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Long Live the Big, Rich King

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The "A listers" already know it.

They may not always admit it, mainly because A+ copywriters have healthy egos and that's ok. But they know exactly what we are about to discuss is the proven truth.

They know that "Copy is King." And that there are three components that govern the success of any promotion: the quality of the list and media you select, the offer you present to the prospect, and the copy you use.

Of these three, the list is the most important, the offer is next, and the copy is third.

The right offer with great copy mailed to a bad list will produce zero results. Mediocre copy with a mediocre offer mailed to a great list can produce good results. That said, selecting qualified lists and framing attractive offers is less difficult than crafting great copy. That is why in direct response advertising, copy is king.

Even if you never plan on writing your own advertising copy, you MUST understand the fundamental rules of writing effective copy so that you can increase your results and your bottom line.

Learn it or perish

Don't proselytize. Preach to the converted.

One of the tenets of direct response marketing is to target the sales effort to qualified prospects: people who have already demonstrated an interest in buying products and services similar to those you are selling. Trying to sell a watch to someone who has never bought a watch before is an uphill battle at best. Most of the time, your advertising will be directed at proven buyers--enthusiasts, as it were. When writing to enthusiasts, you should write enthusiastically and remind them constantly of what they already believe--that buying your product will make them feel good, the same way it has made them feel in the past.

The 10 Golden Rules of Power Packed Copy!

1. Start with the prospect. Many beginning direct response copywriters make the mistake of spending too much ink touting the product, describing all its features at length and in detail. This is an understandable mistake when writing about a new and exciting product. But the direct marketer must keep in mind that the prospect doesn't really care about the product. All he really cares about is himself and how the product might be able to help him. Keep that in mind when you write copy. Ask: "What is my best customer thinking about? What's keeping him up at night? What is he dreaming about?" Figure out the answers to those questions, and your copy will never stray far from the mark.

2. Long copy out-pulls short copy. This principle is highly controversial. Many Internet copywriters believe that the nature of the Internet--which makes it necessary for prospects to read copy on a screen--favors short copy. Although short copy can sometimes work very well, hundreds of tests that we have seen prove the old direct-mail maxim to be true: Other things being equal, longer copy is usually better.

3. When it comes to long copy, the lead is 80 percent of the game. A typical direct-mail or e-mail promotion has three parts: the lead, the body, and the close. The lead is usually less than 20 percent of the whole, but it carries the responsibility of conveying the "big idea" of the sales message and provoking an appropriate emotion in the reader. If you can do that consistently in your e-mail promotions, you will have a great deal of success.

4. In crafting a lead, stick with the proven six. There are dozens of ways to begin a long-form sales letter, but in the history of direct response, six have dominated. These are: offer/promise, invitation, problem/solution, secret, story, and prediction. If you can figure out which of these six leads works best for the offer you are making, your chances of success will skyrocket.

5. All leads range from being very direct to very indirect. Direct leads are those that are obviously sales pitches. Indirect leads appear to be doing something else. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. Effective e-mail marketers make wise use of both.

6. Given two packages with equally strong leads, the one that is well-balanced will do better. A well-balanced promotion has four aspects: idea, benefit, credibility, and track record. We call this "the secret of the four-legged stool," because if your promotion has all four of these "legs," it will be well balanced and it won't topple over.

7. When composing headlines and bullets, details matter. Make your headlines and bullets more powerful by focusing on what we call "the four U's": uniqueness, usefulness, urgency, and ultra-specificity.

8. Every product needs a unique selling proposition (USP). Essentially, the USP is what makes your product stand out from the competition and gives your prospect a good reason to buy from you. Ignore this principle at your peril.

9. Benefits are better than features--and deeper benefits are better than superficial benefits. For example, don't tell a prospect that the car you are selling has good tires and suspension. Those are features. Instead, describe how, because of those features, they'll be able to maneuver easily through rush-hour traffic and avoid accidents with dangerous drivers. If you understand the deeper benefits your product offers, suggest them (indirectly, not directly) in the copy.

10. Write to one person at a time in the language you would use if you were talking to that person face-to-face. That doesn't always mean informal language. But it does mean conversational language.

Those are not the only principles that govern direct mail and e-mail marketing, but they are 10 of the most important.