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The Adweek Copywriting Handbook By Joseph Sugarman

in Books

If you can make your words wobble and your sentences shimmy, you, my expert, can create high-ROI Facebook ads.

To do that, I recommend reading and writing–at least a little–every day.

One of the best books to start with is Joseph Sugarman’s The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.  I’m cruising through it for a second time this weekend and I thought I’d share some of my notes.  I’ll apply ’em to Facebook advertising when possible.  Enjoy.

1) Curiosity, life experience and a willingness to work are traits that make for a good copywriter.  Knowing everything about what you’re selling and the customers who’re buying it doesn’t hurt, either.  (Since you and I are essentially selling what we do best to people just like us, that’s automatic.)

2) Just get something down, even if it’s terrible.  Pen, meet paper.  Fingertips, meet keyboard.  (How you doin’?)  Get your repetitions in, and stop beating yourself up over every sentence.  Knock out a first draft and revise from there.  Rewriting is the essence of writing.

3) Everything in an advertisement has one purpose: to get someone to read the first line of copy.  That’s it.  And the first line of copy?  Yep, you guessed it: its sole purpose is to entice you to read the second line.  And so on.  Dominoes, dawg.

Knowing that, I try to write Facebook ads that start out with short, easy-to-read sentences that call out my best buyers.  (“Attention coaches,” “For experts only,” “What if,” “Quick question,” etc.)

4) Go for yeses, early and often.  The minute someone disagrees or gets confused or thinks, “this isn’t for me,” you’ve lost.

Application: make accurate, truthful statements and share stories prospects will relate to.

Here’s an example, from one of my own ads, where I point out how frustrating it is trying to learn Facebook ads in the beginning:

Man was it overwhelming:

You got all the gurus talkin’ ’bout Power Editor this, pixel that, Leadpages, ClickFunnels, custom audiences… oh my!

It’s enough to give a homie a headache.  Amiright?

Anyone who reads that and nods their head and thinks, “Yeah, totally,” is now in harmony with my copy.  Stack as many of those small yeses as you can before asking for an action, such as a webinar registration or opt in.

5) Grab the lube.  Then promptly forget any dirty thoughts you just had, weirdo.  We need it for the “slippery slide” Mr. Sugarman wants you to build with every ad you publish.

So before you place that order for $100 a day in Ads Manager, look that thing over one last time and make sure it has “reading gravity.”  If you notice any sticky points, well, apply more lube until it flows, effortlessly, from the first to last word.

6) Plant “tease seeds.”  Not to be confused with these seeds or seeds that sprout strippers.  But copy cliffhangers that leave readers curious enough to continue to the next sentence or paragraph.  (“So read on.”  “But that’s not even the best part.”  “I’ll explain.”  “What happened next was pretty shocking, even to me.”)

7) Sit your audience in a recliner, crack ’em a cold one and hand over the remote.  In other words, make ’em comfy.

I’m doing that now with formatting: distraction-free blog design, big font, lots of white space; and with a writing tone that’s fun and friendly–not stiff and salesy.

8) Words are weapons.  Since each one has an emotion attached to it, choose carefully.

In the last business I blew up with Facebook ads, my partner and I taught local lead generation to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Problem was, even though the model was great, it wasn’t sexy.  Nobody cared about “local lead generation” or “search engine optimization.”

So what’d I do?  I came up with better words.

I went away from technical terms and instead promoted the idea of “renting little websites.”  Aaand?  Bingo!  Everybody wanted that.  As a result, my newsfeed ads went from so-so to oh-no-we-need-more-sales-guys practically overnight.

9) Copy can never be too long if it’s intensely interesting to those reading it.  And typically, the more you charge, the more copy you need to justify the price.  It’s not about long versus short, though–it’s about making your ad thorough enough to achieve the desired result.

And what I’ve seen after spending close to a million of my own dollars on Facebook ads is this: longer copy beats the brakes off shorter copy.  At least, with cold traffic.  The warmer the audience, the less convincing needed… and so, you can get away with shorter copy.

10) Make it personal.  Write copy as if you were speaking to one person in person.  Use I, you, me.  I like to introduce myself after the first couple of paragraphs in a long copy Facebook ad, then sign off at the end.  Seems to help.

11) Anticipate questions and answer them.  Same for objections.  This is what makes great copy “flow.”  For example, in my website rental ads, I knew there’d be skeptics.  So I addressed them head-on:

Which brings up one last objection:

“If it’s such a great internet business, why share it with us?”

Valid question.  Here’s why:

There’s hundreds of types of local businesses and thousands of cities worldwide.

So when you do the math, that means there’s MILLIONS of niches where you can apply this… without stepping on anyone else’s toes.

Like I said, I’ve been at it for 8 years now; and haven’t even made it outta my own home town.

So why not “double dip” and help other online entrepreneurs along the way?  Ya know?

Notice this has zero to do with being a wordsmith–and everything to do with using common sense.

12) Trim the fat.  While longer copy gives you more opportunity to persuade, being wordy is not the goal.  If you can say the same thing in fewer words, do so.  Nobody wants to get stuck halfway down your slide.

13) Avoid “me too” marketing.  Any idiot can follow-the-guru and fire up an ad touting some “Simple 7-Step System” that’ll explode business.  And that’s cool, if you like grazing with all the other sheeple.  But I don’t.  So if I see a word, a phrase or a sentence that’s even semi-cliché?  I take it out.  So does Sugarman.

14) Creep on leads and customers, but not in a creepy way.

When someone likes your fanpage, check out their profile.  When someone opts in, send an email and ask ’em what they need help with most.  If you’re selling over the phone, read every application that comes in.  Take notes.  A little snooping goes a long way in writing winning ads.

15) Use as many psychological triggers as you can:

  • Feeling of involvement or ownership: what’s it like to be a client of yours?
  • Honesty: are you pointing out your flaws?
  • Integrity: does your content look like you give a damn?
  • Credibility: do you walk the walk?
  • Value: are you supplying enough logic to support an emotional decision to buy?
  • Justification: is it clear that your big ticket product or service is worth it?
  • Greed: everyone wants a good deal–what bonuses can you include?
  • Authority: are you effectively demonstrating your expertise?
  • Satisfaction conviction: is your offer so bold that your program has to be incredible?
  • Understanding: what emotional needs are you solving?
  • Timing: why your program, why now?
  • Linking: what analogy or association do you use to make your program easily understood?
  • Desire to belong: what status does a client gain by doing business with you?
  • Curiosity: what can you keep behind-the-curtain that they can only experience after purchasing?
  • Urgency: why should they take immediate action?  (But, for the love of God, please, no artificial scarcity.)
  • Instant gratification: can new clients begin removing pain or increasing pleasure right away?
  • Exclusivity: are you making clients feel special?
  • Simplicity: is your offer, the buying process and delivery as straightforward as possible?
  • Storytelling: are you using stories to capture and hold attention, entertain and bond with prospects?
  • Specificity: do you provide specific facts to boost believability?
  • Familiarity: are you consistent in your tone, style, layout, ad schedule, etc.?
  • Hope: is there sufficient evidence that buying from you will provide a future benefit?

16) Sell a cure not a preventive.  Cures sell easier and command higher fees.

That’s it.  Hope you got something from my notes.  If so, a Share would sure be sweet.


About the author: husband; father x 3; runs; does push-ups; likes hip-hop more than he should; raised blue collar, graduated white collar, wears a popped collar; thinks copywriting is cool; makes a mean Facebook ad; to see case studies, opt-in to his non-douchey email list.