Selling, Honesty, and Imagination


Never hide what you’re after. Hiding what you’re after makes people hate you. When you’re talking business, speak directly.


Are you writing a poem? Are you writing a song? Are you writing a novel?


That’s great. If you’re doing those things, it’s fine to be as cryptic as you want to be. But when you’re talking business, speak directly.


I know people will tell you all this malarkey about how you’re supposed to build customer personas and figure out exactly who you’re dealing with and who you’re selling to before you even talk to them. Maybe it works for somebody, but the fact is: most of the time that stuff comes off as incredibly creepy. Worse than that, it leaves you feeling slimy and manipulative.


(And to make it even worse, it doesn’t even work very well!)


Selling is simple. Here’s how it should go:


Person A: Do you want to buy my thing?


Person B: Yes, I want to buy your thing.


See that? It’s simple. There’s none of this mindless, masturbatory song and dance where you act like you’re not trying to sell something and end up making an asshole out of yourself. If you’re selling something, own it. If you’ve got the goods, you don’t have to play a lot of subtle tricks.


There’s nothing people resent more than when you pretend you’re not selling something when you really are selling something.


Take pretty much the entire internet as an example. This whole wrongheaded, bullshitty idea of “content marketing” is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Sure, make your marketing look like it’s a blog and that will lead customers to you in droves.


Does it work? Eh, maybe, sometimes, sort of. But it’s worth a try.


Or this whole insipid idea of SEO. “I know, let’s junk up our articles with a lot of keywords and slap a lot of complex terminology on commonsense website development.”


That’s what SEO boils down to. But there’s a whole industry built on that one god-awful idea.


Now, I told you there’s nothing people resent more than when you pretend you’re not selling something when you’re selling something. So it’s time for me to come clean.


I’m selling something. I’m a writer, and I’m selling my writing services.


Before you ask: no, I do not want to join your company full-time, no I don’t want to talk to you on the phone, and no I don’t want to visit you in your office. Pretty much the whole point of taking up freelance writing for a living is so you can avoid human contact as much as possible. So unless you’re an insanely beautiful woman with a thing for writers I’m much too busy. Just let me do my writing thing while you do your business-running thing.


And another thing: for the love of God, quit asking me if I’ve got extensive experience in your field. I’m twenty-five years old and my degree is in philosophy—so unless you’re trying to puzzle out the Pure Categories of the Understanding, I probably don’t know a ton about what you do.


But guess what? I know how to read, I’m a quick learner, and I’ve got an appetite for knowledge. The simple fact of the matter is that copywriting doesn’t take a ton of previous knowledge in your field.


I know you’re probably getting all up in arms over there, thinking “My field is so special you could never understand it in all its complexity!”


And you’re probably right about that. But all I need to know is a few simple things I can pick up fairly quickly: I need to know a little terminology, I need to know who your buyer is, and I need to know what your offer does for them.


It’s not all that complicated. No matter how arcane your market is, it’s accessible to that approach. Copywriting is copywriting, whether you’re selling condoms, Communist revolutions, or Tic-Tacs. Human psychology is the same everywhere.


People try to complicate copywriting, as if they’ve got this need to justify their rates. Copywriting isn’t complicated. You grab a reader’s attention and you keep them reading until they feel a strong enough desire to buy. The fact is, the longer your reader reads your thing, the more interested they are in buying.


So don’t shy away from letting people know exactly what you’re up to. People are smart. They’ll figure it out whether you tell them or not, but they’ll like you a hell of a lot more if you’re honest and forthright with them.
Maybe that means a bunch of people are going to quit reading as soon as they realize you’re trying to sell something. That’s great! Because it means the people who stick around are at least willing to stick around to read even after you’ve made it clear you’re trying to sell something.


Guess what? That means they haven’t ruled out the possibility of buying from you. They may even have taken the critical leap toward imagining what it would be like to purchase your product or service.


That’s key. Imagination is key. If you can draw someone’s imagination into what you write, you can tap into their interest on a deeper level. I know that sounds a little woo-woo and airy-fairy, but in all honesty that’s what copywriting is all about. It’s about creating desire, and desire is nothing without imagination.


Let me give you an example: why is a woman in lingerie almost always more alluring than a woman not in lingerie? It’s because the lingerie engages the imagination. You imagine peeling it off her smooth skin, and that simple bit of imagination inflames the desire.


That’s an example of what I’m talking about. Imagination and desire are inextricably linked, and if you’re going to channel desire into sales, you have to know how to direct the imagination.


That’s the artistry of copywriting. That’s the importance of the imagination. And that’s the value of a good copywriter.


What are Case Studies? (Part 2 of 3)


Yesterday we talked about what case studies are, and I gave you a few ideas on how a great case study can show off what’s special about your business. Today I’m going to give you a step by step guide to producing a case study that grabs your prospect and forces them to read every word.


(Just a side note: if you haven’t taken a look at yesterday’s article yet, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know.


A case study is a marketing tool that shows your prospects the value of your offering.


Most of the time, a case study will:


  • Share a compelling story that shows your how your company solved a customer’s problem.
  • Present the story from your customer’s point of view.
  • Display an angle that shows the unique thing that makes your company shine.
  • Educate your prospects on the value of your offering.


Case studies are usually about one to four pages long. The very best of them tells a story that informs, entertains, and inspires.)


I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to craft a brilliant case study. But with a lot of time, hard work, and dedication, you should be able to get the job done. Of course, a professional copywriter will usually be eager to take that work off your hands if you don’t have the time.


So without any further ado, let’s get writing, shall we?


  1. Find one of your best, most typical customers, and schedule an interview with a representative.

Now, this is a pretty simple step in and of itself, but I wanted to take some time to talk about it so I could draw your attention to the two key words here. What are the key words?


They are: best and most typical (okay, technically that’s three words. Sorry.).


You want to have your interview with your best customers for plenty of reasons. First off, if they’re you’re best customers, you’re more likely to be able to get a compelling story when you interview them, right?


And I know this is probably pretty obvious, but I might as well say it anyways: just like it’s best to get a review or a testimonial from your best customers, it’s best to get a case study from them, too. They’ve got the most value out of your offering and they’ll have an infectious enthusiasm that will spread to the people who read your case study.


It might be a little less obvious why I say you should go with your most typical customers. But that’s just a matter of practicality. I mean, if you’re trying to show your prospects what your offering can do, you’re not going to want them to read about that customer who buys a half-dozen special services and none of your typical offerings, are you?


Of course not. You’re going to want to interview the customer who buys your most common offer. After all, you’re telling this customer’s story. Don’t you want it to be one your typical prospect can relate to?


Sure you do. So break out that phone or keyboard and schedule that interview!


  1. Prepare for and conduct the interview.

When it comes to it, a phone or Skype interview is just fine for this part. It takes some practice to get good at interviewing, but let me just give you a few pointers so you can get the information you need.


Here’s the main thing to remember when you’re conducting interviews: never forget what you need to get out the interview.


What’s that, then? First off, you want story you can share with your prospects to show them the value of your offer.


That means you want to know all the facts and figures of the company. You want to be able to explain what they do and why they do it. Simple enough, right?


Second, you want to know about the problem that led this company to approach yours. (Protip: make sure you’ve got a clear description of the problem and the pain points involved.)


Third: you want to know how your company solved the problem. (Of course, you already know this, but you want to get the story from your customer’s point of view.) When the time comes to write your story, this will be where your company swoops in to save your customer.


Last: you want to know the results. That means you want to know the statistics that prove the value you’ve provided.


With a practiced hand, you should be able to fit all this information into a short interview. No pressure, you’ve got this.


  1. Write your first draft.

Now that you’ve got it all together, it’s time to get into the writing process. Luckily for you, case studies generally have a pretty standard structure, so you don’t have a lot to worry about on that front.


Remember: you’re telling a story here. The same skills go into crafting a good case study that go into telling a good story.


So what’s a good story? A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce your hero—in this case, your customer. In the middle, you introduce your hero’s problem and show them trying to solve it. And in the end, they solve it—with a little help from you and your company, of course!


Of course, describing basic story structure is one thing and actually writing an effective story is another thing. Skillful writing is a matter of practice and mastery, just like any other craft. But with time, discipline, and sheer will power, you can learn it.


  1. Edit and revise.

This part of the process is pretty obvious, I’ll admit. You tidy up your sentence structure. You check your spelling. You eliminate your passive verbs and you eliminate every word that doesn’t contribute to the meaning of your story.


You’ll probably want to give it to a few people you can trust to give you honest feedback on your work. Ask them if everything makes sense and if it all fits together just right.


(Trust me on this: I’ve written things I thought made perfect sense, but when I ran it by a couple of readers I found out I’d made some silly mistakes. You never can tell what people might misunderstand.)


Now that you’ve edited, pay attention to this part: before you use your case study for anything, you should run it by your customer and have them sign off on it. This is important: you want to get your customer to approve of the final article before you do anything with it.


So that’s the process! As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. I’ll tell you some more about what you can use them for tomorrow!


Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at


What’s A Good Sales Letter?


What does a good sales letter look like?


Simple. It looks like a letter that actually makes the sale.


There’s nothing complicated about it. You’ve got simple goals when you’re making a sales letter.


Let me spell it out for you. You’re going to want to:


  • Seize your reader’s attention.
  • Demand their interest.
  • Build up their desire to buy.
  • Induce action.


It’s as simple as that. If somebody told you it was complicated, somebody lied.


Now, realize I said it was simple. I didn’t say it was easy. Hitting a home run is simple. Is hitting a home run easy?


No, it’s not.


So how do you write a letter that makes the sale?


First off: you realize that writing is a complicated process. You realize that just because the kid you’ve got working for you graduated with a 4.0 from Harvard Business School doesn’t mean he knows the first thing about how to write for people.


You realize everything counts in writing.


The length of your sentences.


The order of your words.


Heck, your punctuation matters.


And I’m not just saying it matters in some hoity-toity stylistic way, either. I’m saying it matters for the bottom line. If the person writing that letter doesn’t know what they’re doing, you’re kissing plenty of orders goodbye.


My advice: find somebody who knows how to engage a reader’s imagination. It sounds easy, but it’s what writing’s all about.


There’s a reason people spend their lifetimes writing.


So: what do you do to draw out a reader’s imagination? Do you use the normal tricks of the trade, or have you come up with something new?


Copywriters Need to Remember This!


Let me ask you a simple question: what makes good copy?


It’s got a simple answer: good copy is copy that prompts the reader to take action.


Say what you will, and complicate it however you like. When you get to the bottom, it’s as simple as that. Good copy prompts action.


That can mean buying a product. It can mean subscribing to a mailing list. It can mean following a social media account. It can mean whatever you like.


But you have to keep this in mind: good copy is about purpose.


It’s easy for writers to get caught up in thinking good writing is somehow above having a purpose. It’s their art, after all, isn’t it?


Let me tell you this, bucko: not here, it ain’t. When you’re writing copy, you’re writing copy.


It’s not a novel, and it’s sure as hell not a poem. It’s copy.


It can hurt to hear that, especially when you’re first starting out. But that’s just the way it is, kid, and you’re going to have to get used to it.


Good copy is about producing action. It’s about channeling desire. It’s about shaking your readers out of their complacency long enough to do something!


A lot of people are afraid of taking action. And who can blame them?


This world is a dangerous place, and it takes courage to move forward into the unknown instead of sticking with what’s familiar.


So remember: when you’re writing copy, everything needs to be directed toward prompting action. Models like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) are very useful, but you must remember that action is always the goal.


If you think you’re being too obvious, that’s a sign you’re on the right track.


So tell me: what do you want to know about copywriting? Comment below, or feel free to email me at if you’re shy.