The Most Important Persuasion Tip

“If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself.” – Lord Chesterfield (Letters to His Son, Feb. 22, 1748)

When I critique advertising copy, I use a bag full of tricks I’ve collected over the years to make the job easy and quick. I’ve detailed these in AWAI’s copywriting course ( and have told you about many of them in the past. They include:

* The Four-Legged Stool: To be as strong as it can be, sales copy must rest firmly on four legs that show that the product/service (1) has a strong and irresistible benefit, (2) has an impressive and demonstrable track record, (3) comes from a credible company, and (4) has a good idea behind it.

* The Four P’s: A great sales letter should (1) make a PROMISE, (2) draw a PICTURE, (3) PROVE its claims, and (4) PUSH the prospect into a buying decision.

* The Four U’s: Good headlines, subheads, and bullets should (1) be USEFUL to the prospect, (2) provide him with a sense of URGENCY, (3) convey the idea that the main benefit of the product/service is somehow UNIQUE, and (4) do all these things in an ULTRA-SPECIFIC way.

These are all very useful tricks. But if I had to choose one of them over the rest — and I’m saying this because someone just asked me to do that — there’s no question which one I’d choose. Far and away, making the advertising copy specific — or, to be compliant with the “Four U’s” rule above, ultra-specific — is the most powerful way to make it persuasive.

If I were to suggest that you sign up for the AWAI copywriting program because it will help make you rich, you would probably write my suggestion off as hype — or worse, a cliché.

Look at the difference if I give you specific details like this, instead:

* Less than a year after completing AWAI’s program, former bartender Justin Franklin is well on his way to making his first $100,000 as a copywriter — and he has six months worth of work lined up.

* Don Mahoney went from scratching for a living as a carpenter to making more than $200,000 a year as a copywriter.

* Paul Hollingshead was paid more than $50,000 for a single sales letter.

I remember once deciding to go to an investment conference based on the irresistible description of butter melting on a roll. It would have been much cheaper to go out to the nearest 7-Eleven and get a buttered roll there, but that specific, sensual image of the buttered roll was already firmly entrenched in my mind by the copywriter — and I could get it nowhere but at this particular conference in San Francisco.

Time and again in working with copywriters, I find that the trick to making their copy stronger is simply to ask them, “Can you be more specific about this?” or “Can you give me several specific examples?”

In a somewhat hokey but very smart book that JG sent me the other day, this point is well made. After telling a funny story about convincing a cop that he wasn’t a burglar by providing the officer with a hyper-specific explanation of why he was walking around a retail store in the middle of the night, Roy H. Williams, in “Secret Formulas of the Wizards of Ads,” says, “The simple truth is that nothing sounds quite so much like the truth as the truth, and most people seem to know the truth when they hear it. The truth is never full of loopholes and generalities. The truth is made of specifics and substantiations. It’s solid. That’s why it’s easy to spot in a world full of paper-thin lies, half-lies, and hype.”

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]