To write truly successful sales letters, you need to understand inherently what makes people buy things.
It’s not easy. It takes time. You need to watch people. You need to listen to people. You need to interact with people.
Put the time in and eventually you’ll start to think differently. You’ll be able to look beyond the literal. You’ll be able to speak to your readers on an almost subconscious level.
But hold on.
We’re running miles ahead.
When you’re staring out as a direct response copywriter, there’s ONE thing you should do before you do anything else.
Seriously: this is essential.
You may sneer. You may sigh. You may think yourself beyond doing what I’ll suggest.
But I promise you:
If you’re just starting out – or even if you’ve been writing for a while now – take this advice on board and you will become a stronger copywriter.
Before you learn the emotionals you need to master the technicals
AllGoodCopy.com reader, Tanvi writes:
“My biggest challenge in copywriting is that I haven’t done any. In short I am new to this and an aspiring copywriter. I’ve done marketing and I want to become an advertising copywriter. Can you please guide me what should I do and how should I start my career?”
Like I say, to become a truly successful copywriter takes a fair bit of time and it requires you to understand how people make buying decisions.
But before you can really start to learn this more abstract stuff, my advice is always to learn the technicals first.
And when teaching people about copywriting I invariably start by teaching them about the technicals – things like sentence structure, use of language, tone of voice.
I would recommend you do the same.
For a start it’s easier to learn these things than it is to figure out the often irrational decisions customers make and therefore it gives you more confidence during the early stages of your development.
But more importantly, it will give you a solid foundation for your learning.
In fact, a decent understanding of the technical elements of copywriting will allow you to express your ideas more clearly and this will be an enormous benefit when it comes to mastering the emotional aspects of copywriting.
So, accepting that it’s a good idea to learn the technicals first…
How do you go about doing that?
Well, for me, the single best thing you can do when starting out is to read successful sales letters, write them out by hand and then type up your handwritten versions.
Sounds like a lot of hard work, right?
And sure, it’s pretty damn boring.
But it’s crucial.
Indeed, even if you’re a well-practiced copywriter, I’d still recommend you do this.
1. Read successful sales letters
First you need to find some successful sales letters.
You can do this by signing-up to the free email newsletters there might be in the niche you’re writing copy for.
When you start receiving the emails, you should look out for sales letters that keep being promoted week-in, week-out.
Most of the time, you’ll find a sales letter is marketed over and over again because it works well. I’ve written sales letters that have been used repeatedly for years, let alone weeks and months.
It’s these repeated letters that you should be look out for.
(Generally, I’d look for letters that you keep seeing over a number of months, rather than days. The nature of most product launches these days means that a letter might be used repeatedly for a number of days even though it’s not working.)
There is no limit on how many sales letters you should be reading. But when I’m training a new writer, I encourage them to go through this whole process – read, write out, type up – at least three times.
If you like, you can use the sales letter I’ve written for my Write Better Copy guide as one. But I’d recommend looking for other successful letters in the particular niche you write for.
2. Write out successful sales letters by hand
This is as simple as it sounds – just grab a pen and paper and start writing.
Copy everything – from the eyebrow copy and headline to the signature and PS.
If the successful sales letter has pull-out quotes or copy surrounding an image, write that out too.
Literally copy EVERYTHING.
But one thing you shouldn’t do as you write out the letter is think too much.
This is NOT a thought exercise. This is rote learning. It’s an almost subconscious thing you’re doing here, allowing the technical elements of the writing seep into you.
I know it sounds a bit waffy – but it works. I did it myself when I started out and countless copywriters that I’ve trained have told me it helped them in the early days too.
3. Type out your handwritten versions of the successful sales letters
Once you’ve written out the letters, you should take your notes and try to type them out and recreate the sales letter.
At this stage, as you’re entering the text, you should take some time to think about what you’re typing…
As the words appear before you on your computer, consider the structure of the sentences. Examine the choice of vocabulary. Think about why the writer chose to break the text up with a subhead at that particular point.
You’ll start to see common phrases used and you’ll notice that key elements are repeated throughout. Jot these observations down as they’ll be handy when you come to write your own sales letters.
Once you’ve read, written out and typed-up one sales letter, as I say, you should try to repeat the process with a different one.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get. And even when you’re progressing with other areas of your development, this is a task you can always come back to. Doing so is good practice.
I know it sounds like a bit of a slog and a pretty dull thing to do, but you’ll find that this will help you no end, especially when you’re starting out on your career as a direct response copywriter.
Let me know if you try this out yourself and if it helps. Indeed, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about the process.