What’s the one thing all successful businesses have in common? Customers. The more customers you can get, the bigger your business can grow. However in today’s world, where even grandma knows a comparable product is a google search away, it can be tough to stand out. This is where great sales copy comes in.
“Sales copy” refers to the words that get people to choose one product, over another.
Whether those words are spoken, or appear in text, in today’s world of endless options, the power of copy has never been greater. That is why the skill of crafting words that grab someone’s attention, then turn them from a browser into a buyer, is now one of the most valuable you can have.
Great sales copy can turn a struggling business into an overnight success, or a scrappy start-up into a category leader. Want a competitive edge? High-converting copy gives you an almost unfair advantage on your advertising buys. Think about it: If Business A spends the same amount of ad dollars as Business B, yet Business A turns three times as many people into customers, it’s easy to see who will be king.
When it comes to crafting sales copy that turns brands into booming successes, there is no one with a track record like Craig Clemens. Over the last 15 years, Clemens’ words have minted some of the fastest-growing brands in history, in the ultra-competitive worlds of dating, health, and beauty. You may not know his products by name, but industry giants like L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble are starting to take notice, as it’s not uncommon for products with the Clemens touch to outsell their better-funded competitors by a huge margin.
Having heard rumors of Clemens’ hits, I decided to track him down myself. At age 38, Clemens sits alone atop the copy world. “There are only a handful of us. When I tell people I’m a ‘copywriter’, most think I’m some kind a patent attorney. It’s not taught in schools, so you have to learn it on the job, or on your own. And most people won’t put the time in.”
I can tell you as a writer myself, most of us are never even introduced to copywriting as a potential career option. I remember many years ago thinking that, in order to become a writer by trade, I either had to be a journalist or an editor. In fact, I went all the way through college without anyone even pointing out that the words on a billboard were the product of a copywriter at an advertising agency.
But the world is made up of words. And behind every sentence is a someone sitting quietly with a pen, trying to get a specific message across.
Even in the world of advertising, there is a huge difference between a creative campaign copywriter and a sales copywriter. Coming up with a witty tagline is a very different than writing something that inspires a cold customer to take action. The writing has to have a certain type of energy. It has to keep a reader engaged. And most of all, it has to answer their questions and objections before they have a chance to ask them… and before they decide to leave and buy somewhere else.
My first question for Clemens was obvious:
What is the key to writing great sales copy?
“You have to enter the conversation a person is already having in their own mind,” said Clemens.
This made me even more curious, so I asked Clemens how he goes about approaching a new project—and this was the number one rule that he said every great sales writer should follow.
“One of the greatest copywriters of all time, Eugene Schwartz, always made the point that you can’t ever put someone on a path that they aren’t already interested in or thinking about. So what you have to do is get inside their head, and try to imagine what they’re thinking about right now. In any market, that rule is true. You can’t force them to think something else. You have to understand the desire that is already there, and then cater your messaging accordingly,” said Clemens.
How Clemens became such a successful copywriter is an interesting story.
“I knew this guy named Eben, who ran this website called Double Your Dating. He told me he’d made $4,000 a month selling an eBook on dating, and at the time I didn’t understand it. I had no idea how someone could make money like that on the Internet. A month later, he told me he’d made $17,000 selling the eBook. The month after that, he’d made $70,000. When I heard that, I told him, ‘I’m going to work for you. I don’t care if I’m shining your shoes or getting you coffee. Just teach me how you sell these eBooks,’” said Clemens.
Of course, he wasn’t hired right away. So Clemens took it upon himself to study the Double Your Dating website and sign up for it’s Dating Tips newsletter.
“I started getting his newsletters three times a week, with dating tips like where to take a girl on the first date, how to kiss a girl without worrying about being rejected, things like that. I figured I could probably write stuff like that, so I studied his style and wrote my own newsletter. And then I sent it to him, and a few days later he wrote back, ‘Okay, you’ve got yourself a job.’ He saw some value, and I was hungry to learn,” said Clemens.
Over the next 5 years, Clemens’ mentored under Eben, a world class copywriter himself. Clemens has since took the tactics learned selling dating advice and applied them to all sorts of different industries: how to play a better round of golf, which supplement your dog should be taking, and how to start and grow a business.
“The most influential book I’ve ever read about sales copy was by Claude Hopkins, one of the advertising greats of the early 1900’s. He created brands like Pepsodent Toothpaste and Goodyear Tire, that are still around now. And his advice is still applicable today, because human psychology is still the same. We all want status, security, wealth, a significant other, our health. So the key to writing great sales copy is realizing that, when you communicate to the customer in a way that speaks to their wants, needs, hopes, dreams, and desires, they’re going to respond. That was true 100 years ago, and it’s still true today”.
Here’s how Clemens suggests putting it into practice: “Imagine yourself AS your customer, then write a detailed autobiography. And really get into it. Where does this person work? How many kids do they have? What are their hobbies? What makes them happy? Write that out. Then, when you sit down to craft your sales copy, write specifically as though you are speaking to that person.”
Today, Clemens mentors his own group of young writers. He teaches them how that many brands and businesses make the mistake of talking too much about themselves, instead of what they can do for their customers. “If you speak to someone about things that they care about, they are going to listen. When you let them know that your product is going to solve their problems, and satisfy their desires, they are going to buy it. They don’t care how many awards you have, or what fancy features your product has. All they care about is what it can do for them. So tell them why your product is better, but do it in a way that speaks to their wants and needs, instead of just going on and on about how great you are.”
So if you want to have higher-converting sales copy, this golden rule is a great start: Write about what is already going on in your customer’s head, and speak directly to their human desires. When your solution appeals to what they want, they will want it.
Brian is an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, who built the 25th fastest growth marketing and advertising agency in America. Brian is an advisor to many startups and mentor to many entrepreneurs. He is a columnist at the world’s top publications. Brian is the Founder of Influencive and the Founder at BDE Ventures.