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Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of the Exit Five Weekly Email, a weekly note with B2B marketing lessons & observations, fueled by the community at Exit Five (a private community of ~3,500 marketing pros).

Join us at exitfive.com if you're not already a member.


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How To Become a Master-Level Copywriter 


“DG: you can’t call yourself a marketer and not have this book in your library.”


That’s the first line of a hand-written note I got a few years ago from Ryan Deiss.


Ryan is the founder of DigitalMarketer.com, a best selling author, founder of multiple companies collectively employing hundreds around the globe, and one of the best speakers about marketing I’ve seen in my career.


The note was in the middle of a book called Breakthrough Advertising, written by Eugene Schwartz. The book was originally published in 1966 and became a cult classic and one of the most sought after books about direct marketing. I had never heard of this book until Googling it and finding it retails on Amazon for $400. 


Dang! I guess Mr. Schwartz was a heck of a copywriter in his day. 


Ryan’s note said that “State of Awareness, Chapter 2” and “States of Sophistication, Chapter 3) will get anyone 80% of the way to master-level copywriter.” 


Here are those lessons from Eugene Schwartz.


State of Awareness:


You must know the “state of awareness” of your market; e.g. how well do your potential customers know you and what you can do? And you need to speak differently to prospects/customers depending on their stage.


“In its natural development, every market’s awareness passes through several stages,” Schwartz says. “The more aware your market, the easier the selling job, the less you need to say.”


Though in 2023 in B2B SaaS, I’d argue it’s not necessarily easier the more they know…it's just more technical and product oriented...but I digress. 


As a copywriter, you must tweak your copy to match each level of awareness. Writing to someone that is the “most aware” of your products/services is going to be different than writing to someone who has no idea you exist. 


The awareness scale is as follows:

  • Unaware - the customer doesn’t know they have a problem, doesn’t know they need help for this problem, does not know you’re the solution. This message is going to be very brand oriented, potentially an aspirational or fear-based message. It’s hitting on broad human emotions, but not really communicating how you’ll get them there. It’s Salesforce's “No software” message. 
  • Problem Aware - the customer knows they have a problem, but they don’t know how it can be solved, and they don't know it can be solved by you. They might be Googling how to do something faster/better/cheaper. They feel the pain, and they’re looking for a solution to their problem. So if they land on your page, your goal is to convince them that your specific solution is the one that will solve their specific problem.
  • Solution Aware - the customer knows they have a problem, they know it can be solved with your software category, but they don’t know you can solve it. They might Google for "best CRM software."
  • Product Aware - the customer knows they have a problem, they know it can be solved with your software category, and they also know about you (but they need help to buy). They seek you out specifically in the hopes you’ll assist them.
  • Most Aware - the customer knows of your product, knows what it does, knows they want it. The deal is nearly sealed…think of this as supporting your sales team with a killer deck for the second call. 

States of Awareness help answer “how much does your marketing know about your product?” and helps you understand which angle to approach your copy from. (Side note, also consider structuring your marketing campaigns around which level of awareness the prospect is in.)


But there’s also another layer to factor in: sophistication. How many similar products have they been told about before?


If you’ve ever purchased software, you may have experienced this yourself. Your first time seeing ABM software you’re sort of taking it all in, getting a broad strokes understanding of what it does. You hear about different features and you’re wrapping your head around how they address your challenges. By the 7th demo you come in knowing the patterns and different features, and have an opinion on which functionalities within features will meet your needs.


Here are the different States of Sophistication:

  • First in market - no competition. You’re the first company they’ve heard of that does this thing. You can make general claims about what you do and people won’t have anything to compare it to, to know whether or not it’s true. 
  • Second in market - some familiarity. This is the stage where you have to differentiate yourself against another player or two. You need to explain how you’re better.
  • The third state - other competition has established why they’re better as well. At this stage, you have to explain not just how you’re better, but why that is. For example - our email automation tool has better deliverability rates than the other guys, because we have XYZ process to avoid going to spam. The prospects in this level may have bought a solution like yours before, and they need explanations to believe. 
  • The fourth state - now the questions are focused on facts of the product, rather than the promise. These buyers will want a trial, or a free version of the platform because they need to see it in action to believe. At this stage you can't really sell the vision or the roadmap. The sales demo and product marketing needs to blow them away. 
  • The fifth state - this one isn’t really a stage, it’s more like a blood bath. Prospects have seen every demo, they know how the category works, and they have informed opinions on what the best options are. Weirdly you sort of circle back around, and the main differentiator is knowing your audience the best, providing the best experiences, you’re back in the softer stuff.  You always need the technical information to back yourself up. But you might be differentiated by brand message again. It's like - all the tools are the same but this one company has an amazing conference that makes me better at my job. 

Not to jump too far ahead, but in the podcast below, April talks about how to position and differentiate in a crowded market...definitely give it a listen if this state of sophistication idea got your gears turning! 


Breakthrough Advertising is not the easiest of marketing books to read, but if you can pound your way through it you’ll come out the other side as a better copywriter. And if you’re not willing to dish out the $400 like Ryan did for me, I hope this little explainer gives you a helpful taste for free and will probably lead to some “Eugene Schwartz” Googling for later.


My main takeaway is this: understanding your customer and your market is the real secret to becoming a great copywriter. 


The CMO at one of my earliest marketing jobs handed me a fortune cookie paper that said, “Good writing is clear thinking made visible.” I reflect on this a lot.


It’s not about using the most creative and descriptive language or having the punchiest copy. Alliteration and metaphors won’t hit as well as copy that says exactly what your prospect needs to hear, at the perfect time. 

We focus so much on the writing, that we forget the framing, outlining, knowing the customer, etc matters more. Getting the ideas right is more important than using the right words. Great copywriting really is just great research and the ability to edit and rearrange to tell the right story for your customer and for your business.

Hope you are having a productive week.

- Dave

PS. Are you reading? Reply back and let me know, I love getting replies...


🎧 Podcast #97: April Dunford on Positioning, Differentiation, Lessons from 200+ B2B Sales Pitches, and How To Do It Right


This episode ties in so well with this week's exploration of great copywriting because copywriting/positioning/differentiation share the same fundamentals... you have to know what matters to your audience to be great. And April is one of the best there is on this topic for B2B.

I've been studying storytelling and positioning closely for 8 years now starting with my time at Drift.
I've devoured every book and guide out there from the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Positioning, Story Brand, Play Bigger, Storytelling Secrets, and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs; I've taken a bit from each and used them to create my own POV on positioning for brands, and it was great to have a chop session with April on these topics. I hope you'll give it a listen.
This podcast is particularly noteworthy for the startup founders out there as we dig into differentiation and how to find yours, and why this goes beyond marketing and must include product, sales, customer success, and the whole cross-functional leadership team.


Listen To The Episode Now On Spotify


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