Conscious Control: Greed Works ... but too Well?
Ever hear of a man named Henry George? Einstein, Tolstoy and Churchill were big supporters of his. He wrote a book called "Progress and Poverty." He ran for mayor of New York City in 1886 and outpolled Teddy Roosevelt. George probably is best known for his single tax theory and, if I understand it correctly, the thought that people and companies should earn money based on the value of what they contribute, rather than on our current supply-and-demand system.
It's tricky to assign value, of course. Should Britney Spears earn so much more than a really good grade school teacher? Is improving the bottom line always the best mission for a company?
I was thinking about this recently when I received a mailing from the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI). I receive a lot of direct mail and e-mail from AWAI. Pretty much all of it is superb direct response copyengaging, powerful and, I imagine, quite effective in generating revenue.
The Johnson box on this particular AWAI letter (which runs 12 pages) reads:
I've Averaged a Million Dollars or More Every Year Since 1997!
Without Being a CEO, Owning a Business or Inheriting Money ...
... This Simple Craft Is the Quickest Way I Know to Get Rich.
The letter continues:
Dear AWAI Student,
The quote above is from Clayton Makepeace, a freelance copywriter. And it's absolutely true.
I'll tell you more about Clayton in a minute, and the secret to how he makes so much money. But first let's talk about what you're doing in your life.
There's a nice rhythm established with that emphatic sentence fragment in the first paragraph, a wonderful confiding tone in the second, and a terrific conversational ploy that switches the topic to you, the reader.
After a subhead that reads, "Have You Decided How You're Going to Achieve Your Personal and Financial Goals?" the letter goes on to say that:
If your primary goal is to change your life ...
... Make the most money in the shortest period of time ...
... Free yourself from the daily grind of an ordinary job ...
Then it makes sense to specialize in writing for the market that typically pays the highest fees, doesn't it?
If you order the Secrets of Writing for the Financial Market course offered in this package, you get a special
report, "Writing Copy for Financial Service," with 10 winning controls analyzed by Denny Hatch (founder and former editor of this newsletter). This alone gives the course value.
But here's my "raising consciousness" question: Is there value in making people think they can get rich quickly and easily if they spend $399 for a course?
What percentage of the people who buy this course go on to make a decent living as a copywriter? I'm really curious.
The letter does a mighty good job convincing me that writing for financial markets truly is "the fastest, simplest, most effective way ... to take your copywriting career to the next level and make life-changing money."
"Life-changing money" is a great phrase, isn't it? So are: "The floodgates are open, my friend," and, "It will shave years off your learning curve."
All 12 pages of the letter are well-written. There are subheads in a second color that build curiosity and momentum to act:
Niche Markets Offer Fertile Ground for Financial Copywriters
Why the Market Is So Huge
Internet Growth Spells More Opportunity for You
Now Is the Time!
Get the Inside Scoop from the Best Financial Copywriters in the Business
There's a special sidebar, a letter written by Clayton Makepeace (the one whose income "has averaged well over $1 million a year since 1997"). It starts:
Hi. My name is Clayton Makepeace. My father was a Methodist minister who never made more than $500 a month in his life. We didn't know we were poor, but we were. Dirt poor.
But at a very young age, I was determined to change that.
Clayton's letter goes on to recount his rise from a $1.60-an-hour job working in a lettershop in Oklahoma to today when "I make SEVEN FIGURES, and live the lifestyle that accompanies it."
There's no doubt a very good copywriter created this mailing. So anywhere you look in the 12-page letter you'll find more and more compelling reasons to buy this course. And just as repetition works to create better sentences and paragraphs, repetition works to pile on reasons to buy.
You're told not once, but five times about the list of potential clients to get you started ... the comprehensive course book ... and the set of five audio CDs, "Conversations With the Masters," where you get to hear from Makepeace and Bill Hebden (who "wrote an auto insurance package that not only doubled the response of the prior control but remained unbeaten for more than a decade, mailing an average of 90 million names a year over a period of 11 years. More than a BILLION mailed!").
You're told not once, but four times that, "There's absolutely no risk to you."
And you're reassured repeatedly with copy lines like these:
In less than a month, this program could have you earning money for writing highly effective
financial letters ... and feeling satisfied knowing that you're living up to your potential. ...
It only takes a few years to make a million dollars at this rate. ...
But even if you did half that well, one-quarter that well, or even one-tenth that well, you'd still be making over a hundred thousand dollars in a single year!
All good copywritersall good sales peopleknow that to persuade your prospects to buy your product, you have to stand on common ground with them. You have to learn what their needs and wants are.
Then you tell prospects about the products you have that can meet those needs. You tell them how much better their lives will be if they buy your product.
This letter from AWAI does a fabulous job at all of this.
Is it kosher? I can't answer that one. Once I got so cynical about my work that I told my grandmother not to send her $15 in to an appeal mailing for a nonprofit organization I wrote for. It will just go to pay for their big, new building and huge, new staff, I told her.
What's the mission of your organization or your work? Is it simply to pull in more money? Is it giving value, in whatever form that takes for you? There's no easy, right answer here, just something to think about.