Write Better Ad Copy with This 1 Rule

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One of the best, most succinct rules for writing ad copy that works is to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” The heart of any successful direct mail campaign is the sales piece. That’s where it all starts.


The whole point of mailing your literature to a large group of potential buyers is to put into their hands something that represents you. It’s as if you are personally telling them about your product and convincing them of its value. So, how do you create a sales piece that really sells?

Step one is to avoid a mistake that many new copywriters make: focusing on the features of the product or service. How shiny it is, how cool it looks or what that red button does. It all sounds great to you — you love all those features. You put a lot of effort into building them in.

But the fact is, people don’t buy features. They buy benefits. Whiter teeth, a slimmer waist, more money . . . you get the idea. And this goes for all people — whether you’re mailing to consumers (B2C), or other businesses (B2B).

Let’s say you’ve developed a new piece of exercise equipment. You spent a fortune on research and development in order to get the gear system just right. And you’ve put some high-tech switches in the control panel. You could go on for pages about all these exciting (to you) technical details. But put those in the sales piece and you’ll turn it into a snooze fest.


Instead, talk about how prospects will enjoy their workout so much, they’ll look forward to it each day. Not only that: They'll lose twice as much weight in half the time, and all their friends will ask them for their secret. That will get consumers' attention.

I had a software client I worked with a few years ago. The client mailed about 20,000 sales pieces a year. His message focused on the features of his software (placement of drop-down menus, options for looking up clients, select features available for sending emails, etc.). And certainly these product features were very cool to the people who had designed them.

The trouble was, they weren't compelling enough to make people buy them. (Sound familiar?)

So, I took action: I had the client change his offer to emphasize the benefits he offered. Those focused on how the software would save money, help buyers plan their events in less time, eliminate their stress and produce more sales.

The result? That simple change made so much money for the client that the company went from mailing 20,000 pieces a year to mailing over 850,000 pieces — all at a profit. That was a 4,150 percent increase. And that’s just one example of the power of focusing on benefits in your sales copy.


The takeaway? Customers don’t care about how much work you've put into designing the product or how clever you are. They care only about how your product or service will benefit them. So you have to paint a very clear picture of how much better their lives will be as a result of buying what you’re selling. Are you ready to start?

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