Bullets — they’re those titillating snippets of copy designed to tempt your reader into taking action…
Have you ever read one so intriguing you couldn’t get it out of your head? Where you just HAD to know its secret?
Sometimes, a single bullet is all it takes to knock your prospect off the fence and get them to buy (or do whatever it is you want them to do).
Copywriting superstar David Deutsch put it best when he told me that…
Bullets are the “keys to the kingdom.”
They can be turned into headlines, subject lines, body copy, and a whole lot more.
And he’s not the only top-level pro to recognize their persuasive power…
Parris Lampropoulos spends about 80% of his time coaching his copy cubs on bullets.
John Carlton has written high-converting sales letters consisting almost entirely of bullets.
And Gary Halbert demonstrated their pulling-power with his famous “Fake Cocaine” bullet that kept the phones ringing for months on end.
(FAKE COCAINE: a legal substitute that fools almost everyone!)
No one can deny the power bullets have to offer. They create an itch that needs to be scratched and leave you with no choice but to take action
By the end of this post, you’re going to have the tools to write sales-boosting bullets that your ideal customers won’t be able to resist either.
But before we dive in, what gives me the idea I can share anything of value on this topic?
Well, back in June of 2015, Kevin Rogers launched a podcast called the Truth About Marketing…
And, for 7 months, I was in charge of crafting bullets designed to tickle readers’ curiosity and get them to tune in each week.
Over that time, not only did I learn a ton from Kevin’s ongoing coaching as he edited my bullets, but I constantly studied the masters, discovering what separated their bullet-writing from the rest.
And now I’m going to share some of those lesson with you.
We’re not going to touch the basics here. They’ve been covered to death elsewhere.
Instead, I’m going to reveal how to polish your bullets to perfection.
It may surprise you, but sometimes even the pros write crappy bullets. Where the magic really happens is in the polishing phase.
What I’m about to reveal will help you do exactly that — so you’ll be able to transform even the most average bullets into irresistible bites of copy.
Let’s do this…
If you walk away with a grasp of this one thing and nothing else, your bullets (and copy in general) will improve dramatically.
Now I’ll admit, it took me a while to get my head around this. I’d heard Kevin discuss it with John Carlton a number of times, but beyond simple things like varying sentence length, I had no real understanding.
It wasn’t until Kev was walking me through a few of my bullets that it clicked.
He showed me which bullet he picked for an early episode of the podcast (I often wrote 2-3 variations for each point), and asked if I knew why he chose it.
And… I was clueless. No friggin’ idea.
Both bullets said basically the same thing:
- Why gamers have poured an astounding $82 MILLION into a crowdfunded PC game… that isn’t even finished yet
- Why gamers have dropped an astounding $82 MILLION on a PC game that’s not even half-finished
Seem similar enough, right?
But then he read them OUT LOUD, accentuating the rhythm.
A-HA! Finally it clicked.
One stood out as a clear winner.
Read them both out loud and see if you can guess which Kevin chose.
Got it? Okay. So if you chose the the first one, you’d be right. And here’s why…
It ends with punch.
Yet, when you read the other, it just seems to run out of gas.
This is what separates the best bullet writers from the pack. You read their copy aloud and it just SOUNDS good. There’s a lyrical quality to it.
Now, if you’re wondering, “why does this matter, no one will be reading these out loud?” You’re right, they probably won’t… but we do hear the words in our heads, so rhythm is essential.
It’s important to pay attention to this.
And the more you pay attention to it, the more obvious it gets, until soon enough it becomes second nature to you.
This will guarantee your bullets flow effortlessly — making them easy and enjoyable to read.
It always pays to start and end your sentences strong, and this is especially true with bullets.
The end of a sentence acts as a stop sign — magnifying the final word or phrase — so make the most of it.
There are a number of ways you can do this:
You can end on a benefit, a consequence, a power word, or even a twist. Even better if it ends on a hard consonant (like a T or K sound), but don’t force it.
Let’s take a look at how to end with a twist…
Just like a good joke, the idea here is to end with something they weren’t expecting. It’s like the punchline of your bullet.
Here’s what I mean…
- Get past your audience’s “information overload” filters by sharing MORE
“Wait, what? MORE?!?”
This sounds counterintuitive, and is bound to spark curiosity. Especially if you’re someone who does the opposite.
Now compare that with an alternative like…
- Why sharing MORE helps bypass your audience’s “information overload” filters
Not nearly as impactful.
The next tactic is something I call “stacking.”
This one comes into play when you’re layering on three or more benefits, detriments, or anything else at the end of a bullet.
What’s most important here is to stack them in the order that SOUNDS best.
(That’s right, this is a rhythm-based technique.)
Read these two bullets out loud, while paying close attention to the end:
- The “under the rug” approach to uncovering what’s really driving someone (being able to hear this “second conversation” is the mark of a world-class coach, copywriter and marketer)
- The “under the rug” approach to uncovering what’s really driving someone (being able to hear this “second conversation” is the mark of a world-class marketer, copywriter and coach)
Hear the difference?
No? Read it again. The second one stacks in a more rhythmic way.
Okay, so that’s the basic way of doing it. Now let’s tackle the more “advanced” version.
I’ve heard this referred to as “parallel with a twist” by Roy Peter Clark (author of Roy’s Writing Tools).
Basically, you offer two (or more) phrases that are “parallel”, and then finish it with a twist.
BOOM BOOM BANG, rather than BOOM BOOM BOOM.
In action, that looks something like…
- James’s “Magic Tip” for [high customer retention], [a massive culture injection], and [enough content and ideas to sustain your community for years to come]
Read it out loud.
Notice the difference, particularly between the first two benefits and the final, longer one?
Small shifts like this can have a dramatic impact on your writing.
Here’s one last example before we move along:
- A painful mistake marketers make that guarantees customers and clients [look down on you], [hold power over you], and [pay you only a fraction of what you’re worth] (are you guilty of this?)
Every word must earn its place.
Question every adverb and adjective. Ask yourself whether there is a way to say more with less. And look for ways to “up the stakes” with more emotional power words.
If something isn’t pulling it’s weight — send it packing. Be ruthless and cut the fat.
- What to do if you hate constantly selling people on buying from you.. but still want to run a profitable business
This is how you make your bullets more punchy and impactful.
It’s the difference between something like:
- Why following in the footsteps of “Hall of Fame” copywriters can get you in serious trouble
- Why following in the footsteps of “Hall of Fame” copywriters can instantly jeopardize your reputation
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with the first bullet, but the second one raises the stakes with more emotional wording and by being more specific. Instantly jeopardizing your reputation sounds a lot more urgent — something you’ll want to make sure you avoid at all costs.
And since many freelance copywriters do follow in the footsteps of the A-listers, this one would be hard for many to ignore.
One more thing, and this is important: Be mindful of who your target audience is…
Are they really going to resonate with something like “the super-ninja 3.0 sniper strategy to murder your competition and steal all their customers for yourself (so deadly-effective they’ll be powerless to resist its money-sucking power)”…
Yeah… probably not.
A good bullet will give enough information to spark your curiosity, without exposing too much. There’s a critical balance.
Give it all away and you let the reader off the hook, leaving them no reason to find out what it’s all about.
And, if it’s too vague…
… no one will care.
It’s all about giving it some context. Making it SPECIFIC enough for your reader to say, “This is for me. I must know this!!!”
To do this right, it’s important to reveal the RIGHT information.
- The crippling disease you can reverse with baking soda
- How to cure and reverse your arthritis with a common household ingredient
(Not a real remedy… as far as I know)
Now, let’s say you had painful arthritis…
If all you read is the first one, is it going to flag your attention? Will you instantly recognize this as relevant to you?
Not a chance.
Yet, when you read the second one, it’s abundantly clear what the benefit is.
Let’s check out another example:
- The secret ingredient to online business success that no one teaches. Without it, not even the most effective marketing tactics will be any good to you.
Not a bad bullet… but it’s vague. It could be about anything, and simply lacks that “I gotta know this” quality. So let’s tweak it slightly…
- The “inner game” secret to online business success that no one teaches. Without it, not even the most effective marketing tactics will be any good to you.
Getting better. It’s not there yet, but it at least specifies that it’s related to mindset.
Let’s see how Kevin stepped it up another notch.
- The “inner game” secret so critical to your success that skipping it renders every other “secret guru marketing tactic” totally worthless to you (and why NO ONE is teaching it!)
And that’s how it’s done.
Adding a parenthetical comment is the perfect way to drive up the intrigue for a bullet.
It’s like a whisper, a gentle nudge… or sometimes a hard jab in the guts.
And it’s a sure way of taking a bullet from good to not just great… but mouthwateringly irresistible.
Here are five ways to use them to full effect…
1. COUNTER THE VOICE IN THEIR HEAD
If they don’t believe the promise, or they think they already know what you’re referring to, they can easily ignore it. Tackle this head on and show them how wrong they are.
- The “magic ingredient” that makes your solution the clear winner in your prospect’s eyes (and it has nothing to do with why yours is “better, cheaper or faster”)
2. RAISE THE STAKES
Give the sense that not knowing this will leave them in the dust.
- The freelancing blunder that will leave your clients feeling like the “jilted lover” (easy fix, yet ignoring this may cost you your career)
3. CALL OUT
Who needs this most — is it for freelance copywriters? Single moms? One-armed cannibals living in the Antarctic?
Well, call them out.
- (This is a MUST-KNOW for any solopreneur who still wants to be in business 6 months from now)
4. BRING IT BACK TO THE READER
This is especially important when referring to something not directly-related to your audience. For example, a method for writing joke material isn’t necessarily relevant to a marketer, but…
- The comedian’s secret for sparking creativity on demand — the simple method Tom learned from another comic for reliably producing new content (this will guarantee you a flow of new ideas for your marketing)
5. OFFER A FIX
Suggest there’s a solution for the problem or mistake hinted at in the bullet…
- The single biggest video sales killer. If you’re losing viewers in seconds you’re probably guilty of this (dumb mistake, but an easy fix)
And there are a plenty of other ways to do this, too. (More on that later)
Got a bullet that, no matter what you try, just seems to be lacking something?
Here’s the fix…
Look at the information from a completely different perspective.
By putting a new frame around it, you may find a far more compelling way to communicate it.
So how do we actually do this?
It’s really easy. All you gotta do is ask yourself questions that’ll spark ideas…
Here’s what I mean:
- Is this a mistake they’ll want to avoid at all costs?
- Is it something that separates the wheat from the chaff?
- Does it go against what’s considered “common knowledge” in the marketplace?
- Any one of those (and a ton more questions) could offer the perfect angle for what you write.
Here’s an example of how you can frame the same piece of information in 3 different ways:
- How NOT to come across as a total nutjob in your emails
- Why you shouldn’t throw all your ammunition into one email
- The common “mishmash” mistake marketers make that leaves their readers confused and disoriented
If there’s one thing that will limit you, it’s sticking 100% to the material.
Now wait a minute, I’m not advocating you make shit up. I’m suggesting you look beyond the information to draw connections and conclusions of your own.
My absolute favorite example of this comes from David Deutsch.
In the research material for a magalog he was writing, he discovered how keeping a wallet in your pocket could trigger back pain.
So what creative connection did he make?
- How a pick-pocket can cure your back pain. Inside on page 3.
How could you NOT want to know what this is about? Even if you don’t experience back pain this is intriguing.
Another example from that same piece was how nutrients in cabbage could help stomach trouble.
- The “Cole Slaw Cure” for stomach trouble. Soothes and repairs. Inside on page 7.
Not as dramatic, but linking it to cole slaw rather than just talking about cabbage seems to make it more appealing.
Here’s an example from an early episode of the TAM podcast:
- Why some passionate fans each pledge as much as $10,000 of their hard-earned cash for in-game rewards (without ANY stake in the company)
What’s important to note here is there was NO mention of “stakes in the company” during the podcast…
And while it was an easy conclusion to arrive at… without it, this would have done little more than elicit a shrug. Odds are you’d read it and assume “Oh, well they are probably investing in more than the rewards, and getting a stake in the company.”
But when you realise that’s not the case, it becomes a bit more, “Wait, wtf? $10,000?”
There’s plenty more that can be said on the topic of bullets, but if you apply these (or even just a couple), you’ll be miles ahead of the pack.
So get creative, have fun, and express your personality a little.
If you take it too seriously, it’ll be a grind. But if you play with different ideas and don’t worry about whether or not they suck, you’ll find yourself enjoying the process.