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How I Beat Danny Iny 5:1 at His Own Game (Sales Letter Split-Testing)

Danny Iny is one of the very few people I listen to when it comes to marketing, and it’s not every day that he asks for help in this area, or needs it.

But a couple of months ago he asked for a second opinion on a sales letter he was writing.

I gave him my feedback, but I also proposed a friendly competition over who could get more sales.

Danny’s a good sport, so he said “sure, let’s do it”…

Well, I ended up winning by 423%… but since that means a *lot* more sales for Danny, I’m assuming that he isn’t too miffed about losing. πŸ˜‰

This post is all about our little competition: what Danny missed, how I beat him at his own game… and how *you* might get 5x more sales in your business, too!

The Back-Story to the Competition

Danny and I are in the same mastermind group, and so we correspond quite a lot.

A couple of months ago he asked for a second opinion on his sales page for the “Marketing That Works” program.

I was happy to give feedback, and I also offered to write a whole new sales page, to compete against Danny’s page.

We didn’t expect huge differences in conversions (the day before the launch Danny estimated that we wouldn’t see definitive results before the launch week was over).

But 10 hours after the launch email went out, the test was over…

Five out of every six sales were coming from my page.

(I think the extra 400% salesΒ on a $1,000 program takes the edge off from losing!) πŸ˜‰

To be honest, if I had lost, it wouldn’t have been a big deal; Danny is pretty talented copywriter, and he knows his audience exceptionally well.

But I still won. Here’s how…

What Made The Difference

There’s no scientific way to know what exactly made my version the winner, but there were a few distinct differences that I believe caused my page to convert better…

  1. The first headlines.
  2. The first paragraphs.
  3. The angle of the copy.

Now let’s break down the key differences:

1. The First Headlines

Only about 20% of readers read more than the headline.

And that’s when the headline is really good.

In Danny’s case the percentage might be higher because his audience believes that he provides good value, so they have more reason to expect good things from an offer.

But still the first headline has a huge impact on conversion; if the reader doesn’t read more than the headline, they won’t buy.

Danny’s first headlines were:

“Let *Us* Be Your Unfair Advantage: Take the Guesswork and Frustration Out of Your Marketing & Get The Customers You Want!”

“A Marketing System *Custom-Tailored* for Your Business; An Extra $12,000/Year (MINIMUM!) or Your Money Back!”

My first headlines were:

“Will You Let Me Help Make Your Business More Profitable?”

“I personally GUARANTEE that you’ll add more than $12,000 to your annual income within 6 months…”

There’s a small difference that made a huge difference…

I believe my headlines feel more personal and at least they’re shorter and simpler. I also expected my headlines to match Danny’s audience’s thoughts more closely.

I could try to analyze the headlines indefinitely, but I’ll let you give your opinion about them in the comments πŸ˜‰

But I’ll also (quite blatantly) tell you that I’ve written a free eBook about headlines (that even Danny recommends). You can download it here. Wayne Mullins of Ugly Mug Marketing also wrote a killer sales letter example that you can swipe and modify!

Moving on…

2. The First Paragraphs

If you get people to read the sentence that comes after the headline, you have another problem:

People aren’t convinced yet.

How you start the main copy affects the conversion as much as the headlines; if the reader doesn’t relate to it, they don’t read more.

This was probably the biggest difference between Danny’s and my sales pages…

Danny’s first paragraphs concentrated on creating a connection with the reader.

It’s generally a good way to start a sales page.

I believe the problem was that it was too negative.

Even though the readers probably could relate to it, it didn’t offer light at the end of the tunnel fast enough.

My first paragraphs were about the guarantee and clearly telling whom the program is for, and whom it isn’t for.

The purpose was to create the feeling for the reader that the program is meant specifically for them (and not for “everyone”).

Actually the copy excluded only very few people whoΒ wouldn’tΒ have bought the program anyway…

The promise of the guarantee was so big that I expected that readers would feel skeptical.

The idea was to give them a reason to believe in the promise.

But actually that’s something the angle of the copy did…

3. The Angle of The Copy

No matter what you sell, there are always many ways how you can present it.

Just as if you were taking a photo of something; you can use different angles to make it look different.

In sales copy the angle you use has a huge impact on sales; it’s the thing that makes your product seem different from competitors.

Noticing the angles of sales pages is a bit trickier, but there was a clear difference:

Danny’s version didn’t have a very clear angle (or at least I missed it).

He talked about one aspect of the offer at a time, instead of referring to one or two things throughout the page.

That can work very well, but when you’re offering something that – at first glance – won’t seem clearly different from competitors, I’d find an angle that makes the difference clear (and I’d talk about it a lot)…

My angle was the personal help you get in the program.

I referenced it throughout the copy.

I also talked about “the foundation for marketing”, which makes it possible for any marketing method to work.

And I tried my best to make people really notice the guarantee; even a strong guarantee falls prey to guarantee blindness

If you read the pages, let us know in the comments what you think about them.

What do you think about the angles?

What About Design?

There were a few differences in the designs of the pages.

Here are the most important ones:

  1. I made the headlines easier to read with a higher line-height (lines of text have more space between them) and a different font. I also increased the white space around headlines to make them stand out.
  2. Danny’s color theme (blue banner and bright blue background) didn’t really match Mirasee’s design. Even though I used a greenish gray background, I used red borders and a red top banner to make the page feel coherent with the brand.
  3. I used a lot of “notice boxes” that stand out from the page. I also used a black box that is so out of place that the reader almost certainly stops to read what it’s about πŸ˜‰

I’d love to say that I believe the changes in design had a big impact on conversion.

But I don’t think so.

I do believe they made a difference, but only a small one.

The “notice boxes” (with yellow background) probably made the biggest difference.

They make readers stop to see what the bullet-points and testimonials are about.

The bullets I used were meant to intrigue the reader with bite-sized benefit-statements; when you offer long lists of benefits, the overall perceived value of the offer goes up.

The testimonials were there to talk about very specific benefits of the program. I even dug a couple of extra testimonials up for the page to prove specific benefits that the existing testimonials didn’t mention.

The other design differences were so small, that I wouldn’t read too much into them…

Some Post-Mortem Thoughts on the Launch

I’m not writing this post to brag – I’m writing it to show you that no matter how good you are, there’s always room to improve.

In that spirit, here are things that we probably could have done better:

  1. Towards the end of the launch, it became clear that quite a few people weren’t clear on exactly what they would get as part of the training (i.e. the format, the packaging, and all that).Β That was my mistake; you should (almost) never be unclear about what it is that the customer will pay for. This is something Danny should definitely change/test when the program re-opens… I purposefully didn’t make a big deal out of the program’s format (audio + PDF files), but I should’ve made it clear enough for everyone to understand.
  2. We fell prey to the same bad instinct that affects everyone else who does split-testing; as soon as we got (statistically significant) results, we shut down the test, and went with my version. The thing is, my page was more “aggressive”, so it kind of makes sense that it would get better results with the impulse buyers at the beginning of the launch; we probably should have kept both versions running for the whole launch to see how it affected the sales arc over the course of the entire process (it’s possible that a larger percentage of people would have bought through Danny’s page later during the launch). If the difference had been smaller up front, we would have kept testing, but the difference was big enough to get us excited, and put our better judgment aside. Note from Danny: This was totally my fault – I really should have known better. Oh well. :-S

This isn’t the end of the testing, by any means. Danny can always write a new sales page that competes against my version… or maybe he’ll hire me again to beat myself… πŸ˜‰

Either way, whenever you get test results, you can understand better what works best and use that in the next version.

Okay, now let’s get to the best part, which is…

How You Can Multiply *YOUR* Sales

Obviously I think you should hire a good copywriter; the cost comes easily back with more sales.

Granted that’s extremely self-serving and I’m as biased as you can get. πŸ˜‰

But if you don’t want to do that, do these three things:

  1. Learn how (and why) headlines work. (That’s what my free eBook is about…)
  2. Figure out what kind of first paragraphs will “suck” the reader into the copy.
  3. Find the most powerful differentiating factor of your offer.

Then go check your sales page to see what you need to change.

And in any case leave a comment and tell us what you thought about the sales pages…

About Peter Sandeen

Peter Sandeen dreams of sailing with his wife and dogs on the Finnish coast-unless he's helping someone build a clear marketing message and strategy that creates sales consistently. Download the quick 5-step exercise that shows what ideas are most likely to make people want to buy your products and services.

42 thoughts on “How I Beat Danny Iny 5:1 at His Own Game (Sales Letter Split-Testing)

  1. Peter, Well done. Your headline feels a little more personal and prospect-centric. Your second word in the headline is “you.” Danny’s was “us”. You do not talk about it that way, but I think it makes a difference.

    Danny, what do you think?

  2. Hey Ray, that could definitely have been a contributing factor. The challenge is that the entire letter was different, so it’s very hard to point to the specific factors that made the most difference without testing them individually. πŸ™‚

  3. Supremely useful post… Learned quite a bit here, and frankly, I tend to write more like Danny than Peter in my web copies and I find it challenging to get to the point quicker until I’m on my 3rd draft or so.

    Much to be learned in this simple A/B test.

    Thanks (for the post and download)

    Dave

    • Hey Dave,

      You’re not alone with that. It’s one of the most common “problems” people have.

      There’s a relatively fast/easy way to get to the point; write the letter, start reading it from the second paragraph, and see if it still makes sense (with minor edits). If the first paragraph wasn’t necessary, then start reading from the third paragraph and decide if it can be removed. Keep doing that until you get to the point where you’d lose something really significant…

      -Peter

  4. A fascinating post!

    I was especially intrigued by the difference in angle. Even the unsexy word ‘foundation’ – because it was repeated often in Peter’s copy – became something of great value.

    One of the main differences between the two sales pages seems to be that Danny uses the power of story. He writes about the potential client. I think that’s powerful!

    Peter also includes a story but it’s from the perspective of the seller: “When I started my first company I was dreaming big…”. I don’t think that’s as strong as it doesn’t build connection and doesn’t show empathy.

    Another difference seems to be the ‘pace’ of the copy. Peter uses shorter sentences and paragraphs than Danny. This drives the reader forward and creates an underlying urgency.

    Maybe there could be a third (amazing) version where the two different versions are melded? In it we might see Danny’s story about the buyer – but shorter and more positive. And it could have Peter’s angle and fast pace.

    What about long-term success? I mean, Peter’s page sold more products in the short-term, but what about long-term positioning?

    Let’s think about the seller behind the sales page. Who comes off as more likeable?
    I would say that Danny does (mainly because of the demonstrated empathy). And that may mean more sales in the future and more mentoring clients.

    What do you think?

    • Hey Mary, you raise a really great question about the long-term effects of one letter versus the other, and the truth is that we can’t know for sure – only hypothesize and test, and unfortunately we can only test one thing at a time – so we do the best we can (with the help of great people like Peter, of course!).

      There’s also the very good point (that several people have made already in other comments) that in some ways Peter’s copy sounds more like me – which is a bit strange, but I guess it’s hard to be objective about your own offer… πŸ˜‰

      • I think your copy sounds more like you, Danny. It’s the friendly human touch … πŸ™‚

        The two different versions made me realize that there is a subliminal message in the copy we write. It’s a message about who we are as human beings and how we view our potential customers. As you say, Danny, this message is difficult (or even impossible) for us to pick up.

        I’m not sure about this, but maybe it could help to do a simple exercise before starting to write copy. I’m thinking of defining how we see our prospective customers. For example, we might want to know which of these questions we can say ‘yes’ to:

        Is customer someone whose judgement we respect? Is the customer a know-nothing who needs to be educated? Is the customer a dude, eh bro? Is he or she someone who should just freaking buy the product, man?

        If we become aware of how we view the customer, maybe the insight will allow our copy to have more integrity.

        • You’re right, Mary – we have implicit answers to all of those questions, but it can be really helpful to bring those answers to the forefront of our minds before sitting down to write – it’s something I’ll definitely try next time I need to put together some copy! πŸ™‚

    • Hey Mary,

      Thanks for a great comment πŸ™‚

      I see what you mean, but when I wrote about Danny’s past, it was meant to show that he really knows what it’s like for many people who are starting out. It has a fancy copywriting term (that I can’t remember now), the point is that by showing that you’re not perfect and that you’ve had the same struggles as the reader, you make the reader believe that you really know how to overcome their problem.

      But in hindsight I’d say that a combination might’ve been better πŸ˜‰

      -Peter

  5. hi Peter, that was the most fascinating post-mortem and the best “low-down” on sales copy I think I have ever read.
    For me, one of the things I noticed instantly was that your version used a much narrower page – the classic ‘one-third’ sales page, whereas Danny’s was wider, which meant the eyes had more work to do to move left-right and absorb the copy. You also used a bigger font. I think both those things had a big impact on ‘readability’, keeping people moving through the page. (And definitely, the bullet-point boxes you used made a huge impact on breaking the copy up into manageable chunks.) You didn’t discuss either of those two aspects so I would love to hear your views.
    I also agree about the headline. I was instantly ‘sold’ when I read your version, whereas Danny’s headline kind of made me go ‘Uhh – what’s all that about?’.
    As someone who has already had the (huge) benefit of having done the programme, I will add that when I first got the email from Danny promoting it, I clicked through just to see what he had changed (and whether he had put the price up!). I got served Danny’s version and I’ll be honest, I didn’t get past the first couple of paragraphs. I read it and kind of felt disappointed. In fact I felt like saying to Danny ‘No – that’s not what your programme was like – it was waayyy better than that!’

    I didn’t see your version until I read this post, and when I read it, I instantly went ‘Ahh, yes, that was the programme I did!) Your copy made me want to do it all over again! (And no I am not just biased cos you featured me as one of the testimonials on your page – or am I?!)

    For me, the biggest thing I have just learned is *exactly* how different copy can make or break the sale. Same product, 2 totally different sales pages and 2 totally different sets of feelings evoked having read them both. We all know (or have read) about how good copy can make or break the sale but it is rare that you get the chance to see two such hugely differing pages in action to be able to compare the different feelings each evokes. So thanks again for an amazing post πŸ™‚

    • Thank you so much for this feedback, Mandy – it really means a lot to me to hear your perspective as a student in the program. I’m very biased as the product creator, and Peter went through it all before writing the copy – maybe he really nailed the core value proposition better than I did. πŸ™‚

    • Hey Mandy,

      Thank you πŸ™‚

      You’re the first one to mention the width and the font size. I completely agree with you; they make the page easier to read, which tends to lead to more people reading it.

      Interesting to hear your point of view about the headlines. I didn’t expect that kind of a reaction, but I can now see what you mean.

      Writing sales copy for your own product is always really difficult because you can’t really know what the customer will feel and value in it. I went through the program twice (every minute and PDF) and based the copy on what I saw as most valuable. Apparently it translated well πŸ™‚

      -Peter

  6. Thanks for this, guys. It’s really helpful to look at the sales pages side-by-side and see the differences.

    I’d already seen Danny’s version and was tempted to sign up “to study later”, but didn’t because I don’t know yet how much later that might be. To be honest, I’m always tempted to sign up to anything Danny’s doing because I trust him.

    Reading Peter’s page, though, I felt clearer about what was offered and what was guaranteed within the first few paragraphs. Danny’s copy spent more time feeling my pain before offering to ease it, which seems less efficient.

    I’d have been interested to see the headlines tested independently of the body copy. Peter had a lead line of copy above his first headline, too, flagging up the limited time and limited number of students, which Danny’s page didn’t have. I expect that made a difference to how people felt as they read the headlines…

    • Hey Sophie, thanks for sharing that with us. πŸ™‚

      I’d love to have been able to test each individual element against the other, and all combinations, too – no question that if we had done that, we would have arrived at an arrangement that would have been much more profitable than even Peter’s version.

      The trouble is that unless you have the traffic of a site like Google, Facebook, or Amazon, you just don’t have the luxury of testing so many things – so you have to stick with your best guesses as to what’s likely to make the biggest differences.

      Oh well… we can always dream about testing more, can’t we? πŸ˜‰

    • Hey Sophie,

      Good point about the “eyebrow” (the line above the headlines). I knew Danny would talk about the limited time and spots in his emails, but wanted to remind the reader about it again on the page, so they wouldn’t put off reading the page until “later.”

      And I’d be interested to see a multi-variable test that would find the very best combination. But that takes *a lot* of traffic (tens of thousands at least and basically unlimited sales capacity)… I’m sure Danny will test more during the next launch πŸ˜‰

      -Peter

  7. Nice post Peter. I expect to hear you gloating on our next Mastermind call with Danny. Mind you I expect to hear Danny counting the extra sales you got him so all is well. πŸ™‚

    It’s tempting to offer and opinion on why the increase in sales but we’ll probably never know because of the huge difference in copy.

    For me the headlines feel like a massive factor. I think Peter nailed it right of the bat and once you’ve started well it’s easier to roll out the offer.

    Here’s the interesting thing for me. Peter’s headlines sounds more like how you talk Danny than your own headline does. I think that helped as well because they hear your voice in their heads as they read the copy and you have a big amount of trust from your list.

    Great post. Really enjoyed reading it.

    Cheers
    Mike

    • Hey Mike, it’s fascinating to me that you should say that, but I think you’re right – I probably got so worked up in the details of the copy that I lost sight of why my emails tend to do so well – because they just sound like me talking to my readers, which is exactly what it is.

      And yeah, you’re right – maybe we should have added a cautionary note in the post about how you can never be sure exactly what made the difference, and this isn’t the end of testing – it’s just the beginning… πŸ˜‰

    • Hey Mike,

      I think this post is enough gloating πŸ˜‰ (Though there’s an obvious temptation, after all I won Danny! πŸ˜€ )

      And you’re right, there’s no way to really know which part made the biggest difference. I tried to find the things that I felt were the most likely to make a big difference.

      Good point about how the headlines sound like Danny talking. It’s something I tend to forget, but the closer you can write to how you talk, the better the copy usually converts. I didn’t compare our headlines in that sense, but I agree with you.

      Cheers,
      Peter

  8. Great post and everyone brought up some excellent points above (loved Mary’s comments from A-List Blogging)

    My question is a little different and thats how the close is different for both. Danny uses the more traditional bigger “Add to Cart” vs. Peter not using that standard action buttons. I did like his text “Start the Program Now”. Both went with a PS and again the action call-out was different. Any feedback on which is working better now?

    Thanks guys, loved this post.

    • Hey Mike,

      There are two schools of thought on that; some say you should always a use “normal” text like, “Add to Cart”, and the others say that the text should describe the action more specifically.

      The tests I’ve done (and those that I’ve read about) almost always indicate that a specific action text (e.g. “Start the program now”) converts better. But it’s not 100% of the time.

      I’d expect it to have minimal effect on a page like this, but who knows without testing… πŸ˜‰

      -Peter

      • I find that point interesting, because I have a strong personal dislike of “Add to Cart”.

        That’s purely because for me, adding something to my shopping basket doesn’t mean I’ve committed to buying it yet. It’s sitting somewhere between shortlisted and sold, if you see what I mean. “Start the program now” sounds more committed and proactive.

        Checking the number of *abandoned* carts against the two different buttons would be interesting.

        • Hey Sophie,

          I don’t like it either. But it seems to work on some e-commerce sites. Although I doubt they have the option of testing a custom call to action for every product they have, against the generic “Add to cart”…

          I haven’t seen any conclusive data about it, but I assume people are less likely to abandon the cart if the call to action is specific. Good point from you, thanks πŸ™‚

          -Peter

          • Yeah, I figure “Add to Cart” buttons make sense on some e-commerce sites… if it’s the type of online store where I might shop for half an hour and place a handful of things in my cart before checking out, then that’s logical.

          • It could go both ways; on the one hand, something like “join the program” is more directly telling them to do what you want, but on the other, “add to cart” is a much lower commitment (you can always take it out of the cart; adding to cart isn’t a purchase), so it’s “easier” for people to make that commitment, and then continue to the next step.

  9. Peter,

    Amazing stuff buddy. I know first hand that you’re conversion work is amazing. I still need to work on finding the angle in my offers…

    Great advice though, definitely going to try to put this to better practice.

    Hanley

  10. On the visual side, I’d like to add that I liked very much that the first picture you used Peter is the very familiar picture of Danny, the one that is right now in front of me as I am typing. I found it gave me a sense of familiarity, confidence, trust, warmth, which signaled to me that I should keep on reading, that it’s worth my time.

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  12. What a great post, Peter! And kudos on a job well done!

    I think even aesthetically Peter’s page was more appealing. It was just easier to follow and make sure you weren’t missing anything.

    Looking forward to studying these both and learning how to create even better copy!

    • Hey David,

      Sorry about that. For some reason the links had gone missing from the byline.

      It was now updated.

      But some of the things mentioned in the old byline aren’t available now… Hope you’ll find the “new” resource helpful, though πŸ™‚

      Cheers,
      Peter

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