How “Selling Your Product” Can Lead to Failure … And an Easy Solution

Today I’m going to tell you about a crucial “rule” of copywriting most B-level copywriters violate. When they do, it guarantees they’ll remain B-level.

And I’m going to tell you how you can avoid violating it and move ever closer to becoming an A-level, Master Copywriter yourself.

Before I do that, let me tell you how I came up with this idea to write about.

For almost a year now, I’ve been involved in one of the most exciting, personally enriching projects I’ve ever done with AWAI. Early on in my 15-plus-year copywriting career, I discovered AWAI’s Accelerated Program. It turned my career around.

Then, several years later, I launched into The Masters Program for Accelerated Copywriting. I had no idea when I started, the huge impact on the quality of my copywriting, my success, and my income this program would have.

So, when Katie asked me if I’d be involved with the complete rebuilding of The Masters Program, I jumped at the chance. Nine months later — yes, we’ve been working that long on this — we’re done.

I’m so excited about this collaborative effort from the very top copywriters in the business that I wanted to give you a glimpse at some of the secrets and strategies you could gain from it.

So for today: The #2 Copy Killer. (Next week, the #1 Copy Killer.)

Why C- and B-level copywriters will forever stay that way …

Okay, to go back a bit. C- and B-level copywriters make a critical mistake. A mistake that guarantees their copy will not do as well as it could.

Their problem?

They try to sell the product.

When they do that, they stir up the prospect’s ever-present sales resistance. Let me give you an example.

I got a promotion in the mail the other day. Looking at just the envelope copy, I knew it would do poorly. I knew immediately that a B-level copywriter wrote it. Here’s the copy …

Discover Cardio-Max Today, a supplement
proven to improve arterial stiffness

Why would it do poorly? Because right off the bat, it tried to sell me a nutritional supplement. And I don’t want another nutritional supplement. I want a whole lot more than that.

This copy violated one of the most crucial rules of copywriting success:

If you want to sell your product …
don’t try to sell the product!

This is the heart of Michael Masterson’s Principle of Transparency. This principle is based on something he’s said frequently: “Your prospect loves to buy things. But he doesn’t like to be sold.”

The moment your copy indicates that you’re selling something, your prospect’s sales resistance pops up. When this happens, he’ll stop reading. And ignore your effort.

Now in the case of Cardio-Max (I changed the name, by the way), I’d seen tons of promos for similar products. They all pretty much said the same thing. So when I saw the envelope, I didn’t expect to see anything new. If I were the typical prospect, I’d have tossed it.

You do not want your copy to end up like that.

If you don’t sell the product, what do you sell?

This is the secret you’ll learn in Module 2 of the new Masters Program. Let me give you the Big Idea behind it.

Your prospect’s sales resistance is always lurking near the surface. Because of this, you don’t want to sell your product. You want to sell the benefits your prospect receives from your product.

You let the product fade into the background of your letter. You let your product become “transparent.”

This seems counterintuitive. But — in most cases — it’s absolutely necessary to adopt this strategy.

So if you’re selling Cardio-Max, you don’t mention it at all in the beginning of the letter. Not in the headline. Not in the lead.

Instead, you start your letter by talking about all the wonderful things the prospect will be able to do when his arteries are supple and flexible like when he was 19 years old.

If you’re selling an investment newsletter — or a similar financial product — you do not sell the newsletter.

As Michael Masterson and Bill Bonner said in an often-quoted training session with Master Copywriters: “No man wakes up in the morning and says to his wife, ‘Honey, we don’t have enough investment newsletters. We have to subscribe to another one.’”

But your prospect does wake up in the morning (or lose sleep at night) worrying about how his portfolio is doing. He worries about his family and his retirement. He worries about privacy … and so on.

So, when selling a financial newsletter, you must address those fears. You must sell the idea that you have the answers to those fears.

If you’re doing a fundraising letter, your prospective donors know you’re going to ask for money. But with brand-new donors, you don’t immediately ask for money. Instead of “selling” the idea of donating, you sell the idea of the need. And you must sell the idea of your agency's effectiveness.

Let’s say you’re selling the Super Duper Diet. Does your prospect want to lose weight? Not really. Losing weight sounds hard.

Does she want to be able to get into a pants size she hasn’t been able to for 20 years? Most definitely. Does she want other women to envy her? Yes! Does she want to be able to pass a full-length mirror and want to look at it instead of avoiding doing so? You bet!

These are what you sell.

So in discussing weight loss, you find ways of making the benefits of the weight-loss plan shine through clearly and vibrate with your prospect.

But don’t be transparent when …

Transparency is the approach you should use for selling a product to a new prospect.

But what if your prospect already knows the product and the company? What if he has already subscribed to three newsletters from the publisher? In this case, transparency isn’t necessary … and could be counterproductive.

In this case, you don’t have to make your product transparent. Your prospect already knows you sell great stuff (whatever it is). He’ll feel “here’s another opportunity to get some more of that great stuff.”

Knowing when to use transparency … and when not to … is another secret you’ll learn in the new Masters Program. But I won’t go into it here. That would violate Michael Masterson’s “Rule of One.” (Yet another Masters Secret.)

Selling your clients on The Principle of Transparency …

If your clients are sophisticated in the art of direct marketing, they’ll understand and appreciate the power of transparency. But if they’ve never tried a transparent approach, you’ll have to sell them on the idea.

This shouldn’t be difficult … if you can get this message across to them: Prospects do not like to be sold. If you try to sell them something, their sales resistance becomes a huge, often insurmountable barrier.

As you can see, I haven’t been transparent in this article at all. Since we know each other, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about the outstanding Masters Program revamp.

Of course, since I’ve been a part of the whole rebuilding process, I would be excited. But Katie’s excited, too. And so are all of the other folks at AWAI. They’re so excited that they’re offering an unbeatable deal. They don’t want you to have any reason at all not to check it out for yourself.

So, first off, if you sign up now, you get 45% off the price of the program.

And even more exciting to my way of thinking is their guarantee. If you haven’t at least doubled your freelance writing income (or aren’t well on your way to a six-figure income if you’re just starting out) — they’ll give you a full and complete refund, no questions asked. For TWO years!

Two years! This is truly unprecedented. And it shows how much they — and I — believe in this new Masters Program.

So, if you’re serious about learning the secrets and strategies of the Masters that will propel you rapidly to A-level copywriting, click here.

And when you do, please let me know what you think about my “baby.” Because that’s how I think of this nine-month effort AWAI and I have gone through.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: April 23, 2012

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