This is my biggest weakness as a copywriter…

And no, it has nothing to do with kissing…  Or the rock band KISS.

Rather, it has to do with writing in a really simple way.

I like to think.

I like to think of myself as a thinker.

I like to be thoughtful.

I appreciate complexities, subtleties, and arguments that take multiple perspectives into account.

And so that’s where I naturally go, when I start to develop a marketing message.

I want to go complex.  I want to go sophisticated.  I want to give a well-reasoned argument that builds a rock-solid case for whatever it is that I’m presenting.

And yet…

When I do that, it turns into the biggest complaint about my copy.

I’m told to…

Keep It Simple, Stupid…

Hence, KISS.

Complexities don’t win any awards for copywriters.

They also don’t make sales.

When you make your prospects think too much, they pull away.

Thinking is hard.

It’s uncomfortable.

Many of us have to do it for work.  But when we’re done, we want to stop.

Even those of us who consider ourselves intellectuals get to stop thinking while maintaining that identity by watching smart movies, smart comedy, smart documentaries…

But the reality is, we are mostly just taking it in.  Not processing what we hear.

We may remember it later.  But we don’t think critically about it.

We’d rather turn off.

I think NOT THINKING is probably a survival mechanism…

At the risk of making you think too much, consider this…

If you’re a prehistoric human being wandering through the woods, you actually can’t afford the mental processing power to think all day long.

Our brains consume a TON of energy.  Hunting and gathering can’t supply all that energy.

And so as you wander through the woods, you slip into a relaxed awareness.

You’re not considering every sound and sight coming in through your senses.

Rather, most of the time you’re not consciously thinking of much.

You simply walk through the woods, taking everything in.

Preserving your processing power.

Until a strange sound or movement draws your attention.

Suddenly, your brain needs all that energy and processing power.  Suddenly you’re paying close attention and trying to figure out what this is.

You try to spend as little time thinking as possible, so that when you need the thought power, you have it in reserve.

So our natural state is to not think, to simply observe and take everything in.

So that when we need to think, we can turn it on and all the reserves we need are there.

(Likewise, if you’re constantly exercising, you’ll wear yourself out.  So good exercise is a mix of sprints and long rest periods in between.  That’s what we’re built for because that’s how we survived in the wild.)

You MUST acknowledge this reality as a marketer, copywriter, or salesperson…

Your prospects want to be shown a simple demonstration of what you have to offer.

Simple words.  Simple sentences.  Simple ideas.

In total, you may be offering something complex on the back end (such as a complex stock picking system).

But the more you simplify it in language and presentation, and the less thinking you expect them to do, the more effective you’ll be at persuasion.

Here’s some evidence:

I’ve cited this before and I’ll do so again.  Mark Ford, a partner in the Agora empire of publishing companies, analyzed readability scores on a bunch of financial newsletter writers’ editorial prose.  And he compared readability stats to subscription renewal rates.

He found that renewals dramatically increased when the editorial was written at a grade level of 7.5 or below.

There are doctors, lawyers, corporate executives, and academics that subscribe to these newsletters.  It’s not all Main Street Joes.  And even these people whose job is to think all day long are more likely to subscribe when the complexities of investing are presented in simple ways.

(And note: it’s NOT about investment performance!)

The simpler your messages, the more powerful they will be…

That’s what it comes down to.

If you struggle to explain your fundamental selling proposition in under 30 seconds, you’re probably trying to tell too complex of a story.

Even if the final copy clocks in at 10,000 words, you should still be able to tell the simplest version in a couple short sentences.

And it should be relatively linear.

I just spent the last few days editing a draft of a promo that originally went through points A, C, B, and D, then back to B and C, and back to A…

That’s not an outline, but you get my point.

Most of my edits involved cutting the message down to basically be an A, B, C and then you order outline.

The funny thing was, everything was pretty much there.

But because I hadn’t done the thinking required to simplify it, it forced too much thinking onto my prospect.

Had my client/copy chief let it go through, the response would likely have been much lower than it will be after I did all this simplification.

It was painful, yes.  But also 100% worth it.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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