Jeff McGeary on the Challenges and Rewards of Writing Copy for Supplements

Copywriter Jeff McGeary works full-time for Dr. Al Sears. Jeff’s copywriting experience runs the gambit when it comes to health products. He has written promotions, books, newsletters, and more. He has written for information products, supplements, and exercise programs. Today, Jeff has generously offered to share his experience and advice with copywriters who want to write for the supplement industry.

CI: How did you decide to become a copywriter – and what led you to the health industry?

Jeff: I originally started copywriting as a part-time career, and then moved into full-time work when I recognized its true potential. The health industry was a natural choice for me as I’ve had an interest in alternative medicine for most of my adult life.

CI: What do you find to be most challenging about writing for supplements?

Jeff: Finding a unique take for common products can be tough. When the reader has seen countless pieces of copy for the same type of supplement, coming up with a “big idea” that creates a compelling need to buy is a big challenge.

CI: How does writing about a supplement differ from writing about other health-related items like books, newsletters, or exercise programs?

Jeff: Writing for information products gives you more freedom in terms of what you can say or claim about the product. With a supplement, the legal restrictions make it more challenging to reveal their real potential.

When you write for supplements, you can’t make claims that they will cure disease. What you can do is focus on structure and function. It’s the difference between saying “Heal your arthritis instantly” and “Enjoy pain-free movement.” The first will get you in trouble, but the second is okay.

CI: What process do you go through to identify the main themes of a letter promoting a supplement?

Jeff: I try and find a single, appealing idea that links the reader’s desire and need for a solution to the performance of the supplement. Everything else flows out of that core idea.

CI: How do you go about getting in tune with the needs and desires of your audience?

Jeff: I read all the major newspapers, including USA Today and The New York Times, to look for current trends. This often reveals what people in a certain age group are looking for. We also send questionnaires to our customers – and this is a great source of feedback.

CI: When writing about supplements, a copywriter can easily call upon either negative or positive emotions to connect with and motivate the reader. Do you find one approach works better over the other?

Jeff: Tapping into positive emotions is more effective in the long run. I think people are far more interested in discovering ways to feel happy and healthy without being threatened by feelings of fear and helplessness. Of course, you have to define the problem and let them know you understand their suffering. But, in general, positive emotions will make them feel more comfortable about buying.

CI: What tips do you offer aspiring writers who would like to break into writing for supplements?

Jeff: Make an effort to know the basics of anti-aging medicine and the unique opportunities that are available to people who know how to use supplements. Magazines like Life Extension give you a lot of insight into the newest breakthroughs and how consumers can take advantage of them. For the writer, this gives you a real advantage when you need to come up with a USP for your product.

CI: Can you tell us a little bit about one of your favorite promotions – the elements you most enjoyed, and the factors drove the success of the effort?

Jeff: I recently wrote a piece for Dr. Sears about his new omega-3 product from Peru. At first, I wasn’t sure how to position it or how to distinguish it from similar products. But after talking with him, I realized that the story of his trek through the Amazon would make a great lead. So I went with the “adventure” approach, and the promo did remarkably well.

CI: What final thoughts would you like to share with our readers before we wrap up?

Jeff: Get regular feedback about your work and do your best to apply it. Keeping an open mind and a willingness to continually grow is the best way to succeed as a writer.

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Published: November 7, 2007

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