If you want to bust out great copywriting every time you stare at the blank page, you’ve gotta learn the 3 B’s of copywriting.
Unfortunately, learning the 3 B’s takes time. I can tell you once, I can tell you twice – but until you practice APPLYING the 3 B’s in your copy… the science-slash-art of copywriting will remain just beyond your grasp.
Kind of like hitting a baseball. I can tell you not to drop your back shoulder when you swing, but you’re going to do it anyway. And you’ll continue to do it until you finally have a eureka moment – realize you’re doing it wrong – and take deliberate steps to fix it.
This article is an attempt to speed up the process and help you have the eureka moment sooner.
For maximum effect, read this article before and after your next copywriting project. Chances are, even though I’ll have you nodding your head in agreement the first time through… when you next read this article you’ll likely notice you “dropped your shoulder,” so to speak.
So here it is…
The 3 B’s Of Great Copywriting
Writing copy is complex, yet simple. A giant bundle of rules – that can all be thrown out, stomped on and ignored at the appropriate time.
But in the end… great copywriting always comes down to three concepts: Believability, Benefits, and Benevolence.
Sitting at lunch with a respected Internet marketer at the top of his game, I was asked what’s the most important aspect of copywriting.
I thought about it for a moment…
Was he looking for the “Hungry crowd” answer? Did he want me to repeat that 90% of the ad is in the headline?
A good answer would have been “Knowing your market.” But in the end, even if you know the market and say all the right things… you’re not going anywhere unless you possess some believability.
So I told him “believability” was the most important. And I got the project.
The reader must believe your claims if they’re to say “yes” to the offer.
And you can gain believability in several ways.
The headline is your first chance to come across as believable. And the trick is being specific.
If your headline says…
“How To Make More Money Than You’ve Ever Dreamed”
…you’re alerting the prospects “Ya RIGHT” defenses all over the place. And you’re missing multiple opportunities to gain believability. The lack of specifics make it sound like a made-up lie!
Now look what happens when you get specific. The new headline reads…
“Earn $94.75 Each Time You Send This 1 Page Letter.”
Just by adding specifics, this simple statement becomes a powerful headline. Had you simply shouted “Get Rich!”, it would have been easy to cast you off as a spammer or scam artist.
But by being specific, the reader must keep reading to answer all his questions. Questions like, “What 1 page letter?” “Send letters to who?” “How many times can I send the letter?!”
Being specific helps you get past the “ya right” defensive instincts of the reader and replaces them with the “tell me more” instinct.
Add Extra Proof
The next way to gain believability is by backing up what you say.
Any successful ad will be drenched in proof. Even better, drench it in 100 proof.
Every time you make a claim, back it up. Did you earn $97 sending a letter? Let’s see a check.
Do you live the Internet lifestyle? Let’s see some pictures of you working on a laptop at the beach.
There are more ways to show proof than there are ways paint a picture. Your imagination is the only limit.
But proof usually takes shape in these forms.
* Credentials. There’s a reason why doctors often show up in advertisements. The title of “Doctor” carries weight equal to an 800 pound gorilla. And when they’re in the room, you know it. If you’re a doctor, have an advanced degree in a related field, have won any awards or earned certifications… you’ll benefit from saying so in your copy.
* Endorsements and Testimonials. Testimonials, when done right, always increase response. The only time I’ve seen testimonials hurt conversion are when they’re formatted ugly or come across as fake. You can solve that by getting real testimonials (always, period)… or better yet an “endorsement” from a relative celebrity.
* Pictures of results. Use pictures just like the check or beach bum pictures of above. And especially “before and after” pictures if you’re working in a market that lends itself to them – like weight loss or car scratches.
* Demonstrations. Legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins once said, “No argument in the world can ever compare with one dramatic demonstration.” Adding a free trial to your offer is one way to demonstrate your product. Another is to add video of your product in action to the copy.
* Test Results. For years I’ve recommended mini-site designers get conversion stats before and after adding their graphics to a sales page. That’d be an easy way to put their service to the test and reveal the results.
Billy Mays, the late famous pitch man put his Hercules Hook to the test by hanging a heavy painting and a sack of hardback books from a single hook. That was a test result AND a demonstration.
Guarantee Your Product
Another common way to add credibility is to offer a money-back guarantee if your product doesn’t live up to expectations.
Some marketers are even brave enough to offer a double-your-money-back guarantee. This usually comes with rules stating you must show proof of using the product with less than stellar results.
Either way – when you guarantee that your product will please your customer or else they get their money back, you’re adding believability to all of your claims.
And if you use Clickbank to sell your product, then you already have a 60 day satisfaction guarantee. You just need to make sure to put it in the copy.
When David Ogilvy was asked if he was a proponent of “Reason-Why” advertising, he replied, “Is there any other kind?”
He’s right. And benefits are at the core of “reason why” advertising.
In a broad sense, you can think of benefits as the answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?”
Your reader is always going to have that question on their mind, and you must answer them with benefits.
Most copywriters would use this space to talk about the difference of features and benefits. They would describe features as what a product has, and benefits as what a product does.
A feature of Barney’s Dog Food might be using Vitamin’s E & A as preservatives instead of chemical preservatives. That’s a feature that the dog food has.
The benefit of this feature would be a healthier dog less at risk of cancer. That’s what the feature does.
But I like how Michel Fortin takes it further, using Features, Advantages, Benefits.
Here, the FEATURE would be natural preservatives rather than chemicals.
The ADVANTAGE would be a healthier dog less at risk of cancer.
And the BENEFIT is experiencing your dog live to a ripe old age and enjoying every minute of it.
The feature is what the product has. The advantage is what the product does. And the benefit is what the product means.
Let’s give another example to drive the point home. How about a typical Internet marketing “Make Money” product.
The FEATURE would be a method for ranking your YouTube Video in the #1 spot of any Google Ranking.
The ADVANTAGE would be more traffic and more sales.
The BENEFITS are all the reasons one would want to make money online. To spend more time with family, to work at home, live the Internet lifestyle, travel the world, drive expensive cars, live in a nice house.
If you want to write copy that sizzles, you need to demonstrate what your product MEANS to the prospect.
One final example. Let’s say I was writing copy on how to quit your job and work as a professional copywriter. What should I concentrate on in the copy?
Will they learn about writing? Boring.
Will they learn to make money from writing? Cool, but what good will that do?
I’ll tell you what it will do.
It will finally allow the prospect to fire their boss, work from home, be in control of their financial future, become financially independent, save money, pay off debt, live free of financial worries, go on vacation, buy a new car.
These are the benefits of a product. Make sure the prospect realizes them.
And finally we get to benevolence.
If you’ve ever read Claude Hopkins‘ “Scientific Advertising,” you know the third chapter is titled, “Offer Service.”
And that is the key to sales. Don’t try to sell, try to serve.
To gain better perspective, note that the word “serve” leads to the word “servant.” Good, your copy should serve your prospect like a servant.
You are asking for their business, aren’t you? Show that your product is in the prospect’s best interest by showing how it serves the prospect. Even go so far as to seem altruistic!
Here‘s an example from Hopkins himself…
“Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy.
“Here again is salesmanship. The good salesman does not merely cry a name. He doesn’t say, ‘Buy my article.’ He pictures the customers side of his service until the natural result is to buy.
A brush maker has some 2,000 canvassers who sells brushes from house to house. He is enormously successful in a line, which would seem very difficult. And it would be for his men asked the housewives to buy.
But they don’t. They go to the door and say, ‘I was sent here to give you a brush. I have samples here and I want you to take your choice.’
The housewife is all smiles and attention. In picking out one brush she sees several she wants. She is also anxious to reciprocate the gift. So the salesman gets an order.
Win customers by being benevolent, altruistic and SERVING them… don’t “sell” them.
Offer to let them take your product for a test drive – 7 days, no charge.
Give them a free sample.
Position your infoproduct as a one-on-one consultation. Or better yet, offer one-on-one consultations over the phone!
If they buy one product, give them two.
Offer free shipping. Offer to pay the cost of shipping an item back if they’re not satisfied (which helps with believability).
All in all… when writing sales copy, take on the persona of a servant and NOT a used car salesman. That’s benevolence, and it’ll go along way in making the sale.
Now Read, Write, Repeat
Now that you’re familiar with the 3 B’s of copywriting, you’re ready to add them perfectly to your copy… right?
I hope so! But most likely you’ll need to take what you’ve learned, write a draft, then come back here and read this article again.
It takes practice, but you must become an expert at injecting your copy with Believability, Benefits and Benevolence!
Retweet or share this article with friends and it’ll make it easier for you to remember to come back and put your copy to the test.
Fantastic article. It’s no wonder your services are so high in demand. I found myself completely engrossed in your article (which was jammed to the brim with stories, tips, and clear explanations.)The point that I practically jumped out of my chair and yelled “YES” to was your call for marketers to be much more specific with their headlines. I don’t know how many times I’ve critiqued pages that make these sweeping “get rich now” statements that trigger the “Bull Sh*t” response from readers.I’m curious about your thoughts in the ‘show the results’ area. With everything I’ve seen (in internet marketing especially) I find that I have a hard time believing any ‘picture of proof’. For example, I have a picture of me an my fiance sitting in a new, red corvette and in front of a huge mansion – his step father’s corvette and mansion. When I see images of statements and wealth on sales pages, that’s usually not enough proof for me. For the answer to that conundrum, the copywriter in me studies the consumer in me. I respond to ‘family/friend’ testimonials (since testimonials on the page can be made up as well) or at least testimonials from well-known individuals I respect.
Do you have other thoughts in this area? How do you personally overcome proof obstacles?
I’m off to add your blog to my weekly check-up list 🙂
Great content Dean!
Very informative. I’ve just recently added you to my blog carnival over at my site.
Thanks for sharing.
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Awesome job…thank you – I really got something out of this.
Thanks Danielle 🙂 And I think what you’re describing in the “show the results” area is a market that is becoming oblivious to pictures of checks and clickbank screenshots because everyone is using them. AND because they can sometimes be fraudulent. In my opinion, you still gotta use them, but they need to be a PART of your “proof” strategy and not the entire strategy. And that strategy might morph in to “proving” the screenshots with a logical argument, credentials, social proof, etc. All in all I still think they’re a powerful weapon, even if they’re overused. Cheers!