Bruce Eichelberger Shares His Secrets for Connecting with an Audience

Bruce Eichelberger began copywriting seven years ago in order to better market his own alternative health products. He joins us today to share some of the most valuable lessons he’s learned along the way.

CI: How long have you been a copywriter?

Bruce: I started studying copywriting in 2001 after a disappointing experience working with someone who said she knew how to market a product I was creating. She bailed out when her first efforts to sell the product failed to make even one sale. She didn’t have a “Plan B,” just stopped taking my calls. It was an expensive but important lesson.

At that point, I realized I knew almost nothing about sales and marketing, and that I’d better learn fast. Copywriting seemed like the logical place to start. That’s when I enrolled in AWAI’s copywriting program. Since that time, I’ve successful marketed a number of my own alternative health information products. I’ve also had good success writing for others in the self-improvement and fundraising markets.

CI: Tell us a little about the work you’ve done in the alternative health field.

Bruce: I’ve practiced Oriental medicine—acupuncture, herbal medicine, and so forth—for 38 years. Copywriting for the natural health industry was just a natural fit.

Initially, my interest in copywriting and marketing was about how to more effectively let people know what I do. And then to market my own information products.

When I finished the AWAI Six-Figure Copywriting program, I got very good feedback about my supplement assignment. My reviewer told me I was in the top 10% of students in the program. That gave me a good boost of confidence that I could do this and do it successfully.

CI: Do you find this industry to be more or less competitive than non-profit and self-improvement—the other industries you write for?

Bruce: In my experience, the alternative health industry is very competitive for copywriters. There are some legendary copywriters churning out controls on a regular basis. On the other hand, it’s a very large and robust industry that’s growing constantly. There is still a great need for people who can write compelling, sales-generating copy in alternative health.

CI: What sets writing for alternative health apart from writing for those other industries?

Bruce: Self-improvement and alternative health are very similar. In both, the reader is looking for a solution to a problem, a source of pain. In the case of alternative health, the pain is often physical.

This makes the reader very driven to find a solution that will work for them. Usually, by the time they see your package, they’ve already done a lot of reading. They might have already tried another product or two. You might think the fact that they’re driven would make the sale easier, but that’s not always the case. It often means that they come to your package with a healthy amount of skepticism that you must overcome.

CI: When you work on a project in the alternative health field, what is the process you go through?

Bruce: The first thing I focus on is the audience. I want to know their age, their location, their gender … typical demographics. I also want to know everything I can about what they’re experiencing and what they believe about those experiences. What’s caused them to seek an alternative health answer to their problem? Have they tried many other things with no luck? Do they always try an alternative health solution first? Stuff like that.

Next, I want to understand everything I can about the product. If it’s a supplement, I want to know what research shows about the ingredients, what people experience when they take it. I’m especially big on testimonials for any alternative health products.

One thing about this audience that’s important to understand is that people who use alternative medicine are usually very well-informed. That means I want as many proof elements as possible. What I’m saying about the product should match their knowledge. They need to know that I know what they know. I also need to offer them some nuggets of information they may not have seen yet.

If it’s an information product that I’m writing for—which it usually is—I want to highlight the credentials of the author and the credibility of my sources of information. People need to be able to trust the information I’m putting forward. The proof elements go a long way to establishing that trust.

CI: What’s the process you go through to shape your headline and lead? How do you know you have a headline and lead that’s working?

Bruce: I really like Brian Keith Voiles’ approach of writing a massive number of headlines. He sometimes writes 300 or 400 of them. When I’m working on a project, I will literally have a headline day. I’ll sit down and spend the whole day spinning out headlines. By day’s end, I sometimes have 200 headlines. If it’s a good day, I’ll have more.

This is definitely not a rational process, and I suppress the impulse to edit as I go. When I’m on a roll, I just churn out one headline after another.

Then, after a day or two, I go back and see which ones really strike me as strong. Many of them are silly. But many of them help to shape the themes of what I’m writing. Those won’t become the headline, but they will play an important role in formulating my lead and important ideas that will run throughout. And, of course, I usually find one or two that are strong enough to work as the headline.

CI: What are some of the most powerful offer techniques that you see working in this industry right now?

Bruce: The number one thing I see working is testimonials and personal stories. If you can provide the details of a past customer’s story—really help your reader see that the person in the story is in a similar situation, and help them empathize with that person—you build a strong connection.

Using endorsements, where you get someone with authority or celebrity status to say that what you’re selling is great, is another powerful technique.

Beyond that, I try to build up the credentials of the person behind the program as much as possible.

CI: I can’t help but notice that all three of those techniques build a personal, one-on-one connection between your reader and the people you talk about in the promotion.

Bruce: Exactly. Readers want to feel that connection. It’s very important for them to be able to resonate with your package and come away feeling like you understand them and their problems … and that you have solutions that they can trust and that will work.

CI: What are two or three things you think every copywriter who plans to write for alternative health should know?

Bruce: The first thing is that you have to have a passion for the field. I’ve met copywriters who don’t believe in alternative health, and I think they are better served by pursuing projects in an industry they do believe in. You have to believe what you’re writing. And having some experience with alternative medicine, having actually visited a practitioner in the field, is good too.

Next, I’d say you need to be prepared to do a lot of research. It’s best to find several good, reputable, go-to research sites that you can come back to again and again. If you don’t have that stable of research sites, things will be harder for you.

Finally, know your audience. Understand their core belief systems and write to those belief systems.

CI: Can you tell us a little bit about how you discover your audience’s core beliefs?

Bruce: I’m in a lucky position when it comes to that. As a practitioner, I can do one-on-one interviews with my patients. I can ask them about what’s bothering them and what kinds of solutions they seek. I also use surveys. Just three basic questions can reveal a lot of good information. Those questions are: “What have you tried?” “How did it work?” and “What would you like to have happen going forward?”

For copywriters who don’t have their own practice and patients to interview, I’d say get in touch with your client. Ask for some customer names and numbers and call some folks up. Do some interviews. Or work with your client to do a survey.

CI: Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Bruce: There’s a ton of good information out there—programs, books, newsletters with great insights about copywriting. But just reading those things isn’t enough. You have to write. If you don’t have a project going, copy existing promotions or write articles. But write every single day.

[Ed. Note: Bruce Eichelberger is an AWAI graduate specializing in copy for the alternative health and personal-development industries. His 38-year career as an alternative health practitioner gives him a rich background for reaching the hearts and minds of people wanting to improve their health and life. You can contact him through his website at www.CopywritingResults.com.]

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Published: March 19, 2008

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