Five “Old School” Tactics That Can
Ruin Your Sales Page

image of old school bus

Do you despise long sales letters, yellow highlighters and blood-red, hype-laden headlines?

These tried and true copywriting tactics are proven winners at converting “cold” traffic into paying customers – and $10,000-a-page copywriters use them without hesitation because they appeal to the baser instincts of the easily swayed. They may be embarrassing to look at, but historically, they’ve just plain worked.

But if you’re a Third Tribe type of marketer, you’re in a quandary because you know these push-comes-to-shove sales page tactics just won’t work in your case.

They won’t work for you because you won’t be able to sleep at night. They won’t work for your audience either, because they’re smart and savvy, and they’ll lose faith in you and go off in search of someone more professional.

But these cheesy tactics are tempting nonetheless, because you’ve seen them on pages that you know are converting a lot of customers. Against your better instincts, you might feel a pull to use just one or two of them to stack the deck in your favor – especially if your current page isn’t converting as well as you’d hope.

There’s good news, though – you don’t have to sell your integrity to sell more of your products. All you need to do is learn how to use some semantic aikido to harness the power of these psychologically effective strategies – all the while saying “hold the cheese.”

Let’s take a look at 5 “hard sell” tactics and apply some Third Tribe magic to make them feel better for you and your future customers.

The “Everything Will Be Better In A Week” Tactic

You see this one all the time, online or off. Online it’s usually “Give me 7 days and you’ll have a horde of customers trampling each other to give you their money!” Offline it could be more subtle, such as the SlimFast slogan “Give us a week – we’ll take off the weight.” The promise is significant (as it should be in a headline) but it’s not realistic.

Sure, it works on those desperate for results, and that’s why it will never go away. But your customers are smart enough to know that they can’t really get those results, and that hurts your credibility. They know they’re not going to go from zero to $20,000 in a week or go from a complete unknown to A-list blogger in 7 days, no matter what people tell you.

But it still works on the easily swayed, because they’re desperate for results. Your audience may be desperate as well, but they’re just too darned smart to fall for the idea of an “instant solution.” So what can you do?

Take The Third Tribe Approach: Instead of promising instant victory over a situation, promise them immediate progress instead. For example, “Give me 7 days, and you’ll have a detailed and doable plan of action for getting more customers in the door this month.”
You’re still making the implicit promise of getting more customers, but you’re explicitly promising something more realistic in the short term – a sense of certainty about what actions to take next. That’s what gets product sold while protecting your credibility.

The “Set It On Autopilot” Tactic

I’m seeing this more and more online, and I’m sure you are too – phrases like “The Lazy Marketer’s Guide To Building an Email List” or “(result happens) automatically while you sleep!” Again, this tactic works on the easily swayed, because they are likely to, well, be pretty lazy people. They don’t want to do the work. They want to push that big red magic button and get their results.

But when you’re pitching to a more savvy, successful audience, this tactic backfires almost immediately. They know that success takes hard work (because they worked hard to be successful!) and that there’s very, very little in life that falls into the “set it and forget it” realm. And beyond that, they know if something seems “too easy” it’s either not legit or something that’s bound to be ineffective.

But in reality, there may be things about your product or service that for the most part have a “hands-off” aspect (for example, building a fantastic landing page that brings opt-in subscribers to your list day in and day out). How do you position these types of things without resorting to cheesy language?

Take The Third Tribe Approach: Instead of using words like “lazy way,” “autopilot,” or “does the work for you,” focus on how this aspect of your offer is truly something that streamlines a process that your reader knows is time or effort-intensive. Then follow up with the measurable benefit they receive.

For example, an email autoresponder service that “pulls in new subscribers like clockwork” sounds corny. But a service that automates opt-in form creation and has reporting statistics frees you from coding so you can spend that time tweaking forms for higher conversion.

Now you’re talking about automating one aspect so you can redirect time to higher-value activities … and that kind of benefit-driven description makes for a stronger selling point.

The “You’re Lucky I’m Talking To You” Tactic

This off-putting tactic is a staple of someone following the heavy-handed marketing techniques that by and large, have worked on the easily swayed in the past. You’ll see it in phrases like “At my normal hourly rate of $2,000/hour (if you could even get me!) …” and implies authority (based on the price) and a tension-inducing scarcity of the marketer’s time.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with stating your rates – mine are fairly high, and I use them as a selling point – but when you use it as the predominant selling point, it can work against you. This is especially true if you bring it all up before you’ve made your other, more significant selling points. And talking about how you don’t have time for clients can come off as reputation-diminishing bragging.

Savvy audiences don’t fall for this – they know that bragging is usually a sign of insecurity. And who wants to buy from someone who’s working so hard to try and impress you?

Take The Third Tribe Approach: Instead of leading with how in-demand you are and how expensive your rates are, save this selling point until later and gently position it in terms of the overall value you’re presenting and how the delivery medium causes a change in pricing.

There’s nothing pushy about saying “This workshop represents what I would cover in a ten hour, $2,500 one-on-one consulting package. But since I can only offer a large package like that to so many people, I’ve distilled those ten hours of consulting into a self-paced workshop that you can purchase for $197.”

With this approach, you’re not making a in-your-face statement that can turn off savvy customers, but you are effectively communicating the true value of what you’re offering in a way they can respect.

The “You’re Dead Meat If You Don’t Buy” Tactic

Since fear-based selling can be such an effective tactic, marketers often paint a post-apocalyptic picture of what will happen if you don’t buy their products. You may be told your business will fail, your competitors will eat your lunch and your spouse will leave you for a smarter, younger version of you who knows these “insider secrets.”

The idea is that if the sense of panic can be cranked up, the urgent need to find a solution will appear. And in 99 cases out of 100, you’ll find that same marketer telling you that only their product can save you from certain doom.

You’re too smart for this “Chicken Little” sales tactic, and since your customers are too, you need an approach that can boost the feelings of urgency and desire without resorting to panic.

Take The Third Tribe Approach: Instead of saying “all is lost” and pulling out the melodrama, paint a picture of how a particular product will be harder to solve without your product (and easier with it).

For example, you could say “It’s certainly possible to network with other savvy online business owners simply by participating in blog comments and using Twitter, but that can be a slow process with uncertain results. Being in the Third Tribe forums, however, means you’re immersed in the highest concentration of willing-to-network entrepreneurs you’re likely to find on the Internet – and that can take your business to the next level much faster.”

Could you write an effective sales letter without this tactic? You could, but you’d have to work a lot harder. (Get it?)

The “There’s No Good Reason Not To Buy” Tactic

I recently read a sales letter with this message at the bottom and shook my head, knowing that a few easily swayed individuals would fall for it. Certainly, it stands to reason that this line could work, because it’s one of those “proven” staples of a “good sales letter.” But it falls flat when selling to a savvy reader. (Which is a shame, because this marketer had a relatively savvy audience).

Why is it such an off-putting phrase? For starters, it’s insulting. It implies that whatever reason you have for not buying isn’t a reasonable one, and calling your potential (and intelligent!) customers unreasonable is a sure way to lose the sale – especially since the marketer doesn’t even know the objection.

And that’s where it gets embarrassing – because when readers realize they do have valid objections, it’s the marketer who looks foolish. Goodbye sale.

Take The Third Tribe Approach: Instead of trying to push your customers into this kind of hard-line close, do a little up-front research and discover as many potential objections as you can. Take each one and build a pre-emptive response into your sales letter.

For example, if price is an objection, remind them of how your product can pay for itself quickly. If satisfaction is an objection, re-emphasize how strong your guarantee is. The more thoroughly you defuse potential objections before the close, the less you have to work to close the sale.

And instead of bullying customers into having “no good reason not to buy,” you’re reminding them of all the very good reasons they have to give your product a shot.

What’s Your Sales Page Personal Pet Peeve?

These are only five old-school tactics that make your sales page unattractive to the Third Tribe type of customer – and as a savvy entrepreneur you’re likely to have your own set of sales page elements that drive you crazy. Share them in the comments below – and if you don’t mind, briefly tell us what you see as the “Third Tribe” alternative.

About the Author: Dave Navarro is a product launch manager who proudly wears his Third Tribe colors – and invites you to join the thousands of people who have downloaded his free workbooks in the Launch Coach Library (no opt-in required). There’s really no good reason not to. ;)

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Comments

  1. The limited time offer on an information product without a good reason. Yes, they have every right to raise their price, but when that low price is still up six months then later I have to roll my eyes.

    This one’s been discussed here before, of course.

    Teaching Sells is a limited time because there’s only so many people that can be helped effectively at once in the forums. Your own programs are a certain price for a limited time because you offer them first to your list or you’re still in the middle of developing them.

    Even things like admitting you want to get momentum going with a low price or hope to use your first customers to help you get later customers are fine. But I really like to see an actual reason with a limited time offer, because then I feel like my intelligence is being respected.

  2. My Sales Page Pet Peeve is “FREE OFFERS” Most on line sales pitches tell you how theyre going to set you up for FREE only to read through the pitch to find out you only have to pay $97 marked down from $299 and of course if the product doesnt do what they claim it will you can send it back, ostensibly making it FREE.
    This is very unattractive to a Third Tribe type of customer such as myself and just wastes my time reading thru the offer to find out its not really FREE at all, now I just delete most FREE Offers. I would much rather they be honest up front and let me decide if I want to read the sales letter.

  3. Dude…

    Awesome timing. I’m halfway through writing a sales page at this very moment. The Gods have been kind and bestowed this post before me. Luckily, I only offended two of your laws so far, so will go back now to fix.

    Only recently signed up, the quality of info so far has been excellent. I’ll send my sales page to you afterwards and see what you buy ;)

    Cheers.

  4. Yep! All of these old school tactics are turn-offs for me. I’ve seen all of them in use online too. It does make me wonder who is buying from these people.

    But then, people buy from telemarketers too even though I never do. Despite being on the “no call” list we still get calls from telemarketers. My standard response: “I never buy anything from phone sales people.” In other words, don’t call me, I’ll call you.

  5. Excellent stuff here, Dave. A while back, in a blog post, I deconstructed the video of an Internet marketer who shall remain nameless. Took his strategies point by point and talked about what he was saying and why he was saying it. Very interesting discussion in the comments. People were divided: about half of them would use those tactics, they were brilliant strategies, etc. Other half detested them, wouldn’t use them and wouldn’t buy from someone who used them.

    They are condescending and insulting to me, but, obviously, not not to lots of people who buy the products.

    In our business, we see competitors saying to prospects, “Take this class and you can have a kick-ass website up in 2 hours!” We have people come to us who have taken the class and they are confused—and, worst of all, they feel stupid—because they weren’t able to learn it in 3 hours. You do not want your customer to feel stupid!

    A very valuable post here. Going to save this one.

  6. I have 2 current favorite pet-peeves:

    1. Fake proof (i.e. photoshopped bank statements, pictures of the business owner with a huge wad of $1 bills, and altered Clickbank or Paypal receipts).

    Instead of showing off and showing pictures of your fake house, the third tribe way is through truth in story telling. Show how you got yourself out of a ratty appartment and into your own home with an actual real-life example instead of a pie-in-the-sky fable.

    2. Testimonials. Period. I personally believe that the days of the testimonial are over with on-line marketing and most people will probably disagree with me. However, with the advent or social media (the third tribe way), where people can freely make comments about you in their own way, I think that it no longer holds much weight to post them on your site.

    People just don’t believe tesimonials, because they are too easy to fake. Even with the advent of video, picture, and audio testimonials they just seem even more contrived to be worth their time.

    Customers want to do their own research now. Allow the world to vote on your in their own medium and bag the on-page testimonials… I don’t know about you, but I know I’m not reading them.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  7. Perhaps 1 in 100 blog posts has me actually get out a notebook to take notes. This one did.

    Now to get to work actually applying the ideas…. :)

  8. Good one, Beth.
    That’s one for me too.
    And I really agree that those who promise “you’ll never have to do any work and money will flow” should get real. And please, marketers, get rid of the hypey headers with babes fanning out wads of cash in front of expensive cars and huge mansions.

  9. I like how you broke things down into what is typical of these hypey sales letters and what a Third Triber would do. I think people pick up on it when you’re lying or embellishing the truth, so it makes much more sense to give it to them straight!

    I mean we’re not here to make a quick buck and sneak off into the night. We’re building relationships with real people!

  10. Great knowledge Dave!

    As you said, the hard sell tactics seem to fit well with the desperate buyers. Since my blog traffic is more individuals and small to mid-sized business looking for a resource on how to effective establish a strong internet presence and market online, these hard sell tactics would only insult my readers and clients. I’ve found that the Third Tribe marketing methods work much better and are very similar in how you would typically network at a business networking event. Successful online marketing is all about relationship and credibility. Keep your wits about you and don’t alienate your readers and potential customers. Give them the credit they deserve and they’ll respect you.

    Again, great post! Thanks!

  11. Yeah, I hate the hyped up sales pages, when really, nothing is that good. Sure, it’s okay to talk about your product and how good it is, but you have to support it with facts with what you do. I’ve bought things many a time when people have just been honest, showed what you will have to do, and lets you know how they’re product will help.

    I really hate the hype though. There are now “fast fix” products or products where you don’t have to do anything. Putting in that you’re lucky to talk to me is just foolish and self-indulgent, as well as the other bad tactics you mention. You give very good advice.

    As some others, what I hate the most is where people say “for a limited time” but the offer stands for what seems like eternity. You see it all the time in commercials (especially for cars), and I know of at least one store that has a sign, 24/7/365/, which says something like “massive sale!”

    Thanks for the great post!

  12. Love what you’ve said. Most people are smart enough in their every day lives to see straight through this bunk, but for some reason, if it’s in “print” online, it must be TRUE and FREE and IMPOSSIBLE TO DO WITHOUT!

    Huh. Who needs the hokey when you can use some smarts and do business in a way you can be proud of?

  13. The other question is: At what point does this Third Tribe thing become an exercise in smugness. I mean, this whole post suggest that “we don’t use those old no-good ways of selling, we use new ones that nobody sees coming.”

    As I read this post, I am more convinced that selling is selling. You just imagine that your audience is smart and savvy and you use different language therefore. Well, talk about basic copywriting technique. What I don’t see is how this makes you sleep any better. Perhaps you think you are smarter yourself. “Look at me, I am smart, I market in the Third Tribe way.”

    As I said, this is becoming smug real fast.

  14. I hate that yellow highlighter. It reminds me of Geocities pages in the late ’90s when people had JUST DISCOVERED you could have BACKGROUND COLOR on your TEXT. I mean, HOLY COW PEOPLE IT’S THE SECOND COMING.

    It’s ugly and it looks stupid. There are better ways to get attention.

  15. Awesome Dave.

    I really like the way you’ve spelled it out and given real examples of way to express the message.

    No wonder I’ve taken your courses lol.

    Very appreciated
    Kathleen

  16. Love the examples!

    Personally? I hate sales pages all together. 99 out of 100 come across as 70’s era used car salesmen in slightly better suits. Blech!

    As a customer, I don’t read the sales page. (Reminds me alot of how adults were portrayed in Peanuts specials – “Wha, wha-wha-wha-wha, wha, wha.”) I scroll through all the chatter, straight to the bottom of the page, IF I’m interested. If the price fits my budget, I’m interested in what you’re offering, and you don’t offend the snot out of me with your cheesy headlines, I’ll buy. If I so much as even smell plaid bellbottoms in your copy? See ya!

    It’s nice to see real examples of how to un-cheese selling tactics. I, for one, appreciate the effort a marketer takes to not offend my intelligence.

  17. Niels, you feel that not insulting the intelligence of the 99% of the population who is not a business opportunity seeker or an unrealistic weight loss loser is smug?

    Well then, color me smug. Only indoctrinated idiots think those hard sell methods work on the general population.

    Blasting out a million hard sell direct mail pieces and converting .05% is a fine way to make money. But in the online world of sophisticated niche audiences, that approach is suicide.

    I continue to be amazed at how myopic and close-minded most so-called students of human psychology (aka marketers) can be. That’s why most of them suck.

  18. Refreshing post. I have always wondered about those long and long winded sales web pages that promised everything if you buy their product. Why they work on anyone I will never understand.

  19. Those were classic! I’m equally amused by the “Get It Before It Vanishes” tactic:

    e.g. “I’m only letting the FIRST 50 people in on this!” or “Get it now cause I’m SHUTTING THIS DOWN in 24 hours, to be *fair* to the buyers… so as not to *flood* the market.”
    ;)

  20. I get tired of the dead-end squeeze pages. You’re presented with a sales letter and the only links are to sign up or view the terms and privacy policy.

    Sure, there’s usually a way to e-mail a question, but you’ve already hear their words. What if you want to check out what others have to say?

    You can preemptively address this with links (opening in a new tab) to a twitter search for your product, an amazon product page with reviews of your work, or a google search. Even links to your other web properties could help people feel like you’re better established and more trustworthy.

  21. Brian, I was referring to this post. First it sets up a straw man of hated sales pages with red headlines and ugly yellow highlighting. Then it talks to its audience and creates an in-crowd feeling by stating that “we” are better than that. This is a classic sales pitch, as I see it.

    The post suggests rewriting hard sell language to make it fit a Third Tribe sensibility. The words change, but the sales letter approach is still fully in place. That is why I am thinking about cool-aid just about now.

    I have read this blog for a long time and continue to read it, because the ideas are very valuable. I have also subscribed to Third Tribe marketing. I did that, because I believed that the premise is that success comes from establishing a genuine relationship with your audience. If Third Tribe marketing works because it makes your audience feel smart instead, well then I am wondering if there is anything new under then sun. That is all.

    It is entirely possible that I am still not getting it.

  22. Brian, I agree with what you’ve said to Niels. However, what I got from Niels’ post was that in his words “Selling is selling”. It seems to me, and correct me if I’m wrong Niels, that he doesn’t see the difference between the hard sell and the Third Tribe method as ultimately they both lead to a sell.

    Where I believe the Third Tribe method can best be illustrated is to first present the fact that it’s a much more subtle method of selling and is similar in a way to a real-world business networking event. You wouldn’t attend a business networking event and stand up on a table and start shouting to everyone attending how great you are and how your products/services will help them. Doing so would more than likely offend and insult the other attendees and result in you getting kicked out of the networking event.

    The point is, selling is selling no matter what method you choose to apply. However, the Third Tribe method takes the selling process a step further based on my experience with it. It allows you to create loyalty among your customers, in a way that gives them a warm fuzzy feeling about you rather than forcing them to buy, so to speak, through a “Fear of Loss” method.

    I’ve been doing this a long time and have used both methods. I find the Third Tribe method works best for my target audience, where as Dave has indicated that the hard sell method works best for the desperate buyers. This doesn’t mean they are any less savvy than the Third Tribe buyers, but rather, their circumstances or desires are different. For example, most network marketing, home based business owners are very emotional buyers and are most likely to respond better to the hard sell than the third tribe method. Why? Because they are looking for immediate gratification. It is those of us who understand that for long-term success and on-going income, we must establish something the hard-sell does not… Credibility and customer loyalty. To simply indicate that one method is better than the other is debatable. You must simply take a step back, evaluate your target audience, test what works best and then apply it to your own marketing efforts. Learn from your industry leaders, but don’t take everything that is said as gospel. Simply use what fits your needs best.

  23. Niels, okay, I hear you. But the point of this article is not that “classic sales pitches” are bad. It’s about how to deliver influential messages in a more human and less demeaning manner.

    Human psychology is what it is. Only idealists ignore that, and the Third Tribe approach expressly rejects the utopian idealism of social media types who have never studied anything about social psychology. They simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

    Sorry if I reacted harshly. But I don’t like being called smug, because I’m anything but.

  24. Can I just say this is such an awesome article? You manage to inform people of 5 classic things they may not have known about and at the same time give them 5 alternatives for those who are in on what sells today… I don’t flatter people and have nothing to gain really.. so just please accept this compliment from me. This is awesome stuff. Good work.

    You know back to the “classic stuff that’s proven to work”.. I doubt people have tested whether these things work universally or just to particular niches/segments. I feel they only work in niches that have to do with money, weight, some other urgent problem where people are willing to ignore the flashing lights and just click the buy now button. But I think universally, the flashing lights are there. People aren’t stupid, and being manipulative hurts you in the long run. No one wants that.

    One of my favorite people to read. Thanks for a good one.

    PS I really like the “no good reason not to buy” part. you hit the nail on the head on how that can be so condescending and people may fail to realize this. You can’t patronize people and expect them to buy. love this stuff.

    PPS. I saw a similar post inside the Third Tribe forums. hahaha..

    PPPS.. having many PS’es is one of my sales page pet peeves. Sadly I am demonstrating it here. Waah..

    PPPPS. If you reply I will jump and dance around in joy. Promise.

  25. Very interesting post. It’s like the proven “Click Here” button. People use them because they work. I agree that most of these sound cheesy and in-your-face, but using them or not using them is not going to make me sleep any better or any worse. What makes me sleep better is when people buy. Until someone can effectively show me that one way works better than the other, I’ll stick with what’s proven… Or at least a dummied down version of it! :)

  26. Brian, I know you are not. I should have stayed closer to the practice from my days as a college teacher: comment on the paper, not on the writer. I didn’t make that distinction. My reading of a single blog post in a long series can never indicate an opinion of any one person.

    I have studied psychology and I in my experience most psychologists have a poor understanding of human behavior. I can hardly blame marketers of any hue for not learning from them.

    The learning continues.

  27. Some pretty cool concepts.

  28. One thing that really irritates me is ridiculous bonuses: bonuses which are supposedly worth more than the product being sold. They demean the original offer, in my opinion. The product should be sold on its own. Crazy bonuses make the product look weaker, like it needs to propped up by bonuses.

    And when they’re too over-the-top, the reaction by reader will be overwhelm and confusion, because what they’re really getting with the purchase has suddenly become diluted. Confused and overwhelmed people don’t buy.

    My idea of a bonus “third tribe style” is not mention it on the sales page, but surprise the buyer with it after the purchase has been made. The bonus would have to be a lesser value than the original product and highly complimentary to it. This would make buyers feel better about their purchase and cause them to trust you more.

  29. Is convincing the reader that they are savvy a new or old school selling technique? I appreciate and learned from this article. Yet while reading I felt I was being sold something by someone convincing me that it was my own intelligence willing me to buy. ;)

  30. I’ve seen lots of sales pages on the internet and when I want to buy something, one of my pet peeves is when they use forceful words to try to lure me in, in combination with how great their product is. I would rather prefer sales pages that were professional, relate to the reader on a personal level, and provide true value to the customer.

  31. Niels, I suspect we probably agree.

    This approach might feel new to some readers, because most folks teaching “how to sell online” are still in an older model that relies on stone cold traffic from something like SEO or Adwords. But customers now are using the web differently, so we have a different relationship with customers. But we still have to use effective selling techniques. Just holding hands and singing kumbaya doesn’t magically make sales leap into our shopping carts.

    Probably in most endeavors, people learn more by modeling than they do by going back and figuring out the underlying principle. And the yellow highlighter sales page is no straw man, there are still tons of them up there. I see people attempting the classic high-hype, high-squeeze sales page all the time, when a more thoughtful approach would work much better in their context.

    I really dig this post because it’s practical and nuts-and-bolts. “This doesn’t work for this market, try that instead.”

  32. Great article with alternatives for sales copy.

    My pet peeve on cheezy sales letters is where they quietly sign you up for a temporary “free” membership, that is burried along with the long list of overpriced benefits.

    Its not till you get your monthly credit card bill that you find out you had “signed up” for their membership program at some outrageous monthly amount.

    Even when you know what to look for, you can still make a misstep and get nailed.

  33. I like how you are getting the person to focus on what they can achieve if one process is more automated. It certainly appeals to the hard worker who is looking to have an edge over the competition, instead of selling to the quick fixer who probably can’t afford that solution anyways!

  34. Nice write up. Copyblogger knows the art of communicating anything with a punch. This blog definitely sells.

    Blessings

    My name is fan;)

  35. I am surprised that these sleazy tactics still work anyway. I was recently on a competitor’s site and they used all five of these tactics,on their sales page their site is 5 years old and my 7 month old site is 3 million ahead on Alexa-by not using those cheesy, sleazy tactics!

    Granted I got a lot of work to do, but I have really been seriously blogging for only four months, so there is a much to be done to my site.

    I tell people the truth you are not going to get rich overnight more than likely never, but if you follow my advice you will make more money. I think many of the folks online and with online businesses are extremely savvy, you have to be to make it!

    They are definitely not going to fall for that bs. Great message.

    I had a very successful store and it did not become successful overnight it took two years of hard work to get it rolling, by comparison blogging is easy, low cost to entry, higher roi I wish I had gotten into this five years ago!

  36. My biggest peeve are the pages that are a mile long with the big words, red letters and yellow highlights. Another one I’ve started to see is one price offered on the page, when you go to exit the page you are prompted with a “Wait don’t go” we’ll offer it to you at a lower rate.

  37. It pays to sit down and think about your sales process BEFORE putting your fingers on the keyboard. Respecting your site visitor is one of the toughest lessons I’ve learned. The old adage “Under promise and over deliver” is always a safe road to walk on. Most of the stuff that lands in my ‘in box’ is overstated and inflated.

    “Five “Old School” Tactics That Could
    Ruin Your Sales Page” delivers information that is respectful.

    I enjoyed the message AND the tips.

  38. Another thing I liked about this post is that it addresses the underlying thing that I hate about this style of sales letter, which is the assumption that the buyer (thus, me) is lazy, stupid, hates work, has no creativity, and in general is probably too dumb to work in a Quizno’s, never do whatever it is the “push button” system purports to teach.

  39. I personally can’t stand the bright red or yellow, ALL CAPS headers, and multiple “Buy Now” buttons interspersed repeatedly through the long copy.

    FYI to all those who use those approaches…I close the window in less than a second when I see them! Anyone else?

  40. G’day Dave,
    Apart from all the good stuff already mentioned, it’s the “happy snaps” of family holidays, oversized mansions and exotic holidays that I find most offensive.
    Before moving my business online two tears ago, I spent 15 years running a direct mail/telemarketing business. I’ve never used a happy snap nor the offline equivalent of a screenshot. These devices are seller-centric. They treat the prospect as an impecunious idiot.
    Much of what I see online isn’t internet marketing. It’s plain, old fashioned foot in the door selling. I call it “teeth in the email” selling.
    I haven’t signed up for Third Tribe. But I’m impressed with
    such professional marketing. It really is superb positioning. David Ogilvy would have been proud of you. He once said “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.”
    Ogilvy died in 1998.
    I’m delighted that Copyblogger was recommended to me only a few weeks ago.
    Best Wishes

    Leon

  41. “The “You’re Dead Meat If You Don’t Buy” Tactic”

    But that one is so much fun to write…

  42. Not only is this a damn good post, it’s a damn fine model to stick in my swipe files for a post template.

    You just gave me another content creation template to test.

    Thanks Dave!

  43. By far, my number one aggravation is lack of timely follow-up. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had a red hot project, complete with a mandate and funding, only to get voice mail after voice mail in the sales department.

    When a prospect tells you that the buying decision is being made in the next 48 hours, don’t wait a week to call back and then be surprised when he went with the competitor. (And yes, this actually happened on a recent, 28K deal that I needed vendor input on.)

  44. As Sean Smith stated: “test what works best and then apply it to your own marketing efforts.” There are good, simple to use, tools out there (Google analytics, web site optimizer, etc.) that let you test and find out what works. There’s no need to guess, or to assume a style of writing will or won’t work. Test it, and find out for sure.

  45. Wow, these are some really great comments today, I’m glad all of you took the time to leave your thoughts (especially those who disagreed with points in the post – healthy debate is always welcome here at Copyblogger).

    I regret that I wasn’t able to be around today to respond to comments but I appreciate all the kind words. It’s a big ‘ol world out there, and different styles work for different people … keep testing to see what your audience responds to best.

    Cheers –

    Dave

  46. I don’t have any pet peeves when it comes to sales pages Dave.

    Some tactics I find more believable than others. The hard sell never works on me. That being said I can learn from these hustler’s psyche. Ultimately any strategy will work so if you’re using tactics which annoy some people, who cares about those people.

    I’ve come to learn that some people despise certain tactics while others are drawn to it like flies to sh*t. Whatever puts cash in the pocket and you feel comfortable with, I say use it.

  47. “Set It On Autopilot”

    ….so true.

    I had a guy recently follow me on Twitter. Sent me a Direct Message …”Thanks for following me. Sign up for your Free how to build a website guide!”

    I’m thinking, thats like selling Michael Jordan a “how to play basketball” video.

    :)

  48. Brandi

    That one drives me to think they were fools to begin with. One should never just sell on price that is a a dangerous game to start. You train your customer to seek a sale versus buying your product.

  49. I like the immediate progress over immediate victory approach.

    We’re in the here and now generation and people want value now … but it’s OK for value to be a journey, as long as there are clear signposts along the way.

  50. Thanks Dave, excellent points. It’s amazing how potent some of the old school tactics are. I KNOW those scarcity and urgency ploys on product sales are bogus .. but they still get me! I’m always buying stuff sooner than later, just in case the price really IS going up tomorrow.

  51. I’ve often found that these long-winded, over hyped sales letters boring, pedantic and mostly stale.

    When I first got involved in learning about website/blog marketing, I ran into these all the time… uggh!

    My biggest pet peeve, in addition to the one’s mentioned above, is the brutal fact that those massive 10,000 word sales letters are absolutely visually unappealing. They’re deliberately all formatted the same way and are based on website technology prior to 1995.

    In my opinion, all one really needs to sell is to take the benefits and features of one’s product and coat with a bit of aesthetics. In a nutshell give it a distinct theme, make it visually appealing, not over the top mind you, but palatable and at the same time functional as a sales letter.

    I like the idea of multiple page sales letters. You build and maintain interest, you also only hit one topic at a time.

    The video launches that are currently popular with the IM “Take before it’s gone” crowd are based on that idea.

    Its a video world no denying, but I think those “launches” are used in a very limited way. But then most of those top “IM’ers” are selling to themselves repeatedly.

    Guess you can’t think out of the box if you never leave the room.

  52. The thing that you said about five old school tactics is true, there is still few people do this and ruin their sales page. besides this are outdated and many customers who have smart today. at this conclusion is not relevant anymore.

  53. I’m actually researching on good ways to design flyers. This is one of the many pages I will be reviewing until I figure out what sort of sales page or pitch will click with customers. Anyone with good resources?

  54. @Chris, I’d get a good grounding in direct response copywriting. You can start with something like joe Sugarman’s book on advertising, the Adweek Copywriting Handbook or something similar. He created incredibly effective display ads for Sharper Image type products (long before Sharper Image), which function very similarly to a flyer.

  55. I wonder that still people use such outdated and expired ways to promote their businesses which result in the ultimate failures. Any how you have pointed these tactics at a very right time. I appreciate your efforts.

  56. This is all so true :) It’s easy to assume that hard-selling must work when you look around and see so many pages that employ those tactics. There’s a lot of crap to wade through out there!

    It doesn’t take much effort to put up a crappy, ineffective sales page; thus their pervasiveness ;) Don’t mistake popularity for effectiveness.

  57. Great info… the entire game changes when people are visiting a website to buy something. One wrong move – one obstacle – and they’re simply gone.

  58. My pet peeve is the Javascript clock counting down to midnight when the offer ‘expires.’ We all know that tomorrow the clock will be reset.

    Good list, Dave. I can’t imagine any of these ‘old school’ techniques working. Consumers are simply too smart, and they’ve had enough of hype and unsubstantiated claims. This is a good lesson for those using offline advertising as well. Brilliant!

  59. Great post, Dave, and excellent discussion here.

    Here’s how I see the difference between the “Old School” approach and the “Third Tribe” approach:

    There’s a big difference in how you’d relate to a friend that you want to help overcome their inertia and take action (which is the essence of the sales process, whether money is involved or not) and how you’d carry out the same process with a first-time acquaintance. You’d probably be hesitant to use false scare tactics or overly inflated promises with your friend, because you want him or her to still be around afterwards. (And of course, an intact moral compass should be enough to keep you from doing that with acquaintances as well, whether you’ll see them again or not).

    At the same time, there might be genuine reasons you’d want to trigger a sense of fear or desire to get someone to act! It’s just that it would have to be authentic, or else you’ll lose the trust that is the foundation of your friendship.

    It seems that the “Third Tribe” approach focuses a lot of attention on the relationship prior to the sale, and letting the transactions emerge naturally from there.

    Copyblogger is a great example, since the community gets so much great content for free and we get to know and like Brian, Sonia, and the rest of the crew. Then when products come out, the sales process can be rather understated, because so much “selling” has already happened.

  60. Hey Dave, et al.

    I happen to disagree about traditional Internet marketing, and have written a post on my new blog defending traditional sales pages, their utility, and why you shouldn’t feel gross using them. (Comments appreciated!)

    http://www.businessonsteroids.com/2010/02/18/why-you-wont-find-many-capitalists-using-third-tribe-sales-pages/

    Enjoy!

  61. Dave,

    Great post…Dan Kennedy may disagree with you. However, I do not, I would rather not “dumb down” by blog.

    I have struggled with how to craft offers using great copywriting skills with leaving “the cheese out.” Using the Third Tribe approach is perfect. Will bookmark and use the suggestions above.

    My biggest pet peeve…is every IM on the planet uses my “good friend Bubba” is just releasing his latest bright and shiny object etc.

    Third Tribe approach: Never use the “good friend” card, it rings hollow even if you really do know him/her. In fact, who cares if you are friends.

    If you recommend the product, then should have used it. To build trust then you must give the good, bad and ugly of the product. Your reader will make up his own mind.

    Your reader will know if you really have tried the product, just by your review.

    Thanks for the great content.

    Boomer54
    Mark

  62. Hi guys

    this is so true – way too many people are in the dark ages and are ruining their business by ignoring modern methods.

    kind regards

    sam
    X

  63. Most of my pet peeves have been listed already:
    -The mile-long sales page
    -The photos of houses and boats and cars
    -The “limited time offer”
    -The “hard sell” of “Why the heck WOULDN’T you buy?”

    Also, anything done in an overtly (or overly) formulaic manner is offensive to me. Even if I’m a victim of pack mentality, I consider myself an individual and want to be treated as such.

    Oh, I also hate the videos of, “This is what a day in my life is like! Come into my home! I don’t have to wear shoes! Come to the post office with me while I pick up my large check!” I clicked on ONE “important” video like that, watched for a minute or two, and then wrote the marketer a scathing email, demanding my 96 seconds back.

  64. I’m at the point now, where all Internet opportunities get filed into a gmail account called
    marketing trash offers@gmail.com
    thats my optin e-mail address for anything I might think is a trash offer..

    Here’s a few to mention.. Free Offers, JV partnerships, one on one mentoring, limited time offers, have room for only 300 more suckers at $497.00 , don’t miss it.. you’ll never see this offer again, expensive training memberships…
    did I forget anything else…. Oh really! fill in the spaces for me.

    I really believe that many of these so called gurus have these huge list of gullible people who really believe the hype, and since they trusted them once before, they continue to get plummeted with permission based spam by all this hype to make money.. I do not exclude my self from this gullible bunch.. Been there, done that.. 2 years later..I learned that none of it made any money.. :> (
    too bad for me..huh!
    at least I learned something..

    How can any anybody fall for any of this INTERNET hoopla. I find most of these opportunities to be empty, unfulfilling, no real world value, no worth, no substance.. no real opportunity except for the fact that you can pass the same opportunity to another sucker.. WOW! how rewarding is that????
    The hype is just a lotta words that entertain the feeble portion of your brain, the part that fantasies for that spit second in time.. no wonder they invented zip files..
    here for the now gone in an instant..zip zip zip..hey where dit go..!

    I’m almost embarrassed to mention to other professionals that I engage in Internet marketing.. I get that look that seems to say.. oh brother, do you really waste your time like that..
    Yeah I know, your right.. but I only do it very, very part time..please believe me I’m better than that???? sure you are…

    In the beginning I spent money on these so called opportunities because #1 …I have it to spend and #2 …
    I emphatically wanted to see what the hoopla was about..

    Thank goodness I have a real business with a real trade..that real people spend real money on..

    As far as the Internet is concerned I will no longer invest it here or anywhere on the NET but only for a product that I need and or use in my trade and thats the end of that.

    I sincerely wanted to make it here, I entered this arena with an open mind, determined to succeed. I’m more disappointed than discouraged. After all discouragement is a mental state and can be easily overcome.
    I have no problem staying optimistic and looking ahead for better days..
    But disappointment is like getting fired, or divorced, or losing or failing at something you value dearly.. to me thats disappointment..its hard to get that back..

    But for some reason I continue to hope that someday I’ll find my sweet spot..
    I find that what works in the real world for me does not work for Internet Marketing. In the real world I carry myself in a most ethical an honest manner in all aspects of my life. Any body would vouch for me.

    I believe Internet failure is such an epidemic it stems from the fact that no one believes any body coupled with unbelievable Internet hype and forget about trying to get anybody to join anything even if you do think thats its the best thing since Luden’s invented the wild cherry throat drop.

    Make money by promoting real products and don’t put your name on it. If a person wants to buy BMW auto parts, build a site, that takes them to an authorized BMW dealer that you can affiliate with, keep your site plain and simple no hype, optimize the living crap out of your site and make sure you get your site ranked on the 1st page of google. When that particular person is searching for BMW parts.. and believe me millions do everyday, your chances of making a sale are extremely good.. Its easier to do that that than to try to get them to join a BMW fan club for $39.95 a month. I don’t care if your name is Parnelli Jones. You’ll find that no one will ever join and if they do they’ll drop out in a month..trust me..
    So thats the story.. hows that for third tribing..you like?
    So long for now..OK its Saturday and I had nothing else better to do plus its very cold outside..

    Rufus

  65. This argument has being going on in advertising for years. And I don’t think the third way is really just about style. It’s also about messaging. Short term tactics to motivate based on base instincts VS brand value.

    Direct marketing writers think they’re using scientifically proven techniques to motivate buyers.

    Mainstream ad writers think these tactics are condescending, negatively impact the brand and just plain bad writing.

    Advertisers generally haven’t cared because the target who would be offended generally won’t bother reading one of those letters. It was a win, win for them.

  66. @Jimmy, not sure if you agree, but I think that at a certain point, style becomes part of the message. How you say it contributes to the meaning of what you say.

  67. Great information. We’re structuring a few pages for PPC campaigns for our website and I’m blessed that I came across this information. Being a legitimate business with consumers who are very savvy buyers, they don’t fall into the same buying psychology that a lot of other individuals do. Thanks so much.

  68. Great article. I think the marketing tactics like get awesome results in one week, and make money while you sleep will always work, because they are targeted to gullible people. Those people want to believe it will work and decide to give it a try.

  69. @Dave Thanks for the useful examples. I have been concerned about how to maintain my integrity on an Internet sales page and this will definitely help.    

    @Joshua and @Peter I agree that customers want to do their own research. Unfortunately some of those cheesy tactic hard sell marketers also have tactics to manipulate searches.  

    I bought from one of them about 6 months ago (BIG mistake) and actually DID research them online first. The research was a waste, but it wasn’t obvious at the time. Everything I found appeared to be good and credible, so I bought. 

    I was immediately bombarded with email offers from them for numerous other products. After buying 2 more, I told them to stop slamming me with offers. (No, I didn’t unsubscribe because I was still a new customer who was invested emotionally – plus their 3 day seminar was coming up.)

    My second purchase from this marketer was for a newsletter delivered on CD via snail mail. The second one (rec’d after the seminar) went into great detail about how to manipulate search engine results specifically for the purpose of drowning out customer complaints!

    I might not be the brightest bulb in the room, but the odds were deliberately stacked against me getting credible information in the standard ways. Even my extensive experience in offline business ownership and sales didn’t prepare me for that whole experience.

    @Michael On surprising the buyer with a bonus after the purchase has been made – Great idea. That kind of over delivering would be strong incentive for me to recommend that marketer at every opportunity. In fact, I think that would guarantee it. :D

  70. The “You’re lucky I’m talking to you!” tactic is the best because it’s hilarious! LOL! “You’re lucky I’m talking to you ro else you’d have just another boring day!” I can’t stop laughing when I land on something like that and reading the copy is like reading a comic book, they get funniest at the end!

  71. These OLD SCHOOL tactics were actually affective in the good old school time. The phrases like You’re lucky I’m talking to you” and “You are dead Meat if you don’t buy it” were often worked. I admit that in my early years of career I too used to use such phrases but now changed with time. I know that these don;t work anymore so being more practical is always best.