Why good copy goes bad: are you stupid or just ignorant?

May 24, 2012 by Dean Rieck · 7 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

copywriting gone badOne of the worst mistakes you can make as a copywriter is to assume your job is about writing. It’s not.

Now I know that sounds a bit odd. After all, the word “writing” is in the word “copywriting.” So it’s understandable why you might misunderstand.

But writing and copywriting are two very different things.

When you write a novel or a poem, readers want great words. They enjoy the rhythm, the imagery, the wordplay. People expect this kind of writing to deliver a certain art and beauty.

When you write websites, ads, white papers, or other business materials, readers simply want information. They don’t care about the artistry. They aren’t looking for beauty. They just want to find out how to solve a problem or meet a need.

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Information Overload: A copywriter’s worst enemy and 8 ways to avoid it

January 20, 2012 by Dean Rieck · 6 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

information overloadWe live in the information age. And boy do we get blasted with information. It’s dumped on us by the truckload.

Three pounds of stuff in the mailbox a day. 507 TV channels to flip through to find the weather report. 623 email messages selling male enhancement pills.

And that’s only a fraction of the information that bombards us. There are billboards along the highway, news broadcasts on the radio, memos and telephone calls at the office, instruction manuals for office equipment that won’t work, family schedules to remember, bills, books, seminars, random conversations at lunch time, business meetings, it never ends.

I even feel it when I walk into the supermarket cereal aisle and have to choose from about 200 boxes screaming with bright colors and promises of low fat and high fiber, when all I want is lots of sugar and a cool little plastic prize wrapped in cellophane.

It makes my head hurt.

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How to write “hot button” sales copy in a recession

October 27, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

hot button sales copyWriting sales copy can be challenging even when times are good. But when the economy hits the skids, writing copy that actually sells can be downright hard.

No worries. Barry Densa has some advice about this to make things a little easier.


There are, as you may have heard, 13 human motivators, or “hot buttons” that inevitably drive sales.

Employ any one, or two of them, in your marketing campaigns, with a deft and artistic touch, and you’ll easily deliver your customers to the precipice – the point at which he or she is presented with an all-important and consequential decision:

To buy … or not to buy.

Yet, use more than one, or at the most two hot button motivators in a single marketing campaign … and more than likely, you’ll lose the sale.

Just as a sentence should contain only one thought, lest in confuse and distract the reader, a sales promotion should appeal to one dominant motivator at a time.

So which one, or two motivators will work best in a recession?

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4 practical ways to sell without writing a sales pitch

October 13, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 2 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

selling without sellingIt was a busy Thursday morning. I had just finished answering about 50 emails when one more message landed in my inbox.

It was a from Donnie Bryant, who said he has just finished reading The Art of Zen Copywirting and offered me another take on the subject.

I liked it. And I think you will too.


Supercharged salespeople and marketers love to make reference to the movie Boiler Room.

You may have heard them use this quote from the film: “A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close?”

It sounds good. It’s motivational. And it’s false.

A customer doesn’t have to “close” a salesperson. He doesn’t have to “sell you a reason he can’t” or won’t buy from you. All he has to do is hang up the phone. Leave the store. Click away from the website (even while the autoplay video is still running).

The truth is, you can’t sell anything without selling. But that doesn’t change the fact that people hate to be sold. Copywriters have to be able to take a different approach. How can we sell without appearing to sell? Here are 4 practical ideas.

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The Art of Zen Copywriting – Part 2

September 30, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 2 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

zen copywritingIn part 1 of this post, we considered what many copywriters might think is a radical idea: hard sell copy isn’t always the best option.

Why? Because it’s overused, it can destroy your credibility, and many copywriters just don’t feel comfortable being so aggressive.

We also looked at 4 basic principles behind the idea of a different, less in-your-face approach. Namely that people want to buy from you, you cannot force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, selling does not require brilliant copy, and you must remove the barriers to buying.

If you’re clear on these preliminaries, let’s now get into the meat of Zen Copywriting and how you can make it work for you.

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The Art of Zen Copywriting – Part 1

September 15, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

zen copywritingI originally wrote this 2-part post for Copyblogger. But I thought readers here may enjoy it as well.

If you’re like most copywriters, you truly want to help your clients (or help yourself) sell more products and services.

Your instinct will be to write the sort of hard sell copy you’ve seen so much of, because you will assume that’s what always works. But will it? Maybe. Maybe not. The trouble with hard sell is that it’s overused, it can destroy your credibility, and many copywriters just don’t feel comfortable being so aggressive.

So what do you do?

I’d like to show you a different approach to selling that turns conventional wisdom on its head, replacing hard sell with a less aggressive and more natural way to write copy. We’ll call it Zen Copywriting.

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12 boring copywriting tips (that lead to exciting results)

May 12, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

boring copywriting tipsIn marketing, people are always looking for the next new thing. New technology, new lists, new creative formats, and all sorts of new whiz-bang stuff.

But when it comes to copy, the old ideas are generally the best ideas. Why? Because selling is about communicating with people, and people are pretty much the same today as they ever were.

Oh, is that boring? Would you rather that I reveal some spectacular new copywriting discovery?

Well, too bad. Because for the most part, the stuff that worked a hundred years ago still works today. And a hundred years from now, it will be working just as well.

Buzzwords come and go, of course. The style of marketing copy is generally shorter and more to-the-point now.

But if you pick up an old magazine or catalog or look at a direct mail package from decades ago, you’ll see the same principles at work as you would in any of today’s efforts.

Here are a dozen of the most important:

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Fascinations: The art of writing compelling teaser copy

April 7, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 4 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Mel Martin Fascinations LetterInsurance policies everybody buys but nobody needs.

How to spot an honest auto mechanic.

Eight things to leave out of a job resume.

Where to find the best buys in a supermarket … positioned where you’re least likely to look!

Outwitting hotel thieves: The best places to hide valuables in your room.

You’ve probably seen teaser copy like this and thought to yourself, “That’s damn good copy. I wonder who wrote that?”

But if you ask someone, they’ll just shrug their shoulders. Even most copywriters have no idea.

His name was Mel Martin. And he’s been called the best copywriter nobody’s ever heard of. And for good reason.

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Take the Duluth catalog copywriting challenge

March 24, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 13 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Duluth Trading catalog copywritingDid you ever get a catalog in the mail and want to read it cover-to-cover?

Most catalogs are pretty boring. And since I’m not the shopping type, most catalogs go right in the trash.

That is, unless my wife intercepts them. (I have to start sorting the mail in the garage before I come into the house.)

Anyway, I received a Duluth Trading Co. catalog the other day and I was hooked. I’ve seen the catalog before, but never took the time to browse.

The copywriting is superb.

I talked about Duluth Trading’s catalog copy on my business blog, but I’m so pumped about it, I wanted to turn my enthusiasm into a challenge.

Can you write engaging catalog copy like this?

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5 copywriting judo moves every copywriter should know

February 10, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 8 Comments
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

copywriting judoI’ve always liked to do things the easy way. It just makes sense. Why make something complicated when you can get the results you want with less effort?

That’s the basic idea behind Donnie Bryant’s copywriting judo moves. Seek the path of least resistance for greater selling success.


If you’ve been involved in copywriting for any length of time, you’re painfully aware of how challenging it can be to grab the attention of your desired readers.

Once you succeed there, you still have an intimidating uphill climb ahead of you. It takes hard work to keep that attention, channel desire, and close the sale.

You may have heard it said that marketers and salespeople without a system for selling are at the mercy of the prospect’s system for not buying.

A million thoughts and emotions scream for attention. Distractions seem to pop up at least once a minute. Then there’s the ever-present resistance to “being sold.” Like I said, your copy has a tough uphill battle.

But what if you could leverage the mind’s strength against itself, much like a judo master redirects the force of an opponent?

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