I’ve struggled on my latest client project…
It’s actually a little behind where I wanted it to be at this point — I initially planned to complete it a couple weeks ago. But I was missing the mark by just a couple degrees, and so I’ve had multiple rounds of rewrites, basically from the headline down.
This can be frustrating.
When you have a promo that will likely end up somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 words long, and you keep having to go back to the beginning, it sucks the momentum right out of you.
If you’re a copywriter or simply write anything, you know what I’m talking about.
Now, I’m going to find some wood to knock on here. Okay, done. But I think I hit a breakthrough. And I expect my next full draft to be complete within about 24 hours. And I have a strong feeling this is going to get not only the client (an A-list copywriter himself) riled up with excitement, I think it’s going to be their next breakthrough acquisition control.
I had to find the missing link!
You see, I came about as close to “writer’s block” as I ever do. I don’t necessarily believe in writer’s block — I don’t think it’s a very useful belief to hold onto. However, if there is such a thing, I had at least a mild case of it.
I knew I had the right story element to really get the emotional hook behind the product. I’d interviewed the expert being featured in this promo, and uncovered a “reason why” for him getting into investing that no copywriter had ever written about before. And it’s the kind of emotional hook that instantly turns him into a good guy, and makes him way more believable.
And my previous drafts had all been built around telling that story in an interesting, compelling way.
But they were all missing that je ne sais quoi of an investment newsletter control.
No matter how I told that story, it kept coming back from the client with way too much red ink and comments that — while delivered very nicely — gave the sense he was totally uninspired.
So I rewrote, and rewrote, and rewrote.
(This is part of why I believe there’s no such thing as writer’s block — because if you just start hitting keys, you’re going to write SOMETHING.)
I went back to my notes. I took more notes. I wrote based on that. I opened another document, and wrote some more.
Then, in a fit of frustration — I gave up!
I simply quit writing.
I knew I had 95% of the raw material. And because this was a unique story, I’d pretty much stopped research and instead was trying to rely on my imagination and storytelling ability to connect the dots on the missing 5%.
But it wasn’t working.
So I turned to Google. And started reading everything I could on this investing expert, who I’d already spoken with and am writing about.
I looked at dozens of articles he’d written. I read forums where people were talking about him and his work. I scanned and browsed and browsed and scanned.
Then, I found his Twitter feed.
Now, normally I hate infinite scroll. I find myself intentionally spending less time on sites that use infinite scroll, because I know what a time suck it can be. (In fact, when Google News began experimenting with it recently, I started second-guessing my favorite place to check the headlines.)
But in this case, it was exactly what I needed.
This guy uses Twitter — a lot! As of right now, he has 12 tweets or retweets in the last 24 hours. So I started scrolling. And the more I scrolled, the more of his tweets it loaded.
I knew most of what he shared would be completely off-topic. But because I was telling this guy’s story, I knew even just one of his tweets could fill in that last 5% for me.
It took me about three-months-worth of tweets. I found a single retweet of an investing study that completely blew me away.
It was everything this guy was saying, repeated in academic research. The perfect proof point to hang the human interest story on.
The right bit of research lit a fire under me!
I started over at the very beginning. Again.
Not that I couldn’t use anything else I wrote — in fact, I have reused a lot as I’ve worked through it. But I know the final narrative will be much more powerful if I don’t simply try to stick it on top, but rather start at the beginning again and bring in pieces as they become relevant.
The great thing is that this single piece of research formed the perfect “golden thread” to string together everything else. From the track record to the human interest story, all the way forward to the offer.
And so I started there, and have worked down through the sales narrative, pulling in all the additional pieces easily and without too much struggle to make it all work.
The funny thing is, right before I found this research, I was certain I was going to go with one outline I’ve used very successfully in the past — the Makepeace outline I got from Clayton back in 2009, and that I’ve used to write multiple $1-million-plus winners.
But then everything formed perfectly around another formula I’ve used more often for recent winners, the Problem-Agitate-Invalidate-Solve-Ask formula, or PAISA for short.
With the right piece of research, it was crystal-clear what needed to be said, in what order, for maximum impact.
Plus, it put the right combination of benefits and curiosity into the headline, all by itself — without resorting to tired headline formulas or gimmicky tricks that are hard to pull of in sophisticated markets like financial publishing.
This underscores the value of doing your research…
I’ve often said that the biggest barrier to producing great copy quickly is simply not knowing what you’re going to say.
For example, my daily issues of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets are often churned out in under an hour — I’m 29 minutes and 42 seconds into this one. But that’s because I know exactly what I’m writing about, and I’m usually writing from personal experience.
Client copy usually comes much slower, because I’m working based on a lot more research, and drawing far less from personal experience.
But the more I’ve done that research, and the more I’ve internalized all the important points, the faster and better I write.
That’s the important point: All the research you do allows you to avoid the difficult (and often sales-killing) hack of trying to come up with something interesting to say. Rather, if you find the right proof point, your entire sales message can hinge on that — and it will be far more compelling, convincing, and believable.
And, it will make you more sales.
So, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, my question to you is:
What one piece of research could you uncover that would unlock the floodgates of productivity, allowing you to write more, better, faster, and with less effort?
When you find it, you’ll know…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,