Sales Copy That’s Too Good To Be True – as published by KB Affiliate in 2007

You’re Good. But Are You Too Good to Be True?

When you read a well crafted, long, sales letter on the web telling you how “I made $341,000 and so can you…”; how do you feel? This guy promises to reveal his secret. He also promises that you can do it too. He even promises to guide you step-by-baby-step. This is your wish come true. This is what you have been looking for through all your surfing online. You are desperately trying to believe that the promises are true. You want to believe so badly, your finger trembles as your mouse hovers over that “Buy Now” button. Why do you hesitate? What is holding you back? Go for it!

What is wrong? What is missing? The three key components of the advertising maxim Attraction, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA) are all there. There was attraction, interest and desire but no action was taken. And that missing piece means a failure to convert traffic into sales.

Somehow, the link between the product pitch and the buyer action is missing. In the off-line world, other than broadcast media and printed collaterals, we can depend on sales people to make a difference. Telemarketers, sales consultants and relationship managers can easily add a personal touch to push the sales through. They can use convincing words, encouraging smiles and a warm handshake. In the online world, the keyboard and mouse is the only means of interaction between you and your buyer. Words are all we have to complete the sale when the traffic is flooding through our gates. Why is it a major constraint?

Online, your sales letter is all you have to convince visitors to take action to become buyers. So why do some sales letter fail to move us to take that final step of making a purchase? They are convincing, compelling and persuasive, often with evidence of earnings (eg, ClickBank’s cheque, PayPal’s Statement) and testimonials from successful buyers.

Let us stop to think about this for a moment. Testimonials from lots of successful buyers might seem convincing at first glance, but then, who are they to you? Do you really know them? Can you really trust that these testimonials are as truthful as you would like them to be? Are the ClickBank cheques real? We questioned their credibility and integrity. We doubt the authenticity of the testimonials. Remember when you were young, mummy said “Don’t talk to strangers…”? This habit of mistrust continues to live in us even though we are no longer tied to mummy’s apron-string. There is no relationship between us and the seller. Buying from a stranger is psychologically uncomfortable and frightening, and that convinces our logical mind that it is commercially unsound and financially hazardous. The missing link here is a relationship build on trust, credibility and good faith.

How can you build trust, credibility and good faith online? We need to go back to basics. At the heart of it all, we need to remember that even though we are selling online, ultimately, we are still dealing with real people. It is a person sitting on the other side of the wire reading your sales letter. And it starts right there. Between you and him. Man to Man. Woman to Woman.

Surprisingly, one of the most important and yet most often left out, pieces of information people look for in a sales letter is this – WHO sent me this letter? You will never trust a faceless corporation. You want to know that there is a door you can knock on when your washing machine fails. You want to know there is a number you can call and speak with someone when your travel tickets fail to arrive. People look for other people. Therefore, it is always important to first introduce yourself. Before you can be “Mister Guru”, you first have to earn the respect to be called “mister”.

We are people guided more by emotions than logic, likes and dislikes, prejudices, and lots of other stuff. When we look at a guru or a leader, another human, we have questions in our minds and are filled with doubts and skeptism, “What is he like?”; “What does he want from me?”, “Is he pulling wool over my eyes”, “Is he for real?”

Before you even try to sell your product, you have to sell yourself. If I do not know you, if I do not like you, do not doubt that I will never buy anything from you. Because, if I neither know you nor like you, it is very unlikely that I am going to TRUST you. You will be surprised that building trust could be as simple as revealing who you are. By showing yourself as a real person could be all it takes. Then, you can start to talk about your “guru” status, or accomplishments; then you can start to sell. A successful sales person can turn a stranger into a friend within one conversation. So can you. If you need some tips how to do so, go read some of Brian Tracy’s books for starters.

If building trust is a starter, the content is then the entrée. How do you cook up a sumptuous entrée and have people begging for more? You can find more tips in Brett McFall’s “How to get more prospects to trust what you say”. These insightful tips were shared during the World Internet Summit Singapore in November 2006:
1. Use your photo in your sales letter and add a caption
2. List your experience and qualifications
3. Case studies about you or your company
4. Reveal full details about your company
5. Honest copy revealing true intentions
6. Educational/problem solving copy
7. Use specific numbers in your facts and figures
8. Prove your claims
9. Plenty of helpful photographs to aid understanding of your products and services
10. Virtual tour of your product and service
11. Hands-on demo
12. Free sample
13. Include a list of customers
14. Testimonials to explain your credibility
15. Media Coverage
16. Press coverage of you and your company
17. Strong guarantee

Even if you do not spot a handsome face; it is still a wiser choice to include your photo. Have you not scrolled the pages looking for the product owner’s picture, trying to figure if he is for real? I do that all the time. Genuine buyers like to know who they are buying from. They want a connection, if not an interaction. You will have to study your market and audience if a “casual” you would be better off compared to a “tie-and-suit” you. A photograph will shorten, if not bridge, the gap between you and your buyers.

Another important element in building trust is proving the claims. This is very important and most difficult especially if you are a newbie selling a product for the first time. You can successfully eradicate concerns, doubts and skeptism if you can list the credentials of the professionals and laboratories who verified your products, publish relevant reports, letters and statements, and provide a link to trackback. You can also provide your product to other marketers who are committed to be successful online. Let them test drive your product and their success stories would be your case studies and testimonials. Very often, prospective buyers will read the testimonials of John Smith or Mary Jones very carefully. Curiosity, skeptism and a genuine intention to buy would prompt them to run a google search. They correctly assume that there must be some kind of online presence if the testimonial givers are indeed genuine successes. Buyers will immediately conclude that it is bogus or a hoax when is the search yields no results. But why let the buyers run a check? By providing them a link to the testimonial giver’s website, you are telling them you stand fully behind your product and your words. Very few internet marketers do this. It will be great if your protégé put up a video clip. You can then include that same clip as part of your testimonial. Tell your testimonial givers that it is a win-win scenario. Curious people who call upon them to check on you might decide to buy from them after all. Being a serious internet marketer, I’m sure these testimonial givers are already in your affiliate programs.

With hoaxes and scams lurking around, it’s no wonder that people are more and more cautious. We have to face up to the fact that no matter how sincere we are, there will always be people questioning our integrity. You cannot please everybody. You just have to put up with undeserved rotten eggs thrown at your path. Look at the recent “Feed the Children” Challenge that internet guru Stephen Pierce accepted during the World Internet Mega Summit Singapore 2007 held from 26-29 May 2007. Some netizens said it was a scam, while some accused him of using that as a bait to sell more of his book “The Influence of Third Power”. Yet, we, the participants at the auditorium witnessed the presentation of USD100,000 to a local TV celebrity. Did the hoo-ha die down because of that? Somewhat, but never quite completely.

Let your product deliver the results. Results don’t lie, numbers reveal the facts. When you have established your credibility in this small world, start to develop more relationships with your affiliates and end-customers, gain increased recognition because your product actually delivers results; you and your product will not be too good to be true.

Marketers, We Sell Hope and Lots of Hopes

In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.
~ Charles Revson

Yet many marketers failed to understand that it is hope that we are selling, not the features of the products.

I couldn’t said it better than Seth Godin‘s

The magical thing about selling hope is that it makes everything else work better, every day get better, every project work better, every relationship feel better. If you can actually deliver on the hope you sell, there will be a line out the door.

Hope cures cynicism. Hope increases productivity. Hope needs no justification.

Having that said, selling hope can be tricky, like walking on thin ice.

While Charles Revson has succeeded, President Obama has not lived up to his promise.

Charles Revson’s Charlie fragrance was the first perfume to feature a woman wearing pants in it’s advertising campaign. What is Revson’s selling actually here? That Charlie can make a woman looks better and feels even greater? And, even dressing up like a man will not discount her femininity ans sensuality at all? Some women buy cosmetics and fragrance to look better, however, I would dare say ALL women are hoping that these creams, lotions, paints and pleasantly smelling water will actually make them look better. Hope needs no justification. Hope certainly increases productivity as  Charlie raised Revlon’s net sales figures to $506 million for 1973 and almost $606 million in 1974.

In a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, presidential candidate Obama rallied the party with the challenge: “Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?” With economy still faltering, there is an increasingly feeling that the change that USA has experienced since 2008 is a downhill trend. Does that mean the President has to talk less about change and more about hope to secure a 2nd term?

Marketers, when you write your advertisement copy, don’t bother to list the features of your TV set using big 14-point font size. Save for the fanatics, the average Mr Smith and Ms Jones are not going to catch your technical jargons easily.  You are much better off painting  a vivid future picture of the outcome, benefit or results of buying and enjoying your product. Tell them their ROI, “You can really feel that you are in a movie theatre even when you didn’t install any surround sound system.” Share this with everyone in your team especially those sales consultants on the ground. Too often, I heard many well-rehearsed speech that might as well be Latin to me. Give me benefits, outcome and results anytime. If not, at least sell me the hope of being nearer to them.

Lousy Ad: Häagen-Dazs’ French Riviera

This banner looks like most other Häagen-Dazs’ banners, simple, straight-forward and discreet.  Yet this banner has stirred up a tide of nationalism among India nationals in Delhi, India, demanding Haagen Dazs be fined or thrown out of the country, or both.

The offensiveness of the banner lies in the copy at the bottom, ““Exclusive Preview for International Travellers. Access restricted only to holders of international passports.”

It all began with a friend of Rajesh Kaira, the editor of “The Times of India, who was denied entry to the Häagen-Dazs store. Well, access is only granted to holders of international passport. Incensed by such slavery mentality, Mr Kaira put up a few pictures on Facebook, added a caption and also sent out a tweet with a request it be retweeted. In a few hours, it had turned viral and he started getting messages from angry Indians all over the world. Interestingly, he got comments not just from his fellow countrymen  but also non-Indians worldwide. Subsequently, Mr Kaira put up a blog post, Sorry, Indians Not Allowed,” and to-date, there are more than 1000 lively comments on the issue.

Judging by the angry response, the Indian nationals obviously do not resonate with TBWA India’s original intention of striking a vibrant and cosmopolitan ambiance with a reference to the French Riviera. In fact, they were totally upset. It was evident by the first comment from Samir, “This is an insult to Indian nationals and Continue reading “Lousy Ad: Häagen-Dazs’ French Riviera”

Differences between Headlines and Slogans

A reader, Ed Klein, asked “How do you best go about copywriting a slogan?” in my earlier post, 7 Famous Slogans of 20th Century.

I offered the “standard” answers that we all look at
1. brand promise (what is my promise to you, the customer),
2. brand deliverable (what can my product do to solve your problem?) and
3. brand philosophy (what is the overall belief system of the company).

Actually, there’s more than that.

When I was asked by Laura Spencer to guest write on her excellent writing blog, Writing Thoughts, I decided to discuss a little more on slogan writing. There’s some misconception that writing a headline and writing a slogan is the same. Seeming so because both are supposed to be short copy, however, conceptualizing and writing the two will take 2 different routes.

Writing a slogan is not about creating a brand image or corporate identity. The company must BE it (what the slogan represents) before the slogan itself can be created. It’s a “Be. Do. Have”. The company must do what it takes to add value but while the “doing” part is critical, “being” comes first. If the company is not what it claims to be, whatever it does will not be congruent to the crafted slogan. If your client can call your bluff, the company can forget about having loyalty, sales and revenues. From the slogan, the client can tell a thing or two about the company’s personality, business, and even ethics; blueprint.

Please follow the link and read more about the differences between headlines and slogans at Laura Spencer’s WritingThoughts now. You may want to explore Laura’s blog a little further while you are there. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience on writing and her blog is a constant source of information and inspiration for me.

[tags]slogan writing, copywriting[/tags]

My Thoughts as a Copywriter

Solomon Raju is a long-time reader of this blog. He has a deep passion for words and recently he has decided to go full time into professional copy-writing. In the past few months, he has gone through many ups and downs and he is sharing his thoughts here with us as my guest writer.

= = = = = =

How well known must a copywriter be to make clients consider you?

This thought strikes me often. I guess every copywriter who wants to be on his own- instead of working in an agency will at sometime or other have such thoughts. Those lucky enough to have worked on big ticket accounts in an agency, may have an advantage; but without the glitter of the large agency, he or she can also lose the advantage. Given the clients’ propensity to be overwhelmed by the size or reputation of the agency (real or perceived), it’s always a question of having some well-heeled and glib-talking or suit clad marketing professionals to win you the big accounts. But if you take some time to analyze what is said, you’ll know if the person is worth his salt:

The work speaks if you’ve the heart to listen. Continue reading “My Thoughts as a Copywriter”

Will They Respect Us The Morning After?

Free Pitching to get new clients is a common practice within the advertising industry. However, does it make it right? Is it also a choice that spells success for the agency and the client?

Recently I was invited by “Marketing” magazine to contribute an article for it’s “Ad Insider” page.

I took a couple of days to reflect on my days in full-fledged advertising agencies, where working 16 hours a day is not uncommon. I have many fond memories of those late nights in the cubicle with impossible deadlines, endless meetings and challenging pitches. When I was with a British ad agency, we were invited to pitch almost every other week. We were very busy researching and cranking up new ideas to win accounts that most agencies would drool for.

We won more than we lost. Still, my account director’s pet peeve is Singapore’s advertising industry did not believe in paying pitching fees. During my 3 years tenure, only one client offered a pitching fee for our efforts. Eventually, I understood why this issue of “free” pitching irritated my management so. Especially after I started my own two outfits.

I therefore wrote “Will they respect us the morning after” for Marketing magazine. It was recently published in it’s November 2007 issue. Click and magnify to read the full article.

[tags]free pitching[/tags]


Famous Headline 1: They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!”

They Laughed When I sat downA headline is an ad within an ad. More than 80% of people would read the headline to decide if they should bother with the rest of the text and details.

This famous headline is voted by many copywriters as the best of the best. Adage, a marketing history reference resource said this headline is “arguably, the 20th century’s most successful” results-oriented mail-order copy.

And there’s an interesting story behind:

When John Caples started in first day of work at Ruthrauff & Ryan in 1925, his boss, Ev Grady, told Caples to start going through 2 large piles of ads. The first pile contained hundreds of winning display ads. The much larger second pile was a 7-inch binder filled with “losing” display ads. Continue reading “Famous Headline 1: They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play!””

Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?

I have been talking quite a bit on copy recently, from the importance of having headlines that sell, avoiding copy that sounds too good to be true to how to brief a copywriter to get the best work accomplished. Today, I’m inviting Ms Laura Spencer, a professional copywriter, to share her views on the differences between “features” and “benefits” of a product and how such differences can impact the ad copy or sales letter. Let’s welcome Laura and let’s learn from her on how to write great copy. Continue reading “Features Vs Benefits – Do You Know The Difference?”