The short version of this post:
Your prospect is Clark Kent, an average person with a very special destiny. But, for him to fulfill that destiny he needs whatever it is you are selling. That´s copywriting in a nutshell.
Now, the long version:
Copywriting is simple. It´s copywriters that make it complicated. They are salesmen at heart and always trying to sell you a copywriting course/book. So they have to make it seem more complex than it is. Today, you will learn about copywriting the simple way. The way naturals do it. Without gimmicks, canned scripts, or weird tactics.
Good copywriting is like you are having a coffee with a better version of yourself. And the improved you is nudging you towards a better reality. You like this improved person, and you want something more out of life, but you are a bit skeptical. Yet you can’t walk away from the conversation.
There is a problem though. The coffee shop closes soon, and you might lose the chance to become this improved version of yourself forever. So you have to hurry and take action. The better you is inviting you to the adventure of a lifetime. You have to take the opportunity and take it now. Are you bold enough?… You are? Let’s go then.
Everything starts with trust. If people don’t trust you, no matter what you say, they won’t listen. And won’t buy. Trust is the #1 thing.
So. How to build trust?
Don’t fuck people over. No matter what you do. Build a reputation. Plumbers have a reputation. Lawyers have one. Stage actors have one. Everyone has one. You do as well. Is it good? Great. Then copywriting can help you. Is it bad? Fix it. Copywriting is not what you need right now.
The great thing about having a good reputation is that it’s easy to show it. You can use real testimonials. And prospects love real testimonials. They just know when a testimonial is BS. So don’t even try that.
So how to build a reputation if you are just starting?
Imagine your client is Tony Soprano. Would you fuck Tony over? You wouldn’t. Now imagine all your clients are Tony. No matter who your clients are. Mafia bosses or not. They are all Tony Sopranos for what you care for. So always keep your promises.
Second, only sell something that solves the problem it promises to solve. If it doesn’t, and you claim it does, your reputation will be damaged. You need to prove all your claims. If you are selling home self-defense DVDs and claim they will allow you to whoop anyone’s ass. You deserve to get yours whooped. What you are selling won’t solve any problems. It will cause more problems. The type of problems that arise when someone thinks they can fight after watching a DVD. This is why people don’t trust copywriters. Some of the best copywriters in the world are selling such crap.
Anything you claim you should be able to do. And you need to explain how. Here is where you get technical. You are no longer a salesperson. You are a lawyer. You are building a case for why your client should buy. As any lawyer will confirm, high-quality evidence wins trials. Show how you will solve the prospect’s problems and prove every single claim you make. Your clients are a tough jury. And if you can’t explain how you will fulfill your promise they will give you an unfavorable verdict.
Become an advisor
Ok, now that you have their trust, you can become their advisor. You are no longer selling to them. You are coaching them. Congrats! You have now become a life coach. (Or consigliere depending on which title you prefer.)
Tell them how to really solve their problem. Explain who should buy and who should not. If you tell them not to buy –because they are not ready or not the right fit–they will be thankful. They will be so happy they will recommend your product to someone else without even trying it. Advice your clients instead of “selling” to them and they will be by your side forever.
The best copywriters have a genuine interest in people. Their problems, aspirations, and boring lives. Yes, their lives are boring but you care. You are like a presidential candidate at the town hall. Only more authentic, and you actually can improve their lives.
Talk about the mundane. But make it look like their mundane is the most interesting type of mundane. Observe Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross talking to the married guy in the Chinese restaurant. That’s how you build rapport with a prospect. You find a glimmer of hope in the quiet desperation of their lives and you sell it to them. Buying is an escape. The solution is a plus.
Make a “dent” in their lives. Give them something to talk about and they might buy just for the story. Now, your prospect already likes you. At least enough to keep you around. People vote, sleep and buy from people they like so that’s good news for you.
Do we have mutual friends?
Our favorite topic is people. Even in smart circles, people pretend to talk about “deep” topics for hours before jumping into what they really want to talk about. People. It’s the topic that raises our heart pressure, and interest, the most. It’s the only topic that makes office drones perk up (besides rumors of them getting laid off). So mention people early. Before you bore your prospect.
But who to talk about? You might not share any mutual acquaintances with your prospect. But you do. “Are you sure?” you ask? Yes. You do. Your clients just like them. Those are the people in common you know.
Those clients (who of course you know by name) have the same problems as your prospects. They were in the same situation. Their situation was ok, but not great. Now they are having the time of their lives. And it was not your product that got them there. Nope. It was them taking action. Your product was just a device.
Your enemies are my enemies
You know a lot of people and a lot of people know you. You’ve got places to go and people to meet. Nobody likes someone who is not popular and nobody buys from someone who doesn’t have many clients.
Think Trump when he’s giving a speech. He always has someone “tell him this” or “that” or a “friend who did X”. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. You should keep that vibe as well.
But Trump knows a lot of bad people as well. People who want to “hurt” America. You also do. No, not America. In your case, you are well acquainted with people, or a force, or a type of mentality that hurts your prospect. You faced the same enemy in the past and defeated him. You´ve done it, now it’s their turn.
Having mutual enemies opens a pandora box of conversation topics. All related to how terrible your shared enemy is. This is the easiest way to build a bond. “The enemies of my enemies are my friends”. And who helps me defeat my enemy is my best friend.
Ok. Now that you are friends, you can sell to them.
Make them feel special
Everyone loves preferential treatment. We all think we are important and better than everyone else. Since they are better let them know they are getting a better deal as well. Better seats. A better view. More legroom. A complimentary cocktail. You get it. People don’t want to pay less to save more but to know they got a better deal than everyone else.
See how it’s all about being better than others? “You are awesome and better than others. We know it. But once you get my product you will be better than others and they will know it as well.”
But there is always someone else bidding for that special deal. So you better make your prospect hurry. Time is ticking. They can get it for only a limited time. Yes, they are special. But remember you know a lot of people (and a lot of people know you) so someone else could get the deal if your prospect doesn’t act soon. Urgency + scarcity gets your prospects to act now.
Feed the wolf
Now, you need your prospect to pass the “tell your wife about it” test. If their wife asks what compelled them to buy X, they need to provide a logical answer. So, if 50-year-old Meghan asks her 52-year-old husband Ralph why he spent 60k on a new red coupe. You need to arm Ralph with a logical answer he can use to justify the purchase. Everyone has a Meghan in their heads. And in Ralph´s case in their real lives.
We know why he really bought the coupe (to impress that 24-year-old waitress). But he needs something he can tell his wife, and himself. A logical answer. He just wants someone slick enough to convince him to buy it. It’s like a girl who’s out tonight and wants to have some fun. She just needs a guy to convince her so she doesn’t feel “cheap” the next day. Good copywriters not only convince but make sure clients feel like a million dollars the next day.
Ralph´s logical answer could be something like “blah blah blah suspension, blah blah horsepower, blah blah, 5-year mechanical overview included”. Boring stuff. You feed Ralph that info. So he can feed it to his wife.
Now that you gave Ralph a logical reason to buy. Feed his inner wolf. Make him desire it.
Feed his imagination. Like when you are talking about the car´s premium leather seats Ralph is thinking how Judith’s suntanned legs are going to look on them. While you talk about how only accomplished guys can afford it. Ralph is thinking how his less accomplished neighbor will contort of jealousy. Or Judith´s Corolla driving boyfriend will be outmuscled.
“The red coupe is one of a kind, which means one of a kind guys drive it. And you know one of a kind guys get access to stuff that run of the mill guys don’t”
Feed the wolf. Let Ralph connect the dots between the “logical” features of your product and the stuff that makes it awesome. Build desire. Make him want it but back it up with logic.
Feeding the wolf makes the difference between deferring the purchase to a future date and buying right now. When the wolf is hungry, he can’t wait. He wants it now, and is willing to do what it takes to get it.
That’s why Drew E. Whitman in his book Cashvertising advises connecting whatever you are selling to one of the 8 eight basic human instincts. Your product needs to be as essential as food, survival, or sex.
It´s yours already
We hold on more tightly to what´s ours than pursue new things. This is called loss aversion and it’s a very powerful psychological trigger.
If you make your prospect imagine their new toy. Make them feel as if the product is already theirs. It’s their new reality. They will try to hold on to it no matter what. And by not buying they are losing it. Ouch. Nobody wants to go through that pain.
Once the cupcake is in your hands and you are about to eat it. You can get very angry if someone tries to snatch it from you. Give your prospect the cupcake, then make her feel like you could take it away any moment. That’s why free trials work wonders. We hate to lose what is already ours.
The fine print
Now your client is ready to buy. He only needs specific details. How soon will he get his convertible? Payment methods. Guarantees. Yes. Very important. Guarantees. What if he changes his mind? It happens. Slide in a money-back or another promise (you can keep). You will close the sale with less friction.
And that’s how simple it is. Now go out and sell, Ralph is waiting. He needs a new red convertible.
Before we close the sale, there is an often-overlooked factor that can kill your whole proposal. Substance. How you present your copy is as important as the copy itself. The gift might be good, but if the packaging is off point your sales message will lose strength.
You want your readers to focus on the message only. The way it’s written should enable it and that’s it. So don’t be too clever. Simple is always better. Don´t be the weather guy with a pink suit. People will forget the weather forecast and the guy. They will only remember the suit.
The same can happen with your copy. You don’t want to be that guy who got outshined by his suit.
You want your readers to buy. Not to laugh, not to nominate you to a Pulitzer, and definitely not to think how talented a writer you are. If all these happen in tandem, then good for you. But they are not your end goal. Your end goal is to sell.
Use short and simple sentences. Nothing fancy. Nothing too glamorous. You are not an academic trying to impress other academics. You are selling the academic something that helps him to finally get laid. You are not smarter than your client. You are just writing what he’s always thought. Reading your copy would be like looking into a mirror. But the mirror tells you how to fix that awkward unibrow.
Read The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, and this post by Scott Adams if you are struggling with this. If English is not your native language (my case), you have to assess if it’s good enough. If it’s not, write copy in your native language, or work with a native English editor. Or work on the creative or strategic aspect of marketing. Or don’t write copy. There are many other great occupations.
*The title is a spin-off of this legendary writing article by Scott Adams.