Recommended NLP Copywriting Clips

Harlan Kilstein posted a couple of videos today. They’re both worth watching. You can sign up for his mailing list on the first one.

The first is his commentary on a copywriting book and how NLP is addressed:


The second is a little longer where Harlan goes through all of his old weight loss ads. It doesn’t have as much commentary on NLP but it’s still interesting to see how different approaches pulled in print:


If you’re in a video watching mood, check out these Derren Brown videos too:

Paying with Paper (using embedded commands in speech)

Subliminal Advertising (not exactly NLP but still an interesting result)

Why would any marketer work for someone else?

I’ve had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind for a while now.

I read blogs like James Brausch’s where he advocates creating and promoting your own products. Makes sense. And then I read posts by Ryan Healy and Clayton Makepeace and it seems like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.

Unless you have a line of clients waiting months in advance to hire you, it seems like it would take as much work to create and promote a product as it would to find a new client and complete a project for them.

If that’s the case, why would any copywriter choose the latter? My excuse has been that I wanted to establish a copywriting career first. But now I’m wondering what for?

Why would we want to work for someone once and only get paid once (not counting royalties) when you can spend the same time to start a money machine that pays you over and over?

I went ahead and invested in the remaining products of James’ today. I’ve got a couple of ideas for products that I’ll be working on in the near future. I’ll probably post on my progress though not promote the first couple of products here because they have little to do with marketing. I’m thinking of something for soldiers and then soccer players.

How about you?

Good intentions aren’t always good

When I was a medic in Afghanistan, I observed something that I’ve thought over often.

I worked in the field hospital. We got Americans, locals, pretty much everyone. We got every kind of injury too.

On one occasion, we got some American soldiers who’d gotten the worst of an IED attack. Two were in our ER waiting their turn for the OR where the surgeons were working on two more.

I was sopping up blood from a head wound and holding pressure on the lesser injured of the two casualties. There were a lot of people around – medics, nurses, PAs, and a couple of officers of the unit that had been attacked. A Chaplin was there – I guess just in case.

The thing that stands out in that particular incident was that Chaplin. Most people with serious injuries get oxygen. That’s standard procedure. There’s also protocol if the person can’t take it. Often children are afraid of the mask so you’re supposed to hold it off their face.

This more seriously injured guy near the Chaplin was in shock and probably out of his mind. The Chaplin started giving him oxygen and he started fighting it saying he couldn’t breathe. Obviously if he can shout, he can breathe. But he was thrashing around because of the mask and probably making his injuries worse. This went on for a couple of minutes.

It occurred to me later on that someone should have told the Chaplin to hold the mask off the casualties’ face. The Chaplin had good intentions and was following the proper procedure but he forgot (or didn’t know) that you can’t force people. It doesn’t matter what was good for the casualty. If he was fighting it, he was better off without it. All he would have had to do was hold the mask an inch off the casualty’s face.

Out of respect for all parties involved, I’m going to let you draw your own life and marketing lessons from that one.

Ultra specificity compared to NLP generalizations in marketing

One of the fabled 4 U’s according to Michael Masterson’s copywriting course is ultra-specificity. The others are urgency, usefulness and unique in case you were wondering.

That’s the rule. Sometimes it’s appropriate to break the rules. The big question is how.

NLP breaks this rule by saying that if you leave certain things purposefully vague, people will fill in with their own meaning. That way the copy looks more like it’s speaking more directly to their desires. This is called generalization.

Done artfully, it will increase response. Done sloppy or haphazardly and it will look amateurish. The trick is to figure out which things to leave vague.

The best example I can think of was what our drill sergeants used to say in the army. If someone screwed up they might say they had something for the offender when he got back to the barracks. Sometimes they forgot by then and sometimes it was more unpleasant "correctional" training.

The point is that they left unnamed the something they had in store. The terror of wondering the fate that awaited was more than adequate to get you in line for the time being.

Doing it can get you what you really want.

International Living’s 17 year control NLP copywriting case study

Here’s one more example of winning copy that works NLP into the ad.

I read this letter has been a control for 17 years. I’ve received it 3 times via email that I can remember. Here’s how it goes…

You look out your window, past your gardener, who is busily pruning the lemon, cherry, and fig trees…amidst the splendor of gardenias, hibiscus, and hollyhocks. The sky is clear blue.

The sea is a deeper blue, sparkling with sunlight.

A gentle breeze comes drifting in from the ocean, clean and refreshing, as your maid brings you breakfast in bed.

For a moment, you think you have died and gone to heaven.

But this paradise is real. And affordable.
In fact, it costs only half as much to live this dream lifestyle…
as it would to stay in your own home!

You may be wondering how this is NLP. This is pacing and leading. But, you say, this isn’t pacing any experience you’ve had before.

That’s an NLP tactic. You can pace a hypothetical experience. If you’re telling a story, your reader automatically accepts your story – especially in a case like this where the implication is that you’re imagining or dreaming.

If you’re reading this lead, you can’t be looking out your window. Your brain realizes you’re imagining this scenario. And it doesn’t matter much what you pace once you’re dealing with the imagination. I mean, what’s a hollyhock?

Can you see where the pacing turns into a lead? Go back and see. It’s, "For a moment…" because it switched to telling you what you’re thinking instead of simply experiencing in this paradise.

The writer follows by addressing the two most immediate objections which are 1) those kinds of places only exist in the movies and 2) I couldn’t possibly afford it.

There are situations when it’s more appropriate to pace an imagination versus your prospect’s actual experience. If you can’t be specific about your prospect’s current experience, it could be better to pace the promise instead.

How could you’d pace this target market in their current experience? Would you talk about dead end jobs, political disillusionment or vacation opportunities? You’d be guessing at best.

Conversely, if you have a well defined prospect, pacing their current experience in a problem/solution format would work well.

Either way, we’re back to storytelling. Pacing and leading is simply telling the story the prospect is either familiar with or can imagine.

Letting a time sucking someone go

I recently began negotiations with a potential client.

He was an agency and his website looked pretty good. He knew of Hopkins, Caples, AWAI, etc. I wasn’t going to have to educate him on direct marketing. Big plus.

From looking at his current landing page, I could tell he needed some real copywriting help. It was the one I mentioned in the last post. It was not only full of bunny trails to get lost in but it was actually confusing. I couldn’t tell what the offer was supposed to be.

I recalled Joe Vitale’s post on his Red Flag Theory . I was familiar with the concept about following your gut instincts and waiting for the inner peace before settling on major decisions. Joe’s post explains it well so I recommend you check it out.

I had a few red flags going into this deal. First off, he stated that one thing he liked about my bio was that I had military experience and so I probably knew how to obey directions. Follow directions? Yeah, sure. Obey? Hmm. I’m not sure how that applies to contracting work since I’m a civilian.

Red flag.

The way he described the project was confusing. It was to market to newspapers and offer syndicated video content. I couldn’t figure out how the project would make any money for anyone. I was assured that once I looked at the landing page, it would make more sense. It didn’t.

Red flag.

After spending close to an hour on the phone reviewing the project, I broached the subject of compensation since he hadn’t mentioned it. He balked at even talking about it and said I needed to prove my value first. If I did a good job, he’d pay me well and keep the projects coming.

The words sounded reasonable. I recalled that as a real estate agent, I always discussed money with people before we did anything – even with close friends. And then I was listening to some seminars on marketing consulting and realized that I could really get burned if we glossed over discussing money.

Red flag.

I’ve found that if I’m really being dense and it’s really important – God, the Universe, Ultimate Creative Intelligence or whoever – helps me out. I wasn’t exactly ignoring those red flags but I hadn’t taken positive action accordingly.

I was scheduled to speak to this guy after I’d done some research and sent him some more question. Mostly those questions were about what exactly the client could expect to get, how money was going to be made, and some other revenue sources I was beginning they intended to capitalize on but not tell the newspapers about unless asked. I needed to get some answers.

He called me late in the afternoon and said he needed to go get something to eat. I said fine and waited for his callback. We’d agreed to 30 minutes. When 90 minutes passed, I thought maybe I was supposed to have been the one to call him back. I left a message in his voicemail. I didn’t hear from him.

It turned out he came down with food poisoning. During the time he was out, I couldn’t ignore the red flags any longer so I really dug in and googled all the angles I could think of. I ended up finding a few other websites that he was responsible for and they didn’t look good. A couple looked like they were meant to misdirect folks into thinking they were getting something of value when he was instead list building.

The crown jewel was when I found a copywriter who’d worked with him previously. I submitted the form on her website and got a call from her. She verified that she’d worked with him for 7 months and never gotten paid. He’d strung her along with promises of more projects. And it wasn’t only a little work. She’d basically built her portfolio with all the work and some weeks spent up to 30 hours for him.

I was grateful for the call and for my fellow copywriter in general. Let’s all look out for each other. Don’t let someone take advantage of you.

Needless to say, I sent a short email to this guy saying that I’d done some research on him and that if he wanted me to continue to work with him, he needed to pay half of whatever we agreed on up front.

He did exactly as I predicted. He said I’d negotiated myself out of a deal and called me an amateur. That’s fine. At least I saved myself a lot of heartache for nothing.

Green Flag.

Next time, I’ll pay attention to those flags sooner.

Seal up the leaks in marketing

I was reviewing a landing page and realized that many marketers fall into the same trap.

Prospects want information, yes. As a marketer, it’s your job to figure out what kind and amount of information they want. Write something compelling to share a preselected solution.

If you have a million different links and the call to action is unclear, you will leave lots of room for increasing your conversion rate. If you’re trying to start out setting the bar low, that’s a good way to set it.

If you want a prospect to take a particular action, you have to lead him. The basic formula AIDA is simple to start with. That’s Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

Links taking your prospect somewhere else might help your prospect’s education. Marketing’s goal isn’t only education. You’ll leak prospects like a sieve leaks sand and wonder where they all went.

If you want results, you need to plan and execute that education purposefully so it ends up where you want.

A Covert Example of NLP in Copywriting

I was looking at Kimberly Seville’s lead for a recent Covenant House mailing. It’s a fundraising letter for a children’s shelter or orphanage or something.

It starts with a compelling therapeutic metaphor. Lots of uses of first person narrative. When you do that, people naturally project themselves into the role of that character. I’ll quote a few examples and the possible effects:

"How about if I find you some dry clothes to change into." – Readers can think they’re finding clothes for the kid.

"We are going to do everything we can to help you, I promise." – Readers will do whatever they can to help.

"I heard her small, timid little voice whisper, “Thanks.”" – Readers feel personally thanked by this kid.

"Finally, she looked up at me and apparently she felt like she could trust me…" – Readers feel like they can trust the narrator and/or Covenant House.

Then we have an expert example of pacing and leading. Pacing is basically where you tell the subject their experience and internally they affirm that it’s true and their resistance drops. Doing this in writing is trickier than in person because you can see what the person is experiencing in person. Once you’ve paced, you can lead as long as it’s small steps.

The copywriter paces in the story and through the narrator so it doesn’t matter what the reader is currently experiencing. The reader can’t help but be projected into this pacing experience. Here it is:

"As I sat there, listening to Kelly, in my own mind I felt that I was giving her something that goes far beyond food and clothing and shelter…"

I’m wondering if you caught it. Three consecutive paces followed by a lead: 1) as I sat there, 2) listening to Kelly, 3) in my own mind I felt. The lead is that the narrator and then reader is giving the kid much more than their money. It’s all so subtle that it’s nearly impossible to resist.

The copywriter could have started the paragraph with, "I was giving her something…" The meaning is the same. Instead, she paced and led. Nice and effective.

Mixing Up Tactics and Strategy

This weekend I’m giving a short talk on "Big Picture Marketing and Irresistible Offers." It’s for my local business networking group. We meet twice a month, introduce ourselves, listen to someone talk, and talk shop.

Generally, the speaker will talk about the services they provide. The longer I go, the more I find that most people can’t tell you what copywriting is. They think I work for an attorney doing copyrights .

Rather than talk about the intricacies of a sales letter, NLP or statistical analysis, I’m going to hit the big picture. Most people have some understanding of the purpose of marketing and advertising.

Too often though, they mix up marketing as a strategy with a certain tactic of advertising. They may think that because they put a classified ad in the paper or phone book, they’ve tried advertising and it doesn’t work.

If you look at the big picture, here is a good outline you’ll find in Chet Meisner’s The Complete Guide to Direct Marketing .

  1. Company Objectives
  2. Marketing Objectives
  3. Marketing Goals
  4. Strategic Promotional Strategies
  5. Methodologies and Approaches
  6. Media

When someone "tries" advertising, what they’re really trying is a media. They’ve probably skipped steps 1-4 and have only a fuzzy notion of 5 which is about what you want to accomplish through a certain strategy.

Advertising, PR, Sales and Direct Marketing are what the 4th step is about. You can be trying any of those strategies in print. What you’d like to accomplish in that print media is the 5th step. That could be lead generation, getting orders or subscribers, branding, etc.

I specialize in direct marketing. More to the point, it’s direct response. That means when I write for a company, we’ll be expecting a percentage of prospects to take some course of action the client wants. It’s been called salesmanship in print.

That’s significantly different from someone who "tried" advertising and has convinced himself it doesn’t work.