Here’s what I like about this…

Here’s what I like about this… #2 – The one-legged golfer

So, here’s what I like about this…

There’s a lot to like about John Carlton’s adverts – he has a masterful way with words, unlike any other copywriter.

He’s probably the most ripped off guy in the game.

Even while writing this, I’m trying my damndest not to fall into the “Carlton trap”.

So today, let’s sit back and enjoy one of John’s most famous sales letters.

Not the whole thing mind…

(no, because this feature is gonna devour content like a rugby team that has been fasting for a fortnight)

Let’s just marvel at the headline…

Carlton is famous for having the wordiest headlines ever, which seems weird considering he’s always preaching writers to “make every word earn its place”.

Look at the headline again though.

Every word DOES earn its place.

Take one out and the headline’s dead in the water.

Today, I want to focus on one feature in the headline…

… this bit:

Think about how much power is in that little hyphenated word.

Think of the mental imagery it contains.

He could’ve said “easy”, “simple”, or “will work no matter whether you’re a hacker or a pro”, but he didn’t.

“One-legged”. That’s all it takes to get across everything you need to know about this.

And that’s what I want you to try.

Show, don’t tell.

Don’t tell me that your new computer programming course is easy…

… show me an Amish baby using it to crank out code to prepare for her interview at NASA…

Don’t tell me that you’re plumbing is child’s play to install…

…show me a cack-handed DIYer doing it with ease (my email is on this site somewhere if you need someone to cast in the starring role).

Simple. Easy. Fast. Better. Longer. Harder.

If your widget is any of those, don’t tell me about it…


Paint a clear picture in my mind of just how simple, easy, faster, harder, stronger, longer it is.

What can you do to SHOW your audience that your product or service gets the results your clients are after?

Here’s another great example of this…

Here’s what I like about this… #1 – Magic baloney

A few weeks ago, I had an idea.

I won’t lie to you – most of my ideas are bloody awful, but this one seems not totally terrible.

“Why don’t I analyse some successful adverts and show business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs how they can swipe the ideas for their own adverts and posts?”, I thought.

See? Even typing it in quotation marks and reading it back… it still sounds like a good idea.

So, I’m going with it.

Before we crack on with today’s offering, a few points…

I will be featuring a few old school ads here from time to time.

You might think, “this newspaper ad from 1922 can’t teach me anything – I’m using FB posts…”, but don’t kid yourself.

Old school mailers, newspaper ads, and magazine articles were bloody expensive to print.

If it made it to press, you can presume a lot of work, effort, time and expertise went into every single inch of that advert.

Every photo was carefully chosen, every word earned its place.

Nothing was left to chance.

If a full-page advert ran for three days in the New York Times, you can bet a team of experts was sweating over it for weeks.

You see, and this nicely weaves to point number 2, even though advertising mediums change…

… psychological triggers don’t.

Copywriters in the 1900s had the same problems you do – they had to get their customer’s attention, create interest, build desire, and get them to take action.

Sure, in 1910, the “action” might have been cutting out a coupon and popping it in their vest pocket, rather than giving up their precious email so you could add them to your list…

… but the point is the same.

There’s no difference.

It’s not the medium that matters, it’s the psychology.

More on this in future posts.

For now, let’s crack on with episode number one of “Here’s one for you…”, with one of my favourite adverts of all time…

“Magic Baloney”

Actually, one more, tiny diversion.

I don’t hide that I’m a total Joe Sugarman fanboy, and this advert is my favourite of his.

(I’ll explain why in a second)

His “Adweek Copywriting Handbook” remains my most-thumbed copywriting book and I can’t think of a time when I haven’t learned something new after reading one of his ads.

Ok, ok… no more diversions. Here’s the ad:

… and here’s why I love it.

Most sales pages and adverts start brash and bold – they lay it on real thick with the reasons why you HAVE to buy this right now, but this ad does the opposite.

It starts by tearing the product apart.

Look at the subheading and the first couple of paragraphs:

He uses words like “yuck”, “cheap-looking”, and “a real loser” – hardly words you’d expect to find in an ad – especially at the beginning.

This must’ve been the first ad that made it clear to me that you didn’t have to follow a template.

You see, Sugarman knows that to make a sale, he’s going to have to enter the mind of his prospect.

And, after he puts a big-ass photo of the cheap, ugly looking box at the top of the ad, he knows his readers are thinking one thing…


There’s no point skirting the issue – it’s obvious to anyone blessed with the ability to see that this is not a chic looking thing.

In cases like this, you have to call it out.

Comedians do this all the time.

You ever see a comedy show and someone in the front row gets up to go to the bathroom?

The comedian’s right there with a zinger…

“Hey! I didn’t leave when you got here!”

“You know we’re gonna be timin’ you, right? On you marks… get set… GO!”

If the audience or reader is thinking it, you can’t gloss over it…

… you HAVE to mention it, so the audience knows that you know… if you know what I mean.

Once you’ve called it out, it’s your job to convince the reader why it doesn’t matter – something else Sugarman does brilliantly at the end of the advert:

Truth is, the name, how it looks, and the lack of a digital readout don’t affect how a thermostat performs.

As long as it makes your home feel toasty and warm on a cold and wet winter’s morning, it’s all good.

That’s what counts, so remind your customers of that.

How can you use this idea?

Own your flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections.

So what if you’re not the best [whatever the heck it is you do] on the planet…

.. who cares?

Call it out and then tell your customer why it doesn’t matter.

“OK, so I’m not the greatest copywriter on the planet but, you know what? I’m better than most. Also, not being #1 means you’re not gonna have to wait 6 months to have the privilege of paying me £250,000 for a single sales page.

Besides, you don’t need the best copywriter on the planet to make your offer work… you just need someone who knows what they’re doing and, even though I’ve only had three clients, look at the results they got…”

We have to fight the natural tendency to hide our blemishes and start owning them instead.

Be more Avis.

This is another point for another day, but your little blots and imperfections are actually the things that draw more clients to you.

Flaws make you more real than “Slick Rick” – the guy who carefully crafts every element of his public image.

People like edges – they want something they can get a firm grip on.

Flaws imbue a sense of honesty about you…

… like you’ve got nothing to hide.

So when writing copy, enter the conversation your customer is having in their head at every point of your offer.

  • What will they make of that photo?
  • What’s their likely response to this claim?
  • What questions are they likely to have?

If you have any flaws or weaknesses, draw attention to them…

… and then tell them why they shouldn’t care.