From the monthly archives:

October 2009

Writing blog post titles is part art, part science. And it can take years to master.

I mean, why on earth does one blog post attract readers like flies to cow pies… while another one languishes like an awkward girl at a homecoming dance?

Sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for the massive “readership disparity” between one post and another.

Fortunately, success leaves clues. So over time we can reverse-engineer the reasons for the popularity of our most-read posts. And one of the biggest secrets I’ve ever discovered is…

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Swipe files are all the rage among copywriters and direct response marketers. The question is, how do you go about building one?

I mean, not every letter is a winner. So how do you separate the winners from the losers… and put together an enviable collection of tried, true, and proven direct mail letters?

That is the question, and I’m going to answer it here.

But first, I’m going to tell you right off the bat, never swipe a letter that’s been used in a product launch. My good friend Ben Settle first put this into words, and I’m in total agreement.

The reason you don’t want to do this is because the success of a launch depends on much more than the sales letter. For instance, many people are already sold on the product long before they ever get to the sales letter.

Perhaps they were sold by the free premiums they received during the pre-launch. Perhaps they were sold by the emails they got prior to launch day. Or perhaps they were sold by an affiliate’s endorsement.

Whatever the reason, you don’t know for sure if the sales letter was really doing the selling — or something else in the launch process.

And if this is not enough to persuade you, consider the words of Jeff Walker, the man who invented Product Launch Formula in the first place.

He says the goal of every launch is to make the sales letter irrelevant. He wants people mentally committed to buying long before they reach the sales letter.

The bottom line is this: Sales letters that are used during a launch are not necessarily good sales letters to study. And you should probably avoid swiping them altogether.

Which brings me to the main point of this post: how to build a swipe file of profitable direct mail letters…

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As I mentioned in a previous article, copywriting is really no more than a printed sales pitch. This is copywriting simplified.

With that in mind, one way to create killer copy fast is to interview your clients and ask good questions as part of your research. Your clients’ answers can often provide you with new ideas, new insights, and even copy that you can use verbatim in your sales letter.

(The same is true if you are your own client. Ask yourself the same questions listed below, record your answers, and have them transcribed. The transcription can then form the basis of your sales letter.)

While there is an art to the interview process, it’s always good to have a list of potential questions to ask. You may not use all of them every time, but you will use many of them. Here are some of the interview questions I’ve used in the past.

Please remember: If you are a freelance copywriter, these are questions to ask AFTER you’ve accepted the project and been paid! (You would ask different questions BEFORE accepting the project.) And if you are writing copy for your own product or service, ask yourself these questions as if YOU were the client!

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If you’ve studied marketing for very long at all, then you probably already know that the most important component involved in making a sale is not the sales message.

In fact, there are two components far more important than the sales message. And if these aren’t in place, your copy is going to take a beating no matter how good it is.

So what are these two components? They are: the person and the offer.

  • The person you’re selling to is most important. You must have a qualified prospect who is interested in what you sell. Is he your ideal customer? If so, good; you can move on to the next component.
  • The offer is the second most important component of a sale. The offer must be something the prospect is interested in.
  • And finally comes the message. You must tell your prospect about your offer in a way that captures his attention… and his wallet.

These three components can be summed up as Person, Offer, Message. (Sometimes described as List, Offer, Copy.) And, as you can see, the message is dead last in this hierarchy.

Now that I’ve laid a foundation, what I really want to talk about today is how to craft winning offers

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