2008-10-24 6:15 PM

Interview with a Copywriter (not a Vampire)

[This post has been a draft for about 6-months. Talk about trying to get it "perfect"!
Thanks for your patience Stephen. Without further delay…]

Have you met copywriter Stephen Dean ? I was introduced to him through his collection of questions for one of his mentors and copywriting legends Michel Fortin . As I read the two volumes of "Tapping Michel Fortin’s Brain " I was more and more convinced by his questions that Stephen knows his stuff and is an accessible, go-to guy for copywriting questions.

Now the tables are turned and I get to ask Stephen a few questions!

WB: Please introduce yourself to those of my readers who haven’t met you yet.
SD: I’m a freelance copywriter working out of Washington state in my 4th year. Some of my clients are Jim Edwards, Ryan Deiss and some other big names I can’t mention. And now I share my experiences at StephensBlog.com .

What differences in mindset are you aware of between copywriting and writing for other reasons (to inform, to entertain, etc)?
Frankly I don’t see much difference, but that’s because of my writing style. I’ve always written like a copywriter, meaning short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. The reason copywriters write that way is because it makes their copy more accessible and more readable to a larger number of people…

…well isn’t that always how you should write? I think so, but with selling it’s crucial because you’re asking for action at the end.

Because the end results is so important in copywriting, you learn to modify how you inform and how you entertain when writing. You can’t be too boring while ‘teaching.’ And you can’t be so entertaining that it’s distracting away from the final action. So there’s a balance. And you always focus on the final action.

What rituals do you have to put yourself into the right state to write?
I get a good night’s sleep. I try to write at least something immediately after I wake up because my brain is fresh. I can be stuck on a section at 4pm and work an hour on it… or finish it in 10 minutes if I do it immediately after waking up.

I usually only write for about 10 minutes, then I get ready for the day and sit down to start writing again a couple hours later. And I try to only write for 3-4 hours at a time because after that my brain starts to overheat.

What role do story telling and emotion play in your writing?
Well a good story usually makes for the best copy. Your goal when writing copy is to get them from the top of the copy to the order link so they can purchase… and often a story that needs to be finished is the best way to keep them moving closer to that link. It keeps them engaged.

And all good stories will have emotion.

What do you do, personally, to grok* your audience when writing copy?
It’s important to become the reader’s ally in the copy. That’s why you’ll often see subheads that say, "It’s Not Your Fault!" It’s because you’re reaching out to them just like you would a friend who has a problem. You’ll explain why the cards are stacked against them, that it’s not their fault, and then offer a solution.

How much educating of your audience happens in your sales copy? (As opposed to when you are educating your customers about sales copy in your online courses.)
Only enough to make the case for buying. Some readers might respond to giving away free lessons in the copy, but often it can just cause procrastination. Giving away free info is great, but I don’t like it on the sales page because we want to get to that order link.

Sometimes you have to teach the reader why your product is important. For example I had to stress why scarcity was so important when selling "Digital Scarcity." If I hadn’t, they may have seen no reason to buy.

But you’re more likely to have a hit product if you don’t have to do any teaching in the sales copy.

How do you find the balance between the information products and services you offer? Does one lead into the other or is there not so much overlap between the "teach me how" and "do it for me" copywriting crowds?
Well that’s interesting because it’s something I’ve been trying to discover by trial and error. I get more work from copywriting critiques than I do from selling copywriting products. The copywriting products do help to show my expertise, so that’s good. But critiques are more personal so they work much better.

There’s some crossover, but not much. Most of the top entrepreneurs that hire me know how to write copy, but they see the value in hiring a professional. So it’s not like my products do much competing with my services.

…And to end on a fun note, what is the story behind calling your sister (copywriter Rebecca Dean ) Chong?
Well it’d probably be easier for Rebecca to explain. She’s lived in Japan quite a bit and I’d heard her call people by their names, with "Chon" at the end. I’m not sure if it’s spelled c-h-o-n or not. [All the fan subbed anime I’ve seen has spelled it "c-h-a-n". —WLB ] But it’s Japanese and is similar to Mr. Miyagi calling Daniel Laruso, Daniel-San.

I grew up always calling her Becky. I’ve never called her Rebecca except when I started calling her Rebecca-Chon. Which evolved into just Chon, and then finally, Chong.

Thank you Stephen!
If you’d like to find out more visit Stephen’s Blog or pick up a copy of TMFB .

* Grok – v. to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with
(Special thanks to Clay Cotton for explicitly connecting Heinlein’s concept with teaching and marketing!)

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