In this Fast Class video, Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute teaches marketers how to write high-impact copy (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingExperiments). He uses an
email headline experiment that resulted in a 104% increase in leads to illustrate the concepts.
The Marketer as Philosopher book – 40 Brief Reflections on the Power of Your Value
McGlaughlin: Marketer, I am writing three words on this board. These three
words begin a headline in a recent experiment, “Engage X for.”
analyze them, but before we do that ask yourself a question. What are the first
three words you are using right now on an important headline? An important
headline in your email, or in your landing page. Because it is not enough to
hear me teach, you have to think of how you can apply this immediately to your
So, three words
“Engage X for,” these words were built by the brand in their best-performing
page. Notice however, that the first word is “Engage,” that is a sales word.
And it actually tells you to do something the company wants you to do.
“Engage X” (“X”
stands for their brand) “Engage X for.” Indeed, the Marketer writing this may
be a superb communicator, but right now, they are communicating the wrong
Now, I am not
saying that as a matter of opinion. But in our lab we ran 20,000+ treatments
and experiments, and tests like this. And we tested this, the new headline said
“X gives you.” Those are the first three words we used. They could be improved.
But even still, this approach, which began not with what the company wants you
to do, but with what you can get from the company.
That shift in
orientation, that shift in messaging strategy, was part of the new email that
we sent. And the new email outperformed the old email by 104%. To be clear, the
new email more than doubled the amount of leads.
So what can we
learn? There are three keys. In the next three minutes I am going to unpack
them. I want this to be as helpful and as dense as possible. Let’s learn them
The power in
this approach comes from an implied value proposition. It begins with the first
key. A “reason-centric copy.” What does that mean? It means that you should
focus the email not on what you want them to do for you, but the reason that
the two headlines in full, “Engage X for your physician’s social media
strategy”– eight words.
Let’s look at
the next one, “X gives you immediate access to over 120,000 doctors,” that is
eight words and one number. And the difference is profound.
approach gives you a reason, not just any reason, but a specific value-proposition-focused
reason. It helps to answer this question, “Why should I select your
organization over XYZ?” – that is my other options – why should I choose you
over the other options?
That brings me
to the second critical concept, the second principle. Don’t just uses reason-centric
copy, but use quantitative copy. Now, the second principle ties tightly into
the first. Because it’s not enough to give them a reason, it’s not enough
unless they believe the reason you give.
the two approaches in these two emails. The first one says “need to engage,” by
the way, terrible. We are saying the same thing we said in the headline. We are
saying it in a different way and we are saying it in a confusing way. “Need to
engage practicing physicians?” ”learn how.”
I don’t want to
learn, I don’t want to work. But you are now asking me to work. How to use “X”
physician-only social media tools to conduct research and create product
awareness. Long, drab, painful.
Now let’s look
at the opening line of the second email, “X is the largest social network of
verified US physicians, representing 68 specialties. Physicians spend 35,000
hours per month on ‘X,’ discussing drugs, medical products, and procedures.”
Do you see how
different the second approach is? It is giving you quantitative information.
Studies have shown over and over again, studies in our own research program, that
when we quantify, we help people believe. Now instead of hammering them again
with vague words, and a notion of what we want them to do, we are giving them
further reasons why they at least ought to put us in the consideration set.
If they believe
these reasons, they will also be believing the essence of the value
proposition. So these first two principles are critical, but let me share a
third and final principle.
Notice how the call-to-action for the first email is “get started.” Get is a
word we often use in a call-to-action. But they use it in exactly the wrong
with a free 30-minute demo.” Well that sounds like a value to them. But that’s
not what I hear as a prospective customer. I have to start by obligating myself
to giving you information so that I have to get on a phone call and listen to
you people try to sell me. Every aspect of that call-to-action has implied
What we’ve done
in a sequenced copy is we have matched the ask to the exact place they are in
the sequence of thought. We don’t optimize for web pages or emails, we optimize
for the sequence of thought. So the call the action for the second approach is
“see how X works.”
Now if you are
a marketer and this is turning a light on for you, bear this in mind. We didn’t
learn these things without making horrific mistakes on our own. I am
embarrassed at the things I have done wrong over the years. But I continue to
learn the essence of marketing is the message, the essence of the message is
the value proposition. And all of this comes down to psychology.
There are two
ways we can frustrate our best efforts. There are two flawed asks. These asks
will mitigate the power of our message. An ask to the wrong person or an ask at
the wrong time. Doing the right thing is more important than doing the thing
right. The marketer must deliver the right message, to the right prospect, at
the same time, or it is no longer the right message.