Are You Telling Or Are You Selling?

Because there’s a big difference.

Good sales copy is an art that’s slowly being forgotten. Lost under the piles of misinformation about traffic sources, how to get the best CTR and whatever else is the current flavour of the month on Affbuzz. I get the distinct impression that affiliates are forgetting the method in their madness. The fact that wherever they buy traffic from, however many eyeballs they drag to a page, you still have to sell the god damn product you’re promoting.

A successful affiliate campaign is like a jigsaw puzzle. You can have all the traffic sources, all the hottest products and all the best ad ideas. But if you don’t piece them together correctly, you’ve got precisely jack shit. And in my opinion, the piece that keeps getting confined to the affiliate’s peripheral vision is the sales copy.

I don’t think many affiliates are actually that competent when it comes to selling what’s in front of them. And it makes perfect sense because, well you know, not many of us went to marketing school. I sure as hell don’t have a degree in the art (or any other art for that matter), but I have taught myself to appreciate the importance of creating a sales funnel.

And so should you.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in the UK we’re currently facing a spending crisis where you’ll often hear the term “we need to do more with less”. In a slightly different way, I think affiliates are going to soon hijack that quote and apply it to their own businesses. Prices are rising on traffic sources and it’s no longer as easy to get the same CTRs as you were scoring twelve months ago. So you’re going to have to make the most of your advertising outlay. And the best way to do so, in my opinion, is to stop publishing such shitty amateur landing pages.

Stop assuming that x amount of clicks will equal a sale, no matter how good or bad your landing page happens to be. Start working with the mindset of “How can I maximize the likelihood of a conversion with every single click?”

Good sales copy isn’t only noticeable in it’s ability to turn features in to benefits. I won’t waste my time explaining why that’s important. I’m sure most of you already know. But good sales copy is also adept at highlighting the potential stumbling blocks that could prevent a sale – and then eradicating them from the reader’s thoughts.

This is even more important than selling the benefits of a product. You have to be aware that before you make a sale, or a lead, the reader is weighing up two sides of an argument in his head. “Do I stand to gain more by using this product/service than I stand to lose by not using it?”

Unfortunately for you, nearly every potential customer is more inclined to find reasons NOT to buy a product than he is to find reasons why he should. We’re a generation that’s so trained to the monotone world of advertising that it takes a significantly greater number of incentives to outweigh the modern day consumer concerns.

Now you could argue that the acai berry craze proves the argument to be wrong. There was no shortage of buyers there, right? But I’d attribute the acai boom to some incredibly misleading advertising which sufficiently weighted the argument – for those dumb enough – in to making the risk worthwhile.

Look at three of the biggest concerns to the potential customer, and how affiliates neutralized them to eventually force the sale:

Customer thinks: Well, it sounds like it costs a lot of money to buy these wonder supplements and they might not work.
Affiliate says: Not at all! You can have a FREE trial to see for yourself.

Customer thinks: Well, they sound amazing. But has anybody actually tried them and seen results? Where can I find a review?
Affiliates says: I’ve got a dirty great flog with your name on, baby.

Customer thinks: Okay, it’s cheap to try and people are seeing good results. Why is this the first I’ve heard of it?
Affiliates says: Have you not SEEN my “breaking news” YouTube video? What about my box of copy and pasted “As seen on” TV channel logos?! Pretty sure you’ve just had your eyes closed all this time, fatty.

The way to nail that conversion isn’t to explain extreme weight loss in four weeks, list a bunch of exotic ingredients and hope for the best. But to ANTICIPATE what concerns the reader is reacting to as he/she reads through your copy. And if you can pinpoint the source, you can blast those concerns out of the water.

Before I promote any new product, I like to brainstorm as many questions as possible that a potential customer would have. And sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to really understand what’s going through your target market’s mind when you sell to them.

For example, I was doing a little background research to see what would stop a Facebook user from installing a dating application. I learnt more from that research than I ever learnt from posing the question “what do you look for in a dating application?”

One of the things I discovered was that a large percentage of younger users didn’t want to install a dating application in case their friends found out on their profiles. They didn’t want to be seen as virtual dating sad-acts of the twenty first century. It’s something I would never have worked in to my ad creatives before, but armed with the information, you can probably imagine some of the aggressive sales copies I came up with to combat the fears.

When you’re creating your sales funnel, it’s important to place yourself in the reader’s shoes. And don’t be afraid to ask questions that shoot holes in your existing sales copy. Your sales funnel is effectively a corridor heading towards the conversion. The reader normally can’t be bothered to play along and is looking for the first exit out of there. Poor sales copy leaves doors wide open for the reader to justify leaving at any time. It’s your job to keep those doors bolted shut and direct them towards the end of the corridor where your money is made.

About the author


A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.


Leave a comment
  • Good one here,
    Also talking to a potential customer can fill a lot of voids,
    For example one month ago I met a girl in a bar who said that she is obsessed with getting whiter teeth, there I was all over her with questions like why and how much. She was a little drunk and answered honestly I guess, it was the first time I met a person so desperate about getting hollywood-bleached teeth.
    At the end I told her not to buy any teeth whitening products on the internet tho.

  • Interesting observation regarding facebook’s dating apps installs. Great insight to writing ad copies .. picture speaks a thousand words, but the words are as important in a successful ad campaign

  • Interesting thoughts. I do think affiliates definitely need to focus more attention on creating better ad copy than they do.

  • I did an experiment. I put an exit stop on one of my landing pages. The exit stop asked why the user didn’t want to buy the product. After a couple hundred clicks, only one person gave me a reason. The reason was… “because there’s a lot of scams online.”

  • Great post, definitely with you on that (one of your earlier posts went into detail on addressing customer concerns didnt it?).

    I spent last weekend trawling through POF ads and landing pages to “gauge the competition” ..I was quiet boyed to find the standard of landing pages (the few that existed as most were direct links) were mostly poor in that they made little creative effort to “pre-sell”. Obviously I didn’t come across any of yours though!

  • Hey Finch,
    I really enjoyed reading this. It really brings out the thought and depth of effort needed to truly be a good marketer. Sure there are some who are better at being sneaky and a little shady than others, but the affiliate marketers who will have longevity are the ones that build and refine marketing skills and not the latest, greatest flog, farticle, fake news site, fake blog, yada yada yada.


  • Your entire blog post can be summarized into one sentence. = “Enter the conversations that are already happening inside your prospects minds.”

    Although I do enjoy your wordiness.

  • Excellent article, I know I definitely turn off if I feel like i’m being sold to (half the reason I prefer the ‘real talk’ of yours and similar blogs to bullshit half sells I’ve seen on some of the forums).

    Keep it up,

  • Great timing for me with this post. I was just thinking about this on a similar level last night. After running a few mediocre campaigns via PPV and not seeing a huge amount of success, I stepped back and thought, “Wait, what exactly am I doing here?” I’m doing exactly what every other affiliate is doing.

    Slapping up a quick pop up then linking to the offer can work, but I’ve decided to put a little more effort in and have the pop lead to some real copy to presell first.

    I got CPV Lab installed and running today. About to dive in and start making much more solid campaigns. Time to put the _marketing_ back into affiliate marketing.

  • That was honestly the best post I’ve read in months. This is something I’m definetly going to impement in the future.

  • Great post, Finch. Refreshing to read. I actually did graduate in marketing – although you wouldn’t think it from my affiliate efforts!

    In my case, the problem may be that I’d forgotten the art of the sale but it’s more likely that for me at least, I never seem to quite do anything with all of my effort.

    I think this is importat. I’d fall into the noob affiliate marketer category and actually, what I have found when I look back over my efforts for the last 12 months is that I’ve not actually approached anything with a true campaign mindset, as you would in traditional marketing.

    For example, we’re running an email marketing campaign, we’re planning it 2 months in advance, timing the delivery date of the email with the editorial focus of the month and really drilling down sales copy. We’re planning.

    In comparison to my AM efforts, all I’ve managed to do is ‘experiment’. I’ve not yet found anything that works too well but I think the point I’m laboriously getting at here is that to write good sales copy and really maximise the traffic that comes into your sales funnell, it requires thought and planning. This is something I, for one, have not done enough of in the last 12 months and as you quite rightly put it, it’s time I actually started to think about what I’m doing!

  • “One of the things I discovered was that a large percentage of younger users didn’t want to install a dating application in case their friends found out on their profiles.”

    That is so key! Things like this separate the 30% conversion rate from the 20%’ers. Awesome post.

  • It’s for posts like this one that I see you as one speaking truth instead of the same garbage.

    Straight to the point. Ebooks and studying is pointless if we forget that we have people with brains behind a desk as customers.

  • Absolutely great post, had me thinking of ways to tweak my campaigns before I had even finished reading it.

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