The other day, a guy — a real sad sack — left a post on my blog. Said he’s been a copywriter for decades but has not been very successful at it.
It’s not his fault, of course. It’s the world’s fault. More specifically, it’s the direct-response marketing world’s fault. And to get even more specific, it’s ultimately the fault of our prospective customers.
See, our Sad Sack realizes that prospects will not respond to a depressed, negative, cynical salesperson. After all — if you’re interested in buying, say, a new sports car, the last thing you want to do is consider all the possible negatives of owning one.
We want the salespeople we deal with to be upbeat — excited, even — about the products we’re contemplating buying. And since copywriters are salespeople in print, that means he’d have to become (horror of horrors!) enthusiastic about the products he’s selling.
But enthusiastic sales copy — which our Sad Sack refers to as “hype” — is beneath him. He wouldn’t dream of lowering himself.
Frankly, there are so many things wrong with his post on my blog, I couldn’t begin to address them all…
For one thing, our Sad Sack — our holier-than-thou cynic — obviously has no idea what the word “hype” really means.
“Hype” is short for “hyperbole” — which the Encyclopedia Britannica defines as “… a figure of speech that is an intentionalexaggeration for emphasis or comic effect.”
Wikipedia says that hype is “… a figure of speech in which statements are exaggerated… and is not meant to be taken literally. Some examples include: ‘He has a brain the size of a pea’… ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a horse’… ‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times.'”
By eschewing the use of hype in his sales copy, is he telling me that he is opposed to saying, for example, “I could eat a horse” unless he had substantiation proving beyond a doubt that he does, in fact, have the digestive capacity to process 1,200 pounds of horseflesh at one sitting?
Of course, not. That’s not what S.S. is saying. He’s saying that being enthusiastic about the benefits a product brings to people’s lives — writing high-energy sales copy about those benefits — is somehow immoral.
Because he didn’t just fall off the turnip truck. He knows all too well that there are plenty of negatives associated with every product you can name.
And you know what? He is 100 percent correct.
- Big Macs tastes great — but they’ll make you fat and raise your blood pressure. And if you eat them every day, they will probably wind up killing you with a heart attack or stroke.
- A Porsche 911 is a blast to drive — but it doesn’t get great gas mileage, virtually guarantees you’ll get speeding tickets, and could ultimately kill you in a fiery crash.
- Even puppies have a downside. Sure, they’re cute, funny, and adorable. But they will chew your slippers, poop on the carpet, barf on the couch, and hump your Aunt Tilly’s leg.
And, yes, McDonald’s, Porsche, and the dog pound are all notorious for their failure to mention the downside in their advertising. They spend their ad budgets emphasizing every benefit and suppressing every drawback.
Which, to our moralistic Sad Sack, is unacceptable… completely beneath a person with his lofty ideals.
Obituary Writer Needed
“And so,” said Sad Sack, “I guess I’ll just have to accept the fact that I’m not going to be very successful.”
To which, I was tempted to respond…
“No, you’re not going to be a success. At least not in the sales biz.
“If you, in your heart of hearts, hate being advertised to… if you incessantly bitch about the amount of junk mail you receive… if you hate spending your money on anything but the bare necessities… and if you assume that everyone with a product or service to sell is a scam artist…
“There is an excellent chance that you have chosen to pursue the wrong career.
“Don’t get me wrong. You can still make a decent living as a writer. But please — for Buddha’s sake — get out of the marketing game now. There are plenty of writing jobs for negative, cynical people.
“You may wind up writing obituaries for the rest of your life — but, hey, at least you won’t starve!”
Free Your Mind and Your Arse Will Follow
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have ignored Sad Sack’s post. Because he makes a point that simply isn’t being made enough by copywriting coaches today.
See, those of us who have made it in this business tend to be very positive people. We’re optimists. We believe that the products we promote really do bring value to our prospects’ lives. That makes us happy — enthusiastic, even — when describing that value.
On balance, though, we also understand that in today’s increasingly skeptical world, optimism and enthusiasm must have a foundation. Our sales copy must be credible — and, therefore, based on real, provable, easily demonstrable facts.
So while it’s true that just about anyone can learn the rules for creating fair-to-middlin’ sales copy, not everybody has the proper belief system, mindset, or temperament to be a successful salesperson in print.
But couldn’t the same be said for pretty much every field of human endeavor?
The simple truth is…
If you think you’re a victim, you will always be a victim.
If you search for reasons to be depressed or to quit trying, you will find them.
If you justify your failure by blaming it on others, you will find plenty of people willing to exploit you by
ustifying your depression… confirming your victimhood… and commending you for your failure to give it your all.
A couple of years ago, a woman told me she could never make it in this biz because she was a female.
Years earlier, a guy told me he’d never make it because he was black.
Guess what? Neither one of them made it.
Meanwhile, my friend Carline Anglade-Cole — an African-American female copywriter — is driving a Mercedes, living in a 6,500-square-foot mansion, and making $800K a year.[Ed. Note: Ready for some more tough love? Every year at Early to Rise’s Info-Marketing Bootcamp, we bring in experts like Clayton Makepeace who know what it takes to be successful. As an attendee, you might have to face some hard truths — but if you’re really serious about starting and growing your own business, you’ll thank them for it.
Master copywriter Clayton Makepeace publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Claim your 4 free moneymaking e-books — bursting with tips, tricks, and tactics that’ll skyrocket your response rates — at MakepeaceTotalPackage.com.]