Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The 5 Things Your Reader Wants to Know

I wanted to share this great post that copywriter Michel Fortin put on his blog yesterday on The 5 things your reader wants to know. Answering these questions will establish your credbility in your copy like nothing else. Enjoy.

10 Advertising Words to Avoid in 2009

Copywriter Susan Gunelius of KeySplash Creative Inc. wrote this informative and timely post for on the 10 advertising words to avoid in 2009. Among my favorites are:

Free This old standby will trigger email spam filters if used in subject lines. Gunelius recommends using the terms 'complimentary' or 'gratis' to sneak past the user's email filter. I recommend that you avoid using the word 'free' in the subject line at all and only use it in the body copy with a slightly altered spelling, such as 'fr*ee' or 'freee'.

Guarantee This was a surprising one for me, but I see her point. People don't trust guarantees like they used to. Gunelius recommends crafting a "more effective message that your readers are more likely to believe and act on."

Really A useless filler word, this reminds me of when we had to write papers of so many words in school on some mundane topic. So if we were clever we'd write "I really really really like chocolate." Gunelius also condemns 'Very' and 'That' as useless filler.

Opportunity "You're not helping anyone when you offer "opportunities" in your copy," writes Gunelius. I agree. Buying a timeshare is an "opportunity."

Synergy It's high time this one was kicked to the curb. Says Gunelius: "Leave jargon and 10-dollar words out of your advertising messages. There's no room in copywriting for buzz words and words that consumers need a dictionary to understand. Consumers don't care about your "unique value proposition." They care that when they pay for your product or service, it will deliver the results they expect." Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

YouTube Gems

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love YouTube. And I've been scouring the site for marketing and copywriting videos to share with you. Here's the latest batch I've found:

Bob Bly on creating an effective elevator pitch:

Bob Cox on setting your goals for 2009:

I hope you enjoy these videos and get a lot out of them. For more of my faves, check out my YouTube page.

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Video: Recession Proof Copywriting Tips

Here's a new video I just created on recession proof copywriting strategies. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

They Mean Business

I just discovered my new favorite show!

It's called We Mean Business, and it airs on A&E Saturday's at 10am. This 30-minute show features Bill Rancic, winner of the first season of The Apprentice, and a tech guru and interior designer as they revamp a struggling business each week for 30 minutes.

I caught it this morning by accident as the trio helped out a struggling chiropractor. It's good stuff from a marketing standpoint, and a refreshing change from all the home improvement and real estate shows that are usually broadcast during the morning hours.

James says check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What I'm Reading Now

Your Internet Cash Machine: The Insiders’ Guide to Making Big Money, Fast! by Joe Vitale and Jillian Coleman Wheeler

I firmly believe that everyone, whether you work for yourself or someone else, should have their own side Internet marketing business.

If you’re eager to get started in this exciting field, I strongly suggest you check out Vitale and Coleman Wheeler’s book.

Your Internet Cash Machine walks you through all of the basics for starting your own online business, from deciding on what kind of products to sell, to how to deal with trademarks and spam issues. The book covers affiliate sites, Ebay, and creating your own videos.

As someone who’s been studying Internet marketing for the last several years, I found a lot of it too basic for my needs, though I really learned a lot from Nerissa Oden’s article on creating video, and there are a ton of links to other resources that I didn’t know about. But if you’re a beginner, this is the perfect book for you.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Joe Vitale is vital. Vitale and Coleman Wheeler have put together a dynamite resource for beginners. Go out and get this book to add to your marketing library right away. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm In a Book!

Great news. I am profiled in a book just out from Atlantic Publishing entitled The Complete Guide to Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale, by Vickie Taylor. It's a great step-by-step guide for copywriters and those who need web-based content on how to write great website copy. It also profiles several web copywriters, including yours truly (My profile is the first one in the book).

To learn more, go here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Recession? What Recession?!

All this talk about recession and layoffs has a lot of people crawling under their beds, fearing the worst. I know I was certainly in that category as I began a big marketing push. But I learned something interesting: the business is still out there. Business is still getting done. Companies are still marketing their services, and they need copywriters and marketing people like me to help them get it all done. Small businesses are starting up left and right, and people everywhere are hiring graphic designers, ordering material, and paying for all manner of goods and services. Just like old times.

Here's another thing I've learned: There are entire groups of people who will never feel the recession. They will never wonder if they're still going to have a job tomorrow, or worry about if they'll have enough money to retire. And they are buying things to, as witnessed by this recent article in The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Expensive Australian water and cell phones inset with Swarovski crystals appear all the rage among the well-to-do, even while others are cutting back.

I have a theory that there are money levels. Reach a certain high enough level, and you'll never sink below it. You'll always have plenty of money to do whatever you need or want, money that is tied up in safe investments. Donald Trump and Bill Gates are in this level.

There's also a lower level that is so low it makes it hard to rise to the top. For these unfortunate souls, times are always tough, no matter how well the economy is doing. But I believe that even these people can rise above this level if they will only realize that there is a way out for them.

So what does that mean for us copywriters? Well, check out this article from millionaire copywriter Clayton Makepeace on five ways to profit from these lean times.

So, how is the recession effecting you and your business? Do you have too many clients? Not enough? Are the people you're working with feeling the crunch? What are some ways you've learned to recession-proof your business? Post a comment and let me know! Let's start a conversation.

Monday, June 9, 2008

5 Success Secrets of the Copywriting Masters

Want to know how the pros really create winning copy that sells? Try these 5 expert tips for starters, and you’ll be well on your way to writing copy that promotes your products and services—just like some of the greatest copywriting superstars of all time.

Focus on the Consumer, Not on Your Product. The question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s in it for me?” Answer that question about your product or service to the prospect’s satisfaction, and chances are good that they will become paying customers. They don’t care how long your company has been in business, or what you were doing that made you come up with the idea for your product or service. They only want to know how it will help them solve a problem that they are facing.

Use Everyday Speech. You’re writing about widgets to ordinary people, not an academic paper on Hemingway’s use of the comma. Avoid the stilted, high-falutin’ Corporatese that poisons many a marketing piece. Use ordinary, everyday speech, and avoid jargon if possible.

Start a Swipe File. This is the one thing that all successful copywriters do, and if you’re going to be writing your own copy, you should too! So start saving those pieces of “junk mail” that you get, and print out and save any web sales letters or emails you come across as well. They can be a fountain of inspiration for your next promotion. Why reinvent the wheel?

Read. You can’t be an effective writer—of any type of material—if you don’t read. Read magazines, newsletters, Web sites, and blogs relating to your industry. If you’re at a loss for industry publications, check out, which offers free magazine subscriptions and whitepapers for dozens of industries. I get many of my ideas for my blog posts and this newsletter from reading marketing publications.

You should also read outside your industry and for pleasure. Not only is it a great way to pass the time, but it can teach you about language and sentence construction, which come in handy when you’re writing your next promotion. Read business books, as well as your favorite fiction. I like science fiction, but any genre will do, and it all helps you learn how to tell a compelling story, which works as well in marketing copy as it does in today’s bestsellers.

Test, Test, Test. Another thing all successful marketers and copywriters do is test. Run your sales letter or webpage against another, changing only one thing at a time, like the headline. Whichever one outsells the other, use that one as your primary sales message, then test again! Change something else about the letter, like the lead, or the offer, or the guarantee. Heck, even use a different font! Even the most seemingly insignificant element will make people more likely to whip out their credit cards than another. Keep testing and testing until you’ve got something that continues to pull better than anything you set it up against. This becomes your Control. Use it as the basis for everything else you create.

That’s it! 5 super copywriting secrets you can start using right now!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting Things Done the Benjamin Franklin Way

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”—Benjamin Franklin

One of the best success strategies used by everyone who has become successful is called modeling, where you find a person who is successful at what you want to do, and then do what they do.

For example, someone who wants to be successful in real estate could model Donald Trump. For copywriting, there’s Bob Bly, Clayton Makepeace, and Peter Bowerman.

But you don’t have to model the success of only those people who are still alive. History is full of successful men and women who can still be an inspiration to us today.

For me, one of those people is Benjamin Franklin. A successful entrepreneur, Benjamin Franklin retired at the ripe old age of 40. He was a skilled writer, invented bifocals, charted the Gulf Stream, created the first insurance company, volunteer fire department and lending library, and was a statesman and U.S. ambassador to France.

He really packed in a lot of successes. Sure, he lived to be 84, but he still couldn’t have done all this without becoming a master of time management.

Fortunately for us, Franklin spelled out exactly what he did in his autobiography.

Rising at 5am, Ben would ask himself one question: “What good shall I do this day?”

Then he would get ready for his day and have breakfast, followed by four hours of work.

At noon he would eat while either reading or reviewing his accounts. Then back to work for four more hours.

At 6pm it was time to “Put things in their places, supper, music or diversion, or conversation; examination of the day.”

Then he was off to bed for seven hours sleep before doing it all over again the next day.

Yes, it sounds regimented, but it was necessary in order for Ben to get things done. Perhaps you can use this as a guide to come up with something similar for your life.

I believe that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish most anything you set out to do in life, whether it be to become wealthy, start a business, write a book, whatever. And a big part of that is becoming a master of time management.

So start today. As old Ben would say, “Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Myth of Permission

Are you waiting to get started because you don't have a degree, don't know enough, or some well-established guru hasn't told you you're ready?

If so, you may be suffering from what I like to call the Myth of Permission.

You see, our culture has taught us that we have to get a degree and then work and slave for years, putting in long hours doing menial, thankless tasks until some glorious Expert looks down from his crystal mountain, points his wizened index finger and says, "You are worthy."

This, in short, is a crock. You don't need permission from someone on high in order to feel worthy. All you need to do is learn all you can about it, and then go out there and do it. Only then will you truly feel and be "worthy."

Remember, you don't need permission to be successful. You already are.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What is Your Verb?

Alex Mandossian posted something very interesting to his blog entitled "What is Your Verb?" that I think is a very good exercise for us all.

What is your verb? What is it that you do that defines your very essence? For example, for Rene Descartes it was "I think, therefore I am."

Alex's is "I improve, therefore I am."

Mine is "I write, therefore I am."

What is your verb? According to Alex, if you change your verb you change your whole life.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Advertise on Your Laptop

Now here's a real coffee house conversation starter:

There's a company called Schtickers that lets you create your own customized laptop skin. You can get everything from van Gogh's Starry Night to your company logo emblazoned on your trusty laptop.

These things are great for writers, copywriters and other solopreneurs who like working remotely. James says check it out.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For: Adventures with the Law of Attraction

Although I didn't know it at the time, I attracted my laptop using the Law of Attraction.

Back in early November of last year, the Dell desktop my wife won at her company Christmas party died. Not with a whimper, but with a bang. Literally.

It had caught about nine viruses, including a particularly insidious form of spyware whose modus operandi was to pop up ads for phony antivirus software.

Well, in the course of trying to fix the problem, the Dell's power supply blew a fuse, and with a loud pop, a tiny flash of flame from the back, and the smell of burnt plastic, she was gone. And so was my livelihood, for the time being.

It was time to go computer shopping. We had to. There were projects to finish, and more yet to take on.

Here's where my first experience with the Law of Attraction came into play.

For months I had been wanting a laptop. I would sit and think about it during my less busy moments, imagining what it would be like. How I could write from remote, exotic locations like coffee shops and parks. How my wife could surf while I got some work done.

Well, I got my wish, but at the expense of our desktop. This wasn't what I wanted, I thought. My point in having a laptop was so that we could have TWO computers!

Well, long story short, but the Dell is all better now, and for the moment, virus free. And I am happily typing this missive on my Gateway laptop.

If there is a lesson on the Law of Attraction here, it is this:

Think about what you want. I wanted a laptop.

Act as if you have already received it. I imagined myself typing on that thing almost every day for months.

Feel what it would be like to have this thing. I imagined how great it would be and how much it could help me leverage my limited time every day.

Take advantage of opportunities as they arise. The "opportunity" here was that our desktop died, and we had to do something. I was a little angry that the fates had not given me the laptop in some specifically pleasing way, but it all worked out. But be careful here. You don't want to be too general in what you ask for, but you don't want to get hung up on specifics either.

In other words, be careful what you wish for and how you wish for it.

I'm studying the Law of Attraction in earnest now, and hopefully, as time permits, I'll be able to share more of what I've learned with everyone who reads this blog.

Best of Continued Success,


Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Essential Copywriter's Bookshelf: Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale

This is the first in what will be a continuing series covering books that should be on every copywriter's bookshelf within arm's reach. This time around I'd like to tell you about Hypnotic Writing: How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words by Joe Vitale.

I've just started reading this one, but I can't put it down. Joe Vitale really knows how to create hypnotic writing! In this book, he shows you step by step, including lots of real world examples, how to create sales copy that your customers won't be able to stop reading. I'm going to copy some of the sales letter examples he uses for my swipe file. This book is a must for anyone interested in copywriting.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to Quickly and Easily Create Your First E-Book

Whether you’ve been promoting your business on the Internet for any length of time, or you haven’t even started, you’ve probably thought about creating your own e-book. After all, e-books are a great way to promote yourself, encourage people to sign-up for your newsletter, or sell on your Website for some passive income.

The trouble is where do you start?

Start with a problem your target market wants solved. This seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many would-be entrepreneurs skip this step, opting instead to sell something they themselves like and think everyone else should want.

Rule number one is: Sell what your prospects want, not what you think they want.

Next, outline it. There’s nothing worse than coming up with a great idea for an e-book, and then, when you sit down to write it, find out that you don’t have enough material.

How long should it be? When I write e-books for Bob Bly, his suggested word count is between 10-15 thousand words. Below that, he says, is too short. Above that is too long.

I know that sounds like a lot, but believe me, it really isn’t. And if you’ve got all the material you need, and have the project well planned out beforehand, those 10K words can go pretty fast.

And there’s no rule carved in stone that says it can’t be shorter. If your finished product is only around 10 pages, just call it a report.

By now you’re probably thinking, “I’m not much of a writer. Can I still create an e-book?”

And the answer is, “Yes. Absolutely!” Here are two great ways to create your own e-book without writing a single word.

1) Interview an expert.

You don’t have to be an expert on the subject you want to write about. Find an expert on your subject and interview them. Talk to them by phone and record it, then have someone transcribe it for you. Poof! Instant e-book!

The recording also makes a great companion to and bonus for the e-book.

2) Hire a ghostwriter.

A ghostwriter is simply someone who writes it for you, under your byline. You put your name on it, you keep all future profits.

When you should hire a ghostwriter:

When you don’t have the time to write it yourself. Running a business is a very time-consuming task. You’ve got to market your business, service clients, do paperwork, and any number of related things. If you’ve been holding off on your e-book because you haven’t had time to write it, it may be time to think about hiring someone to write it for you.

When it is more cost effective to hire someone else. Maybe you could take the time to write it, but your time is worth more than you could reasonably make back from the sale of your e-book. This is often one of the reasons many business owners outsource needs like copywriting and Web design.

3) Do you write articles? Bundle a set of related articles and create an e-book.

And there you have it, a guide to quickly and easily creating your own e-book, including 3 ways to do it without writing a single word. Now go do it! And have fun.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Thought for the Day: Be Weird

"Success is taking all the things that made you weird as a kid and getting someone to pay you for them when you're older."--David Freeman, Screenwriter

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Little-Known Source for Great Ad Ideas

Swipe files have been on my mind lately, and Ben Settles mentioned a great source of ads recently: old comic books.

As a recovered comic book geek, I remember those ads very well. Here are a few of my favorites:

Ah, good old Charles Atlas. These ads were great. Notice the little comic-style story in the left margin. Comics were the perfect place for these ads, comic book readers being a pretty picked-on bunch, after all. Here's a another version in all its four color glory:

These ads combined all the color, power and zap! of the comics with proven direct response principles. They don't run them like this anymore. Comics these days have gone to running image ads. To find some of these old gems, check out flea markets, antique stores, and the back issue bins of your local comic shop. Most comic books lose their value over time, so you can walk out with a box full of them for a few bucks, though many will run the same ads (many comic store owners protect their stock in protective plastic sleeves, so make sure it's OK with them to take a look at the inside back cover to see if there's an ad you want to take home).

Happy hunting!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Make it Happen in 2008

Will 2008 be your best year ever? Or more of the same? Will you go after your dreams this year, or spend next December 31st regretting the way your life is going?

The choice is up to you. I want to challenge everyone reading this to do whatever it takes to get their dreams off the ground this year. No excuses. We are all responsible for our failures and our successes.

So stand up, take a deep breath, and go for it.

And feel free to share your dreams in the comments.