Back in 2019, I explored 10 persuasion tactics that high-converting Clickbank promotions were using. But as popular as that post has been, I wasn’t 100% happy with it.
Because almost none of those tactics really involved copy… and as a copywriter, that’s my jam!
(Don’t get me wrong, I love studying pages to find ways to improve conversions, but words are what I specialise in.)
Today, I’m redressing the balance. In this official “Part 2”, we’re going to examine 5 Clickbank marketing secrets specifically around copy. These are what Clickbank VSLs, sales letters, and sales pages use to persuade people that they want this product right NOW.
So let’s not dilly-dally…
(Quick note: the examples in this post are health and fitness Clickbank promotions, simply because they’re two of the main niches I write for today!)
SECRET 1: SELL WITH STORIES
If you flick through the Clickbank Marketplace looking at VSL after sales page after VSL, you’ll see most top performing promos open with a story. Because people are hardwired to listen to stories, it’s one of the best ways to snag attention.
(You’ll see an even better way to grab attention—with or without a story—in #2.)
That said, it’d be disingenuous to say a sales page or VSL that doesn’t lead with a story is more likely to fail, because there are other ways to open. However, it’s fair to say that most successful sales letters do use stories SOMEWHERE throughout the copy.
With that in mind, here are 3 things to help you develop a winning “selling story”…
Make an emotional connection when you tell your story. Great copy, whether it’s a story or not, builds connection. A story is an easy way to do that.
- To write a solid selling story, you need three elements: a character, the story (or events) that the character experiences, and the selling point that ties your offer into the story.
- A selling story is different to a “normal” story, in that the point is to sell something to the prospect (too many copywriters forget this!)
To be fair, the art of writing stories for selling is a subject far too vast for a single blog. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend Roy Furr’s Story Selling Master Class.
(Note: Look at magalogs written by top copywriters and you’ll see just how important the story is. The main narrative can take up to 60%+ of the promo before the offer is mentioned in any real detail.)
It took me a long time to realise that stories, both big and small, are what most great promos revolve around. A compelling, fascinating Big Idea is the perfect anchor for your story to revolve around, though finding the right one is a challenge in its own right. That said, you don’t have to have a big story woven into the copy’s structure. Just look at John Carlon’s “Free Gun” ad as a perfect example of a sales letter that relies on mini-stories instead.
From The Marketplace
Jump on any Clickbank sales page or VSL and you’re odds on to see a story, so it’s probably unnecessary to show you examples… but let’s do it anyway.
Here are a couple that show you what kind of stories are floating around. For example, stories about loved ones are common since they build in relatability that connects prospects to the story faster and more deeply.
Stories about loved ones tug at the heartstrings and build emotional connection faster
Source: Flat Belly Fix
The “how I helped my struggling wife” story is popular in the weight loss niche
This sales page launches straight into a dramatic, high-stakes story
Source: Diabetes Freedom
- Saving the long-suffering spouse
- Back from the brink of death or despair
- The “ugly duckling to swan” transformation
In the health niche, many of these lead to a “miracle discovery” that is the offer behind the promo, though this can be a story type in itself.
But whether you start with a story or not, here’s another principle for you to ponder…
SECRET 2: START WITH A BANG
(Holding attention is just as important, but that’s another challenge entirely.)
Starting with a bang doesn’t mean a headline punctuated with a long cluster of exclamation marks. It doesn’t mean off-the-wall hyperbole. And if you’re talking VSLs, it certainly doesn’t mean shouting at the viewer from the first second (well, maybe in VERY selective contexts).
What I mean by starting with a bang is finding a great hook to open your promo with.
You might have a killer benefit that will grab your target audience the moment you mention it. If so, maybe that’s your lead. Maybe you’ve got a spine-chilling pain or fear that people want to avoid at all costs. If so, that’s another option, and a hot button many health-related Clickbank promos love to push. Maybe you’ve got a celebrity or expert endorsement that makes people think “woah”.
If your first 10 to 20 seconds gets a prospect’s undivided attention, you’ve created a brief window of opportunity. It might not sound like much, but so much copy fails to do even this, which puts it in the “dead on arrival” category.
(Note: pulling a “bait and switch”–opening with one idea to just hook people and then jumping to something unrelated–isn’t just unethical, it’s a surefire way to turn people off and kill conversions.)
Often, your “big bang” intro may not give the slightest whiff of what you’re selling, which is fine. Unless you’re selling to super-warm audiences, you shouldn’t be selling anything but a reason to pay attention at this point anyway.
Not starting with a bang was one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome when writing promos. My semi-introvert nature shies away from hogging the spotlight, even with copy. But one thing that’s helped has been grasping the difference between “screamy hyperbole” and “attention grabbing”. Plus, this isn’t necessarily how you write the entire promo. As Gene Schwartz put it, great promos are like action movies. You start with a bang, calm things down for a bit, then pick it up again with another “action scene”. There’s a cadence to a good movie… and that applies equally to good promo copy!
From The Marketplace
Want a great example of “starts with a bang”? The popular Resurge VSL begins with hazy images of a hospital and doctors hovering over what we can only imagine is someone on the brink of death. We hear a woman’s voice crying “John, wake up!”… it’s all very dramatic.
It doesn’t have to be explosions: waking up in hospital is a perfect example of starting with a bang
Lean Body Burn’s headline doesn’t hold back when it comes to grabbing attention
Source: Lean Body Burn
SECRET 3: DON’T START WITH A BANG
- Because using a different style of open can help you stand out from competitors
- Because applying rules without context can badly backfire on you
Not every audience responds to shock or high drama in the same way. People with a specific problem and after a specific solution may not be patient enough to sit through 10 or 15 minutes of near death experiences, risk of amputations, or embarrassing bowel-related accidents in restaurants.
This is where knowing your audience becomes so important, especially if you’re selling a niche product. Now, it’s easy to say “it’s Clickbank, so probably cold traffic that’s pain or solution aware”, which is why action-packed opens or problem/solution formulas are commonplace.
But if you know your audience, you’ll be in a much better place to make a call on whether high drama will help attract prospects or turn them off. Mini-lesson: try to identify your ideal customer as much as possible!
So how can you start a sales letter or VSL without a bang? Well, some of the “bang-lite” options are actually similar to the “bang-heavy” kind…
- Use an expert to introduce the topic / problem / scenario… but this time, dial back the tension
- Get straight to the point, calling out a particular problem without the melodrama or promising a benefit that your ideal audience would respond to
- Talk about the mechanism behind your solution, or the mechanism behind the prospect’s problem (that your solution fixes)
And if you’re unsure about whether starting with a bang or not is going to give you a winner… why not try split testing both?
I’m not a contrarian just for the sake of it, but I do believe a contrary approach can be valuable in the right situations. That makes it tempting to say “hey, if everyone else is opening their VSLs or sales letters with explosions, emergency visits to the hospital, and other heart-stopping action, why not try something different to stand out?”
BUT… that’s just my opinion! The truth is you will have to dig into your market. Find out what excites or scares them. You may even have to test a couple of opens before nailing the right one. And while that sounds like a lot of work, I can’t stress enough how important your open is to the success of your promo.
From The Marketplace
When it comes to low-key openings, there are plenty of promos that use this approach. Take Custom Keto Diet as one example:
The Custom Keto Diet VSL is as “plain” and straight-forward as you can get… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing
Source: Custom Keto Diet
But if you want something a touch more visual, how about this? The Lost Book of Natural Remedies VSL is literally the author talking to the viewer. No fuss, no drama, just a Doctor setting the scene by talking about her history to establish credibility. And while it may not be as popular with affiliates as Custom Keto Diet, The Lost Book Of Natural Remedies is another solid “affiliate magnet” in the marketplace.
A low-key opening, with just the author of the product talking to the viewer… clear, clean, and effective
Source: The Lost Book of Remedies
SECRET 4: ADD VALUE
So what does “add value” mean here?
Generally one or both of these:
If people finish reading or watching your promo having learned a few new things, that’s a good sign. If they’ve been entertained for a good portion, you’re in great shape. But if they’ve learned a little AND been entertained, your copy has primed them perfectly for your offer.
(If they’ve watched all the way through regardless of the above, you’re still looking good!)
But regardless of the of “value” you weave into your copy, remember this:
A sales letter or VSL (Clickbank or otherwise) should not be a 6,000 word or 45-minute product pitch.
Looking beyond the high level, the value you sprinkle into your copy (stories, facts, stats, anecdotes, rules, advice, and so on) does more than just educate or entertain.
- It acts as buying criteria for your product: Used the right way, an interesting fact or stat can introduce a unique aspect to your product that helps it stand out
- It invalidates competitors: The reverse of the previous point, where a factoid might show how your competing products are failing (compared to yours)
- It amps up interest: One of the best ways to avoid yawn-inducing copy is to add facts, stories, and more to keep interest levels high throughout
I feel this aspect often gets overlooked or given short shrift by a lot of copywriters who too easily get sucked into product pitch or sales mode. Even I sometimes struggle to apply this principle consistently, despite being well aware of the “value” (pun intended) that it brings to the copy table.
From The Marketplace
Sometimes this value can be a little tricky to spot, as it’s often woven into a story as a quick reference or brought up as an almost off-hand mention. But this Clickbank sales page promoting a Red Tea Detox info product gives a good example of how simple it can be to apply this principle.
Give readers valuable ideas and they’ll hang around… which is half the battle in a promo
Source: Red Tea Detox
The right ideas become buying criteria that frames your solution as the perfect choice
Source: Red Tea Detox
* Counter-intuitive, novel, or strange value for a market like weight loss is almost a must in today’s saturated markets. Traditional or old school ideas (e.g. “carbs are not the enemy!”) have been overused to the point where prospects simply switch off if they see them.
SECRET 5: ESTABLISH AUTHORITY EARLY
In the first edition of Clickbank Tactics, I mentioned “plenty of proof” as one of the tactics. Authority is a specific type of proof, so let’s explore that first.
One of Cialdini’s famed persuasion principles, authority is the air or expectation that knowledgeable experts get listened to and followed. If a doctor tells you to take a medicine to fix your illness, you do it. If a policeman knocks on your door and asks you questions, you tend to answer them (as opposed to a door-to-door salesman).
This perception of and reaction to authority extends into the marketing world. Selling a health supplement? Having a doctor’s endorsement is only going to help your promo. How about a fitness program or product? A sports star could make a big difference to how your sales figures look.
So why would you want to lead with authority?
Well, there’s a few great reasons.
- You want “pre-credibility”: if you’re going to make some big and potentially unbelievable claims in your promo, you might not want to wade into them without first showing prospects an expert, which can disarm the low believability of the coming claims.
- Your expert’s an attention getter: you don’t need to go out of your way to grab attention if your expert does that for you. Maybe they’re well-known in the industry or a controversial figure; either way, they might be the perfect way to open your promo.
- Your promo’s based around an expert: some promos revolve around an expert discussing a certain topic or sharing a story. In these cases, it pays to establish the bona fides of the expert early on.
Every time I get the opportunity with an industry expert, I do a metaphorical fist pump. Why? Because great sales copy will be hobbled if you don’t have solid proof and credibility, but a recognisable expert serves as both proof AND a selling point.
I have a tendency to establish authority early, even if it’s not included in the open. This is because I don’t want to get too far into claims territory without backing it up with proof, and expert authority is a great way to do that.
From The Marketplace
A quick look around the Clickbank Marketplace reveals more than a few VSLs and sales pages using experts and authorities to kick their promos off. You’ve already seen one with the Lost Book of Natural Remedies, where the author (who’s also a Doctor) talks about her background and professional accomplishments right from the get-go. But let’s look at another example.
Erase My Back Pain might grab attention with a “mega-benefit question” as its opening line, but then instantly switches to establishing the authority of “world renowned healthy back expert Emily Lark” (complete with an image of her talking on a TV show). It then goes into her personal story and experience with back pain, which is another fantastic way of proving her authority on the topic.
The first 2 minutes of the “Erase My Back Pain” VSL are all about Emily Lark, healthy back expert
Source: Erase My Back Pain
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
Now, to mix things up a bit… since people loved my first Clickbank post, I’m going to include two “bonus” design-based tactics I spotted during my semi-regular Clickbank research.
SECRET 6: COMING AT YOU IN 3, 2, 1…
It’s been a recent trend in some of the “big” VSLs to include a 5-second countdown before the presentation starts. This is literally just a countdown; numbers on the screen with minimal (or even no) sound.
The reason behind this is pretty simple: it gives viewers time to get settled, see the video, and switch on the sound. This is a *much* better way to start a video than blasting prospects with sound and video the instant they land on the page, as some older VSLs did. That just tends to either confuse people, or worse, tick them off.
Proven’s VSL is one of many that count down from 5… before launching into a highly dramatic open.
SECRET 7: TAB ALERT INDICATOR
Just like our favourite social media tabs, the odd Clickbank sales page will have a little notification prefacing the tab title. Because our minds equate the (X) with a notification we see on platforms like Facebook, we automatically jump back to that tab to see what the alert is. In one way, it’s fighting distraction with another “distraction”.
The Leptitox VSL page uses a hard-coded “tab alert” to lure distracted viewers back
* * *
If there’s only one thing you take away from these posts, it’s that putting together a high-converting Clickbank promo takes SERIOUS work in both the copy and design departments.
(The third and arguably most important ingredient is the offer itself, but I’ve explored that topic in-depth here.)
But when you successfully combine these elements, you unlock Clickbank marketing secrets that most offer owners never discover. And that gives you a winning edge in the battle for affiliates, sales, and CB glory!
Need help with your next promo?
Sales letters and VSLs – whether you have a an offer you want to run through Clickbank or just put out into the market – are two of the more complex types of sales copy. You might not want to have just “any” copywriter hacking away in the hopes you get sales.
So, if you’re looking for some help putting together the copy for you next promo, let’s have a chat. There’s no obligation on your part; we just talk about what you’ve got planned, maybe chew over some ideas, and see what happens.
Sound good? Then click here and book a time to talk.