Freelance copywriter Rich Armstrong has a policy for handling client revisions which he got from John Nicksic. Richard explains, “On the first draft, I give the client the copy he needs. On the second draft, I give the client the copy he wants. On the third draft, I give the client the copy he deserves.”

3 steps to more persuasive writing

Posted October 10th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

According to top copywriters Mark Ford and Will Newman, you can make your writing more persuasive when you follow these 3 simple steps:

1. Begin with an emotionally compelling idea…one that simultaneously feels both correct and insightful.

2. Express it clearly…if the reader cannot understand your idea, he won’t believe it.

3. Be specific…state, demonstrate, and prove your compelling idea with specific details.

This formula is so powerful and accurate, I believe virtually all A-level copy follows it.

Source: “Persuasion: The Subtle Art of Getting What You Want”, AWAI, 2014

What word length is best for headlines?

Posted October 9th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

How many words in a headline? In headline tests conducted with cooperation from a big department store, it was found that headlines of 10 words or longer sold more goods than short headlines. In terms of recall, headlines between 8 and 10 words are most effective.

In mail order advertising, headlines between 6 and 12 words get the most orders. On the average, long headlines sell more merchandise than short ones.

Your headline should telegraph what you want to say in simple language. Readers do not stop to decipher the meanings of obscure headlines.

Source: David Ogilvy, “Writing Ads That Sell”, The Copywriter’s Roundtable, 4/14/14

How to use fear in your marketing

Posted September 15th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

The two primary motivators of human behavior are (1) to gain reward and (2) to avoid punishment. Naturally, both work well in copy when rendered correctly.

According to Professor Kim Witte, to use fear effectively, your copy must include 3 elements, in this order:

1. First, the threat has to be moderate or severe. Make it significant and vivid.

2. Next, the reader has to feel he is personally at risk.

3. Third, the reader must believe that preventative action implemented with your product or service is simple and easy.

Source: Copyblogger, 3/20/14

Copywriting with music

Posted August 16th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

I keep a boom box on the shelf in my office and have two cabinets filled with CDs. Reason: ambient sound affects my mood and energy…and could work for you too.

When I am thinking through a difficult copywriting problem, I work in silence.

For sustained concentration and deep thinking—classical.

When I need to boost my energy, I play jazz or rock.

I also use jazz, rock, country, and even show tunes as background noise to keep my mood up on lighter writing tasks such as content.

Research indicates there may be a link between music and brain function: In a study at the University of Toronto, young children given weekly music lessons experienced a small but measurable increase in IQ.

Source: New Jersey Family, March 2014, p. 24.

I think it is so important to have a guarantee on my copywriting services that I post it on my website.

But note that it does not guarantee results: “I guarantee your complete satisfaction with the copy I write for you before you run the ad, mail the sales letter, distribute the e-mail, or put up the landing page or website.

“Most clients are pleased and enthusiastic about my copy when they receive it. But if you are not 100 percent satisfied, I will revise the copy according to your specific guidelines…and at my expense.

“Just tell me what you want improved and what the specific changes are, and I’ll make them—fast. There is no charge for rewriting. Revisions are included in the flat fee we’ve agreed to for the assignment.

“What I don’t guarantee is a particular result or response rate. Why?

“There are many factors in your marketing—product, market, price, list, demand, consumer preferences, the economy, the stock market, major events—I cannot control.

“Therefore, while I can and do guarantee your satisfaction with my copy before you test it, I do not promise and cannot guarantee specific results.”

For instance, an information product might be a winner at $97 but a loser at $47 or $197.

If the client does not price test and instead goes out with one price, $197, then it is not necessarily the copy that doesn’t work…it’s the price. And if the client ignores the advice of his advisors to test the prices, then the client is to blame, yes?

But there is another reason why it is impractical for copywriters to guarantee or be responsible for results: it is that clients almost always make changes to your copy.

Many of these changes are admittedly minor; others major. But the sad fact is that even a tiny change can destroy an ad and render it ineffective.

I tell clients the only way I can be responsible for the result is if they run the copy as I wrote it. Not as they rewrote it.

I understand they may not. They may be right in making changes they think improve the copy—in fact, they probably are in many cases.

Nonetheless, if the client—and not the copywriter—wrote the text or part of it, how can the copywriter assume responsibility for the results, given that even a teeny change can do big damage?

The answer many copywriters have to the issue of clients changing copy is to suggest the client do an A/B split test of the original copy vs. the copy that has gone through the review process.

Well this sounds nice, but forget it. I don’t think in my 35 years of freelance copywriting I have heard of any client taking any copywriter up on this offer.

So it is a theoretical solution, but not a practical one. Suggest it if it makes you feel good. But don’t hold your breath.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

I was recently irritated by two UK copywriters, NH and MF, who lurk on a LinkedIn copywriting forum and spend a lot of time bashing what I do, which is direct marketing (DM), often also called direct response (DR).

NH calls direct response advertising “huckster crap” and grudgingly admits that some young copywriters today are moving to DM only because “in some markets it works”. But he doesn’t think much about those markets or writers.

I explained to NH that I find the opposite: youngsters today are fleeing from DM, preferring more trendy marketing channels including SEO, blogging, content marketing, and social media.

Why? Because direct response sells, and both new media evangelists as well as many old-school Madison Avenue copywriters alike seem to find selling somewhat shameful…as incredible as that sounds.

Also, in DM, copywriters who don’t know how to sell are naked and exposed.

In direct response, the results of your efforts can be measured down to the penny.

And a lot of writers hate that, because when their stuff doesn’t work, they are unmasked as the poseurs they are.

I agree with MF’s observation that many youngsters flee DM “as it is seen as the unsexy side of advertising”.

But I cannot fathom why copywriter MF says, and so many copywriters agree, that “It’s more fun to work on big budget ads and TV…some would rather enjoy their working life building a brand rather than a bank balance.”

If indulging your creative whims on the most elaborate and expensive ad campaigns you can conceive, and then explaining to the client why their sales did not go up as you flushed their millions down the toilet, is fun—then yes, I guess branding is fun.

To MF I say: Hey dummy, do you understand that companies pay you to build their brands precisely because they also want to build their bank balance, otherwise known as the bottom line?

MF concludes: “DM has its place, but it’s usually only those creatives who don’t succeed in above-the-line advertising who find themselves sucked into it.”

I will offer a contrary view: The best copywriters who, by definition, are tops at generating sales, are drawn to DM because they can see immediate rewards for themselves and their clients.

Often the worst copywriters go into branding and above-the-line advertising because, with no accountability, these hacks lack the selling chops to get consumers to actually buy their clients’ products—and in general advertising, they can get away with it.

Then NH kicks his demonstrated stupidity into higher gear. He writes: “America being so much bigger than the UK must have a large simple-minded underclass who will still respond to DM’s crude promises and hand over money for stuff they really don’t need or can’t afford, be it a lawn mower or an insurance policy.”

Let’s break down NH’s moronic utterance: First, he insults our vast middle class by calling us simple-minded. I have seen no data supporting the assertion that the American middle class is not as intelligent as the middle class in Europe or the Far East.

Second, he accuses DM of selling stuff people don’t really need.

The fact is, products fall into two categories: must-have and nice-to-have—the latter being, as NH calls it, stuff people don’t really need.

I ask: What is wrong with selling products that people want and are nice to have? The reality is that most products are in this category. And sellers of nice-to-have products advertise heavily and actively with both direct marketing and general advertising.

For instance, most luxury cars are sold using TV commercials, full-page color magazine ads, and the Internet.

Consumers don’t need luxury cars, because a Toyota driven at 60 mph will get you to work just as quickly as a BMW driven 60 mph. As a Prius owner, I have proven this through testing.

And, luxury car advertising is selling stuff that consumers clearly cannot afford. The proof: approximately 90% of consumers cannot buy their cars without a loan. And if you can’t afford to pay cash for your car, then I contend that car is too expensive for you.

The last word on creativity in advertising vs. selling in advertising? David Ogilvy, my copywriting hero and NH’s former boss, whom NH frequently denigrates: “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Millionaire Copywriting Mastermind

Do you get stuck when it comes to making sales pages?

Do you want to know what the real secrets are to getting your visitors to stay on your page and buy your product?

Knowing the right way to create a stunning sales page can be a massive learning curve which has left many marketers in a mess as they simply don’t know where to begin.

This leads to frustration, despair and is the reason that so many feel the heartache of giving up at copywriting when visitors are more than convinced at clicking away from weak sales pages.

Like many budding copywriters, Carl Picot struggled to get his sales pages right, but instead of giving up or paying through the nose to outsource, he wanted to know more, and went out and hunted down 7 of the world’s most wanted sales page copywriters and coaxed out their secrets.

He has now made these available for you so that you can benefit from the awesome, life-changing, content that these people share.

The Millionare Copywriting Mastermind will show you everything you need to know about sales page mastery from the ground up…and more.

If you want to get access to info that could have you create killer high-converting sales pages in no time, then click here now to get in on the dirty little secrets and finally get the skills you need to earn the freedom that you and your clients (provide a copywriting service too!) deserve.

The power of negative thinking

Posted May 10th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

In his book “Breakthrough Copywriting”, copywriting ace David Garfinkel teaches a persuasion principle he calls “negative optimism”, which he defines as “the optimal use of negative thinking in your copy”.

Here are the steps to writing copy based on negative optimism:

1. Acknowledge the negative thoughts and emotions the prospect may be thinking or feeling; e.g., “You think you got problems. I’m sure you do. We all have problems. I remember…”

2. Validate these negatives by talking about your own experience or about someone else’s experience. Talk about how hopeless and overwhelmed you felt.

Note: If you can’t talk about it from your own personal experience, don’t make something up. Find someone who had this experience, understand what it was, and talk about it from their point of view.

3. Reveal that you found a solution and then transition by promising to share your solution with your prospect.

Subscriber SM, a successful freelance copywriter, writes: “A potential client contacted me. He wants me to guarantee results.

“I told him no copywriter can guarantee an increase in conversion, although there’s a strong chance if there’s a budget for ample testing, and the client has globs of traffic.

“One of these days, I’d love for you to write a blog/e-mail about potential clients who scream for a guarantee. I think all copywriters would love to hear your thoughts based on your experience.

“On the one hand I have to say, ‘I’m going to help you get results’ but there are too many variables to guarantee a lift in conversion.”

My answer is simple, and I include it in all my client agreements for every copywriting project I take on: “There are many factors in your marketing—product, market, price, list, demand, consumer preferences, competition, major events—that Bob cannot control. Therefore, he does not promise and cannot guarantee specific results.”

The most important thing to note is that the client and I discuss—and the client agrees to—this term in advance.

Now, let’s drill down deeper.

To begin with, SM is right: You cannot promise a specific result e.g., 7% conversion on your landing page.

If you could, it would mean every promotion you write is a guaranteed winner…and no copywriter has that ability.

If I could in fact write a winner every time out, I would own my own island by now…and Bill Gates would be my houseboy while George Soros washed my Rolls in the driveway.

So you can’t promise and deliver a given result, either specific (e.g., 5% response on a postcard mailing) or general (e.g., your promotion will make money for the client).

What you CAN guarantee or promise is that if your copy does not deliver a certain level of response, you will compensate the client in some way.

That compensation is either giving back part of your fee (or not charging for any balance due) or re-doing the work at no charge.

My contract promises neither. It clearly states that I am paid when the work is done, regardless of sales or response produced by the copy.

And that works both ways: If the package generates a million in sales instead of the forecast $100,000, the client keeps all the money and I do not get a cut.

The reason, as the clause I quoted from my contract states, is that there are many factors in a client’s marketing—product, market, price, list, traffic, demand, consumer preferences, competition, major events—that we copywriters have no control over.

Example: I arranged for my client SH to distribute an HTML e-mail, offering a free report I wrote for him, to an opt-in e-list of a few thousand names, provided by a reputable list broker for around $1,500.

A few days before the scheduled e-blast, SH told me he had found another list source, one I have never heard of, who would distribute his e-mail to a few thousand names for $250.

Though I explained to SH the likelihood was that this cheap list was garbage, he decided to go against my advice and use it.

It bombed. SH has, I hope, learned a lesson on how a factor other than copy can determine the outcome of a promotion. And you can see why copy alone cannot assure results.

Here’s another problem with guaranteeing results: What if the client changes some of the copy in a way that ruins its effectiveness, and then tells you that ‘your’ copy didn’t work?

If the copy was changed, how can the copywriter be held accountable for what the client did behind his back and without his approval or involvement?

In my opinion, the only way one could even remotely consider offering a guarantee is to insist the client run the promotion exactly as you wrote it, without changing a word unless the copywriter makes and approves any change.

And I have yet to meet the client who will adhere to that if, when he reads your draft, it is not 100% to his liking.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

Hire a copywriter or write it yourself?

Posted April 11th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

According to top copywriter John Carlton, when it comes to hiring a freelance copywriter, you have decided that either your own copywriting skills are not up to the task, or you should hire a pro because it will save you time and get better results, assuming you can afford it.

“There’s a cost to everything, which includes both the dollars involved, and your time and invested energy, all balanced against the odds of success,” says John.

“If you save time doing certain things yourself, and the results are abysmal, how much have you really saved?” John sensibly asks. “Or, if you write a check that makes your hand shake to a top copywriter who produces something that opens the wealth spigot on your head, how much did that writer ‘cost’ you?”

Lose The Jargon

Posted March 7th, 2014 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

Stop using all the same buzzwords as your competitors like “fully leverage”, “fully optimize”, “most comprehensive”, “drives maximum efficiency”, “seamlessly integrated”, “mission-critical”, “innovative” etc.

Think about explaining your product or service to your 80-year-old grandma, and then use those same words in your marketing. Does she know what “fully leverage big data” means? Probably not. Reduce the noise around your core value proposition and make it simple and clear what your one special thing is without using jargon as a communications crutch.

Source: Brian Ladyman, Today@TargetMarketing, 2/5/14

In what is probably a foolish waste of time, I occasionally get suckered into disagreements with “creative” type copywriters on a LinkedIn discussion group.

I know I shouldn’t get embroiled, but I cannot let some of their blatantly ignorant commentary on marketing pass.

I was shocked recently by a comment from NH, a UK copywriter who takes pride in the fact that he is an “above the line (ATL)” copywriter.

ATL refers to creative advertising for big ad agencies producing brand advertising for major consumer accounts.

NH, who once worked for Ogilvy when Ogilvy was still there, expressed what I consider at best disregard and at worst contempt for the great sage of advertising.

He recounted that, how when you joined Ogilvy back then, you were given two things: a map of the building and a copy of Ogilvy on Advertising.

“Only one was useful to us,” said NH—and it was the map.

He continued: “You don’t understand, Bob. No one above the line cares tuppence. The old master’s insights are now just part of the fabric of advertising. No one needs to go back to the source.”

Hmmm. If Ogilvy’s insights are now “part of the fabric of advertising,” then how do you explain all the bad advertising today that violates his rules?

I posted my reply as follows:

“For a copywriter to say that a map of the building had more value to him than Ogilvy on Advertising is to publicly admit that he is a fraud and an ignoramus. How do you sleep at night?

“For a working copywriter to say that he has no use for Ogilvy on Advertising is like a doctor saying Gray’s Anatomy is of no value to him.”

I relate this incident because it illustrates a major complaint of mine: people in marketing (or in any other field) who practice without thorough and careful study of the important literature in the field.

I think it was insurance billionaire A.L. Williams who once said, “Everything you need to know is contained in books.”

Today, we expand books to include online information sources, but the basic idea is sound: you will gain much quicker and greater mastery of any field of knowledge or skill if you study the instructional writings of its best practitioners.

At copywriting seminars, I like to ask the attendees how many of them have read “Scientific Advertising” by Claude Hopkins, a book Ogilvy said anyone who wants to succeed in advertising should read seven times.

In an average group of 100, one or two people—if that—will raise their hand. And increasingly these days, no one does.

My old friend, the late, great mail order guru Jerry Buchanan, complained publicly that people would order his how-to manuals, and then, when they called him to ask questions, it became obvious that they never even read the books they’d bought from him.

Jerry would tell them: “You are starving to death with a loaf of bread under each arm.”

Too many marketers, young and old, struggle with problems and challenges that have already been asked and answered in how-to publications available to them with a few mouse clicks.

To help you solve this problem, here is an article I wrote for DM News on 10 classic marketing books I think every marketer should read.

Don’t write to tell me, “Bob, these are all old marketing books. Don’t you read any more contemporary marketing books?”

Yes, I do, and here are a few of those I also recommend.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

GR, a freelance writer and marketing ignoramus, decided, in spite of her lack of knowledge, to deliver a mini-lecture on marketing writing on an online discussion group.

GR wrote: “In today’s market, stay away from advertising. Advertising doesn’t work. Copywriting is finished. If you want to sell, you must write content, not advertising. Consumers respond to content. They hate advertising.”

Here’s the problem with GR’s thinking in a nutshell: it isn’t true.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Content marketing works. I know—I’ve been using it aggressively and almost continuously since 1980.

Content marketing has a lot of benefits. Mainly, it helps convince the prospect that you are an expert in your industry and that you know what you are talking about. And people like to buy from experts.

However, content is piss poor at closing sales and getting the order. And that’s where copywriting shines.

The reason is that, at its lowest level, content is merely that—content. Information.

And you are not in business to write and give away free information. You are in business to make sales and profits.

Copy, by comparison, is deliberately constructed—using some very sophisticated techniques and formulas—to persuade a total stranger to give you money in exchange for your product or service.

One of those many formulas that copywriters master through long years of study and practice is the 5-step Motivating Sequence.

Content writers, have you heard of it? Can you name all 5 steps in the correct order? If not, I guarantee your writing does not sell nearly as well as it could.

Here is an article I wrote about it years ago for DM News.

Why do many young writers sing the praises of content marketing today while looking down on copywriting?

My theory—and yes, I know this is going to offend some of my readers big time—is that content marketing is EASIER than copywriting…by far.

When it comes to writing content—say, for instance, a good speech—there is a degree of skill and intelligence required, but not a lot of technique.

By comparison, writing a winning long-copy sales letter, one that raises conversion rates vs. the control by 25% to 50%, there is a huge amount of know-how, experience, and tricks of the trade needed to pull it off.

As a result, there are more content writers out there than you can shake a stick at.

While they vary in skill and quality, safe to say it’s relatively easy to find a freelance writer who can churn out acceptable content.

Copywriters are another story…

Yes, there are also today, thanks to AWAI and others promoting copywriting as a business opportunity, more copywriters out there than you can shake a stick at.

But with copywriting, the number in the first tier … those who write copy well enough to command top-dollar fees and repeat assignments from major league direct marketers … is a far smaller, select, and more manageable group.

On average, by my rough calculation, a good copywriter can earn 5 to 10 times higher annual wages than a good content writer.

There is a reason for this: great copy is a valuable commodity. It is rarer than great content writing with a much higher ROI.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

The worst thing about freelance copywriting (or any other type of writing) is this: You write a brilliant piece that you are absolutely in love with. You submit it to your client or editor. And the client call or e-mails – and to your utter amazement says, “I hate this. It stinks.”

How can you prevent this unpleasant event and ensure your clients’ satisfaction? Here are a few ideas that work:

1. Listen and capture.

Often when you ask the client about his business or product, he will articulate its benefits in a clear and powerful way. Write down what he says, and incorporate the best of this verbiage in your copy. Not only is it accurate, but when the client reads it, he’ll be pleased with how you put things (because it accurately reflects how he thinks of the product).

2. Create a pre-approved sentence library.

Especially when dealing with a complex or technical subject, after reviewing the source material, write a bunch of sentences that express your understanding of the technology, function, and features as best you can.

Submit these sentences—no more than 6 to 7 or so—to the client and ask him to review. Incorporate any changes. Now, you have a library of pre-approved sentences you can use in your copy.

Few things upset clients more than the unpleasant surprise of reading a first-draft filled with errors, because it puts the fear into them that you do not understand the product. Using a library of pre-approved sentences eliminates surprises of this nature.

3. Submit 3-5 headlines.

Come up with 3 to 5 headlines—the strongest you can. Instead of picking one and submitting your first draft with it, show the headlines to the client early and let him pick. That way, when he gets your first draft, he is already comfortable with the headline, which is the first thing he sees.

4. Submit the lead early.

As with the headlines, write a 100 to 500-word lead or two, submit them to the client for review and comment, and then make any changes. Again, now when he gets the first draft, you are ensured of no surprises, at least on page one.

5. Use the John Steinbeck writing method.

John Steinbeck said that when you are writing, you must treat it as the most important thing in the world, even when you know it is not. This helps you take the job seriously and do your best on everything you write.

6. Use the Bill Bonner writing method.

Bill Bonner, founder of publishing giant Agora, told copywriter JF that you must believe in what you are selling—at least while you are writing the promotion. If you don’t believe and think the product is hooey, turn down the project. This is why I just turned down a potentially lucrative assignment to promote a course on how to make good business decisions based on astrology.

7. Do not be a prima donna.

When the client makes changes, don’t pout or grumble, even if you disagree with them. For instance, in a copy review last week, the client removed a phrase I thought was really strong—a reference to the Dire Straits song “Money for nothing.” I loved it. But I did not argue.

Copywriter Cam Foote always said he considered his first draft a recommendation – and after that, he would acquiesce pleasantly. David Ogilvy said, “Fight over your queen; let the pawns go.”

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

I just got around to reading the 9/16/13 issue of BtoB magazine (now folded into Ad Age), which featured a special supplement in which supposedly top B2B ad agencies showcased their print advertising and web work.

I was blown away…but not in a good way.

Just look at a random sampling of their awful headlines:



Wake Up

Make What Matters

The Legend Continues

Bring It

It’s Tougher Than the Leading Competition

The Hear Yourself Think Space

Work Will Never Be the Same

Nobody Said You Couldn’t Have It All

Outta Here

Connect With Investors on a Different Scale

If I handed in copy with these headlines, my clients would summarily reject it. And possibly have me shot.

Yet these headlines are from ad agencies handling big-name accounts including American Express, WebMD, Teledyne Controls, Honeywell, Corning, and dozens more.

A few things that make most of the ads I saw suck:

>> Weak headlines that state no specific benefit and no UPS.

>> Ads with no headlines.

>> Headlines that were a single word or a made-up word and therefore said next to nothing.

>> Impossible-to-read body copy in tiny type, wide paragraphs, and printed against a color background instead of white.

>> Weak offers or no offers.

>> No incentive to act now.

You’d think any good copywriter would be a godsend to these agencies.

But I fear not: I believe they are incapable of either writing or recognizing good copy.

It’s a crying shame.

David Ogilvy, John Caples, and Claude Hopkins are turning over in their graves.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

How To Get More Sales, Fewer Refunds by Bob Bly

Posted December 18th, 2013 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

Subscriber DN, whom we heard from last week, asked yet another interesting question: “Bob, I’ve purchased information products from you, and found your information to be sound, but nowhere near as good as your sales letter makes it out to be.”

Talk about a back-handed compliment…

She continues, “I am sure your refund rates would reduce if you avoid the hype, clever copy, and amplification in your sales letters…but so would your sales. You can’t have it both ways. So what say you?”

DN raises an extremely important point that I have struggled with daily in my 34 years as a professional copywriter, namely, balancing the promise of benefits in the sales copy with the delivery of those benefits by the product.

A common piece of advice to marketers is to under-promise and over-deliver.

The idea is that customers are happy when they get what they paid for but are ecstatically happy when they get MORE than they thought they had any right to expect for their money.

My friend, ace Internet marketer Fred Gleeck, has a rule of thumb: the product should be so good that if the customer had paid 10X the price, he would still be happy and not ask for a refund.

That ratio is sensible in theory, but difficult to achieve in practice.

For instance, one of my copywriting heroes, GB, sold a $5,000 copywriting boot camp to his list—an amazing feat in today’s troubled economic times.

As good as it no doubt was, I am not sure the attendees would have felt they got their money’s worth if they had paid $50,000 each. Or that he would have gotten any registrations at that price.

So here are the rules I follow as a copywriter and an information marketer when writing my sales letters and creating my products:

1. Write the strongest sales copy possible within the limitations of being ethical and truthful.

Remember, you must convince the reader that your product can solve their problem…and do so more ably than competing products.

Your competitors are pulling out all the stops in their copy. So yours can’t be meek and mild.

2. When in doubt, it is in fact better to under-promise and over-deliver. The customer should feel that she has gotten more than her money’s worth.


3. Do not deliberately set the bar so low in your copy that you write bland, ultra-safe promotions. When you do so, you won’t make sales.

4. If you feel compelled to write low-key copy as an apology for a mediocre product, you should instead write the strongest copy you can and then improve your product so it will delight anyone who buys in response to that copy.

My copywriting teacher at NYU, the late Milt Pierce, told us that he was hired to write a direct mail package to sell a book written by a famous interior decorator.

When the marketing director got Milt’s draft, she gasped: “This is great copy but this isn’t what’s in the book,” she objected.

“It should be,” Milt countered. He says the publisher made the author rewrite the book to deliver on all the promises made in the copy.

5. There is a rule of thumb that refund rates on infoproducts should be less than 10% and ideally 5% or less. Our refund rate a few years ago was around 2%.

Now, selling those same products, the refund rate is 5.2% for the year to date. The most common reason for the refund request by far: “This product has a copyright date of 2010 or earlier and therefore I think it is out of date.” They are wrong, of course, but you can’t fight city hall, which is why we are in a massive program of updating our core infoproducts.

Some argue that a zero refund rate is bad, because it means your copy was so mild, it did not make enough strong promises. I understand the logic of this theory, though I would not object to a zero refund rate.

Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.

1. Fear
2. Greed
3. Guilt
4. Anger
5. Exclusivity
6. Salvation
7. Flattery

Source: Denny Hatch, “The Secrets of Emotional, Hot-Button Copywriting,” Direct Marketing IQ, p. 8

Ultimate Copywriting Workshop

If you are hoping, wishing, wondering how this year will be different, the answer is it won’t…unless you master the one single critical skill that equals financial freedom!

I’m talking about copywriting…

You see, there’s nothing else you can learn that gives you the confidence to create more sales, more profits and more of just anything you ever want…simply using a pen or your keyboard.

Thanks to this vital expertise, many copywriters enjoy REPEATED career success as if they have a secret formula in their hands (which is true). And the best part is you can actually learn how to write copy that sells. You don’t need be some creative genius or literary talent (trust me, I’m neither).

But you definitely need to learn from the best in this industry. Yanik Silver has recorded his brand new Ultimate “at home” Copywriting Workshop course from his $4k/person ‘live’ event.

First off, the physical package used to be massive, thank goodness he only offers the digital version now. I’m talking over 30 lbs. 3 huge 3-ring binders, 12 DVDs, and a pile of CDs and extras. I’d estimate at least 1400 written pages of material.

But it’s not just bulk. He’s actually made my life easy because now whenever I want to sit down and write a kick-butt e-mail, ad or sales letter, I can just navigate right to the section I need. Everything is searchable so you can quickly and easily find swipe files for any sales copy you need. It feels like cheating!

He has put examples of every single thing you’d need for your Internet business—e-mails, pops, endorsements, websites, headlines, guarantees, PPC ads, etc.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably keep repeating it forever, that the greatest skill I’ve ever learned is how to write words that sell. Fact is, you truly are just one good ad, sales letter or website away from a fortune.

And this is without a doubt, the most comprehensive resource I’ve ever seen on Internet copywriting. You deserve access to this material, from the comforts of your home, for a fraction of what others previously paid to attend his workshop in person!

3 ways to add specific urgency to your copy

Posted November 14th, 2013 by Nelson Tan. Filed under Copywriting

1. Establish a hard deadline. Specifics are always more convincing. Example: Midnight, Monday, November 25, 2013.

2. Put your deadline in the subject line or make it part of your outer envelope teaser; e.g. “3 days ’til Thanksgiving—SAVE 35% NOW!”

3. Don’t be shy about where you place the deadline or how many times you repeat it. You never know where a scanner’s eye will land first.

Source: Pat Friesen, Today@TargetMarketing, 10/17/13

Google Analytics integration offered by Wordpress Google Analytics Plugin