The Richebächer Letter, published by Agora Financial, uses one of the more bare-knuckled attempts at turning fear into threat that we’ve seen to date. The copy on their sales letter landing page effectively takes the threat of losing one’s money and turns it into print subscription sales.
They abandon the standard feature-oriented headline and aim straight for the scare tactic—a method perhaps not favored by some but undoubtedly successful. They know their audience and they target them.
– The “sky is falling” approach is not one we would normally recommend, but it works here
– Despite the weird headline and subheads, the story is informative and entertaining
– Giving the testimonials more prominence, and more credibility, would undoubtedly increase their conversion rates
– One would think that a landing page for a newsletter predicting the speedily approaching collapse of the world’s financial structure would be filled with a feeling of urgency, but it’s not
– Confusing language regarding the subscription price should be addressed
The Power of Like-Minded Individuals
Few threats are more motivating than the fear of losing one’s money. The Richebächer Letter’s landing page sales letter is one of the more bare-knuckled attempts I’ve seen to turn that threat into subscription sales.
The letter copy is full of references to wrongdoing and stupidity on the part of the federal government and world financial markets. You’ll also find a trace or two of xenophobia and heavy-handed predictions that Western civilization is about to take a ten-count… all followed up with a heavy dose of “listen to me and be saved.” It’s some pretty scary stuff…and to be perfectly frank some of the copy makes a pretty compelling case.
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But of course, we’re not here to argue politics or economics; we’re here to see how effective the landing page pitch is for Mr. Richebächer’s newsletter. So, let’s whip out our Mequoda Scorecard and let the chips fall where they may.
TheRichebächerLetter.com’s Landing Page Scorecard
1. Headline (Strategic Intent) – A
The whole point of the Richebächer newsletter is to help investors avoid disaster, and even prosper in worldwide financial collapse the author sees on the horizon—yet there’s nary a mention of that concept in the headline. A couple paragraphs into the copy we find:
“But YOU don’t have to be blindsided when it all comes crashing down….”
Normally, I’d have to say that such a headline fails the benefits and features approach favored by the Mequoda Scorecard system and just about any other yardstick for good copywriting. But we have to look at their audience. They are marketing to readers of The Daily Reckoning, their extremely successful newsletter for people who don’t trust governments to handle money issues and other important things. The “Henny Penny—the sky is falling” approach is exactly the right nerve to stimulate with this audience of like-minded individuals. I hasten to add that this approach would almost certainly fail without the presence of the unique audience that the company has identified and studied.
2. Story and Content – A
Despite the weird headline and subheads (“The World’s Greatest Living Economist Says…”), there is a lot of story to this letter. Richebächer’s personal story, how he rose from pre-war Germany to become an economics guru, is very credible and interesting. Given the state of world politics, however, I probably wouldn’t have focused quite so much on the fact that he was in the German army. I also don’t think I would have featured his age. Revealing his age as 87 and calling him “the last of a dying breed” probably isn’t the best way to promote the two-year subscription offer.
3. Content Webification – B
This really is just a plain old direct mail letter—and a very long one—transcribed to a website. Initially, I thought that some hyperlinks would be good. I also wanted to see some way to move around the site other than by using the scroll bar. I like the long copy and the storytelling, but my general impression was that this information could have easily been delivered in a #10 envelope decades before the Internet came on the scene. After a little further investigation, during which the company’s truly staggering revenues were revealed to me, I decided that this, too, is a matter of knowing one’s audience. I like to see the tools of the Internet put to work in a landing page… the more the better. But then I’m not in the demographic slice of humanity for whom this page was designed. So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Given the company’s success in dealing with this highly emotional audience, do we really need to add bells and whistles?
4. Email Capture – F
Even though the newsletter claims to want to help my fellow Americans and me avoid the ravages of the coming financial disasters, I still didn’t get a feeling that anybody was really in my corner. There was no offer of a free newsletter or alerts or special reports unless I signed up as a subscriber. Nothing on the site made me feel part of their community and there was no email capture
5. User Testimonials – C
The site contained a lot of testimonials, most of which were well written and right on the message. However, they should have been presented in a more compelling fashion. A few were worked into the copy as boxed items. Not many of them were part of the story. And, worst of all, they were the kind of testimonials signed by a first name and a last initial and a city and/or state name. This sort of thing screams “made up” to me. I’m sure that the esteemed Addison Wiggin, publisher of the Richebächer newsletter and the signer of the letter, wouldn’t fib to us about testimonials… but the testimonials certainly lack credibility because of those signatures.
6. Links to Order Flow – C
Despite my newfound respect for the company’s ability to market to their audience, I still say that they could use some improvement in their links. I only found one useful link… at the very bottom of the letter. Order links could have littered the site without harming the letter’s appeal… especially after incendiary statements and dire warnings of disasters to come.
7. Labeling and Language – B
The person who wrote the copy obviously knows the language and enjoys telling a story. However, I would have liked to see more sales-oriented copy higher in the letter. When it does show up, the sales language is strong and leaves no confusion regarding what the offer is all about.
8. Readability & Content Density – B
I didn’t have a problem with the typefaces. The letter—even with many faults—was easy to read and understand. There are plenty of well-presented points designed to reinforce the author’s arguments. A bit more call-to-action copy sprinkled throughout would have been an improvement.
9. Content Freshness & Urgency – C
One would think that a landing page for a newsletter predicting the speedily approaching collapse of the world’s financial structure would be filled with a feeling of urgency. And yet, it really wasn’t there… at least not in any way that would make ordering a hugely urgent matter. And the site offers nothing to imply freshness of content. It’s just basically a long letter somebody put up on the Internet and may, or may not, have looked at again.
10. Load Time – A
Loading time was well within the 15 seconds the Mequoda Scorecard recommends.
11. Aesthetics – C
Aesthetically, the site could be better. I would like to have seen a picture of Mr. Richebächer, for example. He is obviously an interesting character and it’s only natural to want to see what he looks like. Also, a photo of the spry 87-year-old guru would have gone a long way toward dispelling the nagging feeling that he is way too old to effectively pass along what he is purported to know.
12. Order Options – B
It would be reasonable to expect that the “World’s Greatest Living Economist” and his colleagues would get the money right. And they did, but in a sort of confusing fashion… as this quote from the site will demonstrate.
“…That’s why I’m offering you,” the order language says, “a one-time-only, risk-free two-year subscription rate of just $347 per year!”
At first blush, one could easily believe that the two-year subscription total is just $347 total, not the $694 total that it really costs you for two years.
Then, a few paragraphs later, comes this:
“If two years is too long a commitment for your comfort level, I’m also offering new subscribers like you this second option: One full year…for only $397.”
The actual order form clears it up and states the two-year rate of $694. I see no intent to defraud. This is a perfectly legitimate direct-mail marketing tactic; one I have used myself. Nevertheless, I would have liked a more straightforward approach. The value of the newsletter being offered on this site is in its plain talking and straight shooting. The order language sounds just a little too close to the kind of semi-sneaky tricks pulled by the book-cooking governments the newsletter decries.
If you are a member of the investing class who is casting a wary eye at what you feel are the inept machinations of the world’s governments and financial markets, you are going to love Mr. Richebächer’s observations and predictions.