How To Sell Like A Copywriter

On this episode of the Salesman Podcast, Andrew Bolton explains what a copywriter is and how the art of copywriting can make you a much better seller.

Andrew has been a copywriter for 12 years. He’s worked with some big brands and plenty of tiny ones too. He teaches copywriting on the Creative Advertising & Creative Writing courses at the University of Lincoln and is the author of bestselling book ‘Copywriting Is: 30-or-so thoughts on thinking like a copywriter’.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Andrew Bolton
Experienced Copywriter

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Transcript

Will Barron:

Hi, my name is Will, and welcome to today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast. On today’s episode, we’re looking at how you can sell like a copywriter. Today’s guest is Andrew Boulton. Andrew’s been a copywriter for 12 years. He’s worked with some big brands and plenty of tiny ones as well. He teaches copywriting on the creative advertising and creative writing courses at the University of Lincoln. And he is the author of the best selling book, Copywriting Is…: 30-or-So Thoughts on Thinking Like a Copywriter. With that, Andrew, welcome to the show.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Hello, thanks for having me.

 

Will Barron:

I’m glad to have you on mate. Copywriting is something that is top of mind for me at the moment as sales people move from, I guess, 20 years ago before I was in sales. I imagine you could knock on doors, you could pick up the phone, you could… The gift of the gab and a bit of a silver tongue probably open up quite a few doors, whereas the world we live in now, whether you are emailing, texting, creating content, whatever it is to get attention in the marketplace, clearly copywriting fit into all of this.

 

What is Copywriting and How Can We Use It To Improve Our Sales Processes? · [01:05]

 

Will Barron:

So with that said, though, I think there’s going to be at least a few members of the audience, Andrew, that are unfamiliar with the term. Can you tell us just to get us started what copywriting is, if there’s a definition of this, and then I guess what the goal of copywriting is for a salesperson, someone who needs to generate meetings and get deals done.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Yeah, of course. I think there’s probably going to be more than a few people who aren’t necessarily immediately familiar or very familiar with the term. And you mentioned at the start, I teach on a creative advertising course and a creative writing course, people who are very much young people who are primed to kind of go into those careers where copywriting is a very big part of kind of the industry and very few of those students know what copywriting is.

 

“Copywriting is simply using words to drive action.” – Andrew Boulton · [02:10] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

So sadly, I think it’s one of those things that sort of slips under the radar. I think in essence, if you ask me to kind of summarise what it is, it’s the business of kind of communicating about your brand, communicating about your product, ultimately trying to persuade your audience to do the thing you want them to do. It is kind of using words to drive action.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So regardless of what your business is or what your brand is or how you think or what you think kind of the big drivers and the big sort of pullers are within those organisations, words, and copy and your messaging and how you present yourselves and how you kind of communicate, what makes you good and sort of worthwhile comes down to copywriting. Whether you’re currently using a copywriter or not, copywriting is kind of one of those big pillars that props up the effectiveness of how your business speaks to the people that you want to turn into customers and keep as customers.

 

The Art and Science of Copywriting · [02:50]

 

Will Barron:

For sure. Okay. So when we talk about persuading in sales, there is this constant battle. And I’m flipping on this. I go from one side to another. I’ve got a background in science, I’ve got a degree in chemistry, I’m a public scientist. So if there is data, if there’s science, if there’s a way to systemify things, I’m all in.

 

Will Barron:

But persuasion a lot of the time is leaning into people’s emotions. There are many uncontrollables when we’re going about persuading or influencing or lodging a prospect one way or the other. So with that said, is copywriting… Again, this is cliched in sales, but I don’t know if it translates to copywriting. Is copywriting a science? Is it an art? Is it somewhere down the middle? Can it be measured? How do we know… I guess what I’m asking is, is it an art, is it a science? Then can we measure the effectiveness of copywriting?

 

Andrew Boulton:

I suppose in the same way you ask the question about sort of sales in general, yeah, it’s a combination of those things and it becomes a very sort of dangerous and self defeating business if you feel compelled to kind of pigeon hole into one thing. So if I copywrite purely based on sort of science and data and what the spreadsheet tells me is likely to persuade people, you end up with something that probably lacks a lot of the kind of the heart and the human voice, that all good kind of messaging and communication requires.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Equally if I sat down and wrote a poem because I’m feeling it especially somehow artistic and creative, it might be very a beautiful writing, but it’s very unlikely to do the thing I needed to do. So I think if you are looking for sort of the answer to that, it’s kind of one thing propped on another. And usually in the process of copywriting, you probably start with some harder evidence or somewhat kind of concrete data to lean upon, even if it’s nothing more spectacular than a relatively detailed view of who your customer is and what sort of motivates them.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But then I suppose it is still very much a kind of creative job, even if your starting point is based on insight and based on human truth, you then have to do something with that that makes it something people are going to want to read and want to notice and feel like they recognise and appreciate the voice. Because that’s the only way you’re ever going to kind of land that message.

 

“I could have all the data and the evidence, the facts and the science I like, if I don’t sort of come up with a voice and a method of communicating that data such that people are going to care about watching or listening or kind of engaging with, then all of that has kind of been a waste.” – Andrew Boulton · [04:45]

 

Andrew Boulton:

I could have all the data and the evidence and sort of facts and the science I like. If I don’t sort of come up with a voice and a method of communicating that that people are going to care about watching or listening or kind of engaging with, then all of that has kind of been a waste. I think when we talk to the students about copywriting and persuasion in particular, you try and train them that you can’t just be expected to kind of pull these answers out of your own head.

 

Andrew Boulton:

If you take on this sort of first person perspective and just think about what would or would not persuade or engage you, then you are giving yourself a very limited frame of reference. And I think we try and introduce them as much as possible to some of the big thinkers in terms of sort of behavioural science. Richard Shotton and Choice Factory is a huge part of what we do, is training people to be creative advertisers.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Thaler and sort of the whole nudge theory with stuff we introduced, what Rory Sutherland is saying and Alchemy is a particularly important book for sort of the way we teach it. So I think it’s one I’ve given you a really long and unhelpful answer that says I don’t know. I think it absolutely has to be both, but what I do know for certain is if you try and do one or the other of art or science, it’s very likely that either attempt would fail.

 

The First Step to Writing Perfect Copy · [06:05] 

 

Will Barron:

Sure. So what is the… I think you might mentioned it then in your answer Andrew. But what is the starting point for all of this? Is it coming up with our ideal bio persona? Is this something that we need to document? Is this something we need to do by interviews, customer interviews, and find out who those individuals are rather than making assumptions about who they are? And then we, I don’t know, do we visualise them as we’re typing away writing copy of what they would want to receive in their inbox? What do we need to do before I guess we start putting the metaphorical pen to paper.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think it’s one of those things where I’m always really reluctant to kind of ascribe a process or any kind of universal process. Because what works for one creative or what works for one salesperson is going to be really, really different for another. It is about what produces the best results and the sort of most comfortable experience or most rewarding experience I suppose for you.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think yeah, of course, you sort of need to know something about your target, your prospect, your consumer. Whatever language you use within your organisation, it all boils down to fact it’s a person. It’s a person who lives a real life, has got real sort of challenges, real needs, real motivations and we have to start understanding them. So I’m certainly not against sort of data and I certainly recognise the value of what data can do. But that data often needs translating into something that is real and human.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I’ve certainly worked on briefs where there’s been sort of a fantastic volume of kind of insight and data, but no real attempt to make it as something that I could translate into a real person living a real life. So again, I suppose it feeds back into the art and science question again, isn’t it? There is no point in sort of putting a huge amount into the science of this understanding and this portrait you create of consumer if you don’t then go back it up with some real life interaction and some real experience of who these people are and what their lives are, and ask them to have an honest conversation with you.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I mean, like a lot of your listeners, I’ve sat in on sort of consumer testing sessions and I’ve seen a bunch of people, sat around a table, being asked questions. And the same bunch of people I’ve sort of chatted to either before or after the session and found them very ordinary, very sort of typical, real people speaking in the way real people do and you put them around this table and they behave completely different.

 

“The first step before writing anything is about going into the natural environment for your customer and your audience, just observing it and being part of it and sort of experiencing it as much as possible. I think that is as valuable, if not more valuable than all the stuff you can do with your spreadsheets and your data and your modelling.” – Andrew Boulton · [08:40]

 

Andrew Boulton:

And it becomes less a representation of kind of real human beings living real human lives and more about you are a subject in a study and you are going to kind of behave as if your answers or your responses are somehow being evaluated, which I suppose they are. So I think something about going into the natural environment for your customer and your audience, just observing it and being part of it and sort of experiencing it as much as possible in the way they do.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think that is as valuable, if not more valuable than all the stuff you can do with your sort of spreadsheets and your data and your modelling. But I think as a copywriter and anyone who’s trying to kind of reach and persuade an audience, you will be really foolish to sort of turn your back on anything out of principle. I think you’ve got to sort of try it and see what kind of results it produces.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I suppose the other part of your question is, can you measure it? Can you measure the effectiveness of persuasion? Well, on one very basic level, yes, of course you can. If you put certain copy into a certain ad in a certain place, and we sell 10 lawn mowers instead of two lawn mowers, I suppose on a really sort of basic level, you can attribute that to the effectiveness of persuasion and sort the whole sort AB testing model we see on a lot of digital advertising where it’s simply a matter of the arrangement of words, this arrangement of words that performs that arrangement of words.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And sometimes we never particularly understand why arrangement A outperforms arrangement B. But again, I think you’ve got to be really wary in terms of performance of just basing it on the numbers, on the spreadsheet, on what’s that column doing. That can only be a part of the story. And it goes back to conversation, it goes back to kind of understanding who your audience are, not on a theoretical or an empirical level, but on a real human level.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And that’s when you start to learn the conversations they have, the conversations they want to have and what they want from you. This mistake that so many brands make go out and just start talking straight away about how great you are and what you do and how you do all these things better than everyone and you never kind of stop to consider, “Well, what is it that our audience actually kind of cares about? What do they want from us?”

 

Copywriting is the Perfect Alignment and Arrangement of Words · [10:35]

 

Will Barron:

I love this. And tell me if this is something that you commonly say. You came out with it almost flippantly, but I think it’s amazing. You called copy an arrangement of words. Am I, who’s a beginner in this, trying to over complicate this whole conversation? And should we think about it more as an arrangement of words to drive an action, as opposed to art, science, data and everything else that I’m trying to tie into the conversation?

 

“The word story and storytelling has been badly battered by the world of marketing. It’s been misused and has almost been ridiculed slightly because of the very sort of pretentious, very over elaborate ways people have used it. But fundamentally, that’s what you are trying to do. You’re trying to kind of create these narratives because human beings deal in stories. We engage with stories, we sort of frame our own lives in stories and we tell ourselves stories in order to live. All of these things are really, really true.” – Andrew Boulton · [11:47] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

Yeah, and you’re absolutely, and I think that’s like anything in this business, like anything in sort of sales or marketing or advertising, it’s so easy and it’s so tempting to kind of over complicate stuff, which are of fundamental sort of human conditions. And the word story and storytelling has been sort badly battered by the world of marketing.

 

Andrew Boulton:

It’s been misused and has been almost kind of ridiculed slightly because of the sort of the very sort of pretentious, very over elaborate ways people have used it. But fundamentally, that’s what you are trying to do. You’re trying to kind of create these narratives, human beings deal in stories. We engage with stories, we sort of frame our own lives and stories that Joan Didion quote about, we tell ourselves stories in order to live. All of these things are really, really true.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And if you can strip away a lot of the bollocks, apologies with that language, but if you can strip away a lot of that kind of unnecessarily fluff that these things get packaged in and get back that fundamental sort of human truth about it, it is the arrangement of words, it’s the right words in the right order. And it does sound flippant, and I know it does and I have to caveat this when I say it to the students.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But if you can focus on doing that one thing brilliantly, even at the expense of all the other things that come with being a copywriter and working in this industry, you will do well. You will produce good stuff and you will create good work and you will drive good results because that’s the heart of it and there’s a lot of stuff around it which you can let go of.

 

Why Humans Crave Succinct and Easy to Read Copy · [12:42] 

 

Will Barron:

So if the vehicle is an arrangement of words, and the action we’re trying to drive is to sort to do something to persuade them, to whether it’s, I guess, traditional copywriting, which is whether it’s direct response, or kind of via advertisements as we know them as opposed to what we’re talking about here, perhaps, which is more a sales person sending an email and getting a call booked on the back of it. If it’s an arrangement of words to drive an action, what are the fundamental human conditions that underpin all this? Is it as simple as humans want to move away from pain, a move towards pleasure, or can it be narrowed down even more than that?

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think without getting into sort of very, very broad sort of big concept stuff, it all boils down to needs. So this is like an industry sort of propped up on needs, an industry sort of defined by and existing entirely because of it. Sort of consumerist society, sort of capitalism growth of advertising, sort of back in the 20th century, anyone has ever watched an episode of Mad Men. It is all about need.

 

Andrew Boulton:

It’s all about this kind of desire to sort of tap into this kind of growing need amongst consumers and to satisfy it. And as kind of competition grew to satisfy those needs, and it became more about sort of multiple choices in any particular category. It was all about kind of proving that you are the best response to that need. But it still boils down to initially it’s got to be a recognition that people need stuff.

 

“If a salesperson is opening an email with a paragraph all about how brilliant they are and how great they are at sales and how wonderful their product is and all these wonderful things that we like to talk about, it’s going to be really hard to ignore it because you’re talking about you and you’re talking about your stuff. And as humans we’ve got a finite capacity for things we are willing to give our attention to and engage with. And if you don’t capture me in that first sentence by explaining to me or demonstrating to me that you are here to satisfy a need of mine, or you are here to resolve a problem of mine, you are here to do something that is going to make my life better or easier in some sort of small or big way then your thing is really easy for me to cast aside.” – Andrew Boulton · [14:17]

 

Andrew Boulton:

And we talked about a salesperson sending out an email hoping to generate a lead. But I think I mentioned this earlier. If that salesperson is opening that email with a paragraph all about how brilliant they are and how great they are at sales and how wonderful their product is and all the things that we like to talk about when we’re kind of existing within the bubble and we’re kind of sort of wrapped up with the insular nature of what it is we do, which everyone, everyone in this business is guilty of at some point or another.

 

Andrew Boulton:

If you open your email with that, it’s going to be really hard to ignore it because you’re talking about you and you’re talking about your stuff. And we’ve got finite capacity for things we are willing to give our attention to and kind of engage with. And if you don’t sort of capture me in that first sentence by explaining to me or demonstrating to me that you are here to satisfy a need of mine, or you are here to resolve a problem of mine, you are here to do something that is going to make my life better or easier in some sort of small or big way then your thing is really easy for me to cast aside.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So again, I think we could easily over complicate this. And we can either easily kind of attach sort of models and methods to it, however credible are our kind of extra layers of complexity on something that should be as simple as you need a thing, I can provide that thing and I’m going to let you know that I could provide that thing.

 

How to Understand Your Prospect’s Needs Using One Email · [15:36] 

 

Will Barron:

Egos aside because I think I’m pretty good at sales, right? I do all the copywriting on our training and our product and all that kind of stuff on the marketing material. And we’re a seven figure company and it should mean a few freelancers. So objectively I’m probably okay at it, obviously no expert. I’ve never done any formal training copywriting.

 

Will Barron:

But I think I’ve read a few books, read your book, I think I know a few things about it. But taking my ego out of it, is it physically possible for an individual salesperson like me, perhaps I’m selling to the enterprise, I’m trying to book a meeting with a chief marketing officer or a CRO or someone like that. Is it possible for an individual in one email to elicit a need out of a prospect and book a meeting?

 

Will Barron:

And what I mean by that is it feasibly possible to do that in a few lines or do you need the prospect to already be aware of the need, to be wanting to solve the need and then we’re just getting in front of them at the right place at the right time and that’s the momentum that allows us to book a call? Can sales people do this on their own, or do sales people need to lean into the multimillion billion dollar marketing industry or marketing department in their own organisation that’s trying to do a lot of this behind the scenes?

 

“If you have a tool or a function or a capacity that allows you to make sure you’re only sending your email to people who we know are more likely to be receptive to the thing that we’re trying to sell them, why wouldn’t you do it? It’d be sort of crazy not to want to speak to those people.” – Andrew Boulton · [17:10] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

Of course. I think if you have a sort of a tool or a function or a capacity that allows you to make sure you’re only sending your email to people who we know are more likely to be receptive to the thing that we’re trying to sort of sell them, why wouldn’t you do it? It’d be sort of crazy not to want to speak to those people.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But I suppose there are also sort of times… Sorry, computer problems. There are sort of times where you’re casting your net a bit wider and you don’t always have the sort of specific group of leads ready to go. I suppose the other big sort of factor in all of this, and it’s true for sales, true for marketing, true for advertising, is there’s also a degree of chance, there’s also a degree of sort of fortune about it.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And you might send your email, your perfectly crafted, beautiful email to the perfectly chosen lead and it just so happens at that particular moment, they are distracted, irritated or kind of thinking about something else and that chance goes by and everything was right. The message was right, the sort of target was right, the means of context in them was right. Just the moment, the sort of sheer circumstance of it meant that that thing didn’t come off.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Equally, you could send your message to someone who is a very unlikely prospect and it just so happens in that second, they thought about the thing that you do, or they realised that they needed what you do and it comes together that way. And what a lot of people in the industry don’t want to acknowledge or spend too much time acknowledging is there’s a huge amount of just chance, pure blind luck that goes into this as well.

 

Andrew Boulton:

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t always try and do things in the best way and try and do things in a way that’s most likely to result in success. But if any of us ever start to think that we are sort of omnipotent and sort of in complete control of this process, that is probably sort of the signal that you need to go and do something else.

 

The Number One Factor That Determines The Success of Your Copy · [18:57] 

 

Will Barron:

With that said then, how much of the success of copywriting, and we’ll continue on this route of a salesperson building an email cadence where they’re going to perhaps send maximum of 10 emails over the course of three months so that they’re maximising the chances of being in the right place when there’s a trigger event or in the account or the prospect literally finds 10 minutes for a call or whatever it is.

 

Will Barron:

And we’ll assume that each of the emails are going on what you’ve shared so far, Andrew, that each of the emails are not based on… Always they’re based on the arrangement of words is how we can help the individual, what they’re going to get out of just jumping on a quick consulting call with us. So we’re pointing this in as much of a favourable light as we possibly can.

 

Will Barron:

How much of the… What percentage of the effectiveness comes from the words on the page at that point versus just a number of impressions? Or I guess a better way of wording that is how important is just the number of impressions of a similar message that we can help someone over and over and over again, whether it’s via us and our sales outreach, or marketing getting involved in doing a campaign for that account, how much of the effect of copywriting comes from just impression, impression, impression versus the words on the page?

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think the whole sort modern marketing industry is built towards this idea of kind of a cumulative wearing down if I was going to be cynical about it where we’re going to say the thing, we’re going to say the thing that we do and the thing we sell and the thing we you to engage with, and we’re going to say it everywhere and sort of whole sort of retargeting on websites.

 

Andrew Boulton:

You’re not allowed to look at something on the internet once. If you’ve looked at a jumper on a website once, that jumper will haunt you for the rest of your days. So it is one of those other size, isn’t it? Where there’s someone somewhere far clever than me has obviously identified that there is value in kind of hitting people from lots of different angles and kind of putting this thing on their radar in all the different places they are most likely to be.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I can’t say I have any complaint about that. I don’t particularly feel any affection for it but I see why it exists. Again, I feel like I keep giving the same answer to every question, which is really unhelpful, but it boils down to a much kind of simpler truth than that. And it is still got to be about a quality message. It’s still got to be about a compelling story.

 

Andrew Boulton:

It’s still got to be about the right way words in the right order ideally at the right time and to the right prospect. But it’s driven by language, it’s driven by kind of communication. And if you have got a really clever system to ensure that the perfect message is landing at people’s doorstep, in all the sort of various places that we want to kind of reach them and if we’ve got a magical formula that says that you need sort of someone to see your message three or four times before it sinks in, fine. I’ll take your word for that because I don’t know any better.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But you still cannot convince me that any of this means anything if you are not getting those words right, getting those messages right. And I think people sometimes don’t work with a copywriter for a lot of reasons. It could be the finance of it, it could be that they don’t sort of see the value in it or they don’t realise what a writer can contribute. And a lot of what I hear is anyone can write. I can write, why would I pay someone to come and do it for me?

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think if you think that, and there’s no judgement attached to this, but what I would urge you to do is find a few pounds in your budget and just get a copywriter to come and spend a couple of hours with you and do one project. Just do one very, very sort of tiny thing for you and just watch them. Watch how they do it, watch how they approach it and watch what they come up with.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think you will honestly see a remarkable difference. And in terms of the words they put on the page, it’s not going to be sort of dramatically different from where you would’ve ended up. But the detail of it, the consideration of it, the reasoning that goes behind every sort of word and why that word is chosen and why that word is adjacent to this word and why this forms that sentence, and it’s a craft.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I suppose we talked about sort of science and art, didn’t we? Well, maybe the appropriate word is craft. And like any craft, it sort of takes time and skill, and it is accumulated over years and years of sort of practise. But I think if you’ve never sort of experienced that and you’ve never really thought about what a difference a professional copywriter could make to the sort of quality and the effectiveness of your messaging, go and find a good copywriter and let them show you what they can do. Because I don’t think you’d go back, I don’t think you’d fail to be convinced by that.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. And just to add a layer to that, head over to salesman.org. So I said I did all the copywriting on the website, but we’ve hired two copywriters. One of them just sucked, but the second fellow, Tim, he’s done all of our emails in our sales cadence. So if you sign up for our free sales assessment, you can get a series of emails.

 

Will Barron:

A lot of them are, I guess 99% of them are value based giving you insights based on your assessment results and a few of them will push you to the training product based on the back of the results of what we can help you with. And it’s interesting because there’s some… what you would see straight through, right? But I almost see a little bit of black magic of, I will go in some of these emails and be like, “Well, I would change that. That’s not really my voice, I’m going to change it slightly.”

 

Will Barron:

I change a few words and then it reads like absolute crap. And I don’t know what’s changed, I don’t know what flow has been altered. But Tim who’s wrote the emails, I think he’s wrote like 60 of them for us now, they go out of the course of a few months after, again people sign up for this sales code assessment. There’s just this like… I can’t describe it, almost like there’s a story being told, there’s emotions being pulled and it’s almost like a beat to the email, a bam bam badam dada.

 

Writing Good Copy is a Craft Every Salesperson Should Master · [24:54] 

 

Will Barron:

And as you’re reading through it, you want to get to that next drop of the beat and it drags you into them. And as I said, I’ve tried to experiment of… Tim’s from Europe, obviously I’m from the UK so there’s a few phrases and words that I was like while I might say this, he might say that. So I tried to change them. And then one sentence change in the whole of the email and it falls apart. That to me is insane, to you, Andrew is probably obvious, right?

 

“Everything a good copywriter will do for you, every word on the page is there for a reason. And what you are paying for is that attention to detail, that sort of precision.” – Andrew Boulton · [25:49] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think, well… And I mean, first of all, it sounds like hire Tim is the message here, hire Tim. I think I would be being slightly mischievous if I said to you that copywriting is this sort of house of cards, where if the layman lays one of the sort of dirty fingers on it, then it’s all going to fall pieces. But it goes back to what I said. Everything you got a good copywriter will do for you, every word on the page is there for a reason.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And what you are paying for is that attention to detail, that sort of precision. That’s what I talk about when I mean sort of craft. So I’ve seen it happen many times where you write something that you feel is kind of perfectly calibrated, it sounds really sort of [inaudible 00:26:07] for me to say that, but this sort perfect calibrated sort piece of copy, and you give it to someone and they feel like they need to change this world or change this sentence or move this thing to the top and this thing to the middle, and it’s like a game of chess unravelling.

 

Andrew Boulton:

It takes probably three moves to bring the whole thing down, whole thing crumbling down and then you can’t repair it. It’s you go back to the beginning and see what you can do. So it isn’t, it’s nothing magical or mystical about it. It’s this very sort of precise approach and this precise understanding of language. And I think you said the word sort of rhythm when you were talking about Tim, hire Tim, everyone. But you said the word rhythm, and that’s a big sort of invisible part of copywriting.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think people say, “Well, copywriting, I will assess the words and the sentences and the paragraphs are on this page in front of me and that’s all I’m looking for.” Well, no, you’re looking for sort of the tone, the rhythm of it. The rhythm is trying to sort of replicate the way that human beings speak to each other, a conversation. If you had a conversation with a colleague or a friend or even a stranger, the rhythm of that conversation would be very, very different.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And if I ask you to write down that conversation on paper and what a copywriter does, it writes almost for the ear. Even though it’s going on to the page and it’s never intended to be kind of read out loud, we write it in a way that when it’s translated in somebody’s brain, into kind of almost like this audible message, then that rhythm is there. It feels comfortable, it feels engaging.

 

Andrew Boulton:

We know what kind of rhythms, even if we can’t articulate it, we know what kind of rhythms we would listen to. We know what kind of rhythms are really sort of monotonous. There’s a very famous experiment by writer Gary Provost and it’s called, here’s a five word sentence. And he shows you how monotonous it is when you write a paragraph where every sentence is five words long, and it becomes droning and it becomes dry and it becomes mechanical. So I think this is what you’re paying your copywriter for. It’s not even just what you’re looking at, it’s all the other considerations that kind of go beyond that.

 

Andrew Analyses the Copy Over at Salesman.org · [28:20] 

 

Will Barron:

You can say no to this and me and the audience won’t hold you against it, right? Do you want to pull up one of our pages and just go… Perhaps the first few lines on there and see if you would… And feel free to hand me my ass here and make me like a fool on the show, right? Is that something you do? Because I think that might be valuable for the audience to get [crosstalk 00:28:23].

 

Andrew Boulton:

I will do it with a massive caveat. I’m probably not going to say anything very useful and insightful.

 

Will Barron:

Yep. Well, I’m sure you will. Because I’m feeling embarrassed before you’ve even opened it. If you want to go to salesman.org and click the academy link at the top of the page, do you want to… We’re doing the… And for the audience, anyone who’s listening to this show, as opposed to watching it, we’re doing this kind of in real time. So you can forgive Andrew and I if… And I was bad prepared, Andrew, I would’ve got it over to you ahead of time.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Okay. Well academy, yeah. Okay. So the one that says a simple system to find and close more outbound sales in the next 30 days.

 

Will Barron:

Correct. Any thoughts on that as kind of the upper third of the page?

 

Andrew Boulton:

Okay. Well, hang on a sec, let me have a look. Even if you… Okay, right. So first of all, I like the dog. I like the little dog, he’s nice. A simple system to finally close more outbound sales in the next 30 days. Now, there probably isn’t anything particularly exciting about that, but there’s real clarity there.

 

Will Barron:

Sure.

 

Andrew Boulton:

You are talking about, here’s the thing that we’re going to give you. We’re going to sort of equip you with this very specific skill and also you’re giving people a sort of timeframe. So it’s a very sort of typically sort of sales driven message, but there’s a directness to it, there’s a sort of transparency to it. So I have no problem with that. Sounds really mean, and this is a very, very sort of small thing.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I don’t like the case, I don’t like sort of the title case, upper case letter on every single thing, but that is a purely subjective thing, but change that for me please. What I do like, if we move down to sort of this next grey bar, an effective four week sales training and one-to-one, one-on-one sorry, mentoring programme that shows you how to find more leads, close more deals step by step.

 

“There’s this thing in copywriting which I always say to people: you can’t afford to waste a word. Every word must be serving a purpose, every word must be kind of driving you forward in that journey.” – Andrew Boulton · [30:37] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think what you’ve got here, and I don’t know if this is your writing or this is Tim or whoever’s responsible to this, there’s this thing in copywriting which I always say to people you can’t afford to waste a word. So you are dealing often in very sort of small sentences, small paragraphs, just compact messaging basically. And because of that and because of the attention spans of the kind of the people you are trying to engage and trying to communicate with, you cannot afford to waste a word.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Every word must be serving a purpose, every word must be kind of driving you forward in that journey. And what I would say about that at a glance is I feel like that’s a pretty tight sentence. I think it says very sort of clearly what it is you want to do. I think that the thing I enjoy is the four ticks. So even if you hate working sales, if you don’t feel motivated, even if you don’t have a sales process and even if you feel overwhelmed.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So I think this is this thing here where you’re starting to kind of demonstrate an understanding of the resistance, so the understanding of the kind of the reasons why people might not want to do this, or might not like sales in general or might feel that this is a big challenge. And one of the biggest things, I suppose you can kind of convey in any kind of message like this where you’re looking to drive a relationship or drive a transaction is you need to demonstrate an empathy.

 

Andrew Boulton:

You need to demonstrate, we understand what you need, but we also understand what you don’t need and what you don’t want and what motivates you and what doesn’t motivate you. And I think that honesty, it sounds… Brands always talk about their honesty and it makes me wince a little bit because that should be the very bare minimum that you are prepared to give me.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But even so, I think this direct human honesty that says, “We know you might hate this. We know you might be afraid of this. We know you might feel like this is a massive pain in the ass. But even if those things are true, this is the thing for you, this is the thing that’s going to make it better.” The implication here is that the pain is going to go away. We’re going to make it less scary or irritating.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think what you end up with then is a message that is not really about a course or a sales programme or anything, even especially professional, it’s a message that resonates on a very human level. It’s about you’ve got a problem or you’ve got an anxiety or you’ve got a particular distaste for something and we are going to give you something that doesn’t sort of trigger any of those things, but is going to actually really help you and you’re going to find rewarding.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So on a totally sort of off the cuff assessment of your sort of top five inches of website, there’s a lot of really effective stuff in there. I think the sort of the tightness of the copy, the sort of the efficiency of the word choice and that very sort of early recognition that we kind of understand your worries or frustrations or fears around this thing. I think you end up with something that feels very clear and very honest, which is two very sort of positive characteristics to kind communicate.

 

The Difference Between a Good Writer and a Professional Copywriter · [33:04] 

 

Will Barron:

I think you… So I wrote this and I think you’ve nailed it, absolutely nailed what I struggle with copywriting. And this goes for this page. And if anyone who’s interested, go to salesman.org/salesdeskpage, and you’ll see. And I’ll link this in the show notes as well over at salesman.org in the show notes, this episode.

 

Will Barron:

But you nailed what I struggle with, which is I can be very analytical. I feel like I can cut words out of sentences and make them nice and tight. What I really struggle with is adding a layer of emotion, adding a bit of story to it, adding… And I guess this is the scale, right? I’m very good at… No, I’m not very good.

 

Will Barron:

I feel like I can physically do the logical side of things, you should jump on a call with us because we do this, we solve this problem, you’re going to have this benefit at the other end of it, does it make sense to jump a call? But then when I see someone who knows what they’re doing with copywriting, again, there’s just this little bit of elegance to it and there’s a little bit of, it’s not human, it’s like personality that’s driven in. Is that the bit that separates the hacks like me versus the pros like yourself?

 

Andrew Boulton:

Well, I think it’s a really sort of risky business and it’s a very sort of common thing where people equate a sort of a human personality with emotion. And I think the industry is probably fairly guilty of kind of overestimating or overusing sort of emotion. There’s absolutely a place for kind of emotional response in sales and marketing and advertising.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Emotion is one of the sort of key drivers of what sort of persuades us, of what drives our sort of memory are willing to kind of act and participate in things as we’re seeing at the moment this week with sort of some really impactful campaigns around sort of supporting the people of Ukraine. It’s using emotion as a way to drive very direct, very specific action, and it’s doing it really effectively.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But there’s not really a place for every single sort of sales and marketing message for an emotional thing. Some things are largely kind of functional or let’s say they are kind of functional emotions rather than sort of pure emotions. And what we are offering here on this particular page, it’s all about functional benefits. It’s all about we’re going to make your life easier in these ways, we’re going to make you better with your job in these ways.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And the implication there is you become better with your job, you become more successful. You might improve your mental health, you might improve your sort of family life as a result of that. All of that is the kind of the unsaid stuff. But the direct thing we are talking about is a very, very sort of functional, practical benefit. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no harm in that.

 

Andrew Boulton:

You want to try and express that in a human way and you want to try and express it in the way that real people would speak to each other, but there’s nothing wrong with saying our benefit is simply this thing. It’s not about filling up your heart with joy. It’s not about playing on any sort of finer feelings than that. It’s just about saying here’s a great thing that we think you’ll find useful, that we think will make a difference to your life in sort of some small but important way. And that’s okay.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think a lot of the time you see brands who have either been told or believe for themselves that everything has to have this emotion in it. And I think that’s when you start to get into the most insincere and inappropriate kind of brand messaging you see where they are trying to kind of give themselves a bigger and more significant role in our lives, than they really weren’t.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So if you are a kind of fizzy drink, there is only so far you can go in terms of kind of bringing me any real and sort of meaningful joy in my life. And I think unless you as a brand are aware of those limitations, you are going to cross that line and make yourself look rather silly and make me feel like I don’t really want to drink this fizzy drink that has such a high opinion of itself.

 

Emotional Copywriting and Why It’s So Effective · [36:54] 

 

Will Barron:

For sure. I won’t put brands in your mouth. But as you say that for me, I sometimes see Coca-Cola adverts, McDonald’s adverts and they make me cringe that why are all these beautiful people doing all these things and having all this fun and it revolves around a drink? But then the flip side of that is I see a Red Bull advert, or I see Red Bull certainly inserted into the downhill mountain bike and I was watching this morning and I guess is wider branding as opposed to just copywriting.

 

Will Barron:

But Red Bull’s terrible for you, don’t drink it. Everyone listening to this, it’s absolutely terrible for you. But it’s a cool drink. And if I was good to drink a drink like that, I would be drinking Red Bull rather than Cola Energy or whatever kind of they point out because it makes me feel different to the cheesy adverts that are clearly massively successful.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Yeah, of course.

 

Will Barron:

Because what’s a bigger brand than Coca-Cola and McDonald’s? Right? But they obviously don’t resonate with me specifically. And just on that, the point of the emotion, I think that was really useful for me, selfishly, and hopefully this is useful for the audience as well. Because I, and I feel you just subtlely told me off there for wanting to add perhaps more emotion and things to this page.

 

Will Barron:

And I think sometimes I see some competitors in our space, Andrew, who are like, where I talk about simple systems are going to remove overwhelm, we’re going to give you a sales process, we’re going to… It’s all logical. We’re going to help you out each way. You’re going to make more money at the end of it by the basis of having process in place, right? We make sales simple, that’s what we do.

 

Will Barron:

Versus I see some competitors that are indirect competitors because they’re probably attracting a different type of buyer in the sales training space, but their marketing is, “Hey, we’re going to make you another 200 grand this year. We’re going to do this. We’re going to do that.” And it’s almost a bit sleazy, it’s a bit weird. And so I appreciate what you’re saying then of the… Because at a certain point, you add so much emotion that it becomes scamlike, it becomes weird.

 

Will Barron:

If you’re saying it’s going to do all these incredible things, when it is just a series of calls and trainings that you kind of… There’s a weird, I don’t know what you might… There might be a word to describe it in copywriting but I feel like it gives me a weird gut feeling that someone isn’t quite right here when you get too far beyond the logical.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think it’s one of the words that you can’t go more than a few steps in some of our business without hearing there’s authenticity. And there are probably sort of two different approaches to that or sort of two different philosophies around that. One is that authenticity is integral to what you do. And it shouldn’t be something we have to kind of define or create or kind of integrate into this business, it should just exist.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And we are real people, we understand our customers are real people. Here are some things we stand for legitimately because we believe in them, here is what we feel our kind of products or services can do and why they exist. And it’s never discussed in any meaningful way because it goes without saying that it’s a part of why we exist and everything we do.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think there’s another side where authenticity becomes almost like a brand value. It becomes this kind of this artificial creation. It becomes as created as a logo or packaging design, this sense of authenticity that you’ve had to kind of manufacture. But why I think it matters and why I think sort of as an industry we’re obsessed about it so much is because it’s probably sort of the biggest single influencing factor in sort of why we sort of choose to give our money to a brand or we don’t.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And not on any sort of complex or probably sort of a trackable level, it’s just that human beings especially in this generation, I think have an inbuilt detector for what feels real, feels like it’s coming from like a human voice, if not a human person and what feels like bullshit. And I think I see a huge amount.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I think one of the sort of the biggest, if not the biggest growth in sort of advertising marketing messages that I’ve seen over the last few years is for crypto, like crypto bro stuff. And I know I’m not being dismissive of anyone who sort of understands sort of crypto and invests in it and does well out of it. Good for you, fill your boots. It’s way beyond my comprehension.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But I look at the adverts for it and sort of it’s got a certain tone to it, it’s got a sort of an aggression, it’s a bit of a cliche but it’s got a sort of this kind of over the top masculinity to it where it’s like, “Dude, you could be earning a million pounds in your pants before lunch time.”

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think most people would look at that and go, this feels gross, this feels, your word, sleazy and I don’t believe it. This feels like a scam. This feels like the language of scams, but you know what? Do you know why there are so many ads that behave in that way, so many ads that use that kind of tone, that language, those constructs? Because there is an audience and a significant audience who it works on.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And never in my life have I ever heard one of my friends be able to recite a famous kind of advertising slogan or a headline from an advert, never ever once. And they all know what I do, and they know what I work and they know what I teach and they’re just not engaged in that world and they can’t really sort of tell me anything beyond sort of the tango man sort of slapping that guy in the face back in late ’80s.

 

“If there is an audience out there and you know that your audience responds to a certain thing, even if that thing feels horrible and sort of inappropriate, there are brands and there are businesses who will capitalise on that. But we use that kind of thing and they know they’re excluding the majority of people, but they don’t care about the majority of people. They care very specifically about this kind of target market they are likely to persuade and they know this is the way to do it. ” – Andrew Boulton · [42:21] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

But I had a mate who said, “Oh, that I saw this ad for crypto and it said this.” And he could quote me the exact headline from this ad or this kind of marketing message. So do you know what? If there is an audience out there and you know that your audience responds to a certain thing, even if that thing feels horrible and sort of inappropriate, there are brands and there are businesses who will capitalise on that.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But we use that kind of thing and they know they’re excluding the majority of people, but they don’t care about the majority of people. They care very specifically about this kind of target market they are likely to persuade and they know this is the way to do it. So authenticity is massively important as a general rule. But like all the sort of the best general rules in this business, there will be many significant occasions where it goes out the window.

 

Will Barron:

I mean, there’s two things here that I’ll just add. Again, not putting words in your mouth, Andrew. One with crypto, a fool and their money are easily parted, right? So if people are targeting a specific type of person, a specific age, probably blokes who are 18 to 25 kind of thing, they’re doing that for a reason.

 

Will Barron:

And obviously we’ve both been somewhat flippant here, but there’s massive sophistication behind what they’re doing in the messaging and the AB testing of it all and the millions of impressions that they’re running through to suss this out. But also if you were trying to build a long term business that’s going to survive changes whether crypto’s here or it isn’t in 20 years time, maybe you take a different approach, right?

 

Will Barron:

Maybe there’s some short term kind of push for some of this that influences whether people are happy to be burned, whether people are happy to feel gross, whether people understand whether it’s a gamble or they should think is an assessment, they think it’s an investment. So all that ties in too, I guess. I’m conscious of time because I really enjoy this conversation, mate. I’m genuinely really enjoying it.

 

The One Thing You Should Never Do When Writing Copy · [44:07] 

 

Will Barron:

So I’ve got one final question. And we’ve talked quite high level about this, and if you can give us a real practical answer, I think this would be really valuable for the audience. So with regards to copywriting, again, from the perspective of a B2B salesperson, they might be creating small micro bits of content to add value to the potential customers.

 

Will Barron:

They might be writing sales emails. They might be, I don’t know, maybe doing a little bit of marketing on the side, whatever they’re doing. But in that kind of context, Andrew, what is one thing that the audience should never do ever, ever, not even if they think about it, even if they think it might work, what is the one thing that they should never implement within the world of arranging words on a page?

 

Andrew Boulton:

So I think there’s lots of things I’m tempted to answer to this, but I think in the spirit of the question, I will choose one. And I think the biggest temptation you’ll get, whether you are a copywriter or not. If you are writing something for a website, for an email, for a sales message, whatever it might be, the biggest temptation is to sit down and to write it and sort of take your time and to think about the words and arrange it all out and get it into sort of a perfect place and pour your sort of heart and soul and sort of energy into it all and then feeling so sort of pleased and proud of yourself and your creation, just assume that’s it and that’s the end of the process and you can sort of stick it up into the place that it wants to be and it can go out into the world.

 

Andrew Boulton:

The value of copywriting and the value of sort of the processes and systems set up to make copywriting work is that it requires input. And it requires you to be able to sell your copy into somebody else. It’s the frustrating part of the job and it’s often the sort of the thing that kind of leaves copywriters sort of sad and broken. But it also helps ensure that the message is doing its job.

 

“If you’ve written something, even if you have no client, even if you are the client, find someone to go and read it to. And I mean, very specifically, read it out loud to. Let them look at it on paper, but first, you are going to read it out loud to them, and that’s the perfect way to sort of detect sort of if you’ve got the rhythm right, if you’ve got the sort of tone of a human voice right, if this sounds like something that would sound pleasantly in your brain like we’ve discussed. And that person can be connected to what you’re doing. It can be a potential customer, it can be someone within your team, but you just need that kind of external view on it.” – Andrew Boulton · [46:00] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

So if you’ve written something, even if you have no client, even if you are the client, find someone to go and read it to. And I mean, very specifically, read it out loud to. Let them look at it on paper, but first, you are going to read it out loud to them, and that’s the perfect way to sort of detect sort of if you’ve got the rhythm right, if you’ve got the sort of tone of a human voice right, if this sounds like something that would sound pleasantly in your brain like we’ve discussed.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And that person can be connected to what you’re doing. It can be a potential customer, it can be someone within your team, but you just need that kind of external view on it. Now, what they say to you, what they suggest doing, you don’t have to change everything that they suggest changing, but you almost need to see it through another person’s eyes and get their thoughts. And that’s when you start to kind of really evaluate it.

 

Andrew Boulton:

But because we are in this very sort of fast moving content world, the temptation is always write and publish in the same breath. And that is where mistakes are made. And a lot of the time, those mistakes will be very sort of low consequence and it will just mean you’ve got a piece of clunky content out there and it’s not going to cost you anything. But there is always the chance that it could make a difference. And a poorly written email could be the end of a potential lead for one reason or another.

 

“However tempting it is to kind of write and publish, I think, write, pause, review it yourself, and then go find someone just to kind of get their thoughts and get them to listen to it, get them to read it, get them to understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. And listen to what they have to say.” – Andrew Boulton · [47:15] 

 

Andrew Boulton:

So however tempting it is to kind of write and publish, I think, write, pause, review it yourself, and then go find someone just to kind of get their thoughts and get them to kind of listen to it, get them to read it, get them to kind of understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. And listen to what they have to say.

 

Andrew Boulton:

There’s no prizes for kind of doing it all by yourself in copywriting, you don’t get any rewards if every single word on there is yours and yours alone. Take a bit of help, take advice and take other people’s opinions and I think it will make you a better writer and a better communicator of your ideas.

 

On Writing Well · [47:51] 

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. We’ve just done two hours ago, a whole podcast, Andrew, on how to edit content, how to rewrite emails. So I’m so glad that you’ve said that. I think it was On Writing Well, was a book that I found that was valuable for helping me write less crappy content. And the main thing I took away from that was just delete anything that didn’t need to be there. If that sentence doesn’t add any value, just get rid of it. And that changed… Again, I’m very average of all this, I’m not saying I’m very good at it. But that took me from real shit to average in one fell swoop.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And I think it’s a really good point. I think find a good book on copywriting. My book is more about the thoughts and life of a copywriter but there’s some excellent books which I would consider to be almost kind of guide books, like handbooks to how to be better at it.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And the first one that springs to mind is a book like Gyles Lingwood who I know is a lovely guy, he’s written a fantastic book called Read Me. I would also add Dan Nelken. He’s written a book, A Self-Help Guide for Copywriters, which is amazing. It’s honestly one of the sort of the best books on the subject I’ve read. But that’s just two out of many.

 

Andrew Boulton:

A book called Junior by Thomas Kemeny is excellent. I could give you a huge long list but I think start with those ones. And if this is something you are interested in getting better, then these people are great teachers of the simple sort of the craft of kind of how to just produce better messaging, sort of better copy, better sentences, more persuasive ways to kind of say what you’re trying to say.

 

Parting Thoughts · [47:53]

 

Will Barron:

Very good. I will, if it’s cool with you, I’ll drop you an email after the show. I’ll get a list of books that you recommend for our audience, your students and we’ll put them in the show notes of this episode over at saleman.org. But Andrew, tell us more about your sir, tell us where we can find out more about you as well.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Oh, thank very much. So I wrote a book called Copywriting Is…: 30-or-So Thoughts on Thinking Like a Copywriter. It was an idea that was sort of swimming around in my brain for years and years and years and I finally got the chance to do it. I forced myself to do it. And it was a very long and a sort of painful process. But I’m very sort of pleased with where we got to.

 

Andrew Boulton:

It’s published by a wonderful publisher called Gasp Books. Giles Edwards is my publisher, he runs sort of Gasp Books and he runs the Gasp Agency. He’s horrible idiot, but he’s also a lovely man. And so that’s that in the world. And we sort of released it with just feeling very sort of satisfied that we managed to kind of get this thing created and produced.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And we were staggered and startled and all of those other things to find out we became a bestseller. We were the bestselling advertising book on Amazon alongside a list of some authors who I absolutely love and some books I absolutely love. So it was an incredible thing. So it’s gone far better than I thought we ever imagined it would and it’s still selling.

 

Andrew Boulton:

So if you are interested, like I said, it’s not a guide book, it’s not a textbook in copywriting, but gives you an idea of what the copywriting life is all about if you are interested. So there’s that. At the same time, Giles and I, Giles Edwards and I also wrote a book, a children’s book. And we tell people it is the world’s first ever children’s book about copywriting. We think that’s true. No one’s sort of sued us yet so we think that’s the truth.

 

Andrew Boulton:

And it’s called Adele Writes An Ad. Both of these books available from unfortunately, Amazon, but also sort of any good bookshop in the UK. And we’re very, very proud of that and we are hopefully the aim of that is just to try and persuade more young people to kind of follow the copywriting path. And the only other thing I sort of have left the plug on.

 

Andrew Boulton:

I’m speaking at the copywriting conference, the ProCopywriters Copywriting Conference in October in Brighton. It’s the best copywriting conference in the world. In my opinion, ProCopywriters do some incredible work for the industry. So I’ll be there speaking live rambling away. If you are interested, you are around, you’ll be able to find tickets on the ProCopywriters site.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. Well, I’ll link to all of that in the show notes to this episode over at salesman.org. And with that, Andrew, I appreciate your insights, the conversation. I appreciate me throwing the website in your face mid interview and you going through that. I appreciate that, mate. And I want to thank you again for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Andrew Boulton:

Absolute pleasure. Really good to talk to you.

 

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