9 editing tactics to supercharge your selling copy

copywriting editing tipsAs any professional copywriter knows, writing copy is often the easy part of a project. It’s the editing that’s hard.

After all, who wants to mess with copy once it’s written? It’s agonizing to rip into your own prose. But that’s exactly what it takes to turn good copy into great copy.

Here are 9 ways to polish and energize your copy when you give it that second go-around.

Write long and cut. It’s easier to overwrite and cut than to underwrite and add. Get everything down — no matter how sloppy or rough — then go back to trim and rearrange.

Be ruthless. Don’t fall in love with your own patter. Stay focused on your big idea and the action you want to create. Get rid of everything that doesn’t support response.

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10+ tips for making the most of your customer testimonials

testimonial tipsAround this time last year, I shared my SPURF method for collecting testimonials.

I’m sure you’ve been spurfing up a storm and have tons of testimonials by now. So let’s look at how to make them work for you.

Select testimonials from customers similar to your prospect. This increases the feeling of identification and relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners.

The more similarity you can show, the more weight your prospect will give to your testimonials. Even seemingly nonsensical similarities, such as where people live, have an effect. “Oh, he’s from Ohio too!”

Select testimonials that give specifics. Consider these two testimonials for a lawn fertilizer:

“I think Lawn Magic is a wonderful product. My lawn looks great.”

“For 6 years I tried every weed control powder and spray at my local garden store, but nothing could get rid of those darned dandelions. Then I saw your ad for Lawn Magic and decided to give it a try. I got it in the mail last Saturday and immediately tried the Quick Cover method you suggested and WOW! Just a week later, there’s not a single speck of yellow anywhere – except in my neighbor’s yard.”

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The Cedar Plank Salmon Secret of Selling

selling cedar plank salmonFine restaurants in the Pacific Northwest had been serving cedar plank salmon for years. But Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks wanted to sell a home version.

Their idea was to manufacture a 6” x 12” piece of cedar wood. You put your salmon on the wood plank, put the plank into your home barbecue, and—voilà—cedar plank salmon.

When Aldrich met with the seafood buyer for the Fred Meyer stores in Portland, Oregon, he didn’t bother with sales patter. He just said, “I’m here to help you sell more salmon.” Then he let the buyer taste a filet cooked on one of his cedar planks. The reaction? “Wow!”

Aldrich provided some facts and benefits, but the buyer was sold with the first taste. Within a week, Aldrich and Maddocks had lucrative orders from more than 100 Fred Meyer stores. And they sold truckloads of those little cedar planks.

The lesson here is simple. One of the best ways to sell is to let your product sell itself. With a few proven techniques, you simply give your prospects a “taste” and their enthusiasm does the rest.

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6 secrets for winning pointy plastic creative advertising awards

creative awardHere’s an article I wrote a while back that infuriated agencies and award show supporters all over the country. It generated criticism, diatribes, tirades, personal attacks, verbal abuse … and quite a bit of praise. I guess it really hit home. So I’ve decided to share it with my loyal, savvy readers here.

If you’re the typical advertising type, you can get pretty fed up with all those direct response techniques.

How dare anyone suggest that your job is about something as crass as getting people to read a sales pitch or generating profit. After all, you’re a creative genius, right?

Besides, while you’re pretty sure that direct marketers know a thing or two about getting people to respond to ads, they don’t know squat about what’s really important. Winning awards!

I mean, sheesh! They’re so spastic. Always whipping out calculators and crunching numbers … as if numbers have anything to do with advertising!

Let’s take a quick look at a few sure ways to create ads that impress your colleagues, win pointy plastic prizes, and give you a well-deserved break from all that pesky response.

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Classic advertising quotes from Morris Hite. Huh? Who’s Morris Hite?

Morris HiteMorris Hite was a classic American advertising man, self-educated and self-made.

Yes, I know. You’ve probably never heard of him because he’s not as well-known as some Madison Avenue ad executives, but he had a powerful impact on the industry.

He was born in Oklahoma, migrated to Texas, and worked his way up to become head of the Tracy-Locke agency in Dallas, one of the country’s most successful agencies. And he did it by focusing on his clients’ growth rather than on producing clever ads.

He was also an innovator in the area of consumer research long before it became fashionable. And he always looked for the “big idea” to craft sales messages that would trigger consumer response on a gut level.

For me, Hite represents the ideal ad man: smart, down-to-earth, plain-spoken, and enthusiastic, with an indomitable can-do attitude and a laser-like focus on profits. Here’s what he had to say about the craft and business of advertising. Not everything here is about direct marketing, but there is plenty to learn from his wise words.

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Why good copy goes bad (you’re not dumb, you’re just ignorant)

ignorant copywriterOne of the worst mistakes copywriters make is to assume their job is about writing. It’s not.

Now I know that sounds a bit odd. After all, the word “writing” is in the word “copywriting.” So it’s understandable why you might misunderstand.

But writing and copywriting are two very different things.

When you write a novel or a poem, readers wants great words. They enjoy the rhythm, the imagery, the wordplay. People expect this kind of writing to deliver a certain art and beauty.

When you write websites, ads, white papers, or other business materials, readers simply want information. They don’t care about the artistry. They aren’t looking for beauty. They just want to find out how to solve a problem or meet a need.

This isn’t to say that copywriting can’t be well-crafted. It should be. But it should be crafted in such a way that the words disappear and the meaning shows through. I like to think of good copywriting as if it’s a toy store window, clean, polished, and invisible, providing a clear view of the wondrous goodies inside.

So when copywriters forget that their job is to convey meaning, to connect with needs, to influence and persuade, they focus on the words alone and create, well … crap. When you do this, it’s not that you’re stupid. It’s just that you’re ignorant.

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Self-mailer secrets and bingo card bombs – your direct mail questions answered

Q & A on direct mailHere are responses to some questions about creating effective direct mail and direct response advertising.

Q: We’ve tested self-mailers, but they never seem to work. What are we doing wrong?
A: As for what you’re doing wrong, I can’t possibly answer that question without seeing your self-mailers.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the format. I have created successful self-mailers for many clients, mostly for lead generation but also for direct sales. One of my clients uses self-mailers exclusively to sell books and videos to a business market.

A self-mailer works best when your audience is familiar with your company or your product category. The more you have to explain or the more credibility you have to build, the more likely a direct mail package will get a better response.

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Does your print ad pass this 9-point success checklist?

print ad success checklistI’ve always been in love with print ads.

Like radio advertising, print ads are relatively easy to create and place. They offer a simple and elegant platform for selling. And with an endless array of niche publications, you can target prospects better than ever before.

But print advertising can also be expensive. You could buy a house for what you’ll pay for a one-page ad in an AARP publication.

Plus, you generally have to plan and place your ads months in advance. You can’t make last minute changes. So it pays to evaluate your ads carefully before you commit to an advertising schedule.

Here’s a 9-point checklist to help you make sure your ad is good-to-go:

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My “3 bucket strategy” to beat your control

Dean's 3 bucket strategyWant to beat your direct mail or advertising control but don’t know where to begin?

Here’s a strategy I’ve developed over the years that can point you in the right direction.

Simply analyze your control and mentally toss it into one of three “buckets”: Excellent, Good, or Bad.

This will determine whether you should come up with a completely new idea, tinker with your existing control, or trash everything and start from scratch.

Beat an Excellent Control with a Revolutionary Approach

An excellent control is one that makes the right offer, uses the right format, and deftly employs all the right selling techniques. From a purely creative standpoint, it delivers a high-quality message. Most importantly, the numbers indicate it gets a superior response when mailed to the right lists or placed in the right media.

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Notice on spam IRS email now circulating

I have received many calls and messages informing me that an email is circulating with my web address on it. The email appears to be from the IRS.

This email is fraudulent and dangerous. Do not click on the link in the email. The link leads to a site that will attempt to install a virus on your computer.

Please note: The IRS never sends email. They communicate by mail and phone only.

Obviously, the email has nothing to do with me. I am not sending it and I cannot stop it. It appears that the spammer has simply linked to a graphic on my blog. I renamed the graphic to break the link and prevent the email from robbing my site of bandwidth. And now that the link is broken, my website is visible in the email.

I have reported this to my ISP, however they are unable to stop the email from being sent since it is coming from an unknown person at an unknown location.

I suggest that you delete the fraudulent email then empty your deleted email folder. If you are unsure if you’ve been infected, run a scan of your computer with whatever security software you use.

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