P.O.W.E.R. Copywriting: Write simple ads in 5 steps

POWER copywriting for adsWhen I was asked to teach a copywriting class for a special program at The Ohio State University, I discovered that teaching writing is far more difficult than the writing itself. Many of the things I did naturally from experience or instinct were a complete mystery to my students.

So, in order to make the copywriting process a logical and painless operation, I devised a simple method for writing ad copy for novice writers. I called it POWER Copywriting, an acronym for the five steps in the copywriting process: Prepare, Organize, Write, Edit, and Review.

This represents years of copywriting experience boiled down to the basics. I won’t promise that this will help you create a masterpiece of copywriting brilliance. But it can help guide you toward better and more effective sales writing.

Good ad copy begins with good information. And the best way to gather the information you need is with a thorough Q&A. Here are some basic questions that will help you prepare for just about any ad writing project.

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5 secrets for reading faster (without a speed reading course)

If you’re a copywriter, consultant, business owner, or anyone involved in marketing, you’re also a reader.

In fact, if you’re like me, you probably spend a good portion of your day reading reports, email, creative briefs, proposals, and all manner of materials. So if you can read faster, you can be more productive.

The question is, can you really read at lightning speed and still comprehend and retain what you’re reading? This is a hotly debated question. Some swear they can read and remember a whole book in 5 minutes while others say speed reading is a bunch of baloney.

I think Woody Allen settled the matter when he said, “I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.”

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How to generate sales leads with white papers

White papers have been around for quite a while, but I’ve noticed that many businesses misuse the idea and get disappointing results.

I think the reason is that many people don’t understand the distinction between marketing literature and a true white paper.

Marketing literature, such as a brochure, is just what it sounds like. It’s literature intended to sell you something. It may be informative and interesting, but the purpose is clear. It works best when the person requesting the literature is curious about a specific product.

A properly-written white paper, however, is not simply sales literature in disguise. It is intended to be an authoritative report or a guide focused on an important, relevant issue. It seeks to educate readers and help them solve a problem or make a decision.

When you fail to make this distinction, you often end up with nothing but a wordy advertisement. There’s nothing wrong with long, editorial-style ads, but these are not white papers.

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The selling power of “social proof”

social proof in marketingI’m not a big sports fan.

However, my wife decided to invite her family over for dinner, totaling 12 adults, 2 babies, a 5-year-old, and a clowder of cats.

So, around day 3, after one of the babies peed on our new sofa, the refrigerator broke down, and every square inch of our house was covered with food, diapers, and suitcases, I suddenly became interested in getting out of the house to see a hockey game.

Go figure.

Along with another family member who needed to escape for a few hours, I drove down to see the local minor league hockey team play a regional rival.

The first two periods saw our team down by three points. Then, in the third period, in
a burst of explosive energy, our boys started fighting their way back.

The crowd began screaming. Clapping their hands. Stomping their feet. Taunting the opposing team’s goalie. Thousands of people were suddenly functioning as one. And oddly enough, though I’m generally not given to such displays, I found myself screaming and clapping and stomping right along with everyone else.

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3 tricks kids can teach you about getting people to say “yes” to almost anything

kids manipulate adultsToday’s the big staff meeting and you’re running late. As you grab your briefcase and lunge toward the door, a little voice stops you cold.

“Are you getting my toy tonight?”

You feign ignorance. “Toy? What toy?”

Your child smiles, face full of expectation. “The Power Space Commando Ninja Mutant Laser Brain Blaster!”

Why do kids have such good memories? “I thought that was for your birthday. Besides I’ll be working late tonight, honey.”

Your child’s face screws up in dismay. “But you promised!”

You look at your watch. “Why do you need the toy tonight?”

“Because … (sniffle) … you said tonight. And I believed you!”

Your heart sinks. “Okay. I’ll stop by the toy store tonight. All right?”

The little face lights up again. “Thank you thank you thank you.”

Two minutes later as you drive away, you see your child waving frantically at you from the front window, eyes wide with glee.

You wonder … what just happened?

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Boost your direct mail response with a lift letter

lift letter sampleOne of the beauties of direct mail is that it comes with a long history of real-world testing and proven techniques.

This includes the “lift letter,” also called the lift note or publisher’s note.

The latter name hints at the origins of this technique. Back in the heyday of magazine subscription promotions, publishers often included a little extra letter in their direct mail solicitations.

They called it the publisher’s note because the message often came from the publisher.

Today, it’s usually referred to as the lift letter or lift note, since it has been adapted to work in a wide variety of direct mail packages for the purpose of lifting response.

In my Direct Marketing Glossary, I define a lift note like this: “Second, shorter letter in a direct mail package with a highly focused message. Generally signed by a different person.”

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Are your direct marketing offers unfair? They should be.

unfair direct marketing offersBy all appearances, Charley Hill was an average, ordinary guy.

He lived in a mid-sized town with his wife, two children, and a dog. He went to church on Sunday, coached Little League, and drove a pickup truck. He was friendly but quiet, the sort of guy you could walk by on the street without noticing.

But appearances can be deceiving. Because Charley Hill was one of the most successful salesmen in the Midwest. What did Charley have that other salesmen didn’t? Not a thing.

He sold the same products. Carried the same parts. Provided the same service. Yet his sales were typically two or three times that of competitors. The reason?

Charley Hill didn’t believe in “fair” offers. In fact, he went out of his way to treat his customers unfairly.

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3 lessons from the world’s most successful website

world's most successful websiteIt’s been called the ugliest website ever created. And it’s changed little since the mid 90′s when it was created.

Yet, it is arguably the most successful website on the planet.

Can you guess what site I’m talking about? If you said, “Drudge Report,” pat yourself on the back.

I’ve mentioned this throwback site before when talking about ugly design. But a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism prompts me to mention it again.

According to the report, Drudge is not only a highly visited site with millions of unique visitors a month, it drives twice as much traffic to top news sites as Facebook and seven times as much as Twitter. Not bad for basically a one-man operation.

Though best known as a direct mail guy, I’ve recently been doing quite a bit of website work for my clients. So I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes websites work.

Given the astonishing success of Drudge, I think it’s smart to consider why this website is such as standout. Yes, it’s a news site, not a business site, however the lessons we can learn are universal.

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2 immutable rules for finding a professional copywriter

how to find a copywriterIt’s not easy to find a good copywriter, especially someone who has real expertise and experience with direct mail or direct marketing.

I can’t even begin to count the number of calls and emails I’ve received from people who have said they’ve been looking for a while and can’t find many people who seem professional and credible.

That may seem surprising. A decade or two ago, there were few copywriters out there. Today there are thousands. You’d think you could throw a rock out your window and hit 5 pro copywriters without aiming.

But the truth is, the number of truly good copywriters hasn’t increased significantly.

Why? Because it’s like any other field. It’s just not as easy as it looks. Finding a reliable copywriter is like finding a great brain surgeon.

So at the risk of appearing self-serving, I’d like to share a short guide to finding and working with a professional direct marketing copywriter. I wrote this years ago, but it’s just as relevant today. I’m told by many people that it’s been quite helpful.

And for the record, I’m not always the best copywriter for everyone. In fact, I turn down far more clients than I take on. I may not have the right expertise. I may be too expensive. And these days, I am often too busy.

But if you’re looking, follow these two rules to find the writer who’s right for you.

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The mathematical formula for crazy direct mail ideas

If you’re like a lot of people I’ve talked to recently, your marketing is in a slump. And you’re fresh out of ideas.

This is especially true for direct mail. The down economy has frightened people out of testing anything new over the last couple of years.

In fact, some of the people calling me have said they all but stopped mailing. Now that things appear to be getting better, they’re scrambling for testing ideas.

I’ll give you the same advice I’ve been giving them:

1. Resurrect your control. Take your best mail piece and get it back in the mail. See if it still works. As I’ve argued in my Getting Response in a Down Economy white paper, none of the fundamentals have changed. So there’s at least a 50/50 chance that what worked before will work again.

2. Look at your results. If your control does well, test it once more just to make sure. Then ramp up your quantity. If your control dies, perform a direct mail autopsy.

These are your first logical steps. And you should do them before you do anything else.

Okay, but what if you’ve already done this and you’re looking for a way to break the mold and get a little crazy? What if you’re ready to start thinking outside the box?

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