This Legendary Writer Knew How to Get Readers to Say Yes Within the First Few Sentences of Copy
(It’s a Technique You Can
Use to Do the Same)

Writer looking at sales copy while sitting at a desk with laptop

From electrical engineering to working for the CIA.

Who would have known these two backgrounds would be the springboard to a highly successful copywriting career that lasted over 40 years? And it would make him a legend in our industry.

I’m talking about Joe Sugarman, creator of the infamous BluBlocker sunglasses, which he sold well over 20 million pairs.

Joe grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. But when he was old enough to attend college, he chose to study electrical engineering at the University of Miami.

Just six months shy of graduating, he was drafted into the Army. He wound up serving time in Germany working in the CIA’s intelligence offices.

When his deployment ended, Joe returned to the U.S. And that’s when he decided to start his own business.

I can’t tell you if Joe was an avid skier, but the business he started was a marketing company that specialized in selling Austrian ski lifts. He did so well, he created a second business … an ad agency that, if you guessed specialized in writing copy for ski resorts, you’d be right.

Joe’s ski resort sales copy was outpacing the sales he made selling ski lifts. So in 1971, he shut that business down and concentrated on writing copy full-time. In fact, he formed the JS&A agency with headquarters in the basement of his family’s home.

And the client work was pouring in. For instance, Joe wrote long-form direct mail copy selling pocket calculators. He was the first copywriter to include a toll-free 800 number to take credit card orders over the phone. He even sold a used airplane valued at $190,000 for over $240,000.

His copywriting work was getting noticed by lots of firms. Many wanted to hire him. But Joe went a different direction. He decided to teach people how to write copy.

So he held seminars at his vacation home in Wisconsin, teaching his marketing and copywriting techniques to up and coming businesses. Two of those included The Sharper Image and Victoria’s Secret.

But this just wasn’t enough to keep Joe busy or happy. His engineering mindset kicked in when he met a sales representative for a California company that developed a special film that could be applied on an astronaut’s eye shield to protect them from ultraviolet rays (UV).

The film blocked the UV rays, which were more dangerous in outer space than here on Earth. To demonstrate how it worked, the representative gave Joe a pair of weird looking sunglasses that were coated with the film.

Joe was immediately fascinated with the glasses. And he offered to help the company market them. But the rep turned his offer down. Not because he didn’t think Joe could help, but because the company had just filed for bankruptcy.

Joe, however, wasn’t about to give up. He bought the patent for the film from the company and started marketing the eyewear as BluBlocker Sunglasses. He wrote an ad that was an instant success. The first few lines read …

“I am about to tell you a true story. If you believe me, you will be well rewarded. If you don’t believe me, I will make it worth your while to change your mind. Let me explain.”

And this, dear reader, brings us to a powerful technique Joe created for writing winning sales copy … you have to create a buying environment for your reader at the very start of your copy.

As Joe explains, “The first line is crucial, because it only takes a few seconds for the reader to make up their mind. If the first line fails to grab their attention and spark their interest, they likely won’t bother reading the rest of the page. If the first sentence isn’t compelling enough, and doesn’t convey the biggest benefit, all your effort will be in vain.”

If you re-read those first few sentences of his ad, you realize he is getting the reader into a buying mode. Yes, the reader knows they are being sold something … but in this example, they want to know more because Joe makes a very big promise … you will be rewarded.

Now that’s just one of Joe’s techniques for writing winning sales copy. He used several others, including these:

Sugarman technique #2: Be a product expert. For Joe, the first step in the copywriting process is to become an expert in whatever you’re about to sell. Whether it’s a product or a service, you need to pick up enough specific knowledge to find the right details to effectively sell to customers.

In his book The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, Mr. Sugarman tells the story of researching a watch for three days before choosing the laser technology used to make the watch as his angle for introducing the product.

Sugarman technique #3: Be a customer expert. Knowing your customers is another important step in the copywriting process. It’s crucial to know what they like, what they don’t like, and how they think. You want to know what interests them and what makes them excited. Knowing your customers helps you to speak their language, write about the right benefits to sell the product, and overcome any purchasing hurdles.

You can find out the language they speak by finding online forums related to products. You’ll see how prospects talk about products and things they are concerned about.

Sugarman technique #4: Be an emotional expert. Discover the emotional and logical reasons that your prospect will buy your product. Once you know these reasons, you’ll have the key to effective selling. This isn’t just a Joe Sugarman technique … it’s something that we talk about in AWAI’s flagship copywriting program, The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.

People buy with emotions but need logic to justify their purchase decision. This is why focusing on one strong, compelling emotion throughout your copy will generate more sales. That emotion could be fear, greed, belonging, curiosity, surprise, enjoyment, anger, sadness … the list goes on.

Sugarman technique #5: Be an expert on objections. In your sales copy, you have to raise the flaw(s) or the objection(s) to purchasing the product right upfront in your selling approach. But just as quickly as your raise those objections, you have to resolve them. When you do this, you’re reinforcing the reasons why your prospect should buy from you.

These are of course just a few of Joe’s techniques for writing winning copy. But if you concentrate on these, particularly on creating a buying environment, you’ll see how much better your copy becomes. And how many more sales it gets for your clients.

So start practicing this today and, as Joe would say, you will be well rewarded.

Seven-Figure Copywriting Program

The Accelerated Program for Seven-Figure Copywriting

Turn the ability to write a simple sales letter into a successful freelance career. Find out how you can make a seven-figure income working from anywhere you want as a direct-response copywriter. Learn More »

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Published: April 25, 2024

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