Maybe Hope Really Is a Strategy (Copywriting Tip #10)

Quick Copywriting Tip #10: Make your copy empowering, not condemning or depressing.

If the reader benefits just from reading the marketing message, you’ve made the sale before the sale.

One of the most effective ways to empower your reader…to make it easier for him to take the next step towards his desired outcome…is to add an educational element to your copy.

In campaigns I’ve worked over the past few months, I’ve boosted orders as much as 25 to 40% by providing valuable tips, actionable recommendations, etc. right in the sales message instead of just “selling.”.

Quality educational content proves that

  1. you actually know what you’re talking about — you’re not just a product-pusher and
  2. begins to demonstrate to the reader that HE CAN DO THIS, that this can actually work for him.

When you do it well, a sense of hope may begin to form in the reader’s mind: hope that result he imagines can finally become reality.

When you instill real hope, you win an important victory — and the long-term benefits accrue for both you and your reader.

I got an email a couple weeks ago gets it terribly wrong, I think:

good luck copywriting tip

The “expert” shared some valuable tips, then implied I’d struggle to implement them successfully without his on-going help.


I have no problem with sales pressure and urgency, but if this is a big turn-off. At least for me.

So be careful how you approach this. In the long-run, it pays off to be genuinely helpful.

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Read all 13 Quick Copywriting Tips here.


A Practical Follow-Up on the Universal Appeal of Shortcuts

Yesterday’s article prompted response from one of my readers. We’ll call him John. He asked how he can apply the shortcut principle to his reflexology practice, which offers long-term solutions to clients. What follows is my response, almost verbatim.


A few things come to mind with regard to the shortcut angle. First, let me say that I think your website copy is pretty strong. Addressing the issue up front is almost always a good idea, and I think in your case, it’s absolutely essential.


There are plenty of products and services that don’t start working right away, right? Even things like medication don’t solve root problems instantly. It’s all about setting expectations. Which is what you’ve started doing on your website. It would probably be helpful to position your services as longer-term processes, just like any other health-related issue. No one gets 6-pack abs in one workout session, right?

One idea that would be particularly effective, I think, would be to give the client something on your first visit that would have an immediate impact. Let me throw a few things out there; your brain can fine-tune and make applications that will work best for you:

  • Your pre-service consultation is a brilliant idea. Even if it wasn’t necessary, it would be a great idea. If you don’t already do this, you can use that time to come up with a quick (use a template) action plan that shows them the many things that are negatively impacting their health and causing pain/discomfort, things they may not even realize are causing problems. Tell them something shocking or interesting they didn’t know about themselves, their lifestyle or routines.
    • Of course, in that action plan, you recommend 6 weeks of treatment. Maybe you even use a coupon of some sort to get them to take you up on the 2nd session.
  • You could create a comprehensive report or booklet that contains highly-useful insights that show the clients the benefits, create realistic expectations in their minds that decrease the likelihood that they’ll give up after the first visit. Education-based selling, per Chet Holmes’ model.
  • Have you seen those pamphlets doctors give to expecting mothers showing them what’s going on with their bodies and babies over the course of their pregnancy? Can you show/tell clients what begins happening with their bodies during the first session, then what continues happening as they move forward with future treatments? Even if they can’t sense the improvement, if you show them what’s going on and what benefits are beginning to accrue that they’ll see in week 5 and 6, I think they’d be less likely to give up so easily.
  • Is there something you can do that will make them feel good right away? You mentioned that there are pain medications that will give instant relief, even though they don’t fix anything. What if you had a 10-minute massage to get the client relaxed? People spend big money on massages just for the stress relief and relaxing effect. They often set regular appointments.
    • Maybe massage is unrealistic, but you see what I’m driving at. You could offer clients mind-blowingly delicious lemonade while they wait, and if it’s good enough, that might be what gets them to say “Hey, I’ll come back next week.
  • You may recall the study Cialdini referred to in Influence where gas stations gave a punch card to their customers. One gave a card offering every 8th car wash free, or something. The other offered every 10th one free, but they punched the first 2 spots when they gave the card to the customer. That jump-start toward a goal caused a greater degree of commitment and desire in the customers at the second gas station. The increase in response was remarkable. I don’t remember the details very well, but you see the point. What can you do to get clients to commit in their minds to investing in their own health and well-being by coming back to see you enough times to get the full benefit?
  • You have testimonials. Can you get video testimonials? Or at least pictures to go with the written ones? Either one of those upgrades will add more credibility and impact to your website.
  • Do you have any long-term clients? Can you start offering them incentives to spread the word? If they personally recommend your services to people who like them, some of that “liking” will rub off on you. They can also explain that the full effect takes some time to come about, reaffirming the expectations we want to set.
    • You could try having those long-term clients can refer people by saying something like this. “I’m taking care of the persistent back pain I used to have by visiting (business name). If you need some relief, I think I can get you an appointment, but I’ll only give you his number if you’re prepared to take the process seriously. This isn’t a one-and-done process. John can’t afford to spend his valuable time on building foundations for people who never finish the construction” That’s a bit of an aggressive approach, but it’s effective.

Your services may not be a shortcut in terms of time, but they require less risk than surgery, less side effects than medications and less pain than ignoring the symptoms. When you think of it that way, you’re offering a shortcut through some very undesirable stuff to a better life in less than an hour a session. Sounds good to me!


What An Alley Mechanic Taught Me About Selling ANYTHING

In the middle of last  summer, I took my Chevy Astro to Chuck, a mechanic my father-in-law recommended for some long-overdue tuning up. He had done some work for Pops in the past. He was one of those backyard mechanics who worked more for the love of cars than for the money. So he was a lot cheaper than the big name shops, but he did good work and he was fast.

I know very little about fixing cars. But Pops does. If he trusted Chuck, I wouldn’t give the recommendation a second thought.

So we took him the van. He did his thing. He was fast and friendly. When I returned to pick it up, Chuck mentioned that the car wasn’t in perfect condition, but he had gotten the “Check Engine” light to turn off. As long as that light didn’t come back on, he said, I should be in good shape.

The drive home was smooth. I felt good about myself. I saved some money and supported a small business in my community at the same time.

But the next drive was not nearly as pleasant. By the third trip, the van was acting exactly like it had before Chuck worked on it.

I was baffled. What did that mechanic do to the van? Had he really done anything? I didn’t actually see him do anything, and he seemed to be finished faster than he should have…

And what about this Check Engine light? It hadn’t turned back on.

Maybe the only work he did was to remove the fuse for that warning light!

Can You Make Up Someone Else’s Mind?

To be honest, I never confronted Chuck about the work he did. He may or may not have actually done what I paid him to do.

Although it seems as if there’s quite a bit to learn from this story, I wonder if you detected a lesson that can literally transform your ability to sell whatever it is that you have to offer.

Do you see what happened with the Check Engine light? Chuck gave me a very specific and unmistakeable indicator that he had done a good job. The Check Engine light was off, so  he must have fixed the problem I asked him to take care of.

Those of you who have been around for a couple months or longer know about my penchant for education as a selling too. When done properly, I don’t know of a more effective way to get people to take action.

Looking back on the situation, I don’t think Chuck was aware of what he was doing, but he taught me how to appreciate his work. Here’s what happened:

1) I had a problem that I needed to solve,
2) I perceived Chuck to be an expert in his field (mostly based on the recommendation of my trusted father-in-law)
3) Chuck defined the criteria on which I would judge the quality of work done for me.

When you think about it, how much do your customers know about what you do? They should understand the benefits of buying from you, but do they know how you achieve the results you deliver? Do they even want to know?

In other words, most of your prospects and customers are a lot like I am when it comes to fixing cars: I know I need help, but I don’t have a clue how mechanics do their job. I just know that when it’s done, I’m looking for the thing that was wrong to be repaired.

That means, I don’t really know the difference between a good mechanic and a great one. When I’m having car troubles, I can either rely on referrals from people I trust, or I pick whoever’s the cheapest or closest.

From the car shops’ perspective, they’re relying on factors outside of their control (random word of mouth or having the lowest prices) to determine the fate of their business. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s hoping and praying that the dice rolls your way time after time. No wonder over 90% of businesses fail in their early years!

Take Control of Your Sales Process and Marketing

One of the biggest advantages of selling though education is that as an authority figure, you can tell your prospects what they should look for when choosing a product or service.

For example, if you were a mechanic, and your website featured an article or special report about “6 Misconceptions About Car Repairs that Can Cost You Thousands of Dollars,”  how easy would it be to define the process of fixing in a way that highlights your distinctive benefits and subtly disqualifies your competitors who operate differently?

What about a dog groomer who gives presentations on how proper care extends the health and life of pets? Not only can you define the buying criteria for anyone looking for a groomer, but you also position yourself as someone dog lovers can trust to take the best care of Rover.

There is nothing manipulative about this method, as long as you’re telling the truth. So, of course, there is the danger of con men and swindlers using education to misinform people and rip them off, but you’re not that kind of person.

During a presentation I gave last month, I joked that the way you hire the best copywriter is to look for the ones whose first and last names start with “D” and “B” respectively. That’s a joke you can use, as well as an example of what not to do as you educate your market.

Leveraging the power of education is one of the most important ways businesses can maximize their growth in any economy. It takes extra effort, but if you do it correctly, I can’t think of a better way to boost the results your sales people and marketing materials are producing.

Strategies are less fun than tactics, but without a strategy, you’re just hoping and praying. Is that where you want your business to be?


Is It a Bad Idea to “Teach a Man to Fish”?

It’s a business proverb you’ve probably heard thousand times:

“Give a man to fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.” 

But the reality is that almost no one wants to learn to fish!

That has always been the case, but it’s increasingly true in this day and age that people want simple, turnkey solutions. We want our “fish” handed to us (preferably scaled, boned, and cooked). In fact, a lot of people scoff at the idea of doing their own work.

This isn’t a bad thing. In the business world, there’s room for both the worm-packed tackle box and the icebox filled with pre-caught fish. No matter what field you’re in, regardless of whether you specialize in delivering training, services or products, you can find a cozy be successful.

Feed Me Now!

What can we take away from thinking about this old proverb in a new way?

1) The best way to get what you want in business and in life is to help others get what they want. If your customers want smoked salmon, don’t try to sell them fish bait.

If they just want a fish for dinner, don’t try to force them learn the sport, no matter how much sense it makes or how much they’re likely to benefit in the long run. You can make the training available, but don’t press the issue.

2)  People like easy. Do everything in your power to make it easy for customers to buy from you. Remove any obstacle that may keep people from doing business with you. Make your product or training simple to use.

By the way, Karl Marx had a different take on this saying: “Sell a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.” There’s opportunity in both selling and training; give your customers what they want and you can make money on both.

3) Most people like to think as little as possible, too. Eliminate anything confusing or hard to grasp from your marketing, sales scripts, in-store signage, etc.

Ever had to explain how much  your price is with a 30% discount?

4) Make gratification as close to instant as you can without sacrificing quality.

5) Cures carry more urgency than prevention. Consider whether what you offer is appealing to a pain that your prospects already suffer from or if you’re trying

An ounce of prevention may be worth more than a pound of cure, but the market price on the cure is substantially higher. Even at the higher price, it’s easier to sell.

6) Question everything! Not every proverb is true or universally applicable. Not every piece of advice is accurate.

Listen to voices you trust, but never stop thinking for yourself. It’s not a crime to question the experts. On the contrary, asking tough questions and challenging assumptions will often lead to breakthrough ideas and new solutions.


U of You: Why Education Matters More Than Ever

Education has never been more important than it is at this moment. Your parents always told you to get your education. Every year your teachers prepared and encouraged you to continue down the path to higher levels education.

Repeat: education is more important now than it has ever been. But not for the reasons that have been drilled into your mind.

I was watching television the other afternoon during one of my rare couch-potato moments. My wife pointed out that there was an advertisement for a college or university during every commercial break. Apparently getting a degree is big business these days.

The lessons you learn when you understand what’s really going on here can transform your business.

Let’s get right to the point, shall we? Here are 4 crucial insights:

1.  People value education. But why? Do they want to know more for the sake of knowing more? Of course not! People want to learn so they can get what they want. More. Faster. More easily.

Why does anyone go to college? If this were Family Feud, the number one answer would be “To get a good job.” Simply put, people seek educations to get what they want in life.

2.  Schools are rarely short on students. Good schools have people fighting to get in.

3.  Some of the most trusted individuals in any community are its teachers. Professors are acknowledged experts in their fields.

4.  Educators shape the way their students understand the world.

Now, I’m not telling you to go back to school. In fact, I believe the way the modern school system is structured is radically flawed.

Can you see how the 4 lessons above can apply to your business?

I’ll say it one more time: education is more important than ever. Your potential customers are constantly looking for information. Why? So they can get what they want. More. Faster. More easily.

How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Better yet, how do you rise above the rest of the pack to become, not the best, but the only person your prospects want to deal with?

The most powerful way to accomplish this feat is to become the educator in your niche. Establish the University of You!

By setting yourself or your company up as the source of quality information and/or training, you have gained all the advantages that Harvard or Yale have. You are the expert. Trust is easier to gain, even from skeptics, because of the credibility you’ve built. Your “marketshare” of people seeking knowledge in your field will increase naturally and dramatically.

And you will have the opportunity to really influence the people you communicate with. Think about it— who has had a greater impact on your life, a teacher/mentor or a salesperson? (Not to diminish the importance of selling!)

There are more benefits to educating your prospects than can be covered here. If you’re ready to start reaping those benefits, consider the “Ivy League” approach to doing business. No degree is required. Just start taking action today.