The Simple Writing System is a copywriting training and mentoring system from John Carlton and a group of star professional copywriters who act as mentors and coaches.
I joined the group of what I believe was SWS 7 in April 2010 and worked with Kevin Rogers as my copywriting mentor.
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My Background With John Carlton
I joined John's list, liked the free email course (affiliate link) and bought his Copywriting Sweatshop DVDs. This included a few months free membership of his copywriting club.
I liked John's style and sense of humour and of course, as his legend shows, he is a great copywriter and has trained many of the most successful copywriters active today.
John Carlton appeared at the Rich Schefren New Beginnings Event in April 2008 and revealed his Simple Writing System, both in full to a two day workshop and in two hours at the main event. I have the Cds of the main event and John's presentation is great.
I became an affiliate, happy in the knowledge that I am promoting great copywriting training.
A few months later John redid his presentation at his own event which was recorded and is now the basis for the Simple Writing System. These DVDs are the home study program.
The full system comes with mentoring from a top professional copywriter and that's what makes it so special and where the true value lies.
After promoting the Simple Writing System but not buying (because I'd got other copywriting courses I hadn't been through by John himself - I had the first Copywriters Sweatshop as a bonus when I bought the second, Dan Kennedy, Gary Halbert and Harlan Kilstein) I finally cleared my backlog.
At the same time, John changed his marketing style for Simple Writing System 7 and introduced the exercises and feedback including the bar-room chat with your ideal prospect.
I rose to the challenge and had a go and got some feedback which really made me think. I loved the exercise and getting the helpful advice.
I couldn't resist buying the training and mentoring at launch time.
Here is my Simple Writing System Review.
What is The Simple Writing System?
It is the method John has put together to create so many winning sales letters during his career as a much admired A list copywriter.
There are seventeen steps:
Step 1 - Market Research
This is about gaining an understanding of your market and creating your Hot Seat Head Grinder - an elevator chat for your product or service - and although it's not an official exercise, the bar-room conversation.
Step 2 - Your Avatar
You build up a profile of your bulls-eye customer and what needs and wants he or she has which you are aiming to satisfy.
Step 3 - Your USP
You may think of USP as a cute one liner - your Unique Selling Proposition.
John Carlton takes a wider view and defines it as "how to position yourself uniquely in your market to sell."
Step 4 - Master List Of Features & Benefits
You know the difference right?
Understanding your features and translating them into meaningful, compelling benefits lies at the heart of all selling.
Step 5 - Bullets
Here you take your features and benefits and turn them into curiosity creating bullets.
Step 6 - Testimonials
Whatever you say in your copy, what your customers say is more believable.
Step 7 - Hooks
This is the John Carlton magic and why John's copy converts so well.
An example of a hook is John's one legged golfer who was hitting magnificent drives.
"Amazing Secret Discovered By
One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards
To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks
And Slices... And Can Slash Up To
10 Strokes From Your Game
If you're a golfer, you're probably thinking "how can a one legged man hit the ball further?" and you're eager to satisfy your curiosity - that's the hook.
Step 8 Salesmanship Mentality
How to take away from the defensive in your selling and sell as if you want to succeed.
Step 9 Develop Your Story And Vision
Stories are a particularly powerful way to communicate a message and provided it's not over used, can be a subtle way to sell.
Personally in Internet marketing, I'm tired of the local boy makes good but the essence is still very valid. Anyone can succeed.
Step 10 Headlines
An essential element of every bit of copy since it is the first thing that your prospective customers will notice - or ignore.
Step 11 Your Sales Funnel
Attention turns to the campaign since different media have different copy implications.
Step 12 The Simple Basics Of A Great Sales Message
A recap of what you've covered in the course so far.
As John says, sometimes you've done such a great job of pre-qualifying customers, you just need to sell it.
Step 13 Huge Promise
Build up your offer to make it compelling.
Step 14 Reverse All The Risk
Write a guarantee which reassures any doubters to at least give you a try.
Step 15 Turbulence
How to persuade your prospective customers to take action.
Step 16 Knock Them Off The Fence
And take action now.
There's a huge difference between "I think this is a good idea and I'll buy it some time" and "I'm buying it now."
Step 17 Your Close
The final step where you ask the customer to buy.
The Simple Writing System Mentoring
The Simple Writing System training is done by John on the DVDs of the second Simple Wtiting System presentation (also starring top copywriters David Deutsh and David Garfinkel).
Most end with exercises which you complete and post in the Simple Writing System forum.
Your copywriting mentor then reviews it and gives you feedback.
It is a fantastic experience as you get pushed to be more specific, to use more dynamic words and to make the benefits stronger.
Some times it can hurt when you think you've done well and expect to get praise back but the pro copywriter thinks you can do much better.
I found that once I'd calmed down and got over my disappointment, I agreed with the comments and could see how my past copywriting had wimped out when the going got tough.
Your learning doesn't stop there.
You'll get to see how your copywriting mentor is guiding other students too and it is so much easier to see their mistakes - both before and after the feedback from the SWS mentors. Then if you've got the time, you can check out the other copywriting mentors and see how they are applying the Simple Writing System ideas.
It is a fantastic learning experience which I'm finding difficult to put into words. You have to experience it for yourself and that's the genius behind the way John Carlton is now promoting the Simple Writing System with the sample exercises.
The Simple Writing System is the one course where you will be very actively involved because it builds up its own momentum.
What I Loved About The Simple Writing System
- The quality of the training and the large number of John Carlton swipes included in the files. You also get John's previous training "Kiss Ass Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel" as a bonus (see Kiss Ass Secrets - affiliate link)
- The passion, commitment and enthusiasm of the copywriting mentors. From what I saw, they all play full out to give you as much help as they can. Remember though, their task is to help you to learn and apply the ideas and not to write the copy for you.
- The way John Carlton swoops in to deliver some pithy advice if you seem to be stuck in one area and you're not making much headway with your mentor. Just getting a third perspective can be powerful and when it comes from John, you have to respect what he says.
- The enthusiasm of the other students. If you've been in most training programs, you'll know that it can be tough to get much happening in the forums. SWS is different as it attracts doers rather than wannabees.
What I Don't Like About The Simple Writing System
Nothing is perfect so here are a couple of things I didn't like.
- The eight weeks mentoring seems a long time at the start but flies by so quickly. Those students who were slow to start struggled to complete the program because of the time needed for the feedback, corrections and improvements, more feedback etc. 40 working days for 17 steps which may take two or three days each does get tight.
- You don't finish up with a completed sales letter. You've been through all the steps but you're still left with components that need to be pieced together. I'd certainly like to see Step 18 with John Carlton putting it all together and providing tips on the opening paragraph.
How The Simple Writing System Can Be Improved
The training is terrific and if you do the exercises and work conscientiously with your coach, you will be amazed at how much better your copy gets.
I have a few suggestions for John Carlton on how it can be improved.
- The "putting it all together" Step 18 video mentioned above.
- I'd like to see some of John's most successful letters deconstructed back into the 17 SWS steps so you can clearly see the join between the two. Some steps it's obvious - the guarantee is the guarantee but for others, it's not so clear.
- I'd also like to see how examples of the system can be applied to other promotion techniques. The implication is that you create a long form sales letter but John is really teaching you how to sell with words. It would be great to see how it can be used to create emails for a product launch, affiliate email promotions and especially video sales letters.
The Simple Writing System Isn't For Everyone
It is tough.
There's a lot of material to get through and the coaching normally lasts 8 weeks. That's 40 working days to do the 17 lessons and get feedback. The copywriting mentors want you to finish one step before moving forward to keep you building on a strong foundation.
You can get stuck - some students loop around on the USP many times before finding something that works and pressure builds up.
You need to start quickly and work on it most days since you want to get the most out of your experience in this fantastic opportunity.
You also need throw your ego away. There's no pussy-footing around with the feedback. Some of the tutors are more blunt than others and some guide, some push. There's no option because the market isn't kind and doesn't reward effort.., just great copy.
At $1,997, buying the Simple Writing System does make a dent in your credit card so it's not a program to go into lightly. There is significant time, energy and money involved so you need a strong desire to learn copywriting.
I believe it's a vital skill and even if you don't intend to write much copy, you need to develop your inner salesman's mentality. That's what it will do for you.
My Experience Of The Simple Writing System
I'm a big picture person which gives me problems learning a step by step system since I like to start general and then dig down in more and more detail.
I watched the DVDs in an intensive three or four day period, taking notes as I went although you also get the course manuals.
Only then, when I'd finished all the DVDs did I start the exercises.
Since I knew I'd got a week's holiday during the mentoring, I couldn't afford to have any more delays.
The early exercises were great and I appreciated Kevin's feedback as he dragged my inner salesman out of me (which was well hidden beneath British reserve).
I could see how my copywriting was getting stronger and more positive.
It became more difficult when I came back from holiday and I started suffering from what became a very serious ilness which finished with me in Intensive Care in hospital in September.
I lost a lot of my energy and drive and the exercises became a chore. I believe that was due to me and not the course as I lost interest in just about everything else as well.
The training and exercises were still very useful and I learnt a lot but it became a process to get through rather than to enjoy.
I'm much more aware of what it takes to sell and how you need to stack the odds in making the sale to cut through the apathy and idleness of your prospects... even when you have exactly what will solve their urgent problems.
I know that if I'd have been at my normal health and fitness I'd have got a lot more out of the Simple Writing System during the process and since it finished.
The project I took through the Simple Writing System is running late and hasn't been properly launched yet but there are over 500 members in my small business membership website.
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Paul Would You Like To Do The Simple Writing System Again?
Earlier this week I received an email.
Congratulations Paul, you were our fifth place affiliate and you've won a prize.
You can either go through the course or receive the money.
Both were tempting and my illness has hurt my earnings this year.
A few hours later, I'd made up my mind.
I would do the course again.
Money is replaceable and I know that improving my copywriting skills will pay dividends.
But the Simple Writing System and the chance to work with the copywriting mentors won't be around for ever. John keeps the scarcity high with "this might be the last time..."
One day it will be and I'd be kicking myself if I missed out on the chance to repeat such a fantastic experience.
If you need to develop the skills to write killer copy and you're prepared to work hard, I strongly recommend the course.
I don't know of another program like it and it will take your marketing to a new level.
Selling is tough. Prospective customers are apathetic. It takes a lot to move them into action.
The Simple Writing System will give you the winning edge.
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