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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Selling the dream

In one of the previous threads, Oliver said:

<< And if your product has no technical merit you can sell the dream for pages and pages and end up with a nice long-form sales letter! >>

Once in a while you encounter a lengthy, spammy looking web page promoting a kind of (non-technical) product or a service. A page that sells you the dream using every psychological trigger possible. A page with countless testimonials and promises.

I was always wondering:
1. Do such pages actually work as intended, i.e. attract many new customers?
3. Do they indicate that there is no or very little benefit behind the product/service?
Antony Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
It has a few names like "long copy" or "30 mile page". While I agree that it looks spammy and annoying, I've heard before that it works for certain products. Particularly, when you want to collect email addresses or shoot for an emotional impulse sale.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
heh, I kind of threw that comment over the shoulder, but I guess this could be interesting.

I actually read Dan Kennedy's "The Ultimate Marketing Plan". The author is known for his long form sales letters (and his self-inlating importance) so the read was a bit painful at times. However he makes a few excellent points. He says you need to lead a potential customer through 5 steps to get to a sale:

1) create an awareness of need. Don't assume people know they need your product. ("do you have back pain? is it preventing you from enjoying playing with your kids at the playground?") It may sound stupid, but people need to be "nudged" (pushed?) to realize what is wrong with their lives.

2) pick the thing that fulfills the need ("A chiropractor can make the pain go away") Once again, don't assume people know. Even if tyhey know what a chiro is you need to connect the dots for them.

3) Pick the source for the thing (Our chiropractor has 25 years experience and people drive 80 miles just to see him blah blah) This is the typical sales pitch.

4) Accept the price for the thing (by pointing out the value)

5) Give a reason to act now. If you make an appointemnt before the end of Sept, we'll give you an extra something or another. If you don't push them to act now, they may decide to buy from you, but they may take a long time to do so or might actually perpetually put it off.

So that's what long-form letter writing expert DK says. Frankly, I hate long form but I think the 5 steps are very useful to think about.

In the first iteration of my website (when almost nobody visited) I had this 5-point format in a relatively short page (4 paragraphs). I hated the way it sounded, I felt "dirty" and I thought people would think negatively about me. Still it seemed fairly effective at converting people (the conversion being a request for a free trial of the alpha program).

One day I got sick of it so I changed to a regular software sales pitch (screenshot, USP, benefits, what it is, what it does, etc...). To my dismay, people bounced off the new page like it was a trampoline. **caveats: Very few visitors so stats are basically meaningless, AND the product is seasonal, and the season was ending by the time I changed it to the new page. So the point is sadly I don't know which is more effective. But my impression is that the original is better. My next one will be a hybrid.

To answer the OP (finally):
1) I think psychological triggers work. Just don't abuse them or you'll raise flags.
3) I don't know.
Oliver Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Sorry, "3" is supposed to be "2".
Antony Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
That's really interesting Oliver, thanks!
Starr Horne Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
If you have to follow Mr. Kennedy's advice to get your business going, why not get an 8 to 5 job? Regular job is much less stressful and will provide you with a far better income.

The number one problem with any business is a sustainable business model. If you have a mISV and have to convince a potential customer that your product is useful, you do not have a song!

There are thousands of useless marketing books out that emphasize exercising stupid and useless strategies in the effort to mask a lack of a viable business model - these strategies have been tried and failed many businesses and the reason these marketing books are written, because people who executed these strategies lost their jobs.

Here is a slightly better marketing book, but it is, unfortunately, has quite a bit of bullshit as well:


Hope this helps -:)
Alex Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Alex, Blue Ocean Strategy is a good read, but it is not (primarily) about marketing. It is essentially about what markets to enter and that it is "better" to *create* rather than enter markets. True, but tough.

I do not agree with your points 100%. True: if your business model is fundamentally flawed, then the best marketing cannot turn this around. However, if there is a market for what you have created, it does not mean that this market will hear you. Build something and they will come? Hardly. Of course, everything depends on your market and audience. For some markets and audiences, 5-point psycho marketing with lots of hand-holding work best, for others you are best off with ultra-transparency-blogging-buzz-building, some markets require you to present at conferences and play golf with your prospects (or whatever). "Know thy customer."
Philipp Schumann Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Philipp is right.

mISV defines the size of the business, not it's audience. There are several mISVs in these forums (including me) that sell big-ticket, long-sales-cycle systems to niche markets.

Long-letter sales copy; blogging; buzz; Adwords; conversions - all these things are not relevant to us. Our audience doesn't read blogs nor do decision-makers decide to buy based on our website pitch (in fact we don't even have a website...)

Conferences, exhibitions, PR in industry journals, and yes, convincing the customer of a need over several months does the trick.

We have a song - it's just different.

I only wish I could play golf. Being blind to the left means I just can't putt! Many more deals would be done if I could.
Cyclops Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
FWIW, 37Signals used to use a lot of long copy elements on their site:

I've read several copywriting books. The ones I liked were:

- The Copywriter's Handbook by Robert Bly
- Advertising Secrets Of The Written Word by Joseph Sugarman

The first provides a solid overview, and the second is both informative and entertaining.

Ones I did not like were:
- The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner
- Web Copy That Sells by Maria Veloso

The Joyner book had a few interesting ideas, but was thin on content, and Veloso is just plain scummy (e.g., discusses amateurish hacks to get around spam filters.)
Nick Hebb Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
BTW, if you ever want to peak into the world of copywriters discussing copywriting, this forum makes for interesting reading:

Nick Hebb Send private email
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I laughed when I read the comment about feeling "dirty" after implementing a long-copy website.  Our company has a long-time relationship with Dan Kennedy -- he's an affiliate our ours (http://www.infusionsoft.com/customers/general/dan-kennedy-uses-and-endorses-infusion-crm.html), but I personally tend to turn my nose up at most of the cheesy guerilla marketing tactics (although they have been proven to work).

Logic says that the further to the left you are on the innovation diffusion curve (Crossing the Chasm by Jeffrey Moore), the more you will have to educate and explain to people why they need your product or solution.  Being in this boat does not mean that your product or business is not viable.
Eric Martineau Send private email
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Hey nick - I just received my copy of Robert Bly's book in the mail yesterday & was up all night reading it.

You're right - It is really good. The part where he listed the selling points of a #2 pencil - it blew me away. By the end of it, I wanted that damn pencil!

Everybody says they hate long copy. It's spammy. It's ugly. But as 37s proved - it doesn't have to be.

All long copy is about is giving people plenty of reasons to buy. Nobody seems to mind if you spread them out over several pages. But put all of your copy on one page and you're suddenly a slimeball. Please!
Starr Horne Send private email
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Long vs. short versions of copy: Studies have shown that people don't want to read on the web ("Don't Make Me Think" by Krug.) Best seems to be short sections with some "grab" to them with drilldowns/links to more info.
Emotional flogging vs. rational argument: Agree with the comments above. Different approaches work better for different audiences. There seems to be a coninuum: more emotional approach works better for the masses, a mix for small business and more professional approach for the big business audience.
Robert I Send private email
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Selling the dream seems to be the most successful business model on the Web. Shame it has to work like that.
Monday, September 17, 2007

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