January 22nd, 2014 by Bob Bly
Subscriber DN, whom we heard from last week, asked yet another
“Bob, I’ve purchased information products from you, and found
your information to be sound, but nowhere near as good as your
sales letter makes it out to be.”
Talk about a back-handed compliment….
She continues: “I am sure your refund rates would reduce if you
avoid the hype, clever copy, and amplification in your sales
letters … but so would your sales. You can’t have it both ways.
So what say you?”
DN raises an extremely important point that I have struggled
with daily in my 34 years as a professional copywriter –
namely, balancing the promise of benefits in the sales copy with
the delivery of those benefits by the product.
A common piece of advice to marketers is to under-promise and
The idea is that customers are happy when they get what they
paid for … but are ecstatically happy when they get MORE than
they thought they had any right to expect for their money.
My friend, ace Internet marketer Fred Gleeck, has a rule of
thumb: the product should be so good that if the customer had
paid 10X the price, he would still be happy and not ask for a
That ratio is sensible in theory, but difficult to achieve in
For instance, one of my copywriting heroes, GB, sold a $5,000
copywriting boot camp to his list – an amazing feat in today’s
troubled economic times.
As good as it no doubt was, I am not sure the attendees would
have felt they got their money’s worth if they had paid $50,000
each. Or that he would have gotten any registrations at that
So here are the rules I follow as a copywriter and an
information marketer when writing my sales letters and creating
1-Write the strongest sales copy possible within the limitations
of being ethical and truthful.
Remember, you must convince the reader that your product can
solve their problem … and do so more ably than competing
Your competitors are pulling out all the stops in their copy. So
yours can’t be meek and mild.
2-When in doubt, it is in fact better to under-promise and
over-deliver. The customer should feel that she has gotten more
than her money’s worth.
3-Do not deliberately set the bar so low in your copy that you
write bland, ultra-safe promotions. When you do so, you won’t
4-If you feel compelled to write low-key copy as an apology for
a mediocre product, you should instead write the strongest copy
you can – and then improve your product so it will delight
anyone who buys in response to that copy.
My copywriting teacher at NYU, the late Milt Pierce, told us
that he was hired to write a direct mail package to sell a book
written by a famous interior decorator.
When the marketing director got Milt’s draft, she gasped: “This
is great copy – but this isn’t what’s in the book,” she
“It should be,” Milt countered. He says the publisher made the
author rewrite the book to deliver on all the promises made in
5-There is a rule of thumb that refund rates on info products
should be less than 10% and ideally 5% or less. Our refund rate
a few years ago was around 2%.
Now, selling those same products, the refund rate is 5.2% for
the year to date. The most common reason for the refund request
by far: “This product has a copyright date of 2010 or earlier
and therefore I think it is out of date.” They are wrong, of
course, but you can’t fight city hall, which is why we are in a
massive program of updating our core info products.
Some argue that a zero refund rate is bad, because it means your
copy was so mild, it did not make enough strong promises. I
understand the logic of this theory, though I would not object
to a zero refund rate.
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