Showmanship Vs Salesmanship – Which Approach Creates Effective Sales Campaigns
People have been paying me really good money to write sales copy for over 30 years. I’d say I’m just an average copywriter though. There, I said it in public.
In fact, most probably there’s not a single person reading this article who’s been studying copywriting for just 30 DAYS that doesn’t know more about copywriting than I do.
I don’t know the formulas. My copy breaks every rule in the book, mostly because I don’t know what the rules are. (So-called ‘A-list’ copywriters have literally sneered at me) And I can’t quote Caples, Schwartz, Carlton, or Bencivenga.
In all honesty, I’ve never even tried to get better than average at copywriting. Yet the campaigns I’ve created have plucked many failing businesses out of the jaws of bankruptcy. Caused traffic jam demand for everyday products and services. Literally, I once gridlocked a town because so many people responded to an advertisement I wrote selling socks! Been ripped off by international advertising agencies.
Given people in just about every industry you could name their best day/week/month/year ever. Like the time I sold out a UK wholesaler’s 12-month supply of Solgar zinc pills through a tiny 300-square-foot retail shop. And this was from just one insertion of a 3-inch single-column ad in a local newspaper. And in the instance, I’m just about to share with you.
I even had the local chief of police ring me and politely ‘ask’ me to stop a campaign (because ‘his switchboard was far too busy to be taking part in my latest marketing shenanigans’ – yes, we’d spoken before).
But first, just in case you’re in a rush to get out here because you got something important to do, like make some money (or you’re in the middle of binge-watching ‘Reacher’ on Prime – which in my opinion is an equally good enough reason).
Here’s the stealable ‘secret’ to any success
Whilst most people think of copywriting as salesmanship in print, I’ve always thought of copywriting as ‘showmanship in print’.
I’m talking about a mixture of P.T Barnum’s style of showmanship to get attention combined with the showmanship of a Billy Mays-style demonstration on QVC to make the sale. Put those two types of showmanship together and in my experience, you can pretty much sell anything with an average copy.
Now – cards on the table – I’ve got a natural flair for showmanship.
Something I discovered at the age of 14 when I won an inter-school talent competition after our school’s entry lost their nerve 20 minutes before showtime and I volunteered to step in. Even though I had no act and zero talent.
But anyone can get good at showmanship. And I promise you, it’s way easier to learn to get good at showmanship than salesmanship!
Okay, so ‘showmanship’ is the ‘secret’. Now if you want to get back to ‘Reacher’ you can do that. Or you can stick around to see a ‘demonstration’ of what the heck I mean by ‘showmanship’.
Early in my career, way before the internet; I decided to focus on selling my services to the top 2% of Financial Planners. But I was having a hard time getting them into my funnel which was to respond to a sales letter by requesting a 10-page‘ special report’ (read: long-form sales letter) I’d written that promised to teach them how to generate more high-net-worth clients.
Problem was that these million-dollar earners were super busy and didn’t open their own mail. My fairly decent sales letter was being intercepted by executive assistants, who were putting it straight in the special round filing cabinet.
Which meant my attention score was pretty much zero. And it needed to be 100%. Especially as I was telling them that I could get the attention of their own hard-to-reach potential clients!
I needed a dramatic demonstration. So here’s what I did:
I employed a houseful of students to go through newspapers and cut out letters that they could then use to address envelopes with my prospect’s names. Yea, you got it is like a blackmail letter.
I then recorded a short message on a sinister-looking unlabelled black audio cassette tape explaining that I was a master at getting the attention of difficult-to-reach people and offering them the ‘special report’.
The audiotape was placed in the envelope, which was then sealed with a big, ugly, mouth-covering-sized piece of gorilla tape – you know just for increased dramatic effect.
And then I had one of the students hand-deliver each envelope by striding into the reception area of the Financial Advisors offices and ceremoniously dropping it on the reception desk – without saying a word or taking off their motorcycle helmet with black visor.
Well I did say I needed something dramatic, didn’t I?
That envelope would be in the Financial Planners’ hands within minutes. And very often, just minutes later the Financial Planner was sat in their Jaguar in the car park listening to my sales message.
Except for the times when people rang the police station to ask if they wanted to check out the envelope before it was opened!
The attention score was now 100%. And I got myself some clients. One of them got me a speaking gig at a Financial Advisors conference later in the year. Which turned out to be one of the best-attended events they’d ever had.
Because pretty much everyone in the business had heard about this outrageous marketing campaign and wanted to hear more about my approach to lead gen. And that talk got me even more clients. Which is one of the brilliant side effects of using ‘showmanship in print’ over just salesmanship in print.
It entertains. This is super important because “You can’t bore people into buying”.
Hope that inspired you to give it a try.