I wrote this around the time High-Velocity Copywriting came out.
It now forms one of the foundations of how I think about copywriting.
I thought it would be worth sharing again.
Creativity is a massive risk…
Marketing is often seen as a “creative” field. But the reality is, creativity can be dangerous. At least, creativity for its own sake.
When creativity pays off, it usually pays off big. Really big. But there’s a survivorship bias in those stories. We highlight the one story of a big win from taking a creative risk, and ignore the 99 failures that came from an overemphasis on creativity.
The way to more consistent profits is repeating what has been proven to work.
Yes, you must apply the proven formulas — creatively — to your current situation. But starting from the proven formula gives you a massive advantage.
Take Hollywood blockbusters. In nearly every case today, a win in Hollywood follows some version of The Hero’s Journey.
Why? Because that’s what works. It’s what appeals to audiences. It’s what drives ticket sales. And streams and downloads.
Yes, film students hate them, because they feel so derivative.
But film students are a definite minority of the population, and the ticket-buying majority is what pays for the steady stream of entertainment coming out of Hollywood.
I’ll admit I’m struggling right now…
Without revealing too many details, I’m working on a new client project.
The product SHOULD be easy to sell.
The personal credibility of the creator is off-the-charts good.
Every idea behind the product is sound and rational.
But there’s a problem…
Pretty much everything about this product is what people NEED, but not what they WANT.
The thing is, in order to get them to buy what they need, I have to sell them what they want.
I have to go back to formulas. I have to go back to what proven appeals sell products like these.
I can’t just say, “This is a really good product, created by a really good person.”
That’s novice-level, B-minus copywriting at best. At BEST.
Thankfully, I do have a shortcut…
The 3 Big Ideas…
A big idea is the core message of a selling narrative that gets readers excited about what you’re saying, and then to buy your product.
Modern direct marketing — especially in the fields of health and wealth — is “big idea” marketing.
And I recently did an analysis of all the types of big ideas I could get my hands on, trying to break them down into categories that could be used as guiding principles in making the kind of decision I need to make on this project.
Thankfully, I stand on the shoulders of giants.
Others had identified one or two, independently. But by integrating what others’ had observed, I was able to develop a broader model that encompasses — as far as I can tell — every major big idea behind winning ads.
Here are the three big ideas…
Urgent Problem — Your prospect has an urgent problem, they need to have solved. Your product or service provides the solution. You simply present how your offer will solve their problem in a compelling way, and you’ve got the sale. This is probably the most common style of ad, and the simplest. But it’s also limited to people who have a problem already, so each winner is typically limited by market size.
10X Opportunity — Your prospect wants a certain result, and you can get them that result in a way that’s massively better, faster, cheaper, or easier than what they’re doing now. You have to prove the superiority of your product or service to close this sale. This tends to have bigger markets than the problem-based ad.
Imminent Prediction — This is the Holy Grail in investment markets, but can be used elsewhere too. Something is going to happen in the near future. This either creates a 10X opportunity (greed) or an urgent problem (fear). Either way, it demands a response, and you offer that response through your product. You must first prove your prediction then prove how your product or service is the ideal response. But because these are both the setup and payoff, ads based in prediction big ideas have huge markets.
I cover these in detail — with templates — in my High Velocity Copywriting and the companion High-Velocity Copywriting Templates program.
Using these formulas is limiting — but it can be liberating, too…
It feels frustrating when I can’t just look at a product, and say, “Here’s all the good reasons why you should want it.”
That’s what my friendly, rational mind wants to be able to do.
But a large part of getting good at anything is learning what doesn’t work. And I know that won’t work.
I know I have to try to fit this product and its promises into a box. I know I have to limit myself to a version of one of these ads.
And yet, I can find motivation in remembering that pretty much every Pixar story is The Hero’s Journey. And dang — I like Pixar stories. Same with Star Wars. And so on…
I know that when I took a poetry class in college, I discovered I was pretty good at poetry on an assignment that was massively constraining in how the poem had to be written…
And I know that the big ideas above WORK, if I can work within them, as proven by my own and many others’ successes in direct response.
I know that if I try to get creative OUTSIDE of the three proven big idea types, I am risking my success (as well as that of the others involved).
But if I can find a unique way to present the ideas behind this product INSIDE one of the big idea types, it has a much bigger chance of being a winner.
This problem isn’t solved, but sometimes that’s the best time to share my thinking…
I have an idea to run with. I’m going to run it by the client next time I speak with them. I risk getting shot down, if it pushes their boundaries too hard.
But that’s the process.
That’s what it takes to succeed as a high-level direct response copywriter.
That’s what I signed up for.
And whether you do marketing for yourself or clients, that’s what you signed up for, too.
If you want step-by-step templates for how to write High-Velocity copy, in each of the three big idea types (plus HUGE lessons beyond the templates in effective direct response copy)…
Remember you save $100 if you act before Friday…
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,