A client of mine was skeptical about hiring a copywriter. He had been in his industry for decades, knew his stuff, and figured “Who better to get my message across than me?”
And he’s got a point. He knew the services he provided inside and out. He knew his customer base. And he was incredibly passionate about what the work he did. He had all the elements of being a great salesmen.
Except, he never learned how to sell. So even though he had this great service people desperately needed (he’s a family therapist)… and even though he was giving info away FREE… his message fell on deaf ears. Because as you’ll soon see, he wasn’t conveying his message in a way that would get prospects to take action.
This client hired me to rewrite a brochure designed to get parents of high-achieving high school freshman into a “mastermind” group. This group was to serve as a support system for parents, providing tools for creating and maintaining deep, loving connections with family during this often tumultuous time.
The group would meet for seven sessions. Below are bullets of his original copy describing 3 of those sessions, along with my rewrites and commentary (in red). I’m showing you this because the mistakes he made are the same mistakes I see over and over again. Seeing them may help you make changes to your own copy – or at the very least prove how hiring a pro copywriter can instantly make your message more compelling.
Brochure for Parenting “Mastermind” Group – 2nd Page Bullets
Session #2: The Legacy of Family Relationships
This session will explore how this legacy of family patterns passes from one generation to another.
This reads like a description of a college course. It does nothing to excite the reader to join this group.
Few people are walking around thinking “I need to find a parent support group”. The copy in this brochure needs to actually show them why this is something they need. Parents already have enough shit keeping them busy. If they don’t recognize the gaping need this fills for them, they’re not going to take time out of their day to check this support group out. So in my copy I created that need…
Session 2: What You Are “Accidentally” Teaching Your Kid
Explore the attitudes, behaviors, and habits you are subconsciously teaching your child that can dramatically alter the course of his/her life.
This bullet addresses why this training is necessary. It arouses curiosity and even a little fear. Parents may worry that they’re passing on bad habits without knowing it and will want to put a stop to that.
This re-write hits the reader on a more emotional level, too. If I was given more time on it I could have made it even stronger with a specific example of a common bad habit parents tend to pass on.
On a side note: When a copywriter asks to interview you about your product this is why. I couldn’t have just “re-written” what he had. I needed to find out what this session was really about. In this case I learned that this session was about teaching parents how kids are “modeling” their behavior even when the parent doesn’t realize it.
Session #3: Building Blocks of the Relationship System
We will look at a video and analyze the development of the relationships between family members. Every family has patterns. By identifying them in the video it will be easier to see how your family’s relationships work.
Again he’s describing what he’s doing, but there’s no description of the BENEFITS these parents will get from this training. What will identifying patterns DO for them? Why should they turn off Mad Men, get off their comfy couch, and drive to this parenting group?
Everyone is constantly asking themselves “What’s in it for me?” when reading an ad. You’ve got to answer that question for them. And make the offer irresistible.
Session 3: Maintain The Power In Your Household
If you ever argue with your partner or kid over the rules and boundaries you have set, then you won’t want to miss this session. (PLUS: What you learn about “relationship patterns” in this session can help you save your child from heartache in the dating world).
The headline here goes straight to a benefit that answers the “What’s in it for me?” question. Talking with the client I learned a big trouble is parents feeling like they have no control over their kids/family life. So I went straight to that pain point with the promise that they’d be able to keep that power.
And what is in those parenthesis goes straight to a direct benefit every parent can get behind. No parent wants to see their kid broken up over some girl/guy. What parent wouldn’t want the power to save their kid from heartache?
Also, parents might be hesitant about going to a parenting group because they don’t want to admit they could use outside help. This last point sidesteps that problem by making it about their kid. Now they won’t have to feel the need to sneak in through the back door so nobody sees that they’re going to a “support group”. They can proudly walk in the front because, damn it, they want to save their kid from pain.
Session #4: What Happened to All Those Loving Feelings?
We will examine how our most important relationships – adult partnerships and parent-child relationships – start out with so much promise and sometimes stall, slide downhill, or drift onto the back burner. We will discuss what you can do to re-kindle them.
This therapist is super passionate about the work he does and it can transform families completely. Are you getting that vibe from reading this copy? Sounds a little stiff and impersonal to me.
Also this title – although clever and kinda fun – is trouble. He’s openly asking parents to admit that the love in their relationship isn’t where it used to be. (Keep in mind this parenting group isn’t geared towards broken families. It’s geared toward high-achieving families who could have even stronger relationships and less stress/drama in their household.)
Session 4: Infusing Passion Into Your Marriage (And Life)
We love our kids but let’s face it; they can suck the passion and energy right out of us. In this session you will discover how to deepen the intimacy of your marriage and re-connect with the things that made your life juicy and exciting before you had kids.
This headline could still use work, but there’s a subtle and important change. Instead of highlighting a problem people would be embarrassed to admit, it cuts straight to the benefit of more passion.
And note how the overall tone is more conversational. People will be less inclined to go to a group if they think it’s going to be led by a stiff, buttoned-up intellectual. But they’ll go if it’s led by someone like them. That’s why it’s important that in your copy you have a tone that shows you’re a “regular guy/girl” just like them… who happens to have/know some things that would greatly benefit them.
After rewriting the brochure my client had an interesting epiphany. He noted how he was too close to his services. It was such a “no-brainer” to him that parents should be doing this that he didn’t realize he actually needed to sell them.
It’s times like that when you need a sales professional to come in with a fresh perspective to help you tell your story and make the sale.
Or at the very least, familiarize yourself with the sales process and learn what makes people buy. Grab some Dan Kennedy books. Take a writing courses like John Carlton’s Simple Writing System (I hear good things about dirtycopywriting.com, too) and learn how to tell your story in a way that will compel people to take action.
(Studying the fundamentals of direct-response copywriting is worth it even if you have no intention of writing your own ads. It will help you weed out the strong writers from the weak ones when hiring a copywriter).
DO NOT rely on the quality of your service or enthusiasm alone to make the sale. You might know that you have the greatest product/service in the world. But that means nothing until you’re able to communicate with people in a way that gets them to know it (and do something about it), too.