Today, I’m joined by none other than Jon Benson, who is the person that invented the Video Sales Letter! Now, if you don’t know exactly what a sales letter is, I guarantee you’ve seen them.
That’s right if you’re on the internet, maybe on social media and you see an advert that turns up with somebody making a video of them selling you their products. There have been countless of these, the famous ones from the Harmon Brothers, which were the ads straight down to Tai Lopez who had one that his entire career was launched off the back of a video sales letter.
It was many years before that, when Jon Benson came up with this concept, pioneered it, and brought it out. So I want to take a minute to welcome my good friend and also a copywriting genius. Jon Benson.
What’s the difference between a good headline and a clickbait headline in your mind?
Adam: What’s the difference between a good headline and a clickbait headline in your mind?
Jon: So we’re going to dismiss questions of ethics at the point, we’re going to talk just strictly copy. There is no difference. There’s no difference at all. The only purpose of a headline is to get somebody to read the sub-headline if there is one and if it’s not it’s to get somebody to read the answer, your copy. That’s it, that’s the only thing. Or to watch your video or whatever, that’s the only purpose of it.
So now that’s taking away any sort of- I talk a lot about ethical copywriting and how you do this in a way where you’re pushing the borders because you’re telling narrative stories. You’re, pushing, you’re cleverly exaggerating, but not lying, those kinds of things. So I’m not referring to “16 ways you can get rich overnight.” That’s a clickbaity headline, and it’s a good one from all the copy angles.
I would never write something like that, I would never do something like that in real life because it’s complete nonsense. But yeah, it would serve its purpose, it would get a click.
Then if my video started off, because the most important thing in this first five seconds of whatever you do, whether it’s your video, whether it’s your sales page, whether it’s your sub-headline, if you think of copy in a sense of walking down a chain of stairs, the object of the stair below, the one that you’re about to step on is to get to the one below it.
But the non-glamorous definition of a headline is something that will get you to read the next sentence.
That is the same thing with copy, only you’re going up or if you want to think of it in a more positive framework. But the non-glamorous definition of a headline is something that will get you to read the next sentence. And so that could be, “Man eats dog or man buys dog” or something like that. That’s where those “man buys dog” headlines come from. But I think where the art comes in is how do you do that without betraying your conscience or lying to your audience and things of that nature.
Adam: You have systems for something that everyone else believes is an art form. That isn’t to say this isn’t an art form because actually when you learn art, you learn actual good art also has systems and structure. You mentioned you tested four headlines for Onnit for Joe Rogan’s company that he’s part owner in, and you mentioned a positive headline and a negative headline. Is there a set other two? Knowing you, I’m guessing there is.
Jon: There were two negatives and two positives, and negatives outperformed positives.
Adam: That’s awesome. That’s so good. Okay. So with that being said, you’ve got this structure. I’m good friends with Ryan Deiss and Roland Frasier from digital marketer, and they spoke about how nowadays people often need 21 touch points before they make a purchase. This is something that they were talking about last year at The Traffic and Conversion Summit.
So my question to you is, do you talk a lot about running ads to a cold audience? Do you, specifically you, when you write copy, do you require 21 touch points to make a sale? Or do you just say, I am going to write the best advert in one go and it’s going to crush?
Jon: Okay. This is where this stupid human trick comes in. In fact, I’m coming out with a book on this called, The Four Hour Sales Letter, because I write my sales letters in about four hours. That’s not something most copywriters are going to talk about. Most copywriters usually don’t do that, so bear with me on this for a second. I’ve basically figured out over years of doing this how to, not only streamline the process but how to get into a specific character in a flow state that allows me to write almost as fast as I type, and an hour or two of that process is done editing.
So I’m talking about getting through a 6,000-7,000 word sales letter in less than a day. Now, that does get people’s skepticism up, and rightfully so, but I’ve proven it many times.
In fact, I wrote the Onnit letter in four hours. Somebody might read one of my letters or something and go, yeah, I can tell you wrote it in four hours, it sucks! But, I’ve written my best sales letters in a day.
I wrote “Truth About Abs” in four hours, I wrote “Every Other Day” in four hours, I could go down the line of all the stuff I’ve written and roughly four hours, give or take an hour, depending on the mood. I think I’m a naturally gifted writer in some ways, but I’m not like a naturally gifted, rapid-fire kind of guy. I just applied the same principles that I use in bodybuilding, I applied them to writing and it sounds ridiculous, but it works. It works for me.
I’m not saying it’s going to work for everybody but imagine how much more productive you could get if you do that? With that scope, with that mindset, you can’t possibly have the, “I’m going to get 21 touch points” in my brain rattling around. I’m only concerned with how strong is the unique identity brand that I’m creating? Or the hook, how strong is my hook? If my hook is super strong, I can write the thing in an hour.
Adam: So for somebody who’s listening, what exactly is a hook in your mind?
Jon: Okay, so we’ll go through a couple of hooks, P90X had muscle confusion, which they stole from Joe Weider. Budweiser beer back in the seventies had Beechwood aged, is anyone old enough to remember that? I am, unfortunately. Well, I was, I’m fairly old enough to remember it, but I do remember it, Beechwood age for that great taste.
I can’t remember the rest of it but that was drilled into my head. I was like three years old because I was watching football a lot and there were a lot of beer rushers in football. That made them billions literally with a B, billions of dollars. Well, every beer is Beechwood. They just coined a term that was common for mostly every beer and that’s a unique identity brain muscle confusion.
What is a Sales Hook?
It’s a unique position for something that when somebody hears it, somebody hears a hook, or I call it a UIB. In CopyPro it’s called the primary solution, which I like a lot because of the, “my number one solution for this problem is something I call blank.” So if you finish that sentence, the best solution to your problem is something I call or something experts are now calling blank.
If you say experts are now calling counting calories, that doesn’t make any sense. If you think you’re selling, I’m using weight loss as an example. If you’re selling a weight loss product and the solution is something I call counting calories, that’s going to be a comedic line that people are going to laugh at. But if you say a solution is something I call Macronutrient Cycling, well, I just said sort of counting calories. It’s your version of the words, right?
It sounds like macro cycling. What is that all about? It’s a different way of thinking about it. Now, Macro recycling, I talk about macro recycling in my hook for Every Other Day Diet, you cycle macronutrients, which are proteins, carbs, and fats. So you cycle them in and out of meals. Fats have nine calories per gram and the rest have four. So you naturally cycle your calories. So, you’re reducing calories, without knowing it per se.
But the point is that it’s just another way of looking at something that makes somebody go, “oh wow. That’s maybe why I haven’t succeeded.” Or “maybe that’s why that beer would taste better. Oh, it’s Beechwood age, that’s special.” It’s not lying, this is what I want to get across, the, “what I’m saying is not lying.”
In my example, I am cycling macronutrients throughout the week, and beer and Beechwood age, they just coined the term. So they’re obviously in line, they just created the term as far as I know. So you’re not making stuff up. You’re just making it sound really awesome, and that hook is so important because you can say we’re the only beer that is Beechwood aged.
What are the only four things people will ever buy?
Adam: So I was hanging out with some copywriters the other day and this discussion came up about the only four things that human beings will ever buy. Somebody proposed that there are essentially only four things that somebody would promote them to buy or get them to buy, prompt them to buy. They said people will buy to make more money. They will buy to save money or to prevent a loss of money. They will buy to heal themselves from a problem. And they will buy to make their life better, like go on a vacation or a big cruise ship or something. Would you agree with those four, would you say there are any missing?
Jon: I think it’s more basic than that. I think people buy something to get out of pain is the number one reason. Anybody buys anything to get out of pain, whether that’s emotional, spiritual, or financial, that’s the primary impetus to all human behaviors, escaping pain. The more conscious humans are, the more they gain, the more well-being is added to that mixture. But let’s take something that you and I both know a lot about and that’s the dating market.
People buy something to get out of pain is the number one reason.
So people would buy dating products or products on improving their relationships because they’re in fear of losing their loved one or never having met their loved one. But they want the pleasure of being in that relationship. They want the pleasure of having more sex or whatever it is that they’re buying. Right?
So there’s a mixture there, but this psychology basically is a 75/25 split between avoidance of some pain and the gain of pleasure, which is, you know, I’m not saying anything new here. I’m not exactly cracking the egg here on nookie or psychology for that matter. It just is what it is.
That’s the way we’re motivated. You can take those things and break them down to what are the most pain-driven points in life. And by far it’s the three areas of relationships that cause relationship doom. Money, sex, and kids. I think to me, I would say intimacy, communication, trust, but I’m operating on a different level there because I choose, I don’t like to be on that other level..
Adam: I love it. I absolutely love it. So is there a structure at all that you follow? Obviously, there’s a hook at the beginning and then we want to talk to this pain, and we want to deal with the emotion of what the person’s feeling. But is there a set structure or do you just freeform it?
Jon: No, I freeform it based on the structures and based on things I’ve done over the years. With Accelerator, I created a five-step formula to this very day used for most video sales letters. CopyPro obviously is the definition of structure, it’s a machine.
The Five Part structure to any Sales Letter
Adam: Yeah, it’s an amazing piece of kit. It’s really powerful. Okay, so that’s the kind of structure, you mentioned a five-part structure earlier. What is that? What’s the five-part structure?
Jon: The five-step BSL process that I’ve walked people through from a VSL. By the way, there are multiple components under each one of these five steps, okay? So you’re starting off with a pattern interrupt.
If you’re starting off with getting attention without getting attention in a VSL, you’re destined to fail. You are so destined to fail really fast without cracking the code of attention. So that’s the very first thing we talk about inside the VSL formula, what do you do to gain attention?
Sales Letter Step One
We have different things for that, for example, I call step one, the snap suggestion. The reason why is because you are going to drop a suggestion as you snap your fingers and snap somebody’s attention, you’re scratching the CD of a brain to get somebody’s attention. That should be the very first step of any sales letter, whether it be a headline, whether it be the first sentence that you write, it should be something that snaps somebody to attention.
You can do this in many different ways. Let’s say it’s a VSL and there’s no headline. The very first line on the Onnit VSL is “she walked through my door a shattered woman.”
Adam: Wow. Why is she a shattered woman? Who are you pushed through the door?
Jon: So, right there, I mean, I walked into the middle of a story and I’m selling a supplement on mood. I mean, he’s like, where is this going from here, you know? I don’t know if they’re going to use the Hollywood story that I wrote, but we loved it. The point is, there’s a pattern and you’re not thinking that’s going to happen. I stopped that sentence and people kind of want to know, they’re asking questions right now. And the word shattered is just so visceral. So that’s a snap suggestion.
Sales Letter step Two: The Vital Connection
Step two is what I call, the vital connection, and that’s about building rapport. You build rapport in a way that we talked about, you build rapport by validating someone’s pain. By seeking to understand in words, in a one-way conversation. The best way to do that is to say, “I have felt that pain myself.” So whatever your customer is feeling, you want to go back to a time when you felt it yourself and tell a short story around that. If you haven’t felt it yourself, you say one of my closest friends, your wife, your husband, your child, a patient, whatever it may be, tell their story. You must connect.
Sales Letter Step Three: The Big Problem
Step three is the big problem, you define what their problem is and you make it bigger. Okay? Because let’s say they think they need to lose 20 pounds. The vast majority of people in an audience, if I say, “how many people here want to lose weight, no judgment? Raise your hand.” They’ll raise their hand. I’ll say, “raise your hand and tell me, what’s your number one problem when it comes to that,” and they’ll say things like, “my biggest problem is I just love desserts. Or, my biggest problem is that I got 30 pounds and my doctor wants me to lose it. I got a high school reunion coming up.”
So what I do is I say, you may think to yourself, Hey, my doctor told me I don’t need to lose 30 pounds. Or maybe you got a high school reunion coming up, but did you know that for every pound of excess fat you carry, you can lose up to six months of your life? I just made that up.
Adam: Yeah, of course. But still, it’s powerful. The impacts, right?
Jon: It’s actually like a month. It’s actually not too far away from that, but in there that’s over a meta-analysis study. Now I’ll quote the study. That’s pretty scary as it is, but do you realize that the patterns you’re laying down right now, the way you’re eating, the way that you’re moving, and the way you’re not moving are being seen by your children and your grandchildren and those that love you? Do you see where I’m going with this?
I just made their problem a ton bigger than what they think it is, and the reason why is because it is! Anything I said wasn’t a lie and I wanted everyone to hear this. Nothing I said was a lie. I didn’t say, “if you don’t eat right, you’re going to die of stage four cancer tomorrow.” That would be a lie. “If you don’t change, if you don’t lose what you want, here are the problems that can happen.” So that’s the big problem- bigger solutions.
Sales Letter Step Four: The Solution
Step four, that’s all about the solution. Your solution is bigger than their problem, and that’s the whole primary solution thing. “You might have heard it’s about counting calories or about being on a strict diet or about doing without desserts or about this. But you know what the real problem is and the real answer to your problem is something I call blank,” and you talk about what that is.
And of course, that brings in the final step, which is what I call the grand offer. That’s what your offer is and why your offer is irresistible. And that’s all. These are multi-component steps obviously, but that’s it.
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