Direct mail can be a great source of inspiration for successful online sales pages and video sales letters (VSLs).
In fact, many of the best-performing sales pages you’ll fine online right now in the supplement niche were originally written as direct mail magalogs, “slim jims”, bookalogs, and other long-form, self-mailer formats.
I should know… many of my control promos that I originally wrote for direct mail formats have been converted word-for-word into sales pages and VSLs. Some are still running as much as 11 years later and remaining unbeatable.
So what is it about successful direct mail copy that also makes it work so well online?
It’s applying many of the same timeless copywriting principles that work like gangbusters no matter WHAT format or channel you’re using or WHAT type of product you’re selling.
Yes, I know that’s bad news for the “make money online” biz-opp goo-roos who tell you long copy doesn’t work anymore or who claim to have invented “ninja” tactics that those of us in our 50s and 60s were already profiting richly from way back when they were still wearing diapers.
And I know from a fact (from my own experience and talking to top companies in the space) that some of the most successful promos that are killing it online were written by grizzled veterans like yours truly.
I’m talking about those of us who cut our teeth on writing long-form copy back when it needed to be good enough to compete at the highest levels against the likes of Gary Bencivenga, the late Jim Rutz, and Jim Punkre (who’s got some online controls out there right now)… and justify a $1-per-piece-mailed investment to simply test their copy.
Correction: it had to not just be good, but GREAT.
So this is for the “young-uns” out there… no matter what niche you write or market for, you’ve got a lot to learn from the direct mail copywriters that are still competing in this space.
Most of them are “happy old” people–that’s an inside joke for another time–retired or semi-retired and enjoying their financial freedom doing whatever they like. And some are still doing it just for the joy of it.
In any case, I was inspired to focus my copy-breakdown eyes on a digestive supplement sales page that appears to be doing well… since it keeps popping up again and again.
It’s a product from one of my long-time clients–Green Valley Natural Solutions–but it’s not MY copy.
From what I can tell, it’s been converted from a successful direct mail promo (that’s still mailing) into this online sales page. And it takes inspiration from what I saw between 2007 and 2014: a non-stop wave of direct mail promos that kept pushing the envelope on their front covers when it came to GROSS.
I’m talking headlines like “Is it stuck?” and “Can’t go?” or with graphics of intestines on the front or someone sitting on the toilet. Here’s a pile of promos I pulled out of my personal swipe files so you can see what I mean…
I’m not knocking these promos–they worked great! And apparently “gross” still works well. I know that contradicts what I said in this recent issue.
However, I’ve written successful promos–including the 11+ year digestive control that reigned during the direct mail “gross” years and is still working that I shared in that issue–without using these toilet or sewer-type tactics.
So let’s take a look at this online sales page for a digestive supplement–focusing on solving the issue of constipation… and see why it’s working.
Brace yourself though… this top-of-page graphic on the first page could make you toss your cookies (you’ve been warned!)
Now, I do think that’s MUD, and not something else. But it’s a graphic that immediately grabs your attention–whether it shows up in your physical mailbox or you click through to it from an email.
And the headline copy that accompanies it instantly triggers curiosity while calling out a prospect with digestive concerns (“If you’re constipated with hard stools…”)
The copy below the image hints at the hidden cause of their constipation issues that’s revealed inside to keep the prospect reading.
It then paints a picture of the prospect’s DREAM: make constipation vanish. But it does so in a very visceral way that gets them pre-experiencing it: “You sit. You GO. You’re empty.”
Now, let’s take a look at what comes next as you scroll down (BTW, I’ve embedded links in the images to the actual sales page, which you can find here.)
The end of the deck copy acts as a bridge to the main letter by piling on study and social proof. That’s crucial early on when you’re making such a big claim as “the end of constipation” to build belief and increase readership.
The lead opens with empathy copy that immediately speaks to the prospect’s deepest frustrations and right off the bat offers up a big promise.
You ALWAYS need to know what big promise you’re making to your prospect, and get that into your headline and lead right upfront.
Then it follows that big claim by expanding on the proof already hinted at in the deck copy. Then it reveals an ingredient the prospect will have never heard of (because it’s a special name they likely came up with that sounds scientific). It also briefly mentions the product name to set up the “mini-closes” that come just a short time later.
(“Mini-closes” are an old-school, long-copy tactic where you set up a want or desire or curiosity (say with a compelling fascination) and then immediately tell the prospect how to get it, without going into a full-blown close. We’ll look at one here in just a second.)
Notice also that it uses “cliffhanger” questions and other “salting” techniques to keep the prospect gliding through the copy, unable to stop and wanting to know more.
Now let’s take a look at some good stuff that comes next…
The copywriter gives this special ingredient a more memorable and benefit-oriented name: “the poopmaker”. Then the copy sets up the hidden cause of the problem: that you don’t have enough of this probiotic strain in your gut as you get older.
It then immediately shuts off all the exit doors to competing solutions by saying there’s ZERO of this probiotic in other probiotic supplements. (Note: I would have moved this statement to its own paragraph so it doesn’t get lost, and added another sentence to expand on it as it’s an important point.)
I love the scientist’s observation that’s cited about giving 90-year-olds the healthy digestive tracts of 30-year-olds. I think that deserves more prominence.. maybe it could be a potential headline test.
(If there’s a way to do any name-dropping here or with the other studies cited, meaning they’re from authoritative or respected known sources, I’d also add that.)
I also LOVE the highly-scannable graphics that stand out here to highlight the study proof, along with the “Fact Check” graphic. Successful direct mail promos are almost always designed by the very BEST graphic designers–I’m talking about folks like Rob Davis and Lori Haller (who also does killer online ones).
You can and SHOULD use similar strong, instantly-“getable” graphics in your online sales page as well… and DO NOT SKIMP on using a high-quality, experienced designer.
Okay, we’re just going to look at a few more because my dog Pearl is ready for a “poop walk”. And I’d hate for her to get constipated.
So we’re going to wrap this up by skipping ahead to where the unique mechanism is discussed plus that promised early “mini-close”…
The copy continues on after discussing the hidden cause of their constipation and introducing the unique probiotic ingredient that solves it.
It then starts to explain the unique mechanism. Basically it talks about how it works (crowds out bad bacteria) and why it’s able to do so (a genetic match to the bacteria you were born with).
It then immediately ties this unique mechanism to a host of future-pacing benefits that once again gets the prospect pre-experiencing how great life can be with this product solving their problem.
This is the perfect time for the “mini-close” that follows immediately afterwards that creates scarcity and urgency and hints at the special “only-pay-shipping” autoship offer. (Note: they use a different non-autoship offer for the direct mail promo.)
One thing I’d consider testing here would be adding a CTA link or button right here in case someone is ready to jump ahead and buy right then… especially since it’s a very low “barrier” to doing so (it’s not like you have to sell them on ponying up $150+).
Then the copy continues on into another angle or way in… which was likely a new 2-page spread in the direct mail promo. Now, I’ll leave you to read the rest.
But as you can see there are some highly-effective and timeless tactics here borrowed from direct mail that have been used for decades… and work just as well when you use them for online copy, too.
(Hope I didn’t ruin your breakfast, lunch, or dinner with that initial image though!)
Before I head off, I’m giving you the head’s up that I’m holding a pre-Black Friday sale THIS WEEK that you’re not going to want to miss. So keep an eye out for tomorrow’s email.
And if you’re interested in joining my Fast Track to A-List copy mentoring group while you can still do so and take advantage of the “early bird” savings that expire in a few weeks, then you’ll want to go here.
Yours for smarter marketing,