Inside My Copywriter’s Toolbox
UPDATED: June 2020
As a young boy, I remember my father was Mr. Fixit around the house. He could mend anything.
And his carpentry skills were not to be sniffed at. It was only years later I realized that, my family being short of cash one Christmas, he hand-built a huge doll’s house as a present for my sister.
(Confession: if I have any kind of DIY challenge around the house, I STILL call my old man for help)
And he has this big toolbox. A toolbox he guards with his life, often padlocked when he’s not around.
I can vividly remember on more than one occasion getting a whuppin’ because I took something from his toolbox and left it laying around the garage.
In my dad’s mind, I didn’t RESPECT his tools. (Which forestalled the day when I’d be able to openly use them.)
One of things that impressed me growing up was the level of organization of his toolbox.
“Every tool has its place.” I remember hearing on more than one occasion.
These days, I have a copywriting toolbox. And I am fanatical about it.
Though most of it resides in my head. Tools, strategies, and ideas I’ve picked up over the years.
Obviously, there are thousands of task-specific tools, but most of them can be filed into just a few main categories.
So here are mine…
The marketers I collaborate with are always eager to add to their knowledge base and appreciative of this mental filing system.
So today, let me open up and
give you a peek inside my toolbox:
Ways to better know your market, your prospect, your competition, etc.
You want to know who really “gets” research? The Scientology folks.
Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. But, whatever you think of L. Ron and his ‘religion’… they know their markets better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
In my book, their surveys are practically works of art.
What am I searching for when I research?
Lots of things, but there are three things I’m always looking for clarity on:
- What SECRET emotions are they wrestling with?
- What are their SECRET fears?
- What SECRET desires do they harbor?
These are things they won’t tell a soul.
Overall Knowledge of the Market:
Whenever possible, I want to be IN the market, participating in the give and take of information, commerce, etc.
I’m always learning what it’s like, through meetups, interviews, lively discussion at the local pub, even my wife when I’m looking for a female perspective.
For instance, I know this sounds paradoxical but did you know in the personal development market people DON’T want to be successful?
It’s true. I’ve tested this, time and time again.
The reason? Success sounds like too much work.
They just want the money or the fame or the fortune.
It’s distinctions like these in health and fitness, survival, weight loss and finance that give me an advantage.
Copywriting/Persuasion Strategy and Tactics:
There are zillions of ways to persuade people through your words and formatting.
It’s knowing what to use when that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?
Of course, words! Mark Twain was fond of saying:
My favorite tool in this part of my toolbox?
Rodale’s Synonym Finder. I use it everyday.
It’ll ratchet up your copy immediately.
Go ahead, grab it.
Learning to write compelling stories is such an important copywriting tactic, it deserves its own category.
There is a big difference between writing fiction, or biographical stories and using stories to help convince someone to buy your product.
Still, there are devices which can be imported, making your stories even more compelling.
My favorite book on the subject? Storytelling Made Easy by Michael Hague is a good one.
Clear, Compelling Writing Tactics:
I’m a perpetual student of writing regardless of the domain, whether it’s scriptwriting, comedy writing, poetry, journalism… even arcane writing such as medical writing.
My favorite is screenwriting.
The dialogue is so succinct, so concise, so pared down, every word counts.
James Cameron is a genius at this. Check out this scene-setting from the movie Aliens for an example:
FADE IN SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE - SPACE Silent and endless. The stars shine like the love of God...cold and remote. Against them drifts a tiny chip of technology. CLOSER SHOT It is the NARCISSUS, lifeboat of the ill-fated star-freighter Nostromo. Without interior or running lights it seems devoid of life. The PING of a RANGING RADAR grows louder, closer. A shadow engulfs the Narcissus. Searchlights flash on, playing over the tiny ship, as a MASSIVE DARK HULL descends toward it. INT. NARCISSUS Dark and dormant as a crypt. The searchlights stream in the dusty windows. Outside, massive metal forms can BE SEEN descending around the shuttle. Like the tolling of a bell, a BASSO PROFUNDO CLANG reverberates through the hull. CLOSE ON THE AIRLOCK DOOR Light glares as a cutting torch bursts through the metal. Sparks shower into the room. A second torch cuts through. They move with machine precision, cutting a rectangular path, converging. The torches meet. Cut off. The door falls inward REVEALING a bizarre multi-armed figure. A ROBOT WELDER.
Beautiful, ain’t it?
Ways to Build a Better Offer:
I’m always focused on creating an irresistible offer, turning it into an unconscious “impulse buy.”
Please understand, I’m NOT saying irresistible equates to free or even inexpensive.
For instance, today I just tested doubling the price of a weight loss program and I’ll be darned if it didn’t more than double conversions as well.
I believe creating an irresistible offer is an art in itself.
Your graphics design and packaging telegraphs a lot about your promotion, even before your prospect reads a word. You goals is to make every pixel count.
I’m no designer, but I am asked for my feedback on a lot of projects. You’d be amazed how just changing a couple of elements can have such a dramatic effect on conversions.
It’s been said a mediocre strategy will always trump great copy. And it’s true.
Your sales funnel, your email, followup sequence, your lead generations strategy are “big rock” tools which can leave your competitors scratching their heads in the dust, wondering what just hit them.
While there are a number of services promising to decipher/decode a strategy, the best ways to learn is to experience them yourself.
Go ahead and buy a ClickBnk product just for the sake of learning the psychology as you go through your competitor’s funnel. The money is well worth it.
Conversion Optimization Tactics:
There are simple things you can do that have gotten me as much as a 13X boot in results. That’s 1300%! Whether that’s optins, or leads, or sales or customers.
Again, this takes on going study, analysis and testing, but the rewards from just on going A/B split testing can be lucrative
You just have to keep driving the traffic, keep testing and things will work out.
Platform-Specific Strategies and Tactics:
Email tactics, PPC tactics, cold traffic tactics, ClickBank marketplace tactics. A copywriter who his unfamiliar with the platform he is writing for will have his lunch eaten time and time again.
Honestly, as a copywriter, you can spend 40 hours a week just keeping up to date with platforms like Facebook. It changes constantly. Adwords is the same.
These days, I’m spending more and more time write compelling articles that lead to video sales letters. These native ads on these platforms like Adblade and Taboola are tricky but they can be mastered.
Yes, of course I have my trade secrets.
Things I rarely share that give me, as a copywriter, a decisive advantage.
These things have made my Clients and I as much as $10 million a year from a single product launch.
(Keep checking in and paying attention to this blog and I’ll be revealing some of my secrets from time to time. You just never know when.)
Now that I’ve shared the major elements of my copywriter’s toolbox, here’s the big distinction:
I treat these categories as SKILLS to master.
Not just tools, or devices or things to be collected, every category has become a subject of ultimate Mastery.
Now, I’m not saying I AM A MASTER of these skills, what I am saying is my intent, my commitment is to master these areas.
Like the Zen koan, I’m always a student.
Yet, I bring what I know about these eight categories to every project I’m involved in. No matter how big or how small.
So go ahead, open up evernote and start creating some notebooks and collecting ideas, strategies, swipes, whatever.
Of course, I’ll be sharing my experience too in these pages. So y’all come back now, you hear?
PS: Feel free to borrow any of my tools. You don’t even have to worry about putting them back. 😉