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A Surprising Secret for Writing Better Sales Copy

A very wise marketer once encouraged me to study classified ads in the National Enquirer.

“If you want to learn how to write good copy, find the ads that run week after week. Some of them have run unchanged for months or even years. These advertisers know their numbers. They would change or scrap the ads if they weren’t working.”

He noted that the best ads all follow proven formulas that have been tested and tweaked for decades.

“Study those ads. Look for the patterns. Learn the formulas. And you will be a better copy-writer,” he said.

I recalled his advice recently after I ran a webinar about email marketing. During the question and answer session, an attendee asked, “So…what’s the next big thing in email marketing?”

I replied that targeted follow-up — tracking who is clicking your links and then sending those people additional emails — is the thing email marketers should do.

She wasn’t satisfied. “I know about that,” she said. “But what’s new after that?”

I pushed back, “Why does there have to be a next thing when the current big thing works so well?”

“There’s always a new and better way,” she replied.

She suffers from what I call shiny object syndrome. It’s an illness that strikes most business people to some degree at some time, and at its worst, it can be fatal for a business.

Many business people abandon tried and true marketing techniques because they’re not the next big thing. Marketers will flock to the next big thing even when the current, old thing works perfectly well.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for innovation. I love the internet and all the big things it has brought to small business marketers. But I have also seen marketers seduced by the siren song of the next big thing to their detriment.

Some have scaled back or abandoned email marketing programs because of the new things — such as RSS feeds, mobile marketing and social media. In all cases, the refrain was the same: Email marketing is dead. This is the next new thing.

But email marketing is very much alive and well. More than 95{4c655e7448f17f478aee32899fe07a58aae4b27abd18a372b67337b64792cdd0} of internet users still check email daily. More than 90{4c655e7448f17f478aee32899fe07a58aae4b27abd18a372b67337b64792cdd0} with email accounts check their email compulsively. Leads whom you nurture with email are far more likely to buy than those whom you don’t, and prospects nurtured with email spend more.

The marketing expert gave me that advice about The National Enquirer in 2008 — well after the World Wide Web, email and other digital media had emerged as important marketing tools. The marketer who suffers from shiny object syndrome might have scoffed at such advice. The back pages of a tabloid newspaper might seem like the antithesis of the next big thing. But those ads work. So why abandon the tactic?

Like those ads in The Enquirer, email marketing may not be the next big thing — or they may not be a next big tactic for email marketers. But why worry about the next big thing if the current thing works so well?

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