What you’ll learn—and the outcomes you’ll achieve
What is “trunkline copy?”
Simply put, it is the fundamental funnel that produces first-time customers for nearly any small online business. It looks like this:
opt-in page → email sequence → sales page
It is focused on converting visitors into email subscribers, and then converting those email subscribers into first-time buyers. It is also easily re-purposed to convert first-time buyers into repeat buyers (aka customers)—if that’s what you want.
A lot of solopreneurs are somewhat familiar with this concept, but they’ve either been putting off implementing it, or they’ve tried but aren’t getting the results they hoped for. And that’s not surprising considering how much conflicting advice—much of it terrible—can be found online…along with how the enormity of the project scares the heck out of your lizard brain.
So the key is to break it into small, actionable, and most importantly achievable tasks. That way, Mr. Lizard stays dormant, dozing through each small step without getting alarmed that they are quickly adding up to a big “scary” system. This is exactly what I do.
In Learn Copywriting Backwards, creating your trunkline is broken into specific, small short-term goals, rather than the vague, huge long-term goal of “building your trunkline”. And each small step builds inexorably into a system that has been road-tested and proven by hundreds of other solopreneurs.
I teach you all the major principles and techniques, starting with the call to action on your sales page, working back to the headline, then through your email sequence, and finally to your opt-in page. (By the time you get there, writing a page like that only takes a couple of hours.)
How content is delivered
All lessons are accessible through this site. You’ll get a login to access them. When it’s time for the next one, you’ll get a reminder email, and you can then choose how to work through it:
- Read it on the site: the format is much like this very page, and fully responsive so you can read on your tablet or your computer.
- Listen to an audio version: all lessons are recorded and can be played on the site, or downloaded to listen to in the car or while exercising.
- Print it out to read in a comfy armchair: the lesson template is designed to be printable with the same easy-to-read typography, if you prefer to study old-school.
Because the trunkline forms the backbone of the
I divide things roughly into week-long modules, arranged in 4-week blocks which correspond to each of the 4 months of the program. Yes, I realize a month is slightly more than 4 weeks, but it works out well enough. Here’s how I time things:
Landing page, basic planning, fundamental principles
- The first week we start with framing your offer and writing the CTA (call to action). This includes not just the button, but the immediately preceding copy. I’ve found that learning to write this copy is relatively easy and stress-free, but sets you up to write headlines with only a few small tweaks to your mindset and knowledge. Writing CTA copy is also ideal for learning the first of the 4 C principles that tie everything together. And by starting with the offer, we ensure you have the right mindset about what your objective should be from the very start.
- The second week we develop a guarantee, which is not only useful for boosting sales, but is especially helpful for teaching a couple of key psychological techniques in copywriting—as well as the second of the 4 Cs.
- The third week we start working with curiosity—which means fascinations. (You’ll see several dozen examples of what I mean in the bullets a bit lower down the page.) Writing bullets teaches you the third of the 4 Cs (no, it’s not curiosity—but don’t worry, I explain exactly what it is and how it works with fascinations).
- The fourth week we focus on articulating exactly what your prospect gets, and how. Benefits and features, in other words. This actually reiterates the first of the 4 Cs which you learned in week 1. Remember that repetition is key to internalizing new skills and knowledge.
Headlines, planning & reviewing, basic marketing psychology
- The fifth week we work on the headline and deck copy for your sales/landing page, bringing it to a complete draft. This teaches you the final of the 4 Cs. All four are critical to writing headlines, but the final one is particularly well-fitted to be learned at this point.
- The sixth week we work through the sales page to polish it, and you learn my top techniques for quickly spotting and sanding down rough edges. We use this as an opportunity to not only revise and improve, but also examine the definition of copywriting itself, so we can assess how well the page performs against it.
- The seventh week we introduce some fundamental principles of email marketing and campaign writing, and plan out your lead-generation offer at the strategic level. This section often surprises people as there are a lot of “best practices” out there which I overturn, and a lot of recommendations I make which take getting used to (they are all tried and true!)
- The eighth week we start developing some concrete ideas for emails to fill your sequence, now that the strategic-level plan is complete. You’ll learn what you should be writing, what you should avoid—and you’ll get templates and swipes to review to get your creative juices churning.
Email campaign writing, 3 types of copy, ingredients of storytelling
- The ninth week we learn about the 3 fundamental types of online copy, and start writing our first emails. The aim is to get you quicker and quicker at writing emails as the month progresses, so we have at least 14 written by the end.
- The tenth week we develop our story-telling skills, discovering what is (and is not) critical to keeping your reader’s eyes glued to the screen. There are some surprising lessons in here around what constitutes the “essence” of story—lessons your English and drama teachers would squirm at.
- The eleventh week we continue to write emails, focusing on diversity of content while maintaining unity with the 4C principles. We also use this time to re-assess the definition of copywriting, along with the objectives you’re aiming for (because it is very natural to slip back into trying to achieve the wrong objective in your copy—which will quickly lead to frustration and lost sales).
- The twelfth week is an email marathon, interspersed with learning an advanced set of psychological principles that are very powerful for finding angles to use in both headlines and offers—something that will be important in week 13.
Opt-in page creation, aesthetic principles & go-live
- The thirteenth week is really a test of how well everything you’ve learned so far is cemented in your mind. We try to write the opt-in page copy sequentially from the CTA, getting it all done in the week. This helps us spot where there are still weaknesses, while also giving you an encouraging view of your strengths.
- The fourteenth week we tackle the practical issues of how you’re going to get your landing page, opt-in page, and email sequence up and running. I give you some advice on hosting platforms and recommend the two email providers which, in my testing, come out on top without breaking the bank. Of course, if you’re already comfortable with a particular setup, that’s no problem—you’re welcome to use whatever works for you.
- The fifteenth week we implement. This includes giving you some direction on design, which is a troublesome aspect of online marketing that most copywriters aren’t equipped to address. Since I am a web designer and conversion optimization expert, I can help you here with simple guidelines for color, proportion, and layout—plus a straightforward framework for understanding your prospect’s thought sequence when he arrives on your page.
- The sixteenth week we take stock. Usually by this point any issues have become clear, and we can spend this time dealing with them. We start testing what you’ve implemented, and looking for ways to improve it.
Need more convincing? See a popup of a few dozen key things you’ll learn in this program
A few dozen key things you’ll learn in this program
- The “4C Cipher” that ties together every technique in every successful headline, sales page, email sequence or marketing campaign. Everything can be reduced to just these 4 straightforward building-blocks—4 common threads that run through all effective marketing efforts…even when they are wildly different. (Anyone can understand these; no special training needed.)
- Where precisely marketing takes place (it is not on your homepage, or in an email sequence, or in the sentences you write, or the images you use—and once you grasp where it actually is, you are almost unstoppable)
- Why it isn’t enough to offer your prospect what he wants—there is a missing part of this equation most people don’t know about, and most marketers fail to teach
- Why Eugene Schwartz’s concept of gradualization is slightly incomplete when applied to the web (plus the missing component)
- 10 practical examples of how to connect yourself to your prospect in ways he won’t allow most marketers to
- The one thing that, if you fail at it, absolutely, positively guarantees that Sam will not convert. In fact, this one thing is 80% of successful marketing—yet mostly it goes ignored and uncelebrated…not to mention neglected in most businesses’ efforts. If you could learn only one thing about marketing, this would be it—it thrashes “ninja” persuasion tricks and advanced psychology and everything else
- Why to be a good marketer you must be a good writer—and what the actual definition of “good writing” is (it is almost certainly not what you think)
- Practical examples of how the same value proposition can be expressed in ways that make it seem lifeless and lame, or vibrant and alive and exactly what Sam wants
- A simple method for making Sam “see” what you’re saying, so that it becomes real to him
- Why shorter is better—except when it’s not…and how to tell when that is (again, featuring plenty of real life examples)
- The key marketing principle that making people laugh, staking out a strong position on a controversial topic, trying to persuade people not to buy, and telling weird stories have in common
- Why ragging on your competition may not be as silly as it sounds
- A particularly scary way to not only bond with your prospect, but push you way up in his estimation and interest (yes, most entrepreneurs find this even scarier than ragging on their competition, yet it is the key to my business success)
- A simple way to psychologically force Sam to read the next sentence…and the next…and the next…
- Real life examples of emails that had nothing to do with the product I was selling—but which successfully sold it anyway
- Why using a strong guarantee can (sometimes) turn your offer from a juicy steak into a steaming pile of horse manure—and how you can turn this surprising fact to your advantage
- 6 particular kinds of people we are all hardwired to want in our lives, and can’t help being attracted to…and why this is crucial to the first few seconds of interaction with your prospect
- Why good marketing is actually no different to the mind-control used by cults—except for one small but important detail
- The one seemingly simple thing you need to add to attention to totally master influencing people
- A key feature of theology which, strangely enough, reflects a fundamental human need that can easily be fulfilled in your marketing (thus making Sam religiously attracted to you)
- A genuine headline from a Great War propaganda piece that may be the most masterful 9 words of copy ever written
- 2 common examples—selling the product in emails, and selling the author in article bios—of how people market the wrong thing and thus don’t engage with their prospect’s natural thought sequence
- The only thing most emails should be selling (instead of the product)
- 4 examples (two right and two wrong) that illustrate precisely how you can muck this up, or do it perfectly
- Why your website might be getting a high bounce rate, and how to easily remedy it just by changing a couple of words
- Why sales is not the process of getting your customers to buy—and what it actually is instead
- The only thing you should try to control in a sales “conversation” (this includes any web-page, but it goes against every instinct we have. Yet once you’ve mastered it, selling becomes much easier and more enjoyable)
- A shortcut mechanism built into our brains that unfortunately destroys many sales without our even realizing—and how to consciously avoid it
- Why email is so supremely suited to the ideal sales process that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t created for that exact purpose
- The 2 things that absolutely must happen for your prospect to opt in to your list (these seem so obvious that I’m embarrassed to mention them, yet going by the averages I’m willing to bet you’re not doing at least one of them)
- An unusual way to kick your opt-in rates into orbit that is used by only one person I know of
- 4 big reasons why I believe email micro-courses are the best way to entice people onto a list (unless you can beat these reasons, throw out whitepapers, special reports and videos)
- 10 practical tips for creating a high-converting opt-in form on your own website
- How often you should email your list, and why conventional wisdom on list fatigue is just garbage
- The secret technique even email marketing genius Ben Settle doesn’t know—or doesn’t use at any rate—and how you can use it to bond your prospects to you like superglue (it also has another very counter-intuitive benefit too)
- Exact figures showing why advice from experts like Bob Bly about sending 80% “content” emails and 20% “sales” emails can cut your revenue by 400% or more
- Why a high unsubscribe rate is a good thing (in fact, it’s such a good thing that I’ve even sent emails telling people to get off my list!)
- 6 very easy ways to quickly come up with campaigns that will hit exactly the right buttons, build rapport, and make sales
- A simple, natural communication technique that real life salespeople use all the time to nail down deals — and how to apply it to email (most people don’t)
- A technique from the direct-response mail industry that works like crazy in emails too (not all techniques from direct-response do, but this one is very powerful)
- My sneaky secret for quickly churning out emails even when my mind is totally blank and I can’t think of anything to say
- Why I never (intentionally) use story arcs in emails—and what I use instead to drive engagement and interest
- A detailed graph showing a timeline of each email sent, along with open and click rates, plus when
- An explanation of 3 emails which several readers mocked me for sending—but which generated a 30% spike in sales
- Plus a PDF swipe file containing the complete content of each email in the campaign
- 2 reasons learning to write “well” is a useless waste of time
- A skill you are so comfortable and profficient with, that you don’t even think of it as a skill at all—and how to “convert” it to power your writing
- The most important thing your writing must do to get a result…which 99.9% of copy out there never does
- How to structure your writing to trigger an instinctive response in your prospect’s brain—whether you’re creating an email, a sales page, or a business proposal
- Why the much-repeated definition of copywriting as “salesmanship in print” is at best misleading, if not downright wrong—and why just thinking of copywriting in this way makes it really hard to learn and get good at (plus of course I give you the correct definition!)
- Why studying classic direct-response mailer copy can actually be dangerous—yes, despite their brilliance, people like John Caples and David Ogilvy can lead you astray, because there is literally no where on the web where you should use their style of copy without modification
- How to accurately measure value, along with an illustration of something I call the Value Fallacy—a low-level mistake that can scuttle even the most perfectly-written copy
- The actual, step-by-step process I use to get from a blank page with a flashing cursor, all the way through to a complete web-page like this one
- Why the vast majority of copywriting techniques you will learn from professional copywriters are a confusing waste of time and energy (this is very largely why so many people find copywriting so hard, and struggle to do it effectively)
- The only 3 types of copy you must be able to write to succeed online, and how they relate to each stage of your buyer’s “journey”—if you can write these 3 types of copy (and they aren’t hard), you’ve got all your bases covered
- A really simple, almost silly detail about writing headlines that has huge ramifications for the effectiveness of your entire page—this is literally a little-known secret about where and how to place certain words (this also reveals the ideal length for a headline, and helps you know when to use a subhead)
- How the term “call to action” is responsible for millions of dollars of lost revenue, and why simply rephrasing your CTA copy (sometimes just changing a single word) is key to moving readers forward into a sale
- The only copywriting technique I know of that consistently beats even the most advanced persuasion strategies—the ones top copywriters teach as the pinnacle of the art
- A trick I learned from Gary Halbert that plays on our brains’ hardwired systems for tracking causality—this automatically produces a process of subconscious purchase justification in your prospect
- A single symbol on your keyboard that can almost force your prospect to pay attention and reflect on his reasons to buy—without even realizing it
- A little visual trick I use in all my copy, which you’ve probably never noticed, but helps keep you interested and reading
- Why most of the magical hypnotic techniques spouted by the gurus will actually prevent your prospect from getting into a state of mind where he’ll buy—and one technique I learned from Igor Ledochowski that actually does work
- How to trigger the attention center of your prospect’s brain to almost force him to keep reading (this effect only lasts for about 20 minutes in most cases, but usually that’s more than enough)
- How to name-drop without coming across like a brown-noser—plus how you can use even unknown names to boost your credibility
- A bonus Mel Martin ad showing you how to write high-performing copy using nothing but bullets
- Why studying classical plot archetypes will probably hurt your ability to write good copy
- How short-form copy really does blow long-form copy away (but you have to use a secret tactic to make it work)
- Over a dozen archetypal features, along with why you definitely don’t need plots, conflict, or love—despite all the standard advice from the experts
- How archetypal features drive most popular songs, and thus the multi-billion-dollar music industry itself—along with 14 songs that clearly illustrate the features I identify (don’t laugh; songs are incredibly useful teaching tools because they have to fit so much into just a few minutes)
- Exactly why and how archetypal features will make your copy more persuasive (understanding this will let you easily see when archetypal features won’t work)
- 2 more archetypal features that feature prominently in country songs (country artists are killing it right now so it’s worth studying them)—plus why these contribute to their success. Included: links to 7 viral videos and 4 songs to illustrate exactly what I mean. I also give my quick opinion on why Gangnam Style is so unbelievably popular
- How nearly all the seemingly-unrelated archetypal features I’ve identified boil down to just 4 “archetypal topics” (one of which is magic)
- 5 “archetypal tactics” that appear over and over and over again in every single song, viral video, famous story, classic movie etc—and which are easy and self-explanatory to use in your own marketing
- How replacing your “credit card application”-style forms with “mad libs”-style ones can greatly increase conversions
- 3 principles to help you write these forms by understanding why they work
- 4 real life examples, including a before-and-after screenshot of a narrative form that didn’t work—with an explanation of why
- A handy tool, created by JotForm in response to this report, to get you started building your own narrative forms
If you can commit to 4 hours per week, in 4 months I can teach you to write copy better than most copywriters. I’ve done it for other solopreneurs. I’ll do it again. Will you be one of them?
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