Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

direct response copywriter

The Marketing Secret Of How To Sell A $19 Shirt for $89

Picture this. You’re thumbing through the pages of a slim, elegant, catalog that arrived via mail earlier in the day.

The pages feel crisp to the touch, and you notice how vibrant the illustrations are. Captivating even. You glance over and something catches your eye.

A European-styled, heirloom leather satchel. Its mellow leather beckons to you. Brass fittings glinting in the sun harkening back to a by-gone era. It’s the kind of satchel that would have been casually tossed into the back of your father’s 1932 Auburn V-12 Boattail Speedster; perhaps an unread Hemingway novel inside.

“Hmmm, possibly…” you murmur quietly to yourself.

You thumb slowly to the next page.

Your eyes transfix upon a gently sketched blue shirt, its sleeves half rolled up, the hemline gently blowing in the cool spring air.

You read the description:

A Montana Shirt

He rode to Great Falls in the autumn of 1880, another rich kid from the big city. The locals harrumphed, “Montana ain’t St Louis. Once the shine wears off, he’ll be gone quick as a duck on a Junebug.”

The “shine” wore off.

He stayed.

He tried raising sheep; lost every sheep in the herd. Tried hunting; similar success. He lived a while with the Blood Indians. Taught himself how to paint.

He didn’t wrestle with the existential questions; didn’t know there were any. He painted what was around him. Grizzlies, buffalo, rustlers. life.

In his own words: “I am an illustrator. There are lots better ones, but some worse. Any man that can make a living doing what he likes is lucky, and I am that.”

Men like him don’t travel in herds. You find them one at a time.

A Montana Shirt (No. 3682). “I made it with yarn dyed pure linen, and upon close observation, a very small checked pattern, because it was a feeling I had. Buttons are Trocas shell. Flat felled seams. Two-button adjustable mitered cuffs with top stitching. Shirttail hem with gussets at side.“

Men’s sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL Colors: Open Range Blue Price $89

And that, Dear Reader, is how you sell a shirt that would ordinarily sell for a mere fraction of the price, at top dollar. Sight unseen. Gladly paid.

The strength of your sales copy is everything.

What an African Lion & Restoration Hardware Can Teach You About How NOT To Run Your Business

A couple weeks ago I ordered a new desk chair from a Restoration Hardware catalog. Here’s the sales copy that sold me:

1950s French Metal Wire 26" - 32" Stool

Dating to the mid-20th-century, our French metal chair hails from the offices of a Paris museum – a work of modern art in its own right. With a nod to iconic design forms, it has a scooped seat and curved back made from heavy gauge wire grids padded with optional leather-clad cushions, sold separately. Adjustable seat height and lumbar support adapt to each individual. Six ball casters make it as agile as it is comfortable.

Sounds pretty cool right? I thought so – so much so that I even ordered the 1940s French Factory Work Table (writing desk) to go with it. And that’s when the problems started.

Now I happen to love Restoration Hardware – I think the quality of its furniture and sense of design is pretty hard to beat. But its customer experience sure leaves a LOT to be desired.

Here’s what happened next. After placing my order I received a cryptic response email that made me have to pick up the phone and speak to a warm body to make sure my order went through. It apparently had but, unfortunately, both the chair and the leather cushion I had ordered were no longer available (even though their website said they were).

I then got passed around like a hot potato from one rep to the next.

After 45 minutes on the phone I was ready to abandon ship, cancel my order and forget I ever laid eyes on the furniture. I was not a happy camper. However at the last minute my order went through and I was relieved to have survived the ordering ordeal.

That was until the scheduled delivery time for my order. Neither my desk nor my chair showed up. Exasperated I called back. “Sorry but those items should have been delivered. We have a record of them leaving our warehouse.” Well, fat lot of good that does me. Some truck driver somewhere is writing his award winning screen play, likely with his muffin top spilling over his tight blue jeans, plonked on my wire chair.

I was told, “Sorry Ma’am we don’t have any more in stock. They’re on back order and should arrive in about sixty to ninety days.” Sixty to ninety days? Really? I’m guessing someone had to walk back to China or India or wherever the chairs are made for that kind of delay.

I received barely an apology and no offer of free anything – no “Here’s a gift certificate for your troubles,” or “We’ll refund your shipping fee.” None of that.

Now one thing you need to know about Restoration Hardware is how it positions itself in the marketplace.

Here’s the sales copy taken straight from the website: “We operate as a curator of the finest historical design the world has to offer. Our collections of timeless, updated classics and reproductions are presented consistently across our sales channels in sophisticated and unique lifestyle settings that we believe are on par with world-class interior designers.”

It’s no doubt a luxury brand but frankly I’ve had better customer service from a grumpy pre-menopausal counter clerk at the Post Office.

Restoration Hardware has great marketing, and uses powerfully persuasive copywriting coupled with gorgeous imagery. It offers top quality products.

But that’s about where the wheels start coming off. It couldn’t have made it more difficult for me to give them my money. And their customer service stinks.

This business reminds me precisely of the “Situational Awareness” photo from my cousin.

It’s so eager to find the next big opportunity in its business, it has lost sight of the thing that could take the company down: lousy customer experience.

Restoration Hardware isn’t the only business that does this. Most do to varying degrees.

The lesson is this: always looking for bigger, better opportunities to grow your business is great, but never lose sight of what made your business great in the first place.

Are You Using Emotionally Charged Marketing to Get More Clients? A Case Study About Chinese Women and Their Body Hair Issues

The other day I was reading through one of the business magazines I subscribe to. It was an early Sunday morning and, with a cup of coffee in hand, I was just casually thumbing through the pages. At the bottom of the page my eye caught a little article about Chinese women and their “body hair issues.” Intrigued, I read on. Turns out Chinese women don’t have body hair issues; at least they didn’t until the company behind Veet hair removal cream decided to launch their product in China in 2005. Unfortunately for the company, sales were sluggish. The product was considered too pricey and the product size too big. The biggest problem though? Most Chinese women have very little body hair and those who do didn’t worry about it.

So the company changed its marketing strategy. It started rolling out ads equating hair-free skin with beauty, health, confidence and “shining glory.” In the process the company has made every Chinese woman more conscious of every stray follicle.

By “educating” its customers and encouraging “fuzz phobia,” Veet is now the fastest growing brand in China for its parent company Reckitt Benckiser. Hair remover sales in Asia are rising 20% annually, almost double the rate of women’s razor blades.

This marketing strategy of getting women to focus on their perceived flaws is not a new one. Actually it’s about as old as the hills, but here’s the reason it’s so effective (not just on women – but on everyone).

We all base our buying decisions on how an ad, promotion or product makes us feel. Not on what it will do for us.

As human beings we are all hard wired to want the same things. We can’t help it – it’s in our DNA. We want things like better health, more money, great popularity, improved appearance, praise from others, more comfort, more leisure time, a happy life. If your marketing can whip people into a lather by appealing to one of these deep desires – you’ve got gold.

It makes no logical sense for Chinese women (who are possibly the least follicly challenged among us), to become the fastest growing users of hair removal cream. Chinese women are not buying based on whether this makes logical sense. They’re buying because of their desire for an improved appearance and happy life. They want to feel beautiful by buying the product.

This isn’t just a woman thing either.

Men buy the same way. Think about your neighbor down the street who goes out and buys himself a new Chevy Silverado truck, fully loaded. He tells himself that it’s because the truck has extremely good towing capacity and a long truck bed and it will be a safe ride for the family. But his real decision to buy is an emotional one – he loves the way this big new truck makes him feel. Tough. Strong. Powerful. He likes getting the approval of his friends and neighbors who nod admiringly as he drives past. He loves the excitement on his kids’ faces as they climb into the cab and ogle at all the shiny new buttons and heated leather seats.

The take-away for your business is this: To really create powerful marketing, you need to supercharge your sales copy with emotion – not logic. At the end of the day, as human beings, we all want the same things: To feel good about ourselves and to be happy.

So if people aren’t getting excited about buying your product or service, it’s likely not because of anything other than that you’re marketing to them the wrong way. Emotionally charged marketing is the fastest way to “manifest” desire. That’s the real trigger that gets people to buy.

As Mark Twain said, “There’s two reasons a man buys anything. The reason he’ll give you… and the real reason.”

The 5 Biggest Copywriting Mistakes (And How To Fix ‘Em’)

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.”-Philip Dusenberry

There are a lot of definitions about what copywriting is and isn’t. Salesmanship in print. Writing to sell. Salesmanship multiplied. Or my personal favorite, persuasion writing.

Advertising would well and truly be extinct if each of us could talk to our prospects face-to-face. But as we can’t, our advertisements have to do the job and get the word out for us.

That’s why good copywriting is the oxygen of your business. Get it right, and the sky‘s the limit. But get it wrong, and your business is banished to the ranks of the mediocre, the forgotten, and the ignored.

Here are the 5 biggest copywriting mistakes, and how to fix them:

1. “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” Howard Gossage

One of the worst things you can do is write copy that’s boring to read. If an honest reading of your website or new client brochure makes your eyeballs dry up, or triggers an urgent need to go to the bathroom – then just image how your poor prospect must feel. Remember, you can only interest a person into buying your product, you can’t bore them.

2. Build the relationship first, ask for the sale second. As a direct response copywriter, I see many examples of bad marketing that rush the entire sales process. In this new economy, all buying power has returned to the consumer. And they know it. You can’t just expect to trundle out a cart full of your wares and have people flocking to buy them. That may have been how it worked in the boom days of the early 2000s, but certainly not today. Today, marketing is all about building relationships first. Your copy has to carefully do the same, not rush straight to the close.

3. Don’t ever try and make your copy apply to everyone. You have to niche your message along with your market. One of the biggest mistakes I see is using ad copy that is worded so generically, it doesn’t apply to anyone in particular at all. This is very bad. At first blush you might think the more people you can fit into your marketing message, the better. Wrong. Quite the opposite. The more you tightly target your marketing message to resonate with a niche, the higher the response rate. This goes back to the first point. People will only read what interests them. If you’re a retired dentist with $2 million in investable assets, 3 grandchildren and a condo in Florida, you’re far more likely to read ad copy that specifically “talks to you.”

4. Make your advertising valuable. Few people understand this extremely important point, which is why most advertising falls on deaf ears. Nothing screams out “I want to sell you sell you something” more than an advertisement that looks and sounds like an advert. That’s why writing copy that sounds like an editorial piece, using white papers, or creating a helpful animated video will typically attract a much higher level of viewership.

5. Incorporate unquestionable copy into your proof. Most copy is seriously devoid of all proof but full of empty, hollow sounding promises like “we’re the leading experts” or “your trusted provider”, etc. We’re so used to reading these claims they wash over us like tiny ocean ripples swirling around our ankles. Unnoticed. One of the strongest elements of proof is, of course, proof in your product itself. A bold guarantee to back up your promises. Legions of testimonials to say what you can’t say yourself. A product demonstration even. Proof is usually the most often overlooked aspect of any copy. If you can find a way to add it in a compelling way, it can transform even the most meager of ads into the mighty.

3 Power Productivity Tips To Achieve More In Less Time

“My life is one long obstacle course with me being the chief obstacle.”- Jack Parr

Practically every entrepreneur I know and work with gets presented with a lot of opportunity. Their bank account is not yet where they want it to be due to lack of opportunity.

It’s due to lack of time.

In business there are good strategies poorly executed, poor strategies well executed, but rarely is there a new revolutionary strategy. The same goes with managing your time. These strategies may well be familiar to you already. It’s just your execution of them that probably needs a little work.

Tip #1 Stop Answering Your Phone When It Rings.

How can you focus on the really important things in your business when every day you get bombarded with a tidal wave of distractions? Answering your phone anytime it rings is one of the biggest killers of productivity. It’s a sure fire way to derail the plans you had for the day as you now spend it fighting fires or helping others with tasks they’re likely more than capable of handling on their own.

Please, turn your phone off. Get your calls answered by your assistant. Train your clients to make appointments to talk to you so that you can ensure you’re always well prepared for their call (and not answering questions off the cuff). I have a client VIP list – anyone who calls my office on that list gets a call back usually the same day or a priority appointment set. Anyone not on that list gets a call back from my assistant to help them, or, if they qualify, an appointment to speak with me is set which may be in 2 or even 3 weeks time. Return your calls in a clump or schedule set times like I do. You’ll be amazed at how much you get done and how much more prepared and productive you’ll be to the people you do speak to.

Tip #2 Leverage Your “In-Between” Time

Stuck in traffic? CD’s and podcasts are arguably the greatest educational invention since the yellow highlighter. They let you easily and cheaply turn your car into a classroom or a seminar, listening to one of America’s experts discussing your subject of choice. Just about every notable self-improvement or marketing and business expert, author or speaker has a variety of material available in audio form. Information on practically every topic is now readily available for download – from fitness and learning a foreign language, to improving your memory and how to grow your business. You name it and likely an audio version is available for you to listen to during otherwise “wasted” time – when you’re stuck in airports, sitting in doctor waiting rooms, or taking road trips.

Tip #3 Delegate Or Outsource Everything That Isn’t The Highest And Best Use Of Your Time.

You know the things in your business that you’re best at. It’s likely the very thing you get paid the most by your clients to do.

In my case it’s designing growth strategies for clients, creating advertising campaigns and working with my team to create end to end marketing systems. Any task that doesn’t fall into this list I do my best to delegate, or even better outsource. My administrative tasks get done by my assistant. I have two people who do all my proof reading of my campaigns, books and articles (like this one). Through a lot of trial and error I have the most phenomenal graphic and web designers on my team.

I happen to love both graphic and web design but it’s not what I’m best at. Sure I could spend the hundreds and thousands of hours to learn how to do what they do – but why bother? I’ve found three of the most talented graphic and web designers on the planet. They take my strategy and copywriting and produce visual designs that are even better than I could have imagined.

It’s the same with my private clients. Most of them hire me to help with the marketing and growth of their business not because they couldn’t learn how to do it themselves (sure they could with the right materials and time commitment). It’s because they have better things to spend their time on – things they love to do and are outstanding at doing – like spending one on one time with clients, conducting seminars, speaking, motivating staff, securing funding, bringing on new strategic partners, etc.;

The bottom line is this: Protect your time for the precious commodity it is. Leverage your time by spending as much as you can doing only those things that you’re truly the best at doing. Let the rest go. Delegate it or outsource it to the best people you can find.

Piggybacking On Other Businesses: How To Make Co-Marketing Work For You

Client-Stampede-piggyback1
Client-Stampede-piggyback1

Here’s a great marketing strategy and a step-by-step guide on how to leverage OPC (Other People’s Customers) in your business. First of all, why co-market? Co-marketing is just a fancy schmancy term for working together with another business and doing some joint marketing.

There are many easy ways you can do this.

The first way is to structure a co-marketing arrangement in what I call the “double double relationship”. You create a marketing campaign that the other business sends out to their mailing list. And they do the same.

This is really just leveraging each other’s mailing list. For example, imagine you’re a financial advisor and you have a great buddy who’s an estate planning attorney. It’s very, very likely that some of his clients could use your services, and that some of your clients could do with an estate planning overhaul. Everyone wins.

Another way is the endorsed mailing – which is where you create a marketing campaign that the company you’re co-marketing with sends out, under their name (not yours). They basically say what a swell company you are and give them some reasons why they might want to do business with you. This kind of co-marketing arrangement is particularly powerful. You’re unknown to these people, yet suddenly your credibility leaps skyward because you’re getting an endorsement from someone they know and like.

One quick word of caution about the endorsed mailing – whatever you do, never ever endorse a company to your own list that you don’t know to be honest and great at what they do -- 1000%. If you have even a shred of doubt about their ability to take care of your customers – don’t do it. It will damage your own credibility and trust relationship with your clients, and will negatively impact your business and reputation.

The third way to do co-marketing is simply to approach a company and ask if you can “rent their list”. Why would you want to do such a thing? Well, if they have your ideal clients as their customers already – leveraging the list they’ve already spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on is like leap frogging to the top of the class. Of course, you could invest the thousands of dollars and many years to develop your own list, OR you could push the easy button, shave years off your learning curve and simply “buy” new ideal clients.

Why Emotional Based Marketing Works

In my private consulting & copywriting practice, I come across a lot of people who sometimes confuse sales with marketing. They’re not the only ones. You see so-called experts get it wrong all the time: Marketing/Sales Workshop: "Sizzling Marketing Ideas to Close More Sales."

What these people are confusing is this:

Marketing is the art of getting warm, interested, live bodies sitting across the desk from you (or on the phone, or visiting your website), that you have never met before.

Sales is getting those same breathing individuals to buy from you!

I have been doing a lot of marketing research on the financial services industry recently.

So far, without exception, every one of those "marketing self help" books provides some great tips on how to better close a sale. The only glaring problem is they provide very little guidance on how to get people in front of you to close in the first place!

Why is this? For the simple reason that the industry leaders have no clue about how to market, so they focus all their energies on sales training help.

Let’s face it. Selling is a heck of a lot easier than marketing.

I'm willing to bet in your business, if I could plunk an interested warm body in front of you, that you’d do a pretty good job of getting them to try your services.

You and I both know you can sell. That’s not your problem.

Your problem is getting the people to sell to!

I’m going to let you in on a little marketing secret. The reason why most people find marketing hard, is because they use logic and “intellectual” reasons to get people to respond to them.

Instead of emotions and empathy.

Remember the people you’re marketing to have no idea who you are. They don’t know how you can help them and how immensely valuable your service is to them.

All they see is someone coming at them with another thing to sell.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t use emotion to get them interested, then they’ll never find out how invaluable you are, because you’ll never get the chance to enter into their lives.

Nobody buys anything based on logic. They make 100% of their decisions based on emotions, and then rationalize their decision afterwards!

That’s because at the end of the day, all that we humans are, is a giant sack of emotions. We’re an emotional species. We can’t separate our emotions from our thought processes. We all have very strong feelings about the decisions we make.

So why does just about every business do the exact opposite?

Because of all that marketing mis-information out there.

So how do you transform your marketing from appealing to their intellect, to their emotions?

By following these four critical rules for emotional based marketing:

  1. Getting to know your prospect’s mind, inside and out. Get in touch with what they’re thinking and feeling (which is not your product or service, I guarantee!).
  2. Talk about them in your marketing, not yourself and your company (this one is tricky because it really goes against the grain of conventional "marketing wisdom").
  3. You must first talk to them about their lives, desire, fears and wants. There will be time later to talk about what you offer. First, you have to get in the gate by making them curious and interested. The only way to do that is by taking the time to build curiosity, empathy and compassion.
  4. Not making the mistake of telling people what you think they need, instead of what they truly WANT!

Still not convinced about the power of emotional based marketing? Next time you go to make a decent sized purchase start being aware of your own thought processes.

Observe how it’s an emotional driver that makes you want to buy, but then notice how your logic kicks in afterwards, to justify the buying decision!