The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook by Joe Sugarman

Here are my highlights from The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook by Joe Sugarman. This is my personal favorite book about copywriting. Sugarman is a master storyteller and shares a ton of useful information in a very accessible and engaging way.


Babe Ruth is remembered for his home run record and not for the fact that he also held the record for the most strikeouts.

You should always first express whatever product or service you are selling in a print direct response ad. It is in this format that you can develop the real essence of your product or service.

The best copywriters in the world are those who are curious about life, read a great deal, have many hobbies, like to travel, have a variety of interests, often master many skills, get bored and then look for other skills to master.

a tremendous curiosity about life, a wealth of experiences and not being afraid to work are the top credentials for being a good copywriter.

Lose enough and eventually you will win—

“A mistake is a future benefit, the full value of which is yet to be realized.”

There is nothing really new in life. It’s simply a matter of taking previous pieces of knowledge and putting them together in a unique and different format.

I might draw three totally unrelated words, farm, salesman and compassion and have to create an ad incorporating those three words. This process would cause me to search my brain, my data bank, and all my past experiences for some way to relate the three words while keeping in mind that I had to sell the airplane.

one of the most important keys in copywriting and

conceptualizing is the ability to relate totally divergent concepts to create a new concept.

The story told of how the watch was made possible thanks to a laser beam and how its new technology benefited the consumer.

Note - New Technology Required Powerful Presentation > Page 16 · Location 706

Joe doesn't write an ad. He tells a story.

Remember, I’m a pilot, ham radio operator and photographer. I already had not only vast knowledge of the gadgets I would sell in my business, but knowledge of my customer, as well.

the product has a nature of its own and it’s up to you to discover what the nature of that product is in the mind of the consumer.

Every product has a nature to it that you must understand to be successful when creating a marketing concept behind that product.

I knew that to scare people into buying a burglar alarm was like Howard coming into my basement and saying, “Joe, when you die, are you going to leave your wife and kids in financial disaster?” That would never sell me insurance.

Never did I try to scare the prospective customer with crime statistics.

All I did was realize the nature of the product I was selling, bring out the points in the product that were important to the consumer and then wait until the consumer saw the ad enough times or was threatened close enough to home before he or she bought.

Realize how important it is to know your product and know your customer. It is this specific knowledge that will make a dramatic difference in your ability to communicate your thoughts in copy.

Copywriting is simply a written form of communicating facts and emotions.

Axiom 1 Copywriting is a mental process the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service.

Headline: To get your attention and draw you to the subheadline. 2. Subheadline: To give you more information and further explain the attention-getting headline. 3. Photo or Drawing: To get your attention and to illustrate the product more fully. 4. Caption: To describe the photo or drawing. This is an important element and one that is often read.

Copy: To convey the main selling message for your product or service. 6. Paragraph Headings: To break up the copy into chunks, thereby making the copy look less imposing. 7. Logo: To display the name of the company selling the product. 8. Price: To let the reader know what the product or service costs. The price could be in large type or could be buried in the copy. 9. Response Device: To give the reader a way to respond to the ad, by using the coupon, toll-free number or ordering information, usually near the end of the ad. 10. Overall Layout: To provide the overall appearance for the ad, by using effective graphic design for the other elements.

Axiom 2 All the elements in an advertisement are primarily designed to do one thing and one thing only: get you to read the first sentence of the copy.

if the first sentence is so important, what can you do to make it so compelling to read, so simple, and so interesting that your readers—every one of them—will read it in its entirety? The answer: Make it short.

Many magazines use a variation of this technique in their articles. They start an article not with a very short sentence but maybe with very large type.

So your first sentence should be very compelling by virtue of its short length and ease of reading. No long multisyllabic words. Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.

“The purpose of the first sentence is to get you to read the second sentence.”

The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence.

remember that the sole purpose of all the elements of an ad is to get you to read the first sentence. Make that first sentence so easy to read that your reader is almost compelled to read it. If you grasp this, you’ve got an awfully good start and a great understanding of copywriting and the persuasive process.

we are trying to accomplish in the first paragraphs of an advertisement and that is to create a buying environment.

“Which is the best location?” is simply “in the best selling environment for what you have to sell.”

Your copy has to put the prospect into a relaxed buying environment.

Your ad layout and the first few paragraphs of your ad must create the buying environment most conducive to the sale of your product or service.

The first thing you do in selling is to set up the selling environment. Whether it be a private room in a gallery or a car dealer’s showroom, you configure the physical environment to be your selling environment.

Next, you have to get the attention of the prospect. That certainly makes sense and is related to the headline of a print ad.

Once you have the prospect’s attention, the next step is to introduce yourself and say something that will keep the attention of the prospect. This is similar to the subheadline and the photos and captions. Then comes the sales pitch or the copy in a print ad.

the seller has two thoughts in mind. The first is that the buyer must like and develop confidence in the seller. The buyer must believe that the seller knows the product. Second, the seller must somehow relate the product to the buyer and the buyer’s needs.

First, you’ve got to get the prospective reader to start saying yes. Second, you’ve got to make statements that are both honest and believable. Let’s cite an example. A car salesman says, “Nice day, Mr. Jones.” Mr. Jones then answers, “Yes.” (It is a nice day, the statement is truthful and the customer answers in the affirmative.) “I see, Mr. Jones, that you keep your car very clean.” “Yes, I do.” (At this point, the salesman has Mr. Jones saying yes and nodding his head.)

Make sure that the prospect does not disagree with something you’re saying. If for example the salesman said, “Could you use a new Buick?” and the customer said “No,” the sale would have taken a bad turn right there and the harmony would have been lost. In a print ad, the reader would have stopped reading and turned the page.

The moment you get the reader to say “No” or even “I really don’t believe what he is saying” or “I don’t think that relates to me,” you’ve lost the reader.

The sentences were both interesting and true and caused the reader to start nodding his or her head.

now we have three things we are trying to do at the beginning of an ad. First we want the reader to read the copy. Remember, that’s the objective of all copy. Without the prospect reading the ad, you have nothing. Then we create the type of environment through copy that causes the prospect to feel comfortable in exchanging his or her hard-earned money for your product or service. And finally, we want the prospect to harmonize with us—to agree with us—by feeling that indeed we are saying something that is truthful, interesting and informative and that the prospect can agree with. In short, we want agreement. We want that head to nod in the affirmative. We want harmony.

Axiom 5 Get the reader to say yes and harmonize with your accurate and truthful statements while reading your copy.

Every element must be so compelling that you find yourself falling down a slippery slide unable to stop until you reach the end.

We also compared the selling process in print to what a live and in-person salesperson does. You learned that ideally, as your reader starts reading your copy, you get the reader to start nodding in agreement with everything you say.

As you start to slide down and build momentum, you try holding on to the sides to stop, but you can’t stop. You continue to slide down the slide despite all your efforts to prevent your descent. This is the way your copy must flow. Every element in an advertisement must cause that slippery slide effect.

The use of an interesting article or bit of information, when tied into your product or service, often makes for a good start to the slippery slide.

I can point to hundreds of assumed constraint examples that I personally experienced.

You never really know what will work or what won’t. If you believe in your idea, do it. Step out of those assumed constraints.

Axiom 7 When trying to solve problems, don’t assume constraints that aren’t really there.

At the end of a paragraph, I will often put a very short sentence that offers some reason for the reader to read the next paragraph. I use sentences such as: But there’s more.

Seeds of curiosity can be used at the beginning of an ad where you mention some benefit or payoff that you are going to reveal somewhere in your copy.

Axiom 8 Keep the copy interesting and the reader interested through the power of curiosity.

This chapter is about emotion in advertising. And there are just three points to remember about the subject. Emotion Principle 1: Every word has an emotion associated with it and tells a story. Emotion Principle 2: Every good ad is an emotional outpouring of words, feelings and impressions. Emotion Principle 3: You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.

And as you write copy, keep this in mind. It makes absolutely no difference what your first draft looks like. If you can get all your feelings and emotions about the subject out on paper and work from there, you will have mastered a very important technique.

Axiom 9 Never sell a product or service. Always sell a concept.

You sell the sizzle and not the steak—the concept and not the product.

Concepts started selling watches; the product was no longer the concept.

Axiom 10 The incubation process is the power of your subconscious mind to use all your knowledge and experiences to solve a specific problem, and its efficiency is dictated by time, creative orientation, environment and ego.

Unusual Item: The more unusual the product, the more you need to relate that product to the user and the more you’ve got to focus on creating the buying environment and explaining the product’s new features.

Axiom 11 Copy should be long enough to cause the reader to take the action you request.

As long as you use words like I, you and me, you create the feel of a personal form of communication.

A business-woman once commented that she could put her arms around Forbes and hug the magazine but would only feel comfortable shaking BusinessWeek’s hand. So it is with copywriting.

we must craft our ads in such a manner that they literally lead our prospect (by the flow of the copy) to ask the question we want to answer. Sounds hard, doesn’t it? It really isn’t.

Start by writing the headline. Will it grab the reader? Then write the subheadline. Will it compel the reader to read further? Then write the caption to go under an imaginary picture. Is all this strong enough to get people to read the first sentence? And then write the first sentence. Once you start using my thought process, you’ll find a discipline and a direction that you might not have experienced in writing copy before.

The flowchart for copy sequence goes in one direction—down.

When you work with copy long enough, the flow is automatic. You don’t need to do flowcharts, as you can instinctively sense the next question and answer it. And that is the special skill that a good direct response copywriter has over a one-on-one salesperson.

You still might find it helpful to create a block diagram of your ad after you’ve written it to see if it flows properly and raises the right question at the right time. How do you want to sequence your questions in your copy? What kind of environment do you want to weave through the early part of the text? What are some of the questions you would surely be asked about the product if you were a salesperson and you were selling the product face-to-face?

It’s the common sense you use to anticipate the sequence of what will be asked next and how your copy should flow that really counts at this stage of the copywriting process.

Axiom 13 The ideas presented in your copy should flow in a logical fashion, anticipating your prospect’s questions and answering them as if the questions were asked face-to-face.

But there are some other tips I can give you that will help generate that concept you want to develop. First, state the problem. It might be as simple as “I want to sell this pinball game.” Then, once you have stated the problem, restate it in a different way: “I would like to introduce my prospect to the unique aspects of this pinball game.” Then restate it again: “I want to make the pinball machine

easy to buy and seem like fun.” It’s that last restatement

Another approach is called “patterning.” Simply pick an ad written by somebody you admire and whose product or service is similar to yours and use their ad as a pattern or style from which to write. If they use a long headline, make your headline long. If they use a lot of captions, then you create a number of captions.

Axiom 14 In the editing process, you refine your copy to express exactly what you want to express with the fewest words.

The words up to and including “that” can very often be eliminated. In this example, I could eliminate eight words.

The more you write, the less editing you have to do. The easier the flow out of your brain, the better you are at expressing the emotional feel of copy and the excitement that each word represents.

I do not believe in too many commas as they take up space.

Paragraph headings could introduce material in the paragraph that follows or they could have absolutely nothing to do with the copy underneath or the copy in the entire ad for that matter. Remember, they are designed to break up the copy and make it look less intimidating.

your paragraph headings could say anything.

The primary purpose of paragraph headings is to get the reader to read the copy by making the copy look less intimidating.

You should sell a simple product that is clearly understood by the consumer in a more complicated way and a more complicated product in a very simple way.

New Features: Highlight those features that make your product or

Technical Explanation: Regardless of the product or service, each ad can be enhanced with a technical explanation. We all like to buy something from an expert—somebody we like, respect and trust. Buying is indeed a process of trust. The buyer’s thought process might be, “I trust that you really know your subject and fully understand the product category and have described your product to me properly and will give me something of value that I want in return for my hard-earned money.”

Providing a technical explanation that the reader may not understand shows that we really did our research and if we say it’s good, it must be good.

In many of my ads, catalogs, direct mailings and infomercials I convey thorough knowledge not only of what I am selling but of the entire universe of products available.

A good example of anticipating objections is in that ad we saw earlier in Chapter 16 for that expensive electronic pinball game from Bally Manufacturing. The average consumer would raise the question about service. We resolved it in our ad.

raise the question about installation yourself and not hide from the facts.

Just as you have to recognize objections, it is your opportunity and duty to resolve the objections, too. You must be honest and provide alternative solutions or dispel the objections completely.

In copy you must mention all the physical facts about a product or you risk reducing your response. I’m talking about weight, dimensions, size, limits, speed, and the like. Sometimes you might think that a certain dimension isn’t really important or the weight may not be necessary. But it’s not true. Give readers any excuse not to buy and they won’t buy.

List the physical dimensions even in cases where you think they are not that important.

With mail order items, you must offer a trial period for any product that the consumer cannot touch or feel at the time of purchase.

The only time you can make an exception to this rule is when the value is so strong and the product so familiar that the consumer is willing to take the risk. If I were selling a box of 24 rolls of toilet paper at a bargain price delivered to your home and it was a brand that you already used, then you wouldn’t need a trial period.

Price Comparison: Whenever possible, offering a price comparison to another product establishes value in the mind of the purchaser. This points out one of the really important considerations that motivate consumers to buy—namely that they are getting real value.

Testimonials: A testimonial is a good way to add credibility

You can also use what I call a “reverse testimonial.” That is where you don’t use a spokesperson but you refer to your competitor’s. For example, when I was selling the Olympus micro recorder, I stated the following: Headline: Endorsement Battle Subheadline: A famous golf star endorses the Lanier. Our unit is endorsed by our president. You’ll save $ 100 as a result. Copy: Judge for yourself. That new Olympus micro recorder shown above sells for $ 150. Its closest competition is a $ 250 recorder called the Lanier endorsed by a famous golf star.

Price: Another important copy point to consider is the price. Should the price be obvious? Should it be set in large type? Small? These are important considerations and must be examined.

Ease of Ordering: Make it easy to order.

Ask for the Order: Always ask for the order near the end of your ad. This is often forgotten by many copywriters. At the end of an ad, I state the following or something similar: “I urge you to buy this at no obligation, today.”

The 31 psychological triggers are probably going to be the most interesting of the 64 points you want to consider when writing a direct response print ad or any kind of selling message.

1. Feeling of Involvement or Ownership

In all my ads I try to make the prospects imagine they are holding or using my product. For example, in one of my earlier calculator ads, I might have said, “Hold the Litronix 2000 in your hand. See how easily the keys snap to the touch. See how small and how light the unit is.” I create through imagination the reader’s experience of turning the knobs.

In short, I take the mind on a mental journey to capture the involvement of the reader.

The ad that I wrote had several misspelled words. If you found the misspelled words, circled them and sent the ad with the misspelled words circled, you would get $ 2 off the price of the computer for each misspelled word you circled.

My concept was simple. If you didn’t find all the misspelled words, you paid more for the computer, but then again, the computer was worth more to you than to somebody who found all the mistakes.

3. Integrity

Show good integrity and your advertising message will be well received. Don’t show it and join the ranks of those who are rarely successful.

4. Credibility

6. Justify thePurchase

“Can I really justify this purchase?” Once again, it is a question that is raised and then must be resolved. If you don’t resolve it, then you won’t answer all the prospect’s questions and this will give the prospect the excuse to “think about it” and, of course, never buy.

resolve any objection by providing some justification to the purchaser. Sometimes it’s just saying, “You deserve it.” And other times you might have to justify it in terms of savings (the price is a one-time-only value), health reasons (protects your eyes), recognition (the men in your life will love the way you look in it) or dozens of other reasons based on the wants and needs of your prospect.

7. Greed

Greed in the form of attraction to bargains is a very strong motivating factor.

Don’t hesitate to recognize greed as a very strong factor in either low-priced merchandise or expensive products offered at low prices. Too low a price may diminish your credibility unless you justify the low price.

8. Establish Authority

There’s always something that you can say about your company to establish your authority, size, position or intention.

If you really examine your company, you will find something you can say that establishes your authority and expertise in what you are selling.

Sometimes it is easy to establish authority by virtue of the name of the company. American Symbolic Corporation was a company I set up once whose name sounded like it was a very big operation.

People Respect Authority

People naturally respect a knowledgeable authority.

Nobody Wants to Make a Mistake

Even after you buy something, you often seek confirmation that your purchase was a good one. The late direct marketing consultant Paul Bringe once wrote: “One of the first things we do after making a sizable purchase is to seek assurance from others that our decision was a good one.

a satisfaction conviction is more than a trial period. It basically conveys a message from you to your prospect that says, “Hey, I’m so convinced you will like this product that I’m going to do something for your benefit to prove how incredible my offer is.”

when I changed just the satisfaction conviction, the response rate doubled.

In one ad, I said, “If you don’t buy anything during your two-year subscription, I’ll refund the unused portion of your subscription.” In the second ad I stated, “But what if you never buy from us and your two-year membership expires? Fine. Send us just your membership card and we’ll fully refund your five dollars plus send you interest on your money.”

In the first ad, you see a basic, simple trial-period type offer. In the second version, however, you see an offer that goes well beyond the trial period and can be classified as a satisfaction conviction.

In the test, the response doubled even though the satisfaction conviction was at the very end of the ad.

10. Nature of Product

every product has its own unique personality, its own unique nature, and it’s up to you to figure it out.

What is the nature of a burglar alarm? It’s a serious product that should be easy to install, work when it is supposed to and provide protection to concerned homeowners.

common sense is all you need to understand and appreciate the nature of a product.

12. Current Fads

While these publicity stunts might seem a bit silly in retrospect, back then they were effective because they tied into a fad of the times.

14. Linking

Linking a Body Part


the most important thing you can do to turn a prospect into a customer is to make it incredibly easy for that prospect to commit to a purchase, regardless of how small that purchase may be. It is therefore imperative that the commitment be simple, small, and in line with the prospect’s needs.Once the commitment is made and the prospect becomes a customer, the playing field suddenly changes. There now exists a level of commitment and consistency, directed in your favor, to encourage future purchases.

Once a commitment is made, the tendency is to act consistently with that commitment. The customer nods his head.

Lessons from Bobby Darin

realize that often you must go with the established way of doing things in order to accomplish your goals. You’ve got to pattern yourself after what is working and then harmonize with the marketplace. Once you have an established reputation, it’s easier to try something different that you yourself want to do.

17. Desire to Belong

18. Desire to Collect

19. Curiosity

Instead, I enhanced curiosity by not showing the view. The only way you could look through them was to buy a pair. And buy the public did—almost 8 million pairs from a series of commercials that ran for six years.

20. Sense of Urgency

We used to run all our new product introductions with the phrase, “National Introductory Price.” This didn’t mean that much but it raised the possibility that the price was the introductory price and later might go up.

21. Fear

Fear of Crime

22. Instant


23. Exclusivity, Rarity or Uniqueness

24. Simplicity

You must keep your advertising copy simple. The positioning of your product must be simple. Your offer must be simple. In short, you want to keep your entire presentation as simple as possible while still getting across your message.

25. Human Relationships

If you look at all the elements of an advertisement as a series of tuning forks that must resonate with your reader, you’ve got a valuable picture of the dynamics that take place during the selling process.

Using humor in a light, inoffensive way will also develop a relationship with your prospect. The humor can relate a story in a folksy way as in my “Pet Plane” ad in Chapter 29 or it can bring out the “humanness” of the person marketing the product or service as I’ve done in my ad for the Magic Stat thermostat in Chapter 28.

Stories Have Lessons to Teach

The most interesting salespeople I know always have a story to tell. It is their way of relating to their customers and entertaining them as well. One in particular has a repertoire of hundreds of jokes—each targeted to his prospect, to the selling environment and what he has to sell. As you can imagine, he is very effective.

My most successful advertising campaigns all used stories as the basis for my presentation.

27. Mental Engagement

Any movie that is not predictable is more enjoyable.

What forces in our minds make us perceive one movie as a lot better than another? I have a theory that I strongly believe comes pretty close to the answer: The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion that it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.

The four brain parts discussed were those that control thought, intuition, sensation, and emotion.

The article suggested that advertising that pleasurably engages the senses, emotions, and thought process, as well as our innate intuition, will tend to be successful.

Working hard for a successful conclusion results in a great deal of personal satisfaction.

Anything that causes the mind to work hard to reach a conclusion creates a positive, enjoyable or stimulating effect on the brain. The opposite is true if the mind does not have to work because the conclusion is obvious.

Vague Descriptions Encourage Thinking

When Ernest Hemingway described beautiful women in his books, he was never very specific. He used general terms and let his readers imagine the women.

28. Guilt

29. Specificity

You Sound More like an Expert There’s one other benefit to being specific. By being specific you sound like you’re an expert on your product—you’ve really investigated it and are very knowledgeable. And, this too, builds trust and confidence.

30. Familiarity

The words familiar and familiarity have the word family in them. People feel most comfortable within their own family. They feel confident and trusting and allow themselves to be more vulnerable. So it is with anything people are familiar with. They trust a brand name, are more confident that they are buying the right product and are more inclined to do so.

Use Familiar Words

certain words that are more familiar to most people and to the human consciousness. For example, if you ask somebody to give you a number from 1 to 10 right off the top of their head, chances are the number 7 will be chosen more often than any other number—often dwarfing the next choice. Therefore, using the number 7 in a book title such as “The Seven Ways to Improve Your Relationships” or “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” is utilizing the most common and familiar integer of the first 10. You are therefore vibrating with the familiar and harmonizing with your reader.

Ask somebody for a color off the top of their head and the answer will be “red” the majority of the time.

Many books have been written on the effective use of words that really draw response. Books by David Ogilvy or John Caples are good ones to read. A list can be found in Appendix D. There are some powerful words such as sale or free. And then there are the not so obvious words—the ones that relate specifically to your product and which you, as a passionate devotee of your product, inherently already know.

When using the psychological trigger of hope, you must avoid the trap of making a specific claim that can be measured or guaranteed. You want to allude to what the product is used for without making any promises of an exact outcome.

Always sell the cure and avoid selling prevention.

It is human nature to think you’re never going to get the disease or affliction that the preventive can prevent, becomes a very tough sell.

The second: If you do get the disease or affliction, you’re willing to pay a whole lot more for the cure than you were for the preventive and it’s easier to sell.

I would attract the person not quite threatened but concerned—a person to whom the product did not currently represent prevention or a cure. In short, it was for somebody who hadn’t been robbed and whose neighbor hadn’t been robbed, but who realized that there was a problem out there. This last group would save my ad, and when they needed it, they would take it out of their files—often after several months—and call. This actually did happen a lot.

Axiom 15 Selling a cure is a lot easier than selling a preventive, unless the preventive is perceived as a cure or the curative aspects of the preventive are emphasized.

Seven Steps to Writing Great Copy

Step 1: Become an expert on the product or service you are planning to sell.

Step 2: Know your prospect. You might become an expert on your product or service but if you don’t know your customer, you’re at a big disadvantage.

Step 3: Write your headline and subheadline. They must grab the reader and create enough curiosity to cause the reader to get to the first sentence.

Step 4: Write the copy. Don’t worry about sentence structure, grammar, punctuation—just start writing and keep writing. Let all your ideas and thoughts flow

Step 5: Edit your copy.

Step 6: Incubate. Stop editing, put the text aside and take a walk or do something pleasurable.

Step 7: Take a final look at your copy. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’re going to catch and how much more refined you will be able to make the copy with this final look.

Section Three: Proving the Points—Ad Examples

Here Karbo is establishing trust with his readers. His honesty is almost disarming. He tells you up front that he has something he wants to sell you for 10 dollars that costs him only 50 cents. He’s also building curiosity. He’s using basic and simple statements, and the copy has you slowly slipping down his slippery slide right to the next paragraph.

Note that he is sending “material” and not just a book. “Material” makes the program appear much more valuable—more like a course as opposed to a book. It has much more sizzle than just saying “book.”

One year later when we advertised in many national magazines, we noticed that Karbo’s copy was expanding to include testimonials and more examples to cover the broad market he was trying to reach. The ads became more wordy with each passing year.

“Your ad is great. I only have a few changes to suggest but they are minor. Your big problem is the headline.” I suggested “Fluke of Nature” instead of “A Stroke of Luck from Mother Nature”—the one he had written. I suggested the subheadline: “A new grapefruit discovery may change your concept of fruit.”

I’m a farmer. And the story I tell you is the absolute truth, as incredible as it may seem.

This is a classic opening for an ad.

Remember we talked about how each word has an emotion and a story attached to it? What does the word farmer bring to mind? How about honesty, hard work and integrity? Simply by stating that he is a farmer, he has established a degree of credibility right from the start of the ad. And then look at the curiosity he creates right away in the second sentence. How could you not continue?

And they all go out with their picking rings, spend the day gathering only the prettiest and juiciest grapefruit, and then return with their harvest for shipping to just a few of their customers the next day. It is a beautiful example of the personal one-to-one selling technique that you want to capture in print, and Schultz has managed to do this in a very simple and masterful way.

notice that the subheadline did not give away the premise of the ad; you still don’t know what it is. In fact, it might sound like some men got together and made the wearing of lingerie possible. You just don’t know, so you keep reading.

There was one main problem with this ad, and unfortunately it came at the most critical part—at the end. The objection some prospects might raise is, “What if I’m not pleased with the $ 2 catalog or any of the merchandise?” Nothing was indicated about their return policy. And a nice hook could have been to allow customers to use their $ 2 investment in buying the catalog toward the purchase of their first order. Or even allowing them $ 10 toward their first order.

Tragically, Roy Raymond, Victoria

Secret’s founder, committed suicide in 1993 by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

A good copywriter can write to fit any market. His or her ads can sound very upscale for one client and then very downscale for the next.

As a guide, set the environment based on the price points you are selling your products for.

Let each product description sound like a personal conversation with the prospect. Say “I” or “me” or “my,” and talk as if you were a friendly person chatting with your prospect. Your conversation might sound something like, “I was walking down the street when I had this neat idea for my catalog.” Such rhetoric combines storytelling and the personal approach to advertisng, which I strongly recommend.

If something is important, give it more space.

Once you’ve made the sale, you should place something in the package you are shipping that offers something your new customer might also be interested in.

Use the word I and avoid the term we when referring to your associates. In fact, it is a lot better when referring to your company to talk about the staff as a team—for example, “My team of great engineers is available to help you.” Compare that to: “We at Acme Motors have the skill and knowledge to provide assistance to you.” And your letter becomes even more personal when it is signed by the sender.

Greed will play a role here. Your customers must feel that they are getting a bigger value than they believe possible. They must subconsciously think, “How can they do it?”

today many upsells try to encourage continuity sales (regular monthly shipments), and other times it might be coaching or a deluxe version of something.

After-Sale Opportunities If you thought that the upsell was the last opportunity to make that sale, think again. You now have a huge mailing list of those who have bought your product from your ads on TV, some with average orders and others spending into the hundreds of dollars.

A week before the publication date of a book, an author will create a web site in which he plugs his book and makes an offer to his opt-in list. He encourages his list to buy the book on its release date, so all the response comes in at once. Each prospect who buys the book on the very day it is released receives free goodies worth sometimes thousands of dollars. The free goodies often come from the author and the author’s friends.

This is where I find a lot of companies fail. They don’t describe the items in enough detail to make the prospect feel comfortable with their purchase. And I suspect dissatisfaction return rates would drop if they did. But you as a copywriter reading this handbook will know this and will provide more text in the description. Just mentioning color, size and texture won’t cut it. You need something more. Maybe talk about the type of leather, where it was made, how it was sewn, what features make it better than any other similar product. Include as much information about the item as possible. People don’t mind reading about something they are about to buy.

Appendix C: Summary of Axioms and Major Points

Summary of Axioms and Major Points The following lists summarize the axioms and major points of copywriting that have been presented throughout this book.

Axiom 1: Copywriting is a mental process the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service. (page 24)
Axiom 2: All the elements in an advertisement are primarily designed to do one thing and one thing only: get you to read the first sentence of the copy. (page 29)
Axiom 3: The sole purpose of the first sentence in an advertisement is to get you to read the second sentence. (page 33)
Axiom 4: Your ad layout and the first few paragraphs of your ad must create the buying environment most conducive to the sale of your product or service. (page 38)
Axiom 5: Get the reader to say yes and harmonize with your accurate and truthful statements while reading your copy. (page 44)
Axiom 6: Your readers should be so compelled to read your copy that they cannot stop reading until they read all of it as if sliding down a slippery slide. (page 49)
Axiom 7: When trying to solve problems, don’t assume constraints that aren’t really there. (page 58)
Axiom 8: Keep the copy interesting and the reader interested through the power of curiosity. (page 63)
Axiom 9: Never sell a product or service. Always sell a concept. (page 71)
Axiom 10: The incubation process is the power of your subconscious mind to use all your knowledge and experiences to solve a specific problem, and its efficiency is dictated by time, creative orientation, environment and ego. (page 80)
Axiom 11: Copy should be long enough to cause the reader to take the action you request. (page 85)
Axiom 12: Every communication should be a personal one, from the writer to the recipient, regardless of the medium used. (page 92)
Axiom 13: The ideas presented in your copy should flow in a logical fashion, anticipating your prospect’s questions and answering them as if the questions were asked face-to-face. (page 97)
Axiom 14: In the editing process, you refine your copy to express exactly what you want to express with the fewest words. (page 102)
Axiom 15: Selling a cure is a lot easier than selling a preventive, unless the preventive is perceived as a cure or the curative aspects of the preventive are emphasized. (page 197)