Copywriting Articles by: Don Mahoney
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Don Mahoney: Cabinet Maker Turned Six-Figure Copywriter “Businesses don’t stop advertising just because the economy takes a turn for the worse. If they did, they wouldn’t be in business very long. When money is tight, business owners spend their advertising dollars where they can get the most bang for their buck. And direct-marketing advertising has been proven to be the most cost-effective way to advertise. Another great thing is that the companies that’ll pay you big bucks to write sales letters don’t care if you’re 25 or 75 … thin, fat, male or female. They only care how your work performs. If you have the desire, you can always reinvent yourself. I did … and you can too!” — Don Mahoney
DON MAHONEY is a co-founder of AWAI. As a one-time cabinet maker in upstate New York, Don barely eked out a living, getting sicker and sicker from the lacquer fumes and other chemicals he’d breathe in every day. In 1993, a year after learning Michael Masterson’s copywriting secrets, Don moved to Florida and started writing his own copy. Since then Don has risen to be one of the top copywriters working today, earning over $300,000 writing letters from his Miami Beach home. He has also personally mentored dozens of now-successful copywriters and helped them achieve their dreams of freedom and financial independence. Don’s letters are consistently successful because he has mastered the art of ―overwhelming evidence‖ – a technique of providing indisputable proof that your service or product can deliver its promise. AWAI’s program reveals all of Don’s secrets for building the kind of product credibility that’s proven to turn fence-sitters into buyers. Learn firsthand from Don at the AWAI Fast Track to Success Bootcamp & Jobfair which is taking place on October 26-29, 2011 Delray Beach, Florida
17 New Year’s (and Anytime) Writer’s Resolutions Here are 17 resolutions you can use for the New Year – or anytime – to further your success: I will pay more attention to my prospect‟s deepest desires… I will pay more attention to my client‟s wishes… I will do more research on the prospect and the product… I will immerse myself in the field that I am writing about… I will welcome criticism… I will devote more time to a headline that is Unique, Urgent, Ultra-Specific and USEFULL (goes to the heart of my prospect‟s deepest desires)… I will make sure my lead paints a compelling picture of the benefits of my product… and why it is of vital importance… I will not waste time on things that are of interest to me – if it doesn‟t speak to the core desires of my prospect, it must go… I will provide a reader many different points to enter or re-enter the copy… I will concentrate on keeping the Golden Thread throughout my promotion… I will make sure my message is repeated several times in different ways throughout my promotion… I will make sure my close restates the greatest benefits of my offer… I will make sure that my offer is the BEST that my client will allow for this product…
I will make sure that my guarantee is the BEST that my client will allow for this offer… I will strive to make this year better than the last, no matter what anyone says about the market… I will set aside my work time, devote 100% to my product, and not let anything distract me… I will try to expand my client base by ONE, and then another… Do these things, and I guarantee that the next 12 months will be better than the previous 12 months…
Learn firsthand from Don at the AWAI Fast Track to Success Bootcamp & Jobfair which is taking place on October 26-29, 2011 Delray Beach, Florida
Empty Pages OK – anyone remember Traffic (the rock and roll group)? And if, by chance, you do, do you remember “Empty Pages”? Either way, it was a hit rock song in the early „70s. You can read a lot of theories about what the song means, but I think one thing comes through loud and clear. Writer‟s block. Staring at a blank piece of paper, trying to figure out the first words you‟re going to put on it. This song has, ever since I first heard it in the early 1970s (OK, so I‟m getting old… ) held a particular fascination for me. I had made some attempts at writing, so I certainly knew about writer‟s block. But I also found meaning in the lyrics related to life – that life too was an empty page, waiting to be filled…
But let‟s not go there… we could be lost for days. Back to writer‟s block! In those days, the empty page was not on a computer screen. Believe it or not, it was usually a notebook or pad and pen or pencil sitting in front of you. (How odd and antiquated!) So now we get to the heart of it… you either want to (because you have a creative side) or need to (because someone has paid you money to write – and you‟d better start producing!) start getting some words down on that piece of paper. You have to conquer that empty page. So everyone who has ever written has faced the same dilemma at some time – an empty page starting at you… daring you to put the first word on it. Now, for someone who has been doing it for years, there are all kinds of tricks you can use on that piece of paper. To help those who are new, I‟ve set down a list of “tricks” you can use. It‟s hard to order them, because you can use one or several, or mix them up. So it‟s more of a “bag of tricks” for you to reach into, to conquer that damn page (and it will keep right on staring at you until you get something done, so the sooner you move, the better… )… So, to start…
You can start by writing your name, the date, and the project name at the top. Now at least you‟ve started – your page isn‟t blank any more… you‟ve taken some of the power out of it already…
You can write an outline for your project. Include things like the back cover, or order form. The more you get, the further down the road you are.
As a copywriter, you should have gotten a starter kit from your client. You can take some of the main points and just rough them out on paper.
You can start copying some of the testimonials from your starter kit.
If it‟s an email, start some subject lines that could catch attention. Remember, they need to be catchy but if they‟re not related to the subject, you‟re going to lose your prospect with the next click.
Many people like to start with the offer. So you can write out the complete offer, just as if you were writing it for your promotion. Start with the close, and write all the way through the order device. Now you‟re actually making concrete progress on your assignment. That also helps because now you know exactly where you have to lead your prospect… you‟ve defined the “finish line” for the project. Pull out some strong points you may want to use as sidebars, and start writing them up.
Take whole ideas – major copy points – and start writing them out. They don‟t have to be in order, just start somewhere. That usually leads to something else… and so it goes…
This is my favorite part – work on the headline or how you‟re going to open the promo. What‟s the special hook that‟s going to grab your prospect and drag them into the promo? Get this part, and you‟ve got a WHOLE LOT of your work done.
Work on a whole list of headlines. A lot that won‟t wind up at the top will be strong subheads you can use.
Make “thumbnail” sketches of how you see the package. Some of the most successful writers work this way – figuring out their main points of their promo, how it‟s going to fit together, and then starting to fill in the individual parts. This is especially helpful if you work with a particular designer, because you can stay on track all the way through the promo.
So there‟s a little “cheat sheet” to beat the “empty pages” – that beast that most of us will face at some time or other. Maybe next time we‟ll tackle things like the power of the word, meaning, flow, revisions, building credibility, or the famous “Golden Thread,” (which you WILL NOT find in ANY college writing course… ). And, if you‟re coming to Bootcamp this year, I hope you‟ll be front and center for my presentation with Will Newman. We‟ll be giving a Master Class on headlines www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
called Hidden Gateways into Your Promotion: How “Mini-Headlines” Lead Prospects into Your Package. Specifically, we‟re going to show you: Why you need to intercept your prospect's “end around” before you lose him. How to identify the best places to connect to your prospect‟s hidden desires, fears, and passion And, why less can be more when leading your prospect through one of the gateways.
Network with master copywriters like Don Mahoney, Bob Bly and Paul Hollingshead at the AWAI Fast Track to Success Bootcamp & Jobfair which is taking place on October 26-29, 2011 Delray Beach, Florida
How “Half-Off” Spells More Money for Your Copywriting Business Here‟s an easy way to get 50% more from every client: Make them an offer they can‟t refuse. When you get an assignment, say, “If you like the package, I‟ll do another version of it for half-price.” The point is, you‟ve already done most of the “mechanical” work – the hard parts of the research and the credibility and the USP of the product. So you can use that information again… just present it a little differently. Then, of course, you need to come up with another headline and lead, and maybe another format. Fifty percent of the original package cost is a fair price for the amount of work involved, slightly to your advantage. It‟s a little less than half the work you did for the first package. But you can do it quickly, since you‟ve already done a lot of the heavy lifting… and if you‟re cultivating a new client, this strategy gives you an immediate second opportunity to show your stuff. Remember, clients would much rather have one person they can depend on than go shopping for different copywriters all the time. You already have a relationship www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
with this one – they know what to expect from you, and you know what to expect from them. It‟s a win-win situation. The client is happy because he gets a second package for half-price. And you get a second job without having to do twice as much work or go and find your next project. So whenever a client gives you a job, let him know you‟ll be happy to add a second version – for half off! If you‟d like to know more about how to succeed as a freelance copywriter then click here to read more about the Versatile Freelancer Program from AWAI.
7 Ways to Harness the Power of Positive Copywriting Katie asked me the other day, “Don, what would you consider your most important secret for copywriting success?” I came up with an answer that I realized is common for most successful copywriters I know. It‟s at the heart of my success, Bob Bly‟s, Paul Hollingshead‟s, and especially Michael Masterson‟s. The secret is this: Be positive. Let me share with you 7 ways to harness the “Power of Positive Copywriting.”
1. EACH NEW ASSIGNMENT IS AN OPPORTUNITY Even though I‟ve been writing a long time, I still get nervous when I‟m asked to write about something I don‟t know much about. The first thought running through my mind is something like, “I can‟t do this. I don‟t know anything about it.” If that‟s where I stopped – with this negative attitude – I wouldn‟t have gotten anywhere in this business. Because when you start out, you really don‟t know much about anything. www.ProCopyWritingTactics.com
Instead of letting negativity freeze me, I look at the assignment as a challenge. How much can I learn about this product? And the way it works and the new field I‟m investigating? Attacking a brand-new area is an opportunity to learn. It‟s an opportunity to become better informed… and also more interesting.
2. REPEAT ASSIGNMENTS ARE NOT “OLD HAT” When I get asked to write about a product I‟ve done before, it‟s easy to feel, “I could write this in my sleep.” This is an invitation to boredom. An invitation to do a half-baked job. So when faced with assignments like this, I challenge myself. What new ideas can I come up with? How can I make it exciting to myself again? Because if I‟m not excited, my prospect sure won‟t be. Putting this positive spin on what could be a so-so assignment keeps me in the game. I help repeat clients make lots of money… and have them coming back to me to write for them again and again. All because of a positive perspective on the work.
3. CRITICISM IS THE BEST WAY TO GET BETTER Every time I submit copy, I want my client to love it and not want changes. I‟m human, okay? But I know if I don‟t get critical feedback, I won‟t improve my skills. So criticism is a positive force in my professional life. A force that propels me forward and keeps my writing fresh and effective. This is how my successful colleagues approach criticism. Rather than trying to justify themselves when critiqued, they listen. And they adopt a positive attitude about what they hear so they can meet their clients‟ needs… and produce successful packages.
4. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS BUILD CAREERS You‟ve heard this from experts like Lori Appling and Ilise Benun: Your clients would much rather deal with copywriters who are courteous, respectful, and easy to work with. If you‟re competing for a job against someone whose skills are equal to yours… but who‟s a raving jerk… you‟re going to get the job. No question. This also applies to working with people other than clients. The DM industry is close-knit. If you maintain a positive attitude with people who aren‟t in a position to give you a job, word gets around to those who are. And if you‟re a jerk, that word spreads too. Being positive with industry contacts has tremendous benefits to your career.
5. BEING POSITIVE INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY Negativity builds on itself. It sucks up time. Time you could be working, earning money, and promoting your career. But a positive outlook increases productivity. It lets you concentrate on what you need to accomplish. You think more clearly… and are more open to new ideas when they “magically” appear.
6. BE POSITIVE ABOUT FAILURES Every failure is one less that you have to go through in the future. What you are really doing is accelerating your success. Don‟t let failures get you down. They‟re normal.
7. BEING POSITIVE MAKES PEOPLE WANT TO BE AROUND YOU If you have a positive outlook, people will want to be with you. They‟ll want to sit and chat over a cup of coffee or a beer. These are your prospects – the very people you want to sell to. People who will teach you more than any book on copywriting can offer.
So if you ask me how to add that extra edge to your success plans, I‟ll tell you this: Be positive in your work. Be positive with associates. Be positive in your everyday life. You will succeed, and you‟ll have a whole lot more fun. Don Mahoney shares all his most closely guarded copywriting secrets – Secrets that have made him a six-figure copywriter in the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. The program is put together by Michael Masterson, Paul Hollingshead and Don Mahoney and is one of the best and most comprehensive copywriting programs on the market today. You can read my full review and critique of the AWAI Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting here. Or find out more about the program direct from the AWAI website.
14 Tips for Banishing Writer’s Block [Every writer‟s had to face what William Faulkner called the tyranny of the blank page. You‟re ready to write, but nothing seems to come. Writer‟s block. We asked AWAI Board Member Don Mahoney – who is also one of the fastest copywriters around – how he deals with writer‟s block. Here are his “14 Tips.”] If You’re Stuck at the Very Beginning In this case, you probably don‟t have enough information about your project. You will probably fix that when you… 1. Identify your creative time – early a.m., late night, whatever. That‟s when to attack your work. 2. Study what‟s working and, if possible, what‟s not working. Sometimes your client‟s marketing director can give you copies of promotions that flopped or competitors‟ promos that mailed only once. 3. Research, research, research. Read promotions and immerse yourself in the product, whether it‟s intellectual (written material) or physical (vitamins,
gold coins, air filters, whatever). Google everything that‟s related to your subject. 4. Identify the “point of maximum anxiety” of your prospect: what keeps your prospect up at night. 5. Identify the USP (unique selling proposition), the big idea of the main promise of your product. 6. Make an outline and begin filling it in. 7. Start ANYWHERE! If you can nail the headline and lead first, great! If not, write anything – the offer, the reply, the back cover, the close (think of the last thing you‟d say to someone to get them to buy this product, then start working your way toward that line), sidebars, centerfolds, flyers, bios, premium copy, ANYTHING! 8. Set some reasonable goals for what you want to achieve each day in your writing. 9. “Almost cheating”: Type the name of the project, the date, and your name in the upper left corner. Then type a page, something like a memo to yourself and other readers. Describe what you see as the core message of what you‟re about to write. Include a rough idea of how you expect it to look when it‟s done. 10. “Cheating”: Jot down notes and ideas as you prepare. Then transfer them to your computer, punching them up as you go. Guess what? You‟re already past the “empty page.” 11. “Advanced cheating”: If you know you always tend to have a problem with empty pages, record your first conversations about the product with the marketing team. You can use a little handheld recorder to do this. Transcribe the recording, and delete any fluff and irrelevant material. Start organizing any useful material into notes and/or sections of your project.
If You Get Stuck Anywhere Along the Way This should help you get out of the funk… 12. Take a break. Run, walk, meditate, go bicycling, listen to music… then come back to it. 13. If that doesn‟t work, you need to do more work. Go back to your research and dig some more. Go back to your outline and see if some part doesn‟t jump out at you as ready to go. 14.
Brainstorm with another writer.
If you use these 14 techniques, you should have banished writer‟s block. If it persists, put your work away and get a good night‟s sleep. Start fresh in the morning and, in all likelihood, you‟ll nail it.
The Best Time to Write Your Headlines and Leads It's important to know (1) what your most productive hours are and (2) to spend those hours on your most difficult mental tasks. For most copywriters, the hardest part of writing a package is getting the headline and lead – the hook into the promotion. I'm a very disciplined writer, so once I get that, I'm rolling. Because my most productive time is early in the day, that's when I tackle that part of the package. If I don't get it the first day, I move on to other parts of the promotion: sidebars, bios or credibility features, the offer, the close, whatever. Then, I come back to the headline and lead again the next morning. And the next, if necessary – until I get it.
Writing Order Devices When you're working on a package, don't wait until the last minute to complete the order device. Instead, start working on the order device right away. Start by looking for a similar package with a strong order device. Then copy the order device and use it as a template for your package. Your order device should match the tone and voice of your letter. So, as you start writing the letter, revise the order device as you go. Make sure it restates the promise and primary benefits. Remind your prospect why he's buying. The order device can make or break your sale. So go over it at the end like you're seeing it for the first time. Make sure all of the elements are there and that you've made it easy for your prospect to say "yes!" The AWAI Accelerated Program for Six Figure Copywriting shows you step by step how to create order devices that work. Through a combination of step-by-step instruction and examples from successful direct mail promotions you will soon be creating order devices like a seasoned pro.
Six Techniques for Jumpstarting Your Creative Engine from AWAI Board Members John Forde, Bob Bly, Don Mahoney, Michael Masterson, Jen Stevens, and Paul Hollingshead John Forde… on Where to Find Inspiration To make a vase, you need a lump of clay. Something to work with. So when I‟m stuck, I seek out more material to work with – what I call my “Three R‟s and an S”:
I READ. This used to mean spending a full day at the library in front of the microfiche machine. But now, with the Internet, you can quickly and easily access articles galore on virtually anything you‟ll ever have to write about. I RAP… with gurus, with customers, with anybody you‟d expect to call if you were putting together a “60 Minutes” interview and not just a promo package. Talk to everyone, follow leads, ask questions. Eventually, you crack open a new idea. I WRITE. The best cure for writer‟s block – just do it! Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and start with this: “I can‟t think of what to write. I‟m trying to solve this problem where… ” Before you know it, you‟ll stop complaining and start creating. When all the above fail, I take a SHOWER. No kidding. Lots of writers credit walks, country drives, fishing, baths, and other means of relaxation with opening the doors of the subconscious. For me, it‟s always been the shower. Only drawback – my laptop isn‟t waterproof. Bob Bly… on Multi-Tasking to Beat Burnout I always work on multiple projects in different areas – a book for one of my publishers, a brochure for a high-tech client, a package for a newsletter publisher, a website for a consulting firm. Whenever I feel bored or burned out on a job like a major magalog, I switch to something else that appeals to me at the moment. Then I come back to the magalog later, refreshed and ready to work on it again. Don Mahoney… on Just the Right Amount of Pressure In the beginning I didn‟t need any motivators… I was self-started and selfmotivated. All I needed was experience. Nobody had to tell me to work. I worked. If you want to go from $12,000 a year to between $100K and $200K, you‟ve got to WANT IT, BABY. If you don‟t burn with desire, you‟re probably wasting your time. Now that I‟ve got some success under my belt, it‟s a little harder. I tend to let myself get distracted by life‟s little “happenings.” So I find that what I need is just the right amount of pressure.
You see, I built a large part of my early reputation on punctuality – notoriously rare in copywriters. (If you can‟t give „em A-team copy yet, at least let them know they can count on it when they need it.) No joke, that helps. So, I‟ve trained myself to meet deadlines. Now I try to set deadlines that don‟t leave me too much wiggle room. I want it done – and done right – so there comes a point where I HAVE to get going if I don‟t want to be up for three days straight before my deadline. And, yes, I can still manage to get the old fire of desire burning. It‟s just on a higher level than it used to be. I have to get in touch with the things I still haven‟t accomplished… meditate on them until they bubble up to the top of my consciousness… and then psych myself up to go after them just like I did when I wanted to BECOME a successful freelance copywriter. Then, of course, there are bags full of little tricks you can use… … like doing lots of research on a subject. I do it until it‟s coming out of my ears… and then when I think about the assignment, the information starts falling into place, ready to be used… … or knowing what time of day your brain works best. For me, it‟s first thing in the morning. So when I have my work laid out and it‟s fresh in my mind, if I go straight to the keyboard when I wake up, I‟m often brimming with ideas. Sometimes I even wake up with creative solutions working themselves out in my head… ready to jump into the day and the task. Michael Masterson’s… 5-Step Process for Getting Started For me, the very best way to get started… by far… is with research. And that breaks down as follows, from best to okay: 1. Talk, at length and in depth, to a true expert. 2. Read a lot about what experts have to say. 3. Study the product in detail. 4. Study past promotions for the product. 5. Talk to the marketing/product managers to get their ideas.
Jen Stevens… on Productive Panic I am, unfortunately, most productive when I‟m in a panic – real or manufactured. That means I don‟t exactly leave things to the last minute… but to the untrained eye, it might appear that I do. I say to anyone who will listen, “I have no idea how I‟m going to finish this thing by Thursday. I need a new idea. How on earth am I going to finish this? I‟m going to be up all night… ” Thus, I create a sense of panic. I start researching well in advance. I gather material. I talk to everyone I need to talk to. I read a lot. I mull over what I‟m going to say. I think about it while I‟m changing diapers and grinding up squash. I find myself reading The NY Times and not really reading because I‟m trying, in the back of my head, to figure out what I should lead with. Then I‟ll finally sit down to write. And I just type. I start with what I know. For instance, if I‟m writing a promotion for a conference where a panel of speakers will give presentations, I‟ll begin by typing in the speakers‟ names and titles and coming up with the titles to their speeches and then bullets for those speeches. So I end up with a fair chunk of the thing done, even if I still don‟t have a headline or a lead. If I know I want to have a handful of sidebars, I‟ll write those next. They are short and each one is focused on one idea, usually, so they tend to be easy to write. And then I‟ve got another chunk of the thing done. And by doing that much writing, I‟ve usually got some momentum going and can write the rest. Essentially, what I do is divide a project up into manageable parts and just focus on getting each part done, one at a time. Pretty soon, I‟ve got more copy than I know what to do with. Also, I am, somewhat inexplicably, productive at about 5:00 in the morning. This may be a function of the fact that I have a six-month-old baby in the house, and the only time it‟s quiet is at that hour. Nevertheless, it makes me feel very productive to get a couple of hours of writing in before the rest of the house – and the neighborhood – is up.
It means that I can get into the shower at 7:00 or 8:00 having made a dent in whatever I‟m working on. I know that when I go back to my computer after breakfast there will be something already on the screen, which always, for me, makes writing easier. Also, when I start at 5:00 I know that the house will be getting up in a couple hours, and that deadline provides just enough of that needed panic. And, finally, Paul Hollingshead… with a solution that works for him (though I wouldn‟t recommend it for everyone!) Sadly, my technique is to maintain a lifestyle I can‟t afford. Let Paul, Don and Michael Masterson himself teach you all you need to know in order to become a six-figure copywriter.
Find out how you can make between $80,000 and $540,000 Per Year as a copywriter from the comfort of your own home.