Expert copywriter Clayton Makepeace is our guest for this special episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. If there were a list of the world’s most successful (and highly paid) copywriters, Clayton would have a place near or at the top. He’s the kind of expert worth listening to if you want to succeed as a copywriter (and especially if you want to write financial copy). Here’s what we covered in our discussion:
• how Clayton went from running a folding machine to his first copy assignment
• what he learned working in the film industry that applies to copywriting
• how he went from employee to starting his own copy agency
• the raw truth about why he became a copywriter
• what he did to improve his skills early on (and the mentors he found)
• how he went from unknown to the copywriter everyone wanted to work with
• what he did to succeed that copywriters can model today
• the storytelling secret he learned from an old coin
• where you get the best criticism for your copy (it’s not a copy chief)
• Clayton’s thoughts on how you get a prospect to read past page one
• the process he uses with his team today to create a package
• why you need a stick as well as a carrot in your copy
• why leading with a big benefit might not be the best option
• the two ways to overcome objections
• specifics versus abstractions and why one works better in copy
• when you should present the expert’s bio on a sales page
• the “bars on the beach” reason he starts working at 4 am
• the financial copywriting training he’s working on right now
We knew this interview would be great the minute we booked it, but the advice Clayton shared was even better than we expected. To hear it, download it to your favorite podcast app. Or click the play button below. You can also scroll down for a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Jim Rutz
Carline Anglade Cole
The End of America
Clayton’s Financial Intensive
Makepeace Total Package
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.
Kira: It’s our new membership designed for you to help you attract more clients and hit 10k a month consistently.
Rob: For more information or to sign up, go to the copywriterunderground.com.
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts? Ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work. That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for a special unnumbered episode as we chat with copywriter and direct marketing consultant Clayton Makepeace about writing copy in the most competitive niches, his checklists for writing more powerful copy, what he’s learned mentoring other copywriters, and how you can learn to write copy for the financial niche.
Kira: Welcome Clayton.
Clayton: Hey, thank you for having me.
Kira: It’s great to have you here. It’s an honor. You’ve been on our list. As I mentioned before we recorded, for a long time, so we were lucky to finally get you on the show. To kick this off, let’s start with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?
Clayton: Okay, well, let’s see. I was running a folding machine in 1968 or 9 at a print shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the print shop printed appeal letters for a nonprofit organization. One day this guy came through, his name was Richard Viguerie. He was in his forties, and it was like the second coming of Christ, and we had to clean up the warehouse for this guy. It was like a real VIP. And it turns out he was a copywriter who was writing all of these appeal letters, and he also did a lot more for us.
We had the first mainframe computer west of the Mississippi by any private company to segment our file with, this is in the late 60s. Anyway, someone mentioned to me that Richard was making like $350,000 a year in 1968, and I thought, ‘Whoa!’ And all I had to do at night was just sit around and run the folding machine and read these letters that he had written. And so I figured I could probably write one of these, and I asked the head of the organization, ‘If I wrote one, would you mail it?’
And he said, ‘Well, if I like it, yeah,’ so I wrote an appeal letter. He mailed it and it worked, but I wasn’t smart enough to realize I could actually make a living doing this. It was several years before I finally got back into this and it was basically in LA. We had a recession in 73 and 74. I’d been in the film industry and I couldn’t get work, so I saw an ad for a small agency that needed a copywriter, and I’d had that previous successful experience, and so I applied for the job and I got it. That was how I got started.
Rob: I love that. Before we jump into the whole copywriting thing, what did you do in the film industry?
Clayton: Well, I had my own sound stage at the old Columbia Studios on Gower St. in Hollywood and I had a three-camera truck. And so during the week I would go around town and I would basically rent the truck out, and I would be technical director or director on the shoot. I had moved there because I was offered a job as a film editor on The Incredible Hulk and Tenspeed and Brown Shoe and Baa Baaa Black Sheep.
A friend of mine was a producer of those programs, but I couldn’t get into the union. It was at Universal Studios and they were doing affirmative hiring, and so I couldn’t get into the union because I was white, so I ended up having to do these non-union gigs, like my own truck.
Rob: Interesting. Did that experience teach you anything that’s applicable to copywriting? Having to sell your services and process of editing and that kind of thing, or was it just simply a totally different career and copywriting was something new?
Clayton: No, no, I think sales is sales. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard, although I didn’t follow it, was, ‘If you want to be a great copywriter, forget copywriting, go be an insurance salesman,’ door to door, learn how to handle rejection, learn how to overcome objections, learn how to persuade, so yeah, I had the gig as a used car salesman for a while, and I really was horrible at that by the way. I was really terrible.
And if I ever used that as like a weather vane to see if I should go into copywriting I’d probably said no. And then another job was selling something called ‘Buyer’s Club’ door to door,’ where you pay some money to join this club and then you can buy things at a discount. I think that’s really good advice. We’re salesmen in print, that’s all we are.
We’re salespeople, and I think we should be compensated like salespeople, which means we should get a commission on what we sell, and it means that if we want to refine our skills, we can look at this, how long have there been salesmen? How long have there been salespeople? There are thousands of years of experience in what motivates people, what moves people, and what gets people to make purchase decisions, so yeah, I think I learned a lot from that.
Kira: I’m just curious, you mentioned your first appeal worked when you sent it out, and then it sounds like you waited a couple of years until you joined that first agency job. What happened in between there when the first appeal worked and you celebrated, why didn’t you continue and create another one? What happened at that point?
Clayton: Because it was actually .. no one asked me to. My heart was in the motion picture film industry, because soon after that happened, I was offered a job as associate director on a nationally syndicated television show. So, that’s really where my heart was, and I had done the copywriting thing just to see if I could do it because I thought I could. But film was my first love, film and video, and so it really took another several years until we had that big recession and there was no film and TV work in LA for me to break out and to go into copywriting.
Rob: Once you got hired onto that small agency, was it direct response type work that you were doing? Was it more agency grand type work? What were those first couple of clients like and then how did you branch out into doing your own thing?
Clayton: All right, well I’m glad I know what the next question is, so I’ll not name the agency. It was a small direct response agency, basically it was a small list brokerage, and they had a franchise for one of the big list companies, a compile list company, but they also rented regular buyer lists and so forth. And the owner of the agency’s reasoning was if I get a good copywriter in here, my list will work better, I’ll rent more names and I’ll make more money.
And so I came in, came to work, but it was all direct response work and right from the get go. In fact, my first two weeks they told me, ‘Don’t even come into the office, here’s a stack of books, just go home and read them.’ It was Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, Vic Schwab, all of the masters, so yeah, I read professionally for two or three weeks, got paid to do it and then came in and started knocking out copy.
Kira: You mentioned your love for the movie industry. When did you start to feel that love for copywriting and when did you feel that spark?
Clayton: Wow, never. Basically, I was following the money. The job at Universal was $70,000 a year, it fell through. I had a pregnant wife and a two year old, and I had to make a living, and so this copywriting gig came up, and it looked pretty good. He offered me the grand amount of $15,000 a year, but then a nice bonus basically almost doubling my salary if I got into a million dollars in creative sales, which I did, but then the second part of the question is the head of the agency screwed me instead of paying me my bonus at the end of the year, when his accountant told him basically he owed me the money, he fired me, and it was just before Christmas too. What a jerk.
And so I just told him, ‘What occurs to me that not one of these new clients I brought in, even knows who you are. Thanks for this, I’m taking all your clients. Bye,’ and I did, and so I went from $15,000 a year to $35,000 a month in income at that moment. It was still a struggle over the years, building reputations as a freelancer and so forth, but that was really when it began for me.
Kira: Wow. Okay. In those days where you this transition, how did you improve as a copywriter? You mentioned the books you were reading. What else were you doing to continue to improve?
Clayton: Well, the main thing I did was I wanted to write for the financial markets because I could see that that’s where the money was, and we out managed Howard Ruff’s list, he was the biggest financial newsletter editor at the time, so I was well aware of that industry, and so I subscribed to probably 8 or 10 financial newsletters, and I used a different middle initial on each subscription, so I’d know later on I could track the use of my name.
Then I started running to the mailbox every day because I knew these guys were renting each other their mailing lists, and by subscribing to one product they’d get the promotions that all of them were doing. And I grabbed the promos, I go running into my house with my scissors and grabbed this little scrapbook and I start studying these packages, and I outlined them and I would then cut them up, and I had a scrapbook for headlines and scrapbook for opening copy and so forth.
Just sitting on the floor in my living room doing this, and years later I found out that there were two copywriters that I was following most closely, were Jim Rutz and Gary Bencivenga, and we became friends later on in life, and when we did, I told Gary, I said, ‘You don’t know this, but you were my mentor. I learned about copywriting, of course I read the masters, but I actually learned how to do it on a job by job basis by studying your copy.’
Gary was like 10 years ahead of me, and so I still think of him as my mentor and I still use outlines and other ideas that I stole from Gary back in the early 70s.
Rob: It’s funny that you say that because I’ve done some of the same things with Gary, but I’ve also done the same thing following some of the things you’ve done, Clayton. When I came back to copywriting, one of the first things I did was hop onto your website and copy and paste all of the interviews that you had done with great copywriters and put them into a big Word document that sits on my desktop, so it’s interesting that’s a good way to learn from other people.
Clayton: Yeah. If you remember when I interviewed Gary, I told him how much he meant to me, and he said, ‘Well wow, now I’m all excited. I can’t wait till my wife hears this interview.’
Rob: Yeah, that’s true. You mentioned that it took you a little while to build your reputation. What were the specific things that you were doing in order to build that reputation, so that people started coming to you instead of you having to chase the clients?
Clayton: Yeah, well at first I wanted to be in the financial space, but I had to take whatever work came in. I had one guy that was selling investment grade diamonds, I had another guy that was selling point-of-use water heaters. I had a guy in Rodeo Drive that was selling Belgian pastries all through direct response, and most of those things didn’t work that well, and so I really wasn’t building a very good reputation at that point. Really none at all because I hadn’t specialized in a niche, and I wasn’t really known any anywhere, but then things started to turn for me when Howard Jarvis, Paul Gann started an initiative in California to limit the property tax.
We had people losing their homes because they couldn’t afford to pay taxes on them, and so they did a contest for all the agencies in LA. Whoever wrote the best fundraising letter for their valid initiative would win the account, and so I won the account, so that got me better gigs around LA with some of the big eight advertising companies, but when it really turned for me, I had just moved from LA to Prescott. Didn’t have a lot of money, I was returning the U-haul truck just to be able to buy groceries to get the deposit back, and I was down in Phoenix and I thought, ‘There’s a guy here, Johnny Johnson has research publication, I’ll just give him a call.’
I called him up on the phone and I just said, ‘Johnny, you don’t know me, but I just saw your control for your newsletter and I have to tell you, it just sucks. Yeah, absolutely blows.’ And I said, ‘I can beat it in a walk, and I’m so sure that I’m not going to charge you anything to write your promo, but if it wins to beat your current control you have to pay me double.’ That was really where it all began for me.
I beat the living daylights out of his control. He had nine other newsletters he was publishing. I developed controls for each one of those. From there, things really got a little weird. I don’t know if you want to talk about the whole track of my career, but that opened the door for me then with a coin company in Minneapolis, a company that was selling a newsletter as a front end for selling gold and silver coins. I exploded that company in the space of 12 months, took them from 3 million a month to 16 million a month in sales.
Clayton: Things really started taking off then.
Kira: For copywriters that are listening, that are hearing those stats and it blows your mind, and it almost could seem far out of reach too for some newer copywriters. Could you give some practical advice for new copywriters that hear that? Like what were you doing at that time to have these great successes? What was working really well that we could do today?
Clayton: I think the best lesson really or one of ones comes from that coin company because they put out a newsletter called the Money Advocate, and it was supposedly on just general investing, but in reality when you got the newsletter, you found out that there was a section in the newsletter that promoted investment grade coins, and there would always be a flyer that went out with a newsletter promoting one particular coin for sale. And the people who were running the business were real coin nerds.
They really got off on mintages and who the sculptor was and how much silver or gold is in the coin and how many were melted back in the day and how many survived today. That kind of stuff, and it just puts me to sleep, so I asked a guy to send me a coin, so I can see what it is I’m going to be selling. And he sent me an old Morgan Silver Dollar. Oh, and he was so cheap. He sent me an old circulated one. It was all scuffed up, but I took it out of the envelope and I looked at it in my hand.
It was like that movie somewhere in time. And that was the first thing. It transports you, it takes you back in time and it tells a story, so I looked at that coin and I thought, ‘This isn’t about mintages, it’s not about silver content. Nobody’s buying this because they melted a million of them. People are buying this because it’s cool.’ That’s it. They’re not buying it because it’ll go up in value, that’s the excuse they give their wives.
They’re buying it because it’s cool, because it reminds them of Gunsmoke and Bonanza, and how gun will travel. Maybe a frontier hooker was paid with this. Maybe it was in a chest, a Wells Fargo chest that was robbed. Maybe Jesse James stole it. The coin had a story, nobody knows what it was, but that’s why they buy it. As soon as I hit on that, I knew I had him, so my first line of copy was basically if this coin could talk, what stories would it tell?
Rob: It seems like that’s the key to a lot of the different sales type things that we do. It’s finding the story behind the thing that we’re selling. Would you agree?
Clayton: I think it was an Ogilvy executive who said, ‘Nobody ever needs anything that we sell. All they need is a cave, a fire, and a piece of meat.’ And it’s really true, but so why am I wearing a Rolex? Why does my wife drives a Land Rover? There are cheaper ways to go, smarter ways to go, but why do this, because we’re getting emotional gratification out of it.
Nobody needs a Land Rover, nobody needs a Bentley or a Rolls. We get emotional gratification out of owning those things, and so once you understand that, you look at your products and you look at your market in a whole new way, and you can realize then. This isn’t about the left brain boring dumb ass statistics about mintages and melts. This is about my prospects yearning to connect with a simpler time, and I can do that for him, and there’s money in doing that for him.
And so we went from a 3 million dollar a month average sales to 16 million in one year simply by doing that, by presenting these coins as historical artifacts that told stories about American history, and it was a huge breakthrough.
Rob: I don’t want to necessarily jump to the end of the story, but how do you apply that to the products that you write for today at Money Map? I’m assuming it’s a similar trick, but how do you draw that same emotional line?
Clayton: Well, you realize that you’re not selling a newsletter. You’re not selling even a premium, the freebies we give away. You’re selling emotional gratification. Some fat guy gets on the radio next thing you know he’s a billionaire, not selling a thing. How come? Well, because Rush Limbaugh puts my own feelings into words in a way that it’s cathartic for me and there’s value in that.
I always look for the emotional connection in my prospect, between the product and the prospect. Carline Anglade-Cole, you guys probably know her. She’s good friend, and I tell her all the time, you want a headline, you want an opening copy that addresses the fact that last night your prospects sat bolt upright in bed, slapped himself in the forehead and said, ‘Oh my God, I need to (blank).’
Maybe the blank is save more for retirement, maybe the blank is to cut my taxes. I don’t know what the blank is, but there’s something in his life that’s causing him fits right now, it’s either an unfulfilled desire or an unexpressed or unaddressed fear, and if you can provide a solution to that, then you’ll get very, very wealthy. And you know what, thinking back about the very first copy I ever wrote, I really learned that there, because it was an appeal letter, and I didn’t have anything to sell.
I couldn’t present a product and all the benefits, and why your lawn will be greener and you’ll grow hair on your head, and all of these other wonderful things will happen if you buy my product. Basically you give me 10 bucks, you’re going to be 10 bucks poorer. I’m going to go spend that money on things I think you agree with, but the only personal benefit you get out of making a donation is an emotional one.
These people were raising 60 million, 100 million dollars a year without a product to sell. That gives you some idea of the power of emotion. You get people to write you a cheque and they’re getting nothing tangible in return. That really was the beginning of that realization that it paid off very well over the years. I went from that coin dealer when I found out they weren’t quite on the up and up in some ways. I left them, went to Blanchard and did the same thing again at Blanchard and Company.
Kira: What else can copywriters do to figure out that emotional connection before they start writing? Are there any other questions we should ask or exercises? What else do you do?
Clayton: Well, some of the best health writers I know will actually go to an old folks home and spend the day. I know most of us copywriters are copywriters because we can’t stand the rejection of doing face to face sales or maybe we’re a little introverted. Your prospects are sitting there in a retirement home, not two miles from your house, and they’re dying for someone to talk to. And so I can’t remember if it was Carline or Parris, but one of the two of them used to just pick up and run over there for a day or a half a day, and just talk to people, and immediately identify what are they frustrated about, what are they angry about, what are they happy about, excited about, fearful of, what is their personal drama right now?
And so I think the answer is talking to people, and you can get a lot of that in a lot of different ways. Dan Rosenthal, who just passed away, he wore these big coke bottle glasses and that made his eyes look massive, and imagine this guy running up to you, total stranger on the street with this wild look on his face, and shows a bunch of papers in your face says, ‘Read this,’ and he sits there and watches you while you read. That’s Rosenthal, okay, and he says, those people gave him better crits than any direct mail manager or copy chief he ever worked with, so go to where the prospects are. It would be my advice.
Rob: I think that’s great advice. And then once you have that, one of the things, you must have put this together years ago, but you put together what you called a pretty darn good outline for a sales message that has been shared around the Internet, and I think something that Kira’s probably used in some of her sales, and I’ve certainly used it just as a guide, but once you’ve got all that stuff in place, you’ve done your research, how do you get it on the page, so that it makes that emotional connection you’re talking about and it really hits home, so the people are wanting to read past page one of a multi page sales letter?
Clayton: Right. There’s so many answers to that. So many young copywriters will sit down and they’ve had it beaten into them, benefits, benefits, benefits, so you end up with a lot of big promise packages that may or may not fulfill on that promise, and very few like long copy story kind of packages and so forth. The younger copywriters will just write in a factually based manner instead of sitting there as they’re writing … And I just call it feeling my way through the copy.
How is my prospect feeling right here? A big part of the Agora method for critiquing copy has to do with what is my prospect thinking right here, and I guess feeling, is he bored, is a curious as he dubious, skeptical, what is his emotion right here? And I was doing it differently, whereas Mike Palmer and Mark Ford identified like four or five emotions that you typically have when you read copy. Most of them having to do the copy itself like, ‘Oh, I’m bored.’ Or ‘Oh, I don’t believe you,’ and those are great, but I think they’re the beginning.
I think the next step is what am I feeling generally as I’m reading through this? And Mike Ward says, ‘Have a little geiger counter by your side, and be sensitive to when it starts screaming.’ My wife Wendy is really good at that. She’ll read through copy and she’ll find … She’ll buzz through the first five pages, circle something on page six and say, ‘There’s your lead,’ because she can feel it.
She can feel it happen. This is where you really got my attention, so the key really, and I know it’s hard to do because everybody has learned all the copywriting rules, everybody’s learned all this stuff about do’s and don’ts of copywriting, and it’s all left brain stuff. It’s all rules.
The best answer might be read your copy like your prospect reads it. Instead of reading it like a writer. Well, here, I’m trying to accomplish this here, I’m trying to accomplish that. Read it like your prospect experiences it emotionally, and I think that’ll give you an awful lot of clues as to how to strengthen it.
Kira: I’d like to dig a little bit deeper into that, and your process and what that looks like today at Money Map with a team potentially, how many versions does it take before a packaging even goes out?
Clayton: Well, it’s all over the map, okay. First of all, in finance there are a lot of different kinds of packages. There’s the process package, like the hook pattern or the x pattern package that explains how an analyst identifies great opportunities to market. That’s like a process. There are a lot of supply and demand type packages where they’re talking about a new demand force, it’s going to drive up a commodity, drive prices high and you’ll make all this money if you’re aware of it. Well, you’ve seen those in things like battery metals and those kinds of things, and then there’s technology leads, and there’s story leads.
There are all these different ways to go in each one of them the answer is a little different. If I’m doing a straight supply and demand kind of package, like, ‘oh my God, the world’s running out of uranium and China just authorized 300 new reactors, price is going to go sky high.’ That’s a very short project. Quite frankly. That’s the kind of thing you can crank out in less than a month with all the collateral, but right now I’m working on something I’ve been working on since late August.
One promo it is now early December and this came to be not fully formed. Mike came to me with an idea that’s been bouncing around for six years. He hasn’t been able to find a copywriter that can do it. He said, would you like to try? I said, sure. Well here’s my general idea. Well, that was in August and the idea has changed at least five major ways since then, and so we’re basically trying to create the theme as we go along, and so that’s taking longer. All of this stuff, it’s all over the map. Now, I have a pod that now I’m down to one copywriter in my group.
I’m proud to say that my first two liked being at Money Map so much, they’re moving to Baltimore, one moving from Prague and one moving from Sarasota, but they love being in the team atmosphere so much. They both quit my pod and went to work for Mike there in Baltimore, so I’m down to one writer, Paul Martinez in my pod. I’m going to be adding one, maybe two more writers in the next month or two. What we’re doing right now is focusing on the front end.
This is a little inside baseball, but the networks are getting very strict about what they’ll let you run, and so my pod is focusing on the front end and figuring out ways to work with the networks to get maximum scalability on our promos.
Kira: Hey, we’re just jumping into the show today to tell you a little bit more about The Copywriter Underground. Rob, what do you like best about this membership?
Rob: This membership community is full of copywriters that are investing in their businesses and taking what they do seriously. Everything is focused around three ideas, copywriting and getting better at the craft that we all do, marketing and getting in front of the right customers, so that you can charge more and earn more, and also mindset so that you can get out of your head and focus on the things that will help you be successful at what we do.
There’s a private Facebook group for the members of the community, and we also send out a monthly newsletter that’s full of advice. Again, on those three areas, copywriting, marketing and mindset, things that you can mark up and tear out, put them in your file, save them for whatever and it’s not going to get lost in your email inbox. Kira what do you like about The Copywriter Underground?
Kira: I love the monthly hot seat calls where our members have a chance to sit in the hot seat and ask a big question or get ideas or talk through a challenge in their business, because we all learn from those situations, and then I also feel like the templates we include in the membership are valuable because who wants to reinvent the wheel, and Rob and I end up sharing a lot of the templates and resources we use in our own businesses, so I would definitely want to grab those.
Rob: If you are interested in joining a community of copywriters that are investing in their business and in themselves and trying to do more, get more clients, earn more money consistently, go to the copywriterunderground.com to learn more. Now, back to the program.
Clayton, when you talk about the different kinds of letters, promos that you write in the process or story or supply and demand, have you found that one is particularly effective or more effective than the others, or is it really all over the board?
Clayton: It just depends on how strong the story is. If you look back at the Internet promotions in the financial space, there’s one that stands out, head and shoulders above everything, and that’s the End of America, Mike Palmer’s great VSL. It works so well for a lot of reasons. One of them was that it was the first VSL in our space, but another reason is that the theme was huge.
If you give me a theme on cobalt or uranium or vanadium or some other commodity or oil that’s about to come into short supply, it’s like a one stock package, isn’t it? It’s not about the end of life as we know it. It doesn’t have that kind of gravitas and it doesn’t get that kind of engagement, but with End of America, he was talking about America losing its reserved currency status to China, which would completely devastate the country, so much bigger theme.
The other thing about End of America that if we’re looking for themes that really get the big traction was there were two consequences stand of America. The first one was almost too horrible to contemplate. Complete financial failure, and the other one was, well, if you’re one of the smart ones though, this can make you rich, so there was a carrot and a stick. If you do this, you’ll make money. If you don’t do this, you’re screwed.
In a lot of our promotions today, there’s no stick, there’s just the carrot, and by this doc you make all this money. A bigger theme is going to typically have the stick as well as the carrot, a fear as well as greed. Does that make sense?
Rob: Totally makes sense. Yeah.
Kira: Can you talk more about the relationship between the theme, the big idea and the emotional connection and how … Because it seems like the theme is almost an answer, a response to the emotional connection, but can you just talk about how they’re all connected together?
Clayton: Well, there’s a part of the process a lot of people miss. The theme to me is the elevator pitch as Jedd Canty would state it. It’s the elevator pitch, it’s a two minute, okay, this thing is happening. There’s one company set to profit from it, and the last time something like this happened, the stock went up a 1000%, so we got a big possible profit there. Okay, so that’s a platform, and maybe it’s uranium or maybe it’s a chart pattern or maybe it’s the end of america, I don’t know, but that’s the basic platform.
Then the next question you have to ask those, but how do I sell this? Go straight in and you say, ‘Well, vanadium,’ they’re going to say, ‘What the hell is that? I don’t know what vanadium is.’ They’re not familiar with that. If you just go in and say oil prices are going to skyrocket, most people won’t believe that especially with oil prices falling right now.
How do I sell this? How do I sell my prospect on watching this video? Now that’s actually more important than what’s my theme, because if he doesn’t want to watch video, you’re screwed. What’s my theme? I’ll give you an example. I had a promo I started working on that was later abandoned for a reason I’ll mention in a moment, that had to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia was selling 5% of Aramco, the Saudi royal family’s privately owned oil company, and this was huge news on a lot of levels. Maybe it meant that China would buy it and there would be China petrodollars, Petro Yuan, in addition to American petrodollars, which would be horrible for the US dollar, horrible for interest rates, blah blah blah. There was just a lot of speculation around this and some of it good, some of it bad.
And so, okay, so everyone knows Aramco is going to be sold. 5% of the steak would be sold. Everyone knows that, it was in the news, but how do we sell this idea to the prospect that it’s worth an hour of his time to sit there and watch a video on this? And a lot of people just don’t ask that question. They kind of sleep walk through that, but how do I sell this?
I hit on the idea of, well, I started asking questions, who’s the guy behind this? Who’s the guy that decides that it’s a good idea to sell off 5% of the Saudi family’s most valuable asset? Who is this guy? Well, it turns out he was Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who the heir to the Saudi throne, and whose father is like 86 years old, and so he’s gradually taking over more functions of government.
All right, it’s Mohammad Bin Salman, so let’s look into him and see what’s the story there? Well my God! The man owns a house at Versailles. He paid 400 million dollars for his yacht. He owns a Rembrandt of Christ, that he paid 600 million dollars for. He’s liberalizing all the laws in Saudi Arabia. Women can drive, women can get jobs outside the home. His critics of course, as critics will always do are attacking him for the things he hasn’t gotten to yet, but he’s working his way through the economy.
He bought a half a trillion dollars worth of weapons from Trump. His country is now the third most powerful country on earth, militarily. This guy is fascinating. A story about this guy could be huge, so the way in was popularly known around the office as the most interesting man in the world approach, and so that’s how we sold it. And there’s something else interesting happening there too, and I learned this from Mike Ward, who’s unbelievably brilliant.
Most writers, especially younger writers, will go in and say, ‘305% profits is oil price, you shoot to $200 a barrel,’ some crap like that. And they’ll have it all, benefits and everything in a big headline in it, but they’re the obvious benefits. They telegraph this is a promotion. They telegraph this is about stocks. They telegraph that this about everything your prospect really doesn’t want to know anything about right now, so instead of going in with the big benefits right up front, what if you were to do something that is so interesting or controversial or revealing that your prospect momentarily forgets about time?
He forgets where he is, what he’s doing, what problems he has on his desk, what he was thinking about 10 minutes ago. He’s totally engrossed in what you’re showing him now, so that’s the first question. How do I get my prospect’s full attention? And that is that how do we sell that argument? And you have to really answer that before you get into writing your lead.
The other thing that you have to answer by the way is what’s my solution? A lot of times I have started and I won’t do this anymore. I started a promotion based on a theme and they said, ‘Oh, we’ll come up with a solution. We’ll find the stocks that we’re going to recommend in the free gifts. Don’t worry about that. This is the theme, you can go ahead and get started with this.’ Well, you do have to worry about that because you get down to that and you find out, well, there are no solutions. That’s happened to me.
There is no company that deals in this product. Another time they gave me a company that wasn’t even going to exist after two years, so no, you got to nail down, what is the solution? What are we going to tell people to do about this? What is the payoff and the premium? Because that’ll go a long way to making sure you don’t screw up in your opening copy.
Rob: As I listen to you talk about all of this stuff. It sounds to me like so much of what you do and what we do as copywriters is overcoming objections, and I wonder if you’ve got any simple tricks, I’m sure they’re not simple, but just some advice for those of us to identify the objections maybe, and then how do we overcome them, so that our prospects will believe the things that we have to say?
Clayton: You have short questions with long answers. Objections can be overcome in one or two ways. Number one is you mention the objection. You wait until your prospect’s having it. The point in the copy where you think, ‘Oh, he’s got to be thinking this now.’ And you say, ‘I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this, but you know what, look at this,’ so that way you actually identify the objection. You only do that when you know you can absolutely obliterate it, and do it in just a line or two. If the objection is something like, okay, so on one of my packages that I was working on recently, it was, why don’t politicians and bureaucrats enforce this particular regulation, this law.
You’d have to see the copy, but in the copy it was an obvious question that you would have well, obviously this is illegal what they’re doing, why don’t they just enforce the law? On that one, I didn’t have to go into a long explanation. All I had to do is say it simple. This kind of company makes bigger contributions than that kind of company, bigger political contributions. Handled, done and with a twinkle in your eye. Everybody gets that.
Other times you have to go more in depth and you have to … Or other times you can’t really put the objection totally to bed, in which case you don’t name it specifically, you simply present your evidence for overcoming it without ever giving the objection a name, so if you can’t put it to bed, just absolutely obliterate it, address it without naming it. Does that make sense?
Rob: Totally, yeah.
Kira: Can you give an example of addressing it without naming it?
Clayton: Let me think here. I have to make something up real quick. Okay. Well, let’s say the objection is the cost of the product, right?
Clayton: Well, you don’t have to say, ‘Well, I understand, you’re a loser, you have no money. Plus on top of that you’re cheap.’ And really develop the problem. All you have to do is say, ‘Oh, and by the way, this is 75% off if you sign up at the next 10 minutes.’
Clayton: You have addressed the objection without giving it a name.
Kira: I’d love to hear about more mistakes that newer copywriters make. You mentioned that there’s not enough emotional connection. It’s just very benefit driven. What else are we doing often that we should be aware of?
Clayton: Well, this is another thing that Mike has given me, oh geez so much. I had a really great career before I went to Money Map, and it’s almost 50 years, and I’m learning so much right now just from being with people who have a different take on things. One of them is, and this is one of my Mike’s pet peeves, abstractions. Mike says, ‘Nobody has ever been shot with a gun, ever in the history of mankind no one has been shot with a gun. Some people have been shot with pistols. Some people have been shot with rifles. Some people have been shot with 1911 Colt 45s, but never a gun.’
His point is that when you use abstractions like gun, when you say the word gun, it could be anything from that massive cannon on an A-10 Warthog down to little pea shooter pocket 380 that people carry around. It’s unspecific. A minute you look at your copy and you say, ‘I’m going to eliminate abstractions. I am going to make sure that every paragraph has specifics in it, that really make the copy sing and sore.’ You will be amazed at the difference, the vibrance of your copy.
To answer the question the way that you asked is most young writers will go in and their eyes roll up in their head and they’ll just blah blah for two or three or four pages without a single fact, without a single data point, without a single statistic, without anything that’s tangible or specific, and they’ll just prattle on. They’re trying to set the stage, I call it foreplay, but as soon or later foreplay you got to move on. With us, the difference is if the first paragraph you read has a fact in it, a figure in it that you’d never heard before or that’s fascinating or intriguing in some way, you’re off to the races. You don’t have to explain anything you’ve got to.
Okay, so I think getting rid of abstractions is a great one. Another one is a lot of young writers will go straight to the offer in the headline copy, they’ll say something in the headline about limited time or 50% discount till December 31st or free report shows or whatever. Well, we know from running VSLs and watching engagement scores, we know that the one moment when you get the biggest tune outright in the entire VSL, and it’s the moment when the order button comes up, it’s the moment when you finally break down and admit, ‘Yes, this is a promotion I want to sell you something.’
At that moment people wink out like crazy. Why would you want to put that information on the top of your promotion? So they wink out before they even begin? You tell them this is a promotion because you have a discount, you have a deadline. You mention the product, you mention the free premium. Why would you want to do that? Get that stuff out of the lead copy, out of the headline copy, put it where it belongs back at the back.
And I’ll give you one more just because I thought it was funny. One of our analysts has a bio that you would kill for. 40 years with the CIA, 23 commendations from the intelligence community, three presidential citations, meets with the Queen of England every year, Windsor Castle to brief her on energy policy. The guy is amazing, but his whole thing is oil. He’s an expert on oil investing.
Well, one of my juniors who was writing a promo on a battery metal, which still falls in this guy’s area because it’s energy related, so battery metal, and so he’s going to blah, blah blah, battery, battery, battery, and then he goes, ‘Hi, my name is Dr. Kent Morris, and I brief the Queen on energy policy every year at Windsor Castle, and I do energy for the CIA and NSA,’ nothing to do with batteries. We’re trying to credentialize this guy is an expert on battery metals, but his whole bio is about oil.
Now you would think that even to a junior writer, it would have occurred to them, ‘Hey, wait a minute. This bio is about oil and I want people to think he’s an expert at battery metal,’ so vanadium, cobalt or whatever it was, and so it seemed like an obvious mistake, but you know how many times I’ve seen that. I’d say in a third of all the copy I get in here, the bio it’s like a bio they’ve pulled from another promotion someplace. It’s not tailored to this promotion.
Kira: Yeah, those are so good, and I’ve definitely made that last mistake many times, so I want to ask about something-
Clayton: …. by the way that goes with bios just real quick. When do you present your bio? Every writer knows, well, at some point in the first say five minutes or 10 minutes, I got to say, ‘Hi, my name is Dr Kent Morris. I’m blah blah, blah.’ But when? And nobody puts it in the right place, the right place is when you’ve got your prospect saying, ‘Holy crap, I didn’t know this, this can’t really be right. Could it?’ When your prospect is at that place, that’s when you say, ‘Hi, my name is Kent Morris and I know more than anyone else on earth about oil.’ That’s when you do it.
Kira: Oh, okay. This is great. I want to ask about your day and I’m just trying to picture your day and how you run your day, even if it’s not on a typical day. Do you write for a couple hours all day? Do you have to take breaks? Like how do you do your best work in an ideal environment knowing that it’s not always ideal?
Clayton: Years ago I became single after 20 years of marriage, and figured out fairly quickly that all the women hit the bars down at the beach around noon, and so I had to get there about the same time, and so I figured out, ‘Well if I going to get eight hours in, I got to start at 4:00 AM,’ so I started working at 4:00 AM, and this is 26, 27 years ago now and I’ve never gotten out of that habit. It’s a great time to work. No one calls. It’s just perfect.
I usually will work till noon. Now to be fair some mornings I’ll sleep until 5:00. This morning I slept until 5:00. On Mondays I do that a little bit, but then I can work till noon, get seven or eight hours in, and I found about six hours of copywriting is about all I can do before I just start doing less good than harm, and so my afternoons are used for administrative tasks or maybe left brain stuff like research or whatever, but my copywriting time, my prime copywriting time is from 4:00 in the morning till about noon.
Rob: I have a feeling that Kira is saying, ‘Okay. That’s cool,’ because I know she gets up sometimes.
Kira: Yeah. I love the early morning. I think you’re confirming that that’s something I want to continue, I’ve done it for a while. What time do you usually go to bed?
Clayton: Well, it depends. It’s all over the place. I’d say during the week, probably by 9:00.
Clayton: I need six, seven hours sleep, that’s all, but on weekends we stay out until the wee hours just take a nap first.
Rob: Clayton, I want to shift gears here and talk or ask about this training program that you’ve put together. I know this is a cool opportunity for at least a couple of writers who might be interested in getting into the financial space. Will you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing and how it all comes together in the opportunity?
Clayton: You bet. As with all direct response companies, Money Map is eager for more copywriters. We are trying to help the process along a little bit. On the one hand, I get emails every single day and Facebook posts and messengers and stuff. Now how can I work with you? How can I be mentored by you, and obviously I can’t accept everybody that applies. At the same time though Money Map desperately needs more copywriters, so I came up with this idea.
It’s a program. It’s actually just started. We had our very first webinar last week, and we gave everyone who signed up for this thing an assignment, and everyone gets the same assignment. There’s a video online that you will get, that you can watch this. Then there are several other webinars I’ll be doing between now and March. One is on my outline, a pretty good outline that you just mentioned and how I use it, so I never look at a blank page.
Another one is how the financial markets work. You may be a health copywriter or work in some other area and you haven’t tried finance even though you know that’s where the money is because you don’t really understand how stocks work and how the economy works. That’s okay. We will teach you that. You’ll have these advanced webinars that prepare you. There’s another one on research, doing research for a financial promo, where I show you the sources I use.
Then you’ll have time to write your promotion. We give you all the support you need to get that done. Then March 7th and 8th we’re all in Baltimore and we’re going to be doing some things at the Money Map offices, some things at a hotel. But in Baltimore there will be a presentation followed by an hour and a half work session followed by a hot seat session, and the people doing the presentations will be Mike Ward, who’s the head of Money Map press, Jedd Canty, who you may have heard of, absolutely brilliant, brilliant young copywriter.
I think Bill Bonner told me he made more money in less time for Agora than any other copywriter they’ve ever had. Henry Bingaman, who’s one of Jedd’s proteges, but also has made a huge name for himself. In fact, if you saw the cannabis promotion, that Money Map just with John Bayner, that was Henry Bingaman’s copy. He did extremely well. Terry Weiss who’s one of our copy chiefs, Jared [Fienthook 00:50:35] who’s like the all time king of process promotions and myself and then Marcel Allison will also be there to help to assist.
And so each of us will have a presentation on different part of your copy. My presentation in Baltimore will be on your closing copy, and so then after my presentation you’ll have an hour and a half to work on your closing copy, and then we’ll throw a bunch of it up on a screen, and a panel of the experts I just named will give you crits, show you how it could be improved.
Then after Baltimore, every two weeks there’ll be a webinar where I just show up online and wait for you guys, so if you have copy that you want me to crit or you want to just ask questions, we can do that. At any point during that process if you think your copy is ready, you send it in, the team will look at it and if they like what they see, you’ll get an assignment for $12,500 plus 5% royalty, and if they like that process, if everyone likes that process, you’ll be offered a full position where we’ll keep you busy.
Now, the thing about this is you don’t have to move to Baltimore. There are two other ways to get to work with Money Map. Both of them you send a sample, either an actual promo or a spec to our website and you’ll be contacted, but if you’re a beginner, the positions that’s open for you is in Baltimore. This way you can work like a freelancer at first from anywhere in the world, and you don’t have to move to Baltimore. You can of course if you want to, and you go directly to working on long copy. The other two ways they we start you are writing renewals and so forth.
It’s a great opportunity, it’s fantastic opportunity. I wish they’d had something like this for me when I was getting started. The thing is though, we’re only taking 50 people and we’re over 40. These seats are already sold. You’re going to probably have to move quickly. The link is www.awai.com/financialintensive. The price is $5,000 a seat, but if you get in now it’s $4,000, so you save a thousand bucks. That’s it.
Kira: Is there a wait list or another one in case this does fill up over the next few weeks?
Clayton: Not at this time now. All right. Sounds like a great opportunity, I think Rob is probably already filling up the application. Rob will be typing it out right now, just to get in.
Rob: To me it feels like the kind of thing even if you didn’t end up writing for Money Map, just building those skills and having the opportunity to have these little copy geniuses critique your work, it’s just an awesome opportunity.
Kira: And making those connections.
Rob: If you get the assignment the backend, it’s even better.
Clayton: Yeah. Well, I can’t imagine if I was a new writer and I had an opportunity like this, I would have been all over it, but it took me 20 years to get to a million dollars a year in income. Carline got to a quarter million her very first year, so having a mentor really helps.
Kira: Is there anything Clayton, we should know as far as who this is for and who it’s not for?
Clayton: I would prefer obviously to have writers. The purpose of doing this is not to make a whole lot of money. The purpose of doing this, through registration sales, the purpose of doing this make a whole lot of money by getting a whole bunch of good copywriters, and there’s no way to know for sure because sometimes there are copywriters who are brand new who go on to just knock it out of the park on everything. Other times there are old tired ones that just come to life. We just don’t know how that’s going to go. We want everybody there to end up working for us, that’s for sure.
Kira: Okay, great. Thank you so much, and Clayton, we didn’t ask you yet, but if people are just interested in following you, where could they find you? What’s your hub online?
Clayton: I don’t really have one. I’ve got a Facebook page but it’s mostly a bunch of political posts, but you can follow what I’m up to at AWAI. Just go to awai.com and sign up for their free e-zine and they’ll keep you posted on what I’m up to.
Rob: I will say this too. Interviews that you did with all these copywriters is still available if you hunt for them on the Total Makepeace Package, your website, so those are there?
Clayton: Yeah, we left all of our articles and everything up there. There’s also 2,000 testimonials out there from readers as well as we have the testimonials from all the big guys. If you’re a skeptical type you can go and see work for real.
Kira: Well Clayton, this has been just so wonderful to have you here. I’ve taken a ton of notes. Thank you so much for sharing so generously with us and giving us your time today.
Rob: Thank you.
Kira: It’s my pleasure and thank you for having me.
You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes, and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community visit the copywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.
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