Let’s talk about those e-mails you write.
You’ve probably wondered now and then whether you should be concentrating on curiosity to get as many prospects to the page as possible, or talking about the benefits of the offer to send more targeted clicks and get better EPCs.
Here’s the short answer: yes.
If in doubt, you’re probably better off talking about the benefits. It’s lower variance and easier to do well.
But there’s a lure to doing a good curiosity mailing. When you see the clicks mount up you know you’ve got into your audience’s head. From far away, the actions of thousands of people are being controlled by you. You are the puppet master. You are god of all you survey.
This guy? That’s you.
Not to mention that in the right situation, they can make you a lot more money than benefit mailings.
So here’s a quick primer on when focusing on curiosity is a good idea, and how to not massively suck at it.
First of all, there’s a misconception that ‘curiosity’ means ‘blind’.
It does not.
‘Curiosity’ means getting people interested by teasing them. Showing them that there’s something worth reading on the other side of the link, but not giving them details.
‘Blind’ means you have nothing good to say about the piece of shit you’re promoting, and are a failure as a marketer and a human being.
Now that’s settled…
Like everything in copy, curiosity isn’t something you have to use. It’s a tool that’s quite good at doing certain things.
I like to use it when:
- I’m sending clicks to a low-resistance page, e.g. a squeeze-page or JV page
- I’m sending clicks to a well-matched offer
In both of these cases, you don’t need much presell. If you’ve found the greatest SEO offer known to man and your list loves SEO, you’re not adding much value by wittering about it.
You’re just putting extra words between your prospect and the buy button.
Pro tip: stop doing that.
But, as evidenced by the dozens of attempts at writing curiosity mails that I feel can best be summed up in animated gif form:
Most people don’t know how to write them.
The problem is that they think generating curiosity clicks is about knowing what information to hide.
In fact, it’s about knowing what information to reveal.
The whole point about a curiosity click is that you’re creating an open loop. You tease the prospect and leave them requiring a resolution.
So when they click your link, they are clicking with the intention of getting that resolution. Not with the intention of finding out more about the product.
Forget this, and you’ll set up an open loop that shuts off too soon.
You might, for instance, find a sales page that does a bit of backlink-bashing when it’s setting up the problem.
So you’ll do an e-mail that teases ‘the 3 reasons your backlinks suck’, or similar.
So far, so fine. That kind of thing to the right list can be a decent hook, though it doesn’t have the broad appeal of the one I’m going to show you shortly.
But the prospects are only clicking in order to find out those reasons. Once they’ve done that, the loop is closed. Their curiosity is satisfied and they can go back to looking up pictures of Kate Upton.
I mean, come on. Wouldn’t you?
So if you want them to keep going to the buy button, you’ve got to give them a reason to keep reading.
And that means you need 2 open loops. One that gets closed fast enough to give them the sense of satisfaction they clicked the link for, one that’ll keep them reading far enough down the letter to get hooked on the product.
You might wonder why not just do the second one – mostly, it’s an attention-span thing. Give them satisfaction by closing the first loop fast, and they’ll be more willing to read through more of the letter to close the next one.
Here’s an example of one I wrote that worked really well for a sales page.
Subj: This sales page lies
But it also tells some hard truths.
Spoiler alert: the lie involves a giraffe, the hard truths involve SEO.
How that works:
Pattern interrupt subject-line: If you’re using a curiosity-filled e-mail, it makes no sense to whittle the audience down with your subject. Keep the appeal as broad as possible.
The first open loop: ‘the lie involves a giraffe’
I’m not pretending they’re going to find any useful information. I’ve even told them they’re going to a sales page. The reaction the line is going for is just ‘WTF?’ – again, broad appeal.
Not everyone cares about backlinks, even on an SEO list.
But I defy anyone not to be curious about just what the fuck a giraffe is doing on a sales page.
2nd open loop: ‘the hard truths involve SEO’
This does tease useful information, and gives them a reason to keep reading once the open loop about the giraffe has been closed.
By the time this second loop is closed, the sales page will have done all the heavy lifting it needs to do and they’ll be set up for the sale.
‘WTF’ hooks are easy to write if the sales page (or squeeze page, or article, or whatever) gives you the opportunity.
Like having a giraffe front-and-centre.
Most don’t. But when they do, they’re amazing opportunities. Watch out for them.
Fair warning: they won’t all involve giraffes.
First of all, have a look at this:
It’s using what you can do online to tell a story far more vividly than it would be with simple words and pictures. It uses mapping and detail to draw you in. Tiny scraps picked out with video, pulling you into the report so much you can practically feel the rust and smell the salt.
Now, one question:
Why the fuck doesn’t your sales page look like that?
We’re in 2013 now. We’ve got the full range of Harry Potter shit at our disposal. We’ve got magic advanced enough that it looks like science.
And this is the kind of thing you should be thinking about with your sales page design.
Like all things, it’s traffic-dependent.
On launches, I probably wouldn’t bother. Launch traffic is very warm, and with warm traffic the cardinal rule is always ‘don’t be clever, make the damn sale’.
It’s when you’re dealing with cold traffic that techniques like this really start to shine – and if you want to really scale, you have to start dealing with cold traffic.
The words you use will always be important, but these days they don’t have to do all the work.
The internet can do a lot of amazing things, and you should be thinking about how to use them.
But to do this properly, you might need to change the way you think.
If you see making a sales page as ‘get copy from guy A, get it designed by guy B, add buttons, fin’ you’re never going to produce something like that NYT page.
That approach treats the copy as the car and the design as the go-faster stripes. In reality, your copy is the engine and your design is the wheels. You want your car to run, they’ve got to work together.
So if you want to get a sales page that really exploits what the internet can do, you’ve got to get the people working on it talking to each other.
Your copywriter should be happy to give suggestions on the design. If they’re not, don’t hire them.
Your designer should be happy to take suggestions from your copywriter. If they’re not, don’t hire them.
(And by suggestions, I mean ways to emphasise what the copy is trying to do. There’s not much point having your copywriter give suggestions on making the page look pretty – but if all your designer is doing is making the page look pretty, they’re a waste of cash. Fire them.)
And your copywriter ought to take suggestions from your designer too. They should be coming up with ways to present information – like that NYT article – and telling the copywriter what they can do.
If I’m in touch with a designer and they tell me they can produce something like that, I’ll write copy that’s designed to take advantage of it. If I’ve got no direction, I’ll go with a lowest-common-denominator approach, so likely the equivalent of a plain letter with space for a video. I’ve got to, because I don’t know what design can be delivered.
And yes, that can work. It has worked, repeatedly, very well.
But it doesn’t take advantage of the fact we’re not in the 90s any more, and it’s not necessarily the best approach.
It’s just the one your team is forced into if you keep all the pieces separate.
Your sales message is not your words, and the point of your design is not to make your sales message look good.
Your sales message is everything that is on your page, and every bit of it should be working together.
Here’s the thing: I’d like to get better at speaking. There’s only really one way to do that: practice.
And if I can get that practice while I’m helping you make more money on your next launch, so much the better.
So on Monday 23rd September at 8PM BST, I’m going to do a webinar.
Here’s what will definitely happen:
- You’ll find out the best way to ensure you get good conversions
- You’ll discover how to get the most out of your copywriter (whoever you hire, they’ll get you better conversions if you work like this)
- You’ll be shown one easy tip you can do on any sales page that’s pretty miuch guaranteed to make your offer convert better, and you don’t need to change a word of copy to do it
Here’s what definitely won’t happen:
- Inductions into Masonic sects
- Discovery of the meaning of life
There are 100 spots, and the registration page is here:
In case you need more details, here’s a HELPFUL FAQ:
Why should I come?
Because you’ll find out some cool ways to improve your conversions without changing one word of your copy. Also, it’ll be fun.
Are you going to pitch me?
No. I just want to practice my speaking skills, and to be honest I don’t really have anything to pitch beyond my writing services. If you want them, you know where to find me.
Will there be inductions into Masonic sects, and dinosaurs, and the meaning of life?
There will not. I thought I covered this. It will, however, be fun. See answer 1 for details.
I dunno, I don’t really have time for a 2-hour webinar…
Me neither. I’m expecting to talk for about 15-20 minutes and then do a Q&A at the end. I’ve got more Game of Thrones to watch, I’m not spending my whole evening talking to you.
Will there be a replay?
Fucked if I know. In theory, yes. In practice, this is the first webinar I’ve ever run and I’m about as technologically adept as a cabbage, so it’s not so much a coin toss as ‘everything on 22-black’.
Huh. I should probably turn up, then. How much room is there?
That’s not very much room.
Damn right it’s not. Just because this stuff is free doesn’t mean everyone gets to see it.
You write strange FAQs.
I’m told that fairly frequently. I can’t really take credit for this one, though. It’s a swipe. Come to the webinar and I’ll tell you where I got it from – I’d bet it’s not somewhere you ever thought of going for copy ideas.
Remember: Monday 23rd September, 8PM BST. That’s 3PM EST if you’re across the pond.
A quick lesson for anyone who wants to charge more:
Vertu make luxury smartphones. They probably don’t work better than any other smartphone. They don’t even need to work as well, since most people who buy them aren’t actually going to want a smartphone.
But they still cost about £7000, or about 16.5 iPhones.
They’re not trying to make a product that’s functionally better. They’re making one that:
- is beautiful – they use gold, titanium and sapphire
- is exclusive – you can only buy them at a few select locations
- is a status symbol – the real reason for spending £7000 on one of these is being able to tell your friends you’re the kind of guy who can spend £7000 on a phone
More than anything else, they make the owner feel special, which is why they’re willing to spend that much on a phone.
There’s a lot of ways you can raise the value of your product, and only one of them is ‘more content’.
When you’re trying to write a headline, think about where your prospect is coming from. What do they know about you already, if anything? When you know that, you’ll know how to attract their attention right away.
Gene Schwartz, direct response god, puts it better than I do:
If your prospect is aware of your product and realises it can satisfy his desire, your headline starts with your product. If he is not aware of your product but only of the desire itself, your headline starts with the desire. If he is not yet aware of what he really seeks, but is concerned only with the general problem, your headline starts with that problem and crystallises it into a specific need.
This is about getting attention, and that means giving your prospect SOMETHING THEY CARE ABOUT.
If they only know the problem, give them the desire to fix it.
If they’ve got the desire, make them want what you’ve got that can fix it.
If they know they want what you’ve got, give them the offer. Make them buy.
First of all, can I say:
HELL YES DAVID BOWIE:
There have been a few people saying how this was a masterpiece of viral marketing.
And in a way, it was – it was announced via 1 tweet from Duncan Jones (David’s son, for all those who don’t know) and immediately set Twitter on fire. Facebook and even the BBC weren’t far behind.
But the marketing here wasn’t really the viral part. You or I couldn’t record a song and reproduce this campaign for one very good reason:
We’re not David Bowie.
(Unless you are, in fact, David Bowie. In which case ohmyGodDavidfuckingBowieisreadingmyblogeverythingyou’vedoneisawesomeevenEarth
There was viral here, for sure. But there wasn’t marketing. There was no incentive to share, it just released into the wild to live or die on its own merits.
Thing is, if you happen to be David Bowie and you happen to be releasing a new song after 10 years, you don’t need marketing. You’ve already got a network of a bazillion people who are desperate to share – repeatedly – anything you do. That tweet would have done the rounds even if aliens had just landed and the zombie apocalypse had started.
The marketing came in the 40 years or so it took to put that network of people there.
David Bowie is clearly pretty good at marketing. You only have to look at his career in the 70s to see that, and also that just because you’re marketing doesn’t mean you can’t put out some awesome material.
But by now, he’s transcended marketing. His fan-base is of a size that sales are built in, even if all that ever happens is someone puts out a tweet.
It’s a good place to be.
Take 5 minutes, and read this:
Good sales copy, in the words of the prophet, is salesmanship in text. And make no mistake, all those techniques ARE salesmanship.
Every one, from the repetitions to the tone to the focus on story, is designed to sell you – in this case, sell you on Barack Obama. Of course, to the crowd in front of him on election night, the sell was easy. To the people it was really aimed at – the 47% who didn’t vote for him, and in particular the moderate Republicans he’s going to want to work with – it’s rather harder.
Only time will tell if it worked, but regardless, these techniques are worth learning.
Your copy should sound like it’s being spoken. In particular, it should sound like it’s being spoken like this (the speech itself starts at 2:36):
And you can help it do that by incorporating the techniques outlined in that article. That speech is expertly designed to play on the emotions of its listeners and give them a common vision. The vision its deliverer wants them to have.
Normally, I’ll block off 2 weeks for writing a sales letter. This is so I’ve got enough time for research, thinking through a few different approaches and have a gap of a couple of days at the end where I can put the letter in a drawer, forget about it, and then come back fresh for a final edit.
But sometimes, I don’t have that luxury.
On Sunday I was approached for an 11th-hour job – the launch was happening on Wednesday and they still needed copy.
This isn’t the kind of thing I’ll normally do, but the guy was a mate and had very good reasons why his copy wasn’t done, so I wasn’t about to let him hang out to dry.
At 11AM on Monday, I had a blank sheet of paper. At 5PM, I had a sales letter.
Now, it’s not my best work. But it will convert.
And there was some help – he sent a script for a video, copies of all the products and some bullets that had been used on previous letters. The bullets in particular helped shave off a couple of hours of writing-time.
But the main reason I managed to get a good job done fast was because I’ve got templates. I already knew the meta-argument I was going to use, I just had to work out how to fit it into this product’s story. The structure was already done.
You should never be afraid of using templates. There’s a reason a lot of sales letters have a similar structure – because it works. When it comes to sales copy, we’re in the business of writing – not the business of being creative.
Does it seem familiar?
It’s fairly common knowledge that there’s a bias in favour of white people in the employment market, but here’s something you may not know: it’s not just bigotry. In fact, it’s rational.
Tim Harford talks through the psychology behind this in The Logic Of Life.
In the experiment, students were divided into 2 groups – employers and employees. The employees were then randomly told if they were green or purple.
The employees were asked to spend a sum of money on an education – they could choose to do this or not.
Then there was a test, which was a die roll. If you’d paid for an education, it was weighted in your favour.
Employers were given 2 bits of information: the employee’s colour group and their test score. If they hired people with an education, they got money. If they hired people without an education, money was docked.
After the first round, the employers also had all the historical data of how many people in each colour group had invested in an education.
The first round was colour-blind. Green or purple made no difference. But, through chance, more greens had elected to buy an education than purples.
In the next round, the employers knew that. Their decision became biased toward the greens.
The frightening part was how it became self-reinforcing. Greens invested in an education, because they had good prospects. Purples didn’t bother, because they weren’t being hired regardless of their test score, so why bother? Employers could see even less purples investing in education, and became even more wary of hiring them, and so it went on.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain how that maps over to the real employment market.
Here’s the point: we live in a world of imperfect information, and we use that information as a proxy for what we really want to know.
This has a lot of social implications – statistically, we know that people from ethnic minorities, on average, have a lower level of education than white people in Britain. This is due to the chances they’ve had in life rather than any difference in ability, but it’s still true.
A busy employer, looking through a large pile of CVs, sees an ethnic name and unconsciously marks them down as a higher risk, so they’re far less likely to ask for an interview.
(It’s not all statistical discrimination, of course. Some of them are just bigoted jerks. But the statistical part is there, and it’s the bit we should care about more because it’s beneficial)
In the same way, a customer looking at your website is going to make a lightning decision. Do you look like the kind of company they want to give their money to?
Much as I hate to say it, that decision’s largely based on the design. The copy is all about the details, and is there to confirm they’ve made a good call. Against a range of websites which all fall into a customer’s ‘green’ camp, it’ll make you stand out from the crowd.
But if that first impression is bad, all the clever words in the world aren’t going to help you more than getting it fixed.