Sales Copywriting Archives

“Should copwriters get involved in affiliate marketing?”

This is a question that gets kicked around copywriting circles, and one I get asked directly, every now and then.

My take is that the real question is probably: “Should I indulge in Affiliate Marketing? Is it a good fit for me?”

Would it be an extra source of income for you, would it take too much time away from your writing services, does it fit with your ethics, is it something you love, et cetera…

If you find yourself with ethical questions, is it really your values you’re questioning – or your discomfort with being “pushy” (an attitude peculiar to women the recent virtual telesummit “Bold and Classy Women and the Psychology of Selling” hosted by Anne Johnson opened my eyes to – it was absolutely incredible, by the way; and I’m signing up again next year!)

Dealing with your Own Discomfort

Affiliate marketing expert Angela Wills recently pointed something I found helpful in clarifying my own uneasy feelings about affiliate marketing: That ethical affiliate marketers pay for the products they endorse, find them genuinely useful, and expend a great deal of work and unpaid time promoting the product to their list via articles, blog posts, forums and creating graphics and promotional materials. They are doing their list members a service by alerting them to products they’ll genuinely be glad to discover.

She thinks that people who say: “This is not an affiliate link, by the way” as if it’s some kind of virtue are subliminally sending a message that there’s something not quite nice about affiliate marketing – when what they’re really dealing with is their own discomfort.

And as for the fly-by-night sort of marketers who are out to make a quick buck, don’t mind what they’re pushing and don’t invest the time in proper research and preparation, Angela makes short shrift of them today on her Marketer’s Mojo blog.

What It Really Means

But to get back to our question… If you’re a copywriter whose clients include internet marketers, having grounding and experience in affiliate marketing is almost mandatory. You don’t have to rival Rosalind Gardner in the time you invest and the results you get – but you should know exactly what you’re talking about.

There’s no reason why copywriters shouldn’t be affiliate marketers as well an anyone else on the planet: It’s a matter of personal choice. But I suspect most professional copywriters are simply too busy. If you don’t see me post affiliate links all over the place, it doesn’t mean I don’t believe in affiliate marketing.

It simply means that copywriting is my first love and today, I’ve got a deadline to meet!

Working with Difficult People 101

Last post, I wrote about copywriters not being mind-readers. Lest you think this was just me enjoying a chance to vent, let me clarify my purpose in writing it. And let me also say, the regular clients I have now are absolutely great – but I have run into this scenario enough times in my 20+year career to know that each time I take on a new client, it can be an education process all over again.

And let me also say, my clients would tell you I’m not even a fraction as cranky as I may sound here!

The reason you should care about providing your copywriter with as completely filled-out a Client Questionnaire as you can take the time to provide – or as many materials and examples as you can assemble – is simple. It:

  • saves you money
  • results in a better-targeted and better-converting product.

After all, you wouldn’t go to a garage, knowing your car was making a funny rattle in the front right passenger corner, and say: “Fix my car. Just make it right.” Would you?

You’d want to be as specific as possible, so you didn’t return the next day and find out they gave it a tune up, a wheel alignment, rotated the tires, changed the oil, and finally (after all that) found and fixed the wheel bearing in the front right corner that was causing your initial problem.

A Recipe for Disaster

Of course, my analogy is slightly flawed, because a mechanic wouldn’t play guessing games as to where the problem was – he’d hear the noise. And he’d cheerfully have no hesitation charging you through the nose for such extras, enjoying the carte blanche you gave him by default to the full.

But no copywriter is going to write a broadly generic product and not care if it hits your target market or not: More likely, they’re going to bug you for more details… and try to be patient and courteous when you get annoyed; or when you read the results of your own half-hearted and impatient specs, and freak out, yelling: “No! THAT’S not what I wanted when I said “affiliate profits” – I really meant “selling affiliate products solely with ClickBank”. Can you just tweak it?”  (And you both know perfectly well, he means “scrap it and rewrite”…)

Having a copywriter ghost-write your work is a two-way street. You’re both two halves of a whole – the product – and you both need to work as a team. You both have to input whatever you can to create a great product, to the best of your ability.

And if you really haven’t got a clue what you want the copywriter to write about, don’t freak out because you didn’t get that detailed recipe book on “1001 Ways to Make Irish Stew with Only A Crockpot and Two Onions“…

…when the only ingredient you gave your copywriter was “some sort of cookbook”.

Copywriters Are Not Mind Readers

This is something copywriters see all too frequently…

You, Mr. Client, want a quote:  Ms. Copywriter sends you one of her standard quote sheet/questionnaires to fill out about your project, to see if she can fit it in her schedule, plus determine what she will need to charge.

It comes back to her with several sections ignored, and the answers you do provide looking rather like this:

Who is your ideal paying customer?  – “Man”

Please provide project specs and details “Ebook on PPC Marketing”

What you are looking at here is the perfect way to either get your project turned down on the spot – or pay more than you need to. “Man” is not an Ideal Paying Customer – it is a highly generic demographic.  “Ebook on PPC Marketing” does not constitute project specifications and details: It’s a Vague Suggestion.

Yes, of course most copywriters can whip you up an eBook out of thin air – but you have to at least say: “Whip me up an ebook on PPC marketing – you have free rein and I’ll be happy with whatever angle you come up with.”

Mind, you’ll pay top dollar, and the quote will be higher than it might otherwise be: Your copywriter knows already she is going to be doing twice the work (and a lot of hand-holding and “tweaking”).

You’re Going  to Have To Rewrite the Whole Thing”

Besides, the moment a copywriter sees “man” instead of “30-something stay-at-home-dad with no skills, desperate for some paying work, who knows thoroughly how to navigate the internet because he spends most of the day gaming online”, the copywriter knows she is going to encounter the following scenario:

Oops, Ms. Copywriter, you’re going to have to rewrite this whole thing! When I said “PPC”, I really meant just Google AdWords. Besides, you’ve geared this towards professional internet marketers, and I really wanted it to teach unemployed stay-at-home dads with no skills other than being able to game on the net and hang out on Facebook how to make some money.”

This sort of client inevitably follows this with about 2 pages of solid detail as to what they did – and didn’t – want in the ebook.  You end up with the equivalent of a complete new project to write… and they want it for free, since it’s a “tweak”.

(Ms. Copywriter howls in frustration: “WHY couldn’t he tell me all this in his INITIAL QUOTE?”)

Don’t get me wrong: Like I said, many copywriters haven’t the slightest problem with creating an eBook out of thin air, based on a subject title alone… but the less specific communication you provide, the higher your initial quote will be.

And you won’t get free rewrites.

If you do have a vision in mind, but can’t be bothered to write more than “man” and “PPC ebook”, don’t expect your copywriter to happily rewrite the entire project – especially as a “tweak”.

Copywriters are not mind readers. Neither are clients. Let’s get better communication happening all round. Clients, what do you wish your copywriter knew? Copywriters, what’s your pet client-related frustration?

(Thanks for the gypsy graphic.)

Yesterday I received the following email from my busy friend, Sandi.

“Hi Marya,

You won’t believe what I just did: The last couple of days, I’ve been busy downloading lots of really good info. A few minutes ago, I decided that I would like some herbal tea so got everything ready to make it in the coffee maker (the water goes into the resevoir & down into the pot which contains the tea bag).

I waited a few minutes & then realized that the water wasn’t coming out. I said to myself “Why isn’t this downloading?” I laughed when I realized what I had said.

(I had plugged it into the right outlet… but I hadn’t turned it on.)


I laughed out loud when I read Sandi’s note. As for me, when I shut my eyes, I tend to see multiple browser tabs.

What do you think? Is it time to weed and focus your marketing efforts for 2010? It is for me: I’m biting the bullet and working hard at being more organized, with time for my goals; not just clients’. (You’ll know if I’m succeeding or not with the “time for my goals” thing by the number of posts here, this year!)

What are you doing to reclaim your life for 2010?

Want to know about a stunningly simple but powerful free tool that not only will delight your clients, if you’re freelance copywriting… but dramatically help your writing too?  Today, I’m going to share one of my most potent Secret Weapons as a writer: Let me introduce you to ArticleChecker.  I use it on the rare occasions I write blog posts or articles for clients. (I usually specialize in information products and sales letters but, every once in a while, a regular client will want a batch of articles and blog posts to go along with his ebook or special report.)

ArticleChecker advertises itself as a “plagiarism checker” – and that is indeed its primary purpose. Plagiarism consists of copying another writer’s work and claiming it as your own.

So does that mean I want to catch myself plagiarizing someone else’s work?  Is there even such a chance?

Heaven forfend!

What I use it for is to detect a far more insidious writing evil: The dreaded “duplicate content” that Google penalizes bloggers and website owners so heavily for using.

“Duplicate content” is not always material that is deliberately plagiarized. It can occur organically and naturally, when you unconsciously resort to using clichés… or just mundane, habitual phrases.

When I enter a blog post like this one in ArticleChecker, I will usually find anywhere from 0-4 sentences that either contain a cliché or a really over-used, mundane phrase. The chances are far more than one in 1,000.  So let’s copy-paste what I’ve typed, so far, and see what nasty duplicate content it “catches”… article-checker-results

Wow!  Surprised me!  I thought for sure it would nail me for “one in 1,000” but apparently there are 15 other instances of the phrase: “Of course not, silly!” on what the Corner Gas dude likes to call “the interweb”.

You remove the offending phrase, or change it.  Copy-paste into ArticleChecker’s textarea box again, and Voila! New results!


If you’re not already using ArticleChecker (or its paid professional equivalent, CopyScape) seriously consider doing so, next time you write a blog post or article.  Get in the habit of running your finished post through either of these services, and you’ll not only always delight your clients with clean, fresh content – you’ll lose those clichés, grow more aware of over-used, boring phrases – and become a better writer!

Learn Copywriting From The Best: Alice Seba’s Last IM Makeover Coaching Program

week1Today I want to quickly tell you about something that won’t ever be offered again. And no, I don’t have any sort of affiliate link to this particular product, because I have never bought it or tried this particular course.

However, I have purchased several of Alice Seba’s products over the last few years, and found every single one to be worth its weight in gold – and then some. So when she says this is the last time this coaching service will ever be offered, I believe her – and at an 80% discount, it’s well worth considering, if you’d like to improve your copywriting skills, and boost the content of your website (and particularly your sales).

I’m talking about Alice Seba’s Internet Marketing Copy Makeover coaching program. This is 4 week, “intensive” program which takes you from understanding basic copywriting concepts to the most sophisticated – applied directly to your actual business.

It includes one-on-one personal feedback on a daily basis, if needed. Alice promises personally to help each student (and yes, there’s a daily assignment.)

The class size is limited to 20 students only – and at an 80% discount, I’m sure it will be gone quicker than you can blink. Doors close forever on October 23 – or when 20 students have signed up.

If you’ve ever wanted to get in on one of Alice Seba’s high-end coaching programs at an entry-level price, this might just be your lucky day.

How To Deliver An eBook Junk Food Surprise

KFC's Original Recipe fried chicken and French...
Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve ever downloaded an eBook (which in the world of internet marketing is kinda like saying “if you’ve ever rode in an automobile”) you have probably come across this strange phenomenon:

•    Making your purchase
•    Opening your eBook
•    Scanning through 26 “introductory” pages telling you all over again why you need that particular e-book, and why the author is the greatest expert ever

That just happened to me – with a PDF from a top internet marketing guru.

Think about how you’d feel if Vince from the “ShamWow®” commercials had personally sold you a Shamwow® at the local farmer’s market – but instead of handing it over, he kept on selling and selling, continuing to tell you why the product was so good, and why you were right to buy from him.

Now picture yourself wanting to smack him and grab that ShamWow®.  The emotion feels pretty realistic, eh? (Even without the smack).

Yet internet marketers do this to their customers all the time.

Where did this “I must prove my customer needs my product before I give it to him but after I’ve taken his cash” phenomenon come from?

From the very first burst of “proof”, you can practically see whoever wrote your eBook of the moment – guru or paid copywriter – hunkering down, earnestly ready to persuade you all over again that the thing is worth what you paid for it. Hunched over the keyboards, shrewdly imagining your supposed tirade of scorn as you challenge them to prove you’re actually going to deliver the simple “How To” information you bought the book expecting to read…

So why don’t they just deliver the goods?

I don’t know about you, but this trend of long, rambling “I’ll prove this book was worth it” eBook introductory pages drives me straight up the wall.  By the time I’ve waded through all the “I’m going to tell you about… but first” teaser stuff, I’m mentally exhausted.

When I finally reach the main course, my tiny overloaded copywriter brain is far too stuffed with carcinogenic, fatty, deep-fried, sugar-glazed, donut-’n’-fake-chicken bites to move.

Let alone tackle my dinner.

Ya know, I wouldn’t mind so much if the 26 pages of appetizer actually proved to be high-value, tasty bites of citrus-soaked Pacific salmon and herbs on cedar, or wafer-thin prosciutto wrapped round fresh Honeydew melon.

But they taste more like fried white bread and sugar blobs.  And lots of ‘em.  Bleaugh!

Somewhere, long ago and far, far away, some evil person must have written a Special Report on how to create the perfect eBook.  (I suspect it’s the same one, recycled over and over and over again).  And somewhere in there, someone got it confused with “How To Write The Perfect Sales Letter 101″ (point number 6, “anticipate your customer’s objections, and answer them before he asks!”).

The average reader doesn’t need 26 pages of “proof” before they bite the goodies, once they’ve clicked that “Buy Now!” button.

They’re hungry.  They want the meat.  And they’ve already paid for top filet mignon, thanks.

Any eBook introductory lead-in should deal with what you’re about to deliver. Too many fried white bread and sugar blobs forced down a surprised gullet, and your glutted and irritated reader may never make it to the main course.  They’ll walk away, stuffed but queasy, saying: “That was lousy quality – wasn’t worth the money I paid. I’m not going back there again.”

Which is probably just as well – because far too often, all that hype was there to hide what you were suspecting all along:  The book had nothing new to deliver.

The writer was just desperately trying to trick you into believing it did with a lot of dynamic rhetoric.

But I’m starting to repeat myself. I’d better go before you get 26 pages of…

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Bridging The Gap

Icefall of Khumbu glacier
Image via Wikipedia

On Mount Everest, climbers have to cross the Khumbu icefall, a tumble of monstrously tall ice seracs punctuated by deep crevasses. The only way across these deadly glacial chasms is by walking across flimsy metal ladders used as bridges. The icefall is so treacherous, climbers usually tackle it before the morning sun gets up. Even in sub-zero temperatures, the slight warmth from the sun is often just enough to make seracs topple, split apart, shift – and swallow even experienced climbers whole.

Most seasoned climbers agree, the best way to get across these precarious makeshift bridges is as quickly as possible, without stopping to over-analyze each step. The longer you take to cross a ladder, the more likely you are to freeze up, take a misstep, and fall.

Writing is like that. If you think too much, you freeze. You think some more. You look down at what you’ve just written, and your stomach starts to knot up. You try to write a few more words, and think “I can’t do it, this is crap.” You go back, and edit the piece to death.

Literally. You’ve killed every bit of emotion you originally put in it.

Writing is a tool, not a religion. Oh, there are times it feels like one, but it’s not the writing that makes it feel that way – it’s the communication. That’s what makes it sing.

No matter what sort of writing you’re doing, you’re still communicating. You’re telling a story.

When you tell a story to your 6-year-old at bedtime, you don’t backtrack. You don’t stop yourself and say, “That’s not quite the word I wanted.” You don’t try out 13 different words to see if you can find a better one – if you did, your 6-year-old would rapidly grow cranky and bored.

You just tell the darned thing, warts and all.

That’s why it’s best, when you’re trying to write sales copy, to get through it in one go before you start revising and editing. (The same goes for any other type of writing too.)

You’re likely to put the most emotion into that first run through – and passion and excitement are what sells a product. Not perfect grammar.

After all, it’s not like Everest, where if you make a misstep, you can die.

And fast copy doesn’t necessarily have to mean sloppy or poor copy – it just has to work.

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