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The no.1 biggest mistake people make with their sales pages (and how it can help you to keep your hard earned money in your pocket)

There’s hype all over the internet. You’ve probably noticed that already. It’s especially bad when people have something to sell, of course, although sometimes it’s simply people clamouring for attention.

With all this activity, people have to try hard to be heard. They make big claims, false promises.

As a copywriter, I can see a lot of people making a fundamental error with the way they pitch their products and services, or even simply the information they are offering for free. It comes down to a simple rule, one that most people are familiar with, and even if they’ve never heard it before, probably know it anyway, on an instinctive level:

If it sounds too good to be true…. then it probably is.

If someone’s offering you a way to make easy money, and there’s really no catch, none at all, then you’re right to be suspicious. If someone claims their online course will make you rich, or have you earning thousands of dollars a day in no time, then being wary, cautious of such claims is only natural.

If it sounds too good to be true…. then it probably is

You see, there’s a lot of people writing sales material on the internet, having learnt a few tricks here and there, brushed up on the tried and tested headlines techniques, and slapping together sales pages full of sound and fury that rarely signify anything more than an insatiable desire to con people out of their money by selling them garbage.

There’s a simple rule I often use when shopping around, on the internet or out in the world in general. It’s a bit of an admission from someone who makes his living by writing stuff for the marketing departments of corporations, but here it is:

The slicker the marketing, the worse the product.

The reasoning behind this is fairly simple and obvious. Some people invest all the time and money in developing or creating something great. Other people skip this bit, and concentrate all the time and money on the marketing, to shift their piece of garbage.

The slicker the marketing, the worse the product

Now, clearly there is a middle ground here, where sensible and legitimate businesses invest in their product / service, and then promote it with balanced and generally true marketing messages. But bear with me here, I’m trying to set things out in black and white, get some stark contrast going.

So, those with the great product tend to rely on word of mouth, letting people try the product or service and see for themselves how good it is. While those with garbage to sell will focus all their attention, and if they can, all of your attention, on their big, fat ‘BUY’ button.

Some of these people make money. Many of them probably earn much more than you or me. But that doesn’t mean we want to be like them and it doesn’t mean we should try to emulate them. Because, even putting the morality aside, it’s a strategy with a short shelf life. And in truth, it only really works consistently well when you’re selling snake oil and get-rich-quick schemes to mugs.

So, if you’re writing sales material for clients, or for yourself, or if you’re simply trying to promote yourself, your creations, your efforts, remember not to over promise. Don’t make claims that people won’t believe. If you make people suspicious, you’ll lose their trust, and the sale. Focus on the real benefits, the real value.

Half the trick to copywriting is finding that true value, and highlighting it in a way that catches the attention of those who will genuinely benefit from it.

I’m not saying that’s easy, or that it leads to instant riches. But at least it’s honest, and in the long run, it’s better marketing.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Bodil September 3, 2010, 9:25 am

    Hi Simon, seems like you’ve been to Denmark this summer. This contribution would fit perfectly into a discussion about overselling here – but maybe it’s just global.
    Good points. Thank you.

    • Simon September 5, 2010, 11:22 am

      Bodil, I haven’t been to Denmark this year – or ever to be honest. My loss, I know. But I think this overselling issue is relevant everywhere.

  • Matt Davis September 25, 2010, 4:06 am

    Good post, shows character coming from a copywriter. There is a popular American film with the actor Clint Eastwood called “The Outlaw Josey Wales”
    In the film an American Indian character (actually he was a real native American Indian) was watching a frontier salesman selling some “cure all” potion. His comment was “You drink it”.

  • Ferie Toscana March 4, 2011, 8:55 pm

    I was just about to say, that Bodil was right. She wasn´t. But you should visit Denmark some time though. Even I – a Dane living in Italy – miss it once in a while.

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