You will never be more successful than your ability to communicate... and thank the Lord for that.
If writing compelling messages was easy, everyone would be doing it.
And they most certainly are not :)
Glenn Fisher is, however...
A professional direct response copywriter, Glenn's words generated in excess of £50m in sales for publisher Agora, and in this in-depth interview, you’ll get a TON of valuable nuggets you can apply to your business, including:
EVERYONE needs to learn these skills so please, enjoy...
Rob Tyson: Hi Glenn. Would you like to introduce yourself? Tell us where you're from and what you do.
Glenn Fisher: Yep, certainly. My name is Glenn Fisher and I originally hail from a place called Hull, up North, but I'm now living and working in London as a direct response copywriter.
I've been working for about seven years now doing copywriting. Mainly I've been working for a company called Agora, where I manage up their copywriting team, and I also run a copywriting website called allgoodcopy.com, which is dedicated to giving free advice about direct response copywriting to marketers and copywriters alike.
Rob Tyson: All right, so you said direct response copywriting, what's that and how's that different from other types of copywriting?
Glenn Fisher: Well, it's a difficult question, really. Many people ask me what a copywriter is, so, it's a difficult one in the pub but add direct response onto that and you've got a bit of a conundrum.
I think the best way to describe it is to break it down into two parts.
Obviously, you've got the copywriter element, which is just writing to sell, basically. Any writing that involves selling something, be it an idea, be it a product. If you're looking to sell something and you're using writing to do it, that's copywriting.
The first element, the direct response, it's really best to define it by explaining what it's not.
Most people are familiar with copywriters in the kind of Mad Men form. We've probably all seen Don Draper and the kind of '60s style of Mad Men advertising executives kind of coming up with these abstract concepts and doing kind of branding exercises. That, which you're familiar with from the TV, is indirect response.
What indirect response means is, essentially, planting an idea in someone's mind. You might see a billboard campaign for Coca-Cola and then you, hopefully, in the shop later that evening when you're kind of looking to buy a drink, you'd see the Coca-Cola and think, "Oh, well I saw that earlier on and I quite like the look of that so I'll buy that right now."
Direct response is where you're looking for the customer to take an immediate action. It might be to send in a coupon to enter their credit card details to buy a product or service right there and then, or it might be something as simple as entering your email on a squeeze page or a website. It's anything where there's a, literally, direct response to your advertising.
Obviously, the great thing about direct response copywriting, why I personally like it and why I focus on it and encourage other people to learn about it, is that it's measurable.
You don't know how many people are seeing your indirect campaign on the billboard down the street, but you know if someone takes the action to a direct response piece of copy. They either take the action or they don't. You can't hide behind the concept, or the idea, or if someone likes it. They either react or they don't.
I think that measurable element is what makes it such a good way of learning about how to sell things.
Rob Tyson: Sure and when you're on a budget and you're not Coca-Cola you can't afford to just spend money on brand advertising on a wing and a prayer and hope for the best.
What you really need to do is be adopting this direct response kind of mindset. Because I think a lot of business owners tend to think, "Well, I've got my website. What I'll do is on the homepage, we'll just kind of say what we do. People are going to read all that and they'll just make a decision whether they buy from me or not," and really, that is a million miles away from the reality which is that the words you use matter a lot.
Glenn Fisher: Good copy is so important. I'm not just biased because I'm a copywriter and that's my trade. I actually think there are other important things, which we might get onto later on, but good copy can make a huge difference to your business.
As you were just saying there, really, copywriting is about communicating a message to someone about your business. If you communicate that message more successfully, clearer, so that people understand it, your business will be more successful.
You're saying about the limited budget that a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners have and that just reflects in the kind of numbers element of good copy. If you think, let's say you wanted a hundred sales of your product, if you've got some bad copy that's, say performing, just for ease of numbers, at 1%. If my maths is right, you need 10 thousand people to see that piece of copy to get your hundred sales.
If you've got really good copy, and it's performing at say 10%, then you only need a thousand people to see that, so you're getting much better return for your investment and, obviously if you can get to more people, you're going to make more sales as well.
For me, good copy, if you can concentrate on it, it allows small businesses to reach a much wider audience and get more for their money, more for their investment, and get their message across a lot clearer.
Don't get me wrong, if you can't write, if you hate writing, and absolutely despise the idea of doing it, you're probably never going to write a big, breakthrough 30-page direct response sales letter.
That said, I still think you can learn about copywriting. I think you can understand what the fundamentals about what makes people buy, and I think, even from a writerly point of view, you can improve your writing a lot. The reason being, and the best way of going around it, and I think I might cover it a little in [Glenn's book] Buy This Now, is I always talk about there being two elements to copywriting.
There's the emotional element and there's the technical elements. A lot of advice in the book, a lot of advice on my website, I kind of focus on those elements because that is practical for a start. I want everything I write about to be practical and people can go away and actually use it.
Technical elements are things like writing in short sentences., looking at the structure of your copy. By the way, I might kind of, just to clarify, I'm generally talking about long-copy sales letters here, but the fundamental principles apply to whether you're writing a landing page, a PPC ad, or any kind of copy.
The structure of those things, the kind of power of three which is the concept where you do everything in threes. It just makes it more rhythmic. You've got things like the FK score, which in most word processors, you can analyze your writing and see where it falls in the FK score.
Stuff like that is easily learnable by anyone, regardless of how good a writer you are. If you follow those various tips and ricks that exist int hat world, then you will write immediately better copy.
Rob Tyson: Can you explain what the FK score is?
Glenn Fisher: The FK score is a weird thing and copywriters generally don't like it because it provides some form of proof to the matter, but it's called the Flesch-Kincaid score.
It was developed in, I think, by the U.S. army as something to work out what kind of learning level writing was at.
It just so happens that there was a big test done in America and it was found that the lower your FK score, the more effective your writing was.
Everything that I produce, and I produce through Agora, and all the copy, we aim for an FK score of less than eight. You can probably work it out for yourself, you can search on a Word document how to do it, to kind of analyze it.
If you look for less than eight, that means that you're looking at shorter words, shorter sentences, and more active phrases. It just makes things easier to read.
It's a great way ... I work with a lot of editors in kind of the Forex regions and betting and they have a lot of technical language they use.
Whenever they write stuff, the ideas are there and they're getting the message across but it's just so clumpy, it's so difficult to read.
If you would just apply that score to it, it's a great way of seeing very quickly that usually it's going to be up in the tens to twenties. It's a good way of breaking down your writing. That's something that I would encourage people to do.
I myself kind of have got to the stage now where I can inherently write at a low score, usually around four or five, but it's just a good way of checking.
If you're finding that piece of copy isn't working, that's one of the check you can do just to see why that might not be working. The FK score is a good way of using that.
Rob Tyson: Would that be a reason I managed to whizz through your book so quickly because ...
Glenn Fisher: Possibly.
Rob Tyson: Actually, it's broken down and so much easier to digest.
Glenn Fisher: Don't get me wrong, this is a kind of disclaimer, if every single sentence is tiny and short and one line, you will start sounding like a robot and it's not going to be a pleasurable reading experience.
Rob Tyson: Well, I must say, Glenn, that's what I did like about your book is when you talked about some of these concepts, you actually then did them in the sentence you were talking about them, which was quite neat.
Glenn Fisher: That's my creative writing background, slightly meta-fictional as well, that kind of writing. But, yeah, it's a balance, of course it's a balance. I use it. All of the copywriters are trained, and all of the editors I work with, I encourage them to use some technical tricks like this.
For instance, I write everything from like the blog posts, all of the book itself, in a particular ... The margin is set at 13, Courier New font at size 10.
Now, the reason I do the margin is that any line that goes over four lines in that particular word processor format, is going to probably be too long to read comfortably without taking a breath.
It's just a very quick visual thing that you can see straightaway that that paragraph is too bulky, particularly in the modern world where we're reading things on mobile devices much more. It's just breaking things down a lot easier.
Then you do need that kind of rhythm. You'll generally know when it's too clippy and it starts looking like a poem. That's not good, but if you can generally aim in that particular formatting size, then you will probably write clearer, easier to read copy. That's the technical side of things.
Obviously, when I'm saying about everybody learning to write copy, the other side of that, the catch, if you want, is the emotional side. That's, if you're paying proper writers to do work for you, that's what you're really paying for.
It's the emotional elements to copy that really tap into people's mind, that engage with them on en emotional level, and ultimately make the sale.
The technical side of things makes it easier to read, makes it clearer, and gets your message across, but to really get that buying decision made, you need to connect on an emotional level, and that's the heart of it.
Of course you can learn it, but really that comes from lives, that comes from looking around you, taking notice of things, learning what makes people tick, which is doable, as I say, but that's the hard bit. I always encourage people to try and learn all the technicals first, and then really start delving into the emotional side of things.
I think, so far, I've had quite a lot of success in training people. Usually I do look for someone who's a writer, but I do believe that providing you've got the wherewithal to learn, you've got the interest to make it work, you can succeed and write decent copy.
Certainly any marketer, any business owner, should be able to write enough copy to get them through and avoid having to pay big charges for copywriters until they feel comfortable that it's worth the investment.
Rob Tyson: That's an interesting point, Glenn. I think there is another reason business owners should try to learn the basics of this stuff and that is so that even if they do hire someone, because it can be a very good idea to hire a pro to do this, they kind of know what they're looking for a little bit, and they don't go into it blind.
Glenn Fisher: Yeah, I think that's an important factor. I try and remain as kind of unbiased about these kind of things as possible. Obviously, my career is based on being paid to write copy, but at the same time, I do think if you're hiring freelancers to do things, a lot of copywriters will just hand in nonsense.
If you haven't got the skill, or at least the understanding, to see what they're handing in, you're really wasting your money. I do think it's empowering to business owners and marketers to understand about copy.
That said, you will inevitably cause some friction between the copywriter and the marketer when someone knows just that little bit, but generally, a copywriter will be more open to working with the marketer, with the business owner, if they know they're on the same level and they understand what they're talking about.
It's just a much quicker way of explaining things. If you're looking at the freelance copywriter world, one of the biggest complaints that copywriters have is the client not understanding their genius, but if the marketers and the business owners learn more about copy then they can see where they're coming from. I think that will be a more balanced world that we're living in.
Don't get me wrong, I do think there is division. I think for any copywriter, you need to learn about marketing.
The reason I've got quite good at this is I was lucky enough to work with some very clever marketers and worked very closely with them.
At the same time, the reason those marketers are good is because they understand copywriting, so I have a good sound wall to kind of go and feed ideas back and forth. They are two very different kind of disciplines, so to speak.
You've got the copy, then the marketing, for me, is about getting people to the copy.
They can inform the copywriter more about the marketplace that they're into and various things like that which while just give the copywriter more to go on. The more they know out eh reader, the lists that they might be sending copy to, and various things like that, is very useful to a copywriter.
To expect a marketer, who really should be trained in name generation and selling and kind of making new contacts, meeting people, and finding new places to sell good copy, then really, to ask them to go and write the copy is a bit of a kind of long shot.
That said, I do think, in the same way I consider myself quite a decent marketer, there are certain marketers out there who have got a very good understanding of copywriting.
One of my personal mentors and sounding boards, he's been a marketer for years, but his understanding of copy is second to none, so he makes an excellent person to go and speak to and find out about how he sees it from the marketing point of view.
Rob Tyson: Glenn, just talking about some specifics of copy ... I guess where every promotion or sales letter starts, the first thing we tend to see is the headline. I just wondered how important are headlines in the grand scheme of things and what tips could you give us on creating better headlines?
Glenn Fisher: It's a funny thing, really, because it's difficult because I'm going to say things that are contradictory, which I always do. I'm quite a contradictory person. The headline is obviously the most important thing piece of copy, particularly in a direct response sales letter, it's absolutely crucial. As people like Bill Bonner says, founder of Agora, countless gurus such as David Ogilvy, et cetera, they all keep kind of saying about this idea of spending 80% of the time on your headline lead-in and 20% on the rest of the copy.
That is true to a certain extent. If someone is not engaged by your headline and lead, then they're not going to read the rest of the copy so therefore that's defunct.
At the same time, and to any aspiring copywriters who are listening, to any marketers who are listening, or business owners, please don't underestimate the importance of the rest of your copy. It's so important. If you write a good headline lead and then the copy falls apart afterwards, that's no good to you. You spent all this time on the headline lead and then you've still not made the sale.
More and more I see that people are spending too much time on the headline lead and then forgetting that. That is emotional connection. When you're doing your headline lead, you are emotionally engaging your customer. The rest of the promotion, the rest of the copy behind that is justifying why they're having an emotional reaction and that is so important.
So, please don't ever just spend too much on the headline. Always look at the end of copy. That said, there is a lot of things not to be said for spending a lot of time on your headline leads.
What I have been taught by my own mentors, was something called the Four U's.
The four U's are that a headline should be useful, it should be urgent, it should be unique, and it should be ultra-specific ... That's the rogue one in there ... All four of those elements, if your headline is ticking those off, chances are it's going to be a decent headline.
Don't get me wrong, there's headlines out there that work without having any of those things, that have their own kind of little magic to it, but if you've got a headline that's struggling, it's not working as well as you'd hoped, then I would recommend people look at the Four U's.
Look, analyze it. Is there something useful? Is there something useful in that headline? Is there an urgency in that headline? If not, can you add one? Is there a certain date that you have to do something before? Is there a limited amount of copies? Something along those lines. Is it unique? Is it the same thing, "Make this much money over this much time?" Look for something unique.
When it comes to ultra-specificity, which is one of the hardest words to say in the world, when it comes to being ultra-specific, look ... If you're just saying how you can make money, that's rubbish. If you said how you can make £564 pounds in the next seven days, that's much more specific and it feels much more real.
It's not just about money. There are other things like saying, a good example they always used is looking at a gun. If you had a gun, you wouldn't just say you were shot but a gun, you would say you were shot by a Smith and Wesson .2 caliber pistol. It just makes it feel more real, that's what specificity does to a headline. So, definitely look at the Four U's.
Also, when it comes to headlines, what I see people make the most often, the biggest mistake people make is they look for feedback from people involved with their product, which are the worst people to give you comments on it because they will inherently, whether it's a marketer, a business owner, or another copywriter, they will inherently have baggage with that idea.
They will have their own ideas about how to sell it. They already know what they're being sold so they're already second guessing it. What I do with my headlines more often than not is ask someone who has nothing to do with it to look at it.
If they don't understand it, if that idea is not expressed clearly enough and they don't understand it, then it's not going to work when we send it out into the real world.
You don't have to go far, I use my partner. My girlfriend looks at most of my headlines and if she can't understand, it's not because she's being silly or anything, it's just that I've not expressed the idea clearly enough and despite me thinking I'm a genius and very clever for wording it in a certain way, if it's not obvious to someone else who doesn't understand what you're selling, then it's not going to work on a mass market.
As much as you do want to get the feedback of your marketing team, of the product's developer, of whoever is involved in the selling of a particular product, also look for advice from people who don't know anything about it because when you send it out to the customer, they don't know anything about it as well. The easiest way to get that kind of unbiased opinion is to go to someone with no bias on it.
Rob Tyson: Is there a difference between the sort of copy you'd use in say a blog post or an online article, or should you use these principles all the time, no matter what the writing?
Glenn Fisher: I think you should definitely aim to.
Obviously, there are some differences between a blog post or a direct response one-copy sales letter, but for as much as possible, you should use the same fundamentals.
For instance, a good blog post should have one key thread in the same way a sales letter should. It should be engaging. It should be easy to read. It should use the same kind of FK score elements in all the technical side of things. With Twitter, say, the kind of idea that every tweet is a headline in itself, I think that's a really good thing. I think copywriters should use that as kind of almost a training tool. Definitely with with a blog post.
If you look at [copywriter] Gary Halbert, if you look at some of his writing, you don't really know if it's a sales letter or an article. It's just an engaging piece of copy. I would encourage people, even if you're just an editor working on content for a particular niche, to learn about copywriting, to understand that because it will make your posts more effective in the sense that it'll be getting seen by more people. More people will engage with you. When you do come to sell something through that particular avenue, people are more likely going to trust what you say.
I work with a lot of editors and what I encourage them to do is learn as much about the copywriting as possible. The best people I've worked with in my years have always had a good, deep understanding of fundamental copywriting principles and it shoes in their writing.
Rob Tyson: If that's the case, what are the mistakes that you see someone starting out making when they're copywriting, or even blog writing, that they should try and avoid?
Glenn Fisher: If you look at it from a learning to write copy point of view, the mistake that most people make is that they rush. It's a slow process to learn to begin with. It becomes much faster once you understand some fundamentals. To begin with, don't rush. Take your time.
It's about coming up with ideas. It's about ... Writing a breakthrough headline will never just appear out of nowhere. Even if it does feel like it's appeared out of nowhere, it will actually, subconsciously, have been existing in your mind through various ideas and thoughts for weeks before hand, so take your time and don't try and rush things.
The second thing that I always see that new copywriters, or people who are learning to write copy, make is that they, this sounds ridiculous, but they start writing. The worst thing you can do when you're learning to write copy, and I guess this kind of almost goes into the blog idea and everything, is that you write first.
The first thing you should do is you should be reading. You should be reading as much as you can. If you're learning to write specific copy, then read as much copy as possible. If you're learning to write engaging content for a blog or website, read as much engaging content as you can. Reading will, ultimately, pay off and make you a much better and a copywriter.
The second thing, before you actually start writing your own stuff, copy out other people's writing.
This is a laborious thing, very frustrating thing, but I promise anyone out there, and I defy anyone to tell me it doesn't help them. If you copy stuff out, you will eventually write better copy.
Every time I take on a new training copywriter, for the first two or three weeks that they'll be with me, they will do nothing but read books about copywriting and copy out long copy sales letters by hand for weeks. Usually, three or four, I'll get them to copy out by hand and then I'll get them to type up their notes of it.
I've done that myself. That's how I started and I've found that it just gives people a deep understanding, without them even realizing almost, of the kind of flow in language in copy. I would encourage anyone to do that.
Stephen King, I think, used to do that. Various kind of fiction writers always have those stories of when they started and just copied out their favourite authors.
Rob Tyson: You know, I was going to say, I read an interview with Stephen King only just recently and I think it was in there that he mentioned that exact same tip.
Glenn Fisher: Yeah, it's a laborious thing. I've kept the handwritten versions that I did many years ago so whenever a new copywriter works with me, I can show them and explain, "No, I did this. Trust me," and get them to do it. It is boring, don't get me wrong, it's copying stuff out by hand, but it will benefit you enormously. The mistake I see is that people try to write first without understanding that.
One other big mistake that I've mentioned is that people try and reinvent the wheel when they're starting out. I wouldn't do that. What works, works for a reason. If you've seen good copy, if you've seen a promotion going out over, and over, and over again, that's because it works. It doesn't stop working. There's quite a lot of people in the world and it will keep reaching those different people.
When you're looking to start out, don't try and write some crazy inventive headline. That might sound kind of against the idea of coming up with new, useful and new, unique things, but look at what works and try and emulate that to begin with.
Once you've earned your stripes, once you've gotten used to learning the rules, then you can come up with the more crazy ideas and star testing them.
It's that kind of idea of Picasso and modern art ... Picasso might look to some people, and most modern art might look to some people, that it's just splurges and splotches on a canvas, but those painters, the good painters ... Picasso truly understood painting. He learned how to paint before he started splotching around. Most modern art today, the reason people don't like it is because they've just started splotching, and that's the same thing. If you try and don't learn the rules first and just come up with something, it won't be good. If you learn the rules, then you can start breaking them.
I would encourage people to not try and reinvent the wheel, just copy what works until you feel comfortable and have seen some success.
Rob Tyson: Picasso, you mention that ... You recommend reading some books about Picasso, at the end of your book. They weren't cheap, mind.
Glenn Fisher: The big old books. I'm worried, actually, because the book I particularly recommend is 'The Life of Picasso' by John Richardson, who was a friend of his. He's done three volumes and there's meant to be a fourth, but the guy is getting quite old and I'm worried that he's going to pass away before he finishes ...
Rob Tyson: Glenn, talk about word choice ... You said about this FK score, and obviously the basis of that is trying to keep the structure of what you're writing simple, but obviously, some words are far more powerful than others in use. The title of your book, for example, 'Buy This Now', you can't get more direct than that.
Glenn Fisher: Yeah, I was [inaudible 00:34:44] with that, but no, there are particular words. It's an interesting question actually because at the end of last year, on all the copy, I did a thing where I invited people to give me their top five words that they used.
I kind of did this big collation of all the top words, and any time I interview a copywriter for the website, I always ask them to give me the five words they use most often.
So, I can give you the five words that I found from the survey element, and I'll add a few to mine. It was interesting because the five that were selected really are a very good representation of why certain words work and it goes back to that kind of, the Four U's I was talking about. What we kind of look at in copy sometimes is looking at key elements like proof, looking at promises, and things like this.
The five words. The first, the most overused words ... Not overused. Most accurately, effective word, is the word "you" as in Y-O-U. This is more for the concept than the actual word, I think.
When it comes to direct copywriting, you should be focusing all of your writing on the reader. If you go through your promotional piece of copy and it says I or me too much, then you're doing something wrong. It really should be looking at the reader, putting them in the picture. So "you" is a keyword. The amount of time I'm reviewing a copywriter's work and immediately, almost anytime you say "I", you can rephrase that sentence to be "you". Always look at that.
The second word was "now", obviously from "buy this now" comes into play. That's that urgency we were speaking about earlier on. Urgent words like "now" are quite effective.
The third word was "guaranteed". That again, these words all reflect in the context behind them. "Guaranteed" is you're looking for proof, so any words that inherently suggest proof can be very powerful.
The fourth word was "imagine", which again, comes down to the idea of that emotional connection, putting people in the picture, having people imagine that they're using this new product, that they're making this decision that you're going to ask them to make at the end. Putting people in the picture is very powerful, so the word "imagine" kind of sum that up.
The final word was "because", which seems like a strange one, but I kind of like it as a final word because it reminds you of the importance of the technical side of the writing, and because things kind of happen because of this. I kind of like those five words. You've got you, now, guaranteed, imagine, and because. If you use the, they're like a kind of [mantra 00:37:43] almost for why you should learn about different elements of copywriting.
Personally, I like the word "shocking". I overuse that too much, and I've seen people using that word as well. I don't know why, I just like the sound of it. I also, and people like to take the mickey out of me for using this and it's not even a word, but I love the word, or phrase 'pssst', as in P-S-S-S-T. I love the kind of secrecy element of it. I love the conspiratorial element of it. In subject lines, it works really well.
Rob Tyson: Is that two or three S's?
Glenn Fisher: It's up to the user themselves to decide how many S's they want ...
Rob Tyson: You mean you haven't split-tested this?!
Glenn Fisher: I haven't split-tested this yet. I may need to. You should split-test everything. I'd go for three, I'd go for three, just using my innate experience.
But, no, "you" is one that everyone automatically says and I think it deserves the number one spot because it does remind you that when it comes to copywriting, to focus on the reader. That's tremendously important.
There's no secret to copywriting. There's no kind of magic trick. It's just learning the fundamental stuff and then having the discipline to actually remember them and apply them each time.
It will always give you a base increase in anything you do if you can address it to the reader rather than addressing yourself. If you can look for words that are proven to work. If you can keep your FK score down. If you do all these things, it will improve your copy.
Rob Tyson: Any words or phrases you'd never use?
Glenn Fisher: Swearwords, generally. It's a kind of obvious one. I work with one betting writer who has a very, now and again, will drop in a swearword just because it's his style, and it matches his tone of voice, but generally I would avoid it.
Not really ... Actually, I'm ignoring a key element that will probably be useful for people. When it comes to making promises of making money, of doing something of learning a new skill, or doing various things, avoid words that make it sound like work. Earning, as much as people should earn, people don't like to think they have to earn. It has an inherent 'work' associated with it. People want to pocket some money, rather than earning it. Words like that, I'd avoid anything like that.
Anything, as well, particularly for sign-up pages, and landing pages on websites, avoid words like "sign-up", "subscription", anything like that. You want to become a member of something, you don't want to sign-up to it.
What else is the kind of ... I did that "buy this now". Technically that's not very good on the basis that you should never use the word buy. You should always disassociate, when you're trying to make a sell, the concept of buying at all. You should just want it. You shouldn't want to buy it. You should want part of it. Anything that reminds people of what they're doing and brings it back down to worth, you want to find alternatives as best you can.
[If you look at online split tests] the significant differences you see from "Send me my free report." to "Subscribe and give me my report." will be a significant percentage increase and will make a difference to your business. As much as it seems finickity and a little bit pedantic to do those things, they will ultimately help you covert more people, if you can write that copy that you can feel.
Rob Tyson: Is there a difference between writing copy online for offline?
Glenn Fisher: I don't think so. I think compelling copy should be compelling whether it's online or offline. Wherever it is, it should always be compelling. Obviously, there's functional differences, but I wouldn't focus on them.
As I say, and if people take away one thing from what I'm saying and talking about in this interview, I would say learning the fundamentals is a much better use of your time.
Don't look at the end game, just understand why people do things. Then, when it comes to writing an off the page advert or an online landing page, if you understand why things work, then it'll be much easier to adjust and understand those fundamentals and apply them to your copy.
Rob Tyson: If those fundamentals are the same, obviously when you're doing some offline copy, there'll be something at the end that calls someone to action. When you come to the end of a blog post, say, what would be your advice to get people ... Because what you want out of that blog post is for it to earn some marketing dollars, pounds, for you. That's the point of writing it in the first place. A lot of people get to the end of a blog post and then run out of steam. Where do we send people from there?
Glenn Fisher: If this answer is a little bit rambling, there's a couple of important points in there which I think are interesting to discuss and understand.
First of all, with ever post that you do, you should bear in mind, what is the endgame.
Do you want someone to sign-up from it or do you want someone to go to a sales page? Do you want someone to take away a piece of advice?
The best website in the world is the Google homepage and all that does is redirect someone to somewhere else. You keep going back to Google because they do that job for you and you can trust them to do that. For me, there's no downside to sending people off to different places or just taking a piece of advice. If someone can take one piece of advice from your blog post, then they will come back to you. They will remember you for that piece of advice. In that respect, the call to action, you might be happy just to leave them. Just as long as they understand that piece of advice.
To do that particular idea, I'll talk about general call to actions in a minute, but to do that idea, a great tip for people is when you come to write your blog post, think what the one thing you want that person to take away from. Write that as the first line. Write it as the second line.
Then write your article between those two lines so that you start with the idea, you follow through your explanation, justification for it, and you finish on that one idea. You will probably find that they are much more effective posts for people because it's so focused on the idea that they will take that away.
For a general call to action, it's the same as writing any kind of one-copy sales letter.
If you are writing an article about "Five Ways To Get More Customers Online", you might have little links throughout that going off to various things, but I would recap and come back to one single idea, one place to go, and focus on that.
It's easy online, and I do it myself, don't get me wrong, I'm a complete hypocrite, but the amount of social media available to us, the amount of places we can link out and get people to comment on them, comment on this website, or comment on Facebook, or comment on Twitter, or interact here, we tend to kind of pile them all on. I do it. There's various sharing functions on my website. I do believe probably focusing on one per article will have a greater response altogether, I think. I'd need to test that.
Rob Tyson: Glenn, you were talking about this idea that people should really just learn the fundamentals, so I thought it might be a good point to ask you, if you could recommend maybe two or three books for beginners on copywriting, what would they be?
Glenn Fisher: I do regular interviews on the website with pretty much copywriters. They're almost always the same books, so it's not that I just pick the same books, but there are some very fundamental books that everybody should read. Whenever I take on a new copywriter and train them, I'll give them the same, there's usually five books I give them.
One is 'Ogilvy on Advertising' by David Ogilvy who is the famous godfather of copy, so to speak. That's a very good book. He's got a lot of stuff that you don't need to know in there like running an agency and stuff like that. It is kind of a little bit focused towards indirect, but Ogilvy himself would only employ copywriters who had learned their trade through direct response copywriting. He understood the importance of measurability, the importance of being able to test things, and see immediate responses, so that's a great book to start with.
Going even further back in time and where he got most of his inspiration from was Claude Hopkins, I think we mentioned that earlier, a book called 'Scientific Advertising'. You can pick that up very cheaply these days, I'd definitely pick that up.
If you happen to be rich and can buy one of the copies of this, I was lucky enough to inherit one from someone, but there's a book called 'Breakthrough Advertising' by a guy called Eugene Schwartz. That's a very, very good book and, unfortunately, it's out-of-print. It sells for thousands of pounds now, but I do believe if you do enough searching on the web, you'll be able to find a downloadable copy of that. There might even be a link somewhere on my website for it. That's a good book to read.
Modern day, two of my mentors, a chap called John Forde and a chap called Michael Masterson. They wrote a book together called 'Great Leads', which is published by A.W.A.I, which is an American copywriting company. 'Great Leads' is perhaps one of the best modern books written on copywriting. It's full of great theory, great examples, and written by two people who understand more about selling and copywriting than most people in the world today. I'd definitely check those out.
I also like a book called 'Predictably Irrational' by a guy called Dan Ariely. That's good about testing and gives you that background idea.
You've got your standards like Malcolm Gladwell, 'Blink' and various things like that. They're good marketing books. I'm trying to think of what I've just read recently. One of things that really struck me more than those books, as well as that, as I've kind of suggested before is specifically if you're learning about copywriting, read Earnest Hemingway. Read Raymond Carver. Read Charles Bukowski. Read writers in the fiction world that can write in stripped down language.
All three of those writers are very economical writers and when it comes to good copy, you'll notice that it is an economical kind of writing. It's all stripped down. There's no unnecessary language.
For instance, reading Proust would be the most useless thing you could ever do. That's going to be long sentences and flowery, beautiful language. Don't get me wrong, it's a great book to read, but not if you're learning copy.
If you're learning copy, read the advertising books, but read Hemingways, read Carvers. It'll help you with the technical side and the emotional side of understanding characters as well.
Rob Tyson: I think that's quite important, isn't it? To be widely read. If you haven't got new ideas feeding your brain, it's very hard to then be creative.
Glenn Fisher: When I say about anybody learning to write and everything, there really is a catch with copywriting and that is, when you're creating, long copy sales letters specifically, but also any kind of campaign, it's really about coming up with ideas. The hardest skill to learn is the ability to have ideas.
I've written quite extensively on the idea of coming up with ideas. The only way you can learn to come up with ideas is by coming up with random ideas as regularly as possible by putting as much, what I refer to as raw material, into your mind.
Yes, that's books. Yes, that's Hemingways and good writers. A lot of people say only read that stuff. I kind of, I'm a bit looser on that. I think anything that you enjoy, that's entertaining, that makes you think is valuable. It might be a magazine article. It might be a website that you like visiting.
I'm obsessed with a website called Glove and Boots. This is nothing to do with copywriting. This is two puppets who do this blog and it's completely mindless comedy kind of thing, but it gives me ideas. It inspires me. Any raw material like that ... you should forgive yourself if you like watching a particular program on TV when people say, "I don't watch TV." Watch the program because that will give you ideas some way. It will chew around in your mind and inspire you at some point.
As we all know, when it's small businesses, when we're talking to people. We're talking to real people in the real world and they're watching these programs. They're reading these books. They're reading these articles. To reference them, to get in their mind, you need to know them too.
Rob Tyson: A lot of businesses listening to this may use a couple of forms of advertising we've talked about before. They're Google Ads and Facebook advertising, really popular platforms. Can copywriting be applied to them or are they just, writing these small formats, are they just specialized and a different beast all together?
Glenn Fisher: They are a different beast. They're a challenging beast for a lot of people, especially Google AdWords, and even more so now, Facebook advertising, which is still relatively new. Again, without repeating myself, although good copy should repeat itself quite a lot, learn the fundamentals and the fundamentals will apply then to that particular niche.
If you take them separately, with Google AdWords, with PPC ... The key difference with PPC, and with Facebook actually, if you're writing a long copy sales letter, or a landing page, or something along those lines, you're bringing the reader and the potential customer into your world. You're creating the world that you want them to create. When you're going to PPC, when you're going to Facebook, you're putting your writing in their world.
For instance, on Facebook, they might be looking at what their friends are doing and your advert is on the side. To PPC, their searching for something and your advert is on the side. You're not in your world anymore, so you have to slightly change the way you think about that. It needs to address that fact.
With PPC, I think a good tip would be for people to try problem/solution kind of copy, so when you're looking, if you're thinking on Google, people have generally got a problem. They're on Google to find the answer to something, whether that's a fact or a problem they have. So, a PPC advert that shows them that problem and then offers them a solution will likely make more sense than abstract idea like a big idea headline you would go for if you're writing a long copy sales letter and getting somebody into your world.
The same with Facebook. Look at where you are with Facebook. You're in a social media platform. You're in someone's personal space and they're connecting with people. It seems obscene to me that you would focus on a product. You don't sell the product in that case. I would aim to sell the person behind the product. You're much more likely to react to a picture of a person than an actual product.
With all these things, specifically with Facebook at the moment, it's so new it's about testing. Now, we might be be talking in a year's time and the rules are completely different, but fundamentally, I just think the key thing to those elements is to remember that you're in their space rather than bringing them into your space. You need to act appropriately for the space that they're inhabiting at that point. If that makes sense.
Rob Tyson: Very interesting. I just wanted to talk about another online platform I know you have a lot of experience with, Glenn, and that's Amazon. Obviously, you have your Kindle book available there now, but I also know you've used Amazon in other ways. You've written quite a lot about Amazon. Just wondered if you had any observations about that platform? Who's it most useful for? What are good ways of using it? What are some of the ways people can get benefit from it?
Glenn Fisher: I like Amazon just because I am, you can probably tell by enough books of reference, but I'm a book person. We can hardly move in our hallway because we've got too many bookcases there. I like Amazon because it's sort of naturally linked to books. That said, like 'Buy This Now', when I did that one with Kindle was more of an experiment, really, to see what scope Amazon offered from a marketing point of view.
If I kind of put my copywriting expertise aside for a moment, I think one of the, probably I'm sure you've discussed this over and over again in your writings and you've been podcasting various things, the biggest challenge for small business, by any means, is getting new customers.
When people say copywriting is king, I also do think that copywriting is all well and good, but if you can't get that seen by new customers and potential leads, then it's pointless to get good copy anyway.
Finding new customers is such a challenge in the modern market with more entrepreneurs opening up with the kind of opportunity becoming much wider and thinly spread, there's less people to get a hold of. I think with social media platforms, it's the same.
Amazon for me is kind of akin to that social media platform idea. It's just another place where people are who could potentially become your customer. I think it's kind of still quite young in its days of being used by small businesses. I think there's a lot more scope for it. You can get quite high up in rankings still with a decent bit of content, whereas with Google AdWords, you might have to pay a lot to get any kind of well known search terms.
I like it for that idea. I think there's a lot of testing to be done still. It can be used by anyone. From an author point of view, it's obviously a good way of getting my writing out there and attracting more people. If the book does well, the content is good, you've got the review element. You've got the social proof that people are going to see that it's a good review. When that happens, then it's going to rank higher in Amazon's rating. They're going to market it for you.
There's a lot to be said for small businesses looking at Amazon as an opportunity. I like it because it's books, but I think there is more to be done with Amazon. In the same way there is more to be done with eBay, there's more to be done with Facebook.
I just think it's about looking at different avenues for your business. It's a lot harder. Seven years ago, you used to be able to go out with big email and collect all these new names. That's kind of died now. We're yet to find the new, big name generation thing. It's about picking up little groups of people from various different platforms. Amazon is one of those.