18 Copywriting Lessons From One Of The Best

The following is from my good friend, and copy mentor, Mike Abramov. He’s one of the best copywriters in the biz and a downright badass at everything internet marketing and making money online. Everyone should be on his newsletter >> https://mikeabramov.com

From the desk of Mike Abramov,

Over the past two years, I’ve had the privilege of working on 35+ high-level financial and health promos, directly under two of the best in the business:

Aaron Winter and Dan Ferrari over at The Dig Agency.

It’s been a wild ride with so many hard-won lessons, I wouldn’t know where to start.

That’s why every weekday this past January, I challenged myself to pop open my laptop, and write down the first marketing insight that came to mind.

The folks I shared them with really dug them.

Hopefully you will too:

Table of Contents

#1 My best advice for an up-and-comer is the same advice I’d give a seasoned vet: 

Read a promo a day. Write at least 500 words a day. That’s it. Do that, and you’ll hit every deadline. And you’ll keep your finger on the pulse of this fast-moving business of ours.

#2 Want to skyrocket the readership of your next email, advertorials, sales letter, you name it? 

Copy and paste your subheads into a separate doc. Then read them aloud. Now ask yourself: “Can someone read only the subheads and still get a full picture of my sales argument?” If not, you have work to do. The next step is throwing in a few open loops at the end of your subheads as a way to stop skimmers dead in their tracks.

#3 In the paraphrased words of legendary A-lister David Deutsch: “Sometimes, the best way to sell a big turkey, is to just say ‘hey, I’m selling a big turkey.’” 

Translation? Stop complicating your ideas. It makes them weaker, not stronger. I could keep writing about simplicity in copy, but the irony might be too much to handle.

#4 Argumentative structure is one of the most overlooked concepts in copywriting. 

The way your logic flows is more important than the emotion behind it. Yeah, I said it. So if you’re struggling with where to take your reader next, ask yourself:

“Based on what I’ve told the reader up to this point, what are they asking themselves now? And how can I share the answer in the most compelling way possible?”

The key is to not get predictable. Copy follows a logical flow, but it should have twists in turns within that logic.

#5 Most copywriters tie in their guru’s backstory so loosely, their message falls flat. 

The real magic? Weaving the backstory in a way that makes the reader believe the guru is the only person on the planet who could’ve brought the product to market, because their life circumstance forced it out of them.

They didn’t just do it “just because.” Nor because they were asked for it. They did it because something happened in their life that moved them on such a deep level, they felt morally obligated to find a solution.

#6 Being a copywriter/marketer/ whatever you want to call this business of ours is a lot like being a physical therapist. 

When a patient (client) complains about a knee problem (sales page), you get to decide if it’s true. You diagnose that by looking at how well their ENTIRE body (funnel) functions.

Because here’s what most Copy Chiefs won’t tell you: the most crucial step in writing a winning promo is choosing the right one to tackle in the first place. What better way to find out than taking a holistic look at the data at every step in the funnel?

#7 When I was roommates with Ian Stanley last year, one of the biggest lessons I got was: “Breaks are the key to breakthroughs.” 

We used to play FIFA and Madden at 8AM almost every day. (Guess who won?) At first, I felt guilty for not being productive. But in a sense, allowing myself to take time off was me being productive. Because the second we’d hit the local coffee shop to get some work done, I felt ready to rock. Despite not “crushing” my morning.

Today, I’d encourage you to go for a hike, try a new recipe for dinner, or watch some Netflix — anything that’s not work. You’ll be shocked at how refreshed you feel afterward.

#8 The most pivotal decision in any supplement promo is whether you share just one ingredient or all of them before the product. 

The answer is in the research. Either there’s a single ingredient that’s novel enough to carry the promo, or the magic is in the specific combination of them.

#9 You’ve researched the product. You know the market like the back of your hand. This, unfortunately, is where amateur copywriters stop. 

Because the glue that holds e everything together is an “occasion” for your message. A justification for why they’re hearing about the product today of all days.

Why not last week? Why not next week?

An occasion gives context to your message, a newness factor, and urgency for why to act now. Because no one cares about your health promo is you cite research from 2015. It’s 6 years later, why am I just hearing about this now?

#10 Ask 10 different marketers, you’ll get 10 different answers as to what the point of a mechanism is. 

“Well Mike, the mechanism differentiates the product. It explains how and why it works unlike anything before it. It makes the solution new.” OK, but there’s a secondary function you’re forgetting: to absolve the reader of any fear, shame, guilt, or pain they feel for having a problem and not being able to fix it.

Take someone who can’t sleep. They’ve tried nighttime teas that wake them to pee an hour later. The impossible task of staying off your phone before bed. Enough melatonin to tranquilize an elephant.

So introducing a new mechanism, sure, explains why your solution is better. But it also removes any darker emotions that come with trying things in the past, and failing.

The easiest way to do that is with a line like: “Knowing that [mechanism] tackles the true, root cause of [problem], it makes sense why nothing else has worked for you in the past, doesn’t it?

That’s why today is the day everything changes for you.” In other words, your mechanism isn’t just about making your product shiny and new. It’s about instilling hope.

#11 Too many writers write for other writers, when they should write for readers. 

The reader doesn’t care about your command of the English language. They do, however, care about clear, simple sentences. Don’t get me wrong: skillful writing is important.

But part of skillful writing is personality. Which means using sentences that the Hemingway App says are too long, because they break the monotony of your 5-word lines.

Using adverbs, because you know what? Adverbs are how people talk. (Seriously.) And it means letting go of the idea that there’s some English professor, red pen in hand, ready to grade every word. On the other side of your writing is a regular person.

They just want a solution to their problem. Why complicate their journey?

#12 Direct response is one big game of “let’s throw spaghetti against the wall and hope it sticks.” 

Which means test everything. Then, continue to do so, for as long as you’d like to make money. This might seem obvious, yet you’d be surprised at how many marketers stop relentlessly testing a year into the game.

#13 Rookie business owners focus solely on the front end. Smart business owners know the relationship between their front end and back end is a two-way street. 

For example: let’s say you have a back end offer that’s going bonkers. Why not package up a smaller version of that same product, and launch it on the front end?

Just like that, you’ve created a “new traffic source” for a product you know for a fact has interest.

#14 The most underutilized weapon a copywriter has when writing upsells is the open loop. 

After all, the goal of your upsell copy is to get read. And for the new customer to reach an offer that’s such a no-brainer, the selling is done for you. What easier way to do that than by dangling an open loop about the product they just bought?

Treat each upsell like a “fast-start guide” to their original purchase, and I can almost guarantee response soars.

#15 This touches on an earlier point, but stop trying to be “perfect” or “impressive.” 

No one cares as much as you think they do. Even if something is “perfect” to you, the client or customer wouldn’t know that.

So the next time you find yourself massaging the same sentence over and over, ask yourself: “What am I really trying to say here?” From there, jot down the first sentence that comes to mind and move forward.

As you edit later, you’ll find the reason you were so hyper-focused on that one line is because you viewed it in isolation. Few sentences stand on their own. But string multiple together — in their most clear forms — and everything sounds more like a symphony. 

#16 If you’re writing a listicle — one of those “7 things every investor must know” or “5 foods to never eat” — the worst thing you can do is give away the goods without making the reader EARN it. 

One, it’s boring. Two, you’re wasting an opportunity to sell in between each item on the list.

#17 The two most significant levers when writing a free + shipping offer (other than the offer itself) are as follows: 

1) Who is the offer coming from? Often, you can sell a book just by hyping up who the author is, what they’ve done, and how they’re back to reveal something new to the public. The book must be highly-anticipated for a long time.

2) The offer has to have a “social craze” aspect to it. I’m talking endless testimonials. Unboxing photos and videos. Stats on how many copies sold. All for the simple fact that folks want to be part of a movement.

Pair a famous author with a breakthrough piece of work that’s sweeping the nation, and you’re unstoppable. If you’re offer isn’t a book, same principles stand.

#18 I started this by saying I’ve worked on 35+ high-level financial and health promos in the past two years. Here’s what I left out: 

Not all were winners. Sure, some were home runs. Revolutionized the publisher’s business forever. Others did well, but nothing to write home about.

(True story: I had a promo hit a million bucks in less than 48 hours, but the publisher projected higher, so they cut it. This was my first “Welcome To The Big Leagues, Kid” moment.)

And some promos did so poorly, I quested whether I was cut out to be a writer. Why am I sharing this? Because you don’t see many copywriters talk about losses. They’re too “perfect” for that.

But in reality, we all lose sometimes. And the best advice on the topic I got was from Aaron Winter — my former Copy Chief. He explained that being a copywriter was like being a professional baseball player.

Even The Greats only bat 300. Which means every 10 swings they take, they only hit 3 of them — and they’re the cream of the crop. If you’re a copywriter, it’s the same thing.

If you write 10 promos a year, chances are, 1-2 might set the internet on fire. 5 or 6 are going to do alright. And the remaining 2-3 are going to be so bad, you’ll wonder if you should switch careers. This is all normal.

It’s how the copy game is played. What’s been helpful for me after a huge loss is a “post mortem” call with the client. If they’re not open for that, do it with a group of copywriters of a coach you trust. Figure out where the message went wrong. Learn from it.

Then keep writing, keep going, and KEEP SWINGING.

That’s all I got.

Just a few marketing thoughts I figured you’d get a kick out of. 
Thank you for reading.

Mike Abramov