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Episode 019 - 8 Ways to Improve Copy Performance

Published by: David Garfinkel on 08-27-2017

What if you have some copy and you'd like it to convert better? In this episode, David shares some closely-guarded secrets on how the pro's do that.

Let's say I could show you a very special slot machine. This one only takes quarters. Every time you put four quarters in, you get five quarters back. Pretty soon, those extra quarters start to add up.

Wouldn't you want to play a machine like that all day? Or play two at a time? Or play 10 at a time? Or 100?

That's what a good piece of copy does. After the copy is written, you spend, let's say, $1.00 in marketing, and you get $1.25 back in profits. For every letter you mail out. Or every ad dollar you spend. Twenty-five percent ROI. Nice return on your investment.

But suppose the slot machine changed.

Suppose it started only giving back three quarters for every four quarters you put in.

What would you do?

Or, suppose instead of getting five quarters back, you wanted to get six back? Or seven?

What would you do then?

In both cases – turning three quarter back into five quarters, or turning five quarters to six or seven – the solution is the same: Improving the performance of a piece of copy.

In this episode, I'll share some little-known secrets for getting more money in for the same money you put out.

But first, listen to this:

Copy is powerful. You're responsible for how you use what you hear on this podcast. Most of the time, common sense is all you need. But if you make extreme claims… and/or if you're writing copy for offers in highly regulated industries like health, finance, and business opportunity… you may want to get a legal review after you write and before you start using your copy. My larger clients do this all the time.

Now … how do you fix a piece of copy that's not performing well enough, and how do you improve copy that's profitable, to make it more profitable?

There are three time-tested, proven ways to do that. Adjust…

Headline, Offer, Pricing. We'll go over several ways to fix each one.

When you get them right, they work like gangbusters.

1. Headline

You have your greatest leverage with a headline. Ted Nicholas – reported 17x improvement in response by changing a headline. Don't know which one. Radio show "The only way left for the little guy to get rich." Board lit up. He knew he had a winner. Key is to pay attention and constantly be on the lookout for words, phrases and ideas that get people interested and motivated.

I critique 2-4 pieces of copy every week, and the biggest problems I see over and over have to do with weak headlines. The way weak headlines can be fixed will also work to improve performance of copy that's already working, but could work better.

FIRST PROBLEM: Giant claims which are not believable and not even relevant to what the marketer is offering prospects

Fix: make it believable and relevant to your solution

The problem comes when the copywriter does not take the time or do the work to discover what the prospect believes to begin with, and then to figure out what the prospect wants or would like, but is possible… that the prospect believes could be possible.

Do that and it becomes a lot easier, and your chance of improving your copy goes way, way up.

And if you've got a piece that's working, look at how you can tidy up anything that might make it more believable and more relevant.

SECOND PROBLEM: Headline does not even remotely have anything to do with "the conversation going on in the prospect's mind"

Fix: tune into the conversation already going on in the prospect's mind, and join it

Way too often, people depend on their own imagination by itself, or their own life experience, and make this huge leap to the idea that they have discovered or come up with something other people want to buy. People buy based on what they want and they need, not what you pretend that you know they want or need, or, even worse, what you think they should want or need, but in reality, they don't.

Again, this gets back to that one piece of research that too many people haven't done: Who's their prospect, and what's on this person's mind?

Now, if you've got a piece that's working, your situation might be a little different. Your headline might miss the conversation going on in your prospect's mind by an inch rather than by a mile, that's a great opportunity to fine-tune and zero-in. Get it exactly right and your response will soar up into the stratosphere.

THIRD PROBLEM: Headline is more of a description than a meaningful promise to the prospect.

Fix: turn headline into an intriguing promise, that relates to a big problem your prospect has and is aware of, and that you can solve

Gene Schwartz in Breakthrough Advertising says it in Chapter 1 of Breakthrough Advertising. You can't put your product in the headline. You have to put something captivating about your product's performance in the headline.

Example: Fan – blade / cool breeze

Performance is a benefit. A good benefit can also make a good promise, and really pump up your response. The better the benefit, the better the response.

FOURTH: Headline is long and rambling when it could be a lot tighter, punchier, and more effective; fix: tighten it up and make it punchier

A lot of people look at long headlines and figure you can throw anything up there as long as you fill it with hype and emotion. Actually, that's not true at all.

In a headline, every word has to earn its place. You know who I heard that first from? The guy who writes long headlines everyone tries to imitate. John Carlton. Who we had on the show a few episodes ago.

But it's almost impossible for most people to imitate Carlton. For one thing, every headline he writes is very customized to a specific situation. For another, if you look at his headlines, you can't take out a word to make it better. Even though it's hard to tell until you really examine his headlines, every word is honed and every headline is as tight, muscular and efficient as can be.

Example from a Carlton letter:

Why Does This Man Have One Of The Most Dazzling Records On Wall Street?

Mysterious Arizona "Human Computer" Humiliates Wall Street "Experts" For 21st Consecutive Year!

You can't make it any shorter and I defy you to make it any better!

Other ways to boost response


FIRST PROBLEM: No imagination in presenting the offer. No excitement, no romance, no sense of possibilities.

Fix: Put more emotion, creativity, context into your offer. Talk about how the prospect's life will be different and better once they have and are using your product.

SECOND PROBLEM: The offer's not clear. You don't know what you get.

Fix: Rewrite your offer until it's crystal clear

THIRD PROBLEM: The offer doesn't highlight attractive differences well enough.

Fix: Do more competitive research. Put together a chart if necessary. Point out clearly and vividly why your offer is better.


FIRST PROBLEM: Price is too high or too low.

Do price testing. A/B splits till you find the most profitable price point.

SECOND PROBLEM: Lack of payment plan or payment plan can be improved

Gary Halbert story – 30 day delay Guthy Renker – conversion tripled.

Keywords: simple tweaks massive results sales copy

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