Why Copywriting is Awesome

The true form of writing. Credit: Kartikay Sahay

This is for those who want to be an entrepreneur someday. Or those who would love to learn how to read minds.

Okay… not like how Professor Xavier could, but in the most humanely possible way.

I mean think about it. If you owned a business, or provided a product or service to people. To customers. To clients. Or even to Toddlers. Wouldn’t it be just downright more-cool-than-moving-the-sun-with-the-power-of-your-mind if you could fully understand them. To know their wants? Their needs? Their habits? Armed with this information, wouldn’t it be just more possible you could be of better service to them (read: make more money)?

Alright I lied. It wouldn’t be cooler than moving the sun with the power of your mind…. But it would be pretty cool, when your customers go “It’s like you read my mind! This guy completely knows me”.

I mean a few percent of them may be creeped out by your new found super powers. However the rest of them will probably think what is reasonable to think. You get them. You probably are a bit like them. You know what this leads to…

They eventually start to trust you

Trust builds relationships…. Relationships build trade… Trade builds wealth.

Okay what the heck is this mystical power I’m talking about? Don’t worry I’m not suggesting you go to your nearest witch doctor and learn black magic.

It’s simple. Learn how to copywrite.

Just what the fegizzle in the nizzle is copywriting Heasman? You asking me to be Don Draper huh? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I’VE ALREADY TRIE-….

While it is true that what the uber cool character Don Draper in the hit TV Show Mad Men does is copywriting, I’m not asking you to suddenly become a suave uber man who drinks whiskey and smokes cigarettes (you’re completely free to do so if you want to however).

However copywriting in the tv and poster advertising sense, is more….. an art form than a skill that can just be learned. I’m sure to be a successful Maddison Avenue copywriter takes years in the industry. I’m not asking you to do that.

The copywriting I’m talking about is the Direct Sales kind.

You know…. The kind of copywriting you find in those (sometimes sleezy) sales letters you get through the mail. Or the ones you find on the internet which are subtly persuading you to try or buy their service.

Simply put Copywriting is writing that convinces the reader to take an action.

Now… I know that sounds manipulative. And while there is some psychology involved, trust me it isn’t manipulative. Copywriting is a tool. And like all tools it is morally neutral. It has the power to build…. Or to destroy.

There are many people who use this tool to in a negative fashion. You see it on the internet when someone tries to sell you a really crap product, or convinces you that you actually had a weight problem, when you didn’t before.

Simple cheap and crap copywriting picks at the lowest hanging fruit. It exploits our common insecurities. However good copywriting. Awesome copywriting convinces you to buy their product to solve an itching problem, an itching need that has been on the back of your mind.

Which when you think about it… is very useful. Most products and services solve a problem. A client needs a website. A web designer comes in and solves his problem of not having a website, of not having a platform online in which they can communicate to the world. They solve this by building an effective website.

Or a person wishes they could carry their whole music collection around with them. They’re tired of burning cd’s which can only hold 20 tracks and logging them around in a case. Along comes the iPod. 10,000 songs in your pocket.

(By the way that last phrase is a form of copywriting. Notice how it addresses the problem? Notice how it elegantly states the solution as well. I mean if you’re a music aficionado, you’ll immediately get what this product is trying to solve. In fact soon enough the only question on your mind will be: How much?)

By now you can probably get what copywriting involves. It involves understanding your customer. However this isn’t the only step. It also involves communicating to your customer in a language they’ll understand. It involves holding their reading attention, and then throughout building demand. Then at the end delivering a call to action. A simple link, or number, or PO Box where the customer can place an order.

I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur for a while. I’ve wanted to build a product or service that would change the world, and have customers lining up outside the door in droves.

It’s common sense, (though I only actually realised this a few years ago), that the first step in doing this… is to come up with an idea. Yeah… I was pretty stupid for not realising this for a while. I only thought ideas were in the context of writing novels. Silly Heasman…

Anyway back to the matter at hand, I started to look at successful ideas. I slowly saw something in common. These products or services… solved a deep or pressing problem their customers had…. Or they did before they became mainstream (see Adoption of Innovation Curve). After they became mainstream people were just buying their products because everyone had them.

How, I asked myself, how do I workout what a pressing problem is? Well there were 2 options. Lookout out for serious problems in my life. Only problem with this is I’m kinda a weird guy… I’m not sure how many people out there have the same problems as me.

Or… I could learn how other people think. Why they do what they do. For example what problems does a 35 year old professional male have? Well one of which is not having enough time. Seriously after he’s come back from a hard day of work, all he wants to do is put his feet up and watch some TV to wind down. However the problem with this is….the stuff on TV he doesn’t want to watch. Why the heck is everything crap? Wouldn’t it be cool if he could just have the stuff he wants to watch recorded when it’s broadcast.

Along comes Tivo…. Or Netflix… or Sky on Demand… or whatever on Demand TV service you can think of.

So how exactly do you learn how people think? How?! Why learn to write Copy of course. Like anything in life, the best way to learn something is to read a little, and then practice. Practice some more. Practice like Muay Thai apprentices who kick a tree everyday from childhood. Eventually you’ll start to get it, and then… and then the world is yours.

So you want to learn more ay? Well the best (FREE) resource I’ve found are the Boron Letters. Gary Halbert was one of the most successful Direct Sales Copywriters of his time. In these letters he imparts his wisdom to his child. Do yourself a favour, print out all of them (on paper, yes REAL paper!). Read them in one sitting and write notes on the side. You won’t regret it.

To be a Freelance Copywriter or not to be?

So out of all the hair brained money making schemes my mind has come up with (I’ll tell you later how I wanted to teach people how to write sci-fi novels….when I hadn’t done it myself) I think I’ve found one that’s a bit realistic and doable.

I want to become a freelance copywriter. It’s the perfect job for a money making obsessed student like me. Plus freelance means I can have as much time as a Time Traveller….Okay maybe not.

But for people to hire my super talented self, I first need to have a portfolio of work. Seeing as its going to be hard work convincing people to pay a Physics student money to write some words, I’m going to have to initially make some stuff up. Then I can offer my services for free. And finally actually start getting paid for my work.

But what to make up?

Well there is a candidate.

I got this thing through the mail the other day.

[table id=1 /]

Being the curious geek who’s had digital priting experience, I was naturally intrigued. I also love Netflix, my only criticism being that for now, they don’t have the range of choice a Film buff like me needs. So I opened it up to read what they’re sales pitch would be.

I was horrified

Netflix Sales Letter

Netflix Sales Letter Top Zoomed in

Netflix Sales Letter Bottom Zoomed in

Hopefully you can read it from the images, and if you can’t don’t worry. All you need to get to understand my horror is the amount of times the word “FREE FREE FREE” is scattered around. Also the base of my horror, is just how many call to action’s there are.

The 1st Rule of Copywriting, there are no rules. The 2nd Rule of Copywriting, if there is a rule it’s ONLY HAVE ONE CALL TO ACTION!!! ONLY ONE YOU FOOL!!!

How the hell am I supposed to become interested in what you have to say if you initially are telling me what to do? I don’t like being told what to do. And you shouldn’t either.

Imagine your a single guy. You see a girl you like. You think you know what she wants and likes. You go up to her. However before you chat her up. You say, “here’s my number” and hand it over. Do you think that:

a.) She’s going to take it?

b.) And if in the offchance she does take it and doesn’t slap you down for being the creep you are…. She’s actually going to stay around and listen to what you have to say?

No. She won’t.

And neither would a potential customer if you go to him “BUY ME, BUY ME!!!” and don’t tell him why to first.

Close at the end. Just like you would with a girl. (…If your a guy. I can’t speak for women as …. I’m not a woman)

So, David Heasman, in a fit of anger and lack of anything else to do. Sat down and gave his potential copywriting skills an exercise. The exercise was to write what he believed would be better.

So here it is:

My draft of a Netflix Sales Letter


My plans from here:

  • Send a copy to the VP of Netflix
  • Write a more interesting, more funny version of it
  • Make this the first item in my portfolio

Stay Tuned!