You can still grab one spot to my 4-Person Copywriters Intensive at the end of June — a 2-day workshop where we work directly on YOUR copy…
Plus I’ve added 60 days of ongoing access to me, through a secret Facebook group for attendees. This is the ONLY coaching I’ve offered for copywriters since 2015, despite frequent requests.
I recently did a copy review for one of the copywriters I’d consider among the top 10 working today…
(By the way, I’m never more specific than “top 10” because there’s always some context. But this guy’s writing is consistently compelling in a way that’s seldom matched.)
He was working on a new major launch, and wanted to get the copy nailed down, fast.
So he sent it to me about 80% of the way through the first draft, and we hopped on the phone to discuss.
The words and even big sections of the copy were compelling as heck.
He’s a great storyteller. And a great marketer. He’s a great writer. And a great salesperson.
There was one MAJOR flaw with his copy — one I’ve seen over and over again, that’s especially common with earlier-career copywriters…
While the words were good…
And the ideas were good…
And the offer was good…
The organization was a MESS!
There were parts out of place entirely. Very early on, there was a section breaking down the deliverables of the offer, long before I was ever convinced I needed it.
There were items buried halfway through that needed to be highlighted in the lead.
There were places where it was just flat-out confusing who he was speaking to, because he had the tough task of having to make this offer appeal to two closely-related but decidedly-different audiences.
I’ve seen this over and over again.
Really good writers with a really compelling offer and message — shooting themselves in the foot and likely under-performing by magnitudes, because they’re too close to the copy to spot all the disorganization.
And it’s often worse with newer-career copywriters who’ve studied headlines and leads but haven’t really studied the deep structure of highly-effective direct response copy.
Yet I did a survey a while back of some copywriters I know, and it was UNANIMOUS.
Structure beats style every time…
Here’s a tip I picked up.
Think about the sequence of things your prospect has to believe to be true before they will respond to your offer.
So let’s say I’m writing an investment promo about a brand new virtual widget industry. What does my prospect have to believe to respond?
… The prospect has to believe this virtual widget industry is going to have explosive growth.
… They have to believe it’s investable by them, for bigger and surer profits than other investment options they have now.
… They have to believe I know which investments are the best opportunities.
… They have to believe I will deliver on those opportunities.
… And they probably have to have a mix of beliefs about me and my offer and my company (in line with knowing, liking, and trusting me) that makes them comfortable enough to purchase.
That’s called a “sequence of beliefs” and if you get that right — and deliver on it — then you’re 98% of the way to a winner.
Start to mix it up though, or skip the part where you lay it out beforehand, and you may have a dud just because you flipped two important sections and lost ‘em before you had a chance to close ‘em.
As I was thinking about this, I remembered an article I’d written near the end of 2106, and so I’ll share that then wrap up…
Pantsers vs. Plotters and the secret of powerful writing
This morning I was on the phone with an A-list copywriter whose name you’d recognize…
We were talking about the next project we’re working on together, for his company.
And specifically planning out the campaign and copy angle we’re going to use for an upcoming promotion.
We talked through a few ideas.
And by the end of the call, we had a clear next step: I was going to come up with an outline of what the copy needs to be, and a series of questions that need to be answered to fill in the blanks for the narrative arc.
For me, that has become standard operating procedure. I pretty much always outline any long copy before I write it.
But for others who fancy themselves as being more “creative,” I think this is a foreign concept. So I want to speak to it directly.
Pantsers vs. Plotters…
When you ask writers about their writing process, they tend to fall into one of two camps…
— Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants.” They may have an idea of where they want the story to go, but they don’t take notes or develop an outline beforehand. They just sit down and start writing.
— Plotters “plot it out.” They sit down and plan out what the plot or narrative arc of their writing is going to be. Some go into great detail. Others create the skeleton and wait until they’re in the thick of things before they fill in the details. Either way, they know where they’re headed, and how they plan to get there.
Is there a right way and a wrong way?
I don’t think so. I think a really good writer can be a Pantser, and churn out really compelling prose. Especially with editing.
But I do think it’s easier to write really compelling prose and copy if you’re a Plotter.
Great copy and other persuasive prose walks people through a series of points that together lead to an inescapable conclusion. There are a series of little sales that need to be made to make the ultimate sale. Being planful and intentional about these steps, these micro-sales, simply helps you hit all these points.
Not only that, having a plan often leads to writing much, much faster. With a plan in hand, you can simply go from one point to the next, knowing exactly what your next stop is and what needs to happen between now and then to get there.
The approach I see in most A-list copywriters…
It shouldn’t surprise you then that nearly every A-list copywriter I’ve spoken with about this uses outlines. They’re Plotters. They decide what they’re going to say, and the points they need to make, before they really dive into the writing.
Most tend to feel that there’s too much at stake to leave profitable copy up to pure “creativity.”
Sure, there’s a ton of creativity that still goes into the process. Finding and putting together the idea is creative. Mapping out the narrative is still a creative process. The way you actually express ideas, and the specific copy you write is creative.
But when it comes time to sit down and develop the chain of logic that leads to the prospect making a buying decision, it makes sense to really ensure you’ve got that mapped out.
I’ll tell you this — a personal secret…
Most of my biggest winners, early on, weren’t even based on my own outlines. They were based on this outline from Clayton Makepeace.
I just found a way to map the narrative I was telling and the product I was selling onto what Clayton had already laid out.
I still got credit for the wins. I still got the royalty checks. But my copy was stronger based on the outline Clayton had laid out.
I know a handful of top copywriters today who all got their start in the same way — by following that exact same copy outline.
If you put a gun to my head, here’s what I’d do…
John Carlton is famous for his “gun to the head” exercise (and Halbert before him)…
Imagine that someone is standing there over you while you’re writing this ad, with a gun to your head. If you don’t write a winner, they’re going to pull that trigger.
Given this situation, you’re only going to use what you have the highest confidence is going to lead to a winner — because your life depends on it!
If I’m in that situation, I’m NOT going to sit down and start writing. I’m going to start off by sitting down to outline exactly what I’m going to say, in what order, to have the biggest sales impact.
It’s only once I’ve developed a really clear, compelling outline of exactly what I’m going to say that I’d then go back and start writing the actual copy.
By knowing exactly what I need to say to make the compelling sales argument, I’m ahead of the game on creating a winner before I really start writing copy.
So, what are you going to do?
Your life may not be on the line with your next campaign, ad, or promotion. But your money is. Either actual investment in advertising, if you’re writing for yourself. Or your reputation and your royalty checks, if you write for clients.
Think carefully about what you’re going to do, and what’s most likely to create that winner.
That article is as solid today as the day it was written…
And it’s clear this is a point I need to continue to beat up, simply because even the best copywriters can miss on it from time to time.
And in fact, since this article I’ve put out multiple trainings to help you get the deep structure and outline of your copy right.
Especially High-Velocity Copywriting and its companion Templates program (including a bonus webinar recording where I actually break down how I used the Makepeace outline). As well as the recent Control-Beating Project Pre-Flight Plan.
And yet, THE BEST WAY to make sure you’re figuring out the deep structure of your copy, and nailing it down, is to get one-on-one feedback from someone who really understands it.
Time is running out to apply and join me in person to work on your copy. My Copywriters Intensive is now just under a month away.
You do, however, still have an opportunity to grab one spot, before it’s too late.
I’ve really gone over-the-top in putting together the package. But I’m looking for YOU to be a success story, and perhaps even to introduce you to some clients who could make up your cost of attending many times over, with just one project.
If you’re ready to ramp up your copywriting ability fast, I can think of no better way.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,