The Holy Grail of Copywriting

There’s lately been some discussion on the value of NLP in copywriting.

I haven’t seen too much hype about NLP Copywriting being the holy grail of copywriting. Jon McCulloch posted today about how it’s just another tool for copywriters. I don’t know that anyone is arguing that point.

Copywriters worth their salt will tell you these are the most important elements of a promotion:

  1. The list
  2. The offer
  3. The copywriting

These aren’t percentage contributions either as I saw one marketer teaching. This is a situation where if you miss on #1, it doesn’t matter how good the other two are. You can nail #1 but if you miss #2 you still don’t have a very successful promotion.

Conversely, you can do a terrible job of #3 but still have a moderate success if you got the first two down. Obviously you’d want to do well on all three to optimize your chances for success.

That said, NLP Copywriting is about optimizing the effectiveness of #3. It can’t rescue a promotion that missed on the first two elements.

The other point I wanted to add to the discussion is on testing.

James Brausch does as much testing as anyone else out there. Through using his multivariate testing software, he turned the visitor value of one of his sites from $5 to now $31.35 . And that’s without deliberately testing any NLP. [FYI: Visitor Value means for every unique visitor to that site, the average payoff is over $30]

James also posted a good and brief explanation of the different types of testing (including Taguchi). Split testing is better than nothing but why would you do it when you can get results so much faster these days?

As an aside, I’ve participated as a subject in several double blind studies and they’re not usually as blind as people would like to think. There are ALWAYS incentives at work that people tend not to take into account.

It would be ridiculous for an entrepreneur to spend time trying to set up a double blind study. In a medical setting, double blind means neither the doctor nor the subject knows which medication is being dosed and tested. But believe me, sometimes you KNOW which one is the placebo.

Why would an entrepreneur want to set up a situation where the winning variables were in a black box (double blind) that they had to sort through after the fact? James’ software, MuVar, automatically sorts it out for you and selects the best ones to display.

The point of all of this is the overall approach I’ve intended to take with this blog:

NLP Copywriting is simply another variable to multivariate test while you’re improving your copywriting.

There’s no perfect sales letter. There’s no magic pill persuasion technique. There’s only a point of diminishing returns where it becomes more profitable to either focus more energy on increasing traffic or create a new offer.

If there is a holy grail of copywriting, it’s multivariate testing.

Books that Changed Your Life

Yesterday, Ryan Healy wrote a post on 12 books that changed his life and encouraged others to do the same. It was an interesting exercise to go back and try to figure out which books actually caused me to live my life differently. I figured if a book only gave me different thoughts, that wasn’t enough to qualify for this list. Here’s my list in the approximate order I read them in:

The Bible

I read it all the way through a couple of times plus just the New Testament many times growing up. I read it regularly and tried to apply it according to my understanding. I eventually cut back to reading Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s letters, Psalms and Song of Solomon. I don’t read it much anymore but I have to give credit where it’s due.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This was one of the first and most influential books I read that told me I could choose my own destiny. Many successful people credit this book with catalyzing their drive toward accomplishment too.

Enter the Zone by Barry Sears

This was the first of many books I read on nutrition. Until that time, I was only vaguely aware that there was a connection between what you eat and quality of life and athletic performance. He’s written several books since then to make it easier to follow his plan. I actually follow a plan closer to Dr. Mercola’s recommendations at the present date.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

This was one of the first books that set me in the direction of understanding the nature of government and my relationship to it.

Who is Your Covering? by Frank Viola

This is a bit of an obscure book about church authority. It was a right time, right place kind of read for me. The student was ready and the book appeared. I wasn’t ever able to get any of my friends to read it because it’s one of those “weird” house church books.

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge

This book was one of the significant motivators for me to join the military (along with 9/11) . After reading it, I realized I wanted to go all out in pursuit of discovering the masculine heart.

Healing Our World by Mary Ruwart

This was the book that began my quest for understanding liberty, terrorism, government, war, etc. I’d already joined the National Guard when I found it. It appeals to the things almost every political group says they want and then provides libertarian answers. I didn’t know what a libertarian was before reading this and wouldn’t have been open to reading libertarian thought.

Costs of War ed by John Denison

This was the book that broke the camel’s back for my involvement with the military and government. I was in Airborne School preparing to deploy to Afghanistan when I finished it. I actively began the difficult process of getting out after I read this and understood that war irrevocably damages every party involved and leaves everyone worse off for it.

Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch

These books were the ones that started bringing me out of my post military cynicism on life. They were truly an awakening and healing perspective on life for me.

The Internet Business Book(s) by James D. Brausch

I actually read these books as the blog posts they were copied from. Going back and re-reading them (while proofreading them) reminded me of my eventual intention to have my own online business rather than working as a self employed copywriter while giving me the tools to do it.

The Laughing Jesus by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

This was the most recent in a string of over a hundred books on Christianity and spirituality over the years. This one has a unique perspective on history inclusive of a Gnostic view including some spiritual practices for modern times. I finally feel contentment in my spiritual map of reality. It’s not that I’m done learning because beauty and experience is infinite. It’s that I feel like I’ve finally found a spiritual home only to realize I’ve always been home.

* * * * * * * *

While in college, I read that Tony Robbins started as a janitor and read 700 books in 7 years on his way up. That’s when I realized there was a lot more to learn about life than stopping after I had a degree like most folks. It’s taken me a little over 11 years to read that many books but it’s been worth it. Like Ryan, I’ve kept a spiral notebook listing all the books I’ve read for some reason.

Naturally, I’d like to include numerous other business, copywriting, NLP, history, biography, spirituality, or a few fiction titles.

Embedded Commands in Forum Posts

There are several ways to format embedded commands.

On a hard copy print, you have total control over how it turns out. Online, sometimes things render differently in their browser (like in Harlan’s golf letter).

A forum is usually even more limited in formatting. There are specific colors and text sizes available.

For my video release, I looked at several things. First I played with font colors. They all seemed a little too conspicuous to me. Then I looked at text size. In my browser, the default text size is 2. If I formatted the embedded command with size 3, it looked pretty good.

Then I wondered about people who may view their text in a larger size than I do in my browser. I increased the font size on the preview to see what that would do. As you can see in the following before and after pictures below, it increased both text sizes by one. The difference between text size 2 and 3 are pretty small but from 3 to 4, it looks like you’ve also added bold emphasis. That’s no good.

Look at the second paragraph after the salutation. Do you see the difference in "this is different." I realize it’s not a very direct command but that’s part of the being elegant. I tried to avoid any "BUY NOW" kind of commands especially near the beginning.

Before

After

After all that, I decided the most elegant solution for the commands was to italicize most of them and leave the rest unformatted. I have a persona shift into an embedded command just before the middle of the letter that may have been too obvious if I’d emphasized it with any formatting change.

If you didn’t see the final outcome of my formatting, go to:

http://www.warriorforum.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=230194

NLP Copywriting 101 Finally Available

I released my online video, NLP Copywriting 101, on the Warriors Forum in their special offer area.

If you’re interested in getting a copy, you’ll need to become a member there.

I can’t guarantee I’ll release the video to the general public. It will likely be in a different format if I do. If you want to get the current release, I recommend you visit the thread.

At the very least, you can check out how I used NLP Copywriting in my own sales letter.

Stay tuned for a post regarding how I finally chose to format the embedded commands for forum code. If you’re not familiar with it, forum code is the limited html you can do in a forum post. I couldn’t do my first couple of preferences for embedded commands and had to adjust accordingly.

Here’s the link to the forum post:

http://www.warriorforum.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=230194

[Update: NLP Copywriting 101 is no longer available. The new and improved way to learn the topic is at http://hypnoticwriter.org .]

Writing a Sales Letter with NLP

I was posting a comment on the Warrior Forum and realized it was something I ought to share here too.

The thread was by someone who said they were having a hard time getting their letter written because they were getting lost in the process. I laid out how I usually go about writing a sales letter including the NLP parts. I quote it here again for you:

I usually list out every benefit I can think of and then form headlines from the most powerful benefits. I’ll often take my second and third favorite headlines and use them for pre or post headlines.

At some point near the beginning I’ll look around for a sales letter I’d like to emulate.

Then I list out everything I can think to say about the product. I take the list of benefits and make bullets out of them. By then I’ve decided on the type of lead to use. Then I get a stack of note cards and put each idea I wanted to include on them. I also make an outline of sorts that includes things like nested loops to open and close, objections to reframe, what to pace and lead, etc. It’s really something between a mind map and a to do list.

I lay the note cards out and build the letter in the order it makes most sense to me. I usually don’t use all the cards as I’m wanting to be as concise as possible. See Bob Bly’s methodology above [edit: from www.bly.com] for the structure of a sales letter.

Then I start writing and layering in NLP and other persuasive devices as I go. Sometimes it’s helpful and fun to go into a sort of hypnotic trance as I do it. I think Joe Vitale and Matt Furey talk about doing that kind of thing. You’ll need to watch the time if you do that though because you’ll blink and an hour will have passed.

I let it sit a day or so and then start editing. First I read it out loud and smooth out any grammatical issues. I’ll fine tune any persuasive devices I’m looking for and make sure the deeper meta message (ie NLP) builds progressively and elegantly. I’ll go back through that and tweak it with Glyphius. I think I finish by making sure I’m happy with the formatting. Once I feel like it’s where I like it, I’d make a list of things to multivariate test.

I may be leaving something out. Hmm.

If I feel stuck at any point, I’ll skip to something else and come back to it. I usually try not to go more than an hour without getting up and taking a break to go outside and kick my soccer ball around.

Dueling Wizards

I noticed another blog post commenting that non-NLP trained readers are oblivious to obvious uses of NLP so there’s no worry about being too obvious.

The writer then commented that since most people won’t ever know, that fellow "magicians" should sit back and enjoy the show rather than point out how it was done. The blog isn’t open to comments or trackbacks so I won’t bother naming names.

If we were all in the business of entertaining audiences, I’d completely agree. Even if we were all copywriters and wanted to keep our best persuasive tactics to ourselves, I might still be inclined to agree. Fact is, my goal here is to teach NLP Copywriting to as many entrepreneurs as want to learn.

I’ve posted on these themes before. The first was When to give away the farm in information products . I followed that up recently with Death of the Layman .

Then there’s seeming inherent contradiction in having a blog on NLP advertising but then getting upset when someone else teaches on it too. The writer didn’t link to anything so I’m only assuming what he’s talking about. Harlan Kilstein is the most vocal anti-obvious proponent I’m guessing.

As far as being too obvious goes, you just have to test it. Every market is different. What worked yesterday won’t work as well tomorrow. Richard Bandler (or was it John LeValle?) said that you don’t know how far you can push until you’ve been kicked out of someone’s office. So test and push and balance that with the core values of your business. See what happens. Maybe Harlan will rip pages out of your book on YouTube.

One of the presuppositions of NLP is that there is no failure, only feedback. I hope the writer of the post above doesn’t feel like I’m picking on him as a person. We’ve never met. I’m sure if we did, there’d be some interesting conversation to be had. He probably realizes the not-so-secret tactic of gaining interest by stirring up controversy… not that that was my original intention. Maybe we can start a running feud… like a wizards’ duel. 🙂

And in the spirit of exposing secrets (and lobbing another lightning bolt), another thing I noticed on the writer’s product page was that he makes the statement that he’s assuming all the readers already know NLP. If that were a valid assumption, why would you still be obvious about your uses of it? It seems like you’d want to write a more subtle letter to fellow magicians. I actually shared a few comments on that sales letter in a previous post .

If you’d like to learn more about being an NLP Copywriting magician (or watch more detailed critiques of uses of NLP in copy), watch for my upcoming video.

What qualifies as NLP?

In preparing the video that I’m nearly ready to release, I reviewed Joe Vitale’s books, Hypnotic Writing and Buying Trances .

In one of the two (I don’t recall which one), Joe doesn’t have high praise for NLP because he says it claims to have near absolute knowledge of the mind. He then goes on to describe hypnotic techniques that anyone familiar with NLP would recognize. And then he has Harlan Kilstein explain how he used NLP in a sales letter. That’s my paraphrase anyway.

The second of those books is dedicated to Milton Erickson who NLP was modeled after. In it’s essence, NLP is the systematized and codified hypnotherapy of Erickson. That’s what Bandler and Grinder did when they "founded" NLP. So it’s really misleading to claim that something in the realm of hypnosis definitely isn’t NLP or vise versa.

The reason I comment on this now is that Harlan recently sent out an email in which he referred to a sales letter by Gary Bencivenga that purportedly used NLP. Then, in a video clip from his recent NLP Copywriting 2 seminar, he explains the NLP content. See these links for the sales letter and video clip:

http://www.kci-com.com/lp/rr/ham/2007/hamdomta.asp

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5obo3aXDP9I

The interesting thing about this is that I don’t really think what he’s pointing out is necessarily NLP. He talks about the presuppositions in the following sentence (the 4th paragraph):

"But when I noticed that no one was creating ham from Kurobuta pigs, I personally sprang into action… leading to the development of the greatest hunk o’ baked ham for your holiday season that you will ever experience!"

The presupposition is supposedly that you’ll be buying the baked ham and it will be a part of your holiday season. But is that really NLP? Or is that salesmanship 101 where you assume the sale?

It may be splitting hairs just like trying to distinguish hypnotic techniques from NLP patterns. Harlan is undoubtedly the best NLP Copywriting teacher. I’m not convinced on this point though.

I also wanted to say that in my upcoming video, I did my best to eliminate traditional sales tactics in favor of huge doses of NLP. You won’t see techniques like assuming the sale being taught as NLP.

If you’re looking for a great book on straightforward persuasion, check out Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence or even the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People .

Do you really know how it is?

I saw an auto insurance commercial the other day.

The opening was this person sitting in an office saying, "At ABC Insurance, we know how it is. That’s why we [blah, blah, blah]."

I thought, huh. The image advertisers are trying to use NLP deletion. Not a bad first attempt. I don’t think it worked though. Here’s why:

The were trying to use deletion to let the viewer fill in the blanks and make their own meaning (aka the Milton Model). Trouble was that they were so vague, I was left wondering, "You know how what is?"

If I had to rewrite that attempt, I’d probably go with something more along the lines of, "At ABC Insurance we know what a hassle auto insurance can be. That’s why…" Almost everyone would hear that and think, "of course it is," and you’ve just built rapport. Auto insurance being a hassle could mean any number of things from having an extra bill to pay to dealing with customer service to filing a claim in the event of an accident. The specific content doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is that if you’re going to use the Milton Model, you have to make sure you’re calibrating how vague and specific you are. Give them enough to fill in a meaning and that’s it for that pattern.

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