If Copy is King, Context is Emperor

Not too long ago I came across a debate on a now-defunct Internet marketing discussion board concerning sales letters. One camp argued that a sales letter should stand alone and follow a specific format. The other camp argued that the sales letter should take into account the context of where, when, why, and by whom the it is likely to be read.

As it happened, the debate arose over a particular sales letter that many in the first camp regarded as ‘weak.’ In this case, the sales letter was the final element in a product launch sequence of communications, preceded by a series of pre-launch emails, reports and videos.

The first camp believed that the sales letter should have stood on its own merits, while the second camp believed that it was fine as it was and should have been judged within the context of the pre-launch / launch sequence. As for me, I was – and am – very much of the second camp.

As the title of this article indicates: if copy is king, context is emperor. Effective communication always takes into account the context – who is reading it, and why, how, where and when they’re reading it. Indeed, context is the reason why, for example, many participants in high profile Internet marketing product launches don’t end up reading the ultimate sales letter. They’ve already been ‘sold’ by the sequence of pre-launch emails, videos, reports and other elements.

For that reason, the sales letter at the end of the pre-launch / launch campaign does not, in some ways, have to be as ‘strong’ as, say, a sales letter that does not follow a pre-launch sequence.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the sales letter that comes at the end of a product launch should be put together as though it’s an after-thought. There will be some people who have either not gone through the launch sequence, or have gone through it and aren’t convinced, or for whatever reason want to read every word of the sales letter.

What proportion of people fall into this category will vary according to the situation, but it will usually be significant enough to justify putting a lot of effort into creating a top-notch sales letter. In fact, in recent launches I’ve seen marketers continue tweaking the sales letter after making the product available, clearly indicating the seriousness with which they regard the sales letter.

But the point remains that a product launch sales letter is likely to be different to one used for an audience that has not been ‘pre-sold’ in any way. Some may regard such a product launch sales letter as ‘weak’ because of this, but chances are that it wouldn’t be effective for the vast majority of readers if it was the same kind of sales letter used for a ‘raw’ audience.


Anna Johnson publishes Internet marketing newsletter, Kikabink News. Get a FREE subscription to Kikabink News as well as a FREE copy of Anna’s ebook, Killer Internet Marketing Tips, plus four FREE killer 60+ minute audio interviews with top Internet marketers: http://www.kikabink.com/kt/tips.htm