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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100 spam trigger words that can kill your email copy

September 1, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 9 Comments
Filed under: Checklists 

spam trigger wordsThe same qualities that make email attractive to legitimate advertisers also make email attractive to spammers.

To combat the ongoing flood of spam, Internet Service Providers, email marketing services, and even email program companies (such as Mozilla or Microsoft) analyze millions of messages and compile lists of “trigger” words and phrases most often associated with spam. These trigger words and phrases are then used to filter incoming messages.

This is a good thing, since it helps reduce the amount of unwanted messages we all receive. But it’s also a bad thing, since it invariably snares legitimate messages from honest advertisers.

This means that when you’re writing email messages for a client or for your own business, you face a unique challenge. Because, like it or not, seemingly innocent copy, especially in the subject line, can kill your email copy.

Here’s one example of a spam trigger word list from Vertical Response:

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Writing compelling copy with a stick and red feathers

August 18, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Persuasion 

red featherGetting people to say “yes” is the goal for any sales message. It’s what psychologists call “compliance.”

However, my first exposure to the idea of compliance was not in a psychology book, but beneath a tree decades ago when my grandfather, in a moment of playfulness, showed me something startling with a stick and a few red feathers.

One day, he handed me a long stick with a clump of red feathers taped to the end and said he wanted to show me something. He had a familiar, mischievous look in his eye, so I knew it would be fun.

In a tree near his tool shed, a family of robins had nested. We slowly and quietly worked our way to just beneath the tree, and my grandfather told me to raise the feather end of the stick up to the nest.

Nearby, a male red breasted robin stood guard. When he saw the red feathers, he immediately attacked them, chirping wildly and flapping his wings in distress. I was dumbfounded.

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The importance of being trivial

August 4, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 2 Comments
Filed under: Writing Basics 

mail pouch barnDo you like the title of this article? I stole it from chapter 3 of The Art of Readable Writing by Rudolf Flesch.

Back in the 40s and 50s, Flesch was hailed as the guru of clear, direct writing. His advice remains powerful and relevant today.

When Flesch recommended being “trivial,” he meant you should use details to energize your writing. That requires researching your subject and sharing specifics with your reader to create vivid mental images.

I can illustrate this simple idea with the following two descriptions:

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89 Reasons I LOVE Being a Freelance Copywriter

July 14, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 15 Comments
Filed under: Freelancing 

happy copywriter1. It’s my business so I call the shots.

2. No suits.

3. No ties.

4. I can wear outrageous Hawaiian shirts 365 days a year.

5. Pants optional. Just joking. I almost always wear pants.

6. It’s more of a challenge than having a job.

7. No cubicle.

8. My victories and failures are my own.

9. I don’t have to “do lunch.”

10. I work at home. No commute.

11. No road rage.

12. No commute saves me 2 hours a day, 10 hours a week, 500 hours a year. That’s over 20 extra days annually. Whoo hoo!

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Should you ask for freelance referral fees?

June 23, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 9 Comments
Filed under: Ask Dean 

ask Dean about freelance referral feesI get a lot of questions from readers. Generally, I answer them with a short email.

But now and then I get a really good question and like to answer it as a blog post to share with everyone.

Here’s a question about referral fees I received recently from Trace Conger, a freelance commercial writer.

Hi Dean. Continued thanks for the great site. I learn something new every time I stop by. I was hoping you could throw some of your wisdom my way on the topic of freelance referral fees.

For the first time in my freelance career, I had to turn down work. I picked up three new clients over the course of a month and each had significant projects due ASAP (as if there is any other timeline).

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5 essential smartphone apps for the organized freelancer

June 9, 2011 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Productivity 

smartphone apps for freelancersWhenever people find out I freelance, and have done so since the 1990s, they invariably say, “Oh, I’m not disciplined or organized enough to do that.”

Well, maybe if they had some of these handy smartphone apps, suggested by app guru David Sumner, they’d change their mind.


Everyone knows the score; a freelancer has traded in the confinements and limits of a traditional working life to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being self-employed.

However, not having a boss there to tell you what to do means you are solely responsible for your work and success, which will only come with some organizational skills.

There are many apps out there perfectly suited to organizing your work and expanding your client base with ease. However, many apps are developed purely for entertainment purposes so you need to know which smartphone apps are the real deal.

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