No.11 / January 19, 2006

The Corporate Muse


Welcome to the first issue of The Corporate Muse for the year 2006!  We've packed this issue full of advertising and incentive tips.  As always, we'd love to hear from you.  Send your comments to:



   Making The Most Of Your Yellow Pages Ad

Not everyone advertises in the Yellow Pages. Not everyone should. But for those who do, there are specific things they need to consider before placing their next YP ad. 


Let's start with the basics. Yellow Pages have certain advantages over other marketing strategies. When people pick up the thick directory (or in smaller areas, not so thick), they usually know exactly what they want. You have buyers on the line. You don't have to convince them they need your services. You don't have to educate them about what you do. They are actively seeking what you're selling. Your job is cut in half.


So next, you must determine what you do need. If you happen to live in Thermopolis, Wyoming and have the only river raft trip company in the entire town; you won't even need an ad. A simple listing with the phone number will do. But if your business is in an area of stiff competition, like dentistry, plumbing, auto repair, and the like, it will be necessary to set yourself apart from the crowd.


This is where it gets tricky. Maybe you and your nearest competitor sit side-by-side in the directory. You both offer extended hours, the latest technology and equipment, several ways to pay, and boast friendly, professional service. So what differentiates you?


A good place to start building your advertisement is what's called the USP or Unique Selling Proposition. Finding one or more thing that separates you from everyone else. It can be as simple as the speed of your service or as complex as the only one in the Midwest using a breakthrough procedure.


Whatever you decide as your USP, give it primary positioning in your ad. Make it stand out. As your prospect scans yours and those of your competition, he'll immediately see the difference. But be aware, it takes more than a great USP to get him to choose you.


In fact, the USP is not the most important aspect of the ad. When someone searches the YP, in most cases, she has a problem. Every element of your ad must solve her problem.  Put yourself in her shoes. Does your ad meet all her needs? Does it answer all her questions?


Does she know, for instance, if you take credit cards? Placing the recognized symbols of credit cards you accept and/or listing other payment options (such as, available financing or insurance), can be a deciding factor. Displaying brand names, like credit cards, also increases your credibility rating.


And speaking of credibility, be sure to include things like, years of operation, industry associations, licenses, certifications, and/or the BBB. Use what you can to instill a sense of reliability. People do business with those they know, like and trust.


So we have a couple of things nailed down, but haven't touched on the biggest mistake most YP advertisers make: Using their business name for the headline. Nothing will turn potential customers away faster than a lame or nonexistent headline. The best YP marketers in the business will tell you to spend approximately 80% of your time coming up with a killer headline. It should draw attention and be packed with benefits. What could be better than solving your prospect's problem in the few seconds it takes to read your headline?


With your headline, USP, and credibility established, it's time to focus on your benefits. Using bullets instead of paragraphs, list as many benefits and features as possible in the body of your ad. The more information you provide about your business, the better. Bullets give it a neat, easy-to-read layout.


The last element of concentration should be on the design. You need to know well in advance what size your ad will be, whether or not you will use color, and if you will include photos or illustrations. Make your design as orderly and uncluttered as possible. Ads that are easy on the eye do best.


A note about photos: if at all possible, add them. Photos fair better than illustrations. A smiling picture of you gives readers a sense of connection - it's a brief opportunity for them to know you without ever having met you. Photographs of clients enjoying your services also work well.


Once you've determined exactly what to put in your ad, you can create it yourself, let the YP designers do it for you (included in the cost of your ad), or hire outside help to construct it. Whatever you decide, be sure to get a proof before allowing it to be placed in the directory.


Those of you who advertise in the Yellow Pages know what a costly proposition it is, so do everything you can to get the most for your money. When you've wisely planned each element, it can exponentially increase your business and help potential buyers choose you over your competition. (SKC) 


       © QuickSilver Copywriters 2006 – Andy & Shawn Catsimanes;; mailto:; Sign up for The Corporate Muse:




Okay, I admit it - I'm a sucker for a good coupon. A dollar off here, fifty cents off there - it adds up. Careful planning can slash significant cash from your grocery bill. I've even read of women who make collecting coupons almost a full-time job. They sink so much energy into finding and clipping; they claim to get their necessities for next to nothing!


True or not, most of us like unearthing a bargain. We're happy if we think we got a bargain, whether at the grocery store, the car dealership or the new restaurant down the street. Our money is hard earned and not easy to part with. Coupons relieve some of the sting of that inevitable parting.


Smart marketers understand this principle. Luring new clients takes work. And the coupon can be a simple vehicle to attract them to your door. It's easy and not overly expensive; most businesses can readily implement the practice. I've seen coupons for dentists, car repair, dry cleaners, haircuts; you name it and you can probably find a coupon for it.  


There are drawbacks, of course. Coupons come in a variety of shapes and sizes: "buy one, get one free," "$, $$, or even $$$ off," "Special deal if you purchase something of a particular value, generally something you get for free or at a bargain basement price." Whatever the discount, it has to be substantial for anyone to take advantage of it and can mean a loss of income for the business owner. But in most instances, you will gain more than you lose.


Case in point, Andy and I went out to dinner Saturday night. We chose the particular restaurant because we had a coupon for a free appetizer. It's possible we weren't alone, because we waited fifty minutes to eat. After dinner, we headed over to a nearby ice cream place we had a coupon to "buy one, get one free." It, too, was packed. Because we split an entrée, we spent just under $25 (including tip) and enjoyed a very satisfying meal, complete with appetizer and dessert. It was a win/win situation. We felt great about the money we'd saved and we visited two businesses recently added to our neighborhood.


Now, I don't have statistics as to whether or not coupons enticed the thirty plus people we shared the foyer with - or the hundred or so already seated inside. The coupons we used came in the mail marked: Resident. So chances are, most patrons had access to them. As I said before, these are new establishments and that may have been all the attraction necessary. My guess is even if every single person having dinner there on Saturday night redeemed a coupon, the loss would be comparatively minimal.


Say they lost four dollars for every five-dollar appetizer they gave away. If they served only twenty-five other families who thought as we did - we have an appetizer coupon, let's eat there - and the average ticket ran $25 (minus $4.00), they made $525 more than they would have without the incentive. Do that a few nights in a row ... well, you see my point.


In all truth, I'd rather everyone just lowered their prices than take the time to deal with the coupons. But because I love saving money, I endure the hassle - and there are a lot of people out there like me. If you're contemplating a new marketing campaign, consider adding a coupon. It might just be the enticement an undecided money-saver needs to give you a call. 




This month we've added a guest "speaker." Our friend Michel Fortin is a well-respected copywriter who's known for his ability to teach people how to write phenomenal copy. We hope you enjoy this excellent piece.


Want Better Copy? Go On A Quest!

mind.jpgWriting copy is usually the easiest part of my work. But figuring out what to say is often a whole lot harder than knowing how to say it. That requires a lot of research, creativity and, of course, "sales detective work," as my friend John Carlton calls it.

But when I know what to write, the question I'm often asked is, "Do you start with the headline, or do you work the headline last?"

Let me share with you a formula I use. First, when I write new copy, I tend to start with the copy itself, then create the headline and headers (some people call them "subheads").

With existing copy however, it's the other way around: I start with a better headline (after reading the copy and questionnaire replies from my clients), then the rest. Why? Because...

Sometimes (in fact, a lot of times), my client's copy is already pretty good. The culprit for a poor response, almost 9 times out of 10 in my estimation, is a poor headline. (And it's often the one element I test the most, too.)

The headline is the pivotal element in copy upon which the success of your copy will hinge. If people are not interested enough in reader further after reading the headline, they will leave without reading any more, regardless of how good the copy is, how great the product is and how perfect the offer is for their situation.

So I tend to try to find a good hook for the headline.

After a little bit of detective work, this usually comes to me after tinkering with the headline a bit, sometimes writing several of them.

(Or I rewrite it several times until I come up with the one I think will pull best. You've probably seen me do this on my critique videos at as an example. In it, check out the brief 15-minute video sample where I reconstruct a headline.)

The headers are usually parts of the copy -- either pulled out from the copy where they make sense, create curiosity, and force the reader to stop scanning and start reading.

With new copy, I usually start with an outline, but I really don't write the actual headers. I often start with the concept or idea I want to introduce in specific sections of the letter, but then write copy and use headers at that point, all based on the flow of ideas.

Here's how I do it. Most of my salesletters focus on 5 core components. What I usually do when I write or rewrite copy is follow this format. It's my 5-step guide, if you will.

It's sort of my own take on the AIDA formula. (Well, it actually complements it, as I still follow AIDA.) I'm sure you've heard of AIDA (i.e., grab their Attention, arouse their Interest, build their Desire and ask for some kind of Action).

My formula is this: I call it going on a "QUEST."

  1. Qualify
  2. Understand
  3. Educate
  4. Stimulate
  5. Transition
It's like traversing a mountain, so to speak, when you start climbing the mountain on one side, reach the summit, and start climbing back down on the other side.

Almost all my salesletters take on this quality.

Here's what "QUEST" means:

  • Q = Qualify the reader and prepare her for what's about to be discussed. And it's also to weed out the non-prospects, tire-kickers, time-wasters, etc.

    That's why it's good to ask questions at the beginning or set the stage by giving a scenario they can immediately relate to, or talk about how terrible things are with "this" or "that" problem, or how nice it would be to solve "this" or "that" problem.

    You also try to denominate who usually has this problem (I often incorporate this into a story), who this solution is for and/or who it is not for. The aim is not only to create awareness, but also and more importantly to qualify the reader or drive home how qualified the reader is for the offer.

    This is especially true where there's a bit of an education involved -- where the prospect doesn't really know (or is not fully aware) there is a problem. The problem may be in the back of their minds, but my job is to bring it to the top.

    In fact, this is why the next part is crucial and flows from the first. Because, the next step is to...

  • U = Understand the reader by reaching out to them. You empathize with them. You expand on the problem. You agitate their pain. You not only get the reader to identify themselves with you, but also magnify the problem by making it more real and vivid in their minds. You "add salt on the wounds," so to speak.

    In other words, you share their pain, and tell them how more painful it is either because there is no solution, or because competing or previous solutions are not as good for whatever reasons. It's where you bring the problem to the top of their minds -- and it's why, once you've reached to the top "of the moutain," it becomes an easy downhill trek afterwards.

    You can also use this section to tickle their curiosity about a potential solution, and insert specific benefits other solutions don't have, but without fully introducing or disclosing "your" solution yet -- i.e., a unique selling point, superior "nice-to-have" benefits, something new or different that will be linked with the offer later on, the story behind the product, etc.

    (In fact, if the creator of the product used to be in the same situation, I would include a story behind the product based on that fact. It's also a great place to build credibility and give the reader reasons why they should keep reading. Readers identify themselves with the author and say to themselves, "Hey, I felt the same way!" Or, "I certainly don't want to go through what she went through!" Etc.)

    When you introduce the solution later on, you can tie it in with all of these. It's like telling the reader: "Wouldn't it be great, if..." (And later on, "Well, there is a solution that...") And that leads to the next step, which is to...

  • E = Educate the reader on the fact that there is a solution. Your solution. This is where you expand on the fact that a solution exists, and that your solution is unlike all the others, as well as the reasons why it is different. This is where you introduce the product or service (but not the offer). Usually it's in the middle of the copy. It's "the summit of the sales mountain," if you will.)

    Also, it's a great place to add a lead-capture form, if you didn't use the forced opt-in process. That is, if people landed immediately on your salesletter organically, without going through a landing page first. (We tested locations, and if you need to add an opt-in form on a salesletter, this seems to be the highest pulling area.)

    It's also a great place to build on and emphasize credibility introduced in the "U" portion of the formula. You should include a lot of proof here, and build on the believability element.

    This includes credentializing the author and why should one listen to her. It's also a great location to talk about the features of your product or service, dispell any myths, and respond to any objections regarding the product or service.

    It's also the location where I add proof elements, case studies and testimonials. In fact, I tend not to add any testimonials until this section. Why? Because testimonials too early tend to scare off people.

    Of course, this depends at what stage of the buying process the market is in. If they are vigorously aware of their problem and they're hurting already, testimonials a little early won't hurt. But in tests, removing testimonials early in the copy actually increased response in most cases.

    Once they're educated, the next step is to...

  • S = Stimulate the reader on the offer. This where the offer is made and the value buildup really starts. You list and expand on the benefits. (In "E," I start to talk about features and describe the product. But in here, I talk benefits, benefits, benefits... And I link them to the features described in "E."

    It's the place where the offer really starts taking shape. Also, it's a great location to add value to the offer, such as offering premiums, making guarantees and inserting value boosters, such as adding scarcity and making apples-to-oranges comparisons.

    ("Apples to oranges" means to compare the price to the cost of not buying -- rather than to the price of some alternative. In other words, it's comparing the value of your offer not with the value of a similar or competing product but with the value of all possible alternatives, including missing out on the potential benefits, pecuniary losses, value of unique benefits, ultimate costs of not using the product, etc.)

    Use this section to link the offer to the rest of the formula. That is, you restate some of the problems mentioned in "Q," how the solution answers the greater problems talked about in "U," and how it links to all to the features and benefits described in "E." After that, you then...

  • T = Transition the reader from prospect to customer. The famous "let's wrap this up" or "call to action" section. It's the response device. The close, in other words. This includes the order form, the price, a special offer, the P.S.'s, additional testimonials (especially results-based testimonials), making the reader feel as if they already own the product, etc.

    It's a great place to summarize the offer, and perhaps introduce new points not discussed to this point to spur action, such as adding an as-of-yet undisclosed benefit or bonus -- also called "pot sweeteners."

    (I also tend to add a liftnote in this section, usually a linked pop-up window, which says, "Click here if you decided NOT to order today," and so on. Take a look at how I did it with John Reese's, for example.)

Now, I don't follow this formula precisely as I just explained.

I usually start with QUEST as an outline first, especially in an outline, and then refer back to it later.

Once the outline is made, I expand on each point and "go with the flow" of what I think is best for the offer throughout the salesletter.

I also write header ideas in that outline, too. But first, I expand on the copy, and if needed, I re-arrange ideas around for better flow. And then, I write the headers as I see how they fit in the QUEST formula, all keeping the following in mind:

  1. The header introduces a new piece of information. It's specific and descriptive. Best of all, it has an inherent benefit -- whether it's of the offer or one in reading what follows. (Usually, it's the latter.)

  2. It helps to introduce the following section in the copy. In fact, it should read as if the person never read the preceding copy. It somewhat explains it as to not confuse and push people away. (But it doesn't explain it entirely, as the next point reveals.)

  3. More often then not, it also piques their curiosity in order to force them to stop scanning and go back to the beginning of the copy (as people usually scan and read the headers when they hit a salesletter for the first time).
The third one is the one I use the most.

The header introduces a portion of an idea (like a half-statement), or some kind of "newsworthy" statement that pulls them into the copy.

It's like using headers as "knots" or "hooks" in rock-climbing rope, so to speak. Why? Because it forces people to stop -- and ultimately pulls readers back into the copy (or keeps them reading and clinging throughout the copy).

For example, in the copy for Lou Vukas at, I wrote a header that said, "(I tried everything. I felt) Hopeless... Frustrated... Broke... I Said to Myself, 'There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This'!"

The copy that followed slowly introduces the "wouldn't it be great" concept, until the next header, which says, "I Found It!" "I Cracked The Code!" "It Hit Me Like A Ton Of Bricks!" And so on.

Finally, don't force yourself to follow the QUEST formula "to the letter." Use it as guides to help you in creating the copy and ensuring it has a proper flow.

Just like there are different mountains of different shapes and sizes, there are different markets with different levels of awareness. Therefore, each climb should also be different.

But keep this in mind. Climbing any mountain has 3 common things: the ascent, the summit and the descent. You copy should flow in the same way: pull them in, prove your case and push them to act.

I call these the "3 P's." But, that's for another day...

About the Author

Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter, author, speaker and consultant. Watch him rewrite copy on video each month, and get tips and tested conversion strategies proven to boost response in his membership site at today. 

*Reprinted by permission. 

Thanks for reading.  See you next month!


Andy & Shawn Catsimanes

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"With Andy & Shawn's help, 'Snapshots from the Soul' became a reality. They demonstrated great sensitivity and compassion and we enjoyed working with them very much."

~Dennis E. Chapman, Associate Executive Director, City Union Mission, KC, MO


“Andy and Shawn are copywriters you can count on to understand your business and your customers. I couldn’t be more impressed with the copy they provided us. Their work is excellent. I look forward to working with them again soon.”

~Kevin Fryer


"A book would not be enough room to compliment Shawn on her work. Her professionalism comes first even if it means staying up late at night to answer all your question. She works tirelessly to get the best results possible. Her attitude, caring, and devotion are unique and I'm thankful I had the chance to work with her."

~ Olga O'Mara


"Andy is a no fluff wordsmith with high direct response, long copy talent. His work will lift interest in your website. His ability to get up to speed on your unique business model is impressive. He is persistent to completing projects and takes personal pride in the quality of his work. He is honest and knows what drives sales. If you are lucky enough to get him, you will get above average copy for a fair price. I'd use Andy anytime."

~ Christopher Hebard
Pruett Media