Clayton Makepeace’s 21 Secrets of Great Sales Copy


“Top-flight sales copy is never a cost. It’s a profit center.” — Clayton Makepeace

The advertising and marketing world recently lost a true pioneer with the passing of legendary copywriter, Clayton Makepeace.

Clayton was first and foremost a Master Copywriter, but he was also a generous teacher, appearing at many AWAI training events over the years. He always loved mingling with AWAI members and would take all the time needed to answer their questions.

Although I never had a chance to meet him personally, I feel I know him through his Quick Start Copywriting System, which I have on my bookshelf above me as I type this. I’ve also studied his Swipe Files extensively.

He wrote some of the most iconic headlines in copywriting history with memorable promotions, such as:

  • “There’s a DEVIL in the DOW!”
  • “1,384 ENRONS Are Now Racing Toward BANKRUPTCY!”
  • “The Ultimate BETRAYAL Of The Stock Market Lambs”

When asked how to tell the difference between good sales copy and bad sales copy, Clayton would say that it helps to understand that consumers almost never buy things because it’s logical. The vast majority of purchases are made because they satisfy an emotional need. So, great sales copy must connect with your prospect’s most powerful emotions — be they positive or negative — and demonstrate how reading the copy and buying the product will fulfill their desires or alleviate their fears.

He described a sales message as a chain designed to meet the reader at the point of their need, and then lead them, step by step, link by link, to the order form. He said that this “chain” is only as strong as its weakest link and the minute you lose the “tingle factor,” the reader gets bored and the chain breaks. And the more compelling you make each section of your sales message, the greater your response and average order will be.

So, in a tribute to Clayton, I thought that today we would review his list of 21 tips to make your copy stronger, your ads more effective, and help you create winning direct-mail and internet promotions.

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John Torre

I reside in North Brunswick, NJ, with my wife, Lynn, and daughters Kasey, Jaclyn, and Shelly. We also have a 110 pound, lovable Rottie named Leo that keeps us on our toes! When we're not hard at work we enjoy spending weekends at our bungalow down the Jersey shore, or take extended trips to Walt Disney World as members of the Disney Vacation Club. For kicks, I draw on my dominant "right-brain" and play guitar in classic rock and blues bands, act for local plays and independent productions, and enjoy writing creative fiction. I'm a published author in short fiction and stage plays and a graduate of a local community college's Commercial Writer's Certificate Program. After graduating from the program I was selected as an instructor and taught "Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror" writing for 8 years. I enjoy many fine relationships I made with my students to this day.

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