Author Archives: Darrel Hawes

Four Essential Elements in (Almost) Any Sales Copy

Much has been written on the structure of a sales letter, and copywriters everywhere all have their own opinions about what must be included in a sales letter or promotion.

What follows is a listing and explanation of the four parts which I see as the absolute most important for your sales communications. Surely there are other required building blocks too; however, these particular pieces are the most crucial.

1. The headline.

The sales letter’s headline is hands-down the most critical element. Here are a few reasons why this is the case.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Your headline “sets the boundaries” of the subject and intended reader of the letter. It has to give the reader a good idea of what to expect and “what’s in it for them” if they are to keep reading. If it fails to do this, the reader will most likely turn the page or click to the next website.

It should be obvious why most veteran copywriters will invest more time on the headline than on any other element of the sales letter.

2. Your offer.

What is being offered to prospects? If that in itself is not attractive to the prospect, or even if it’s not positioned in such a way that makes them see why they would want it, you will be disappointed in your sales. Quite simply, the offer has got to be done right.

3. Testimonials.

Although there are exceptions, generally testimonials are going to be a very important piece of the building we call sales letters. There’s an ancient saying that goes like this: “let another praise you and not your own lips”. People today, just like people of times gone by, tend to be distrustful when others praise themselves. Testimonials break though much of the natural aversion and allow our satisfied customers to speak on our behalf.

4. Dealing with objections.

This part of the sales letter might not even be a separate section but rather, is sometimes woven into the letter. Regardless, here is why it exists. People naturally have buying resistance. Just think about the last time you went shopping for a major item. If you’re like most people, prior to laying your money down you have several misgivings pop into your head. A good sales person knows how to answer these objections.

Selling in print works similarly, with this difference: copywriters do not have the chance to actually hear our prospect’s objections out loud and see their facial expressions. This is why we have to learn what the primary objections will be and craft our best responses to them ahead of time.

Summary.

I am fully aware that these four elements alone do not a sales letter make. However, the copywriter would do well to spend the majority of time on these particular elements. They will “make or break” the sales letter. The business owner can make the process much easier by collecting good testimonials and by creating excellent products that his or her target market is actively seeking.

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How “Copywriting” Got Its Name

Some may be rather confused by the word “copywriting”. After all, what does copying have to do with writing?

Here’s the simplest way to answer that question. All writers borrow from other writers; we never start completely from scratch. We always borrow certain phrases or stylistic elements from other writers. Advertising writers are merely more self-conscious and upfront about the process.

This should make perfect sense if you consider the purpose of advertising: to trigger certain emotional responses in the prospect and move them to take a specific action. If the advertising moves the prospect to take the desired action, the writing has fulfilled its purpose.

Copywriters recognize that human beings are complex. Exactly what motivates us to take action is often unclear.

So, copywriters will often start with an advertising piece that they know is effective, and will then borrow elements from it. Every aspect of a sales letter is modeled after other, earlier, successful pieces, starting with the headline.

A great headline from the last century went like this: “They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano, But When I Began To Play…” This headline is the basis of hundreds of later headlines. It is effective because there are at least two emotionally charged ideas, and probably more. The good writer knows what tool is required to cause a specific effect, and knows how to use it.

There are certain elements often present in successful headlines.

Sometimes numbers are used as an effective means to draw the reader in, like in headlines like, “The Five Steps You Must Take…” and “Seven Tricks…”. The human mind sometimes loves specific numbers.

Another widely used technique is the word “secrets” or some variation. This idea is used in at least two senses. First, people in general love the idea of gaining secret knowledge that will give them an advantage over others. Second, on the flip side of the coin, people don’t like the idea of others having this same secret knowledge and keeping an advantage over themselves. Kevin Trudeau has largely built his publishing career on just this notion (big companies and the government are deliberately keeping information from you).

The final widely-copied element I’ll mention today is the use of a story in a headline. Yes, you can tell a “story”, or hint at one, with just a few words. One of the most famous (and effective) is the “One Legged Golfer” headline. It’s an absolutely true story, and I’ll point out that the best stories are often stories from real life.

With these elements together, we could come up with a headline like this:

“Blind Welfare Mother of Three Discovers the 5 Hidden Secrets To Opening a Checking Account, Even If You’re On ChexSystems ‘Black List’ “.

I hope this article has been helpful, and that you see that when copywriters “copy”, they are borrowing ideas, not actual words of other writers.

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The Copywriter’s Job

Business owners often wonder: what exactly does a copywriter do? There’s no secret to it. The copywriter’s job is to persuade your readers to take a desired action.

The copywriter we speak of here might be you (the business owner), a staff copywriter, or a freelancer that you have hired.

The desired action may be to buy your product or invest in your service offering; however, it may also be to download a free report or software application and provide their name and email address in exchange. Whatever the offer, the copywriter gives the the prospect or prior customer two or more options and asks them to choose.

What exactly is this process? You could say it’s simply persuasion; and it is. But you should know that any good copywriter is careful to ‘persuade’ people in a manner fitting of his claim: that the choice he urges his readers to make is in their best interests, and that if they knew all the facts they would make it anyway.

What sorts of choices do we generally want our readers to make?

Well, the simplest action of a copywriter, the one that takes the least amount of effort, is to persuade a reader to make a choice indicative of their interests. An example may be reading an articles, or downloading a program.

Next in terms of difficulty would be persuading the same person to provide their email address in order to get a freebie. Nowadays web surfers are hesitant to give strangers their email address online. The good news, however, is that if you can get people to do this, it tells you three different things. First, it shows you did a good job in targeting the right audience for your freebie. Second, it tells you that you are speaking in their language. Third, it finally indicates that you are offering an item that they deem valuable.

You might assume that to persuade that same person to spend money is another level of difficulty completely. You assumed correctly. Ultimately, though, we are in business to make sales. When crafting a sales letter the copywriter is only presenting a type of sales presentation.

The basic process is this: describe the offered product and the benefits of said service or product, give answers to the common objections prospective buyers have, and tell how to buy. Through the entirety of this, the writer should always use terminology familiar to the prospect and also remove any obstacles (unnecessary or poor-worded phrases which will cause the reader to disbelieve what you are saying or even stop reading).

If you are a smart marketer, you realize that persuasion does not come to an end once the customer has bought your product. That customer is now a prospect that must be convinced to type in their credit card number and confirm their order. Once they have made the order, they will typically experience what is called “buyer’s remorse”, and so once again it’s the job of the copywriter to assure the buyer that his purchase will benefit him.

The copywriter’s job is one that is essential today. As a business owner, you may decide to write the copy yourself, or you may choose to hire a writer who specializes in writing copy for clients.

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