Night Of The Living-Dead Sales Letter…


Thursday, 8:06pm
Reno, NV
Here come Johnny Yen again…” (Iggy Pop, “Lust For Life”)


Oh, my God!

They killed the sales letter again!

Will this horror never stop?

Actually, you can relax.  Just like Kenny in South Park, the traditional sales letter is on some kind of perverse “Permanent Hit List”…

… where every marketer trying to claim he just invented a new fad stands astride the image of a quaking letter…

… and slays it.

Huzzah! Death to you, vile long-copy sales letter!  Take that… and that…

… and that.

This latest round is clever as hell, too.  The new trend is putting your sales letter in a video, and reading along with it.

The irony:  The dude selling you the “Magic Box” product that kills the sales letter forever…

… uses a sales letter to do the killing.

Hey — don’t get me wrong.  I love video.  Been using it in marketing since… well, since it was actual videotape on reels.  (Yeah, shocking, I know.  We were so backward in the last century.)

In fact, the “Magic Box” product I’m talking about is, I’m guessing, an excellent solution for many marketers who can’t figure out how to make a video sales letter work.

And all’s fair in love, war and advertising.  So all the dudes out there telling you the sales letter is dead, and you can sell without selling, and the Web has changed everything…

… well, more power to ’em.

I just want to clarify 3 things.

Enlightenment Moment #1. Video is not magic.  No one will give you money for your product just because you have video in your marketing.

Video IS a smokin’ hot vehicle for delivering a good sales message, however.  We’ve seen (and heard of) results skyrocket in certain markets simply by introducing video into the mix.

It lets you engage your prospect with visuals, audio, and all the attention-getting power of passion-inflected voice-overs.

Video rocks.  When the Web goes 3-D, then 3-D video will rock, too.

When your monitor starts spraying you with carefully-selected odors, then smells will become a marketing tool.  Taste isn’t far off, either.

The thing is… the best kind of selling will always be a senses-consuming, totally customized experience for the prospect.

The more personalized you can make the sales process, the more you will sell (as long as you don’t screw up the message).

So for now, yeah, video is something you need to test vigorously.  (And those tests will likely show you that video is just as powerful as folks insist it is.)


… it’s not the video that’s doing anything for you.

It’s the experience of being taken through a good sales process in a new way that tweaks more of your senses.

A sucky sales message in a video will still get you sucky results.

Enlightenment Moment #2. There is a trend now among some info-marketers of insisting that you can “sell without selling”.

This is an excellent sales tactic.  Vast mobs of rookie marketers crave this kind of soothing message.  They fear the sales process, and want to hear that they can skip any act even remotely associated with gnarly, unsightly salesmanship.

And so, this is the exact message that is floated by info-marketers eager for the quick kill.  You don’t need to know how to write, and you don’t need to understand anything about selling.

And it’s bullshit.

These guys are (a) excellent writers themselves (even as they insist they’re not)… and (b) astonishingly clever salesmen.

Again, I salute them.  I even urge people to check out their products.  It’s often good shit.

However, it causes my in-box to fill up with questions from confused rookie marketers…

… and it’s annoying to have to haul out the same answer every few months.

Which leads us to…

Enlightenment Moment #3: Let’s review — once again — what a sales letter really is…

… and why people keep wanting to kill it.


Please note this:  There has never been a time in the history of business…

… where long copy sales letters were the “norm” for most marketers.

Most advertising and marketing sucks.  It always has, and always will.

Most advertising “experts” who staff the kind of mega-agencies that create ads for large corporations (from selling cupcakes to selling investments on Wall Street)… are NOT killer salesmen.

None of the mainstream advertising you see for Coca-cola, for example, actually sells Coca-cola.   It just keeps the brand in your head.  (Okay, when they can get away with it, they’ll also try to hypmotize you into craving it… but that’s never been proven to work.)

What causes Coke to actually sell is a complex manufacturing and delivery system that dominates the sugar-water industry.  Nobody walks out of Taco Bell because they sell Pepsi instead of Coke.

However, Coke will fly off the shelves in a supermarket because they have primo shelf position, coupons and cross-sell affiliations up the whazoo, and it’s a leader in creating new vehicles for easier consumption.  (You still call the local soft-drink dispenser “the Coke machine” — even if there’s no Coke in it — because Coke created the industry of delivering cold bottles individually, automatically.)

So yeah, those cute TV commercials with Santa swilling Coke with polar bears isn’t “selling”, as in moving product.

What moves the bottles and cans is the hard-core marketing machine that keeps 7-11 fully stocked, at eye level.

Any marketer with less than a billion dollars in their ad budget, who thinks they’re gonna be successful by “copying” Coke’s commercial style…

… is an idiot.

Copying their manufacturing and delivery system, sure.  Again, if you got the bucks, the distribution channels, the deals with supermarket chains, etc.

Same with cars.  You don’t see a Ford commercial, stumble off to the dealer in a zombie daze, and buy immediately.

No.  You engage with a sales process.

These processes… the dealing with a “sales agent”, or finding yourself at the consuming end of a system that started with sugar water… all rely on pure salesmanship to work.

Top marketers, throughout the long history of marketing, either know this…

… or learn it, quickly.

It’s the only way to become successful in a way you control.  You don’t rely on luck, or on fads, or on the unexpected confluence of events for your success.

No.  You create your success.  By knowing how to sell.

Now… let’s get back to why most advertising and marketing sucks.

In the greater world of advertising, there are the huge agencies who use slogans and art, and call it an ad because no one knows any better…

… and then there is this tiny little sliver of the industry, way off in the corner, called “direct response advertising”.

It’s the bastard child of the big agencies.

The big agencies like slogans and pretty art, because all they want to do is to please their client.  So the client cries out “That’s a GREAT ad!  We can’t wait to run it during the Superbowl!”

And they happily pay vast fortunes to the agencies, believing they have done their due marketing diligence.

Meanwhile, over in the corner (sulking, because we get no fucking respect)…

… the direct response guys don’t care if the client loves the ad.

Because they’re not selling the ad to the client.

They’re, instead, creating an ad that will sell to PROSPECTS.

The term “direct response” refers to the nature of the ads.  There is some element of asking for ACTION.  A response.  Click here to order.  Opt in to get the free goodies.  Call for a quote.

This kind of response scares the bejesus out of the big fancy agencies.

They HATE the idea of being held responsible for any kind of actual RESULT from their nice-looking, salesmanship-free ads.

Because, if Ford ever asked their agency how many cars were sold from the last whiz-bang set of TV commercials…

… the answer would be a shrug.  “We don’t know.  We literally have no clue whether those ads sold lots and lots of cars, or no car at all.”

(Here’s how that game works, btw: At the end of the year, if Ford sold more cars — for whatever reason — the agency retains the account and are heroes.  If Ford sold less cars, they fire the agency and hire another one.  It’s all smoke and mirrors, alchemy, voodoo and wish-fulfillment all rolled into one big ball of bullshit.)

The direct response guys?

They can’t afford to create ads that don’t work…

… cuz everyone will immediately know if the ads bomb or succeed…

… based on the results.

No guesswork.  No magic.  No nonsense about “brand awareness” or “long-term sales strategies”.

You create the ad.  You minimize “x” factors, you test, you count up the numbers, and either it works, sorta works, or fails.


Faced with the prospect of actually having to create a provably-successful ad… the direct response guys have always gone straight to the source of successful selling:


Knowing how to persuade, hold attention, overcome objections… and especially how to close the deal.

And guess what?

In one form or another…

… doing this always ends up in some kind of long-copy sales letter.

Infomercials in the 80s were long sales letters.  They were low-rent videos that ran for an hour on late-night cable for spare change, in an age when most marketers were spending a fortune on high-production 20-second spots on the networks (with zero actual selling going on).  (Those crappy infomercials brought in vast fortunes, too, and changed the way marketers think about cable — and late night selling — forever.)

Most ads in newspapers and magazines were small, tidy little affairs with cute headlines.  The ads that worked in newspapers and mags, however, were the full-page monsters that presented better stories that the publication itself… and which sold hard and crazy.

Most businesses, throughout the ages, have insisted on following the herd… and dumped endless piles of cash into sales-challenged marketing that was doomed from the get-go.

And meanwhile, off in that corner of the advertising industry, the direct response guys who knew how to sell just plodded along, piling up results and remaining more-or-less content to stay behind the curtains.

Then the Web arrived.

And with it, the biggest opportunity for entrepreneurial start-ups that civilization has ever seen.

You literally needed just an Internet connection and a cheap computer… and you could start a real business.  Kitchen table optional.

And guess what?

The smart entrepreneurs went straight for the jugular with their marketing efforts.  Without deep pockets, they had to make their advertising work right off the bat.

And so they were instantly attracted to direct response strategies.  Who cares if the ads weren’t pretty, or people bitched about long copy, or — gasp! — complaints rolled in from folks offended that anyone would use the Net to sell anything.

What works, works.

The Big Dog entrepreneurial marketers online are ALL direct response aficionados.

Even the ones who insist they’re not.  (They’re just really, really good at selling you in ways that don’t trigger the “I’m being sold!” alarms in your head.)

Don’t get confused by what stuff is called.

A minute of video is (more or less) equal to around a page of double-spaced copy.  So a 10-minute video is delivering the oomph of a 10-page sales letter.

So, fine, don’t call it a sales letter.

We don’t, anymore.  We now talk to folks about creating a sales message.  The delivery system for that message may be a real letter, or a website, or a video on a site, or a series of auto-responder emails, or a speech from a stage, or a webinar/teleseminar or…

… or any other way it can be presented to a prospect.

It’s not the “letter” part of the phrase that matters.  (The next generation of marketers now coming up the ranks have likely never received a mailed letter in their lives, anyway.)


It’s the “sales” part that matters.

Learn how to sell.  It’s not voodoo.  It’s actually easy, when you have an experienced guide.

Don’t sweat the “writing” part.  If you can sell, you can do all your marketing verbally… have it transcribed into video scripts, or Web pages, or printed ads, or whatever you need… and skip the whole “writing” thing altogether.

But you probably aren’t a natural salesman.  Most people are woefully inept at crafting a good sales pitch.

So learn the simple steps behind selling.  It’s not hard.

However… if you insist on remaining ignorant…

… then you will forever be prey to the dudes who DO know how to sell.

And they will sell you one Magic Box solution after another.  Solutions they themselves have succeeded with…

… because — oops, they forgot to tell you — they are KILLER salesmen.

There are a lot of great products out there for entrepreneurs and small biz owners who can’t afford to have marketing that doesn’t work like crazy.

If you get on my list, you’ll know who we recommend.  We don’t recommend anything we haven’t tried ourselves.

But before you try ANY of the clever new shit out there…

… please… learn how to sell.

Just absorb the simple basics into your skull.

And here’s where I recommend you start.  (Just click on the blue word “here’s” in that last sentence.  Like magic, you’ll be transported to a stripped-down website where you can learn more.  No obligation.  No trickery.  Just the basics on what you can do, right now, to learn more about becoming a killer salesman.)

The best marketers out there are obsessed with closing the deal.

You’re just not in the game if you don’t understand salesmanship.

You are, in fact, meat.  Sustenance for those who do know understand how to persuade and influence and sell.


That was a long way around the block to make a point.

But it needed to be made.  And will be needed again, no doubt.

If you appreciate this kind of no-nonsense explanation on how stuff really works…

… then climb aboard.  Opt in, above right.

It’s a minefield out there, when you’re alone and trying to make a business work without knowing who to trust.

We know who the good guys are, and who the charlatans are.

I’m sure you disagree with at least some of what I’ve said here.

The comment section is now open, awaiting your wisdom and input.

Have at it.

Stay frosty,


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  • Marvin says:

    As always, what a great way to kill the target with pinpoint accuracy.

    It’s the oldest lesson in the book: If you wanna be good at doing something, learn it and keep on learning it. And salesmanship is no different.

    The problem with newbie marketers is they keep looking for the easy way – and this makes them hors d’œuvres for most marketers eyeing them for – the way you put it JC – the easy kill.

    I guess this will not be the last time we’ll hear news of the long salesletter’s demise. It’ll always be attacked by those who abhor classic salesmanship and those who pretend to attack it just so they can move in with their sales pitch.

    “The irony: The dude selling you the “Magic Box” product that kills the sales letter forever…

    … uses a sales letter to do the killing.”

    I guess that says it all… 🙂

  • Toledo says:

    Sadly this is the first time that I have been exposed to your work, and I have to say that in one post (sales message) you have me. The way that this is written is brilliant. I’m sure I will be a long time customer and fan.

  • Chubby says:

    Could I have a list of the charlatans please?

  • My friend told me about your blog yesterday and true to his word your blog is a sure treasure for online marketers. People have of late abandoned the fundamentals of marketing and gone to strategies that are hyped which sometime are not as people claim.

    Great post.

  • David Jenyns says:

    Solid gold nuggets throughout this post. You’ve mastered the art of selling without selling…

    Tell stories, be real, be honest and transparent, recommend things you truly believe in, lead the prospect to a buying decision… oh and don’t forget to tell them to “Take Action Now”.

    Top stuff as always.

    Dave Jenyns

    • John Carlton says:

      The next thing to be exploited will, however, BE transparency, David. The marketers who game the system have it targeted, and are ready to pounce. There will be confessions and angles that look like transparency, but aren’t. It’s like the old TV ad trick: “I’m not a real doctor, but I play one on TV”, coming from a guy in a lab coat with a clipboard… which is meant to convey authority, and in unconscious ways even pulls it off. The admission seems like transparency, but is meant to deceive. Same with all the bullshit Big Pharma ads on the tube — smiling people frolic in top health as the voice-over happily rolls through the horrific side effects.
      This gets back to my claim that “salesmen lead better lives”… because to be a good salesman, you need to be totally conscious, and see the world clearly as it actually is (not as you wish it was or believe it “should be”). If you don’t understand salesmanship (and the Dark Side of it, which is used by unethical marketers) then you can be manipulated.
      Staying frosty means being conscious… and understanding how the world works.
      And yes, you gotta put some sweat-equity into your quest to be successful. It doesn’t have to be “hard”, but you do have to focus and hone your skills.
      Thanks for the post, David.

      • PJ McClure says:

        Holy shit John!
        I was all stoked about the brilliance in your post and then you drop another brilliance bomb in the reply above!

        I’ve been selling professionally since I turned 16 and found out early that you can’t be halfway in the game. You’ve got to be fully conscious of every nuance to be any good.

        When I made the transition to writing sales copy I struggled until someone told me to write like I was talking to the prospect. It worked like a charm because the process is the same. Understanding salesmanship is the key to life as far as I’m concerned.

        As part of “the club” you see everything a little differently. You appreciate a great salesperson and you sniff out a con man from a mile away.

        The idea of selling without selling is humorous. But as you’ve pointed out, it is playing to a deep emotional pain that most people have. The deeper the pain you relieve, the more money people will pay you to do it. That’s selling.

  • ken ca|houn says:

    Great points. As The first well known marketer (to my knowledge) who started using video in long copy salesletters back starting 2001 (when I had to use .ram realvideos, before flvs), who’s been widely copied by the marketers these last few years… here’s a couple of insights I’ll share:

    #1. Long copy salesletters will always be the best way to sell things, period. My seven-figure sales come from video embedded into long-copy salesletters, my top-selling products have 25-40 page long-copy that still sells fine today for high priced info products.

    #2. Most of the guys doing video-only-stuck-on-top-of-blogs (or video-only squeeze pages) are 90% dependent on huge affiliate armies and current huge lists they’ve gotten over the years to monetize their video-only landing pages. That isn’t going to work for the rest of the folks, who are not gurus with huge aff armies and 50k+ size lists.

    #3. Having video without playback scrub bars to force readers to listen to the whole pitch, the latest “innovation”, is schtick because it’s forcing people to watch. On the ‘net people want Control over their content consuming experience, meaning keep the playback bar in place, don’t hide it.

    #4. I have taken up to several hundred hours to carefully write out the scripts for my various videos, and good scriptwriting is an extremely challenging skill. I use all I’ve learned about copywriting to write winning internet video commercial scripts. So the skill of long copy salesletter writing (adapted both for the sales copy on the pages, as well as the video scripts) is even MORE in demand and needed.

    I’ve sold millions online thanks to my internet video production skills since 1999 (with video on salesletters since 2001), light years before the latest gurus started hawking it. What works for gurus with huge affiliate armies and huge lists does NOT translate into what is needed for everyone else. Really.

    Learning how to write long copy salesletters, updated with interactive elements (cms/joomla/blogs/videos) is the core skill, and John’s an absolute master of the craft.

    to profits,

    ken ca|houn

    • John Carlton says:

      Excellent info, as always, Ken.
      The point about “affiliate armies” should never be overlooked… it’s right up there with believing you can copy Coke’s ad campaigns while ignoring the massive budget and underlying support system.
      It will always be about salesmanship, coupled with your ability to recognize the resources you need to pursue. If you need a big staff, then you get one. If you don’t, you don’t. Same with every other detail of running a biz — you need some things, you can hedge on others, but you MUST understand what’s essential and what’s BS.
      Thanks again for the post, Ken.

    • Great post John 🙂 I (as you know) teach people how to use video to sell more effectively and while I don’t think long sales letters will disappear, they will be replaced by people who realize how much better they can convert visitors into buyers through video. Like you said, it’s about the sales process, and video allows you to take someone through that process similar to 1on1, stage selling, or even teleseminar type selling.

      Now with that said, Ken, I respectfully disagree with several things you said and feel the need to point them out…

      I don’t disagree for the sake of disagreeing, I disagree because of the results of over 2 years of solid testing of what I’m about to share….

      #1. “Long copy salesletters will always be the best way to sell things, period. ”

      While you’ll always be able to sell with long copy, it’s not always (and usually) not the best way. Video converts better. Period. My last video was getting $18/click without any type of pre-launch buildup/market buzz. (That was with over 65,000 visitors so, a fair test sample).

      #2 – On that, I couldn’t agree more. For whatever reason, copy always seems to out-pull on squeeze pages for me (however I know several others that get the opposite result which could very well be dependent on the message).

      #3 – “Having video without playback scrub bars to force readers to listen to the whole pitch, the latest “innovation”, is schtick because it’s forcing people to watch.”

      This is what cause me to respond 🙂 This is pure non-sense. That’s like saying having commercials on tv forces people to watch them. Having no scrub bar vs having a scrub out-pulls 10 to 1 easily. Try it. I seem to remember your “sales videos” online being more of an infomercial feel but you should consider trying the new method that I teach and so many are using now (powerpoint with voice over).

      By the way, the video before the $18/click on was $16/click. The launch before that was nearly $14/click. It’s not just me.

      Ask: Matt Bacak, Anik Singal, Mike Filsaime, Eric Stafford, Marc Horne, Hollis Carter, Jordan Hall, Russell Brunson, and the list goes on and on.

      They all use my Easy Sales Formula to create videos that were a MASSIVE success and all of them reported that their $/click was higher than anything they’d ever done.

      #4 – “I have taken up to several hundred hours to carefully write out the scripts for my various videos, and good scriptwriting is an extremely challenging skill.”

      That’s exactly the problem and why you’re videos don’t sell like these easy sales videos sell. You’re scripting. It’s impersonal and comes across to the viewer even if you think it doesn’t. Think about “direct selling”. Like speaking from stage. Do you script it out? Rarely will any speaker have every word scripted. It’s because the audience would be able to tell and wouldn’t react as well to the “authenticity” aspect of selling.

      Either way, Ken I’ve loved your professionalism since I first heard your name in ’05 and I just wanted to make sure you understood that just because what you tried didn’t work, doesn’t make it so 😉

      Keith Wellman

      • John Carlton says:

        Hi Keith. What a great example of respectful disagreement. Most folks have forgotten what real dialog looks like, what real back-and-forth sounds like.
        Ken does test, and I’ll bet this thread continues.
        The one thing I can add is this: Testing in one market does not always “translate” to another market accurately.
        We know other marketers who test the bejesus out of stuff… and we consistently hear them coming back with results that are directly opposite of what other test-savvy dudes are getting.
        There’s no one magic solution. It was the same when the only games in town were direct mail, print ads, or TV. Now you can add the Web (and all the subcategories within it) to the mix… and we’ll continue to see varying results, with no one method winning hands down. (Though, some fads will scorch the earth for a period of time before wearing out. Long-term, however, the overall results will even out.) (Infomercials, for example, have hit a wall with results.)
        Thanks for chiming in, Keith. Always great to hear from you.

        • I was going to reply later, but this is probably the best spot. First off, heretic that I am, I sort of agree with all of you. We’re all in the position of blind men, trying to describe an elephant by feel. =8-0 Years ago, when I was on the I-sales, and I-ad lists, I learned a huge amount about advertising and Marketing, and a lot about sales. I learned a *lot* more by actually helping people sell physical items. (If you want to learn to really sell, work with itinerant dealers.) As a result, I figured out that it’s all a spectrum of behavior modification.
          advertising, what Coke does, tells you that there is a general solution to your problems (thirst). Sort of a, “Hey folks we exist!” Marketing is the association with NASCAR. etc. More clearly it’s a beautiful Woman, and a handsome man, in the perfume ad. You are supposed to believe that wearing the perfume, will attract only handsome (and desireable) men. Selling is filling the actual need of the customer, or as close as you can possibly get. (all of the preceding is copyright FBN, and Walter Daniels 1999-2010)
          Long, and short copy works, because they are the _correct_ length, in that market, for that product. There is no set length, for all products. Just as there is no “one way to sell.” Each person is different, and different approaches, will work for various groups.
          With that, I’ll slip back to my molehill, to pontificate from.:-)

        • Rezbi says:

          This thread, in particular, has made this post of yours one of the most valuable I’ve seen for a long time.

          That’s saying something as there’s always something of value in all your posts.

          I’m going to wait to see how far this goes, then I’m copying this into a word doc. for reference.

          Having said that, I have to agree with both sides of the argument here…

          I’ve literally stopped watching keith’s videos because I always ended up buying his stuff, even if I didn’t need it. So I’d say they work.

          In my view, it’s still eaerly days to say for sure whether or not videos will stand the test of time as Keith uses them.

          Long copy sales copy has been around a long time and we know it works, and I can’t see that ending any time soon. The only thing, IMO, which will end is the hyped up copy that sold like gang-busters. But they’re also the ones I avoid like the plague now.

          To say long copy is on its way out is is like they way everyone used to say radio is dead, video is dead, books are dead, etc,. etc.

          It’s just not going to happen.

      • David says:

        Sorry Keith, but I totally agree with Ken’s #3. A better analogy of having to watch a video wherein you have no idea how long it runs is more analogous to having a salesman come to your office and when you ask, “how much time do you need today?”, he replies, “that’s for me to know and you to find out!” At that point, my boot is going firmly up his ass as I kick him out of my office. That’s exactly what I do when I encounter one of these incredibly boring bullet point text with voice over so-called videos. I hit the back button immediately, which is the same as giving the boot in person.

        There is nothing more boring and lame than a live speaker who gets up on stage and parrots yet another toxic bullet point only Powerpoint presentation. Same thing online. I don’t care what your numbers say for the Internet guru market, this type of “video” is very lame indeed, especially when coupled with no defined video length.

        Personally, I prefer to read a good sales letter (sometimes more than once) with quality graphics and images if I’m making a major purchase decision. If video is included, I want to watch people or screen capture action, not another toxic Powerpoint show.

        • David,
          Yup, it’s actually very easy to add the time below the video and by doing so I don’t see much of a difference in conversions.

          “I don’t care what your numbers say for the Internet guru market, this type of “video” is very lame indeed, especially when coupled with no defined video length.”

          I wouldn’t care what “my” numbers say if I were you either. The proof is that it works in EVERY lame (and not so lame) market it’s been tested in. Not just by me, but hundreds of other marketers in niches you couldn’t imagine.

          “toxic Powerpoint” lol very good use of theatrics 😉 Just because you don’t like them, doesn’t make them toxic. They work because a LARGE percentage of people actually enjoy watching them when they do the job of pulling the visitor in. On top of that, the combination of powerpoint, screencap, and a few small animations can add great value to the sales message. Try to think about it in terms of simplicity. The fancy sales letter with all the graphics may look pretty but time and time again, I see the ugly non-formated sales copy written from pro’s that crush their fancy graphic counter parts. Not trying to start up a feud here, just making a point that numbers are numbers. Ignore them as much as you want, hate the no-scrub bar as much as you want, in the end, the numbers are what matters when talking about conversions alone. If you somehow think it’s evil to have a powerpoint video as opposed to a long ass sales letter, that’s a whole other matter all together 🙂

          PS – Damn you John for having the cool notifications for comments getting me all engaged up! lol 🙂

        • David says:

          “The proof is that it works in EVERY lame (and not so lame) market it’s been tested in.” ### Tested against what? An affiliate marketer’s feeble attempt at writing a genuine pre-sell page about a product he’s never used before?

          “They work because a LARGE percentage of people actually enjoy watching them when they do the job of pulling the visitor in.” ### You can’t be serious. Where’s your proof that people enjoy watching toxic powerpoint? Actually I didn’t coin the phrase “toxic powerpoint.” Cliff Atkinson, the author of Beyond Bullet Points, deserves the credit. He has a very good free report that explains the issues with using this type of communication style.

          “Try to think about it in terms of simplicity.”
          ### Simplicity might be good if you’re looking for copywriting shortcuts, but as a buying customer I don’t want simplicity when I’m contemplating a major purchase. I want lots of details, benefits, and information. I want the book, not the cliff notes.

          “The fancy sales letter with all the graphics may look pretty but time and time again, I see the ugly non-formated sales copy written from pro’s that crush their fancy graphic counter parts.” ### No doubt some ugly letters out perform pretty ones, but all things being equal, I’m more likely to respond to a letter with useful photos and/or illustrations. Not talking about whiz bang graphics for the sake of graphics, but added information.

          “… in the end, the numbers are what matters when talking about conversions alone.” ### I couldn’t agree more. It’s just that I don’t believe your statement that toxic powerpoint pulls better EVERY time. In comparision to what? When I start to see Clayton Makepeace using your method exclusively, then maybe I’ll begin to believe.

          “If you somehow think it’s evil to have a powerpoint video as opposed to a long ass sales letter, that’s a whole other matter all together.” ### Never said it was evil. I just don’t like being communicated to in such a limited and boring way. Makes me conclude that your product will be equally limiting and boring. How long is a “long ass” sales letter anyway? How many words?

  • John,

    This blog post should be required reading before ANYBODY decides to start marketing ANYTHING, period.


  • John G. says:

    Hmm… Interesting post. I’ve always wondered why the long copy/short copy/no copy argument continues to persist.
    I wonder, how many new “copywriters” actually test anything? If they did, would it matter what the gurus are selling?
    We should remind ourselves with every campaign that reality doesn’t give a crap about fundamentals. Long copy or video doesn’t matter; testing will show the facts.

    • John Carlton says:

      Testing is the closest we can get to “magic” in this biz, John. It eliminates guessing, and settles any argument instantly.
      Still, I know that many veteran marketers skimp on testing.
      Thanks for the note, John.

  • Mathias says:

    Advertising could learn a lot from the athletic world.
    The best coaches in the world have a no-nonsense approach to what they’re doing, they know what works, they measure their athletes performance and are constantly looking for new information to apply, so they can get the edge. if you ask a good coach why are you doing that? he will always have an answer based on research and testing.

    Advertisng should be no different. Marketers have a duty to explore what works and to improve performance(selling). You know, push the limits and pass the knowledge to the next generation.

  • Mark says:

    Right between the eyes.

    Thanks John

  • Chris Hunt says:

    Awesome message John!

    The whole salesmanship thing washed over me for a while – “they” say people don’t like to be sold…

    …until I tried selling my a$$ off. My results skyrocketed!

    Ofcourse there’s nuance to the sales process – so it’s not all hardball.

    All in all, you either sell them ‘yes’ or they sell you ‘no’. That’s one easy no if you don’t even turn up.

    …and Re:Coke – a polar bear selling me a softdrink John. Give me a break! That’s got to be one f*cking persuasive polar bear!


  • Joe says:


    Great info, I operate a large retail web site that in the past has always simply added new products left and right with no real selling. We simply put the items online as fast as possible and added some fluff description with a couple of bullet points and maybe, and I mean maybe, some feature benefit type info. No real offers, no bribes, no real selling. And to be honest, we’ve done pretty well…at least while times were good.

    After beign reminded of my need to actually sell I decided to try a more traditional “long sales letter” in my actual description of a product…NO ONE ELSE IS DOING THIS IN MY INDUSTRY OR IN MANY OTHERS!

    After testing the long sales letter has outsold the standard description by over 30% already. I’m sure all of you are shocked right…

    Why so many of us forget to or even worse choose not to sell is beyond me. Thanks for the reminder again. I’m excited for the large increase my business is about to receive based on something I know I should have already been doing.


  • ken ca|houn says:

    the “you don’t need to write long salesletters they’re hypey anyways” argument is tired and incorrect…. it appeals, like John’s graph (which I have on a whiteboard in my office to remind me, daily), because the complex/hard reality is, you need to be a master sales person, and express that (through long copy, supported by video if appropriate)… but the ‘make it simple and easy’ that generates high interest and sales, is the pitch that you can slap together some cheesy video with static slides and that’s all you need to succeed… which is totally wrong.

    the right answer like John says is, you must master salesmanship, and then craft a pitch that hits the prospect square in the gut and connects… whether that’s salesletters only, or combination letters/videos, or direct mail or whatever the medium, the key is, become a sales professional… most copy that’s bad is written by people who could never sell face-to-face successfully… give me a good sales professional anyday, then adapt the medium so that the message-to-market match is there. It’s all about salesmanship, regardless of media.

    And long copy isn’t going away at all. I’d never launch a product without it. I’ve simply made too much money with them (even had a 5-figure relaunch recently) using long copy. It simply, positively works – when done right. I view video as the support mechanism (for example I use dozens of video testimonials, and killer motion design graphics and network quality animations)… but it still comes down to the long copy letter and sales skills, as the “meat” of the message that connects with folks and makes the sale.


  • Dave Doolin says:

    And I thought I was the only person who noticed…

    “What a chode. He’s just reading his long form sales letter out loud.”

    With all due affection of course. Quite a brilliant ploy if you think about it. After you pay someone to write that killer sales letter, you get to pay someone else to put it all on video!


    Writing – persuading with words – is an “evergreen” skill. I just emailed my friend Kelly D this morning about how I was getting tired of writing tech articles (which are good for long term search results BTW), and “feel-good” motivational articles were so much easier to write. Then don’t get obsolete as fast as the latest hooha from Google or whatnot.

    @joe – I’m not surprised.

  • Lee Collins says:


    Always enlightening and on target.

    Rock hard, Kick ass…
    Lee Collins

  • Sally Neill says:

    What a great post, spot on as always, love your blog it’s my no1 fav, Sally 🙂

  • Andrew Peel says:


    I have to say I personally have never understood the psychology or logic of a long sales letter.

    In every form of communication training the core message has always been the same:

    Short &

    Whenever I read a long sales letter I do one thing, read the first paragraph, scroll to the bottom and look at the price. I then do a VFM calculation and decide whether to purchase.

    So if you are unable to describe the product, explain the problems it deals with and the benefits to me in a paragraph or less I always delete the email. I just see it as tedious marketing.

    The correct use of a long sales letter is to actually turn it into 5 shorter messages.

    Look at Mike Dillard – he uses the Bootcamp approach. In essence he cuts what would be a long sales letter into 5 sales letters.

    I really hope the tedious markters take heed of what you say and my inbox has less of those boring diatribes.

    Keep up the great work.

  • Austin says:

    #1: Ryan Deiss
    #2: Frank Kern
    #3: Gary Halbert

  • Rezbi says:

    You know what I really like, and think is soooo cule?

    Those late night sitcoms where they sell all those cool stuff. And I just love the way they come up with just the right words to literally force you to take out your wallet, pick up the phone, and order that super, duper new thingamajig.

    And the best part?

    They make all that stuff up as they’re going along.

    Those peeps shore are smart.

    They must be rolling in cash.

    Imagine how much more they’d make if they actually had a top copywriter… you know… actually write the words for them to say… actually…

    Someone like Dan Kennedy, or John Carlton, or Joe Sugarman.

    You know, any of those guys.

    just imagine how good they’d be then.

    Now, imagine if those kind of guys actually wrote the copy for the video that are coming out on the web.


    I can’t wait for smelly-vision.

    “You know what, don’t buy that other guys stuff… coz it stinks” (Out pops a spray of crap)


    looks to like these guys are all going to the dark side.

    Sales copy doesn’t matter, schmatter.

  • Scott says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Man I love what you say, and how you say it – this is the exact perfect place for colorful language to hopefully snap some of the zombies out of their trance and keep them from making a purchase which isn’t going to be the magic bullet they think it is.

    I’ve noticed the “read your sales letter in your video which is nothing more than some text on a screen” approach for a while now, and I like it just about as much as the idiot presenter who creates a Powerpoint and then spends 30 minutes reading it word-for-word to everybody in the room.

    Removing the playback controls puts me over the edge!

    Fortunately, I don’t “guru follow” like I used to, so I don’t see much of this, and I’m sure it is getting worse every day.

    You, Perry Marshall, and a very short list of others are the only people I continue to follow feverishly, based on wisdom such as you just demonstrated with this post.

    So thank you again for saying this. I realize I didn’t add any value with this comment, but sometimes the good guys like you deserve a little gushing praise, right?


  • Doberman Dan says:

    I don’t think anybody has brought this up yet but here’s something I’ve noticed in one of the niches I’ve worked in since 1995.

    It appears that a LOT of Americans born after 1970 or so and attended public school are functionally illiterate. I can’t give you any statistics to back this up, but looking through the e-mails my customer service people have to deal with pretty much backs this up.

    Of course video will work well with this crowd. They have a really hard time comprehending what they read.

    • John Carlton says:

      Wow, DDan. That’s a frightening point, and you may be on to something there…
      There IS an element of grade-school hypmotism in many campaigns — a standard-issue NLP tactic is to take people back to being 6 or 7 years old and completely compliant to what Miss Teacher says.
      Another reason to get conscious, and stay awake and aware…

  • Steve Odette says:

    Hey John:

    It’s about time someone just said it like you have here.

    Sales is about selling. Period.

    The “media” or how you deliver the message doesn’t change that fact, and you eloquently stated that above.

    The hardest job I have as a web copywriter is helping my clients to understand that long copy works – provided that it doesn’t put your clients to sleep! Boring copy does NOT work… but long, relevant copy does.

    Video is the new craze and my clients want it – NOW – though they have no clue about what they want or how it will work. A female client of mine who does NOT have a video voice and who has trouble reading her written questions to me out loud, wants video… but regardless how good my copy is, she simply should not be the one to deliver it. Sometimes, video can work against you.

    Anyway… just wanted to say great article, it’s one I’ll keep bookmarked (which I rarely do).

    This is the kind of content that I signed up to hear from you years ago. The affiliate sales pitches and messages lost me for a while, I wondered if you had quit being YOU and started doing only “messages from the mound” (i.e. pitching) for the guru’s and everything else out there.

    It’s great to see that you are keeping true to the great copywriter and teacher that you have always been — it’s content like that above, told in your straight forward way, from experience and the heart (with a few facts sprinkled in to make a point) that endeared me to you as someone to follow, trust and learn from.

    Thanks for the great article… and for clearing this issue up for ME anyway. Helps me to position myself for my own clients when they bring it up.

    Now… about squeeze pages and optin boxes… what’s your opinion about those on say a professional services site or brick and mortar site? Should salesletters for digital products ALL have a squeeze page? When do you not use a squeeze page? Should you allow affiliates to bypass the squeeze page?

    What’s your take on those questions?

    Again… thanks for the great article.


  • Jon says:

    For the last 4 and a half years it feels as though I’ve had my wallet in my hands stretched wide open and every time the sparkling BizBox baubel is dangled in front of my eyes I find myself uncontrollably muttering ‘go on, have a rummage around and take what you want’.

    You’re absolutely right, work out how to say it first then you can use all the quick starts, fast starts, blue farts you’re peddled to skyrocket your success. Peddled is not the right word, I’ve leaned to buy the best shit these days.

    On the 6th paragraph of your Simple Writing System sales letter, there’s a mistake I think you ought to know about which bugs the hell out of me and may even be costing you sales?

    Here it is:
    So here is the Big Damn Question #1: Do you want to waste years (and
    countless dollars) chasing after *VERY* new gimmick, hoping for an edge?

    I know you’re probably thinking, who the hell is this guy picking holes in my copy?

    I’m the guy who’s spent the last 4 and a half years scrutinizing every single word of some of the best sales letters in the world with about as much buying restraint as a sexaholic on a Club Med 18-30 holiday.

    John, if you’re feeling the reciprocity flowing through you’re grizzled, knarly old ink stained fingers – why not end your day knowing you’ve given a little leg up to someone who’s finally seen the true light and give me a little longer to pay for your course.

    The poorest internet marketer resorting to the most obvious begging letter…EVER

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks for spotting that typo, Jon.
      Around 12 people proof-read that thing, and every single one of us missed it.
      And re: your “a-HA!” experience here — just remember that MOST people NEVER have one, ever. I was in my 30s when I had mine.
      It just tastes sweeter cuz it was so long in coming.
      Hope to hear from you again, Jon. Thanks again for posting.

      • Jon says:

        I guess that’s a no then.

        At least I got a reply from a true copywriting genius.

        Best go now and put one of the kids on Ebay.

  • Mike Singer says:

    Great post John. You know, I have friends who roll their eyes at long-copy sales pages online. At first glance the very shape of the page triggers their “hype” detectors. I think this is why video works so well right now. As a “new” medium to convey a message online, video bypasses the critical factor (to use a term from hypnosis).

    In this case, to mangle Mcluhan, the medium is NOT the message … though the Magic Box video dudes would have us newbie marketers think otherwise.

    Sure, it’s easier to bypass the critical factor by using a slick new medium to slide right into a prospect’s lizard brain … yet truly talented salesmen, marketers, and copywriters can do it in ANY medium. It’s one think to get sucked in by a video … it’s a completely different experience to walk in from the mailbox, open an envelope, start reading, and realize 30 minutes later that you’re standing there with cataleptic arms, foaming at the mouth to buy a product you didn’t even know existed. THAT’s magical. And it’s what you, Makepeace, Bencivenga, and Halbert all mastered.

    It’s magical, sure, but it’s not magic. Think back to that love note you got passed in elementary school. Pretty damn persuasive for just some ink on paper. We were all masters of persuasion back then. I think learning to sell is as much about unlearning habits as it is about acquiring new ones.

    We’re all walking around as adults like a bunch of phobics, terrified to ask anyone for what we really want. Sometimes, as you say, it’s just that simple. In video … on a web page … or on a scrap of paper dusted with cheap perfume from the mall.

    Great post, as always.


  • Des says:

    Spot on John!
    Stay frosty indeed… every week, a new ‘toy’ to pick – look how amazingly ‘shiny’ they are, hey I just gotta have one! …buggar, ‘SOLD’ AGAIN! … yep, good selling is unseen.

    Ok, I can sell, and I used to think my writing was ok too, but now I realise how crappy it was. John, I was a student on your first Simple Writing System Course (SWS)… WOW, that was a real eye opener! You hit me real hard, smack between the eyes on my first assignment… then David Garfinkel (Garf) had me jumping through endless hoops, geez! …then almost magically, the fog lifted, and at last I could see! The step-by-step winning formula was clear, and good sales writing become easier… Hey, that course is worth it’s weight in gold… it deserves more than a mention! Thanks to John & Garf.

    Cheers, Des

  • Too true. I find it funny when people criticize my sales letters and messages for being ‘salesy’. I’ll take their criticism and I’ll take the money from my customers who buy because of my salesy messages. You NEED to get the word out and a properly crafted sales message is the best way to do that.

    I’ll be investing in your Simple Writing System soon. I know I can improve and I want to learn from the best.

    • Mike Singer says:

      At John’s Action Seminar Joe Polish said that you NEED hype to market. The caveat is that hype used unethically is lying, while hype used ethically is enthusiasm …

  • Alex Rivera says:

    Hi John,
    Great subject!
    I’m just a newbie and a terrible copywriter, but my though about the popularity of the video messages nowadays in my humble opinion could be the most effective and easiest way to communicate with your audience(ie. TV), specially for non professional copywriters, and even though that some times is used an average sales letter in a new format (audio & video) could bring better results than just using this average sales letter in the normal way, obviously the most gifted copywriters like you, don’t need to use very often or at all this technology.
    Have a great weekend,
    Alex Rivera

  • Jude says:

    Candidly brilliant. Thank you. I was beginning to wonder if I had gone insane listening, reading and watching ‘the guru’s”. At the end of the day people buy from people they like and trust. Long live the ethical salesperson. ;0)

  • Susie says:

    As always – love the post – thanks John.
    Actually, to add-on to your comments about the big ad agencies (since I worked at a newspaper for a year and a half) – there was a special account at the newspaper called “standby ads” – you know, the stuff that could be used as “filler” when there was space that needed filling on the page. The majority of those were direct-response ads (my personal favorite was “male urinary-tract problems” – sorry guys – but that ad always seemed to turn up with interesting news stories next to them – or, for example, last year it ran on April 1st – no joke (tee hee)).
    Here’s the point(s):
    (1) They were cheaper ads because they ran standby – much cheaper (if you still use the “rapidly dying” newspapers as an advertising medium, hopefully your ears just perked up);
    (2) The ads were carefully reviewed before being placed BECAUSE readers often thought they were written by reporters – and called the paper. (So much so that they added a border around each ad with the disclaimer “paid advertisement” in small lettering.) I guess that call to action really worked…
    (3) Look for them in your paper – especially on slow advertising days (like Monday and Tuesday) – they are another great example to study.
    Thanks, also, for the reminder to test, test, test.

  • Mylene says:

    Yup, as you said it’s a fad. Just think of it as any other new communication tool – it’s just there when you want it but just like any other tool, it does not replace the “sales letter”. Nothing will ever.

  • I often wonder why I love you so much Carlton, and then I open my email box to discover another shining example of your deft, adroit words of wisdom, with just enough irreverence to keep me smiling through the post. You are one of the few people in our industry not full of shit. Thanks, and peace Brother, see you this summer (I hope;).


    • John Carlton says:

      Hey, Jonathan, glad to see you survived the tsunami.
      And yeah, I’m hoping to get over there soon. Pisses me off that I haven’t been over for a few years now…
      Thanks for the note, man.

  • Joanne says:

    Fantastic post and love all the comments. I have to say though, that while being able to use words to persuade someone to buy is absolutely vital, DDan makes a very good point. I agree with him that a lot of younger people do not have the attention span or ability to read, so they prefer the video. Good copywriting will always be king, but the presentation of that copy may be changing.

  • Joanne says:

    okay… I re read my post, it’s a little harsh to say “a lot of younger people do not have the ability to read.” But I do think with twitter, texting, facebook, their willingness to read any more than a few lines is diminished.

    • John Carlton says:

      ADHD, whether induced by the culture or infused by genetics, inhibits concentration, focus and critical thinking.
      And as you suggest, it’s only getting worse for the general population.
      For many markets, however, the REASON the market exists is because people share a passion for something. And passion overcomes comprehension problems, amazingly.
      It’s a complex subject, worthy of more looky-see…

      • Scott says:

        Wow, a great post and then you lifted the fog about something that has been unconsciously bothering me for a while…

        I’ve been feeling the “TV Generation” and how much it seems to prefer sitting and watching a video instead of reading.

        So you’ve just given me a quote to hang up on my wall “…passion overcomes comprehension problems…”

        Wow, that nails it – again, thanks.


      • Joanne says:

        good point

  • Simon Ashari says:

    Great post John.

    I myself have spoken to people who work at marketing agencies. When I asked them how they tracked their results they simply replied ‘there is no way to track your results’.

    They would say something to that effect.

    Cheers for the reminder.


  • Sharon says:

    I sincerely apologize for ever doubting that you are an absolute salesman genius. I believe I first came across you in 2007. It wasn’t until recently that I gave you my undivided attention. I realized that you were the ‘real deal’.

    You are the ‘go-to-guru’ for the “The Big Dog entrepreneurial marketers online…”, who are “direct response aficionados.”
    BUT you don’t do as the the Big Dogs do.

    You focus on teaching the fundamentals of “how to sell” without the bells, whistles or trickery.

    Even the good guys may try to add bells and whistles to make the process of ‘learning how to sell’ sound and look quick, easy and fool-proof.
    You tell it as it in a “no-nonsense explanation on how stuff really works…”.

    For the record, for anyone reading this, the Simple Writing System really is a Kick-Ass Killer Marketing course.


  • Ron Jordan says:

    Whether you sell using video, audio, or ad copy you are selling. Otherwise you are just either entertaining or annoying your audience.
    If selling stops for one day, it will be the biggest blow to the economy of the entire world.
    We are always selling, even companies with bad sales copy can sell you on using the competition. Not what they had in mind I’m sure.
    Call me old fashioned, or stuck in the 19th century I still write my copy using the old fashined pen and paper, or at least the headlines, bullet points and subject highlights.
    There is something about writing headlines on paper that makes things clearer to me. Crossed out headlines are just as much of an asset as the underlined or circled ones, sometimes a headline or an idea manages to crawl from under the cross lines and stand out. I just cannot do that on a computer. That is saying a lot coming from someone who has been using computers since the operating system was simply DOS.
    Good selling video is no more than another method to deliver a sales copy. Otherwise it’s just a waste of time. As far as long sales copy, video is actually a longer sales copy than most, except the prospect does not have to read it.

  • John

    The biggest piece of horsepoo online right now is the phrase: “No selling needed”

    “….Vast mobs of rookie marketers crave this kind of soothing message. They fear the sales process, and want to hear that they can skip any act even remotely associated with gnarly, unsightly salesmanship…”

    Bottom line is that video is not sales, it is a medium. Sales is sales. First thing I ever did when hired as marketing director is go find the sales team and bring them up as the stars, not the product team or the marketing team.

    Top article … if a bit long. I found myself starting to scroll Sir.


  • Dana says:

    John, I look forward to every new post you post on this blog. I learn so much each time, you just…relate.(key word) You spell it out in the simplest, understandable ways, that just hit me…and it looks like many others…right where it counts. OUCH! But then again, “I needed that.” If I start questioning what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, or I start getting “sucked in” to something else, I just remember who I have in my corner, and no one in my corner wants anything bad to happen to me. I’m still “wet behind the ears”, but with the right coach/mentor, I know I will be in the same arena as the heavy weights in no time.
    People just need to listen to their coach/mentor, put in the time, quit looking for the “easy way”, and come out swinging. Thanks again for all this great info. and teaching.

  • John

    Dang! … I missed the best part?

    I’ll read it again if you REALLY MEAN THAT.

    OK clever clogs, to which bit are you referring? Will be the only time in living memory I’ll have read a post twice.

    You’re good at this 🙂


  • OK John.

    I’ve now read it all 🙂

    Quoting You, this did it for me:

    “… … the direct response guys don’t care if the client loves the ad.

    Because they’re not selling the ad to the client.

    They’re, instead, creating an ad that will sell to PROSPECTS.

    The term “direct response” refers to the nature of the ads. There is some element of asking for ACTION. A response. Click here to order. Opt in to get the free goodies. Call for a quote.

    This kind of response scares the bejesus out of the big fancy agencies.

    They HATE the idea of being held responsible for any kind of actual RESULT from their nice-looking, salesmanship-free ads….”

    That scenario was my life in advertising: I worked for McCann Erickson and ended up doing all the retail work that actually required a result. All the cool ‘brand’ guys who chased awards for their creativity hated me. Wose still for them, when push came to shove during downsizing … I was kept on, and they were not.

    As always, my best


  • Thank you John.

    I’ve watched and listened to this new twist of video sales letters. I watch hoping to learn. One has delighted me to no end. It contained a statement which I’ve added to my cynical snickering pile. I’ve actually created entire paragraphs and whole sentences to refer to it to make a point of how best to insult a prospect. This is the statement describing me if I didn’t click the order button:

    “A Special Kind of Stupid.”

    Yep. Guess so. That describes me.

    After that I researched the 12 step psychological persuasion sequence.

    Shouldn’t have been surprised. I enjoy this marketer for his perspectives and enthusiasm. Won’t be buying anything soon though. I guess that makes me special!

    Thank you again,

    Cheryl C. Cigan

  • Tommy says:

    Hi John
    There are three things in this business:
    1) Entersalesment
    2) Entertainment
    3) True Salesmanship

    I have never been known for political correctness so here goes:

    The first two above are for hobbyists.

    Long sales letters are written for the browsers, skimmer, readers and those still on dial up connections.
    Video is a good tool to sell but what about the skimmers?. Those are the guys that are serious about their time, and in my experience, they are normally serious about what they do.

    The true understanding and practice of good salesmanship has gone out the window.

    Use all the tools at your disposal to do an honest and result getting job. Tailor your and medium and message to the market

    It is like losing weight. In them good old days you would eat correctly, exercise, take the right vitamin supplements etc,.
    Now, drink a little pill and tomorrow you have lost half your body weight.

    And now a lot of these “blue-roos” (guys that are out of breath from jumping from fad to fad) say use the instant method; Just add water.

    It can’t last and is more dangerous to the industry than anything known to man.

    I believe and have always believed that selling is like having a wallet made of elephant foreskin.
    The right stroking and you will get a suitcase.
    And it can be stroked again and again with the same result.

    The wrong way and no result. Never prod it with a pin.

    Just make sure it is not attached to the elephant.

    Maybe I got off the point a bit……..

  • John,

    You know what bro? You always deliver “the goods”. I mean you are consistent at the “No B.S.” methodology of your writing; ie “selling without selling” in-pen marketing. Whenever someone thinks of a the top copywriters on the planet… your name is always there. Rich Schefren, Eben Pagen, Jeff Johnson, Jeff Walker, Ryan Deiss, Perry Marshall, Yanik Silver, Mike Koenigs, Clayton Makepeace, Harlan Kilstien etc. They ALL have mentioned your name as a great, no scratch that, as “the greatest” copywriter. And to accomplish that, you have to put in time, dedication, sacrifice, and above all… “HEART” into your letters to the world. You have to write until it hurts and then write even more. Thank you for serving the Internet Marketing community with your expertise and skill of mesmerizing all of us with your love of “print” and writing copy. Your passion for it shows and it teaches both young and old… a “thing or two” about grabbing the attention of a prospect and never letting go.

    Remember… be a servant,

    Cory Boatright
    Short Sale Specialist

  • Glenn says:

    You convey relevant truths with eloquence. What you have shared herein is priceless. Lack of understanding renders people subject to the implications of their respective ignorance. Among other things, knowledge imparts ‘awareness to our perception.’ Thank you for sharing yours, increasing the quality of our perceptions by so doing.

  • Jacob says:

    John great post, but you already knew that because of the awsome comments. I think you can create a workshop using this articles and the comments alone. So much information there is.
    I was triggered by the frase sell without selling. It is not something like walk without walking but more something as live without living. Something most people do as we know. So the answer to the question why don’t all those saleman not realy sell is the same as why not all people really live there lives.
    For all the readers, sorry for my poor English i am from holland and did not pay attention enough on school.

  • Tanya Smith says:

    Hi John – I’ve been laughing to myself all the way through your post. Only the other day, I found myself watching one of these no-sales sales pitches in video format – all about the death of the longform sales letter. The page I was watching was showing me the ‘future’ of selling on the internet – all via a voice-overed video. Just one small problem – maybe my internet connection was a little slow, maybe it had been fogged by the volcanica ash cloud. Either way, it was PAINFUL!! The video took forever to stream – I gave up after five minutes…and thought to myself how much more interested I would have been if I could have READ about it!!
    Ha- effectively it shot itself in both feet. And, as you said – do we really believe that we can sell stuff in business without learning to sell?? NO of course not. It’s elementary dear Watson! If you’re in the business of selling (and if you have a business, you are!!) you have to learn to sell. On the internet, the long sales letter will always be a critical part of that process.

    So, there we are….(now, can we go back to learning how to sell off those, such as yourself, who actually know how to sell stuff!!)

    Bye for now….Tanya Smith 🙂

  • Kirk says:

    Everybody Has It All Wrong!
    Of course that depends on who you are listening to at the moment. I admire and respect you John and have thought about this topic of long sales letter vs video sales. There are a few factors that are mentioned in thread that for some reason get overlooked.

    True that salesmanship is very important in both mediums. The variables that need to summarized are and in no particular order, internet connection speed and reliability, prospect’s preferences, gaining trust, overcoming objections, and who is you target audience…oh yeah that’s right.. that is called salesmanship.

    On the one hand, I personally get bored with video so I use a speed enhancer so as I can get things done faster and maintain focus. I prefer written for the most part unless you are showing me how to do something. I know there are many others that are just like me. On the other hand there is a current generation many who lack reading abilities and prefer video much like texting over talking.

    A medium is a medium but salesmanship is the major requirement for neither long sales copy nor video is going away.

    This is truly a great thread and I admire and respect Keith for presenting his view and giving the proof. I do own his product and use it and the long sales copy is still my top tool!

  • Juho Tunkelo says:

    Thank you John, for showing us the sales message & the sales process, and real salesmanship is what really matters.

    Thank you Ken, for reminding us video has been around a long time, so it’s no flash in the pan.

    Thank you Keith, for reminding us you can’t argue with numbers. If something works consistently over numerous niches, there’s something to it.

    Thank you Dan, for pointing out how illiteracy & poor reading comprehension, and plain attention deficit figures into this.

    Now… why don’t we take a look at WHY this phenomenon is real, and what actually makes it work? Here’s a few observations:

    * We all know the argument ‘not everyone reads long form sales letters, just the buyers’. So yes, those same buyers don’t mind watching long videos either, especially when spoon-fed in the easiest way possible.

    * When people read a sales letter (or anything else) they form that ‘voice’ in their heads. Which is where all manner of preconceptions, resentments and whatnot can taint that original voice. On video, you actually hear the TRUE voice, with all the sincerity and clarity that was originally intended.

    * Knowing you can’t go back on that video without restarting, focuses the viewer like nothing else. Get over this initial realization, and you’ve secured their undivided attention.

    * When you actually get someone committed to sit through a long video, they’d feel bad if they didn’t reward that commitment with congruent action at the end. Cialdini’s consistency & commitment principles all over this.

    * NO distractions (order buttons, pretty pictures, banners, PS’s, price…) nowhere to go for the ADHD mind, but stay on message. If you manage to presell them well enough to get them on the page, curiosity alone will have them watching.

    * The powerpoint type format allows for both simplicity and flash – adjust to market, product, etc.

    * The presentation format is not about dreary bullet points, it’s about making every component of the sales letter as clear & consumable as possible. One slide, one message.

    * The ability to do a powerful close, complete with the order button appearing.

    Of course, there are specifics that may support the use of written copy on the page as well. Such as people opening the page at work, where they can’t watch a video blaring on autoplay but have nothing else to put their attention on. My tests usually have the combination of video + written copy winning, but YMMV.

    Sorry for making this so long, but I thought this needed to be said.

  • Exquisite post John.

    It’s staggering to me how many people – including experienced marketers – think that a video is some kind of alien cash generator, far removed from our humble longform letter.

    It’s a strange phenomenon to have these guys come to me and ask for a video, because “I heard salesletters don’t work any more”.

    It seems that a lot of people either can’t or won’t understand the fact that it’s essentially the same thing – a vehicle for getting money from a prospect as efficiently as possible.

    Next time, instead of explaining, I’ll just direct them to this post. And maybe jack the price up a little bit.


  • […] you need to read this post on John Carlton’s blog.  It’s a bit of a rant, but those of you familiar with John are […]

  • anita says:

    I’m so glad you are talking about this. This is exactly the conversation I would have liked to have had with you, …thanks.

  • Shawn Casey says:


    I should never drink and read your stuff, John. I start believing that you could be right.

    But what can you possibly know at your age compared to twenty-something wannabe gurus who think they invented “new” marketing because they’re lucky enough to (a) have been born at the same time Al Gore invented the internet and (b) they accidentally sold something one time so that makes them smart?

    Wait… I think I answered my own question. 😉

    Always a pleasure to read your stuff. Now if I can just remember it in the morning…


    • John Carlton says:

      LOL, Shawn.
      I write sober (good rule is never to Tweet While Drunk, too) and rested… and in deathly-still quiet (no music playing). I want total access to the brain pan. (And I long ago saw the utter waste of peak talent so many other writers have accepted because they refused to try moderation.) (End of sermon.)
      However… we once purposely cracked open beers for a coaching call (Stan and I), let everyone know we were experimenting with booze-fueled thinking… and that became one of our more popular calls in the coaching club.
      Go figure.
      I also enjoy working with younger biz owners… at least the ones with open minds. They’re hungry to learn what the geezers know, and appreciate the absurdity of being a shaved ape (which we all really are) in a concrete jungle wired up to awesome technology we have almost no idea how to control.
      Interesting times to be alive, I’ll tell you what…

  • Sean Breslin says:

    Hello John it took me 3 days to have enought quiet time to actually read this email, glad I did going back to click that blue link now…. The top seo one with the word here on it!

  • anita says:

    So far no one’s mentioned the best part: with expert salesmanship, even a blog post can be a very effective sales letter. 😉

    “staying frosty” also means refusing to be intimidated by the competition when you know what works.

  • Greg R W says:

    Hey John,
    as far back as the first rendition of this “no-sales- letter-video” the originator said this was a video presentation of the “Sales Letter”, with pictures added to the power point presentation to increase conversions.
    But that’s been over a year ago, so most people have forgotten about it. Today it’s just the same goat wearing a different costume, labeled as new.
    As an afterthought, I usually don’t read all of the long sales letters, I’ll blame it on “don’t give a shit” instead of ADD, but then I usually don’t watch 10 min. sales videos in entirety either.


  • ken ca|houn says:

    Hey just checking in here after a couple of days and it’s neat to see all the new posts. Keith, thanks for the ideas/positive feedback…. I should’ve said, and you’re right, the answer as always, like John and others say, is to TEST.

    My friend and brilliant copywriting colleague and longtime mentor Michel Fortin had recommended Gene Schwartz’ “Breakthrough Advertising” to me (thanks!) years ago, and it best of all reflects the need to factor in ‘market maturity’ and mechanization in copy and other key variables.

    So what works for one market (and yes I test beyond-extensively, on many levels), may not work for others. The answer is, as always to test and see what pulls best. What works for IM markets w/video may not work for trading, but may work fine for diet, but not for dating sites… etc. So take everything with a grain of salt and test extensively.

    Quickie testing tip: When I want to split-test something, the two ways are:
    a) have a very generic index.html video namesqueeze page, but email split-test to 2 different landing pages within the site, w/variables being tested (video vs no video, scrub bar vs none, headline 1 vs headline 2, whatever the single variable-at a time (or taguchi for sophisticated) is)..

    b) for new products without organic seo traffic, I like to get two different nearly-identical sounding domain names, and split test on those, for example the singular and plural versions of the domains.

    anyways, answer as always is to test.. and hey good to hear from everyone..

    to salesmanship,


  • John,
    Great post, as always.

    I often get calls from clients who are frantic.
    ” Deep, I talked to my customer, he said he didnt have time to read the entire (sales) letter. He said he was too busy! We need to shorten it.!”

    And then I ask: “Ok, I hear you, but what happened then?”
    “Well, he’s sending the check today.”

    Very often, people are under the mistaken impression that sales letters need to be read by everyone from beginning to end to be successful. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To be successful, they need to take the specific action you want them to take . Period…

    As always John, Great Post!

    Deep Janardhanan

  • TimGross says:

    Great article and great follow-up discussion. Regarding video sales letters, a couple observations:

    1) Too often, when I check out a video sales letter of someone bragging about their conversion rates, the video stutters or freezes, making it unwatchable. (In fact, it happened when I looked up somebody’s video in this comments thread.)

    2) Based on a couple of things I’ve seen, I have no reason not to believe that *some* people using video sales letters are flat-out lying about their conversion results (or at least presenting the results in a misleading way). Again, I said *some*.

    3) One thing I rarely hear discussed is the difference in the QUALITY and TYPE of buyers one attracts with no-scroll “forced length” sales videos versus traditional sales letters…

    One thing’s for sure, very successful entrepreneurs don’t have the f***ing time or interest to sit through some goofy 30-minute presentation where the order button doesn’t even appear until the last 5 minutes. Those are the exact potential customers that may be most valuable in your funnel.

  • Nick Neilson says:

    Great post, intriguing comments.

    The biggest “sales mastery” lightbulb went off for me when I read this single paragraph from Breakthrough Advertising:

    “Three steps: 1) Name the desire and/or solution in your headline. 2) Prove the that that solution can be accomplished. And 3) show that the mechanism of that accomplishment is contained in your product.”

    Combine Carlton’s Theater with Schwartz’ structure and it you’ll be in the uncomfortable position of knowing it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you haven’t yet obtained financial freedom.

  • Lisa Wagner says:

    Carlton, you had me at “sucky”…

    Great post – thank you!


  • […] John Carlton ripped those naysayers a new one a few days ago in a smoking blog post. Of course his appropos blessing out dovetails nicely with one of his own products. I’m not endorsing, but I do believe his blog post is notable. Here’s a teaser: There is a trend now among some info-marketers of insisting that you can “sell without selling”. […]

  • Omar Briones says:

    Nice post John!

    I totally dig what you feel when you see those screwed up sales pages. Lol. I feel the same way!


  • […] of Dan Thies, Leslie Rohde, Aaron Wall, Dan Raine, Michelle MacPhearson, Lynne Terry, Ed Dale, John Carlton, Joost de Valk, and some other guys I’ve learned to trust over the years, as well as the guys […]

  • As always John – you’re right on the nose…. and to be able to sell without selling you’ve got to be a killer salesman in the first place! Great work on SWS to by the way, an awesome resource in anyone’s arsenal! (I was going to say any marketers – but EVERYONE needs to be able to put their message across in a way that gives them the best chance possible of getting the results they need!)

  • Lee Pound says:

    John, this is something that needs to be said again and again. We use long sales letters for everything we sell. It’s so important that anyone selling product learn how to write persuasive copy. And by the way, I did go through your Simple Writing System program even though I’ve been a professional writer and author for years and found it incredibly valuable.

    I’ll look forward to the next post.

  • Hi John
    Very interesting an informative post…
    No, matter what kind of media (video, audio, copy) you use; you need to know basic salesmanship…
    When I learned it, I doubled my prices, but got twice as many orders 🙂


  • Stewart says:

    Holy Shit!
    That newbie marketer always looking for the EZ way out; That’s ME!
    I’ve spent lots of money trying to find the way to sell “without selling”.
    And I’ve read through and watched many, many long copy sales messages claiming that there is a NEW & BETTER & FASTER & ETC… way to market.
    Thanks for being so upfront and for opening my eyes. I guess I NEED to learn salesmanship.

  • Larry says:

    Damn it John, I can’t stand it!

    I can’t stand how I get sucked into to everthing you write, like a soapsuds in a vortex of a kitchen sink drain.

    Like Poe’s “Descent into the Maelstrom” , I get sucked into the vortex whirlpool until I’m spit out the other side.

    I’m getting that Simple Writing System if it’s the last gasp I ever do.

  • donallover says:

    “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets
    Holy Shit!
    Damn it John
    Big Damn Observation
    clever as hell
    It’s the bastard child

    I’m old school I guess. Wasn’t long ago (2 years?) when professionals didn’t think crudity like this was suitable or good for business.

    Very good material but why do I feel like I’m sitting with a bunch of 7th graders trying to impress each other…the new cool!?

  • Wally says:


    As always, thanks for the high-octane injection of brain fuel. My gut reaction – right, wrong or indifferent – is that money serves us and we do not serve money. Money is not for us to chase, it is for us to attract. By doing what we love…what we are truly passionate about and serving others at the highest level while fulfilling our passion, we are aligning ourselves with the ginormous bucket of abundance that is available to us all. There’s more than enough of everything out there to people who stay connected to it, believe they are worth it and then attract it without being desperate and “needing” it. Do what you love, serve at the highest level and let money serve you. It’s kind of a metaphysical cha-ching!

  • Pete says:

    I think the secret may be sacrificing short-term profits and taking the majority of your compensation as success-based fees (e.g. in copywriting, getting royalties). And on a similar vein, when working with partners, resisting the urge to say “Promote my stuff!” and instead finding a way to help them first. So, essentially, it’s give first, then get-get-get-get-get….

  • Gary says:

    Wow John you convinced me to click on that one little blue link in the entire letter. How good is that! 🙂

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