Is Your Marketing Copy Breaking This Cardinal Rule?

“The physical part of your product does not sell. People do not buy the steel in a car, the glass in a vase, the tobacco in a cigarette, or the paper in a book…. The important part of your product is what it does.” – Gene Schwartz

Recently, I reviewed some copy from a copywriter who’s been writing for a while. It wasn’t bad. But it didn’t rise above the vast heap of promotions clamoring for attention.

So – as it stood – I knew it wouldn’t get read. And the product wouldn’t get sold.

The problem? Simply this: The copywriter was trying too hard to sell the product… by focusing too much on the product itself.

It’s a common mistake made by novice and B-level copywriters. They put too much effort into describing the product… what it is… and how it works.

That breaks the cardinal rule of copywriting: Keep the product invisible.

Michael Masterson calls this the “Secret of Transparency.” The idea is to make your product transparent, or invisible, by focusing on the benefits and the ways the product improves your prospect’s life.

This is a VERY important copywriting rule.

Your prospect doesn’t want another book, manual, or gadget. What he wants is to be successful… or wealthy… or healthy… or attractive. The copywriter’s job is to get to that “Aha!” moment where he’ll suddenly realize that what you’re selling will help him get there.

Let’s look at a concrete example.

Imagine you’re selling a new personal success program written by a self-help guru. The basic promise of the program: “You can be successful without really trying, simply by switching on an internal mental switch.”

If your copy focuses on the product from the beginning, you run a very real risk. First, your product will sound very ordinary – like so many programs out there. Second, your prospect – spurred by your copy – can easily go to Amazon and buy a book that makes a similar promise. You made a sale. But the wrong one.

In our example, you’re selling the secret to automatic success… in anything your prospect sets out to accomplish. You’re selling a “secret” that’s used by some of the world’s happiest and wealthiest people… something they learned very easily that transformed their lives.

So you focus on your underlying big promise, which, in this example, might be simply “automatic success.” You do it by revealing just a little bit of the program here and there – and focusing on the benefits and the resulting impact these simple little secrets can have on your prospect’s life: wealth, success in business, better personal relationships… and that magnificent feeling of knowing that he can accomplish anything. All because he alters his thinking in a very small but profound way.

What you don’t want to do is give him a long-winded dissertation on the history of the program and how it works. This sort of approach gives the prospect too many chances to opt out. It’s boring to him because it isn’t about his needs, wants, desires, fears, or passions.

The bottom line is this. Your prospect needs to leave your sales letter convinced he’s found the “missing key” to his success. Finally, he’s discovered what makes successful people successful. This is his lucky day. Had he not read this letter, he might never have known about it.

And now he wants more.

One more thing…

When you use the Secret of Transparency by keeping the product invisible and focusing on benefits, be sure that, throughout the copy, everything you say is subtly connected to your central and main promise – “automatic success,” in our example. Always keep in mind that once you slip into explaining what the product is, it loses its luster. It becomes ordinary. And you risk having your prospect lose sight of the “big idea” behind your sales message.

And how do you find your product’s “big idea”? After collecting and studying all your research, step back and ask yourself: “What’s the most exciting thing this product can do for me? What can it do for my prospect?” Get excited about the product’s benefits – and share your enthusiasm with your prospect.

Adopting the Secret of Transparency may seem counter-intuitive. But when you apply it to your marketing copy – while less-informed marketers continue to focus their copy on the product – your sales campaigns will be successful when your competitors’ fail.

[Ed Note: Paul Hollingshead is an expert copywriter and a co-founder of American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI). The Secret of Transparency is one of over 60 deep-rooted secrets in AWAI’s Master’s Program. Each one is explained in precise detail… with examples to help you understand them… and simple exercises designed to make sure you never forget them. Learn more here.]