5 Ways to Really Suck at Copywriting

Here’s an interesting story about copywriting.

An old friend of mine comes up to me at a bar out of nowhere, and he mentions how he’s been reading my blog about marketing.

Of course, I thank him and ask why he’s been getting interested since he’s a surgeon.

(He chops people’s legs off for a living in a LA hospital.)


It turns out that he has over $250k in student loans that he’d like to pay off in 5, not 30 years. So he decided to go into selling.. guess what.. FAKE / prosthetic legs.

If you think about it, its really brilliant. Chop their leg off (usually because of accidents, diabetes, etc.) and right off the back (or should I say.. right off the leg…) he sells them their new leg.

Of course, it works like a charm. He manages to sell about 50 in past 12 months alone. At 3k margins.. that’s about $150k in net profit. And his closing rate? 95%.

I mean, come on.. if your doctor just saved your ass by chopping off your rotting leg, your trust factor is up the charts.

Now, he wants to take it even FURTHER. Instead of becoming just a distributor, he actually plunked $100k of his own money to develop and manufacture his own prosthetic legs.

Problem #1 – He has no distribution channels other than himself. So what does he do? Try to get some leads online for potential customers AND to other distributors (mainly other orthopedic surgeons and medical parts distributors).

Of course, as with anything in life, you learn by failing, and he was no exception. I took a look at his copywriting.. and it totally bombed everywhere.


So here are the 5 (of MANY) things he did that made him lose $5k without 1 single lead to a customer or to a distributor.



1) Don’t use personality in marketing & write like every other person on earth

I totally blame our school system for this.

Use fancy words.. technical jargon that ain’t no one can understand.. proper structures.. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

If you write like every other person on earth, expect to have the results of every other person on earth.

In my ebook where I talk about how I generated $1.8 million in sales for a customer, i advocate personality in marketing quite a bit.

No one has your face.. no one has your tone.. no one has your communication skills.. no one has your offer / product / service.

To me, that IS the competitive advantage.

So why not use your competitive advantage to your.. well.. ADVANTAGE?

Show them your face (look at my blog, my face is everywhere), tell them what you do, explain to them what you can do for them.

Don’t be afraid to get up on the stage (so to speak).




2) Don’t get to the point and make it REALLY friggin’ long

Rule of copywriting – Make sure you have enough words to explain all your thoughts, but not so long that you’ll bore the living day lights out of them.

So how long is too long? I have no idea.

I’ve had sales letters that converted at 40+% with just about 50 words… and I’ve had sales letter that convert at miserable 0.1% and I had over 3k words.

What was the difference?

How targeted your audience is, how “primed” your audience is, what your offering is, and how easy it is for them to get it.

In another words, you have no idea.

The only thing you can be sure is that you have to get to the point sometime.. and hopefully soon.

Lengthy is not always the best.





3) Don’t use pictures or videos

Picture is worth a thousand words.

Video is worth.. well.. probably a million or so.

This is the new age of internet where we can have anything and everything, including charts and videos.

So why not use them?

Videos convert really well.. so use them.

And if you don’t have any, use some images.. search for them on the web .. buy some stock photos.. use photoshop.


Imagine if you sell prosthetic legs and you show NOTHING.. would your customer buy?

Why not show a video of someone using the prosthetic leg and looking happy?

Why not show a chart of the stress points that are relieved as a result of him/her using the prosthetic leg?




4) Don’t mention benefits, focus on features and YOU YOU YOU

All sales letters and proposals must answer this – WIIFM.

What’s In It For Me?

Hey, sales ain’t about you. Its about what THEY’LL get out of your product or service.

They don’t care if you spend the last 2 years and $100k in product development.

They just want to know how THEY’RE gonna benefit.

So instead of focusing on features (i.e. what it does) instead of benefits (i.e. how it’ll benefit them),tell them how this is going to alleviate their pain.. make them be more productive .. etc.

If a sales letter is like an informercial, you as the copywriter is more like the host of the infomercial, not the speaker.

Let the product “speak” for itself. Let your testimonials do the talking.



5) Don’t be clear & be vague about what they should do next

I’ll be the first one to admit it.

People on the internet are quite slow and lazy (except you of course, since you are reading my blog).

They’re like little kids – you have to tell them what to do, when to do, and how to do.

Without explicit instructions, they will NOT do anything you wished or hoped that they would do.. such as sign up for your newsletter, add to cart, share with their friends, etc etc.

There are two kinds of marketing – pray & hope marketing… and there’s the “hey do me a favor and fill this out” marketing.

The 1st isn’t sustainable.

The 2nd is where you’re gonna see sales.

Which do you prefer? <think for a second>

I thought so.

Then TELL them what do do



Ok if you haven’t realized by now, I was being cynical. Here are things you NEED to be doing

  1. Do use personality in marketing
  2. Get to the point without being wordy
  3. Do use rich media – pictures and video
  4. Focus on benefits and what THEY’LL get out of it
  5. Tell them explicit instructions on what they should do next


Simple right? You know what you should do next?

Write in comments other copywriting mistakes that you see people make.. or that you’ve made yourself.

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Ex-code monkey turned entrepreneur, marketer, blogger, and speaker. TaeWoo writes about online marketing and growth hacking. You can read more about him here.

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