5 Formulas Every Marketer Needs to Know – An Interview with Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin
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5 Formulas Every Marketer Needs to Know – An Interview with Michel Fortin

Michel Fortin is the “Roger Bannister” of web copywriting. He wrote the copy for a John Reese product that was the first to sell 1 million dollars worth in one day. Not a bad accomplishment for any copywriters CV.

In this interview Michel reveals…

  • The 3 laws of human nature and the 3 P's of copywriting
  • The OATH formula that will tell you exactly what your market thinks about your product (and therefore how to sell to them)
  • The UPWORDS formula that will help you to connect with your reader
  • The FORCEPS formula that will help you demonstrate overwhelming proof to your reader (even the most hard-nosed skeptic will have no choice but to believe you)
  • The 3 deadly C's of copywriting. You want to avoid these 3 mistakes at all costs
  • And lot's more! Just click the play button below to listen to the interview or if you prefer to read there is a full transcript underneath...

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Joey Bushnell: Hey everyone, this is Joey Bushnell. Today I have with me, one of the worlds best copywriters, his name is Michel Fortin. Michel, thank you so much for being with me on the call today.

Michel Fortin: Thank you, it’s a pleasure.

Joey Bushnell: Michel, how did you become a copywriter?

Michel Fortin: Long story short is that I went into sales when I first went into the work force and had to fight this overwhelming fear of rejection. There’s no better way to fight a fear than to do as you fear, as the saying goes. So I jumped into sales and I was of course rejected. I was so bad at selling my first year of selling that I declared bankruptcy because I was living off of 7 different credit cards to pay for food and everything else.

After trying different things, learning about selling and learning different techniques about selling, I became really good at selling as long as I could get my foot in the door, so to speak. I was really good at doing a presentation with somebody who is qualified and who wanted to hear me. But until I could get my foot in the door I was really bad and I hated rejection.

I was a bankrupt commission-only sales person and I decided to try this thing called writing letters. Writing letters and mailing them out to people offering them a free presentation. Then when they would call me, I would then have a booked appointment for a presentation with a qualified targeted client, or a prospect at that point, so I knew I wasn’t going to get rejected. Then I went from a bankrupt, commissioned sales person to the number 1 sales person for this multinational insurance company for 8 months in a row.

I discovered when I did that, the power of writing letters and this thing called “Copywriting”. That’s how I started out and it wasn’t really until the internet came out that I started to write the same types of letters but online and putting them on websites. Then I realized there’s something to this copywriting gig so people were now starting to hire me to write their copy. It just exploded from that point on and as you can probably attest or see the rest is history.

Joey Bushnell: So how is your time spent these days? Is it writing offline copy, online copy or training other people how to write copy?

Michel Fortin: It’s more training. What’s happening is because the fact that I have so many clienteles, I’m always going to write copy for clients. But I have several clients who hire me on a regular consistent basis on a full time on-going retainer, so to speak. I have royalty arrangements with them so I’m more of a partner in their businesses. That is what I’m doing so I’ll take the odd job here and there if I feel that I want to. I’m still open to doing that depending on whenever people send me a quote request either I’ll do it or I’ll have one of my trained junior copywriters do it for me.

However my real focus these days is more on training and actually doing critiques and more consulting work. I’ll tell people what is wrong with their copy and they can fix it or rewrite it themselves.

Joey Bushnell: Is it true that you had some involvement with a very successful campaign for John Reese a few years back?

Michel Fortin: Yes, that’s the campaign that I’m very well known for. It’s funny because to me I don’t consider it to be A) the best copy in the world and B) the best campaign in the world. That record that I set that day has been broken many times since by copywriters who are 10 times better than me. But I’m well known for that because I’m the “Roger Bannister” of online copy.

As you know, Roger Bannister is the gentleman who broke the 4 minute mile. That record tried to be broken for a long time and once he did that many people after him came around and broke it very easily. So when I wrote that copy for John Reese, who sold over 1 million dollars in one day it became “The million dollar day” record setting event which I’m very well known for. Again just to be clear there are a lot of other copywriters who beat that or have done much more than that since then. I have also since done that as well. I’ve written campaigns for people who have done over 1 million dollars in one day.

Joey Bushnell: That’s absolutely brilliant Michel. So we’ve established that you are a pretty good copywriter and that’s what we are going to be talking about today, if you could give us some tips that could improve our own copy. My first question is what are the 3 P’s of copy that you sometimes refer to and why do we need to use those?

Michel Fortin: Before I jump into the 3 P’s, it’s like a 3 legged stool. If you think of a stool, if you only have 1 leg, you are going to find it hard keeping your balance. If you have 2 legs it’s a little bit better but there’s still no balance. If you have 3 legs you can sit on the stool and it will sit properly. Every copy has to have 3 legs. It might miss one or it might be weak in one, if it is the stool will fall. Copy writing is based on 3 immutable facts, I call them the 3 laws of human nature.

People never read anything at first, they never believe anything at first and they never do anything at first.

A lot of times whenever people hit a website very often they will just skim, scan and scroll. First they will look for something that is interesting and if it’s uninteresting they will just go away.

The second is if they do start reading, for whatever reason, everybody is cynical and skeptical these days, they are not going to truly believe what you are saying. You’ve got to show them more than a nice little story or a platitude.

The 3rd is that people never do anything so once they have finished reading, is that it? Are they going to leave your website and not do anything?

The 3 P’s are based on those 3 laws. The 3 P’s come down to this… pull, prove and push.

Pull them in to your copy meaning get them to start reading your copy. That’s the first job. It’s the job of your headline, the first paragraph and any accessory or what we call grabbers on the copy. Whether it’s an image, script or something that grabs their attention.

The next point is to get in and tell a story that is believable, provable and credible. That is to prove your case. Why should they listen to you? Why should they lean more to you? And ultimately why should they buy what you are selling?

The 3rd is to get them to act. A lot of people create sales letters and it’s like that two legged stool that will fall. A lot of people write great copy, have a great headline, story and proof but they really make it hard for people to order from them. So you have to tell people what to do. It’s funny a lot of people will say “Well Michel I don’t want to insult the intelligence of my reader. I don’t want to tell them what to do.” Yes you do. The mind is such that if it’s not told what to do and if you leave the readers to their own devices, the first thing they will do is remember they never do anything at first, they will just leave. You need them to take action.

Pull, proof and push those are the 3 P’s. Look at your copy right now. Does it pull people sufficiently in to your copy? Does it prove the case enough? Do people really believe what you are selling? And then the 3rd, are you actually getting them to do something? which is to take action. Are you asking for action and are you literally taking the time to take them by the hand, so to speak, in the copy.

Joey Bushnell: Great. What is the OATH formula? This is a formula that I’ve heard you refer to many times, can you tell us a little bit about that please?

Michel Fortin: Sure, my formula is nothing new by the way, I just created the acronym but the basis behind the formula is nothing new. In fact it was a book from an author by the name of Eugene Schwartz, a very famous copywriter, his book is called “Break Through Advertising”. Eugene talked abut the very stages of awareness of the product and the various stages of awareness of the problem.

I like to call it “OATH” because it tells me where is your market at. Exactly where are they in the level of awareness and the level of consciousness about the problem.

Next, the product is important, and that’s something we can look at later on, but right now what I need to know is, is the market aware of the problem that I am going to be solving with my product or service? Now why is that important? This is the biggest question I’m always asked “Michel, should I use long copy or short copy?” and I can’t answer that question because I don’t know your market. I should ask them “How aware is your market of the problem that you’re solving?” The less aware they are, the more you need to educate them, therefore the more copy you are going to need.

So “OATH” is an acronym that stands for oblivious, apathetic, thinking and hurting.

What it means is simply this; oblivious, they are oblivious about the problem, they don’t know anything about it, they really are completely oblivious.

Then next is apathetic, they know about the problem but they don’t really care about it. It’s not something they want to solve, it’s not really important to them, that’s why they are apathetic about it.

Thinking is they know about the problem and they are thinking about doing something about it. It’s something that they are probably considering. Maybe they are shopping around or just searching for information about the problem. They are getting a little bit involved in the process of trying to get it solved.

Finally hurting, well that’s the desperate market. That is the market that is hurting right now. They have a problem and they are desperately looking at solving it now. As you can probably imagine, the more hurting your market is and if you have a product that immediately solves their problem, instantly chances are you just need to put a buy now button on your web copy and they will click on it.

But if they are oblivious, then you need to have a lot of copy because now you need to educate them on the problem and why it’s important for them to not only solve it but why is it important for them to solve it now. So you are literally taking them through all the stages from oblivious to hurting and then bridging that gap so to speak.

Joey Bushnell: Sure, so is it just to the portion of the market that is hurting right now that we sell to? Or can we still sell to the people in the other 3 stages as well in the same sales letter?

Michel Fortin: This is a question where you need to investigate your market, who is your market specifically? A lot of people who are jumping into business now are asking me “Michel who should I go after first?” and I tell them obviously go after the lowest hanging fruit, go after the hurting market first.

Once you have covered that market well, you’ve got a lot of information and sales behind you. You also have a lot marketing research because now you will know a little bit more about your market that way (this is only if you are brand new by the way). Then you can go into the other stages. Now you need to go after the thinking market and later on you can go after apathetic.

Now let’s say you are not new into the market, let’s say the market has been around for a while or this is something your researching currently with your existing market. I say try to go after the most predominant segment of your market. If the majority of your market let’s say 80-90% of the people of your market falls in the apathetic category then go after the apathetic. That’s where the biggest piece of the pie is.

But let’s say your market falls into 2 or 3 of the segments or even all 4. There are several ways to attack this. Now this might be more of a logistical question but you might either A) write a letter for every single one of those segments, so in this case you might have 4 letters. So you’ll have one letter totally focused on the oblivious and one that focuses on the apathetic and so on. Or B) have a letter that targets the oblivious and includes all of that education and then the offer in your letter, especially online now, you have that ability with all of those tools and scripts where people can actually top up information dynamically as they are reading your sales letter.

So they can go and get the information they are looking for if they are part of the less known market or the more oblivious market. What I mean by that is this, I tend to say you cover all your bases. The problem is people who are hurting might want to have the problem solved right away. So when they hit your website and they see it’s a long scrolling sales letter they have to read 20 pages worth before they get the chance to buy. Don’t make them waste their time. Offer them the ability to buy right away, maybe a button up at the top or a link that says skip this info buy now. That way the hurting market will know right away. But in most cases sometimes that can be counter productive it really depends on your market. What I say to people is this, you can now have sales letters where you can have information that when you click on a link information pops up on the fly or they can go to an additional page that has extra information or information that flies in.

Nowadays you can create dynamic interactive sales letters so that you can have a sales letter that at face value might look like a letter that’s appealing to the hurting market. But embedded through out you might have additional information that people can find out more if they are more of the other markets.

For example, you sell some kind of vitamins that prevents some kind of disease. A lot of people don’t know about it, while your letter might be about that disease if they already know about it and there’s a button for you to sell those vitamins. So now you are appealing to the more thinking market. But if they don’t know about it and they are doing some research on it you might have links in it that says what is this “disease” and then it’s a link. When they click on that link it then pops up with information that describes the history of the disease and the problems that it causes.

You want to add salt to the wound or what Dan Kennedy very famously says “Problem, Agitate, Solve”. You’re telling them about the problem, you agitate it, you make it more concrete and big and then you solve the problem.

So long story short, can you appeal to multiple markets? Nowadays you can with the power of the internet. Otherwise you probably need to have a piece of copy that is directed to every one of those segments if you have more than one particular segment in your market.

Joey Bushnell: Sure, just while you were talking then, I was thinking a lot of the time online you will see these launches going on where people maybe release 3 or 4 videos before they then release the full sales copy. Is that a technique to take people who are oblivious or apathetic to the problem and then educate them before showing them the actual sales letter?

Michel Fortin: Absolutely. This is a great example, thank you for bringing it up. This is an example of literally teaching, of educating the people. If you were to hit people with a sales letter right up front and they were in the oblivious market, well the problem is now you are going to have to have all that information to educate them. Like you said before some people may be hurting, some may be in the oblivious. But if you go through a campaign, an anticipation campaign as they say, where you are just telling people about the problem up until the day of the launch. Well guess what? You were literally educating them through the process. You were educating them about the problem you were solving, the solutions that are available and your particular solution. Then you also talk about the urgency about solving that solution.

That is the OATH, that is the 4 levels that you solve through these anticipatory videos, pieces of copy or it could even be pieces of content such as articles.

I’ll give an example, I do a lot of stuff right now in the fitness industry. Currently there is a gentleman who is a physiotherapist who is launching an information product on how to treat your knee pain. Until the day he launches, he’s got these articles that are coming out on what causes knee pain, how can knee pain be a problem in your training or workout and how it can be detrimental. All the possible solutions for knee pain such as surgery that can be very costly and risky. Some of the medications for knee pain that can also be risky. All the way to “I have a product for you, that will show you some therapy on how you can solve your knee pain injury” Then Bam, he launches the product and everybody is on this waiting list because everyone’s been taken through these stages.

So long story short is yes, that’s absolutely something that you can do. It’s a way of taking people from that point to the next.

Joey Bushnell: Fantastic, I’ve heard you speaking before about painting a vivid “before and after picture” in order to sell to the reader. So could you let us know a little bit about that process and why that’s so important?

Michel Fortin: Well, online these days it’s becoming less required, to a degree, because you are basically using various senses or engaging more senses than just copy. Where as in the old days you had a printed sales letter, you had to paint pictures in the mind of the reader because you had nothing else to go by. Nowadays with the internet you can show video and you can have scripts where there’s interaction. For example online, where you are selling houses or homes people can go into a home online and have a virtual tour of the house they are looking to buy.

But to come back to the initial point, I think you still have to paint a picture in the mind of the reader when you are describing the problem. You’re describing how beautiful it is and how beneficial it is or how great it is to solve that problem with all the wonderful feelings.

Well, how do you express feelings? In fact video won’t be able to do that. You might see some visual expressions on a video but when you write it, it’s like writing a great fiction novel. I tell a lot of people who are learning to write copy to read a lot of fiction, especially Stephen King for example. Stephen King actually wrote a book on writing called “On Writing” and he talks about the processes that he goes through when he writes his books. It’s the same idea with copywriting, it’s a bit of fiction, you have to tell a story so that when people read your copy they feel the problem and almost get to feel it themselves, they become connected.

This is basically the best way I can say this, Zig Ziglar a very famous sales trainer who recently passed away said “salesmanship is literally the transference of enthusiasm that the sales person has for his or her product into the prospect”. So basically copy has that job as well. Copy is just salesmanship in print.

Your job as a copywriter or as a business owner if you’re writing your own copy, is to transfer this enthusiasm you have about your product into your prospect. The only way you can do that is to get them to vividly imagine, to feel what it feels like to A) not only have the problem but B) have the product solve their problem and no longer have that problem, and here’s how you can do that you can buy my product.

Painting a vivid mental picture is like trying to engage all the mental senses that copy takes away from you. If you are talking about the sense of smell, describing the sight, the feeling or visual what they call the VAK – visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual they can see what the picture is, the problem or the solution. Auditory is what they hear and kinesthetic is how it feels.

So when you describe these things in copy you’re telling a story and a lot of junior copywriters when they are getting trained say “Michel how do I so that?”. Well, describe the situation, if you were to describe the situation to somebody where you only had letters, of course a lot of people will say “I can show a video”. Well, sit down and write down in a letter format and try to be as descriptive as possible. Of course you can come back and edit but right now you need to be as descriptive as possible and the best way to do that is to use analogies and comparisons.

Sometimes it’s impossible to describe some smell, sight or even some factual data like measurements. If you can use an analogy or metaphor, people grasp metaphors and analogies so well because basically that is what telling a story is. We are all story tellers, or what I say story sellers. If you can tell a story you can sell. So that’s what it is to paint a vivid mental picture in the minds of people.

Joey Bushnell:  You have a formula called “UPWORDS” is that something that ties in with creating a vivid picture in peoples minds and getting their imagination really going?

Michel Fortin: Yes, that’s very good of you to notice. It’s actually called “Universal Picture Words Or Relatable Descriptive Sentences”. It’s an acronym and a lot of people say it’s kind of hokey but I love mnemonics, I love using acronyms and tools that help me remember.

When I write copy I look and think am I using universal picture words? What I mean by that is words that paint pictures but they are also universally appreciated by my market. If I use pictures words that are only appreciated by only a segment of my market then I’m going to lose another big segment of my market who don’t understand. I like people for example that will say “Michel, shall I use industry jargon in my copy?” That depends, is the industry jargon understood universally by our market? Is there a majority of people in your market who will be aware of and know that particular jargon? If they say yes then go ahead that’s what I mean by universal picture words.

Relatable descriptive sentences are sentences that people can relate to and it describes the situation, problem or the product in itself. That’s what I mean by analogies, metaphors, stories and comparisons.

I’ll give you a really quick example, I’m in Canada and we have a lot of forests, we have the tundra here and of course we also have bears. During summer camp a couple of years ago there was a public service announcement that told kids if they spot a bear in the woods during their summer camps to stay a way from the bear. They want to say you have to stay away at least 100 feet from the bear. Now try to tell that to a 6,7 or 8 year old kid, what 7 feet is, much less 60 meters, they won’t understand that, they won’t grasp it because people don’t picture numbers. They will picture the equivalent of what that number means. But here’s what they said on that public service announcement, they said “Children please stay away from the bear at least 2 – 3 bus lengths” Ah, now that makes sense so when you see the bear make sure its 2-3 bus lengths away. Now they have something they can go by and that’s what I mean by using UPWORDS.

Go in to your copy and look at whether are you using words or describing something that is a bit too factual, logical or too “cold”. People don’t buy on raw data they love raw data to justify their decisions but the decisions are always emotional at first. As Zig Ziglar said, people buy on emotion first then they justify their reasons with logic.

Do you use emotion? The great way to do that is to use “UPWORDS”. Go back in to your copy and see if you can replace any with the thesaurus and synonyms, they are sometimes a copywriters best tool. Sometimes you can use a word that will probably mean, in an illogical sense it will probably be the same definition or the same sort of meaning. But when the reader reads it, especially in context, it will mean something completely different maybe even more visceral. For example you don’t want t beat your competition you want to murder your competition. So the word murder is so much more powerful, visual and visceral than the word beat your competition. So that’s what UPWORDS means.

Joey Bushnell: I’ve got another mnemonic here, I enjoy them as well Michel! You have a formula called the FORCEPS formula which will help us add more proof to our copy, so can you guide us through that please?

Michel Fortin: Absolutely, the FORCEPS acronym stands for Factual, Optical, Reversal, Credential, Evidential, Perceptual and Social proof.

I know a lot of people are going to say “Michel I’ve heard about adding proof to my copy and that’s adding testimonials or before and after pictures” and I say well that’s social proof. In fact that is the last element of the FORCEPS formula. It’s the one that most people use but it’s always the last one because they tend to forget that there is a lot more proof you can add to copy. Very quickly FORCEPS means….

Factual proof – facts, status, stats, figures, ingredients and measurements. I did talk about being more emotional earlier but you need to back it up. If you’re saying that I’m the best copywriter in the world, by whose definition and by whose base line? What do you mean exactly by “the best”? It’s so easy to claim some kind of universal vague qualification but it means nothing if you don’t back it up with some sort of data. If I can provide data, statistics and all of that, that is called factual proof.

Optical proof is called visual proof like pictures, video, graphics even colors can add to the whole process. That’s what proof is “Show me the money” as they say.

Then there is reverse proof and this is the proof of the opposite or the reverse. What this means is, if you don’t take action is there any kind of proof that you can provide of maybe the ultimate cost of choosing an alternative or choosing not to buy today? For example somebody was trying to hire me to write an ad for a Google Adwords campaign and I offered him a quote of $2,000. It was quite an intense and in depth campaign. The person refused to go ahead, whether it was a budgeting issue or whatever the case may have been, and I said “listen how much money do you plan on spending on your Google Adwords campaign?”. This person had a budget of $50,000 and I said if your campaign doesn’t really work and if it flops you are about to make a $50,000 mistake. What is it going to be $50,000 or $2,000 with me? That’s reverse proof.

Then you have credential proof, so credentials anything that says “Why listen to me?”. Any type of proof you can provide that helps you understand the expertise, education or the endorsement level. Are there any kind of associations that you belong to? Or that the product has been awarded? All that means is credentialing the product.

Next is evidential proof which is evidence. Think of a court case. What I call evidential proof is are there any tests, clinical studies, placebo control, double blank studies or clinical trials? Sometimes it can be something very simple. I’m not sure if this has been seen in the UK, but in north America there was a famous infomercial for Dura Lube which is a motor oil additive. What they did is they took a car and put it on top of cinder blocks, drained it completely of it’s oil then they ran the car until the motor ceased. Then they ask a mechanic how much would it cost you? You’ll either have to change the motor or it would cost upwards from $1200 or more to fix the motor, that’s about £2,000-£3,000. Basically what they did, they put in only one small bottle of Dura Lube no extra motor oil, the car started right away and it kept running for hours on that small little bottle of Dura Lube. That is what I mean by evidential proof. It was evidence that the product does what it claims. It’s actually even more powerful because you are putting the product to the test.

Perceptual proof is sort of what I talked about in UPWORDS in describing proof elements. So telling stories, relating it to the audience but doing it in a way where you are proving it to the audience with your story. One great example I use when talking about perceptual proof is when my wife was diagnosed with cancer she had a blog and she was trying to describe it to people. But using these long medical terms, measurements of the actual tumor and all of these different things people would read that and say OK I understand. What she then decided to do was she started describing those things in terms that people would relate to. She talked about her feelings about it or a particular medical term and what it means to you and me. She would talk about the size of the tumor was actually he size of a golf ball so on and so forth. All of those things are still providing proof but describing it in a way that people can relate to it, so it’s perceptual proof.

Finally of course is social proof, that’s what I mentioned earlier such as testimonials, before and after pictures, word of mouth it’s all of those things that you can add to a sales process that makes people see that the masses are already doing it. People have a tendency to give credibility to a larger number of people who have taken action. If I’m considering buying a product, and I’m the only one at this point considering yes or no, I might have some level of skepticism. But if I see that a great number of my peers have already given you their trust, confidence and have already bought the product and here’s what they had to say about it. That is called social proof that’s what we mean by testimonials.

The best way to use social proof is not just to talk about the benefits of the product but very often to use testimonials. Testimonials where they describe how they had similar objections prior to buying the product and how their objections were either unfounded or how it was solved by buying the product. So when the person reads the copy, they have the same objections, they can relate and say this person in my social entourage had the same problem and objection and they say they liked it or that their objection was false or unfounded. Then I’m going to buy the product because I believe it now.

So the FORCEPS formula is all about adding more proof elements or adding more substance so that you want to increase the level of believability and credibility of your copy.

Joey Bushnell: I must say I think it’s the most solid formula for adding proof to your sales copy that I know of. 7 aspects there and if you can get all of those in combination you are going to be really well covered so thank you, that was great. How can we combat the 3 deadly C’s that I’ve heard you speak about before?

Michel Fortin: Yes, well the 3 deadly C’s are cogitation, confusion and complexity. Now you have probably guessed that I love to use alliteration with the 3 P’s and 3 C’s. The 3 deadly C’s are essentially the 3 things that you want to avoid as much as possible in your copy.

Cogitation means critical thinking and a lot of people say “I don’t want to dumb down my copy” and I ask why and they say “my audience is intelligent, I sell to engineers, pharmacists and doctors. My audience is too sophisticated for that. If I dumb down my copy and talk to them at the 6th or 7th grade level I’m going to insult them.” I understand that if they were to read something in their industry or something that was related to their profession or vocation I can understand that. But when they are buying something which is something they buy on emotion, yes they will back it up with logic but they first buy it on emotion. Emotion is best described at a 6th or 7th grade level.

What you want to do is take them by the hand and talk to them like it’s a very informal conversation. For example if you are selling medical equipment to a hospital you want to have a certain level of professionalism in your copy, I agree with that. But guess what? If you are selling to a group of people every single person in that group is a human being, we all have that same disease called humanity. So we do make decisions based on emotion then we will justify and back it up with logic.

So essentially you can talk about the emotions of what it is to have this particular product in your business. You can use, not just the language I call “dumbed down” but you want to use more, you don’t want to leave anything out by thinking that it’s implied or they will come to that conclusion. Guess what? If you leave people to their own devices they might come to that conclusion but chances are they might get to the opposite conclusion. If I don’t tell you to buy this product and why and I say “Well, I don’t want to insult my audience. They can get from the copy that my product is really good and how to order it ,I don’t need to spell it out for them.”  Well, guess what? You do need to spell it out for them because if you give them the chance to think critically they will.

People have a tendency to always look for the negative, and why? This is based on pure psychology, Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of human needs, which is the need to survive, safety, shelter, security and all the things that are at the base root of all human needs. Because of that we fear making a bad decision because parting with our money is partly the security that we have. If I’m looking at buying a product or service I’m going to try justify not buying it as much as I possibly can in my mind. So if you give me a chance to think critically or to cogitate I’m probably never going to buy your product. Or I’ll buy your product but I will ask for a refund after because I had cognitive dissonance which is basically buyers remorse. I thought too critically before, I had to take a chance and then I still say this isn’t what I wanted. To avoid that you need to take them by the hand, dumb down your copy and include that language.

The next one is confusion. You don’t want to have multiple messages or sales stories that are irrelevant to the actual sales letter that your making. If you are selling a product try not to have messages that talk about 2,3 or 4 other products that you are selling in your copy because now you are going to be confusing your market.

I usually use the 3 number 1’s formula which is one message, one market, one outcome. Use one sales message meaning you are selling one product. You can offer multiple options of that product like option A or option B but it’s the same product. One market which is going after one market. Going after the thinking and hurting that we talked about earlier that’s still the same market. What I’m talking about is going after different markets and trying to appeal to everybody because if you appeal to everyone you will appeal to no one. The third is one, outcome which is one call to action. Don’t ask them to buy then say I’ve also got this other thing and I’ve also got this other thing, that is confusion.

Complexity, the third C, is don’t make it hard for them, make it super simple. Part of the whole process of dumbing down which is the copy or the language itself is also simplifying the funnel, the slide process from when they go to the headline all the way to the order form. Don’t try to deviate them, annoy them, use different colors or scripts or things that will cause what we call “bottle necks” in your copy. It’s like speed bumps, we don’t want speed bumps in our copy we want people to steadily move from the beginning process of reading your copy all the way to ordering your product or service. Anything in that process which stops them in their tracks are speed bumps and are going to deter sales.

A big example of that is online, the process of loading a sales website. Sometimes if you look at your website and you can shave off a a few seconds from the loading time you’ll probably notice an increase in your conversion rates because the longer people have to wait, the more that leave. Even if they wait and stay until it’s fully loaded and they start reading your copy they are now slightly or unconsciously disgruntled by the fact that you made them wait. Now they are thinking “Well, if you made me wait at the beginning I can only imagine how much you are going to make me wait if I order your product.”

That is what I mean to avoid those 3 C’s, avoid critical thinking or cogitation. Avoid confusion, be as simple as possible and avoid complexity, take them from one to another don’t go into changes, don’t be complex and don’t add speed bumps. Try to make it as slippery as possible as we say.

Joey Bushnell: Just something you were talking about there, when you mentioned about having option A or option B. Can having more than one offer become confusing or complex and decrease orders at all?

Michel Fortin: Well, that’s what I mean by different options of the same offer is fine. It depends also on the price point and also on your market or their level of awareness of the product. If you have a product that is not very well known and you’ve got an audience that’s probably hurting, then fine you can add different options to buy a particular offer.

You might have , what I call the “Olympic Factor” the bronze, silver and gold. You might have option A which is the base product. Then B is something that is added to it and it might be your real offer or the middle of the road and finally C which is the gold standard. The reason why this can sometimes work very well is because you have a middle road so the B option or the silver can be your actual offer.

If you think that you can capture peoples email address you will probably be able to, then offer them multiple options after the fact. Sometimes you don’t have that luxury. Sometimes your people are straight traffic coming from the internet and hitting your website. You want to down sell them a little bit and up sell them a little bit in the same breath. You might have 3 options on your sales letter so you have the middle one which is the real offer but you might take away just a little bit with a lower version of the offer, or you might add a little bit to have a bigger package of the product. Now it could be done that way or it could be done with middle of the road offer and if they leave you, either offer them a down sell which is the lower option. Or if they buy then you offer them an up sell option where they can buy into the gold version if they wanted to before checking out.

You can offer them multiple options and this is something that you will have to test, again it comes back down to your market and their level of awareness of your product. It varies from market to market and price point to price point. With some markets we have found adding multiple options has doubled sales and some market we found adding an extra option lowered sales because it added confusion.

It really varies, for example I do a lot of copywriting right now in the fitness industry especially for vitamins and minerals. Very often what we do is we offer them a couple of options we’ll say “Hey want one bottle? Here’s the price, but if you’d like to order a months supply here’s the discounted price”. It’s still a bit more but it’s less when you look at the bulk pricing. Then the up sell is “Would you like to have a months supply shipped to you automatically every month?”. There’s option A,B and C right there but basically we offer them the first one bottle but maybe with the possibility of up selling them there. Then when they check out we offer the option for them to be on this endless refurbishing process so that’s a great way to do it.

I’ve tried this in other markets especially in the information product marketing business and it doesn’t really work too well sometimes. If your information product is a high quality, high value and high price product if you offer multiple options people are going to be confused or they are going to wait and say “I’m going to think about it because I really want the silver but I can’t afford it so I might have to buy the bronze. But I really like the gold so I’m going to think about it.” If they have to think about it they are never going to come back. That’s cogitation, that’s part of the 3 deadly C’s.

The only real way to know is to test then very often what I say to people is this… start with one offer and if that works really well then come back with another option to the same offer and see how that works. If it works really well then great, but if it doesn’t then take it off and go back to your original offer.”

Joey Bushnell: My final question is, should our copy have a consistent energy level throughout from beginning to end? And if so, when reading back, if we see a dip in energy how can we raise it again?

Michel Fortin: The best answer that I can give for that, is think of the stock market that is on the rise. It’s not a straight slope. You should always have increasing energy and a certain tempo to your copy that gets faster, more energetic, more emotional and more vibrant.

But you’ll have copy that will dive a little bit just because there is a moment of reflection or something important that you wanted to express. Or maybe it seems not to capture as much attention as it was before. Either you edit that out, re-write it or you then bring them back by using tools.

For example, Johnson boxes. Sometimes I will have a piece of copy and the copy itself is on a continuously upward dynamic increase of energy and vibrancy until you get the to buy the product. Maybe you have information you want to give them throughout, you’ll do it in these little side bars, these Johnson boxes. Which is basically a box in the middle of the copy or a pull quote or side note that describes a piece of information. You’ll see that a lot in magazine copy. If you go to your regular super market you’ll see a lot of magazines and if you go inside you’ll see these full page advertorials. You’ll see they use a lot of large font on the side and sometimes these little boxes with additional pieces of information that is relevant to the problem or the solution but it’s not really something that helps to sell directly. So there is a bit of a dip but if people go back into the copy they will still have that same level of energy.

I’m not an NLP expert by any stretch of the imagination but in NLP they talk about something called pacing. Pacing is when you take people by the hand and you have language that brings up the level of energy in the copy. You’re going to pace them, basically you are taking them by the hand up until the point where they are going to buy the product or service. That can be done with the language and the best way to solve that is read it out loud. Sometimes you will catch yourself stumbling, or slowing down. You can even record yourself reading your own copy and when you listen to yourself you’ll say that sounds like I’m losing energy here. Now you can go back and either change it or make sure that when you bring it back up that you double the energy so that you want to rebound that person out of their lulls.

This is something that is very simple when you look at pull, prove and push. The pull aspect is the headline and the beginning process of getting them curious. You grab my attention and I’m a little bit interested in what exactly this article or piece is all about. Then you talk slowly about a story or a situation that they might feel akin to or similar. It might be a story of someone who had a similar problem or it might be your own story if you created the product out of your own story, even your own story can be very powerful. You’ve got their attention but you start slowly with the story and then you increase the level of energy you go up. You see how much this created a problem and the problem was bigger and the more I was ignoring it the bigger it became and it festered. Then I looked for a solution and I bought other solutions and how those solutions where terrible and here’s why. Then I finally found…ta-da! This product or service. Then you go into the benefits and how there’s additional benefits that you didn’t even know.

So you can see, I’m increasing energy slowly and you can see the pace and tempo of the copy slowly getting faster, more vibrant and more energetic. You really can’t just do it in such a way where you bring that energy back up you have to either edit your copy so that it doesn’t happen or when you do you’ll have to be a little bit stronger in your copy.

Maybe do a “By the way…” I call it the incidental approach where it breaks them out of their pattern so they can come back into the energy mode. It might be like those Johnson boxes even they can be used to bring the energy back when there is information in the copy which is a little too low in energy. Those are just little tips and tricks but very often the best way to solve this problem is just to read it out loud or record yourself then see where you are slowing down and the energy is going down and you can change it that way.

Joey Bushnell: Michel, thank you so much for doing this interview, it’s been such a good interview. I’ve got so much value from it so thank you so much for that. Where can we go to get more content from you? I know you have a blog, I’m a big fan of it myself, and I know you have products as well. Could you tell us a little bit about those?

Michel Fortin: Sure, you can go to my blog at Michelfortin.com and also if you want to work with me or if you are interested in hiring me or knowing more about the services I offer there is a page there that describes that. I also do training products if you want to now more about my copywriting training products. If you would like to know more about my products, my wife and I own a company called The Licorice Group. All you have to do is go to Licoricegroup.com that is our main corporate site, it has a direct review of all the products and services that we offer there on that site.

Joey Bushnell: Thank you, once again it was such a good interview I really enjoyed myself. Everyone listening I recommend that you do go and check out his sites you’ll be glad that you did. Once again Michel, thank you for giving me so much of your time today.

Michel Fortin: You’re welcome.

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