Boron Letters: Advice on Copywriting - Part 4

Chapter 13 Do guilt and manipulation work?

This letter starts off explaining how to induce guilt in a direct mail sales pitch.

Sadly, the below sample copy does not stand the test of time. So many fauxpas here. More an example of things you do not want to say in a sales email.

and so, Mr. Jones, as you can see, what I am offering you is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a piece of a legalized Nevada whorehouse. [what?] I hope you can take advantage of this offer. But, if you can't, would you please drop me a note and tell you can't participate at this time. That way I'll feel free to make this exciting offer to someone else. I've enclosed a self-addressed envelope and I have even put a stamp on it because (either way) it is important that I hear from you right away. Please, please -- reply today!

Asking someone to reply to say they are not interested. Causing FOMO by implying that this 'exciting offer' will go to someone else. Begging at the end. These tactics do not work, do they? I guess the reason they don't work may be that they've been overdone, which means they used to work at some point?

[aside] A personal problem I have with this line of advice is the icky-ness factor. Even if you find some modern manipulation sales tactics that do work, who wants to be in the business of manipulating people. Feels icky. (I guess there are people who are not bothered and feel fine using whatever works. And they are at an advantage in some sense. That's the way the world works).

The rest of the chapter talks about different types of envelops to use and their pros and cons. The specifics are dated but the point is to make the communication as personal as possible, while also making it frictionless for the reader to reply while balancing with cost.

Chapter 14 How to get the reader's attention

This letter explains the reasoning behind attaching a baggie of dirt to the real estate investing book direct mail offer letter. It's to get attention, high quality attention.

While it is true that you must attract attention to your advertisements and sales letters, it is also true that your "attention grabber" should be relevant. It should tie in with your message. It should make sense.

[Lesson] you don't want people to realize that you're trying to sell them something. At least not right away, not until they have read your pitch.

Do you know why? That's right. I don't want him to realize that I want to sell him something until I am well into my pitch. Here is something else you should know: Many people, when they read an ad, read it like this... What they do is, they read the headline first and then they go right to the order coupon.
The same is true with direct mail letters. If your reader sees your order card as soon as he opens your envelope, he will read it first to see what the deal is.

The quote here doesn't mention anything about the price and when to reveal it. But it's implied that you don't want to reveal that too early either [contrary to my instinct and what I'd want to do]

There are many examples of Indiehacker products and services I've seen that do not reveal the 'offer' and price up front. Especially the premium ones (e.g. 30x500). I suppose there is something to this advice.

Chapter 15 Getting technical about how to write copy

So far we have been conceptualizing the marketing effort. Haven't actually talked about the technical details of writing actual copy. This chapter gets into that.

First step to writing copy is to gather a file to things that might be "idea generators". Then start taking notes. "nugget notes" are little snippets of words or phrases. Then put 1 or 2 or 3 stars next to your notes indicating how 'hot' they are. Then put this project aside for a one or two days and come back to it.

Examples of idea generators:

  • List cards describing the lists you are going to test. [On the Internet, this could be a description of your distribution channels. subreddits, fb groups and what not]
  • A copy of the report(ebook) you're going to sell
  • Copies of ads and landing pages used by other people who are selling a product similar to yours
  • Copies of original source material. e.g. books on real estate investing
  • Your swipefile, copies of exceptionally good ads even if not related to your current product

When you actually come back to write copy, you do it according to a 'formula'. Here the author mentioned AIDA for the first time - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Your copy should:

  1. First, get his their attention
  2. Second, get him them interested
  3. Third, make him them desire what you are selling
  4. Compel him them to take whatever action is needed to get whatever it is you are selling.

[I have seen this acronym in many newsletters and marketing posts. I wonder if their source is these letter or whether the Author is borrowing from one of the books he has mentioned. And sure it makes sense to do these things. I'd like to see more concrete examples of applying this.]

[Lesson] Always include concrete details about your product. The kind that your readers can imagine physically.

This advice has parallels to landing page tips I've read from Stacking The Bricks. Here's a quote that sums up all the details that you should include:

Now here are a few things you should always include. A complete description of your product including how many pages, how many words, how many photos, who wrote it, facts about the author (~his~ their age, background, success stories, etc.). You should also take notes on what this product will do for you. Will it make you wealthy? How will more money help your customer? Will he be able to buy a better car? Take more vacations? Afford a better home? If so, put it down.

Chapter 16 All about AIDA

This chapter is what most people expect when they decide to read The Boron Letters. It's interesting to note that we don't get to it until the middle. The previous preparations are important.

Getting the readers/customer's attention is important, no one would disagree with that. The author makes the point that it's a crucial first step.

Also getting attention doesn't mean click-baity headlines (although they work sometimes). There is a fine line, and you want to get the right kind of attention the right way.

you must get the right kind of attention. If not, your reader will be insulted and angry and probably won’t become a customer. So, always remember that your attention grabber needs to be relevant. It needs to tie in naturally with your letter.

The next step after getting attention is to catch the reader's interest. Everything the author says (IMO) can be summed up in one word: money. People are always interested in money, making more of it. So if your product can help them do that, say that and add in some facts and concrete numbers.

There are other things people are interested in like time and saving time or maybe status and connection.

The next step is to arouse desire in the reader.

What we do to create desire is we describe the benefits our prospect gets if ~he~ they buy our product or service

This also has parallels to landing page advice - don't list features of your product, describe benefits to the user.

In the case of real estate investment book, the way to create desire is to help the reader imagine in their mind the benefits of having more money (even if that doesn't seem necessary, in sales copy 'you must always do even the obvious'). For completeness here are the benefits the author lists - new car, nice house, peace of mind (no worries about bills), vacations, attract the opposite sex, leisure time (freedom)


[Lesson] Your call-to-action should be clear and detailed. Tell the read exactly what you want them to do. Make it as frictionless as possible. On the Internet, this can be as simple as 'type an email address and click a button'. Or it could be enter credit card info.

What the author describes is sending payment in the mail, naturally more complicated with lots of steps.

[Lesson] You want to create a sense of urgency. Compel the reader to take action now, like right now. This is called 'closing the sale'. You could spend 25% of the entire ad in closing.

[Aside] I've seen several examples of copy from Indiehackers that create a sense of urgency. My hesitation with emulating some of them is that it could feel like a fake sense of urgency...although two of them made me take action recently so I suppose it works. This is perhaps the reason Black Friday sales are so popular among indie products. There is some built-in commonly agreed upon urgency. I have to figure out how to do this outside the once a year cycle.

What I find interesting about this AIDA 'formula' and a systematic approach to writing copy for your product is that it can used to decide what to build in the first place. For example, if we can't imagine what we'd say to get someone's interest and if we can't list benefits for our potential customers, then maybe the thing we're imagining is not a good product idea that people would pay for.

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