Everyone must write. Whether it’s an email, postcard or blog post, you have to write. It’s one of the most important things you can learn.
Writing overflows to most of what you say or do. And it can make the difference between appearing like a Stanford graduate versus a high school drop out.
But if you want your writing to persuade, compel, encourage or convince everyone, all the time–then you need to write like Bill Jayme.
Who Is Bill Jayme?
The late Bill Jayme was one of the greatest direct mail copywriters of the 20th-century.
He wrote persuasive direct mail letters for magazines like Business Week, Smithsonian and Esquire. Commanded $20,000 to $40,000 per letter he wrote [this is back in the 60s, 70s and 80s]. And had powerful publishers flying to California begging him to write a subscription letter for their magazine.
Jayme had a way of making friends with the reader. Of respecting his intelligence. Of always being fascinating. And selling ever so gently.
Copywriter Gary Bencivenga said “I don’t think anyone could match his record of control packages in the magazine field. He had such an erudite flair for capturing the essence of a magazine and making you want to be part of its magical circle.”
So, how do you write letters, emails or blog posts that make people want to be part of your magical circle? Master these seven techniques Bill Jayme used religiously.
Arouse Curiosity with Mystery and Intrigue
In direct mail, your outer envelope is the place you arouse curiosity. In blogging, it’s your headline. Email, subject line.
Jayme’s teaser copy almost always compelled people to rip open the letter and read the copy inside. He did this by asking questions like the Psychology Today headline:
“Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?”
Or leaving a cliff hanger: “The problem was Mrs. Eggers was no bigger than a minute….”
Understand, Jayme’s creative ideas came from tireless research. He studied to learn what worked and didn’t work. He didn’t depend on inspiration, whiskey or cocaine.
In the same way, hard work will help you create a promise or story line that people cannot resist.
Involve the Reader
Getting your reader to think about doing something is a great way to get readers into your blog post, email or letter. Getting them to actually do it will lift response even higher.
Think psychological profile.
Ask questions like: “Do you go to the movies alone?” or “Do you feel awkward when you are talking on the phone naked?”
Include two or three dozen yes or no questions and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Jayme once said that the concept of urgency should be part of every package. Jayme’s favorite way to create urgency was through scarcity:
“Only so many copies printed each month, no more.” Variations to this theme abound.
- Only so many hours I can spare in a month, no more.
- Only so many invitations printed a year, no more.
- Only so many clients I can juggle a month, no more.
- Only so many subscriptions I can manage a week, no more.
The point: Create the impression that if someone doesn’t act now, then he’ll be left out in the cold.
Elevate the Status of Your Service to Something Else
This is by far the most intriguing Jayme idea: transubstantiation.
One of Jayme’s greatest examples of transubstantiation came through a letter selling a course on mastery of personal computers.
Instead of talking about drives, RAM, OS, coding or programming, Jayme focused on the deeper benefits of personal computing: Success.
Jayme’s letter begins:
You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. If you’re planning to succeed in business over the coming decade, you’ve now got just two choices left. You can come to terms with the computer. Or you can marry the boss’s daughter.
He’s not selling features or facts. He’s selling a new life.
Say FREE Six Ways to Sunday
Does the word “free” still work in on our sophisticated society? Undoubtedly. Even among luxury clients.
“When something is free, say it six ways to Sunday,” advised Jayme. “For example: ‘Free gift comes to you with our compliments gratis—on the house. It’s yours to keep as an outright present without cost or charge—not a penny!'”
Don’t ignore this copywriting staple. And if you don’t believe it has the power to persuade, go ahead and test it yourself.
Avoid the Boring
In other words, get provocative. Write stuff that elevates people’s blood pressure. Get’s them dreaming.
Use words like sex, death, naked or free.
Think “Confessions of a Naughty Negotiator.” Or “20 Reasons Why So-and-So Is Dead Wrong about Real Estate.” Or “Why Don’t Home Sellers Know These Facts?” Or “14 Things FSBOs Aren’t Telling You.”
Stir the pot and you’ve got yourself a killer blog post, email or letter.
Target, Target, Target
Know who you are talking to. And make sure you clear the mud from the windshield for them.
Jayme developed a knack for identifying the audience–and the reason why the magazine was ideally suited to them–in his copy, right up front.
For instance, the teaser copy for a promotion for Coastal Living straightforwardly says: “If you love the shore, this new magazine will do you a world of good.”
Five words–“If you love the shore”–told you if the magazine was for you. Do the same for your blog readers. Or email subscribers. Anyone you’re writing to.
More of Jayme’s techniques can be found in The Bill Jayme Collection.