Have you ever wondered how Ben Settle comes up with so many fascinating ideas for his emails and sales letters? Well, today you’re going to find out.
You’re also going to find out what Ben thinks about long copy (is long copy dead?)… and… how long your emails should be.
So, without further adieu, here’s Part 2 of my 4-part series of copywriting questions and answers with Ben Settle. (And in case you missed Part 1, you can read it here.)
5. How do you get ideas for hooks in your promotional emails and sales pages? Where do you look for ideas?
I get ideas from everything and anything.
I probably get my best ideas from movies and TV shows. I’ve trained my mind to always be on high alert for anything that can be useful in an ad or email. And every time I get an idea — a headline, subject line, an analogy, a story idea, even just an interesting or unique word or piece of slang… I write it down or, at the very least, it gets stored in my subconscious for later use.
I’ll give you an example.
Ever see “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”?
The live action version with Jim Carrey?
Well, there’s a scene in there where the grinch and Cindy Lou Who are zipping down the mountain (slay packed with gifts) going extremely fast, thinking they may crash on mountainside.
And the Grinch says:
“…even if we’re HORRIBLY MANGLED…”
Well, guess what?
I’ve used that in some martial arts ads and some of my emails.
Not as a “hook” necessarily, but to make the writing more interesting and fun to read. And it came as a result of just always having that “radar” on, listening for interesting phrases, ideas and concepts. The more interesting and fun your writing is to read, the more likely people are to buy.
It’s not always that easy, though.
Sometimes you have to dig deep for these things.
One example would be an ad I wrote selling a grappling product to guys who were not martial arts savvy. These guys are middle aged, “Type A” personalities, and wouldn’t know the difference between kung fu and kung pao chicken — nor did they watch mixed martial arts or find the idea of wrestling around on the ground or the concept of “grappling” appealing at all.
So I had to make it sexy somehow.
I started reading a book about grappling. And it turns out back in ancient Rome when people were thrown to the lions, some of the tougher guys (who knew grappling) fought the lions back and even killed them with their bare hands.
How cool is that?
And that instantly became my hook and story.
All the sudden grappling was made cool and exciting.
So you have to dig sometimes.
But it’s always worth the effort.
6. How long should emails be for them to be most effective?
There’s no one magic email length.
You just say what you have to say and get out as fast as you can. If you know your list and your market, and if you know how to communicate with them in a way where they want to hear from you (where you’re a bright spot in their day, not an imposition) you realize it doesn’t matter.
That said, I do try to keep them under 400 words.
Less than 300 is ideal, but I don’t always succeed at that.
I don’t do this as a rule or anything.
I do it because my attention span sucks. And I figure, if I’d get bored of something, they will. So I follow the old adage about how long a woman’s skirt should be:
“Short enough to get attention,
long enough to cover the details…”
Sometimes that means writing an email that is 150 words.
Or it could be an email that is 2000 words!
Just have a conversation with your market. If it’s long but interesting, that’s okay. If it’s short and interesting, that’s okay too.
The only rule is don’t be boring.
If you’re interesting, it can’t be too long.
At the same time, if you’re boring, even 10 words is too long.
7. Since you have embraced short copy emails… does this prove the long form sales letter is finally officially dead?
Everyone seems so anxious to pronounce long copy dead.
But it’s far from being dead.
Case in point:
When I was working in the golf niche, for some reason (I still can’t fathom) someone took my proven-to-work long form sales letter down and just put an order form up.
It was classic short copy:
Just a headline, a brief description of the product and offer, and a link.
I’m still not exactly sure why they took it down..
But I remember one of the guys was all about “incubating” prospects before selling them (something like that, all based on assumption based on what one of his favorite goo-roos teaches, but not one test was conducted).
So all we had was a short copy order form for weeks.
And this was in addition to doing Web 2.0 stuff.
You know… blog posts, podcasts, etc.
And hey, we did get sales with just the order form.
But still, it kind of bothered me.
I mean, seriously, why would you take down a sales letter that was working and only put up an order form without even testing it? Anyway, long story short, I convinced them to put it back up and — sweet mother of Claude Hopkins! — sales went way up, too.
Now, that doesn’t mean every ad must be long.
Your ad should be as long as it needs to be.
A lot of it comes down to how aware (as the great Eugene Schwartz taught) your market is of your product.
If you’re selling Viagra, do you need long copy?
Everyone knows what it is and what it does already. So you probably just need a headline and an offer. But if you’re selling yet ANOTHER brand new, “ground floor” business opportunity online… you’re going to have some ‘splaining to do.
You have to tell them why you’re different.
Why they should trust you.
What makes you unique, etc
Methinks that’s going to take some long copy.
Maybe even REALLY long copy (as in 50+ pages).
Email does make this easier, though.
For example, with the products I sell on my site, I don’t tell my whole story or any stories. I just do a bit of teasing, maybe some credibility building, then jump right into the benefits and offer. And the reason why is because I send emails every day. My list either already knows, likes and trusts me or they don’t.
So anyway, no I don’t think long copy is dead.
And, if it is, I never got the memo…
This is the end of Part 2 of 4. More tomorrow (including the answer to this question: “Is it really better to send emails every day to your subscribers, rather than less often?”).
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-Ryan M. Healy
I bought AWAI's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting back when I still had a job. It remains one of the best purchases I've ever made. I became a freelance copywriter in 2005 and never looked back. Discover How to Make Money Writing Copy! »