How a Single Bullet Can Get a
Customer to Buy

image of one bullet

I remember going to a workshop in 2003.

The price of the workshop was $8,000. Plus there was overseas travel involved. And yes, the usual accommodation and food expenses.

In all it was going to cost me almost $12,000 to get to this one workshop.

And I made the decision on the basis of a single bullet.

No, it wasn’t the kind of bullet you see in the image of this post. What kind of bullet am I talking about?

These are the fascinating bullet points that you see on effective sales pages. Or in highly readable blog content. You’ll also see bullets on the cover of magazines and newspapers, even if they don’t use an actual bullet symbol.

If you want to sell more effectively, here’s how bullets can help you.

When you’re writing copy — or creating a speech, rehearsing a presentation, or writing an article for that matter — don’t sit down and start with your text or sales copy.

Start with bullets instead

Once you have your headline, but before you start drafting the full text, bullets help you clear your mind. They focus your marketing message.

Let me give you an example of bullets in marketing material.

  • The Spider’s Secret. How to get customers to call you instead of you chasing them.
  • How to get your fee paid 100% in advance every time.
  • How to create a huge demand for your product or service. This secret is over 10,000 years old and works every single time. And most business doesn’t use it.
  • Why your website, business card and your advertising can turn out to be a total waste of resources and effort. How the eye sees things and what causes customers to buy.
  • The secrets of being able to sell the same product or service at up to 400% higher prices.
  • How to create a sequential system that will bring business even if you don’t have a single new customer.
  • The Three Prong system. This tool will change the way you look at your business forever. Ignore at your risk.
  • How we got over US$40,000 worth of products complimentary this year alone … and how you can do it too.
  • Piggybacking: You’ll laugh and cry when you see how simple it is to piggyback on the success of others. The more the others succeed, the more you succeed. And all at zero cost to you.
  • The Secrets of Conversion. How to engage and make your customer never want to leave you, and instead, continuously buy from you.

What you see are just some of the bullets that we used when we sold one of our courses. At that point, the course wasn’t ready. Just the bullets were.

Bullets are your foundational material. Bullets free you to run wild with your thoughts and create the outline for your sales copy and syllabus. They’re usually tightly focused on benefits, so they’re appealing to customers. And they help the customer make a decision.

Often, the customer may be too busy to read every word of your copy. So they’ll skim until they reach the bullets. Then they hit the brakes.

What made me hit the brakes back in 2003

One bullet caused me to stop and decide to spend all that money on that single workshop.

That one bullet was my starting point. From then on, everything I read on that sales page was just an added bonus. The more I read, the more I felt that it was exactly what I was looking for.

But let’s get one thing straight:

One bullet alone can’t take the entire load. The rest of the sales page needs to do the job as well.

We know this to be true, because if we turned things around and put just one bullet on the page — and no other sales copy — I would most certainly not have bought the workshop.

But the one bullet acted as a brake. It stopped me, and then got me to re-evaluate everything else. And that’s why bullets are so darned important.

No matter how good your marketing material, your customer will usually buy for just one reason.

They’ll pick one bullet out of the whole lot and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what I really, really want!’ And they’ll buy. So before you go into that long-winded presentation; before you write copy; before you do anything:

Write bullets.

They’re the key to getting customers to stop, read, and then buy.

By the way …

You may be wondering what that “one bullet” I started with is all about.

That bullet didn’t matter because it was relevant to me (and me alone). The workshop was a marketing/business workshop, but the reason I went was because it promised a “revolutionary time-saving method.”

And as it turned out that method was nothing much at all. Unfortunately the workshop had no money-back guarantee, or I would have taken it.

But the point remains: That bullet applied to me and me alone. In fact, I didn’t even include it in the initial version of this article. It’s not a magic bullet. It was a magic bullet for me. It got me to act. And that’s what a bullet can do for your audience.

You don’t know which bullet will make them act. So make sure you have lots of excellent bullets to find the “magic” one for your business.

About the Author: Sean D’Souza offers a great free report on ‘Why Headlines Fail’ when you subscribe to his Psychotactics Newsletter. Be sure to check out his blog, too.

P.S.

Looking for help creating powerful bullets — and the rest of the sales copy that needs to go with them?

Take a look at Premise. It will help you quickly build a great-looking sales page, craft copy that converts (including those fascinating bullets), and optimize your page until it’s working exactly the way you want it.

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Comments

  1. Sean:

    Good food for thought. Ben Hart (i.e. a copywriter and marketer who’s responsible for half billion in sales over 20 years), once said this about his famous teacher. His teacher was a marketing genius, but would go to different marketing seminars, even in his 70’s. The rational? If he could learn one new thing, it’s worth the price of admission.

    Bullet points are crucial in the science and art (notice I called it both a science and art) of copywriting. I’m glad you covered it today.

    Randy

    • I follow a similar philosophy: when I read a book or go to a seminar, free or paid, I make sure to take at least two ideas to the bank.

      P.S. Sean, this one is my favorite:

      “The secrets of being able to sell the same product or service at up to 400% higher prices”

      Because I know how true that is :)

  2. Am i mad or you don’t tell the most important thing? What was that bullet? ;-)

    • I’m wondering the same thing!

    • This was the first thing I thought when I finished the article :) Then I went back and re-read it and found that the exact bullet point doesn’t really matter as much because the idea itself of making sure everything in your sales page is locked down and ready to fire (and hit the reader) is what’s most important – in my opinion.

    • You’re not mad. But as Mike figured out, that bullet didn’t matter because it was relevant to me (and me alone). The workshop was a marketing/business workshop, but the reason I went was because it “promised me that it had a revolutionary time-saving method”. And as it turned out that method was nothing much at all. Unfortunately the workshop had no money-back guarantee, or I would have taken it.

      But the point remains: That bullet applied to me and me alone. Which is why I didn’t put it in the article. It’s not a magic bullet. It was a magic bullet for me ;)

      • Thanks for clearing things out. I feel for ya… (re: Workshop)

        Unpleasant experiences often add value to our lives and make us rethink some positions…

        The bullet that caught your attention (Magic bullet for thou) in fact is important, because it may be used again and many similar minds to yours will fall in the same trap, unless warned.

        However i understood what you have tried to transmit. Thanks again.

  3. I’ve always been jealous of awesome copywriters, but I’ll be honest here: I’ve really always been jealous of how they crafted those bullet points. Great bullet points in a sales letter can seem like magic when you’re a customer (certainly do to me). They’re mysterious, intriguing and at least one of them is always exactly the solution I’m looking for.

    It’s like all the copywriter’s mojo rolled up into one short, concise sentence.

    • The other nice thing about bullets is they’re very easy for the scanning reader to find. So you can put the critical points there and they’ll jump out.

      • Absolutely. Having something to slow down the scanning reader is not just a nice to have, but critical. I’d never, ever write a sales page without bullets.

    • It’s actually not very hard to write awesome bullets. I’ll follow up this article with another on something like “7 Ways To Write Amazing Bullets”. Of course that article will have been written by someone else, but I’ll do my own take on it, as you’d expect :)

  4. I’ve been trying to re-do my sales page for my latest product and this article is definitely going to help. It came just in time. Instead of trying to get people to read my entire sales page, (or watch the full video), I should start thinking about exactly what they’re gonna get. Write bullets that make them brake.

    Thanks for sharing

  5. This is the first time I’ve stopped by and I’m glad I did. Even though I’ve been a Copywriter for a long time, it’s always good to hear validation of how you apply your craft. Bullets points, whether you use them in the final communication or not, allow you to focus and zero in on what you want to say.

    Another step, that I try to follow is to set up the premise, deliver the goods and summarize the main point of the story, ad, communication. The best best to remember that is to:

    Tell ‘em you’re going to tell ‘em
    Tell ‘em
    Tell’em you told them

    Jack Goldenberg
    Prolific Copywriter

  6. Great point! I like the emphasis on creating your benefit bullets BEFORE creating your product. I think it helps keep you focused on what matters.

    By the way, what course did you spend $12,000 on? And did it live up to its bullets?

    • No it didn’t. It was the worst workshop (or close to the worst workshop ever). But guess what? We slept probably 4 hours or fewer every night at that workshop (it went on for five days). And no matter what anyone says, a tired brain doesn’t execute well, let alone learn.

      But I did learn something.

      I took notes about what made me mad at that workshop. And I created our workshops to be totally the opposite. That workshop chained me to the wall (they even fined you $50 for going to the restroom if you went while the speaker was on stage). But I learned what I didn’t want to do with our workshops. It was expensive learning, but it’s paid off many times over the years.

      I don’t really want to mention the course, but for those who’ve been on it, they know what I’m talking about. It’s a bit like talking about a divorce. Makes for nice stories, but names are best left out of it.

  7. Sean,

    Right on…

    • Bullets are awesome
    • You are right the really can convey the message in a powerful fashion
    • Bullets have some odd authority a crafted sentence can’t touch
    • Bullets simply look cooler

    You never told us what the exact bullet was that made you sit up and take notice, though.

  8. Dammit! Open loop suckered in! Good one, mate!

  9. So clearly not answering the one question you left open is at least comment bait! If mildly frustrating.

    • I’m awake. :) :) :)

      Well it was not meant to be comment bait. I didn’t realise that most people would go “searching” for that “one bullet” like as if it were the “one bullet” to use. In the article it actually explains that it was “a bullet” that caused me to act. But it wasn’t “the bullet” to use.

      I’ll ask Sonia to add this bit as a P.S. to the article shortly. And I do apologise for the frustration. It wasn’t intended :)

      For Sonia:

      “You may be wondering what that “one bullet” is all about. That bullet didn’t matter because it was relevant to me (and me alone). The workshop was a marketing/business workshop, but the reason I went was because it “promised me that it had a revolutionary time-saving method”. And as it turned out that method was nothing much at all. Unfortunately the workshop had no money-back guarantee, or I would have taken it.

      But the point remains: That bullet applied to me and me alone. Which is why I didn’t put it in the article. It’s not a magic bullet. It was a magic bullet for me”. It got me to act. And that’s what a bullet can do for your audience. You don’t know which one of them will make them act. So make sure you have a ton of bullets.

  10. Just a note that Sean lives in New Zealand, so he may not be awake to drop in for a few hours. :)

  11. I’ll give these bullets a shot :)

  12. Never tried these bullets till now in my real life as well as virtual life. Well, I am newbie so I need time to create my first bullet which will pour in customers.

    P.S.: Great read. Loved the article.

    Sathish

  13. Bullets are great. I use them as a list of ideas before writing any add.

  14. I’m a total novice to all of this – and not a copy writer or blogger, just a website owner who has to sit down and write all her own copy!

    Loved the article and I love bullets… like you say you can point up or sum up the ‘benefits’ to your customer; even if you are only reiterating what you’ve said in a body of text.

    Unfortunately for us our website is very inflexible and won’t allow us to insert bullet symbols – the nearest thing we can use is an asterisk – and we can’t even put in an added space which is very frustrating. Anyway, just thought I’d put in my 2 penny worth and let you know that Copyblogger is followed and enjoyed by non professionals too!

    • If it’s HTML, you should be able to put in code that displays the bullet.

    • Wow, Carol, that sounds ultra frustrating. At some point (not to add to your headaches!) you could pretty easily and inexpensively get a WordPress developer/designer to port your site to WordPress with a premium theme and get rid of those annoyances. :) As Sean says, bullets are a very standard part of HTML (the language that web pages are displayed in), and the person who designed your website did you a major disservice if you can’t use them.

      Here’s a very simple tutorial on how to do basic HTML bulleted lists (it’s super easy), your web person may be able to cut & paste these into the code of your site for you. http://www.squidoo.com/listhtml

      • Thanks Sonia, much appreciated.

        My ‘web person’ however is Ian, my husband and co-owner of the business. Although he is OK on code to a point – our problem is inserting bullets into a specific part of our Actinic website . We have just bought an add on, a sort tabbed / index card kinda thing, and we are in the process of breaking up text about each product into bite sized bits of information. It s this index card box which is where we would like to put the bullets but apparently this code is not HTML but something like Java Script …and it is this that Ian daren’t meddle with. Oh the trials of being a tiny tiny fish! – but many thanks for the link for the tutorial, when we have time tonight I’ll get Ian to take a look as I wouldn’t have a clue!

    • (I will say, though, that sometimes I have to use asterisks — like in a text-only email — and they still work!)

  15. Great points!

    Bullet points also break up the text and creates white space in a blog post. People won’t stay to read a blog post OR buy if they can’t read the copy!

  16. Tha One Bullet is just what I need to figure out. Thanks for sharing

  17. People seem to think that they need to write a long page of perfect sales content, and they’re right… but for the wrong reasons.

    The common misconception seems to be that a given individual needs to be bombarded with reasons to buy. As you’ve just shown, this isn’t the right mode of thought at all. The individual needs one reason to buy… the RIGHT reason.

    With that in mind, the reason you need a long page on great sales content is NOT to pile the reasons on the each reader… it’s so that any given reader can find THEIR reason to buy. So you need to make your bullets varied and strong, because any one of them could be the one that catches someone’s eye.

  18. Great post. I have made many article and ebook outlines, but not with bullets. I’m excited about trying this method out.

    Seems like a great way to cure writer’s block, too.

    Also, a great way to capture an idea when you cannot take the time to flesh it out, like when you’re already working on an idea you had while writing an idea, lol.

  19. As Herchel Gordon Lewis and Bob Bly advise, always lead with your strongest point (bullet or otherwise).

    If that first bullet point is strong enough, that’s all you may need to close the deal. And if not, at least you’ll get them to read the next line!

  20. Sean

    For each person there is a trigger or a bullet that grabs them and compels them to take action. In a sales letter the bullets have to talk to them so they can jump out and grab them. If we are not pulled in we will move on. Creating the bullets that really speak to them is necessary to succeed with a sales letter. Knowing your target and how to effectively write the bullets is generating sales.

  21. The whole purpose of using bullet points is to get information across quickly and efficiently. So, don’t drag each point out for several paragraphs. Make your point as quickly as you can so your readers can keep moving forward.

    Thanks for sharing this one.

  22. Really great article Sean. Nicely written and filled with information and curiosity throughout.

    I was really waiting to find out what that bullet was. So, mission accomplished I guess. You got me to read the whole article (glad you did).

    Too bad they over-promised in the copy and under-delivered on the end product though.

    Just goes to show that good copywriting doesn’t necessarily indicate a good product. That’s enough to make a person more than a little cynical.

  23. Well that blog engaged me immediately and made me consider that perhaps I need to evaluate my writing style for the internet. If that’s the magic of bullets, then I’m sold.
    Riley

  24. I don’t first go for the bullets, but I’m the exception.

    I completely get your point, my biggest struggle has been figuring out how to connect with people considering everyone is at a different point and needs different things. The bullet points allow you to reach out to people at all different places and bring them together where you want them.

    Great post, I’ll keep reading!
    Thank you

  25. One of my favorite bullets I’ve ever seen is…

    “Lose 15 pounds of belly fat in 90 days so that you can fit into your skinny jeans”

    The reason I love it so much is that it includes these Four Factors of Communication Mastery

    It’s Specific… “15 pounds”

    It’s Concrete (can be measured)… “15 pounds in 90 days”

    It’s Emotional… “belly fat”

    It’s Connected to a Result… “so that you can fit into your skinny jeans”

    I would’ve loved to seen the controversial mystery bullet also but not for a swipe purpose. The only reason I’d want it is to know what your magic buttons are. Hahaha!

    Keep up the awesome work Sean! Love learning from you!

  26. Sean this is a very nice article about using bullets when you need to clear your mind and focus on the message. I’m going to try this out next time I write an article on my blog. Thanks for the great tip!

  27. First off: I wish I could charge 8000 for my workshops. But since I can’t (or, should I say, since nobody would show up) I might design a sales letter to my customer base based on a bulleted list. Let’s see what happens!

  28. Sean,
    I appreciated the premise of your article very much. I cannot tell you that it validates I do things correctly but rather I am totally backasswards with my work. You see, I do understand that bullet points are needed for articles but the way to come to them is really what is more important.

    I spend my time looking at a finished article thinking how I can possibly inject some bullet points into it. They come up mediocre and not effective. Your thought process helps untrained people writing copy to understand proper steps. I am going to use your article as the basis for my organizing from now on.

    Thanks for making the idea simple to understand.

    Derek D.

  29. I especially respond to bullet points as I am an impatient reader and dislike long sentences. Bullet points keep my attention!

  30. Nice ending. It gave me flashbacks to the novels “The famous five” that my mother used to read for us when we were kids.

  31. Great post Sean. Thanks sharing

  32. Excellent post that’s really useful and thought provoking. Enjoyed.

  33. Good points! My husband always says to me to start with bullets because it makes you more focused on what you want to write. However, i’m still not fully convinced that it is always the way to marketing your “story”…

  34. It’s a good post but it provides support for two more important themes. Allow me to bullet…

    1) Do not bother with attempts at crafting the perfect bullet copy unless it’s supported with an equally impressive and substantive underlying offer.
    2) The element of suspense and curiosity can often lead readers to greater average time on your site. When you finally provide the “reveal” ensure you refer to bullet #1

    • Agreed. Bullet points are powerful. Good ones can bring in customers. But a bullet (or any copy) that overpromises can cost you a customer just as easily. Bottom line? Don’t write jazzy copy just for the heck of it -it had better deliver. (I think this is also especially true for headlines.)

  35. Am I the only person who actually dislikes bullet points? I’m instantly put off by them & always consider them as a cheap way of grabbing the attention of the more brainless members of “the goldfish generation” (an attention span of 6 seconds or less) I would hate my advertising to look like “hard sell” & prefer to engage my readers in a dialogue or conversation. It’s a gentler approach, and it feels more like speaking to someone than shouting at them. But, provided I have something reasonably interesting to say, I find it works well.

    • This blog is intended for those who are writing to persuade — and this article in particular is for sales copy. That means you have to put the needs and preferences of the readers first.

      If you’re thinking of readers who are overwhelmed by information as “brainless members of the goldfish generation,” then it may be that copywriting isn’t your thing.

      Bullets don’t have to be inane. Just don’t put inane material in there. But they are a gentle way to bring the attention of over-burdened readers to what you most want to communicate.

      I don’t consider it “hard-sell” to format writing in a way that makes it easier to read.

    • I’m an avid reader – you know, the kind of person who reads for fun. But when I’m presented with (or bombarded by) advertising, I too will skim, scan, and land on the bullets and other microcontent. I’m not brainless and I have a great attention span. I just don’t have time to read everyone’s precious advertising copy. Nor do I care about most of it. Plus, bullets break up the copy so it’s friendlier to the eye, especially online.

      Bullets work. In general, people will not stop to read a block of text unless they’re reading a novel or something else that’s purely for entertainment.