There’s an ancient Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times”. As much a curse as anything.
And it seems the curse is upon us because as I predicted well over a year ago, the economy this side of the Pond is going well and truly belly up.
Don’t you find find at times like this it polarises people? You know, get to see some at their very best, and some at their very worst.
I’ve been fortunate enough over the years to surround myself with a small but loyal circle of friends and clients and I’m doubly fortunate now in seeing only the best in them.
Some of the “horror stories” I’ve heard from clients who have been dumped on from great heights by liars, cheats and charlatans who see their questionable businesses going down the pan as reality bites are almost enough to scare me into getting a “proper job” (as my ex is wont to say).
But there’s another strange behaviour this polarisation brings out:
At the risk of sounding once more like a cracked record, I’ll share something with you about the “Success Peddlers”. Many of
them are having real problems… but SOME are doing better than ever.
Because right now many people are more afraid and insecure than ever, and it’s easy for the unscrupulous to sell to their hopes, fears and insecurities.
Just this last week I’ve had a couple of similar email conversations with prospective clients from Elance seeking to
hire me to write their sales letters, in the hopes of resurrecting their flagging businesses.
How many times do I need to say this?
Copy IS NOT the answer
All other things being equal good copy outperforms bad copy, and a good copywriter on balance gets better results than a bad one.
But all other things are almost NEVER equal! Anyone who claims differently is either deluding himself or lying to you. I saw another one of those copywriters’ websites the other day where he claims to be able to “compel” your customers to buy with his copy.
Come on, people.
This is just nonsense.
If he could do that, why is he selling his copywriting services instead of umpty-gazillion dollar yachts to the rich and famous?
Copy can be “compelling” but it cannot “compel”, not in the way these words are generally understood. Copy cannot “convince”, either.
I don’t think it can even persuade
Influence? I reckon. Perhaps.
Let’s see some real science on it, shall we?
And absent all that, the BEST we can reasonably assume it can do is give your reader the information they need to make their own minds up to do something they’re already predisposed to do! This is basically Halbert’s “starving crowd”. You don’t need to compel, convince or persuade a starving man or woman to eat!
I know a guy who sells $50 books with “crap” sales letters converting to his list at 25%. I say “crap” because by all the “rules” of copywriting his letters and emails are laughable from a traditional “compelling sales copy” perspective.
BUT, by definition, they’re GOOD because they bring home the bacon. I’m certain he could improve the copy and get an even bigger response, but it would by be a few percentage points, and let’s face it: who’d care too much about improving a 25% conversion rate?
And why does he convert at 25%?
Because of his reputation for unstinting honesty and integrity in the very murky world of diet and exercise. His audience might not want to hear what he has to say, but they NEED to hear it and they respect and like him for telling it the way it is. Pretty much like I try to do in my own way, I guess.
The sales letters I write for Sarah convert at anything from 16% to 47%. Again, because of the relationship she has with her list and not because the letters are anything special (they don’t have to be).
The only way “copy” can save your business is if you use it to develop lasting relationships with your clients and prospects, and serve them to build liking and trust.
And no bones about it: this takes time and effort. It means sitting down to write to them — newsletters, blogs, articles, emails, personal notes.
I repeat: it takes time and it takes effort.
And it takes genuine warmth, writing in a friendly and conversational tone not the kind of “professional” crap you get churned out by most businesses (who when they write to you do so only to ask you to buy something off them).
But of course, if you want the EASY way out, there’s an unending list of “gurus” who’ll divest you of your money in return for smoke, mirrors, and snake oil.
Good luck with that