That’s The Way It’s Always Been Done

always-been-doneLately I’ve been totally rethinking the role of direct response copywriting. To the extent I believe that almost everyone is taking the long way to get to literally what’s directly in front of them, including myself, when it comes to targeting your audience in our sales copy.

You may ask, what do I mean? Before I go into detail, let’s do a little background talk first.

For most businesses, online and off, once we find a technique or strategy we tend to stick to it and even go as far as to animately defend it if ever questioned. The strange part is, if you ask most people the reason why they do what they do, they cannot give you a real answer. I would dare say I’ve asked thousands of people this reason why question over the years. Very few have any clue as to why they are doing it.

The most common answer I’ve received is, that is how they were taught or that’s the way it’s always been done.

My point is this, just because that is the way it’s always been done, does that mean it’s the right way to do it today?

When was the last time your really questioned the strategies you’ve been taught or have been using? If you’re like most people it probably hasn’t been in quite some time.

Several times throughout the year, I go into this questioning mode. I basically question every strategy I’ve been using. Every once in a while I realize, I’m a blind idiot. I too did it because someone told me to and when I test it against what I personally believe to be the right way, my results have been totally mindblowing.

Lately, I’ve been at it again and making simple observations about sales copy in particular.

Today when marketing online, we have less time to connect with our audience because there is more noise in most market places. Because of this, we need to be more direct in what we say and how we say it. We don’t have the luxury to continue to take prospects through a long drawn out courtship in order to get them to finally see what we are offering them.

Let me give you an example. Here’s a typical long form sales letter process

1.) Headline
2.) Your Story
3.) The Problem
4.) Agitate The Problem
5.) Solution
6.) Features and Benefits
7.) Testimonials
8.) Guarantee
9.) Why Buy Today
10.) Buy Button

Now almost everyone online is using some form of those 10 steps. Sure, you might have one or two other steps, but I’m sure that list looks pretty familiar to you.

Look closely at what I just wrote in those 10 steps. Look really hard. Do you see it?

Need a hint?

The person doesn’t even get to the price of the product until the 9th step!

Ok, I can hear everyone now. “But Armand, we need to establish credibility and build value before we give them the price.”

And to that I say… BULLSHIT!

There are only two questions people ask themselves when making a purchase, online or offline.

1.) How does this compare to other solutions? (competitors)
2.) How does this compare to me doing nothing? (is my pain big enough)

That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

You may be thinking that I’m advocating shorter copy. No, not really. I’m advocating a reorganizing of your copy.

Lets look at this from another angle, journalism. Any 1st year journalism major is taught the value of the lead of the story. Basically, the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of the story. In fact, many journalists will spend up to 90% of their time working on this.

Journalists are also taught to put the MOST IMPORTANT information first and the least important last. Now that’s pretty interesting. In comparison to direct sales copy, we’ve been taught to do almost the exact opposite in our copy. You are taught to BUILD UP TO the most important information. I’ve personally used the analogy of classical music building up to the crescendo with a big bang.

Hmmmm…. journalists write to grab attention. Isn’t that what direct marketers are suppose to do? YES! So why are we ass-backwards in our copy? Oh yeah, that’s the way it’s always been done.

So what’s my point?

My point is to put the most important information first.

But I have a secondary observation that goes right a long with this.

There’s two types of people who will read our copy.

1.) The person already interested
2.) The person not really interested

What I find is that most copy is trying to sell the 2nd person rather than the first. Most copy is directed to try to convince a person that doesn’t want our product to buy it. Does that even make sense?

As a result, the person that was already interested, gets bored before they can get to the good stuff which is pertinent to them and they leave.

In other words, we are turning away the easy money in order to fight tooth and nail for the hard money. Do you see my point?

We are targeting the wrong audience!!!

To justify my point further. Think of how people get to your site. Through ads, ppc or otherwise, affiliate promotion, direct emails or maybe even search engine traffic. Anyway you look at it, with each one of these methods, the person has shown an interest in our solution and they want to know more.

Do I have to say it again? The people who are coming to our sites are already predisposed to BUY SOMETHING and we are penalizing them and making it difficult for them to give us money. Are we really that stupid? No, that’s right… THAT’S THE WAY IT’S ALWAYS BEEN DONE.

Sell to the people that want it and let go of the ones that don’t.

Here’s a quick conversation you can have with yourself as you’re writing your copy. Ask yourself this question. If a person who wants my product already reads my copy, will it push them over the edge to buy it? or would it bore them to death?

Think about what I’ve just said when you write your next copy.

I didn’t even get into video sales letters thats whole other story!!! 🙂

Remember, just because that’s the way it’s always been done, doesn’t mean it’ the right way.


  1. Robert Plank on July 3, 2010 at 3:48 am


    Preach on brother!

    I breathed a sigh of relief that you didn’t make the argument for video sales letters again…

    This is all the more reason to split test. If you want to be silly and show the price at the top, and it tests better, then who cares why it works, just stick with it.

    Everyone said squeeze pages had to have “$97 value” in the headline… it tested out for me.

    Subscribe button that says “Free Instant Access” … tested out.

    Testimonial box under the optin form… tested out.

    The freaking YEAR in the headline to make it more timely, as in: “This is the Best Training Course You’ll See in 2010 and Beyond…” Tested out.

    I have another sales letter that’s 86.6% finished with a split test and it’s converting 14.8% better WITHOUT mentioning the bonuses. Go figure.

    I could pretty much take the opposite of common sense / common knowledge and correctly guess what converts better and makes more money.

    If I had assumed it was the right way without testing, I would have made less money.

  2. Antone Roundy on July 3, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I was thinking about some of the same things a little while back. Here’s some of what I wrote on the subject (click my name for the rest):

    Hot traffic already has a pretty good handle on what problem they’re trying to solve, what kind of product will solve it, and how it’ll do it. They just need to decide whether your product is the best choice.

    So how do you talk to them? A 50 page sales letter that tells them what their problem is, how to solve it, and reveals that you’ve got a product that implements the solution? What a waste of time!

    What they want to know is:

    * What features does your product have? (so they can compare to other potential solutions)
    * What are the technical requirements? (will it run on their computer or webserver, etc.)
    * How much does it cost?
    * What’s are the terms of your guarantee?
    * Does anybody else use and like it? (social proof)
    * What bonuses do they get with it?

    That’s the information they want. Don’t dilute a page that you know is getting hit by hot traffic with details that they don’t need.

  3. Hermawan75 on July 16, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you for the information …
    I can not give more comments
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    I also wanted to share it for you on my blog

    Thank you very much for this article
    Success for you

  4. Sotiris on July 27, 2010 at 6:42 am

    Very Useful Information It Is Pretty Amazing How We Can Be So Prone To Following The Herd.
    Even Entrepreneurs Sometimes. 🙂

    You Also Make A Great Point Like Henry Ford Said “The Most Important Thing Is To To Think” (out of the box helps also)
    Sometimes We Don’t Allow Ourselves Enough Creative Thinking Time Because We Are Busy Following Other Peoples Ideas.

    Although Modelling Is A Great Method Of Becoming Highly Successful. Most Highly Successful People Have Followed Or Created Their Own Ideas Or Systems Through This Type Of Thinking.

    That’s Why You Are Doing So Well In Your Online Business 😉

    Take Care….


    Sotiris Bassakaropoulos

    • Gary McNamara on December 7, 2010 at 10:37 am

      Armand I was at the entrepenuers Bootcamp last year in Londons O2

      and although that was some time ago
      I am just about to start with my first sales copy ..been busy studying The way its done so are you now saying throw the Ruleboook out.
      This buisness is full of twists and turns
      but i must admit it sounds exciting

      keep up the great work
      Gary McNamara Clacton on sea England