The Great and Mysterious Web 2.0 -- How can I apply Classic Copy Tactics to New-Fangled Stuff?

13 replies
Hi there,

I've been writing copy for about 4 years now, and I've done web copy, blogs, and (physical) mailers. I've never been particularly good at it, but it's something I do on the weekends just to mess around and meet new and interesting entrepreneurs. I've recently dived into direct response, and that may have been my biggest mistake ever.

This stuff is gold. These are the kinds of techniques I should have been using for the last four years for my mailers!

After realizing how flippin' fantastic direct response copy can be, I've been trying to put back the pieces of my shattered worldview -- looking at most sites now makes me wonder how these hipster minefields are even selling to anyone with their cute little taglines.

I'm coming to you, oh wise community, to help me answer a question that's been gnawing on my prefrontal for the last few weeks.

How do I take classic sales letter tactics and bring them into the world of web 2.0? Is there some kind of course that I should be taking apart from the books I've been reading? Am I doing something wrong?

The puzzle-pieces just don't seem to fit together. It's not about the length, necessarily. I just don't understand the architecture of how to inject that sales letter power into my clients' clean, modern web pages (and I'm not even sure if there IS a way).

Have any of you had experience in transferring these white-hot strategies into email newsletters, web pages, and landing pages? If so, do you have any recommendations (articles, personal advice, or courses?)

Thanks a ton for your help! I'm looking forward to some great advice.
#apply #classic #copy #great #mysterious #newfangled #stuff #tactics #web
  • Profile picture of the author JesseGilbert1
    lol. hipster minefields. I sent you an idea.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642314].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Copydog
    Go here and browse through the "Archives" section:

    MakepeaceTotalPackage.com

    Plus, one of the best books I've read on the subject
    is Ben Hunt's Convert!:

    Amazon.com: Convert!: Designing Web Sites to...Amazon.com: Convert!: Designing Web Sites to...
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642408].message }}
  • {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642409].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author penguoctopus
      I am now happily devouring Convert! Can't believe something like this slipped by me, even though I have nothing to do with the design of websites, the techniques in here really help me nail down how information architecture works for conversion. Thanks for this invaluable recommendation. Cheers.
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10643283].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author dmaster555
    If you focus less on the tactic itself and learn the purpose behind them, the understanding will allow you to apply the same tactics to any medium in a way that is appropriate.

    A good exercise also is writing google ads, which force you to write a persuasive message in very few words.

    Look at successful landing pages on a site like swiped.co and identify the elements that are used and practice applying them yourself.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642465].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by penguoctopus View Post

    The puzzle-pieces just don't seem to fit together. It's not about the length, necessarily. I just don't understand the architecture of how to inject that sales letter power into my clients' clean, modern web pages (and I'm not even sure if there IS a way).

    Have any of you had experience in transferring these white-hot strategies into email newsletters, web pages, and landing pages? If so, do you have any recommendations (articles, personal advice, or courses?)
    The experienced copywriters who frequent this discussion board use direct response writing techniques to write long form sales letters, video sales letters, presell pages, webinars, optin pages, email follow-ups, Facebook and Google ads, banner ads, and more.

    If you see yourself as some trailblazer bringing direct response to the "world of web 2.0" you're late to the party. Been happening for over 15 years.

    Articles, books, and courses are fine. But working with a copywriting coach is your best bet.

    Alex



    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642774].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author penguoctopus
    Oh there's absolutely NO way I see myself as a trail blazer. What I was looking for is like the replies above. If I wanted to be a trail blazer, I certainly wouldn't be asking about it.

    I just wanted to know how the best of the best use these seemingly "dated" techniques to create content for grid websites, where to put the text, etc.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10642937].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
      Originally Posted by penguoctopus View Post

      Oh there's absolutely NO way I see myself as a trail blazer. What I was looking for is like the replies above. If I wanted to be a trail blazer, I certainly wouldn't be asking about it.

      I just wanted to know how the best of the best use these seemingly "dated" techniques to create content for grid websites, where to put the text, etc.
      Hard to tell what a person wants when they try so hard to be cute.

      Copywriting 101: Don't be cute.

      Alex
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10643374].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author penguoctopus
        Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

        Hard to tell what a person wants when they try so hard to be cute.

        Copywriting 101: Don't be cute.

        Alex
        You're absolutely right about that. Good thing I'm not trying to sell anything here, simply asking a question.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10644420].message }}
        • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
          Originally Posted by penguoctopus View Post

          You're absolutely right about that. Good thing I'm not trying to sell anything here, simply asking a question.
          Clarity is clarity.

          If I have to wade through self-indulgent cuteness, it ain't worth the effort.

          Alex
          {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10644477].message }}
          • Profile picture of the author penguoctopus
            Originally Posted by Alex Cohen View Post

            Clarity is clarity.

            If I have to wade through self-indulgent cuteness, it ain't worth the effort.

            Alex
            Still here, I see. Fantastic.
            {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10645038].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author havplenty
    Originally Posted by penguoctopus View Post

    Hi there,

    How do I take classic sales letter tactics and bring them into the world of web 2.0? Is there some kind of course that I should be taking apart from the books I've been reading? Am I doing something wrong?

    The puzzle-pieces just don't seem to fit together. It's not about the length, necessarily. I just don't understand the architecture of how to inject that sales letter power into my clients' clean, modern web pages (and I'm not even sure if there IS a way).
    You are probably not going to believe me but there is no secret sauce. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or trying to sell you something.

    Writing for the web, radio, TV, billboards, mobile phones, no matter -- it's all writing and persuasion through writing has more less taken the same route.

    The classic formula for advertising goes along the lines of:

    A: Attention
    I: Interest
    D: Desire
    A: Action

    It all goes back to that. Want to sell something on a website or get someone to subscribe to a newsletter? You can't do it without first getting their attention. Heck, if you manage to get anyone to do anything without first getting their attention the you've stumbled into the world of miracles, my friend -- in which case you can forget copywriting and go into the religion business.

    But I digress.

    You see, there's a tendency to believe that as technology introduces more and more stuff into our lives then we automatically morph into some updated version of human being 1.0.

    That is not the case and I can prove it using the very first part of the "formula."

    Gary Bencivenga is a really, really, really good copywriter. In fact, many of the names mentioned as resources on this very thread worship at his keyboard.

    Anyway, Mr Bencivenga (who is now retired because he made so much money!) is famous for a direct mail package that led with the headline: "Lies, Lies, Lies."

    The headline was used to first get attention. Nothing else. Note that it didn't suggests or state a benefit. Gary Bencivenga wasn't trying to be cute with the headline. In fact, it wasn't even his creation.

    A man called Thomas De Quincey using a rhetorical device called an Epizeuxis uttered those words in 1821:


    “And, first, one word with respect to its bodily effects: for upon all that has been hitherto written on the subject of opium, whether by travellers in Turkey (who may plead their privilege of lying as an old immemorial right), or by professors of medicine, writing ex cathedra, -- I have but one emphatic criticism to pronounce -- Lies! lies! lies!”

    Back in 1821 the rhetorical device worked and it worked nearly 200 years later to stunning effect. It all starts with getting attention, no matter the medium.

    Note that Bencivenga could have picked from a multitude of strategies for getting attention but for the purpose of what he wanted to achieve, that one was probably the best -- for him.

    So the guiding principle behind the first part of the formula is that how you get attention is not set in stone. Anything that is legally (Google, Facebook and the FTC are the police here) permissible will do; just make sure you can convert that attention into interest.

    Here's another example sandwiched by nearly 100 years:

    Gary Halbert (RIP) is famous for an awful lot direct response sales letters (he was also very, very good). One of his most copied piece involves a letter that opened with a dollar bill attached to it. The bill was his attention-getting device and it worked like a charm.

    Now, can you imagine my surprise when I came across a book published in 1914 that talked about a Tennessee firm that used the very same attention-getting device? The book: Writing Business Letters Which Get The Business pg 11. (Archive.org).

    There is nothing new under the sun.

    Web 2.0, 3.0 or 20.0 won't change the core principles of persuading people to do stuff.

    Think about it this way. If people were becoming more sophisticated (because of technology) and the human condition was really changing, then the people who ruled over the people of the earth in 5000 BC wouldn't be running the show today through their descendants. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Most_r...ndidate_theory

    BBC NEWS | Americas | Obama a distant cousin of Bush

    Human beings are fairly predictable up to certain point. Once you get to the heart of that, persuasion (presumably your aim) will become easier.

    So, your focus first and foremost, should be people and how they work. The formula is just a way to systematize your approach. Getting bogged down in the latest, greatest and
    (Oh copywriting blasphemy!) newest methods is a waste of your time. As a matter of fact, whilst many gurus are teaching you "new tricks" to copywriting, they are busy using the oldest tricks in the book to get you to part with your cash.

    How many times have you seen a guru spout a new tactic and check their website and see they completely abandon what they teach? I see it all the time.

    Here's how Drayton Bird (another really good copywriter) put it:

    “But to be honest, the principles that apply to one kind of copy apply to all kinds.”


    Dave Trott (another really good ad man) also proves here that the more things change, the more they stay the same: THE ONLY MEDIUM THAT DOESN

    So, be warned. You'll come across all sorts of weird and wonderful ways of writing copy for the web and for the brave new world of mobile. You'll come across things like "pattern interrupt" and "social disruptive neural device theory."

    These are nothing but fancy names for the classic part of the first step in ad persuasion. Google Adwords which some people have made an entirely new genre of scholarship, is nothing more than the good old classified ad transported to the web.

    Any website, no matter how clean and modern is going to be accessed by a human being. At least we hope that's the aim. When that human being arrives you have to grab their attention (AIDA actually cycles its way through the entire process, even at the ad discovery stage). After that your job is to bring them to the point of taking action -- whatever that action may be. Its really that simple and your structure or architecture should be faithful to that process.

    Of course it helps to know that the human being who arrives is armed. She will click away (or swipe away) in about 3 seconds if you fail to engage her. Knowing this should demystify your task and excite you.

    Why should you be excited? Because by the time she arrives to the website, you'd have studied her and know intimately what makes her tick so there's no way you'll fail to get her attention. The classic rhetorical triangle has "audience" in it for one simple reason: anything you say, for it to have impact, must be said to the right people.

    I hope this helps you and good luck!

    P.S. I made up
    "social disruptive neural device theory" because it's easy to create claptrap like that.

    P.P.S. Like you I am making fresh discoveries about writing and copywriting every day. Read long and wide enough and you'll see patterns. Its absolutely fascinating.

    P.P.P.S Gary Bencivenga by his own admission was a dreadful copywriter in his first 10 years. I suspect what he really sucked at was writing. I am of the view that in the end, great copywriters are first great writers (however defined).








    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10648549].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
      Originally Posted by havplenty View Post

      You see, there's a tendency to believe that as technology introduces more and more stuff into our lives then we automatically morph into some updated version of human being 1.0.
      Yes and no.

      Human buying emotions don't change, but the degree does.

      For example, people's skepticism and their desire for instant gratification have increased greatly over the years.

      You are probably not going to believe me but there is no secret sauce. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or trying to sell you something.
      There are several "secret sauces" that go into the dish... in fact, you state one of them in your post. :-)

      Alex
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[10650519].message }}

Trending Topics