Julie Boswell learned copywriting techniques and direct response marketing from industry experts, and has since become an authority herself. In this episode, we discuss copywriting techniques for digital entrepreneurs, the importance of the sales letter, and the longevity of long form sales! Don’t underestimate what long form sales letters can do for you, no matter what your business is. Julie also offers a few really valuable tips on dual readership paths to ensure that your sales letters accommodate skimmers as well as thorough readers–you’ll capture far more conversions when you cater to both.
Use Julie’s brand new headline generator at AskACopyExpert.com/Generate.
Transcript: Copywriting Techniques To Increase Your Conversions With Julie Boswell
Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast–a podcast designed to skip the hype, skip the BS, and bring you real, actionable tips and strategies to help you grow your business and your income on the internet. If I’ve done my job, at the end of this podcast, you’ll have a list of actions, tasks, and steps that you can use to start making more money.Today we are diving deep into copywriting. Here’s the thing: I know people don’t get too excited about copywriting unless you’re a copywriter.
But the fact is, the copy that you use on your website–your sales copy, your ad copy–is the foundation of the success of your sales process. Every entrepreneur I know that is successful online has at least a foundation in copywriting. They may not be experts, but they have a foundation so that they can work with writers.
Everything that we’re doing is about communication over the internet, so much of what we do is written. Being able to persuade via the written word is absolutely vital to your success.
You might be thinking, okay, we’re using video and audio a lot now, though. But I’ll tell you a secret here. Whenever you hear a really great sales video, they’re following the exact process that copywriting follows. In fact, if you took a great sales webinar and transcribed it, it would read exactly like a sales letter.
I cannot emphasize the importance of copywriting enough. So today, I have a masterful, emotional direct response copywriter to help us along this journey and to give you some tips and strategies to make your ad copy more effective.
This expert is someone whose career started a decade ago as the director of marketing for outrageous advertising guru Bill Glazer. Bill is a legend in the world of direct response marketing. She’s also worked with Dan Kennedy, the millionaire maker.
In her role as director of marketing, she was responsible for all of the company’s marketing efforts. This was a direct response marketing company. So she filled a couple thousand seats at national events, she wrote tons of successful campaigns including their “roving reporter” campaign which brought in $80,000 in sales in just a few days.
Since she left Bill and Dan’s organization, GKIC in 2009, she’s served nearly 300 clients from doctors to lawyers, investors to hypnotists, that have all received a huge advantage by using her highly effective sales copy.
Some of it was dumb luck, and some of it was always in me. It plays to my personality to be interested in how people work–I was always interested in marketing and psychology.
When I was working for Glazer Kennedy I had the good fortune of being a beta tester for Glazer’s high ticket creating copy that sells online course, and it kind of took me from being the implementer, surrounded by direct response marketing all the time, to writing copy. I had never written except for tiny things.
So when I took that course, it really helped me to understand what the copy was for, what it all meant–all of these little decisions that we made had an effect on buyers. I was hooked. I started taking on private clients while I was still working for Glazer Kennedy, and I did both for years.
Then finally I made the leap, and I’ve never looked back. I still work with Bill Glazer. I was so lucky to have him, not just as a boss but I think he cared about me. He didn’t have to do it, but he always took the time to teach me.
So as his director of marketing, I’d spend three or four hours a week with him in private meetings getting instructions and learning. That was once a week for almost four years. I was fortunate to have him take that time to teach me things. After I took the copywriting course, I got really excited about it.
As you know, it doesn’t matter what courses you take, if you don’t use it, you lose it. So I started doing stuff on the job, practicing, with private clients, and the more I did it, the better it got and the better I got, and my game just kept getting better. Now I work with some really high level clients.
I know he’s working with private consultations and everything now, but a guy like that never really retires. And everything you’ve said about Bill I know to be true. He’s a fantastic teacher and a very generous person. I’ve learned a lot from him along the way as well.
Before we get into the copywriting stuff, before you started down this path were you a writer?
Yes, I would agree with that. You don’t need to be naturally gifted. Someone asked me last week if anyone could write sales copy. The answer to that is that you need the ability to empathize, and you need to be able to have a regular conversation.
Empathizing is different from sympathizing. It’s more of an activity. You put yourself in someone else’s shoes and show them that you know how they feel. That is the one intangible thing that you need to harness to have good copywriting technique.
That’s a good question. Taking that example, I have a questionnaire that I use with my clients. So I rely on them to give me good information about their market. And sometimes a lot of it is stuff that they haven’t thought about before, or it’s stuff they haven’t put into words.
So not only is that healthy and smart, it’s also how you write great copy. Personally, if I were deciding to hop into that business and I needed to empathize with that market, you need to make some assumptions about how they feel. They’d be politically in-tuned, maybe conspiracy theorists, maybe scared–you’d have to ask yourself what people that are preparing for the end of the world are being motivated by.
When you answer that question, they’re motivated by fear, or the fear we’re being lied to–now everything you write can speak to those fears and motivations.
I want to step back for a minute and highlight something because I think a lot of our listeners hire copywriters. So when you bring on a new client, you send them a long questionnaire to get to know them. So a caution for everyone listening, if you ever hire a copywriter that doesn’t spend any time getting to know you or your market, run. That never works out well.
Okay, so I totally got off track there. Now, let’s jump in at the beginning. Copywriting is one of those things that most entrepreneurs don’t usually get excited about. Though a smart entrepreneur knows that it’s incredibly important.
So getting started, how do you stop yourself from getting overwhelmed by the process?
I think it takes a lot of practice, but I think everyone can get the job done if they work at it.
Number one, you need to prepare. This also assumes that you understand direct marketing. First, you always have to prepare. Explore the psychology in your market: what they want more of, what they want less of.
All of those things that lead you to what makes them tick. Know your market and know what they care about. You have to explore those things.
Number two, follow a formula. I can’t stress that enough. Even the historic greats used the formula. The formula may be adjusted as you go, it may just be in a copywriter’s head because he’s written so much over the years that it’s a part of him, but he’s following a formula.
That’s how it’s always done.
Even if you’re not going to be doing a lot of copywriting yourself, I believe that it’s crucial that you understand the formula. If you take a standard direct response formula for a sales letter, from your headline to your call to action, the fact is, when you understand that formula you can work with copywriters better.
But what I’m seeing now, is when you dissect a sideways sales letter or a webinar, most of those are following some variation of the traditional direct response formula. And it works. So in terms of gathering a better understanding and learning about sales copy, how do you suggest people go about learning this skill?
Yes. There’s lots of formulas out there and you can find them easily on Google. You need to pick one that feels right to you, and you need to practice. Anyone can get this job done if you follow the formula. The getting good part is just about practice.
So that’s always the hard part. You and I have discussed this before. Sometimes people will throw an actual fit about writing copy. If you’ve done your preparation, and you follow your formula, and you practice, and you keep putting out offers that you’ve created for your business, you’ll get better and better at it.
If you follow a formula, even if you’re not a good writer, you’re not full of compelling language, you can still follow the formula, fill it in, and then give it to someone else to polish it. You’ll get a better result for a lower cost that way.
What if you hate writing?
That’s great advice you just gave. That way, the information comes from you, but a better writer can smooth it out.
If you hate writing, well, lots of people do. Study direct response copywriting enough and in particular I’d recommend Dan Kennedy’s No BS Marketing, which will help you understand the rules of direct response marketing. That’s something I continually reference.
Study it enough to know what good direct response copywriting actually is. However, I think life is too short to do something that you hate. So if you’ve studied it enough to understand, and you’ve taken a crack at the formula, and you still hate it, it’s time to hire a great writer to help you grow your business.
Outsource it. But I’m sure you can agree with this–you can’t just outsource without knowing what you want your end product to look like. It’s important that you have an understanding of it.
That is crucial. To expect a copywriter to know your market inside and out, to sell your product without any of your input is absolutely unreasonable.
There is one point I’d like to clarify with you here.
I think this happens all the time on platforms like Upwork or eLance. People go in there, and say, hey, I need to hire a copywriter. So you get a ton of applications from copywriters, but there’s a difference between a copywriter and a direct response copywriter.
Can you explain the difference between the two? Between the direct response copywriter and the guy that says, hey, I write copy.
Gotcha. So, first of all, it’s important that whoever is writing has proven success at writing sales copy as opposed to just writing copy like articles and blogs. It’s a different animal and follows different rules and all of the nuances involved in sales copy don’t transfer to writing a compelling article. It’s important to know that.
The difference between a direct response copywriter and someone that writes copy–they’re following all of the rules of direct response, like having clear instruction and having an offer. You don’t have to coach them. Someone else might be good at writing big company ad copy, like they write billboards, but that’s not direct response copy.
The reason I want to clarify this is because there are thousands of people out there that will tell you they’re copywriters, but they don’t write sales copy. So when you’re out there looking for a copywriter, you need someone that’s had success and experience writing specifically direct response sales copy.
If I could summarize, it’s copy that drives a very specific process, and when people come out the other side, you want as many people as possible to buy, or click, or opt-in, to do something. So one of the things that I’ve learned hiring copywriters over the years, if I’m using a platform like that, is to always ask who they learned from. If I ask you that, you’ll tell me Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer–and I’ll immediately think that you know what you’re talking about.
Anyone that’s in that vein and is actually studying copywriting, but anyone that doesn’t really know who that is or what you’re talking about clearly isn’t a direct response copywriter.
I’d also caution people to be wary of–and this is a tough pill to swallow, because you want your copywriter to be able to show you work that they’ve done successfully for other clients, but it’s a slippery slope–the truth is, I can do my job really well, but there’s a lot that’s out of my hands. I’m not responsible for how they implement my work, or how much traffic they drive, and that is critical to the success of the campaigns that I create.
So I get great results for clients like you, Derek, or like Bill Glazer, the bigger players. Serious marketers that know what they’re doing, and are measuring and implementing right. As you go to hire, people will say, I’ve written these $12 million campaigns–well, why are you on Upwork? That’s a rare thing.
You’re right. And you’re not the first copywriter to say that–I’ve met tons of copywriters that say, I give people great copy and they destroy it in implementation. And I totally see that all the time. The sales copy is one piece of the overall puzzle. You need the right visitors with the right message, and how you display that message is crucial as well.
You’re not the first person I’ve heard say that great copy gets butchered by implementations all to often.
Let’s pretend now that we’ve got a sales letter in front of us. Where do you tell people to focus when they sit down to write?
Before you write anything, I tell people to focus on your prospect. I know I’ve talked about this before, but you must focus on your prospect. Not the demographic, who they are, what they want, how they feel, imagine them telling you about their problem. The process of writing sales copy is telling them that you understand what they’re going through and you’re offering to help.
I know it’s a cheesy thing and it’s said all the time, but “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
When you spend the time to really think about your target and jot a few notes down, you make it easier and faster to write your stuff. I know everyone wants to get past this stuff and just make some sales, but this is how you get it done faster and better.
If you don’t invest that time, you won’t get what you’re looking for. The great thing about this as well is I’m always looking at new niches and stuff, and I’m developing an entirely new niche right now with an expert I’ve partnered with. I know nothing about it. But I need to embed myself into these people and their pains and what their days look like. Before the internet, we had to go out and sit down and talk with these people. But now, you can find forums, or Facebook, you can find all these things where people are sharing their problems. You get to see their language, and how they phrase things. There’s always a language within each niche that you need to understand.
I love it today, because I can do all of that and get inside people’s heads simply through all of these platforms out there where people are talking about their problems.
I’ve talked to people that actually sit down and draw their prospect and build lives for them, like an avatar. Do you ever go to that level?
It’s huge. I do this a lot for my clients. Sometimes people will say and do all the right direct response things, but it doesn’t get any eyeballs because they haven’t made the right things big enough. People have low attention spans and they want everything super fast.
Picture yourself scrolling through Facebook or doing a Google search. Your eyeballs are busy. There’s lots of stuff. Cosmetics play such a huge role in making your message easy to find, and also so that we see the right thing about your message.
I really like this subject, so I could talk for days about this. There’s something called a dual readership path, I won’t get too deep into it, but it’s for the purpose of the skimmer. You have to assume that everyone on your landing page or website is skimming. They’re not reading every word.
So it’s your job to create the Cliff’s Notes of your message. Even though you’ve poured your heart into it, people are not reading every word–even the ones that really care about it. I bet my own mother isn’t reading every bit of my marketing copy. People are skimming, so you have to make it easy for them to skim from top to bottom, to get the message, and to be compelled enough to take action based on your copy. This is done through colour, and bolding, and italics, underlining–anything you can do to cosmetically enhance.
This is why when people first get a look at direct response marketing, they think it looks ugly–but it’s been proven that ugly sells better than pretty. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s not as easy on the eye as you think it should be. It’s easy on the eye in a different way. Not as in it’s pretty, but it does all the work for me so I can just glance over and see that mattresses in one appropriately cosmetic ad are on sale for $97.
That’s the idea behind great cosmetics.
So we’re talking about colour, bolding, to bring out key points. They’re getting the Cliff Notes of that letter as they skim, and when they get to the end they have the big picture.
Where do you sit with the use of imagery and video in sales copy? It didn’t really exist ten years ago, but where are you seeing this go? Are people switching primarily to video? Are you seeing the best results with combinations of video and text?
It depends on the application. Some businesses use all videos, and some business it makes more sense to use combinations. It really depends on the business and whether your audience specifically is interested in reading or watching and listening. You have to tailor it to your business. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the consumer.
My husband and I both very much like leather furniture, but he’s a telephone guy and I’m internet all day long. He might watch a video on his phone, but I might want to read. So everyone is different, even though we’d both be an ideal target for someone that sells leather furniture.
I see people having more than one call to action, as in, “call us for an appointment!” and then also saying “click on this link to read this blog post!” I get why it’s tempting, but it cannibalizes your efforts. The confused buyer buys nothing.
I don’t mean, choose between option A, and option B, which is a little more expensive and has more features. Because that’s a great strategy.
I mean, option A is buy something, and option B is go learn something different over here. You’re watering down your marketing. I was on a Delta flight recently, and my husband works with a garage storage franchise. I saw an ad for them in a magazine. I think it was meant to get you excited about having garage storage in your home. It should’ve had a call to action for you to get an estimate, which I think it did. But it also had information about becoming a dealer, but with no other information in it.
I couldn’t help but think, how much money did they spend on this? They asked their marketing to do too much in one ad, and they assumed too much intelligence of their prospects.
I write for a lot of doctors and attorneys that market to people with money. I write for folks that sell $12,000 or $25,000 products. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the audience is, you need to assume that Homer Simpson is reading your copy. If he gets too confused, he’s going to go do something else. Maybe they haven’t had enough coffee, or are tired. It’s really important to be as clear as day, and brain-dead simple
So if you’re writing for the general market, you need to be writing at that level. If you get into big words and start writing academically, it’ll go right over everyone’s heads. If people get confused, they’re not going to convert, no matter what.
Your Homer Simpson analogy probably isn’t far off base. That is crucial. It’s a mistake when people start writing and they want to sound smart. You want to impress and sound like you know what you’re talking about. But when it comes to selling, that level can only hurt your results because comprehension drops.
I think it’s in Microsoft Word, in the thesaurus, it will tell you what level your sales letter is written at.
It will go through and analyze based on word choice and sentence lengths and some other factors and it’ll say, this document reads at this level and you can go in and adjust accordingly.
Again, for someone sitting here saying I sell to academics and everyone has a Master’s Degree in English, then sure, write at a higher level.
Otherwise, you need to write at the general market’s level.
We’re almost out of time here, so I just have one more question for you. What are some little things that you think people could be doing better?
They really are little things. If you’re writing to a very educated market, you can write at a higher level. Agree. But I write for doctors and attorneys, and a lot of times, they feel like they need to be grammatically perfect. I’m not going to say you need to have bad grammar, but great emotionally-driven direct response marketing, you should write like you speak. And when you speak, your grammar isn’t like you’re writing an English paper.
You’re writing a letter to someone. All of your writing is like a letter. Like there’s one person reading it. Loosen up a bit, have some personality, get comfortable. A lot of times, you should infuse a little bit of your best friend or someone you’re comfortable with into your target market so that you loosen up and are a human. People buy from people that they know, like, and trust.
When people hear that they need to write with personality, they wonder, how much should I reveal? I think the trick is to be a normal person. Not stiff and strange, because people don’t respond. If you’re trying hard to sound smart, that’s not what I need from my doctor or my accountant. I want to know that they know how to help me, but I respond to humans.
Do I have time for one more? Let’s talk about cosmetics. Not all words are created equal in a headline.
You know how people start out, they go to write a landing page. They know the headline needs to be bigger and important. So they’ll do all caps, or initial caps. But not all words are created equal in a headline, or in a paragraph. If you can keep that dual readership path in mind, or have really refined long headlines that still cater to the skimmer, it really works. The key is that your headlines job is to get their attention and to get them to read on.
If your little bit of cosmetic enhancement gets them to read the whole headline, which gets them to read the first sentence, you’re in the game. If you can’t do that, you’re dead in the water. If you can bottle the main benefit in that headline, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. One more thing I want to bring up here, for everyone that’s listening and thinking, long copy will never work for my market. If you don’t think that direct response marketing will work for you, you’re probably wrong.
Any time I’ve ever tested it, it always performs well. I’ve yet to find a market that doesn’t respond to well done direct response marketing.
I’ve had hysterical conversations about this. I remember one day I was in the UK doing a two day event. I did my section on copywriting and sales copy and direct response, and it was so funny because afterwards a couple british guys came up to me, and said, long copy isn’t going to work for people over here. It won’t work on us.
So I said, tell me something here. You’re at my event, here. And they said, yeah. So I said, where did you hear about my event? And they said, well, you sent me an email. So I said, great, and where did that email go to?
They said, it went to a website that told you about the event. And what was on that website? It was a long sales letter.
Case in point! I said, have you purchased other things from me? They said yes. They were all long form sales letters.
People will argue against it time and time again. I would never read that. It won’t work for my market. But while they’re saying that, they’re out there on websites buying stuff that use these methods!
So I know there’s been a shift in many cases to what appears to be short copy. In lots of cases, short copy is completely appropriate. But in many cases just as well, short copy isn’t actually short copy in the sense that it’s still long copy but it’s broken up over a series of pages or a length of time. Within that, there’s still a long form sales letter.
This is important. YOu need to understand that. You need at least the foundations and the fundamentals.
Julie, where can people find more about you?
Just to piggyback on what you just said: one of the most important lessons I ever learned from Bill Glazer was never underestimate the difficulty of the sale. It’s oftentimes a lot harder than you think. You might have short copy out there that performs alright, but you might be able to capture way more sales if you just told more.
So we talked about headlines. I would love to offer your listeners a resource that will help them create headlines. My business partner and I just created a thirty second headline generator which is really, really cool. It asks you six questions, and you can create a great headline in thirty seconds. It’s a great place to start, and it’s always getting started that’s the hardest part.
You can find that at AskACopyExpert.com/Generate.
Fantastic. Alright everyone, that was copywriter and direct response marketer Julie Boswell. Everything we talked about will be included in our show notes along with our transcription of this episode–that’s up on ProjectIgnite.com/podcast. If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe on iTunes–just look up Project Ignite, Derek Gehl, or Internet Marketing and I’ll show up! If you’re an Android user, just get us on Soundcloud!
Also, if you like what you hear–leave a review, tell us what you think! I love to hear what you think. Your feedback is what gives me the momentum and motivation to keep creating this podcast for you.
Now it’s time to take the tips, tools, and strategies that we’ve learned today, and apply the final essential ingredient to make this all work for you: that ingredient is action. Take your notes, one of your sales pages, and apply a strategy we discussed here today. Start split testing, start using it! Go forth, take action, and stay tuned for more info-packed episodes of the Project Ignite podcast–a podcast designed to make this whole internet business thing easier so you can make more money.
This is your host, Derek Gehl, signing off.