Building an Ecommerce Business, Part 4: Copywriting Matters

Good copy sells. Generic imagery and descriptions might cause shoppers to move on without giving your product a second thought. Spicing up your copy — for emails, social media, or product descriptions — will give your online store a personality to stand above competitors.

In this fourth installment in my series of conversations about building an ecommerce business, I visited with Neville Medhora, founder of Kopywriting Kourse. The previous installments are:

What follows is my entire audio interview with Medhora and a transcript, edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: You’re the king of copywriting.

Neville Medhora: It’s like Howard Stern, self-proclaimed, but I think I’m pretty good. I think my results speak for themselves. I started in high school with a company called House of Rave. I sold it in 2011. I don’t know if it still exists. I drop-shipped rave products. It was just that simple, light up glow stuff to party planners, MTV, all those types of places.

I noticed a long time ago that all the manufacturers had the same descriptions and the same images. And I thought, well, if I put better images and better descriptions, wouldn’t people buy from me? Keep in mind this is in 2001. The internet is still developing. So sure enough it did.

I had an email list of 7,500 customers, meaning these people had sent me money and opted into the email list. And I tried sending out a newsletter for about a year. It just failed.

A friend of mine, Ryan Laveck, told me to read the Gary Halbert letters, specifically the Boron letters, chapters 1 through 25. He writes how he became a millionaire and then arrested for mail fraud by getting too many complaints about a product he sold. And he’s telling his son how to get attention, how to keep attention, how to sell something.

From there I got obsessed with copywriting. I sent an email and made somewhere in the range of $4,000 to $7,000.

I ran the same promotion as before, for little lights that go on your fingers. But for the new email, I listed out all these different ways that people could use the finger lights beside just raving. A lot of people resonated with that email and a lot of people bought from it — so many I had to cancel most of the orders as the supplier had sold out.

Bandholz: Why did you sell your company?

Medhora: House of Rave was a drop-ship company. In 2001 drop shipping was a novel concept. By 2011, the competition started leveling up and then AppSumo started taking off around that time. And so I sold House of Rave to a competitor site.

Bandholz: Then you hopped on board AppSumo.

Medhora: Yes. Noah Kagan, who is the founder of AppSumo and one of my close friends, was building AppSumo off my couch. He would come over to my place, and he was kind of like a bum. Noah’s a real simple man sometimes. So he’s hanging out in Austin. He’s doing AppSumo as a side project. Noah’s a smart guy, but he hated sending an email to 50,000 people. He found it pressure-filled.

I convinced him to let me write one. It was for Kernest, a font matching service that cost 100 bucks. Only hardcore designers would be interested. I told this illustrious hilarious story in the email. We sent that out, and it was the first AppSumo $10,000 profit day. We assumed it was a fluke. But it happened again and again. And then I came on board.

Bandholz: So you worked with AppSumo for a while and then what?

Medhora: I created a course under the AppSumo name. I had equity in the company. So I did everything through AppSumo. It was called Kopywriting Kourse. It was a smash hit because people liked the AppSumo emails and then they bought this course on how to do what AppSumo did. And that eventually branched off into its own site. I needed a place to send the promotional material. So I wrote with, with k’s, is misspelled. Someone had a copywriting course with c’s.

Bandholz: Why have creative copy on a landing page or a product page or even on social media?

Medhora: Everyone knows what a shirt is. It goes around your arm. It’s made from cotton. Once you see the shirt, you understand the product. There’s nothing I can do to make you change your mind.

But, instead of a shirt, say the product is a type of beard oil. Is that beard oil is made differently? If it’s got a different polymer inside of it that coats your beard better than the alternatives, you need text to explain it. You can’t physically see the process at the molecular level.

Bandholz: At Beardbrand, we emphasize the name of the product. For instance, we have “Temple Smoke,” which was inspired by the incense in religious ceremonies in South America and southeast Asia. Those are the fragrances that we’re using in the product. And then hopefully we can create the imagery of someone lighting incense

Medhora: An interesting industry that has popped up in the last five years is mattresses. There are some great copywriters in that industry. They’re describing memory foam, which has been around for a long time.

An example is “Here’s why a Casper mattress is so great. You could push it and it goes back up. It’s got this polymer…” and I’m like, “Yeah, that’s memory foam.” That seems like a trick, but it is very important because if you think you’re sleeping on a comfortable mattress, you are.

Bandholz: Say you’re an established business. You’ve got a team of five, 10, 20 people. You don’t have the resources to produce the content yourself. How do you find people to do it?

Medhora: Usually a company with a founder that is not good at content tends to have the poor content. So if you were the founder of the company, I would encourage you to probably write a little bit of content yourself. A lot of founders aren’t going to do that. So how do they hire a writer?

I say always go for people who write about the things that you, as a founder, sell.

Bandholz: If they haven’t done sales writing, would you shy away from them?

Medhora: No. You can train them in sales writing. You can help them to become good sales writers. And that is the mission of Kopywriting Kourse.

See the next installment, “Part 5: Paid Acquisition.”

Eric Bandholz
Eric Bandholz
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