.S. and see which one pulls better.

Intentional magic: How to conjure more moments of pure awesomeness

I recently started working with a new client — one of the biggest clients I’ve ever worked with; a real “marquee” client that has the potential to change the game in my business.

So, when they sent me my first copywriting assignment, I definitely didn’t want to screw it up! Hitting my marks on this first assignment would mean a steady flow of great work from them for years to come.

That first assignment came in. I sat down to write it, sweating through every detail. It came together really fast and really solid and when I got the first version back to them on time, I was really happy with it. (In fact, after sending it to them, I thought, “wow, this is good.” and I read it a couple more times).

But I was nervous (yes, even though I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades)… would they like it? What if I totally missed something?

Then the initial feedback came in: “Love it. VERY strong work.

(Whew).

We made a couple of tweaks — not very many — and they sent the copy off to their web team and followed up with additional feedback to me: “Fantastic. Love it.

Awesome. I don’t get tired of hearing that. And given the amount of effort (and the bit of nervousness I felt), the feedback was even sweeter.

And, I couldn’t stop thinking about the work. I was really happy with it. I knew it was good. I count it among my best pieces of copywriting yet. I achieved magic. A moment when a bunch of things came together to create something special… to create a result that was a level above what I normally produce. I’m NOT telling you this to boast about it (which is why I’m not going to show you the copy or tell you who the client is; that doesn’t matter). I’m telling you this because it got me thinking…

I achieved magic that day. It felt good and the result was amazing. I’ve had a few of these moments throughout my career and I suspect you have too. They happen from time to time. In retrospect, they’re the times when I send something off and think “wow, it felt great to write that” and then I go back and re-read it, barely believing that it my was fingers that typed it.

If I could do it once in a while, why can’t I do it all the time? Why do I hit a certain level occasionally and how can I conjure magic more often?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way or who wants to reach higher. I have friends in many industries that I’m sure also touch magic from time to time and want more. Maybe you do too.

So I set about to quantify that magic and to see if it can be repeated.

I’ll be drawing from my own copywriting experience but I hope that the concepts and lessons here will easily translate to your (non-copywriting) situation…

QUANTIFYING THE MAGIC

The first thing I needed to do was quantify the magic. What made it so magical?

It’s pretty clear that the copy itself wasn’t the magic. It was the result of magic. I think the magic was the entire process from start to finish.

There were several aspects of this project that were similar to every other project (it was a topic I was familiar with, they needed direct response copy and there was a deadline. These things are pretty standard across all of my projects for nearly all of my clients so I’m not including them in the quantification because they are common).

So I started looking at what was different about this project compared to other projects and the list below is my best estimation about what made this project so special:

  • I received very detailed instructions: This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. Often I get a small list of vague goals or concepts and I’m tasked with creating copy from that. I don’t mind doing that — in fact, I think it’s a value I add for real estate investors who don’t necessarily know what good copy can do. They’re not copywriters, I am; so I know what info is needed. But the guy who gave me instructions has plenty of copywriting experience and a lot of business experience so he knew what information I needed before I could start, and he delivered it.
  • I did a thorough analysis: Since this was the first copy I’d ever done for this client, there were plenty of things I didn’t know about them so I invested a bit of time up-front to learn about them. I try to do this for every client but I don’t always go as deep, and after I get to know a client, it kind of stops. But the effort here was helpful and important, and it reminded me that I don’t need to stop once I’m familiar with a client’s business… there are always things to learn.
  • The stakes were higher: This project was different in that this was a first project for a potentially game-changing client, so the stakes were higher. It seemed to matter more. This was a make-or-break assignment because if it sucked, they’d pass on future work. (Of course I love all of my clients and try to deliver great work to them, and I try never to “phone my work in” but we all have days where we give a bit more or a bit less of ourselves).
  • I pushed myself harder: Probably because the stakes were so high, I worked very hard on this project and examined every word under a microscope. I kept pushing myself, focusing in on perfection and working relentlessly until I knew I had “it”.
  • I focused: When I sit down to write, I try to stay focused on the project. But sometimes my mind wanders or I’ll think of something else on a different project and I’ll quickly jump to that other project to deal with that distraction before returning. But on this project, I was 100% into the project; nothing could have pulled me off of it.

As best as I can tell, these are the points of difference that separate this assignment from most of my other assignments.

And as I look at this list of five elements, I can immediately identify two that are primary drivers from which the others flow: A stronger foundation (more information from the client and from my own analysis) and higher stakes (which led to focusing and pushing myself harder).

CONJURING THE MAGIC

I want to repeat that result again. I don’t want magic to “just happen”… I want it to appear regularly.

(Side note: Maybe it’s no longer magic when it happens regularly but by quantifying it and systematizing it, I think I can push to a higher level… and maybe when I’m experiencing that higher level, I’ll encounter a new type of rare magic that seems inconceivable right now).

On future projects, assuming that all else is equal (the topic, the type of writing, the deadlines), then I should be trying to re-establish the five magical elements I quantified above. And I should be able to do it with a stronger foundation and higher stakes — when I do, all five elements will be present.

To get these a stronger foundation, I need to do more up-front work before I start writing. I need to do more research earlier and let the ideas “percolate” in my head for a while. (This is a real change for me, since a lot of my writing starts very early in the process). To make this happen, I’m putting together a checklist of information I should collect after I get an assignment but before I start on it. I don’t think this up-front effort will slow me down substantially — because I wrote very fast when I did finally sit down to write.

To increase the stakes, I need to make sure that the project truly matters. I would say that my clients’ work is always important to me and I love working on it but I have to admit: After I’ve been working with a client for a while, I get comfortable with them; the stakes seem lower than they did with my big new game-changing client. So how can I increase the stakes? I’m not sure yet. Here are a few ideas:

  • Perhaps a more robust guarantee, such as a 200% refund if the work does not deliver?
  • Perhaps a personal goal of trying to stretch myself and do something new in each project?
  • Perhaps an “internal” reward that raises the stakes on the project for me (even if it doesn’t raise the stakes for my client?
  • Perhaps just a mindset shift that recognizes how critical every single project is to every single client?

I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve hit on the right formula just yet. The 200% guarantee sounds like it’s the closest so far but I would like something that raises the stakes in a positive way rather than a negative way.

CREATING INTENTIONAL MAGIC

So far I’ve used my own copywriting experience as the model. But I suspect that similar things are true in other industries.

Think about your work. When the “common things” are true (whatever those things happen to be for you) then perhaps a stronger foundation and higher stakes will create magic. What does a stronger foundation look like for you? What do higher stakes look like for you? Can you “force” those things to happen?

This blog represents some really early-stage thinking on the topic. I’d love to hear from you — in the comments or through email or Twitter — to let me know what you are thinking. Am I off base? Am I missing anything? How would you raise the stakes?

Welcome to the dark side: 13 annoying things no one tells you about making money online

Starting and running an online business is often presented as a rose garden of instant wealth and self-actualization.

It’s not. The “make money online” niche is a MASSIVE niche that rakes in a ton of money by selling the promise… but many people who spend money on these products continue to struggle. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who tell me that they dream of quitting their job and escaping the rat race so they can “make money online”, or how many people who own online businesses but are struggling and don’t know why.

There’s a dark side to making money online that no one talks about. Here are 13 incredibly annoying things no one tells you about starting and running an online venture… but you should probably know about.

1. IT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT MAKING MONEY ONLINE.

The “make money online” niche sells the opportunity of freedom (from bosses and 9-5 and petty coworkers and bills). And it’s okay to sell into that dream but often those products fail to follow up on a key truth: It’s all about running a business. You need a sales funnel — a business model and a target market and a product or service. You need to find a pressing need among a group of people who are capable of paying you, and you need to monetize a solution. Then you need to offer it to them. That’s a business.

“Making money online” is the automatic result doing that. So focus on the business skills first. Case in point: I used to get sucked into reading those “make money online” or “how to start a business” books. But my business TOTALLY changed when I stopped reading those books and started reading stuff about how to sell, how to build a website, how to create products. The money followed.

2. YOUR DREAM HAS TO BURN HOTTER THAN A THOUSAND SUNS

The desire for freedom (which is what the make money online people are selling) is good. But frankly I’ve never known a successful entrepreneur who desired freedom so much that they became entrepreneurs. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? Rather, the most successful entrepreneurs I know (or know of) all burned with some other dream — to solve a specific problem or to build a specific thing or (in my case) to write. And when I say that your dream has to burn, I don’t mean that it has to be something you feel like doing once in a while. Rather, it has to keep you awake at night, every night, and you have to get ulcers when you’re not working on that dream. The freedom follows but it’s never ever the thing that motivates them.

Consider some of the most successful entrepreneurs out there — Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Donald Trump. None of them dream of freedom. They all burn with a desire to do something (innovate, invest, invent, etc.) and their success followed.

3. ACTION IS REQUIRED.

One of the biggest complaints among “make money online” publishers and product creators is the sheer volume of people who return their products for a refund and complain it doesn’t work, or the even bigger number of people who buy a product and then never read it. Folks, action is required. It’s okay to invest in resources but then you have to use them. Buy one resource, learn from it, take a ton of notes, and then implement. Act. Do. Try. Fail. Fail again. And then succeed. That’s how it works. Simply purchasing the product is an all-too-common way of feeling like you’re doing something when you’re really taking just one miniscule step.

You will get much farther in achieving your goals in life and in your financial situation if you do something than if you simply read a book. (Clarification: I’m all for reading books! I love books and I write books. So please, read books. But my point is that if you’re scratching your head and wondering why your business is struggling, maybe it’s time to put the books down).

4. YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE UP YOUR PEACE OF MIND… AT FIRST.

Over the years I have watched hundreds of people (maybe thousands — no exaggeration) quit their job to start a businesses because they wanted freedom… but then shut down their business and go back to a job because they wanted peace of mind. That is fascinating to me. I’ve been on both sides of the fence — enjoying the freedom of running a business and the peace of mind of a regular paycheck. Both are very, very attractive but I’m starting to realize that they cannot easily co-exist, at least in the beginning. Maybe a few years down the road your business will give you freedom and peace of mind but it’s very hard to have both of those things at the beginning.

This is where that burning dream comes in. A burning dreams really gets you through the times where you have freedom but no peace of mind. If you want peace of mind, don’t start a business. If you want freedom, quit your job. It’s nearly impossible to have both at the very beginning.

5. YOU’LL BE ASKED FOR FREE STUFF… A LOT.

As your business grows, you’re going to be asked for free stuff — a lot. People will ask for review copies, or they’ll ask you a “quick question” (although the answer is never quick), or they’ll ask you to deliver your service for free because of all the amazing exposure you’re going to get, or they’ll offer to buy you a cup of coffee if they can pick your brain. People don’t mind asking you for these things because they don’t realize how many other people are also asking you for these things at the same time. It can easily turn into a daily onslaught and you could easily spend all day every day providing free stuff to people. (And believe me, very few people actually take your advice anyway).

While it’s okay to deliver some limited free stuff when the opportunity is right, delivering free stuff all the time will hurt your business. And because of the number of people who ask — quite innocently — it can be tempting to give a snarky response. So take a moment now to think about a polite response to say “no” to the people who ask for free stuff.

6. THE BIGGER YOU ARE, THE BIGGER TARGET YOU BECOME.

Frankly, this one was the hardest for me to learn and I still struggle with it because I hate it when people don’t like me. The internet is wonderful place where trolls and haters can thrive because they can often spread their abuse anonymously — without consequence to them. They spew vitriol but remain untouchable and no one knows that they are really unemployed bums living in their mother’s basement. As a business owner, you put yourself out there with your marketing and your products and services. You’re going to get bad reviews, ugly comments on your blog posts, and people who happily go above and beyond what is reasonable to tell the world they don’t like you.

Get thick skin or get out of the game. Don’t go down to the level of the haters. Don’t fight back. Just address them (if appropriate), delete them (if necessary), or ignore them (if you can’t do anything else). The best cure for haters is to become even more successful and to build a base of great customers who love you.

Funny update: I just received the GKIC ‘No BS Marketing Letter’ in the mail and read it… and Dan Kennedy refers to the exact same group of people as living in their mother’s basement.

7. COPYWRITING IS AN UNDERVALUED SKILL.

When starting an online business, first timers will often focus on the design, the logo, the brand, and the product and ignore everything else. But what they really need is to focus on the copy. An ugly site with good copy will sell more than a beautiful site with bad copy. Unfortunately it sometimes takes the first business failure to figure that out. Copywriting is undervalued. I recently heard someone (Dan Kennedy, I think) talk about copywriting. He said that copywriting is a skill everyone should have but no one wants to pay for, and copywriting courses notoriously don’t sell. On the other hand, there are a variety of other internet-marketing/make-money-online/start-an-internet-business courses that sell well but they are really just copywriting courses in disguise.

Learn copywriting even if this is something you plan to outsource in the future. It’s a HUGE skill that will benefit you forever. I think it’s the most valuable skill you can have in business.

8. YOU RISE ACCORDING TO THE RISKS YOU ARE WILLING TO TAKE.

With risk comes the potential for costly failure, so we avoid risk. People avoid risk by dreaming about making money online but never quitting their job, or trying to start a business but only doing it part time in the evenings because they can’t give up their paycheck. Risk management and risk mitigation are good; don’t get me wrong. But eliminating risk completely is bad because you can only change and grow your business when you risk something. Risk seems scary but most entrepreneurs who have been in business for a while will tell you that the really scary thing is not risking anything.

It’s like our bodies. Our immune system needs the germ in order to create antibodies for it. If we lived in a sterile environment and then suddenly left that sterile environment, we’d get really sick because we have zero immunity. You need to get a little bit sick in order to stay well. When you are willing to take risks — financial risks, social risks, time risks, etc., you position your business to grow.

9. INVESTMENT AND SACRIFICE ARE REQUIRED.

This is so similar to the above point. You need to invest in order to make money online. That investment includes time, money, and effort… and it could also include relationships. When I hear someone tell me that they are starting a business, I get excited for them until they tell me that what they are really doing is posting a few affiliate links on a free website from Wix (or some other free website provider). Yikes! They are not willing to invest in a real website with real products or services. (Clarification: You can build a business with affiliate links on a free site but then you’ll need to invest in other things instead — like traffic-driving mechanisms).

I do okay today because I invested a bit of money and a lot of time and because my wife graciously let me spend less time with her in the beginning while I started and grew my business. The reward is there but it takes a bit of investment up front to get it.

10. SELL PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT BUT GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEED.

I hate that this is true but it is. I recently wrote a book about how to be a freelance writer and I really wanted to package the book as a way to get business and run a really fun freelance business. Unfortunately, that’s not what people want so they’d never read the book. So instead I talked (reluctantly) about the money you can make as a freelance writer and the freedom you can enjoy as a freelance writer. And the book sold. Inside the book I gave them really solid how-to advice and the reviews that came back praise the book for the helpful advice. But no one would have bought the book if it didn’t sell them the opportunity. (See the copywriting point above — everyone needs to know how to copywrite but people instead buy other resources and learn copywriting from them).

I’m not just picking on the “make money online” category here. This is true in every single industry. It feels so dirty to say “sell people what they want but give them what they need” but the reality is that consumers don’t buy what they need. The fitness and weightloss industry knows this. The financial industry knows this. The real estate industry knows this. I wish consumers would learn it so sellers could simply say “Hey, you need this” and people would buy it because it was a smart thing to do. But it’s not going to happen any time soon.

11. IT’S NOT LUCK OR SYSTEMS… IT’S FOCUS AND CONSISTENCY.

The make money online niche makes its money from repeat sales. From people who keep spending a ton of cash on different products and resources because what they’re really looking for is the silver bullet — the one thing that will unlock it all. There is no silver bullet to be found in a resource or tool or system or even luck. The only thing that will generate success is focus and consistency. Pick something and then work at it over and over every single day. Period.

Alarming story: I dialed into a webinar that a real estate investing client was putting on. During that call, my client asked questions and invited responses: One of his questions early in the webinar was “how much have you spent on real estate investing courses in the past? The numbers were $5,000, $10,000, and one guy estimated close to $100,000 in the past decade or so. Then later in the webinar he asked how much people might be willing to spend on some one-on-one coaching to actually set up their real estate investing business and a lot of people replied that a few hundred dollars would be too much for them. I see this kind of thing all the time — people willing spend thousands on ideas that might help them but won’t want to spend a few dollars and a few hours on focused and consistent habits.

12. YOU’LL WISH YOU DID A HUNDRED THINGS SOONER. JUST DO THEM NOW INSTEAD.

I wish I started building an email list sooner. I wish I focused on copywriting sooner. I wish I built up a blog in a different category sooner. The list goes on and on. I could spend my entire day regretting things I didn’t do yesterday or last week or last year or last decade. You’ve got to put that stuff out of your mind. Just do it now.

There’s a well-known saying that is relevant here: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is right now.” So true. Do smart things as early as possible but if you don’t do them early, don’t regret it and don’t let your regret delay you any further. Start now.

13. THE 2 REAL SKILLS IN BUSINESS ARE TO DRIVE TARGETED PROSPECTS AND CLOSE THEM.

It’s so easy to put up a website. It’s so easy to offer something for sale. It’s so easy to create marketing content. It’s easy to drive traffic. Anyone can do this stuff in their sleep… and so many people do this stuff because it’s just so darn easy to do. And then they wonder why they struggle because they seem to be doing the right things but nothing happens. That’s because these are easy things and anyone can do them but there are two more challenging yet more important skills to have: Drive targeted prospects and then sell to them. Driving targeted prospects is not just marketing. It’s a collection of skills around needs assessment, targeted advertising, copywriting (and yes, a bit of marketing). And closing is a collection of skills around copywriting and selling.

If you can develop those two skills, your business will grow as fast as you want and you’ll actually make money online. But if you ignore those two skills, you’ll just be doing what everyone else can do in their sleep and you’ll miss out on seeing any results.

THE LAST WORD

If you are dreaming about a better life for yourself, that’s great. That aspiration is part of what makes us human. But I wrote this post to make you aware of what you’re facing by following a path defined by “making money online”. Instead, focus on building a quality business with great products and services that truly meets the needs of your customers. Build the right skills and take consistent, daily action. You can see results if you can overcome the dark side.

How to write copy when you have seemingly insurmountable problems with your product

When I was a sales person, I felt like the products I was selling sometimes had insurmountable problems with them (usually related to the objections that most commonly killed the sale).

Then when I became a sales manager, all of my sales people came to me with the same complaints I had when I was in their shoes — “how can we sell this product or that service when it has THIS problem or lacks THAT feature?” they would wonder.

And now I’m a copywriter and my clients struggle with the same problems: Their product or service is good but not perfect and they are trying to figure out how to sell the product or service in spite of the glaring obstacles.

The other day I stumbled across one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of copywriting “around” your product’s problems. Can you imagine trying to sell a typewriter in today’s market? How would you EVER sell it when a customer can buy a low-end laptop (with so many more features and benefits) for basically the same price? That’s exactly what this example, below, shows.

The folks at Hammacher Schlemmer sent me a catalog (not sure why. I must be on a mailing list that was rented to them) and in their magazine I spotted the following advertisement… for a typewriter. I was surprised and thought it must be a joke at first (although that’s not really the style of the magazine). And then I read the copy and realized just how brilliantly they handled the issue of selling a product with obvious “flaws” (I mean: Flaws compared to feature/benefit-rich computers).

Check out the ad below (or if you find it too difficult to read then I’ve transcribed the ad text below the image)…

manualtypewriter

THE WORDSMITH’S MANUAL TYPEWRITER
This is the manual typewriter that recalls the thoughtful, well-
written correspondence of yesteryear. Devoid of technological
crutches such as spell-check and deletion, each of its 44 keys
requires a firm, purposeful stroke for a steady click-clacking
cadence that encourages the patient, considered sentiment of
a wordsmith who thinks before writing. Using a 10-characters-
per-inch Pica 87 font, it faithfully produces the eclectic
printed impressions of its forebears — variable kerning, subtly
ghosted letters, and nuanced baseline shifts — imparting
unique, personal character to every letter, piece of prose, or
verse of poetry. Updated with a lightweight yet durable ABS
housing and carrying case for easy portability. Black/red/stencil
spool ribbon. 4 1/2″ H x 12 1/4″ W x 14 1/4″ D (9 1/4 lbs.)
$199.95

Do you see what’s going on here? They are cleverly taking the very things that people complain about typewriters (and have long since given them up for computers) and are making them special. This entire catalog blurb could easily be reversed and said by someone who is being offered a typewriter and instead wants to buy a computer but Hammacher has turned those very objections into this typewriter’s selling points. That is intriguing… and, in my opinion, quite a powerful way to sell.

  • The first thing they did right was to put the offer in the Hammacher. This is a catalog of unique products so it fits with the intended audience. That is key and your copy won’t work if you don’t make this the first step.
  • They start by calling it a “wordsmith’s typewriter”, elevating the status from just any old typewriter to a device that would be used by someone who fancies themselves a wordsmith.
  • The first sentence evokes a positive emotion associated with the age of typewriters — a nostalgic bygone era inhabited (presumably) by Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce.
  • The second sentence takes some very common objections (“no spell check” and “no delete key”) and reverses the way people think about them by calling them “technological crutches”… and even further suggests later in the sentence that thoughtful “wordsmiths” who write patient, considered prose don’t need those things.
  • To further bolster the “charm” of the product, the copy highlights the need for a “firm, purposeful stroke” in order to press the key, the “click-clacking cadence” that results, and even turns “variable kerning, subtly ghosted letters, and nuanced baseline shifts” from ugly and old-school into eclectically charming.
  • After building all of this up, then the ad delivers the real punchline — the biggest benefit — by suggesting that all of this quirky and nostalgic charm imparts “unique, personal character to every letter, piece of prose, or verse of poetry”, cleverly skipping over the fact that real wordsmiths impart those qualities through skill rather than the device they use to write.

This is a good little “case study” of one way that a company can turn something that seems unsellable into an attractive offer. Of course, you are probably not selling typewriters so you may not be able to dial an extra dose of “charm” into your product or service. But there might be other ways to reinterpret your product’s problems. As long as you do actually offer good value, this case study illustrates one way to handle those seemingly insurmountable objections. Use it as an inspiration to take another look at your product or service and try to figure out a way to turn those obstacles into opportunities.