The two most important parts of any promo

Jun 20, 2022

Issue #157

In today’s issue, I’m going to be summarizing the very best tidbits of copywriting “gold” I dropped last week–just in case you missed them.

These tips and tactics are sure to help you with the two most important parts of any promo… plus give you an idea of how to get started writing (something many of us struggle with) by sharing my own approach.

Let’s first get rolling with…

John Caples’ advice on writing headlines

Many of us struggle when it comes to writing headlines. Part of the reason is because we often try to start there… rather than have the headline make itself apparent later.

It’s why once you complete your research process, the next best thing is to simply start writing. You can craft a few “sh*tty first draft headlines”, but then you want to move on with plans to come back later.

Of course, you need to figure out what writing process works best for you. My writing process is very organic and unstructured most of the time.

Sometimes I start in the middle of the promotion, flushing out the copy that’s specific to the product, such as various supplement ingredients.

I might get a spark of an idea for a headline and lead, write it all out, and then trash it for something better I come across later (this happens a lot!)

Or I might start with writing the close copy so I can cement the offer and call to action in my mind first.

Before fully committing to a particular headline and lead, you should write the majority of the copy first. In one of those early drafts, you’ll often find that buried headline or big idea that cries out to be brought up much earlier.

And none other than John Caples agrees with me. On page 15 of his classic book, Tested Advertising Methods, the great Caples writes:

“Of course, writing the headline first is based on your knowing what you are selling so well that the copy will flow naturally no matter where you begin. When that is not the case, begin by learning about the product or service.

Then, before starting on possible headlines, write a first draft of the copy to help organize what you now know.

Somewhere in that copy you are likely to find the key selling point on which to base your headline–not its words, but the concept on what your headline will be based. Now spend all the time you need to get the best headline possible, then rewrite and polish your copy to flow naturally…”

If you’re working with a client who wants you to give them the headline and lead before proceeding any further, know that you really need to do all of this legwork first… and flush out a good part of a rough draft of copy first.

And if, once your headline/lead concept has been approved, you come up with something you think is better, don’t be afraid to present it as an alternative.

Remember, your job is to create the best possible promotion with the greatest chance of becoming a strong, profitable control.

If you uncover some gem of an idea later in the process, use it. If it doesn’t make sense to do so then, save it for a future test… or see if they’ll pay you extra to write a second version of the promotion. That way you turn one job into two!

Most common offer-killers to AVOID

While copy and messaging can really move the needle when it comes to boosting your results, your OFFER (and how you state it) is just as crucial.

Your offer includes everything from the actual product or service itself to the pricing/discounts (i.e., “buy 2 get 1 free”) to any freebies or premiums you’re offering as incentives (i.e., free shipping) to the guarantee, and everything in-between.

You can have the strongest, most compelling copy and attention-getting design, and even a great list. But if your offer stinks or isn’t executed properly, you’re dead in the water.

The most common offer-killers I’ve seen include the following:

  • not being CLEAR about your offer…making it confusing or complicated
  • too many choices or options…paralyzing your prospect from taking further action
  • not removing risk for the prospect (i.e., a lousy or non-existent guarantee)
  • not telling the prospect exactly what to do (weak or buried call to action)
  • product or service itself isn’t something the list or market wants (untested/not proven)

There are many other issues that can result in your offer not bringing in sales, but these are the most frequent culprits.

And all are easy to fix, except for the last one (which is why copywriters who do new launches are taking on an additional risk—not that you shouldn’t do them, but something to be clear-eyed about if performance incentives are involved).

Putting it all together

If you can maximize the effectiveness of these two most important parts of any promo, you’ll give your copy the best chance of succeeding and generating increased sales.

It’s one reason why savvy direct marketers know that two of the biggest needle-movers to test when it comes to boosting the results of an under-performing or fatiguing control promo are the headline OR the offer (always just one variable at a time, just like a scientific experiment).

Keep all of this in mind as you write your copy and keep your current promos going strong!

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. No matter what you’re selling, or what market you’re going to, there are several classic, sales-boosting techniques you want to use when structuring offers and putting together the close copy in your sales pages or other promos.

That’s why in my Copywriting Velocity Complete Virtual Program, I include an in-depth module that reveals my very best “go-to” offer and close copy tactics that you can apply to ANY type of copy, sales channel, or niche.

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