Powerful Product Descriptions (Part One)

Illustration by HikingArtist.

Illustration by HikingArtist.

I’ll be blunt: most of our industry’s ad copy is horrible. Especially online product descriptions. Even the well-written, grammatically correct copy lacks the oomph necessary to sell a product.

It’s no wonder magicians want flashy photos and video trailers. For generations we’ve bored them to death with text descriptions.

But that can change. Starting with you. You don’t have to be a professional writer to produce easy-to-understand copy with high conversation; you just have to learn a couple of techniques.

In part one of this series, I am going to teach you a dirt-simple method to transform writing that blows into marketable prose. Follow the directions below and you will see instant results in your own writing.

Our example is a fake magic trick titled, “Jonas Powers’ Stage-Size Appearing Chair from Box”

Here is an example of the type of ad copy I’m asked to spice up on a regular basis:

Finally, an appearing chair barstool for stage work. If you are looking for a signature stage trick start with the stage size appearing barstool chair by Jonas Powers to open your show, or to close your show.

At first glance, the copy isn’t terrible. It’s a good start. In fact, it’s just good enough others will use it without question.

However, the opening is weak—nobody has really been waiting for this trick, stage-size or otherwise. The middle doesn’t provide enough information to move the reader to a buying decision, and the end doesn’t lead to the next paragraph, presumably where the reader will find a call to action.

Compare to my edited version:

Flat box, instant barstool! Open your show with the self-working production of a full-size barstool, or sit back and relax for a funny finale. It’s the durable, portable, audience-floorable Chair Box by Jonas Powers!

A visual image of the routine is revealed in the opening line. The second sentence, though it might feel a little long, illustrates the range of the product. The last line introduces the creator of the effect and leaves the reader wanting more—the call to action.

The concept here is to pack each paragraph with as much information as possible without weighing down the text. How? Instead of writing the whole paragraph prose style, I first wrote the phrases I wanted to use as free verse poetry, then I strung them together.

You can tell exactly what I did by reverse engineering the text.

From the sample paragraph, select the best one to five word segments and put them under the paragraph with a dash. Do this four times, the average length of a poetry stanza.

Finally, an appearing chair barstool for stage work. If you are looking for a signature stage trick start with the appearing barstool chair by Jonas Powers to open your show, or to close your show.

– appearing chair barstool

– for stage work

– signature stage trick

– appearing barstool chair by Jonas

The dashes represent bullet points (major selling points in a product description formatted as a list). The phrases above are what the writer is actually saying in the original paragraph. Pretty bland, huh? The whole paragraph is really just the title over and over again.

Lets try the same technique with my re-write:

Flat box, instant barstool! Open your show with the self-working production of a full-size barstool, or sit back and relax for a funny finale. It’s the durable, portable, audience-floorable Chair Box by Jonas Powers!

– Flat box, instant barstool!

– self-working production full-size barstool

– relax for a funny finale

– portable Chair Box by Powers!

With some punctuation, these bullet points could actually be used in ad copy. Here’s the tweak:

  • Flat box, instant barstool!
  • Sit back and relax! Funny finale!
  • Self-working! Full-size barstool!
  • Chair Box: The Portable Powers!

All I did to make one paragraph better than the other, was to say something worth writing about. My version may sound hyped-up—it may have flare that wasn’t there in the first paragraph—but I didn’t lie. Good magic deserves a product description that does it justice. It’s okay to be excited, as long as you’re honest. It’s a technique known as poetic license.

Shattered Hearts Blows Minds

Shattered HeartsThose of you who read my article, Card Tricks Make a Comeback, know that I really like card magic. I get excited whenever a new card trick comes along. Seeing the trick for the first time is part of the appeal, especially when it fools me or surprises me–catches me off guard.

In the late ’90’s, my friend Chris Brent created a trick called Shattered Hearts. It fits the description above perfectly. We were hanging out at a magic convention in Dallas, Texas and he says, “Do you want to see a new card trick I’ve been working on?”

Of course, I was intrigued. Chris is super-talented. But I really didn’t expect much when he started off with the standard, “Pick a card.” I did as he asked. I returned the card to the deck and he lost it in the pack. It seemed so simple. Even up to the moment when he revealed my card and asked, “Is this your card.”

“Nope,” I said with a wink and a smile.

What came next was totally unexpected. I have seen my share of pick a card tricks, but this, this was special. “Hold your hands out like a cup,” Chris said. And then he snaps the card and hearts flutter down from the face like snowflakes on a bloody-cold winter’s day. Six hearts to be exact. “Was your card the Six of Hearts?” he asked.

“Yes! Yes, it was,” I said.

I was so impressed. The trick was amazing and I had to have it for myself. Chris and I chatted a bit, and as we turned to go back into the dealer’s room, the one and only Phil Goldstein–Max Mavin–was standing right in front of us. Chris had Max do the same pick a card bit, ending with that incredible “raining hearts” finish. In good Max fashion, stroking his chin, he says, “interesting!”

Max liked the trick just as I had. Magic City inked a deal with Chris that night. Today, every magic shop across the globe has the opportunity to carry Shattered Hearts, a signature trick by my friend, the talented Chris Brent.

Want to get in on the action, too? Amaze your customers and ink a sale every time you demo this killer trick. Buy twelve Shattered Hearts, GET TWO FREE! I’ll call it my “Jobber’s Dozen.” Add a dozen to your cart on Wholesale Magic and the site will automatically give you two Shattered Hearts 100% FREE!

Order today and put “double order” in the comments box and I will send you four Shattered Hearts FREE!

Cornering the Market on Best Sellers

800px-Money_Cash

Instead of gambling your investment on a new product that hasn’t proven it’s worth, take an item that was a best seller and re-release it. Image by 2bgr8

Competition for new items with best seller potential is so fierce that it can be near impossible for small shops to compete. Size isn’t the only factor, even the largest retail entities cannot capture the exclusive every time, which is why they often re-release an old item. If done properly, you can corner the market and take a huge volume of sales.

Hindsight is 20/20. Instead of gambling your investment on a new product that hasn’t proven it’s worth, take an item that was a best seller—it can be two years old or absolute vintage—and announce it like a new product. If your competitors have this item on their website, but do not genuinely stock it, then they may be coming to you to buy it.

Here is a quick guide on how to corner the market and make your product re-release campaign a huge success:

NEVER…

  • Change the Title: You don’t want people who already have the item to buy it twice or for people to accuse you of ripping off the original
  • Call it New: If it is an old product, don’t advertise it using the word “new.” It isn’t necessary or productive.
  • Remove the Creator’s Name: Give credit where credit is due, it’s the magician’s code.
  • Re-Release a Crappy Product: Once was enough for that item. If it isn’t good, it shouldn’t have been out there in the first place, let alone re-released with your effort and market force behind it.
  • Wait to the Last Minute to Promote: Start the build up in advance. As soon as you have an item make a vague announcement on Twitter and then keep it going.
  • Use this Technique Only Once: Find what works, and replicate your success throughout the year. Corner the market on twelve products, and you’re now a pretty tough competitor.

ALWAYS…

  • Do Your Research: Record items you are being asked about that are no longer available, and stock them. Track the popular searches on your own website. Talk to a jobber about items that used to be popular and are available in quantity.
  • Re-Write the Product Description: Refreshing the ad copy is an excellent way to breathe new life into a magic product. Add information that makes it current and ties it to today.
  • Spruce up the Picture(s): Especially on vintage product. Give the sales graphic a new coat of paint—or redesign it completely—to fit the current trends. Grunge was the thing, but might be over the top today. Many young magicians are growing out of their entry-point shops and moving on to pro outfits.
  • Shoot a Demo Video: Include some sort of video in the description, even if it is just you talking about and pitching the item—show the item on screen in your hands. People like to see something—the trick if possible, the packaging if nothing else.
  • Include Bonus Item(s): If you cannot get a bulk price, offer a bonus item or kit to go with it and raise the price. If it is a DVD, include the props your customers need to get the most use out of the product.
  • Offer an Introductory Price: When you announce the product, give a discount for customers who buy it within the first three days.
  • Contact the Creator: Ask the creator of the trick to mention your renewed interest on their social media or to their list. Maybe interview them and post an article you can both promote—a magic magazine might publish it too. If the trick does well, offer to buy the rights to the item.
  • Buy Them All: Call your vendors. If one outfit has a dozen units, another has three dozen, and so on, buy them all. Make sure nobody else has them in stock. When you talk to the creator, buy their stock too, or ask them to give you a ninety-day exclusive. If there is no demand on the items anymore, an exclusive is pretty easy to get from independents.
  • Buy at a Bulk Price: When you are buying up all these units, get a good price. Buying is half the battle. Negotiations are easy with jobbers. Just ask for the best price. That first number they give you is probably it. Remember, they work on the smallest margins in the industry.
  • Offer Wholesale: Once you have everything ready to go, consider putting a paragraph at the bottom of your product description offering wholesale pricing on 3-6 unit minimums. Your competitors may need to pick up a few of your exclusive.
  • Promote EVERYWHERE! Announce your new product on all of your social media, blast your email list, call people, send personal emails, and even contact customers who have placed orders but didn’t buy that one item. Post on forums. Build demand!

Click HERE to get started!

The Best Camera on the PLANET for Magicians!

IphonecamIn the summer of 2011, I wrote the following article. All the information is just as relevant as it was back then. I will update it as I go along the post and compare 2011 to today, winter 2014.

I have always said, the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it – the one you carry with you every day. For most of us, that is our camera phone or smart phone.

Flickr Chart

iPhone 4 is the number one camera on Flickr in summer 2011

And at least one major online photo-sharing website agrees with me. According to Flicker, the number one used camera is the iPhone 4. Today the new winner is no surprise the iPhone 5. I think the iPhone 5S would be supreme, but with the 5C release and the smaller upgrade on the 5S, it has not taken over the top spot. I think the next release of iPhone will hit the number one spot quickly from all the iPhone 5 upgrades. Here is their complete list of the most used cameras http://www.flickr.com/cameras/

iPhone 5 Tops the List

While a modern smartphone’s 5-megapixel image resolution isn’t the best on the market, it is a remarkable improvement over camera phones released just a few years ago. Since the iPhone is the number one selling phone on the market today, the vast majority of the population who carries a phone also has a damn-good camera in their pocket.

Up until recently, I owned one of those big handheld monster camcorders and a digital point and shoot. When my camcorder broke, I thought to myself – my wife and I both have iPhones and my son has a Flip camera – do we really need to replace the old bulky single-purpose camcorder?

Soon after, my point and shoot digital still camera died. It was a nice camera, but I had the same thought – why replace it when my iPhone’s camera does a good job and is always in my pocket?

As technology gets smaller and continues to combine features, it is only logical that a device like the iPhone 4 would be the number-one camera on Flickr. By this time next year, the iPhone 4 will probably fall from the number one spot; bumped by none other than the iPhone 5. (This Happened.)

So what does Flickr and iPhone have to do with magic? Well, go grab your smartphone and I will tell you…

iPhone Photo Trick: One of my favorite tricks is the iPhone Cracked Screen. Search for the term “iPhone cracked screen” in Google Images, and you should be able to find a photo that works on your phone. If you are on your iPhone, click the picture you want and save it to your camera roll. Here are a couple examples:CrackedScreen2

To perform Cracked Screen, take someone’s photo. Snap the shot and say, “well, I have heard the old joke that you broke my camera with your face, but you really did it!”

Call them over to see it, and as you show them the picture, click the little square at the bottom of the photo screen (on the iPhone), it will take you to your camera roll and display the last picture – swipe past it to the cracked screen just in time to show your spectator. They broke your phone!cracked-screen

There is a trick in my “Magic with the iPhone II DVD,” where you can do some amazing photo magic – including a version of Cracked Screen that shows the actual photo of the spectator, cracked!

Smartphones create an ideal atmosphere for organic, impromptu magic. Similar to how our opportunity to capture precious moments on video and in photos has increased with the convenience of a camera in every pocket, so has the opportunity to perform extraordinary magic on the spot. All thanks to the best camera, the one you have with you!

Checkout all three volumes of my “Magic with the iPhone” DVDs, Magic City best sellers!

Check out: Magic With the iPhoneMagic With the iPhone

 

Infringement Accidental: Duplication isn’t Always Evil

 

"Stealing is never justified. Copyright infringement is illegal. But overlap must be recognized as part of the nature of the industry's structure." Image by WoodleyWonderWorks.

“Stealing is never justified. Copyright infringement is illegal. But overlap must be recognized as part of the nature of the industry’s structure.” Image by WoodleyWonderWorks.

The magic industry is a vast landscape, both deep and wide. Within “magic” are hundreds of categories, thousands of perspectives, and a plethora of places for a magic trick to hide.

There is a common misconception that “Niche Business” means a small market. Magic is a niche business, but it is not a small market. For instance, performers reach millions and millions of people, and though we may complain that selling magic tricks is a small market, that’s really only because we advertise to a small market. Certainly, the magic business is not small when you examine the sheer volume of magic tricks released every year.

A niche business is a business filled with niches. And magic is one of the nichiest. (roll with it folks!)

Within all of those niches are the perfect hiding places of accidental infringement—mistakenly publishing an idea, routine, gimmick, or complete trick already on the market. On average, if you take any two magic creators at random, both will tell you their sincere intention is to not rip anyone off or infringe on the intellectual property of others—rather, they desire to release only new, innovate products. Yet, unintentional duplication occurs repeatedly. Those same creators might even inform you they have looked through both sides of the mirror.

There are many reasons for accidental infringement, but I would like to focus on the situation from a jobber level. Certain magic creators and manufacturers have their preferred distributors and stores—just like how customers prefer Walmart to Target and vice versa.

If you distribute through only one or two jobbers—even if sales are very, very good—there may still be a large segment of the magic community unaware of you or your product line, opening the door for accidental infringement.

When a creator is accustomed to working with one jobber, they may only be familiar with products released by that one jobber. In another circle, there may be the exact same trick with different packaging, title, and routine, and neither party will notice. Sometimes consumers don’t even notice, especially when that consumer buys from their preferred retail magic shop, who in turn buys from their preferred jobber. Multiply that by countries with their own supply chains and languages, and you have an environment ripe with hiding places.

So why don’t these creators spend more time, effort, and money checking the market for duplicates before releasing their work?

Lets go back to the beginning—magic is a vast landscape. It is very difficult, near impossible in the magic business to check every niche, every exclusive circle [with absolute 100% accuracy] to see if an idea is a duplicate. However, it is the creator’s responsibility to make an extensive effort researching the market—and most do—via web search, talking with other creators, buying products, reading like crazy (magazines, books, blogs), watching videos ad nauseam, monitoring message boards, Facebook, and Twitter, and discussing the idea with their jobbers who then, in turn, ask questions behind the scenes.

But just because there were no visible duplicates on the market at the beginning of the process, doesn’t mean one won’t crop up during the research and development and production phases, which can take months or years to complete. By then, it is difficult for a creator to take a product off the market—or stop its release—even with a heavy demand to do so by the magic community.

This article isn’t to say that infringement is okay and we should release with abandon. On the contrary, we need to keep the published record as clean as possible—it is our duty as magicians. Stealing is never justified. Copyright infringement is illegal. But overlap must be recognized as part of the nature of the industry’s structure. It’s important that magicians identify the difference between a rip off and accidental infringement, if for no other reason than the reputation of those involved, which is an essential part of the published record in its own right.

Talk Back Question: have you ever thought you invented a new magic trick, gimmick, or move only to find it already on the market?

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