Good sales copy for a non-market

Good sales copy for a non-market

Oh the lure and luster of good sales copy. It’s like anticipating an inheritance or buying a lottery ticket that just ‘has to win’. I’m sure that someone is about to head straight to the comments and tell me that writing good sales copy is scientific and not at all like the lottery.

If you pay close attention to what some of the more public copywriters of our era have to say about high quality sales copy, you’ll hear phrases like ‘mint your own money‘ and ‘grab them by the throat and force them to buy‘ or ‘2013% increase in conversions‘.

Of course those phrases are typically part of their sales pitch for a copy writing course and they’re practicing what they preach. For someone interested in writing better copy, those phrases are so tantilizing that they’re hard to pass by.

Books, methods and formulas

I’ve actually read a number of books on the subject of writing sales copy and most of them are really good. Some of them outline methods that you can follow. Others provide formulas. The best books (in my opinion) are those that give more far reaching perspective on life and the human experience. After all, it’s the human experience that really helps us connect with other people and talk to them about benefits.

One of those ‘human experience’ constants seems to be a play on our own weakness. That might be why the elevator pitch works so well. It boils down to this basic format:

Elevator Pitch

I help Name your ideal prospect
… do Some benefit to them/their business
… even if Play on their biggest weakness

An example elevator pitch would go something like this:

“I help entrepreneurs and start ups build profit generating websites with instant ROI even if they have a small budget and are clueless about where to start.”

This won’t get the attention of big businesses and it plays on the almost universal feelings of budget constraint and “where do I start” that most entrepreneurs feel.

Product Launches (or the sideways sales letter as Jeff Walker calls it) can be another effective method for selling to prospects because it incorporates relationship and authority into the sales process in a way that’s natural to many people.

One of the most helpful revelations about writing good sales copy came as I learned to differentiate Benefits from Features. This is especially true for technical products where the proprietor of the product tends to be excited about all the little features he’s built in and forgets to tell the consumer what emotional benefits those features bring.

But this article isn’t really about how to write good sales copy, is it? There’s one crucial component that even the best copy writing books just miss. I think it might be due to the fact that a seasoned copywriter just does it without thinking. Maybe they imagine that it’s a common sense part of the research phase. Maybe they have said it and I missed it for sooooo long. Whatever the case, it’s a real learning experience when the light finally turns on. What am I talking about?

Here’s the embarrasing part

I’m talking about writing the best sales copy in the world for a non-market and wondering what went wrong. It might be more accurate to say writing sales copy, videos and other materials over and over and over for a market that just won’t buy or doesn’t exist.

About 10 years ago I created a website for my running: Maintain Fit Exercise Log. The more time (and money)I invested in the site, the more convinced I was that it was going to be the next big thing. I spent hours of my life (days, weeks and months really) on that “product” confident that the next change would excite the masses and bring in the traffic (and the revenue).

When I finally realized that it was a non-market, I felt both cheated and liberated at the same time. At last I was free to let this beast die and divert my time and attention to new markets for testing. But I’m sure some will ask me to clarify what I mean by a non-market.

Or more specifically, how can you know if you’ve got a non-market? My introduction to this idea of a non-market came when I watched The Magnificent Symphony of Four Parts in 2008. Ed Dale effectively convinced me that I had taken the wrong approach on just about every business I had ever started. Here are two summary points that serve as a good indicator that you’ve got a non-market.

  • No competition
  • No mature companies/no commercial options

Unfortunately, most people skip this initial research phase when they have a new idea. Instead of figuring out whether there’s a market, whether they can get traffic and whether that traffic will convert, they hole themselves up in the basement and frantically work on developing a product. That’s what I did with Maintain Fit.

The sales copy surprise

When I finally stopped working on any project for which there wasn’t a definite market, I started to see some really worthwhile progress. The traffic was easier to get. The relationships I was forming were more meaningful. The deal flow increased.

What surprised me most of all is that Even Bad Copy Will Sell, if there’s a market. As I tested more and more things, I became exhausted trying to follow the sales copy methods, formulas and models. I finally stopped trying to write sales copy and instead I just wrote what came to me. Was it good sales copy. No, not particularly. But to my surprise it resonated with people and I made sales!

Hopefully, if I’ve motivated you to do anything, it is to Stop tweaking your sales copy for non-markets! If you’ve got a project/business/idea that just isn’t getting traction and you’ve “tried everything”, maybe your idea isn’t really that good after all. Go back to Ed Dale’s advice from 2008 (he covers this every year in The Challenge) and reverse your process.

Research -> Traffic -> Conversions -> Product!

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10 Responses to “Good sales copy for a non-market”

  1. Yaaqub December 23, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Great article Daniel! I read it at the right time! 🙂 I am getting ready to launch a course and this provided some pointers! Thnx

    • Daniel December 23, 2010 at 8:35 am #


      I’m really glad it was helpful. Good luck on your new course!

  2. michael krisa December 23, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Spot on Daniel.

    It’s like opening a burger stand in the desert – you could have the best burgers in the world but no customers means no sales.


  3. Roger December 23, 2010 at 9:50 am #

    Wow, it’s hard to believe that your Maintain Fit product wouldn’t sell.

    But after I looked through the sales letter for it I was still asking the question “so, what is it? I know what it’s not, and it has to do with something natural, but I’m not going to buy without knowing what it is.”

    • Daniel December 23, 2010 at 9:53 am #

      haha. That shoots my whole article in the foot. Maybe it wasn’t very good sales copy after all 🙂

  4. Oliver December 23, 2010 at 10:36 am #

    Great article! Like’d. 🙂

    Funnily, this is also one of the realizations I had this year. For some of my sites I kept telling myself I have to keep running tests until the numbers get better… “At least get some decent numbers so I can sell it off for a better price.” … but instead, I just had a bunch of liabilities that sucked away time and energy and didn’t bring any profit.

    As soon as I let go and looked at what I was doing I slapped myself.

  5. Corey December 23, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    This article really resonates with me. Two years ago I launched a product that was a passion of mine. It was far from polished, the sales letter was comical (as in laugh at me awful), and the website was just about the ugliest on the net. To my surprise, I started making sales on the first day. The product still sells to this day.

    I have done launches where I placed my heart and soul into it, had top copywriters on staff, hired design wizards, and produced half of what I was able to accomplish with my passion project.

    At the end of the day, it’s all in the market… who knew 😉

  6. JohnGG December 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm #

    Yeah. Ed did the same for me. But I learned heaps and carried it on to other projects. And the freedom is almost intoxicating.

  7. Val Barclay December 24, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Well, what can I say, I am about to start a paid Membership Site about Perspective Drawing which has been a passion of mine for many years. The market place is small yet every Artist, Illustrator and Architect should know it. Without it the artwork is wrong!

    Your article has captured my imagination and I totally see the direction I have to now take.

    Oh, by the way, my first action was OptinCrusher using the ‘early bird’ graphic and it’s getting me signup’s.

    Thanks again…

    • Daniel December 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm #


      I’m really glad to hear about the sign ups. It’s sure fun to see then coming in!

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