Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, email techniques, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability,  and consumer psychology.

The Message Must be Meat

We’ve been talking about creating copy that leaps off the computer screen and cozies up to your visitors as if it were you sitting right there with them. Personality, voice, verbs, emotions, wordsmithing techniques. They’re important ingredients to the recipe of writing well for the Web.

But it’s time for a Whoa-Nelly. Got your attention? Good, ‘cause this is really important. You can craft the supremest of supreme pieces of copy, and it’s going to be utterly worthless if you fail to speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about what matters to the heart of the dog.

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Best of 2000: WINNER
Grok Dot Com
Action Center


"What a wonderful site! You know how to put the powerful academic principles of marketing and sales into practical language. A great asset for getting past the current day hype in marketing."
Professor Allen Weiss,

“You calling my visitor a DOG, Grok?” Hey, bear with me on this.

In his incredible Wizard Academy, Roy Williams talks about Pavlov. You remember him, right? The dude who got the dog to salivate to the sound of a bell?  Roy uses Pavlov’s experiment to illustrate branding and the value of relevance.

You see, Pavlov didn’t put an artfully arranged plate of vegetables in front of the dog. What self-respecting carnivore (aside from my neighbor’s goofy hound who’ll beg for broccoli) gets juiced about vegetables? He put down something the dog seriously cared about, something that would get those salivary glands working overtime: meat.

To the heart of the dog, meat reigns supreme. It matters. It’s the bottom-line food-truth in the canine world-view. It doesn’t matter how fresh those vegetables are or how fancy you dress ‘em up. They’ll never get the dog salivating in the first place.

That’s what you gotta do - identify the “bottom-line food-truth” stuff about your business that’s going to perform the equivalent of getting your visitor to salivate. What’s in the heart of your dogs? What really matters most to them?

Then you can decide how you’re going to serve it up. Only when you’ve figured out what really matters to your dogs can you effectively persuade them, speaking to them in their language.

You can write screens full of gorgeous copy. You can pay through the nose to have a first-class copywriter perform verbal magic. But understand this: even mediocre writing that captures the essence of what matters to the dog will out-perform stellar writing that completely misses the mark.

No, I am not giving you license to slack off on the writing! Make it compelling and appealing. Infuse it with all the goodies we’ve been discussing. Ring the best and most brilliant bell you can! Just keep in mind - if it ain’t the meat, the only thing you’re really serving up is a plate of they-could-care-less-about-it vegetables.

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A couple of dozen people attended  the first Wizards of Web workshop. What did our attendees have to say:
R. Long. said: "3 days at WOW crystallized 7 years of marketing online. I thought I knew how to convert a visitor – but I didn’t – with WOW under my belt, I intend to conquer my little parts of the web world."

E. Giffin said: "All I can say is one word: WOW! I just got back from the Wizards of Web Academy in Austin -- which was 3 days of in-depth information on how to make your web site really sell. Up to this point I had been to many events, but had never walked away really satisfied."

We'll be offering another 3-day Wizards of Web workshop 7/31/02-8/2/02. Just a couple of seats are left!

Let us know if you want to be included on our advanced notice list for events

Bryan Eisenberg
CIO, Future Now, Inc.

P.S. Do you have questions you would like to see answered here? Ask away!

Before and After Copy Spotlight: NewsBios

You gotta love examples. They’re the things that show principles in action, make ideas tangible. I can tell you how critical it is to write to the dog in the language of the dog about what matters to the heart of the dog, but it’s so much cooler when I can show you a before and after.

I’m leaning on a new friend of mine, Laurie Kuntz. She happens to be in charge of a journalist profiling service called NewsBios She also happens to be among those who graduated from the first Wizards of Web Academy Laurie survived those three intensive days, subjected herself to a grueling uncovery, got major inspired and took a crack at revamping her home page copy.

Let’s look at what she did and why she did it.

Laurie’s customers, generally speaking, want to get media exposure for their businesses. But how do you get a journalist to take an interest in what you are doing; how do you decide which journalist could do the most for you? Well, that’s where Laurie’s service comes in.

The Headline

NewsBios has big-font text that pretty effectively grabs your visual attention when you land on the home page. The old version read:

We know more, about more journalists, than anyone else in the World.

Yeah? So what! The first thing you want to do to engage your customers is brag about yourself? I don’t think so. If you even want a chance to speak to the dog, you’d better give it meat. Laurie’s revised version reads:

Empowering you to know more, about more journalists, than anyone else in the World.

Way cool! “We” is gone, replaced with “Empowering you to” and the entire sense of the headline has changed. If I’m a PR type, I’m all for being empowered. And I absolutely want to know more about it than anyone else in the world, ‘cause I’m all for having the inside edge in my business! This headline speaks to me about what matters to me, and I’m far more likely to keep reading.

Reading On

Here’s the body of the old copy:

Have you or your clients gotten calls from journalists wanting to interview them? Tried pitching stories to a journalist with no luck?

Let NewsBios give you the tools to educate you and your clients about journalists.

NewsBios is a comprehensive database of the world's most influential journalists. Every in-depth profile is updated prior to its delivery to ensure our clients are getting the latest and most up-to-date information.

We know more, about more journalists, than anyone in the World.

Journalists have two main complaints of the PR/IR industry today.

One, they do not know the beat.

If you are pitching the editor/managing editor, you do not know the beat. In a survey conducted by our research staff, 8 times out of 10 you should not pitch the editor. If you are, you do not know the beat and you do not know the correct journalist to pitch. NewsBios can help.

Two, Communication professionals do not know the journalist.

A journalist is more than ink on the paper or the story they write. If a journalist is knocking on your door to interview you or your client, do you think that they have done their homework? You bet they have. Let NewsBios do the homework for you. By learning in-depth information about what the journalist does and who they are.

This priceless tool will save you and your clients' valuable time and money.

Each year NewsBios ranks the Top 100 Business Journalists of the Year, the Business News Luminaries, the Top 30 journalists under the age of 30, as well as additional publications and events. To find out more about one of these events or advertising and sponsorship opportunities go to our events/publication page.

With NewsBios you get the "picture" on the press.

The opening two questions address potential reasons I - the PR dude - might have come to this site, but these are quickly followed with copy that again touts the wonderfulness of NewsBios. Not an effective value proposition, nor an emotional hook by any stretch. It’s simply counterproductive to we-we all over yourself.

Then the copy proceeds to tell me I basically don’t know the difference between my head and a hole in the ground. And that’s why journalists won’t talk to me or write about my business. But NewsBios is the priceless tool that is going to save me.

Wanna guess how a negative pitch affects the dog? Think whack on the snout with a rolled up newspaper.

The revised copy reads as follows:

Are you getting frustrated from sending out press releases to no avail? You have a great story to tell. Your product is unique. Why isn't anyone writing about it? You are purchasing a list of journalists that cover your target beat, but you still are not garnering the coverage your client needs.

Do you want to get more publicity? Are you or your clients getting calls from journalists wanting an interview? This service will provide you with in-depth profiles on journalists you want to reach, or journalists who have contacted you. Know the journalists. Know what they write. It is not news until a journalist says it is news. The journalist has already done their homework on you, now do your homework.

Here is a tool that will educate you and your clients about journalists. Relevant information to bridge the communication gap.

This comprehensive database of journalists profiles span a variety of beats and media outlets. Every in-depth profile is updated prior to its delivery to ensure our clients are getting the latest and most up-to-date information. A professional team of research journalists is on staff to develop profiles of journalists not currently existing in the proprietary database.

Take time to browse the Journalist Spotlight for a first-hand look at this invaluable tool.

Now this delightfully and immediately treats me like a sentient being and acknowledges the frustrations I might be having doing my job. Not only that, it understands that I have a great story to tell and a unique product. Do I want more publicity? Yeah, baby, bring it on! Do I want a “tool that will educate” me? Darn tootin’! Do I want help with my homework? Make it easier for me!!

The copy is also shorter. And if you can achieve the goal more effectively in fewer words, that’s a very good thing.

Other improvements

Laurie employed a few other tactics in her copy that will help keep her dogs engaged in her persuasion process. The revision includes links embedded in the text - each a call to action - that can help visitors move further into the site based on the information they want next.

She also has employed text bolding so those cut-to-the-chase personality types can get the entire sense of the home page by skimming. If you just read the bolded bits, you get:

You have a great story to tell. Your product is unique. Get more publicity from journalists? Tool that will educate you and your clients. This comprehensive database is updated ensure our clients are getting the latest information.

Not a perfect read, but it gets the point across quickly and efficiently. Benefit, service. Aimed at the heart of the dog.

See what I mean? Now, shed your egos, uncover the meat and have at your own home page!

P.S. Mucho gracious, Laurie!!


Sound Off!

click here for a printable version of this entire article

P.S. If you enjoyed this issue, why not share it with your colleagues and friends?
They'll appreciate it. Forward This Issue To A Friend!

GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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