Hey! It’s Monday again. I guess that means it’s time to answer your questions!
Remember, if you want YOUR question answered here in Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, all ya gotta do is drop me a line at [email protected]. I’ll add you to the queue and answer your question here.
Today’s question comes from Jackie, and is an add-on to my post a couple weeks back about The Power of One, and basing your copy around ONE Big Idea…
Jackie, take it away!
A thought… Might lead you to consider writing a Part II of the Power of One essay — Beginners (and some not-so-beginners) might have trouble distinguishing what are the supporting thoughts — the sort of idea-lettes that hold up the BIG IDEA… And other things that should be developed to be their own BI and go into their own promo… Or just get off the page because they’re cluttering up the BI like sugar in the gas line…
In other words, it can be tricky to distinguish between the relevant to your BIGGIE, and the not-quite-relevant to your BIGGIE. I believe that might be the real beginner mistake — the need to develop judgment for what you need to hold up your BI — and what you don’t need. Probably a skill that needs to be honed… Deliberately honed…
Jackie, you’ve definitely asked a tough one. But you may have also answered it, too.
Once you’re familiar with the Big Idea concept — once you know it inside and out — your journey has just begun.
While you studied copy before for techniques and tactics… Little things like headline formulas, bullet writing, guarantee structure, opening lines, and so on, and so on… Now you have a brand new course of study ahead of you.
This is the Masters or even Ph.D. program in the real world school of direct response copywriting.
Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s an easy out. I don’t think there’s anything I can tell you that will make this automatic.
But I will try to provide some insights into how you might be able to ensure your copy is focused around that one big idea.
First, develop your “impartial eye” internal editor…
When you write something, you’re emotionally attached to it. Every word. Whether you want to admit it or not.
That’s dangerous for copy. Because you can insist on leaving things in that need to be removed.
As you mature as a writer or copywriter, one of the best things you can do is learn to read your copy from the perspective of someone who’d just as happily cut the copy as leave it intact. Someone with an impartial eye.
Have you ever written something and come back weeks, months, or years later and read it, and thought, “I can’t believe I wrote that!?” It’s because time has given you space from your emotions around what you wrote — and so you’ve developed an impartial eye.
One of the best ways to tap into this — for novices and professionals alike — is by intentionally giving your copy time and space.
Stop working on the copy for a couple days, and come back to it. Preferably, work on something completely different for a while.
Then when you come back, you’ll have perspective and more of an impartial eye.
This is why it’s often said that “great writing is a result of great editing.”
And if you do this enough, you’ll find the impartial eye working its influence into your active editing as well.
You can also…
Get feedback from others…
When you’re working with clients, often times there will be a review process involving other writers, your copy chief, or other members of the team.
When you’re just getting started out, there can be some value to leaning on this team. Especially when you know how to parse out their comments. (This sparked the idea for an article on Why Copywriting Peer Reviews Suck — you’re definitely going to want to read tomorrow’s issue.)
A lot of reviewers can give a lot of different kinds of feedback, but relevant to this discussion is the, “I got lost,” “This seemed to go off track,” “This is confusing,” and similar feedback.
What you’re looking for is more than one reviewer to have marked a specific area of your copy as being a diversion from your main story.
When you have a consensus suggesting something isn’t relevant to the main point, you’ve probably found something to cut.
Also, you should…
Some people are great at finding interesting stories to tell in their copy, but once the core story is presented, they’re not quite sure what other dots must be connected to close the sale.
Others are great at organizing their narrative, but the entire emotional appeal that makes great copy work just isn’t there, and so the copy falls flat.
For the purposes of this lesson, I’m just going to underscore the need for organizing your narrative.
In general, I think you should do this BEFORE you write most of your copy. You need to know what you’re going to say, so that when you say it, you can be clear about it.
But it’s also useful AFTER you’ve written the copy, to do a reverse-outline. Like coming up with the CliffsNotes version of your copy. Look at what you’re trying to say in each section, and outline your copy. Does that outline still make sense, now that you’ve written it all? If not, see what you need to move or remove on the outline for it to make sense. Then, apply those changes to your copy.
You can also…
Use the Stronger-Weaker-Neutral filter…
I learned this from Parris Lampropoulos. Once he’s written a piece of copy, he goes through line-by-line and asks, “Does this make my point stronger, weaker, or is it neutral?”
It helps to really define, before you do this, what the core point of your promotion is. But once you know this, it’s a good way to really tease out how important each line of the copy is.
If it makes your point stronger, you leave it in — and edit it to strengthen it even more, if you see a way.
If it makes your point weaker (including simply distracting from it), kill it — it’s not going to help you close the deal.
If it is neutral to the point you’re trying to make, either find a way to make it strengthen your point or simply axe it.
Two big final thoughts about how to make sure your copy is focused on that one BIG Big Idea…
The first thing I recommend has really been behind so many of these points. Get good at editing your own copy.
This only comes through time and experience. But it’s an absolute necessity, if you want to become a really adept copywriter.
This will come through getting to know good copy. Through writing a bunch of copy yourself. And by looking at your copy and others’ and trying to identify ways to make it better.
The second is to write a lot. I find the best writers I know write a lot, and most write fast.
Work your writing muscle. It will lead you to thinking about how you can do it better.
But that only happens if you’re doing it!
So write, write, then write some more.
If you write a lot, focusing on getting your presentation of the Big Idea right, you will get better at it — I promise!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets