Beat Your Control Without Breaking the Bank

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Before you plunk down $5,000 to $15,000 in copywriting fees -- not to mention royalties -- for a new control, consider these ways to get more mileage and money from your existing control (with mild apologies to my fellow copywriters, hungry for lucrative new business):

1. Change your headline. A better headline can increase response as much as 900 percent. According to copywriting legend John Caples, sometimes the best headline is one that makes a startling announcement or gives news. Other effective headlines promise a breakthrough, feature a glowing testimonial, feature your offer or make a guarantee.

2. Change your opening sentences. Make sure they flow logically and smoothly from the new headline(s) you are testing.

3. Change your subheads and transition statements. Make sure they are in harmony with your new headline and lead the reader quickly through to your call to action. Smooth out any jarring conceptual "speed bumps" in the process.

4. Change your package format. For example, if you're using an eight-page letter in a 9x12 envelope, test an eight-page self-mailer with headline, attention-getting graphic and teaser copy visible near the mailing label. Plaster your best testimonials all over the back cover.

5. Add a step to the sales process and save conversion costs. For example, instead of mailing a full package, generate leads via direct mail postcards and/or small ads in targeted media. Send the leads to a direct response Web site, opt-in e-mail autoresponder sequence, fax-on-demand or other method that captures and solicits the leads. Rework the copy in your full control package to follow up with leads. You'll not only save sales costs, but also create the opportunity to build a prospect list you can sell to over and over again.

6. Add more testimonials. If you've done your job well, you probably have accumulated testimonials from happy buyers since you've been mailing your old control. Feature them! The best testimonials are specific, believable and prove your benefits. Weave them into your selling copy as you sell the benefits and go for the close.

7. Change the color. If you're using a boring black on white piece, test black on bright yellow. Or add more color throughout the piece. This is especially effective if you have been mailing repeatedly to the same lists. The key is to grab the reader's attention with something that looks new and different.

8. Use more graphic enhancements. This includes photographs, illustrations, charts, etc. -- anything that reinforces the selling power, dramatizes the benefits or proves your claims.

9. Add a "Reasons Why" box or inset in the piece. Under a headline such as "8 Powerful Reasons Why You'll (Make Money/Save Money/Feel Better) When You Own Our Widget," summarize the key benefits the buyer will enjoy. Make them "picture with pleasure" how much better off they will be after they buy from you.

10. Bulletize. If your copy is too dense, try breaking thick blocks of copy into powerful "bullets" that sell benefits, summarize the offer or give more reasons why to buy now. The faster they read, the sooner they buy.

11. Test another P.S. Use a deadline warning, testimonial, benefit summary or offer an additional bonus.

12. Modify the offer. Make it harder or softer. Add a bonus, change the terms or offer a longer or stronger guarantee.

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