Not a day goes by without new knowledge finding its way into my thick skull.

Here's a case in point: I just did a Google search with my name and the word "copywriter" and found something very interesting. Most of the hits I found were from two sources, online articles I've written and comments I've posted to other people's blogs. Now I didn't go through all the pages Google came up with, but the blog comments seemed to be running slightly ahead of the online articles.

I already knew that writing online articles is a wonderful way to get the word out about your expertise. Not only do other sites pick up your articles and publish them (with links pointing back to your site) but these online articles are very effective ways to improve your search engine rankings.

But what really surprised me was how much benefit I was getting from commenting on other blogs. Blogging is a worldwide community effort. There are many wonderful bloggers out there doing great work in any field. Sharing and exchanging ideas is what the whole blogging phenom is about. But I still had no idea how effective it was for my search engine rankings to simply make useful, appropriate comments on other peoples' blogs.

The blogosphere has been described as "collective intelligence," in which the minds and ideas of all sorts of individuals from all over the world are pooled together to solve certain problems or advance the knowledge in a given field.

If you have ideas and knowledge to offer others in your field, don't keep them to yourself. Find those bloggers who are already putting out good stuff on their blogs.

Don't regard these other bloggers as your competitors, but instead think of them as colleagues and peers. Put links to their sites on your blog or website and post useful, informative and non-self serving comments on their blogs and you will benefit as well.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Imagine a friend has set you up on a blind date with a person your friend just raves will be the person of your dreams (can you see disaster coming?), and after much cajoling, you finally agree to meet this “wonderful” person for dinner.

Now imagine this person spends the entire evening talking about himself or herself. About his/her career, hobbies, dog, exploits, travels, etc. On and on this evening goes as you mentally plot the ideal way to murder your now ex-friend.

Unfortunately, most websites, advertisements and company brochures I see take the same approach as this obnoxious date. These ads/websites/marketing materials talk about the company, the product, the service, how long the company has been in business, vain and unsubstantiated claims, pictures of top executives’ smiling faces, or laundry lists of services offered. Blah, blah, blah.

I call this approach to copywriting, “push communication,” because these writers feel compelled to thrust their agendas on the hapless readers. The one glaring difference between culprits of push communication and the obnoxious date, is that it’s hard to gracefully escape the obnoxious date, whereas the reader can flip the page away from a self-centered ad, click away from a boring web site or throw a useless brochure into the trash.

Now let’s contrast this to what I call “pull communication.”

“Pull communication” is dictated by what the reader wants and what interests the reader. The reader’s interests “pull” the dialogue forward. Every word written on an ad, website or marketing materials is written with the intent to solve the reader’s problems or help the reader achieve a goal.

I am reading a very interesting book called, “Your Attention Please” written by Paul B. Brown (no relation to me) and Alison Davis, that talks about this very point. To cure the problem of “me” focused communications, Brown and Davis suggest taking a close look at an industry that does a remarkably good job of writing to address readers’ needs and wants: service magazines.

These magazines, like Better Homes and Gardens, Men’s Health, Money, Self, Family Circle or Prevention, craft every single article to show readers what they want to learn. Articles in these magazines are on topics like how to lose weight, how to raise emotionally secure kids, how to get the most out of a fifteen minute workout, how to grow a flower garden, how to attract the ideal mate, or how to prevent a serious illness.

All these topics are examples of “pull communication,” because the spotlight is on the reader and it is what the reader wants. The reader dictates what is said, not what the writer wants to say.

So if you find your website, advertisements or marketing materials are starting to take on a, “Hello, this is who we are and this is what we do,” character, pick up a stack of magazines and see if they will give you ideas that will improve your “pull communications” skills.

And also, pick up a copy of “Your Attention Please.” It will be money well spent.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Just like a road trip, a website n must have a specific destination in mind before you start out. When visitors arrives at your site, if you have not painted them a “yellow brink road” to lead them to where you want them to go, they are apt to go just anywhere.

If your website is for business, there are only four possible destinations. Each and every word of content must be written with any or all of these destinations in mind. Your goal must be to lead every qualified visitor to take one of these actions:

  1. To get the visitor to buy right now. If you are selling merchandise, you should have very clear offers, order forms and promises that lead your visitors to pull out their credit cards right now.

  2. To get visitors to contact your company to do business or to find out more with doing business in mind. Have your contact information visible on every page (an all too often violated rule) and give visitors REASONS to contact you. What I usually see is content so lacking in tangible benefits, the visitor only thinks, “I’m glad I know about these guys now, if I ever need them, now I know where they are.”

  3. To get visitors to leave their contact information. This is the heart and soul of permission marketing. Offer visitors something of value like free information, as an ethical bribe to get them to provide their names and email addresses. This destination is to generate leads that you can follow up with future contacts.

  4. To get visitors to come back to your site. This destination leads them to bookmark your site or subscribe to your feed so they are updated whenever you post new material.

None of this is easy, but if you set up a website aimlessly without purpose, these goals are impossible. As I said before, once you know where you want to lead visitors, write every word of content toward leading them to take these actions.

What are your ideas on this? I’d love to hear any of your examples and insights into this.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

I'll be taking a break for a few days to celebrate Christmas with my family and I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season as well. I finally got the last of my shopping done yesterday (please, no man jokes. I've heard them all).

Anyway, I have a number of ideas ready for after Christmas and into January, so I'm looking forward to getting back with you soon.

As Tiny Tim would say, "God Bless us everyone."

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

This is the third, final, and perhaps the most important, article in a series on the topic of features vs. benefits. It will deal with the emotional reasons people buy any product or service.

This series was inspired by the many ads, websites and marketing materials I’ve seen recently that seem to offer little or no benefits to the would-be customer. Hints, yes. Vague references to something better, yes. But very, very few strong benefit statements that boldly tell the customer how this product or service will change their lives, solve their problems or open up new opportunities for them.

So now let’s get started on the all-important emotional benefits.

Emotions outsell logic and facts 10 to 1. There’s an old but true saying that goes, “people buy on emotion and justify with logic.” Even for corporate customers, your material must convince a human buyer who makes decisions in part based on how these decisions will further her career or cast her in a bad light with others in the company. Leaving out the emotional element can, and often is, fatal to your efforts.

Emotional benefits go right to the heart (literally) of why people make decisions. Often called “psychological triggers,” these reasons are the needs that operate like software in our brains.

Take, for example, home exercise equipment. The logical benefits behind making such a purchase might be to lose weight, to be healthier or to have more energy. All valid reasons that should be included in your copy if you are selling such a product.

But the emotional benefits might be to look good to members of the opposite sex, to enhance your own confidence, to help your career because you look better, to be accepted by others or to be able to wear certain clothing in the summer. All of these reasons might sound slightly shallow, but they are a part of all our psychological makeup.

According to John Caples in his book, Tested Advertising Methods (Fifth Edition) a partial list of these psychological triggers (which he calls appeals) is:

  • Make more money
  • Save money
  • Retirement security
  • Better health now
  • Health care security
  • Security in old age
  • Career advancement
  • Sex, acceptance by the opposite sex, love or affection
  • Greed, including all the things that money can buy
  • Fear of loss, fear of failure or fear of losing
  • Duty/Honor/Professionalism, which means our altruistic motives of doing what’s right or best for others or simply doing our jobs well, or doing what’s right for our employer or organization
  • Desire to avoid embarrassment or rejection
  • Desire for acceptance or popularity(or as Caples puts it, the desire to be one of the “in” group)
  • Competitiveness (which might include the desire to own a better car than your neighbor)

As you look over this list of psychological triggers (which is by no means a complete list of the emotional reasons people make decisions) you will notice that sometimes different triggers can be used to sell the same product or service.

For example, going back to that corporate buyer mentioned earlier, she might be motivated by her professionalism to do what was right for her company, her desire for career advancement, her fear of hurting her career by making a bad decision (back in the 60s, 70s and 80s a common business proverb advised that no one ever lost their job for choosing IBM), fear of making a bad decision which might turn out to be an embarrassment

With all this said, I’d like to mention a very good method for making all these emotional reasons and psychological triggers very real to the reader of your material. In her bookWeb Copy That Sells, Maria Veloso uses a device she calls the emotional scenario to paint a vivid picture for the reader.

What Veloso’s emotional scenario does is create a story-like scene in which the reader can see and feel the emotional cost of the problem they now face. Then she puts the reader right inside another scene to contrast that problem scene, which show how they could feel if the problems were resolved. This second scene allows the reader to experience the ownership of your product and assumes that the sale has already been made.

It works like this (we’ll go back to using the home exercise equipment mentioned earlier):
It’s 2:00 in the afternoon and you find that you are having to tuck your shirt back in again because your “spare tire” keeps your clothing from fitting right. You’ve been trying to catch the new woman’s eye for weeks now, but you think she doesn’t pay any attention to you because you look out of shape and over weight. On top of all that, you are getting tired and listless and don’t know how you’ll have the energy to make it until the end of the day.

Now imagine it’s just four weeks after buying your new Super Ab Cruncher. Your clothes fit great and you feel more lean and muscular than you have in years. You feel like a bundle of energy and your boss has complimented you twice this week on the productivity level you have been performing at. On top of that, the new woman just asked you out for drinks after work.

Ok that would definitely need more work before I would ever put that on an ad or website, but as rough as it is you still get the idea of to put the reader, as the main character, into an emotional scene.

Remember that your customers and clients are first of all people, not analytical machines. It takes more than facts and logic to persuade any human to make a decision or take action. If your ads, website or marketing materials fail to take into account the emotional nature of the people you are writing to, you will never see the results you are looking for.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

Sorry folks for the delay in getting new material posted for the last few days. It's been a combination of the Christmas season (yes I am a guy, and yes I still have a few presents to buy) and some technical glitch with Blogger's system. I have been unable to log into my Blogger account for two days.

Anyway, I hope to get the new material posted later today.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out Brian Clark’s site, you are missing out on an excellent resource for anyone who uses a blog to bring in business. Like myself, Brian Clark is a recovering attorney turned blogger/copywriter, but I’m sure none of you will hold that against him (or me).

Just a few samples of the excellent and useful stuff Brian has on his site are:

  • 5 Simple Ways To Open Your Blog Post With A Bang. Sometimes just starting a blog post, or any article for that matter, is difficult. Your thoughts have either already raced ahead into the meat of what you want to say or you can’t get them started until you have the beginning worked out. Regardless, this article by Brian can be a great help with this often frustrating part of writing.

  • 10 Sure Fire Headline Formulas That Work. We are all probably guilty of working the list and how to formats to death on our blogs. In this very helpful article, Brian shows us ten other ways to provide valuable information to our readers without using the same tired old formulas. This article alone is what prompted me to devote today’s blog post to Brian’s work.

  • 21 Traffic Triggers For Social Media Marketing. This is a superb article by Brian about how addressing the emotional needs people have can result in high traffic volume to your site. This is a great article with a lot of insights.

  • If you want a really thought provoking article to sing your teeth into, check out Telling People A Story They Want To Hear. I won’t spoil this one for you by giving too much away, but it is definitely worth your time.

  • Another of Brian’s series on “Magnetic Headlines” is 7 More Sure-Fire Headlines Templates That Work. It is a follow up on the 10 Sure Fire Headline article mentioned above and it contains more ideas for writing great headlines.

  • Anyone with a website or blog wants attention, traffic and readers. Brian’s article How To Write A Killer How To Post That Gets Attention provides a lot of material to get you moving in that direction. More great stuff from a guy who keeps coming up with more.

To say I am a fan of Brian Clark and his blog is an understatement. I thought it was high time to give him the credit he is due by letting you know about him as well.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

The year after winning the Super Bowl, Vince Lambardi began the next season’s pre season practices with drills on blocking and tackling. In other words, even as world champions, he felt his great Green Bay Packers needed to keep learning and relearning the basics of the game.

In marketing and copywriting, the basics of our game are features and benefits.

Every day I see this need to relearn the basics of features and benefits. Daily I run across full-page magazine ads or web sites that leave me entertained, or even make me think, but do not give me or any other reader a compelling REASON to buy.

I am convinced that tremendous amounts are money are wasted each year by businesses that create advertisements, marketing materials and web content, which fail to give buyers compelling REASONS to buy from these companies.

Not only is money wasted as a result of the poor returns on investments these advertisements et al. generate; the failure to capture new customers and new sales, is likely an even bigger, although unseen, cost to these businesses.

“REASONS” to buy, of course is just another way to say “BENEFITS.” This article is part two of a series on one of the basics of our field, how to distinguish features from benefits. It is an attempt for all of us to go back to drilling on the "blocking and tackling" aspects of our game of marketing and copywriting.

So let's begin:

Why do you and I buy things? Why do we spend our money, whether it is our own money or money spent on behalf of our company, to acquire goods and services?

These questions get to the heart of what distinguishes a real benefit from a mere feature that looks and smells kinda like a benefit. With all that in mind, let’s look at four basics to our game of marketing and copywriting, when it comes to creating reasons and benefits:

  1. Change. I once read an over-hyped direct mail piece that began with the words, “This Product Will Change Your Life!” Now I don’t recommend using such extreme hyperbole to start your copy, but sometimes I write a similar statement at the top of my legal pad when I start working on a new copywriting project. My statement reads: ”How Can This Product (or Service) Change Someone’s Life (or business, or whatever)?”

    Why would you buy a new luxury car? I presume you already own a car, so your basic transportation needs are already met. You might buy a new Mercedes because you want to change the experience you get when you drive. Or you might buy a hybrid in order to get more fuel efficiency out of a new car.

    Why would a company lease new office space? Possibly because changing their office gives them more room or puts them in a better location to gain or service their customers.

  2. Make a Promise. A real benefit is always a promise. If you spend a lot of money on an ad that fails to make a clear, specific promise to your target customers, you are wasting their time and your money.

    What do you promise? Re-read step one. What kind of changes or improvements do your target customers want to make? I begin every copywriting project I take on by writing out a list of "I wants" as if I were the customer telling me what kinds of promises would appeal to him or her.

    Make your promises target that area between where they are right now and where they want to be.

  3. Offer a Solution. Next, a real benefit is usually a solution to a real problem. Now I tend to go off on tirades when I see the word, “solutions” bandied about like a buzzword. (See my recent article, "Solutions" is Not Just a Buzzword to see what I mean). A real solution is tied to a specific problem.

    Most, if not all benefits are actually solutions to an aggravating problem (see another previous article You're Really Just Selling Aspirin).

    If you can identify problems your potential clients face, you can craft solutions that help them relieve, escape or avoid the pain caused by those problems.

  4. Opportunity. In the few instances that you are selling a problem that does not solve a problem, it will probably open the door to an opportunity, even if the opportunity is just pleasurable.

    When you see an ad for a quaint country inn with a cozy fireplace and a spectacular view of a peaceful lake, that ad is presenting you with the opportunity to spend an enjoyable, romantic weekend.

    When you see an ad for a local MBA program that can be taken in the evening, that ad is presenting the opportunity to advance your career. When you see an ad for a charitable organization, that ad is giving you the opportunity to give to a worthy cause. If your ad shows how to help small companies become big companies, you are presenting an opportunity.

    All of these opportunities are benefits that must be spelled out clearly in your ad, marketing material, website etc.

Find out what motivates your prospective clients. Chances are their goals and ambitions will either be to solve a problem or seek out an opportunity (or both).

There is no excuse to fill your marketing materials with creative drivel that does not compel a reader to act. Real benefits show readers how to experience a change for the better, make a clear and definite promise, solve a problem or point the way to an opportunity.

Anything else is a waste of your marketing budget.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Sometimes it suddenly dawns on me that things that seem so easy to me are a real hurdle for others who are in different professions. That statement is actually a no-brainer when you think about it, but it still comes as a shock when it happens in reality.

For example, the whole “Features vs. Benefits” thing is a real challenge for most business people. It is hard, as an example, for many businesses to translate what they DO into language that means what they can DO FOR the client. The reason is that to an insider, features are code words for what these things do for the customer. A car maker, for example, automatically leaps the gap between "Anti-Lock Brakes" and "safety on wet or icy roads."

But to the consumer, "Anti-Lock Brakes" may sound like just one more gizmo on that new car. Because of this, it is always necessary to run descriptions of your product or service through the “what’s in it for me” filter and think about it from the point of view of your customer.

With all this in mind, I am going to devote the next several days to writing about how to translate all the facts and information about a product or service into benefit statements that can be used on your website, advertisements, white papers, direct mail, etc.

So let’s launch this series of articles off by recycling an article I wrote on October 16 of this year called, ”Pile On The Benefits Until They Can’t Say No.”

What happens when you read a sales letter that contains a long list of bullet point benefit statements? What happens to me is all my resistance just crumbles away under this machine-gun fire of reasons why I must buy this service or product.

When a copywriter writes copy that lists one benefit after another in bullet point form, my mind simply cannot come up with objections or reasons not to buy fast enough to keep up with the copywriter.

As a freelance copywriter myself, I can appreciate the kind of work that went into writing this kind of copy. Many writers barely seem to be able to come up with one or two benefit statements, let alone an entire list. So I know this isn’t a writer who just sat down and quickly slapped down some copy.

But writing a long list of benefit statements is not as difficult as it first appears. There are several ways to organize your thoughts in order to write out a long list of benefit statements:

  1. Write out every possible problem your product or service solves for the customer.

  2. Write out consequences of not doing business with you or the consequences of delaying action.

  3. Think of every emotional reward your product or service can give your reader.

  4. Now also write down the logical rewards your product or service offers.

  5. List every reason why your reader should do business with you.

  6. Look at your product or service from your potential customers’ point of view. List their wants. You are brainstorming here, putting yourself into the mindset of your potential clients.

  7. Write out a list of what they don’t want. Put down on paper every hassle, problem, pain or aggravation you can think of.

  8. Go back over the last two lists and write out why your clients want or don’t want these things. Probe into reasons and motives. Again, you are brainstorming here. Your goal is to try to understand the emotional benefits behind first level benefits.

  9. Go back over everything you’ve written and write benefit statements. Use action verbs and paint word pictures. Poke at the painful areas. Discover different ways to state the same benefit as a positive or a negative, what the customer gets and what she avoids. Try to write over a hundred benefit statements if you can. I guarantee nothing you come up with will be wasted.

The simple fact is that the more benefits you roll out, the fewer objections your reader can think of. As they read a long list like this, readers begin to run out of reasons not to do business with you.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Every several weeks or so, I find myself mentioning the name, “Marcia Yudkin.” The reason is because Marcia has had a big impact on my writing and even my decision to pursue writing professionally. Everything she writes is the real deal for those of us who are in a marketing or copywriting field.

One way to get a regular dose of her insights is to subscribe to her email newsletter, "Marketing Minute." Marketing Minute comes out every Wednesday and, as promised, takes no more than a minute to read. You can subscribe to Marketing Minute by going to

Here is a recent Marketing Minute that Marcia has kindly given me permission to reprint:

Eat your lima beans."

As kids, we hated to comply with commands like this. As
adults, we don't respond any better to pitches of products,
services or information that claim to be good for us.

If you notice "should" or "must" in your marketing copy, it
may indicate an evangelistic attitude that is sure to close
rather than open the minds of listeners.

You'll gain more converts if you set aside preaching and
instead, describe ways to reach a goal that you know your
target market wants. For instance:

"The Surprising Secret of Ageless Skin: Lima Beans"
"Add These to Your Soup for an All-Day Vitality Boost"
"Tantalize Your Taste Buds With the World's Most Unfairly
Scorned Vegetable"


BEFORE: Newly Promoted? The Top Three Mental Shifts You
Must Make in Your New Job
AFTER: Newly Promoted? Three Ways to Earn the Loyalty of
Direct Reports, Fast

BEFORE: Five Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use a Discount Broker
AFTER: Discount Broker or Full-Service Broker: How to

Eliminate commands, and let your customer decide that lima
beans might be the thing to try.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, web content writer, white papers

The other day a client read a short piece of copy I had written for her and called me a "Magician" (I am blushing). It is always great when a client praises your work, and I was pleased that what I did for her will help her promote a very needed product.

But, if the truth were told, what I did for her wasn't really magic at all.

Here's the process I went through when I wrote for her, and what I do with every other project I work on as well:

First, I sat down and wrote out a list of "I wants." I put myself in the minds of her prospective customers and just wrote what I perceived they would want from this product. Each line began with the words, "I want ____." By the time I started repeating myself, I had over 40 "I wants" on my list.

You've heard the story about the salesman who sold more drill bits than anyone else? When asked how he became so successful, he said he didn't talk about drill bits at all. He talked about the kind of holes his customers wanted.

In other words, his customers weren't interested in buying a new drill bit, they wanted holes. So instead of selling drill bits, he sold holes.

My "I want" list is how I sell holes. It is an exercise that forces me to look at a product or service through the eyes of the buyer. It also helps me tap into the emotional reasons they want these things. (Sometimes I also write a "why" list beside the first list so I can understand why they want what they want).

My method may seem touchy-feely to you (hey, it seems a little touchy-feely to me too, but it works). That's your choice. But if you are going to write really good copy, you asbolutely must find a way to get inside the heads of customers or clients.

If you can't do that, you will never write "magic" copy.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Recently one of the readers of this blog posted a comment about Grant Griffiths, a lawyer in Kansas who has abandoned advertising altogether in favor of writing his blog (thanks Whitney). See the article at Kansas Family & Divorce Lawyer. This is a great article for anyone who sells their knowledge, skill or expertise, because this attorney credits his blog for giving him a number one Google ranking under the keyword, "Kansas family law."

One of the reasons I tend to harp on the flaws I see in law firm advertising in this blog is because I used to practice law. As both a former private practice attorney and a copywriter, I can say that law firms have the worst marketing of any industry or profession I know of.

Whether you are looking at ads placed in the Wall Street Journal by 700 lawyer "blue chip" firms or the Yellow Page ads placed by small main street firms, the ads are almost always dismal. I swear these people wouldn't know a benefit if it came up and bit them on the nose.

And they all follow the same format: "we are a trusted name in admiralty law," "we can get you money if you are hurt in an automobile accident," "we handle cases in elder law, personal injury, corporate law, mergers and aquisitions, DUI defense, etc."

The ads are either empty boasts or laundry lists of the areas of law they practice. (And by the way, you probably won't find the same firm practicing admiralty law, mergers and aquisitions and DUI defense).

So how CAN a law firm market itself effectively without diminishing its professionalism? Easy, write and give out free information pieces.

If you are a lawyer start saving all the memos and briefs you write. Also save your research notes and cases you find interesting as you prepare for court. With few exceptions, these materials can be rewritten for lay audiences and turned into white papers, tip sheets, brochures, articles for your website, or articles you can submit to trade magazines, etc.

You can also start a blog like our friend in Kansas. Write two to three paragraphs a day on your field of practice and in not too many months your site will have a very high number of visitors every day.

Frankly, I would like to see the day when I do at least two-thirds of my copywriting work for law firms. I know from personal experience that it is a wonderful profession when you are working with clients you like and doing the kind of work you believe in. But it is an extremely stressful way to make a living if you have to accept unpleasant clients or take on unpleasant cases just to keep the doors open.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

In the past month, I’ve worked with several new clients who’ve had real difficulties differentiating their businesses, products and services.

It should be no surprise that finding ways to differentiate ourselves is such a struggle. We are bred to conformity, both in life and in business. But without a clear way to show potential customers and clients how we are different and how those differences can benefit them, we are just one fish in the pond.

I have learned that I can probe my clients with questions and bounce ideas off of them, but only they can find their own ways to differentiate.

Nevertheless, it is a daunting task to be expected to write copy for someone who can’t tell me how to distinguish him or her from all their competitors (I’ve never felt good about turning in copy that just relies on cute phrases or basically says, “we’re the best”).

Here are some ideas to help you find ways to distinguish your business, service or product from all the others out there:

  1. What emotions do you want to appeal to? Fear and anxiety are always the strongest emotions to tap into, but greed, ambition, safety, financial security, love for family, etc. are always solid winners to be put on this list.

  2. If you are having difficulty differentiating yourself, think about how you would like to position your competitors. When M&Ms says they “melt in your mouth, not in your hands,” they are in effect saying that all other chocolate candies melt in your hands and leave a sticky mess. Think about how you would like your potential customers to think about your competitors and then show how you are different.

  3. What are your benefits? You had to know that any article on marketing had to get around to benefits eventually. List out your benefits and build on them. In all likelihood, at least one item on your list will trigger a chord with you. It may not matter that all your competitors also offer this benefit, as long as they aren’t building their message upon that benefit.

  4. What problems does your business, product or service solve? As you write out this list, you will probably find a lot of overlap with the benefits list, but don’t worry. Solutions are really just another way to look at benefits. But writing this list forces you to look at what you do from the customers’ point of view.

  5. Although claims that your product or service is “better” usually sounds hollow, sometimes it works anyway. But a “better” strategy will take a lot of work to sound convincing to your customers’ ears. If being better is really important to the people who buy what you sell, go for it.

    But if you go down this road, you had better have a lot of proof. Gather customer testimonies, industry data and independent third party endorsements to support your claim to being better.

    Reality check: If you are the new kid on the block, don’t even try to claim you are the best. If your business or your product or your service is new, you simply aren’t the best. You have no proof to offer and trying to make this claim when you are new will kill your credibility.

  6. Be new. I’m not contradicting the last item on this list when I say “be new,” I am saying to innovate. Invent a new product, invent a new way to use an existing product, invent a new solution to an old problem or find a way to serve a new type of customer with your existing product or service. If you can be cutting edge, you can create your own niche and everyone else will be scrambling to keep up.

Once you find a way to differentiate yourself from all the others out there, your message becomes much easier to convey. More to the point, it becomes easier for your potential customers to hear and understand.

Differentiation is how you can cut through all the noise and clutter that bombard your customers everyday.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Time Warner Cable has just given me an incredible example of how to waste your advertising money, and I'd like to pass this lesson on to you.

Time Warner just recently bought out Comcast here in the Dallas, Texas area. My parents, who are both in there 70s, have been Comcast cable customers for years, and now they find themselves customers of Time Warner.

Naturally, Time Warner has spent massive amounts of advertising money to tell all of the former Comcast customers how great things will be for them now that they are with Time Warner.

Recently my parents asked me to help them set up a high-speed internet connection and I advised them to stick with the same company that provides their cable service. Big mistake.

It is now 8:46 pm and I have been trying to install a high-speed internet connection for my parents for more than 12 hours.

Actually, installing the connection and loading the software has been no problem. What has been a problem, and what has used 172 minutes on my cell phone and 43 attempts (all documented on my cell phone's call log for today) to contact Time Warner's "Customer service department" (boy is that a misnomer) has been my repeated attempts to get the password and log on ID that should have been given to me when I picked up the self installation kit.

Had I been given this information with the kit, I would have had my parents connected at 9am today.

So if you are listening Time Warner, what good does it do you to spend millions on advertising when your actual service contradicts what you say in your ads? Why not spend a portion of that money on hiring additional customer service employees?

To the rest of you, here is the message: Advertising, marketing and PR are wonderful things that can produce wonderful results for promoting your business. But if your callers cannot get through, or when they finally do get through have to wait on hold for 172 minutes before they are cut off, or if they finally reach an employee who is untrained or incompetant (that hasn't happened to me yet today, but I am expecting it), what good has all that advertising done for you?

Now if you will excuse me, I plan to call another internet provider.

(By the way, if someone would like to forward this post to some top executive at Time Warner, maybe they will get the message).

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Since posting last week's statement about how badly I wanted your comments, I have received feedback from two of you that your comments have not shown up on this blog (thanks Mark and Whitney).

So I have removed the Blogger moderator tool so your comments will now go live right away. I'll just have to be diligent to remove the Viagra and "natural male enhancement" spam comments manually.

The lack of comments and feedback I had been seeing had been my biggest disappointment with writing this blog. I was wondering if I was connecting with anyone out there, and if anyone was finding value to the stuff I was writing.

But now I find that a technical glitch was at least part of the problem. I'm still puzzled by the fact that some comments came through, but hopefully the problem has now been solved.

Thank you again Mark and Whitney. I would not have known there was a problem if you hadn't let me know.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

A lot of big ads are bloated and ineffective. My theory is that the copywriter wants to say so much that he/she loses focus on how to say it.

Here’s a solution: Stick to writing offers by first writing your ad as if it were a small or classified ad. Then expand later.

My definition of an offer is that it must contain two parts:

  1. It must contain a clear action you want your potential customer to take. This action can be: to pick up the telephone and call you, to come into your place of business, to opt into an email subscription list, to visit your website, to clip out a coupon and send it in, or to request a free information product, etc.

  2. The offer must also contain a clear and compelling REASON for the potential customer to take the above action. You do this, of course, with a strong benefit that answers the “what’s in it for me?” question.
The beauty of writing out a small ad, even if you eventually want to write a large ad, is that small ads force you to stick to the basics of your offer. You simply have no room in a small ad to waste words or deviate from the straight line between the benefit and the responsive action.

If I ran a big ad agency, I would start all the new copywriters off by writing nothing but small ads over and over again until they could write them in their sleep. Too often copywriters develop excellent creative skills and learn to balance form with function, but they never really learn to write an offer.

When you write a small ad, start with the action you want your reader to take. If you ever lose sight of what you want the person to do, you ad will wander off course and get lost amidst all your creativity.

Next, write a headline that contains both a strong benefit and a powerful, compelling REASON for someone to take the action you just described.

If you are writing a big ad, start with this small ad format as a way to clarify both your offer and the headline you want to use. Then, as you expand the ad, you can include more benefits that give readers even more of a reason to act. You can also clarify the action you wish them to take.

By writing your big ad as a small ad first, you are literally writing your ad from the inside out. But, if you write it this way, your ad will never lose sight of the offer that lies at the heart of your message.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Up until now, I have not made my “policy” about posting comments to my blog,, clear.

It’s time to correct this oversight.

I welcome, encourage and cherish your reader comments to any post I put on my blog. Although I have turned on Blogger's tool to filter comments, I only filter out those rare unprofessional and inappropriate comments. (So if you are trying to use my site to sell some “natural male enhancement” product, keep moving).

Feel free to disagree with me. Feel free to point out my glaring mistakes, and by all means fell free to mention your own site, as long as it adds real value to the readers and is appropriate to the discussion at hand.

I think the scarcity of reader feedback has been this blog’s biggest weakness. Hopefully letting you know that I encourage your comments will improve this situation.

So, you now have the official green light to leave your comments and give us your feedback. Let’s hear from all of you.

Michael Seitzer, an authority on marketing with white papers (and a fellow Dilbert fan) put up an interesting post on his blog last week. The post, Inventing Facts To Fit Your Purposes, begins with a quote from a recent Dilbert cartoon strip.

If you follow Dilbert (and why wouldn't you?) his dog, named Dogbert, is an evil genius whose life mission is to exploit everyone around him. In this recent strip, Dogbert brags about making up facts to support his marketing claims. Michael brings up this cartoon as a starting point for a discussion on ethics in marketing with white papers.

Marketing and selling have well-deserved bad reputations. If you read, watch or listen to many ads, you can't help but wonder how all these competitors can be, "the best," "the leading," "recommended by more doctors," etc.

We read ads and other marketing materials like white papers with honed skepticism. We assume the facts, statistics and claims are at best, strategically selected, or at worst, made up.

Contrast this with openly admitting flaws and negatives up front.

Dan Kennedy is one of my freelance copywriter heroes. In his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter, he shows several examples of how admitting these weaknesses up front helps to create a more powerful sales message.

Open admissions does several wonderful things for your marketing materials:

  1. First, admissions enhance your credibility. It immediately causes your readers to crack open their protective shields just a little bit. You will still have to earn their trust with the benefits you introduce, but at least they will give you a chance.

  2. Admissions set up your benefits. No one expects you to pay for expensive advertising just to bad mouth your product or service. They know that if you are willing to admit some flaws, you will soon have some positives you will be mentioning. This builds up anticipation and gives them a reason to pay attention.

  3. Admissions help you to position your product, service or company against your competition. You can't be all things to all people, and you lose credibility when you try. Instead, by openly acknowledging your weaknesses, you put the spotlight on your strengths.

Dan Kennedy finds making admissions up front so powerful and so compelling to the reader, that he claims to look for flaws, just so he can admit them.

Possibly that's going too far (although who am I to argue with Dan Kennedy?) but honest and open admissions can go a long way to gaining credibility every one of your competitors lack.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

I could call this article, “More Great Moments in Wasteful Advertising,” but I’m saving that one for the future. I’m sure I’ll get another opportunity to use it soon.

On the back cover of the latest Fast Company magazine (the January 2007 issue), is a big, expensive ad from the software company, SAP. They have a picture of an average-looking guy with a headline that says,

“SAP Has Affordable Solutions For Midsize Companies?
This Better Not Be Another Prank By The Guys in Procurement.”

Yes, it is an amusing ad, but it communicates nothing other than the fact that SAP does something or other for midsize companies as well as the big boys.

Well whoopee! If you look really close, there is a quasi benefit that sort of limps onto the ad down at the bottom where the copy reads, “..modular solutions that let you buy only the software you need now…” And then this poor little benefit wannabe limps back off stage never to be seen again.

I’m all for offering solutions, except when you just offer “solutions.” In other words, go ahead and solve actual problems, but don’t throw the word “solutions” around as if it is code for all kinds of wonderful things you can do for me.

“Solutions” (the word) is bandied about in all kinds of ads these days, without specific examples of problems being solved. “Solutions” has become a buzzword meant to replace the hard work of showing problems getting taken care of.

To quote from the classic movie, Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here is failure to communicate.”

Copywriters use the word “solutions” because it sounds nice and because it is a lot less work than narrowing the scope of an ad by specifying certain needs.

But, my offended copywriting colleagues say, “if you narrow the scope of the ad to only those readers who are affected by this particular problem, you exclude all those readers who are not affected by it.

Yep, that’s right. That is the beauty of targeting a niche. Now SAP could solve this problem of excluding some readers (did you notice I just tied the word “solve” to a specific problem?) in one of two ways.

First, they could run a series of ads, each targeting certain audiences by focusing on certain problems and solutions. Chances are these targeted ads will grab those targeted readers much more than the bland generality they are running now.

Second, they could run a single ad with a menu of problems and offer a free booklet to IT managers, CFOs or other managers who identify with one or more of those problems. Now to be fair, the Fast Company ad does mention their website at the very bottom of the ad. It is a lame mention that says, “learn more at”

Directing a reader to your website, before you have aroused her interest, is expecting the customer to do all your work for you. For every one person this ad gets to check out the website, 10,000 will yawn and forget it.

But, by offering a free booklet or guide, and promising tons of benefits which will be contained within its pages, SAP could not only attract much more interest, they could also generate a lot of leads to be followed up on later.

To sum all this up, when you see the word “solutions” used as a buzzword, you are seeing the work of a lazy copywriter or marketer. Benefits are solutions, but always use it as a specific cure for a specific problem.

For all the money SAP surely spent on this ad, they really should be able to do better.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

I have now spent several days helping my retired parents, who are both in their seventies, work their way through the maze of medicare confusion.

For those of you who have not yet experienced this pleasure, U.S. medicare recipients must either renew their medicare plans before December or their previous plan is automatically renewed. Since rates are going up and what is and what is not covered is changing, just letting it renew without study is not an option.

I should also point out that I hold a law degree, and I still find this stuff confusing.

So across the U.S.A., there are puzzled and troubled seniors who need to make an important financial decision within the next month.

Enter the value of free information. Several of the insurance companies that provide supplemental coverage have put out some excellent free information pieces that answer a whole host of questions about the new coverage.

Not only that, one company has also offered a free consultation and is running a spreadsheet comparison of the plans to give my parents a side-by-side comparison of what is covered and for how much.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am an advocate of marketing by giving away free information in the form of guides, booklets, ebooks, white papers, seminars, etc.

The marketer who can simplify a complex decision will come out the winner. This is true regardless of whether you sell supplemental medicare coverage or baby formula. Free information makes difficult things more understandable, and therefore removes barriers to buying decisions.

I am looking for examples any of you might have for this. Have you - either as a buyer or a seller - experienced the selling power of free information products? If so, let me know.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, writing web content, white papers

As a general rule, you just can’t go wrong making your customer the “star” of your advertisement, web content or sales letter. Another way to put this is to focus on solving your customers’ problems (and I include needs, wants, fears, ambitions, desires, frustrations etc. under the umbrella of “problems”).

But there is an exception to this rule. Many successful ads have told stories in which someone else appears to be the “star.”

These people all had a problem, and all found a solution to that problem. Look back at some of the very powerful ads you’ve read, seen or heard that were first person stories about someone who found relief from a difficult situation.

Or look at those stories that were not in the first person, but had the feel of a case history. Again, the formula is the same. A person, family or business faced a serious problem, which are leading to very painful consequences. But fortunately (just in time) a solution arrived on the scene in the form of a product, company or service, leading to a “happily ever after resolution.”

Now, I would like to suggest that these story-like ads were not exceptions to the rule after all. If these ads are well written, the customer identifies with the person being talked about. His problems are your customer’s problems. His pain is felt by your customer. The serious consequences he faced are consequences you customer might face.

In all these cases, your customer is still the star, albeit by identification. This is why stories are so powerful. If your customer identifies with the person facing this problem, or if your customer has also faced this same problem, the customer sees himself in your ad.

This opens up a lot of ways to approach your ad. If you can present your ad as a story or a case history that your customers can identify with, they will form a connection with the person you portray.

Stories are incredibly powerful selling tools. As long as your customers are the “starts,” even if by identification.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Today’s post is about great moments in expensive, wasteful advertising.

I am looking through the November 6-12, 2006 issue of the Fort Worth Business Press for ads that actually give readers reasons to act. As you can imagine, these ads are hard to find.

American Express has a full page ad that does pretty well. It has three benefit statements that say:

“I get a cash rebate of up to 4% on American Express Travel.” I earn company-level award points on all our purchases.” And, “I save automatically with cash rebates from leading suppliers.”

Following these benefits is the headline which reads, “My company is mid-size, but I save big.”

And that’s all. The main feature of the ad is acres and acres of white space with a small blurb at the bottom a picture of the American Express ExtrAA Corporate Card and a Picture of a paper airplane made out of a $100 bill.

I give them credit for actually stating benefits. What a novel idea in big corporate advertising! But the white space? White space never sold anything. Never.

The next wasteful ad is for the law firm of Blaies & Hightower, L.L.P. The only positive thing I can say about this ad is that they only spent money on a half page.

Other than that, it shows three very serious-looking lawyers in expensive suits and six lines of copy that says nothing:
“When the stakes are high, you need more than legal knowledge. … You need the strongest commercial litigation and personal injury trial lawyers on your side. .. Attorneys who lead the courtroom with integrity and honor.”

The sad thing is, someone actually thought these were benefit statements.

Neither ad called for action on the part of a potential customer/client. They gave contact information and that’s all. But that is futile without giving the prospect a REASON to contact them.

Neither ad made a concrete offer. There were no promises of a benefit in exchange for an action from the prospect. The Blaies Camp; Hightower ad was exactly the same as every other law firm ad we’ve ever seen. For all I know, the same serious-looking lawyers appear on all of them. And you just have to love the line, “Attorneys who lead the courtroom with integrity and honor” as a masterpiece of copy that says nothing.

What both these ads need is an injection of direct response techniques. American Express can offer a free guide to corporate financial strategies that would show a corporate officer how to save money on all company expenditures, how to manage day-to-day cash flow and maximize the rebates they offer.

Blaies & Hightower could offer a report, a case study or a white paper on any one of the areas of law the practice. These could contain tips on how to avoid litigation, what new government regulations effect businesses or how to profit from recent trends in the law.

By offering free information products, neither firm would diminish the brand image they are striving for (and actually in my mind, they would stand out in a positive way). But not only that, these white papers, guides or booklets could generate leads and build a list of potential customers/clients for these firms.

The sad truth is both these ads were incredibly wasteful. White space sells nothing and copy that says nothing, sells nothing. Better luck next time guys.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Most businesses that use Yellow Page advertising fail to understand that these ads reach a very different audience than ads you see in newspapers or other media.

Other ads must first convince readers that they need a particular product or service before it can convince them to do business with a certain company.

In contrast, Yellow Page readers are already planning to buy. They only need a reason to buy from your business rather than the other guys. But you wouldn’t know this is a different audience by looking at most Yellow Page ads.

Look at the headlines you see splashed all over the books. Let’s say you are looking for an accounting firm to help you plan for and prepare your company’s taxes. The first ad you see says, “Smith and Johnson, Certified Public Accountants. We’ve been in business for 25 years.”

The next ad says, “Williams and Jones, Certified Public Accountants. We all went to Harvard,”

OK, it’s good to have 25 years experience and, all other things being equal, I’m fairly impressed that these guys went to a top university.

But suppose the third headline you read says, “7 Ways to Cut Your Payroll Taxes By 35%.”

Which of these three ads will you read and most likely call on?

Notice that the first two headlines were about the company, not the customer. The third headline gave the reader reasons (benefits) to do business with that firm. This ad focused on the customer’s concerns and questions.

You will never go wrong making the customer the “star” of your ad. Focus on what questions that person is asking when they read through your section of the Yellow Pages (and by the way, any other place you put your ad).

Here are some other headlines that give readers reasons to call you instead of the other guys:

”Important Information For Anyone Who Needs A New C.P.A. Firm”

”Warning! Read This Before You Hire Anyone Else To Prepare Your Taxes”

”10 Things You Must Know When Choosing An Accounting Firm”

The idea behind all these headlines is to stand out from the crowd by giving readers reasons (again, "reasons" is code for "benefits") to choose you. Think like your customers before you place your next ad. Imagine the confusion anyone feels when faced with many choices that all make the same claims.

If you give people reasons to choose you, they very often will.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know how much I admire Dan Kennedy. He is a legend among freelance copywriters, and his books are snapped up as soon as they hit the bookstores.

He has recently written, No B.S. Direct Marketing: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing For Non-Direct Marketing Businesses. As the long subtitle suggests, this book is about how businesses that are not in traditional mail order or direct marketing businesses can still use direct marketing methods successfully.

What makes this book unique is that Dan has invited several of his clients from non-direct marketing businesses to write chapters in this book. There are chapters by owners of a tax preparation business, a chain of men’s clothing stores, a chiropractic practice, a restaurant and a dental practice.

Each of these professionals have incorporated Dan’s 10 “No B.S. Rules” very successfully. The 10 Rules are:

  1. There Will Always Be an Offer or Offers

  2. There Will Be A Reason To Respond Right Now

  3. There Will Be Clear Instructions On How To Respond

  4. There Will Be Tracking and Measurement

  5. Whatever Brand Building Occurs Will Be a Happy By-Product, Not Bought

  6. There Will Be Follow-Up

  7. There Will Be Strong Sales Copy, Not Vague Hyperbole

  8. In General, It Will Look Like “Mail-Order Advertising”

  9. Results Rule, Period

  10. You Will Be a Tough-Minded Disciplinarian and Keep Your Business on a Strict DIRECT Marketing Diet for at Least Six Months

I heartily recommend Dan’s latest book. Regardless of what business you are in, this is one book that WILL bring you outstanding results.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

They are fast and easy to write and readers love them. Tip sheets may just be the easiest method for promoting your business you've ever tried. And once written, you can find many ways to put these tip sheets into the hands of your potential clients.

I was looking through my files recently and suddenly noticed how many tip sheets I have saved over the years. It occurred to me that they were examples of very smart marketing because most of the authors had provided information about their services and their contact information at the bottom of the sheets. This made it easy for someone like me to contact them years later, if the need arose for their services.

I am supposing here that I am fairly typical and I would presume there are many other people out there who save and file worthwhile information. This makes the humble little tip sheet one of the most versatile marketing tools around.

So without further ado (and because I would really like to see you print a copy of this article for your files) here are eight tips that you can use to promote your business with tip sheets:

  1. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise when you write tip sheets. Tip sheets are promotional tools that prove that you are an expert in your field. When you condense your knowledge on a given topic, you create something that is far more convincing than any form of paid advertising.

  2. Offer your tip sheets as “freebies” to arouse the interest of potential clients. You can offer free tip sheets on your website, Yellow Page ad, or on your email signature file. Use tip sheets as “bait” to lure potential clients inro opting onto mailing (or emailing) list.

  3. Tip sheets make great inserts to go in your publicity kit. A busy journalist may just glance over your information, but there is something about the numbered list or bullet point format of a tip sheet that grabs the eye. It may be the only thing in your kit that gets read, but it may convince a reporter or editor that your pitch is newsworthy.

  4. Publish your shorter tip sheets as online or offline articles. You can submit them to sites like, idea marketers, Go Articles or Article City, or you can submit them to trade magazines your clients are likely to read.

  5. Publish your longer tip sheets as booklets or ebooks. You can give these booklets and ebooks to your potential clients, or you can follow Robert Bly's advice and create a seperate profit center by putting a price on the cover and charging people who are not potential clients. Bly's advice is to put a price on the cover of a booklet even if you only plan to give it away. The price increases the booklet's perceived value to the person who received it free.

  6. Use your tip sheets as free handouts at workshops or speaking engagements. Never do any public speaking without some sort of free handout. Quality tip sheets will insure that you audience remembers you for afterwards and have a way to get back in contact with you if they need your services. Remember the tip sheets I have saved for many years. Those authors who had the foresight to put their contact information on them can reap the benefits of these sheets years later.

  7. Put tip sheet on your website. The more you post useful information on your site, the more people will come to regard it as an information resource. When they view your site in this way, they are likely to bookmark it and become repeat visitors.

  8. Print your tip sheet as a panel on your brochure. Brochures are often thrown away shortly after they come into a potential client's possession. But if you include useful information, people are much more likely to keep and file your marketing materials. Even if they have no need for your services today, their circumstances could change months or even years later. If your tip sheet/brochure is in their files, they can get back with you years after they got your materials.

Not only are tip sheets, written with bullets or numbered list formats, appealing to your readers, writing in these formats helps you to organize your own thoughts and ideas.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

Every business should occasionally spend time rethinking what business we are in. my own freelance copywriter business is no exception.

Lately I’ve come to realize that my core competencies are:

  1. Helping clients build a marketing strategy based upon giving out free information to their potential clients in the forms of white papers, booklets, ebooks, tip sheets, audio products and writing articles.

  2. Leverage these free information products to generate leads, build a list of subscribers and compile a database, through direct response advertising, sales letters and web content.

  3. Incorporate the incredible power of blogging and article writing (including both online and offline articles) to help clients position themselves as experts in their fields.

  4. Develop multiple ways to distribute the free information products to attract web traffic, email subscribers and inquiries.

  5. Offer ghost writing services to clients who cannot write their own articles, , booklets, ebooks, tip sheets, white papers, audio products and full-length books.

  6. Provide coaching services for those clients who want to write their own articles, blogs and books. Allow them to work on these projects with the support and assistance of a professional writer.

Not only are these the things I do very well, but I also believe they are the most valuable things I can do to produce results for my clients.

I am very interested in your comments and feedback on this redirection of my business model. Blogger has been having trouble accepting comments lately, so if you can’t post a comment, please email me at ****** or you can even call me at 817.715.3852.

Any feedback you can give me will be very appreciated.

COPYRIGHT © 2006, Charles Brown

I have already written a number of posts to this blog about freelance copywriter secrets that extol the benefits of constructing a story structure around client testimonials. Dry quotes seldom have the force of stories that tell how bad things were before the client discovered your services and how great things are now that they have done business with you.

So it's more than a little humbling to find this article by Richard Stooker that says the same thing I have been trying to say, but he says it so much better than any of my efforts.

Please read this very succinct but powerful article and find out how to transform your clients' testimonials into emotionally charged stories.

Charles Brown
Freelance Copywriter

How to Sell More Through Marrying the Power of Testimonials to "Once Upon a Time" by Richard Stooker

Most marketers understand the power of testimonials. What too many don't realize is that telling an extended testimonial as a story ramps up their power.

All of us hunger for stories. We love to follow along as likable people solve interesting problems. We love satisfying conclusions (maybe because they're so few and far between in our real lives!).

All too often marketers content themselves with typical lame testimonials such as: "Loved your weightloss product, it's great."

Better marketers include benefits and specifics: "I lost 83 pounds in 11 months, without dieting or exercising."

Great marketers understand that their prospect really craves the story behind the testimonial.

"I was so overweight my husband and kids laughed at me. I weighed 385 pounds. I was ashamed to leave my house. But the more miserable I felt, the more high calorie I wanted to eat. Then one day I got your letter in the mail and decided I didn't have anything left to lose.

"When the package arrived in the mail, my fingers were so fat I could barely open the little cap on the bottle, but finally I popped it off and took my first few capsules.

"Frankly, nothing happened the first few days. I might have stopped, except your directions warned me not to expect instant miracles. The second week, I noticed that my clothes weren't as tight."

. . . and so on.

Don't you start to feel happy for her? She had a problem, she found a solution (your product) and therefore is now on the road to a healthy body weight.

Suddenly your prospect can start to think that she can lose weight too. She's probably no worse off than the woman in the testimonial.

Now she can start to believe that she can lose weight without dieting or exercising too.

So customer success case studies help dissolve what's often the biggest unstated prospect objection to any problem: "It wouldn't work for me."

Sometimes this is a deep psychological defect on their part. Sometimes they just really believe that ordinary testimonials are written by people who aren't like them, that somehow the deck was "stacked" in favor of the testimonial writer. (And sometimes they're right.)

But when you give them plenty of personal detail, document efforts and mistakes and eventual triumph over real obstacles, you help them visualize a solution to their own problems.

Case studies are often used in business to business marketing, especially in the high tech industry, to verify that a company can solve another company's problems.

The truth is, every company that sells a worthwhile product should use these extended testimonials or case histories to sell their products -- to businesses and consumers.

c. 2006 by Richard Stooker

Start taking advantage of the power of case studies in your
marketing now.

Article Source:

freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer

There is one, simple copywriting technique that if you are not using, you are throwing away at least 50% of your potential sales.

Not only are you blowing half of your potential sales, but if even one of your competitors is using this copywriting technique, he is robbing you blind. He is using this method to take money right out of your pocket, steal some of your best customers and could be putting you out of business before you wake up and correct what you are doing wrong.

What copywriting technique could be this important? Go back and re-read the previous two paragraphs, because I was justing using this tactic it on you. It is the fear of loss, which is easily 100 times more persuasive than the opportunity for gain as a selling tool.

Tell your readers what it will cost them, what they will lose, what they already have been losing and what the future cost will be if they turn down your offer.

Everything you sell has consequences if you say "no." Look at what it costs people NOT to have what you offer, and shout it from the rooftops.

If you sell a car safety device such as tires that get extra traction in bad weather or a child’s car seat, sell death, injury and tragedy. You can do this without resorting to "hard sell" tactics, look at how Mercedes and Volvo show crash test dummies getting smashed to bits in auto accidents involving their competitors' vehicles. Their ads come across as informative and as a public service message, rather than hard sell.

How can you craft a message based upon the losses people will incur if they turn your offer down?

If you sell a water filter, you might say, "Every time you drink out of your tap, you are filling your body with dirt, toxins and deadly chemicals that, over time, build up in your system, weaken your immune system and cause your organs to breakdown."

If you are a bankruptcy attorney, your copy might read, "stop creditors from seizing your house, your car and your assets!"

If you sell financial planning services, your message might be along these lines, "Failure to plan for your own future will leave you dependent on the government and family, will rob you of the travel and fun you had hoped for, will prevent you from receiving the best medical care available and will leave you with nothing to do in your retirement but watch Oprah every afternoon."

If you sell a weight loss system, you could say, "Every diet you have ever been on has left you fatter, demoralized and convinced you will never look attractive again. Each diet does nothing but make you miserable and convinced you lack the willpower to be fit and healthy. But there is a better way."

Clearly you might not want to be this negative all the way through your copy. It will come across as hard sell. But a negative message should be a part of every copy you write. If you sell something worthwhile, it will offer a benefit if someone buys it, but it will also have a cost if they don't. If you leave out the negative consequences of not accepting your offer, you have failed both your customers, and yourself.

freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer
COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

Yesterday I wrote about the differences between advertisements that made a concrete offer vs. those ads that simply attempt to enhance the advertiser’s brand or image. I referred to Zig Ziglar, who describes a salesperson who never attempts to close the deal as a “professional visitor” rather than a “professional salesperson.”

Unfortunately, much of the copy written by many copywriters falls into the “professional visitor” category.

An ad that makes no offer to the reader, makes no call to action, or no inducement to do something, is the written equivalent of a professional visitor. Such ads are simply a waste of lots and lots of money.

So how should a copywriter make an offer? An offer is a benefit tied to an action. The benefit is what you will give the client if they will take a specific action. The action required can be to buy something, but you can also set a lower threshold and simply require that they send in a coupon for a free information product or a free gift that relates in some way to the services you offer.

The problems with brand and image advertising are numerous. First, the most likely response to such an ad is for the reader to put it down and say, “Wow, if I ever need these guys, now I know where they are.” The only way the advertiser is going to get business from this person is if she someday needs that product or service and can some how remember who it was that put out the advertisement she saw months or years ago.

But image ads get even worse. Many of these advertisers imply some vague action to be done by the reader, such as, “contact us if you have any questions.” To this, the reader says, “OK if I ever have any questions, I’ll be sure to give you a call.”

An offer, on the other hand, promises a concrete benefit for a concrete act. “Fill in your email address and you will get a free ebook.” “Call our office and we will send a free booklet.” “Attend our free seminar and we will give you a free meal and teach you how to safely invest for retirement.”

The tragedy of brand and image advertising is that you can do both, make an offer and enhance your image. Look at some of the ads put out by the major financial or brokerage firms. I just recently saw an ad by Morgan Stanley that offered a free analysts’ report on the economic outlook for the next business cycle. Such an ad clearly heightened their image as knowledgeable investment advisors, while also offering a benefit (the free report) in exchange for the reader taking action (sending in the coupon requesting the report).

I can’t think of any business that couldn’t make a similar offer. Not only would such an ad enhance your business’ brand image, you would also gather leads of potential clients and build a database from which you could send out future mailings of interest to that group of people.

Remember, the most profitable advertisers are not “professional visitors,” even on paper. Always be a “professional salesperson” and you will see immediate and significant increases in your profitability.

How long would you keep a highly-paid salesperson on your payroll that never attempted to close any deal? Not for long, I would imagine.

So why do most of you keep running ad after ad that doesn’t attempt to close the deal? For many businesses, their advertising costs far more than any one salesperson. But they do not hold their advertising to the same level of accountability as their salespeople.

Look through your local Yellow Pages. Unless you live in a city that is an oasis of advertising enlightenment, you will hard pressed to find even 1% of the ads that actually make an offer. Same with your local newspaper…no offers. Magazines? No offers there either.

An offer is nothing more than a call to action. A reason for the reader to act now. An offer can be for an information kit, a free sample, a coupon, a buy-one-get-one-free deal, or anything else that prompts the reader to do anything but put the ad down and think, “Well if I ever need those people, now I know where to find them.”

The advertising field is divided into two camps. The Brand and Image Camp, and the Direct Response Camp. Personally, I tend to think of the Brand and Image people as the “We Have More Money Than Intelligence” Camp.

Why would anyone spend money on any ad that does not give the reader a reason to act right now?

Go back to the example of the salesperson who can’t bring himself to even try to close. Zig Zigler calls these people” professional visitors” rather than “professional salespeople.” Brand and Image ads are the “professional visitors” of advertising. They may win awards, but they don’t encourage people to take action.

Just making the switch from Brand and Image advertising to Direct Response advertising, will result in immediate and dramatic increases to your business’ profitability. I guarantee it.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, white papers, copywriting tips

As a freelance copywriter, I naturally assume my readers will patiently hang onto every word I pen, lingering now and then to ponder what great mind authored such magnificent prose?

Unfortunately, we all would be better off assuming our readers will only take a quick scan over our copy, lasting no more than 3 seconds. Only if that quick glance reveals something that might possibly be interesting (to the reader, not to us) will the reader devote more than 3 seconds.

So how do we write copy that passes that 3 second test?

  1. Use numerous sub-headlines. Subheadings do two wonderful things that attract attention even if the reader is scanning over our copy. They break the material into small sections and (if well written) grab the reader’s interest with something that attracts her self interest. If the subheading works, the reader will be pulled into that small portion of the copy. Then if your writing in that small section delivers the goods, she may read your entire copy.

  2. Underline or make important information bold. Underlined and bold phrases makes this information jump right off the page. Don’t overdo this technique, and be slective to only key phrases, or this technique will lose its effect. The rule here is to assume the reader only reads the bold or underlined words. If that happens, she must still be able to understand your basic offer and know what the key benefits to the offer are.

  3. Make the headline count. Don’t be cute, coy or creative. Announce something that tugs at the reader’s self interest. The job of the headline is to persuade the reader to read the first sentence of the first paragraph. And that first sentence’s job is to persuade the reader to read the entire paragraph, and so on.

  4. Bullet points or numbered lists. Lists draw the eye because readers like to read packaged information in “bite sized” portions. Readers also like lists because they get right to the point and they feel you are communicating the essentials of your message without a lot of fluff.

  5. Put some information in small boxes. Like sidebars in magazine articles, these boxes pull the eye to small sections of information. Make these boxes contain stand alone messages and examples. You can use boxes for proof, testimonials or to contain intriguing examples.

It’s always a safe bet to assume that your readers will only scan over your copy. Readers are busy and pulled from many different directions. Only if they see something in that quick scan that appeals to their self interest will they read any more.

If you never assume you have any more than 3 seconds to capture that interest, you will write your copy with scanning in mind. After all, you can do a lot in those 3 seconds.

freelance copywriter, ghost writer, writing web content, copywriting tips

COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

I am totally hooked on "24." But it gets worse because 24 was merely a "gateway" show that soon led me to become addicted to "Lost." And now, every Monday night, I tell the family to leave me alone so I can watch "Heroes."

Do you know what all of these TV shows have in common? Cliffhangers.

It is not enough that these shows end each week leaving their likeable characters in peril or wrestling with a puzzle that must be solved in order to save the world, Cliffhangers abound throughout the show. There are cliffhangers just before commercial breaks and even more just before the story line switches to another character. These writers are positively sadistic in the ways they find to leave the viewer hanging.

And now, during 24's season break, I am left to wonder what will happen to Jack Bauer for months until the next season starts in January.

The lesson for freelance copywriters here is that you can greatly improve your ad copy, web content or sales letters by writing your own cliffhangers.

I know one copywriter who writes long sales letters, often running 10 or more pages long. So, to keep readers flipping the pages, he puts cliffhanger sentences at the bottom of each page. They will say things like:

""Beware, there are 3 common pitfalls that can be fatal to your small business, and will cost you tens of thousands of dollars unless you know how to avoid them. See the next page for more information."


Find out how Howard B. of Florida make $16,000 in one month using this system. See the next page for details."

You can write your own cliffhangers to keep your potential customers reading. Just remember:

  • When you raise an question, don’t give the reader the answer it on the same page,
  • As soon as you answer one question, raise another.

With a little practice, you can have readers hooked on your copy, just like I am on "Heroes." They will hang onto your words and foloow you from one cliffhanger to the next.

As you write, just think of Jack Bauer. In less than 20 minutes, a nuclear bomb is going to go off in the middle of Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people will die unless he can find the bomb and disarm it in time. In the meantime, Jack’s daughter is missing and presumed to be in the hands of a deranged killer.

Jack has only one choice. He must …

freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer

COPYRIGHT(C)2006, Charles Brown. All rights reserved.

If you are old like me, you probably remember the Ginsu Knives commercials that came out in the 1970s and changed television advertising forever. They were funny, kitschy and a had a tongue-in-cheek tone that made them fodder for late night comedians.

Some of the phrases from these commercials were quickly adopted as part of our cultural language. Phrases like, “but wait, there’s more,” or “now what would you pay?” were inserted into everyday conversations by average (but not too bright) people.

One of the reasons these knives sold like, well... hotcakes, was the way the sellers kept throwing in more and more add ons for no extra cost.

Every time viewers thought we had seen the entire offer, the announcer would say, “but wait, there’s more.” Then a new freebie was tossed into the package.

Legend has it that the creators of the commercials were looking for an additional kitchen gadget to to add in a premium, and heard about a little gizmo that made decorative peelings out of apple and potato skins. By itself, this little peeler was so inconsequential it would have been very difficult to promote. But as a freebie, it was perfect. It could be visually demonstrated and only cost the sellers about 50 cents.

But the genius of thee commercials was how they introduced the add ons. Instead of just throwing in one new freebie after another, there was a “wrap up” each time a new add on was announced.

The announcer would summarize the entire offer as it stood so far. The voice would go back over each product, the benefits of each product and then the add on products and their benefits. After this, the voice would say, “Now what would you pay?” At this point a few possible prices, which curiously were all higher than the actual price the Ginsu folks were charging, would flash on the screen just to suggest that this was the range the viewer should be thinking of. Then when the actual price was announced as being below those suggested prices (surprise) it made the actual price seem very small.

And then, once the viewer began to assume the offer was complete, the announcer would say, “but wait, there’s more…” and throw in another freebie. The effect of throwing in all these add ons was to make the price seem ridiculously small when compared to the value received.

Now remember that each freebie cost the seller very little, but to the customer, they represented a significant value.

Can you do the same thing with what you sell? What if you threw in a free booklet, a free CD or some other add on that related to your primary offer?

Selling is all about creating a favorable return on investment (ROI) for the buyer. When all your freebies increase the value side of the offer, the price side seems to very small in comparison to what is received.

By the time a viewer had seen all that came with their Ginsu Knives for such a “low” price, they almost felt guilty for taking advantage of these dolts who were offering so much for so little.

Your aim, no matter what you are selling, is to work the ROI by increasing value every chance you can. To do this, you have to come up with your own version of, “but wait, there’s more.”

freelance copywriter, writing web content, copywriting tips, ghost writer

One of the biggest mistakes a freelance writer can make when writing a website’s content is an unfocused goal.

When a visitor happens upon your site, what do you want that person to do? Actually. A more focused goal would be, what do you want your visitor to decide?

The same thing goes for readers who cast their eyes upon your brochure, your advertisement, your sales letter or any other marketing material you create.

What decision do you want to influence your reader to make?

If you have a clear idea of this, you can create copy that steers that reader toward that decision. If you want the person to buy now, or request more information or opt into your subscriber list, or call your toll-free number, you have to make every word you write lead them toward making that decision.

This means you have to demonstrate the benefits they will receive when they make that decision, the consequences of not, and provide all the information they need to feel confident in such a decision.

Do readers always do what you want them to do? Hardly, so for longer copy or a website with many pages, you will need to establish secondary decisions as your objectives.

These secondary objectives are fall back decisions you want them to make. If they don’t chose to buy now, lead them to subscribe to your email newsletter. If they don’t chose to subscribe to your email list, lead them to bookmark your site. These fall back decisions do not require as much of a decision as your primary objective.

With decision-goals in place, your job of writing becomes easier and more focused:

  • You know what to leave out and what to put in,
  • You know what reasons to provide the reader,
  • You know how to heighten awareness of what will happen if they don’t act,
  • You can build urgency to act now,
  • You can show how alternative decisions can lead to painful results,
  • And, you can paint a happy, rosy picture of how much better life will be after the reader makes the right decision.
Without a clear decision-goal, your copy moves no one and accomplishes nothing. But with a clear goal, every element in your copy can direct your reader to make the desired decisions.

freelance copywriter, copywriting tips, ghost writer

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