My 2 Top Rules for Discovering the "Winning Tone"

Over the years, I’ve developed 11 rules for discovering the right voice and tone to use to convince your prospect to buy a product or contribute to a cause. All are important – but the first two are crucial. None of my other nine rules will make a difference without them.

First and foremost …

Care about your reader

This is by far the most important secret to writing good, strong compelling copy.

Understand what keeps your prospect up at night – and what he thinks about when he wakes up in the morning – and be ready to address those concerns in honest and sincere ways.

Understand his worries, needs, and fears. When you have the reader’s welfare in mind, you’ll write a much more sincere letter. And sincerity is a very powerful voice.

You can’t be obvious about it. You can’t directly say to him, "Listen, I know you’re not doing that well in the market and I want to help you." Your sincerity has to come through in the way you talk to him … the words you choose to use.

Let’s say you’re selling a stock trading service designed to uncover "home-run" profits. You could say:

"The market’s tough on everyone these days. The Dow is down 3% – the NASDAQ’s down 6%. It’s pretty tough for anyone to make money out there – let alone someone who’s on the outside of Wall Street looking in.

"But there are a handful of investors getting wealthy – even in this sideways market. They’re doing it using the very same trading techniques the pros use. I’d like you to know about them … so you too can enjoy the profit spoils many Wall Street insiders help themselves to every day."

This copy addresses a big concern for most investors: It’s tough to make money when the market’s not performing. It’s empathetic when it says that the market’s tough on everyone – suggesting they’re not alone and it’s not their fault.

You’ve got them thinking, "This guy knows me. He’s on my side." And then you invite him into this special group of people who are having success … which in itself makes him feel unique and special.

The "caring" is there. Much better than saying: "You can make a lot of money using a trading strategy I’ll show you in this letter."

Be sure to follow the "caring" language throughout the letter. When talking about the guarantee, for instance, don’t just say, "You’re guaranteed to like it or your money back." Instead, you say something like …

"I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the number of home-run gains you earn with XYZ. But I don’t want you stuck with something that’s not for you. So if for any reason you’re not absolutely thrilled with any aspect of XYZ, just let me know and I’ll see that every penny you’ve spent is returned to you."

A little trick many of us use to ensure we write with a "caring" voice is to think of someone we know who we’d like to see make an extra $100,000 or so a year.

Which brings me to my next big secret …

Believe in the product

At some point in your career, especially when you’re starting out, you’re going to be given an assignment to sell a product that you just can’t get excited about. Three words of advice: FIND A WAY!

Obviously, if for some reason it goes against every core value you believe in … pass on it. After all, if you’re absolutely turned off by something, you CANNOT write convincing copy.

Fortunately, though, there are tons of good products out there that need copy – in health markets … financial markets … the self-help industry … the retail and collectibles markets … and (especially) in the fundraising markets … to name just a few.

It’s no accident that some of my greatest successes have come with products I truly believed in and was able to get myself really excited about.

For instance, I believe in The Oxford Club (that investment organization I write for quite a bit). I know the people who run it. I know the editors and how hard they work at finding good, solid investments. And the Club’s track record is very good because they work so hard. Therefore, I have an easy time being sincere when I write for it.

No product is perfect, of course. But most have enough good benefits that you can wrap your head around – benefits that you know will be great for the reader you care so much about.

How do you get "excited" about a product? Easy. Learn "all that is good" to know about it. Read all the marketing information you can get your hands on. Talk to the editor, product manager, or marketing person.

Put aside skepticism. Negative thoughts about a product will only sabotage your efforts to sell it.

Say you’re selling an investment advisory that has a few losing picks associated with it. You can ignore them – but if you do, you’re doing your prospect (the guy you care so much about) a great disservice.

So what do you do? Be honest! Tell him about the losing picks … then turn that into a positive. Here’s one way to do it. After talking about the successful trades, say:

"You know, I’ve just given you seven instances where XYZ has made a lot of money for subscribers. Is every pick on the money? Of course not. I’d be insulting you if I suggested it was. But here’s the thing. I’ve shown you examples of winners returning 120%, 240% – even 560%. But our losers rarely exceed 25% … thanks to our super-strict stop-loss strategy that severely limits the amount of money you could ever lose."

Bottom line: Knowing your product, believing in it, and being able to turn negatives into positives is crucial to producing good copy – and ensuring that you’re able to talk to your prospect in a good, caring, confident voice.

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Published: July 25, 2005

1 Response to “My 2 Top Rules for Discovering the "Winning Tone"”

  1. Thanks Paul - as always, you make everything so clear.


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