One of the most labor-intensive, time-consuming marketing tasks is copywriting. Not necessarily writing the copy… but agonizing over what has been written.

As a copywriter, I do this all the time. I fret to an insane degree over every sentence, reading the copy over and over again, questioning whether the wording could be stronger.

It literally keeps me up at night.

Marketers do the same thing. They mark change after change on a nearly finished promotion, agonizing over whether the copy says exactly the right thing, in exactly the right way.

The irony, of course, is that, in most situations, all this agonizing is for naught.

I don’t mean to say that copy is unimportant. But most of the time, whether you go with “version A” or “version B” wouldn’t make one iota of difference in your response rate.

So I DO think you should agonize over your copy… but only a small fraction of it.

Specifically, here are three “hot spots” where what you say – and how you say it – really, really matters:

1. The first hot spot is determined by its position in the promotion.

In a standard, #10 direct-mail package, critical copy is the teaser on the outer envelope and the headline and lead of the sales letter. In a magalog, it’s the copy on the front cover… the inside front cover… the headline and lead on page 3… and the back cover.

These sections are worth stressing over, because different wording can result in dramatic increases or decreases in your response rates.

2. The second hot spot is where you describe the central message, theme, or idea of your selling proposition.

For instance, do you position your newsletter’s recommendations on energy stocks as a way for your reader to hedge his portfolio against a bear market triggered by rising oil prices? Or do you talk about how he can profit from the “next big thing” in energy investing – which, according to your editor, is that crude oil will reach $200 a barrel by the end of the decade?

The “big idea” of your promotion – and the way you express it – really matters.

3. The third hot spot is where you describe the offer.

Offering a “free information kit,” for instance, usually generates more leads than the vaguer “send for more information.” The idea of a “kit” is somehow more tangible and sounds more valuable.

On the order form, changing even one word in the copy can mean the difference between a winner and a disaster – for instance, “$100 a year” vs. “$500 a year” or “10-day money-back guarantee” vs. “90-day money-back guarantee.”

It is worth your time to continue to polish and fine-tune these three critical areas… until you feel confident that what you’ve got can work.

You could spend the same amount of time agonizing over everything else in your mailer. But since most of it won’t make much difference either way in the response and sales generated… well, why bother?

[Ed. Note: Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 70 books. Together with Michael Masterson, Bob has put together a comprehensive program that reveals insider secrets of direct marketing. Keep in mind that you can use direct marketing to help you grow any business – whether it’s a brick-and-mortar store or an online company.

Sign up for Bob’s free monthly e-zine, Direct Response Letter, and get more than $100 in free bonuses.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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