Do you outline your copy before you write?
In the fiction world, there’s “pantsers” and “plotters.”
Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants… Hence the name.
Plotters lay out the plot ahead of time, and write with that as a general guideline.
Both approaches can lead to a good final story, but let me tell you a little secret about plotters. Most pantsers think of them as boring and uncreative. And yet, if you force yourself into becoming a plotter, you’ll write better, and you’ll write faster.
Not only that, if you become a plotter copywriter, you will sell more, faster.
The other day I was reviewing a piece of copy, and saw it suffering from “pantser’s peril.”
And this is something my copy used to suffer from, so I felt this copywriter’s pain.
By layman’s standards, this person was a pretty good writer. They had no problem stringing together words and sentences and paragraphs.
They captured a handful of good ideas, and presented them well.
But there was a huge problem…
It felt disjointed. One idea tumbled into another without thought of where the overall narrative was going.
It was clear this copywriter had dug up a bunch of ideas that may have been worth putting into the promo. But there was no clear filtering mechanism. There was no clear overarching narrative the different points fed into and supported.
There was no logic chain behind the presentation.
They were flying by the seat of their pants to simply shove all these points into the copy.
This is probably the biggest difference between pro copy and rookie copy.
Rookies focus on minutiae. Headlines. Bullets. Writing the lead. Making promises. How to write a guarantee. Using proper grammar in their copy. Finding things to say.
And this stuff is important when you’re just getting started.
But for folks who become the true pros of direct response copy, at some point there’s a huge transformation that occurs.
For most, I think it happens about 5 or 10 years into their copywriting journey. At least the folks dedicated to constant improvement.
All those nitpicky little details that might have mattered in the beginning start to fall away.
Reading Aristotle’s Rhetoric becomes more important than reading another book on copywriting or marketing.
Understanding a story arc becomes far more critical than figuring out a headline.
Deciding how — using John Carlton’s language — you’re going to grease the chute straight to the sale becomes paramount.
And so I provided this copywriter with the most important piece of feedback they’ve probably ever received…
There wasn’t a word of copy in this feedback. But if they apply it, it will completely transform the copy itself.
I created a 7-part logic chain — an outline, if you will — that walked the copywriter through, “say this, then this, then that…”
I can’t give away specifics, but here’s the outline I gave them, translated into generalities…
- Introduce the big story that includes a problem for the reader…
- Show the reader a generic solution for the problem, while emphasizing that the generic solution won’t quite work…
- Present a pile of proof and credibility behind the spokesperson as someone who can provide a specific solution…
- Offer an immediate solution as one component of the product or service being offered (in this case, a special report)…
- Flesh out the total ongoing solution as the product itself (in this case, a monthly newsletter)…
- Make your offer…
- Make your offer even better with bonuses and additional components…
I realize this may have been more instructive if I could show you the copy and the specific outline I offered to give it structure — unfortunately I’m not at liberty to share that.
However, this generalized outline could be used on almost any product or service, right away, to write a compelling sales presentation.
Here’s what I wrote with the outline…
“This outlining is boring, but it can turn so-so copy into GREAT copy. Because GREAT copy isn’t about writing, it’s about thinking.”
All the best copywriters I’ve known and had a chance to work with think about this.
Those who supervise writers often write these outlines for the writers under them — knowing that pro outline with a rookie writer is going to get you 90% of the way there.
The other day, someone asked me why specifically they should come to my copywriting workshop versus any and every other option available to learn copywriting.
This is really it.
Day one we’re going to spend most of our time about all the thinking that goes into great copy… Including finding the story or “big idea” to build your copy around.
Day two we’re going to go through the actual process of writing copy… Including a bunch of different outlines you can use as starters for different types of copy projects.
Day three we’re going to get into what to do with the copy once you’ve written it, to ensure maximum success… As well as some of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned on how to build your copywriting business, fast.
I’ve seen some of this content taught in fits and starts — but never as clearly and completely put together as you’re going to get at my workshop.
It will be a small group (as it was intended to be to support the hands-on “workshop” format). But I’m certain the copywriters in attendance will look back it 1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now as a pivotal moment in their copywriting careers.
I think on October 13th I’m going to shut it down completely. No more registrations after that.
If you want one of the remaining spots, don’t wait.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets