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Quick copy critique cases

Here are two short copy critique transcripts taken from questions I've answered over the years. Of course, my Power Prescription™ critique consultations are much longer than these, but at least you get a bit of a flavor of the type of answers I give (and maybe learn a thing or two).

"I have had my site up for a few months and have just started selling a manual. Until now I have been attracting newsletter subscribers plus offering time management coaching. I have about a thousand subscribers, but the coaching has been slow. If possible, I would really appreciate some feedback so I can really gear up the marketing of the manual."
— Dr. Kevin Polk at TimeDoctor.com

Dr. Polk, to begin, the headline doesn't really grab me. "Introduction to 'A Jump-Start to Time Management for Busy Women'" doesn't really invoke, in my mind, the sensations of what the book would truly give me -- or in the very least the benefit in reading the web page further to find out. I noticed that you use bullets. Wonderful! But use emotions as much as possible as well as use some of the benefits that you feature in the headline itself. Here's an example.

First, start with a surheadline, in small font:

"Are you stressed out? Are you suffering from "time poverty"? Are you accomplishing much but without accomplishing much of anything? Well, now there's hope..."

Next, follow with the actual headline but in larger, bolder font -- and put it in quotation marks (in fact, quotation marks actually improve response):

"NEW Time and Life Enrichment Manual Exclusively Dedicated to Today's Busy Woman Gives You a No-Frills, Tip-Filled, Sensible Approach to Finding, Using, Maximizing, Investing, and Enjoying Your Most Precious Resource… Your TIME!"

Finally, add a subheadline, in small font again:

"Time enhancement expert Dr. Kevin Polk delivers life-impacting tips and strategies in an example-filled manual that can literally change the way you manage your time… GUARANTEED!"

(Actually, the guarantee here is also important, but I'll get to that a little later.)

Second, your copy: Sell a little harder and describe the book more. The Internet is a direct marketer's (and an impulsive shopper's) heaven. Thus, it should use the same mechanisms. For instance, use bulleted benefit lists, especially when following the words "you get" or "reasons why," like: "In this manual, you get" or "here are the reasons why you need this manual." Also, use post-scriptums ("P.S.'s," even "P.P.S's" at the end). They really work.

But the most important copy element that is proven to be effective is longer copy -- long copy always outsells short copy. For instance, provide some of the examples from the manual that you mentioned within the text as to tickle the reader. Interlace your copy judiciously with testimonials. Add real-life examples, such as: "My client, Deborah, came to me with what appeared to be extraordinary demands on her time. After reviewing her case, I told her to [do such and such], which you will find on page 99 of the manual," and so on.

Incidentally, associating chapter and page numbers when describing your book (especially when they follow a list of contents, chapters or topics) helps to give the reader a sense of what they will get with the book. (I often use this technique when I write sales letters for sell infoproducts or books.) In your case, you can use a second bulleted list, as follows (keep in mind that I have never read your manual and I'm purely guessing for the sake of example):

"In this manual, you will discover:

  • How to find time and discover the things that really matter
    (you'll find this in chapter 2, on page 56);

  • How to prioritize your time the right way
    (this is included in chapter 3, on page 86);

  • How to leverage your time through specific systems
    (read it in chapter 4, on page 101)..."

By the way, including the number of pages your manual contains is also a good point to make. You can use it within your text (without stating it directly), such as: "In this 254 page manual, you get time enhancing tools, examples, and worksheets that..." You get the picture.

In essence, people want to know exactly what they are getting. Unlike a bookstore where they can visually appreciate what they are buying, people do not see your book online. In fact, if you can add a scan of the manual's cover (similar to Amazon.com, for example), it will help immensely. In short, you want to "concretize" what people can not see.

People not only buy on emotional logic (as Zig Ziglar would say), but they are also visual -- especially on the Internet. Make your book tangible by using tangible benefits, features, and descriptions.

Third, your guarantee: Guarantees are powerful. As stated in the subheadline suggested earlier, you want to not only refer to your guarantee often but also include it on the same page and as a separate, emphasized block. You also want to do the same with the "free bonus" you offer. In fact, you should offer your free bonus in a "P.S." after your signature using a takeaway selling strategy (e.g., the bonus being a time-sensitive offer -- no pun intended :)

For example, here's how your separated, blocked guarantee could read (I've pasted some of the text from your site and refined it here as an illustration):


"HERE'S OUR MONEY BACK SATISFACTION PLEDGE: Test drive the manual absolutely risk-free for 180 days. If you're not fully satisfied for any reason, or if your manual does not dramatically improve the way you invest your time, simply return the book within 180 days and you'll get a full refund, no questions asked.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Kevin Polk

P.S.: As a busy woman, you know that sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) it is difficult to get your husband or boyfriend talking about the more meaningful side of your relationship. So, buy the booklet before July 15, 1999 and get, as a FREE special bonus (valued at $3.95) a copy of "How to Get Your Husband on Track," which is a humorous look at how wives can get their husbands talking about something more serious than sports…

But you must act quickly to receive this FREE bonus! Buy safely and securely using my convenient shopping cart (major credit cards accepted). I also accept checks and money orders. BUT if you order right now, there is a surprise bonus on the order page! So, check it out to see what's there.

P.P.S.: Time is indeed a rare commodity. But I also understand that, for some, it takes time to make time. This is why I give the most user-friendly and advantageous guarantee on the Internet with this type of book. I'm convinced that it will change your life. So you benefit from a FULL 180 DAYS to test drive this unique and life-impacting program... At your own pace!

And if you choose to return the manual for any reason, here's an extra BONUS: You get to keep the special bonus offer -- "How to Get Your Husband on Track" (a $3.95 value) -- absolutely FREE! It's yours to keep, no matter what! So, don't wait. Click here [link to your order page] now and let's get you started on a more profound, more enriching, and more satisfying path to time enhancement. In essence, you've got nothing to lose... But time!"


Nevertheless, that's all I can offer right now. Good luck!

"We would be extremely grateful if you would spare a moment and cast your educated eye over our website. We need some real criticism as to how we can improve it. My husband is the webmaster and has us ranked number one with the major search engines (at least in the top 20 the last time we did a position analysis). We have had a reasonable response but not the sales as expected -- even here in New Zealand. All we would like is someone to pinpoint where we are going wrong, someone to steer us in the right direction. My husband keeps saying that its down to the copywriting. We have had several marketing so-called gurus look at the site but all they can say is excellent site, fast loading, well ranked, can improve slightly in the coding, and that's been it."
— Janice Riley of Millennium Collectibles

Janice, you're welcome to some of the following suggestions (although they are only an iceberg's tip of what you can do to enhance your sales). There are two major things that immediately struck me upon entering your site:

1) Your domain name and 2) your copy.

1) Domain name

Your domain name must tell people exactly who you are, what you do and how different you are from the rest. It is no longer important to "be the best." In an overcommunicated society, people now have very short attention spans -- on the Internet, it's even worse. Your ultimate goal is to "be different." What's your most marketable competitive edge? What's your unique selling proposition? Most important, what's your main customer-focused benefit?

The domain name "2000nz.com" does not tell me in any way what you are all about, what you are selling and how different you are. You see, it's important to distinguish your website through the most important element of a good, effective, and salable sales-oriented website -- your domain name.

Are you looking to invest money in stocks? Would you choose "mgf2000.com" or "stock-tips.com"? How about "smith-brokers.com" or "wealthwise.com"? In short, your domain name must drive traffic to your site on its very own.

Again, because of people's very limited time and attention span (along with the panoply of competitors fiercely fighting for your market's attention let alone buying power), many of them would love to skip a search engine by guessing your URL and typing it into their browsers, hoping it will bring them to your site. If your site is exactly what they want, then your domain name will thus bring targeted, pre-qualified customers to your site without effort.

Moreover, if they do have to search for your site on the search engines, their attempts would be vastly more efficient if your domain name communicates your site's key benefit if not the nature of your business. You may be the first on search engines as you mentioned, but many sites are first according to some obscure keyword or words. How often will people enter "millennium," "2000," let alone "2000nz" into a search engine? Not often. And if they do, I would rather suspect that these people are not in the market for collectibles.

Domain names (or keywords in your domain name) get indexed first before any other part of a site. It is not necessary to use a domain name with a unique name -- people don't search for names anyway, particularly if they are unaware that you exist. They search for themes, ideas and topics. If your name communicates the essence of your site (and not your name), all the better. So, "2000-collectibles.com," "millenniumsouvenirs.com," "distinctgifts.com," "y2k-stuff.com," or "keepsakes.com" would be better names.

The simpler and the more memorable the URL, the better. "Art-U-Frame.com" sells lithographs. They recently bought the domain name "art.com" for $450,000 (US dollars). Was it a good investment? Well, almost immediately thereafter their traffic exploded and their sales went through the roof.

Likewise, your name must intrinsically reflect at least the nature of your site if not communicate what your site sells -- which brings me to my second point…

2) Copy

What are you selling? Remember that people don't buy products; they buy what products do for them. In your case, I was confused upon entering your site since you open with a page titled "A Bit About Us." Not good. Don't try to be too focused on you or on the features of your site. Be focused on the customer. Take this with an open mind: As a potential client, I really don't care who you are -- I care about me, myself, and I. I want something for me. What's in it for me? What does "2000nz.com" offer that benefits me specifically?

You sell collectibles. But it me took a while to find out (even though it's mentioned on your first page). In other words, your copy was not concise and straightforward. I want to see what you offer right from the start (or at least visualize it). And a mere two pages to find out what you sell may seem, to you, like little. But to the click-happy client, it's a whole lot. It would easily make a person click out of your site as fast as they clicked into it.

First, in an attempt to keep this response brief, here are three elements:

a) The headline

"Millennium Merchandise and Year 2000 Collectibles" means nothing. I know that you sell collectibles. But aren't there hundreds even thousands of other sites selling collectibles too? So, why would I buy yours specifically? You say: "Look no further for that unique gift the one that family, friends or clients will treasure well into the next century." Everybody says that (in my mind). Therefore, your headline must communicate fast and grab their attention.

Your headline should (in a credible, tasteful and professional way) provide visual descriptions, customer-focused benefits and "active-in-the-mind" words. For help specifically with headlines, see my article "The Importance of the Ad for the Ad!" at http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article9.htm.

Here's an example. First, start with a surheadline, in small font:

"Looking for that unique gift, the one that family, friends or clients will treasure well into the next century? Want that authentic and timeless momento that will give you, your home or your office a uniquely distinct appeal that will make others envy you with jealousy? Then look no further!"

Next, follow with the actual headline but in larger, bolder font -- and put it in quotation marks (quotation marks actually improve response):

"Introducing authentic and stunningly beautiful Millennium Merchandise to help you bring in the new millennium... With DISTINCTION!"

Finally, add a subheadline, in small font again:

"We have brought together for you exclusively on this site a totally unique and limited edition collection of millennium merchandise and year 2000 collectibles -- you'll be happy with your keepsake... We GUARANTEE it!"

Actually, that's the second point…

b) The guarantee

Spell it out. Make it available on every page if possible. To the surfer, you are a nobody. You have no credibility and are unknown. Assure them that they're taking a risk-free chance to "try out" your collectibles. You'll be amazed at how your sales will increase and your returns will decrease by emphasizing your guarantee (http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article16.htm).

The next point is the most important…

c) The benefits

Lace your copy with benefits. Try to focus on your customer as much as possible. The site might appeal to you or your company. But you are already sold on you, right? You must sell your customer. With the use of bullets, you can list the benefits or potential uses for your gifts -- bullets are captivating, give the reader a visual "breather," and are clustered for greater impact (see my article at http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article17.htm).

Here's an example:

"With your Year 2000 collectible, you get:

  • The perfect gift for friends, family and coworkers for the holidays, especially this holiday season;

  • A unique way to remember this once in a lifetime event;

  • That perfect momento to please any passionate collector, from the amateur hobbyist to the discerning connoisseur..."

And so on.

In essence, you must tell her what makes you different, how will the products you sell will benefit her specifically and why she should not only buy from you but also why she must buy from you right now.

This brings me to the final point…

d) The offer

Use takeaway selling. Takeaway selling is the process of threatening to take away your offer in order to immune your clients from that dreaded disease called "procrastination." In other words, make the offer time-sensitive or quantity-bound. People don't know how much they want something until it's about to be taken away. Mold your offer in such a way that makes them need to buy it now. Create a sense of urgency -- with the year 2000 right around the corner, you're obviously in a perfect position to do that.

You can say: "With the year 2000 fast approaching, you will want to get these momentos quick!" Another is: "Our prices will soon go up for the last holiday season of the millenium since they will be in tremendous demand at that point in time, so act quickly and get them now if you want to take advantage of these low prices," or something along those lines. (As you can see, to remain professional it is better to give a justifiable and logical explanation for the time-sensitivity -- doing so will not make your haste appear phony.)

I think that's all I can offer for now. Keep in mind there's much more you can do. I invite you to read my articles and try to soak up as much as you can.

I wish you the very, very best!

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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