This is an incredibly practical tip for creating marketing and content…
I’ve been writing a lot in the last few days about self-help and personal development — including how I’ve dealt with my own issues. In part, because it’s been a focus leading up to the Transform YOU to Transform Your Business discussion with my coach Joseph Rodrigues [replay link].
Also, because when I write about that stuff I get a flood of, “This is exactly what I needed today, THANK YOU!!!” notes from readers so I know it’s important.
But I’m reminded of a line in the musical Hamilton, in the song “The Election of 1800.”
At this point, there’s been a bunch of personal turmoil in Hamilton’s life, and a really tender moment…
And then Jefferson walks on stage and says, “Can we get back to politics?” To which Madison answers, “Please?”
So seeing how this IS supposed to be a marketing and business publication, I’m thinking, “Can we get back to marketing? Please?”
So let’s talk about The Rule of 3 — which I believe is one of the most powerful organizational systems for content and ideas in all of human history…
AND an easy-to-remember concept…
AND a very natural way to send and receive communication, including marketing and persuasive messages…
(Notice how that was three points?)
You see The Rule of 3 in the world at large…
I have to give props to Schoolhouse Rock for embedding this deep in my brain from a young age. As soon as I started thinking about The Rule of 3, I started singing the song “3 Is A Magic Number” — don’t click that link unless you’re ready for it to be stuck in your head.
But that song only exists because 3 was already such a powerful number.
Take the physical world. You can’t have a chair or stool or table without at least 3 legs — or it will fall over. Likewise a tripod. And the simplicity of a 3-sided shape — the triangle — is also THE strongest architectural shape in the world. Three is stability.
But 3 has also crept heavily into human consciousness.
We measure space in 3 dimensions. We consider time under the 3 categories of the past, the present, and the future. We think of ourselves as our body, mind, and spirit. And 3 plays a critical role in Christian doctrine — The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit are The Holy Trinity.
We subconsciously learned The Rule of 3 at even a young age, through storytelling and communication…
Take the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. First off, there were 3 bears — Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear. But that’s not all. There were three “tests” — the porridge, the chairs, and the beds. The whole story is in threes. There’s even three acts. Her arrival, the tests, and her escape.
But that’s one of many stories, fables, and nursery rhymes that use The Rule of 3. 3 Little Pigs. 3 Blind Mice. 3 Musketeers. 3 Wise Men. 3 Stooges. The genie and the 3 wishes.
Across time and culture, we’ve used the number 3 to tell stories.
Even today, it’s completely integrated into how we tell stories, and how we teach storytelling. There’s the 3-Act Structure — of Shakespeare, Hollywood, and many others — where stories are broken into the beginning (setup), middle (conflict), and end (climax).
In fact, one of my favorite email copywriting formulas follows the a speech from the movie, The Prestige, and breaks it down into “The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige” — the 3-part structure that movie uses to describe magic acts.
Even this article started as a Rule of 3 outline…
The Rule of 3 in the world at large
– Schoolhouse Rock, “3 Is A Magic Number”
– 3 legs on a stool, the triangle as the strongest architectural shape
– The Holy Trinity, the past present and future, body mind and spirit
The Rule of 3 in story and communication
– Goldilocks, 3 bears, too hot too cold just right (also 3 Little Pigs, 3 Blind Mice, 3 Musketeers, 3 Wise Men, 3 Stooges, Genie’s 3 Wishes?
– Three-Act Structure, beginning middle and end, Pledge Turn Prestige
– This article!
The Rule of 3 in marketing and persuasion
– Dan Kennedy 3 over 3, 3X formula (Speak to Sell)
– 3 major proof points/belief changes
– Groups of bullets
As you can see, up next we’re covering…
The Rule of 3 in marketing and persuasion…
I recently pulled my copy of Dan Kennedy’s Speak to Sell off my shelf, which deserves more praise than it gets (I hardly hear anyone talk about this book, but he’s sold over $150 million from the stage and via other speaking). In it, Dan talks about how he structures the entire content of his speeches around his 3 over 3, 3X formula. So, for example, his Magnetic Marketing speech was built from the Message-Market-Media triad, and he covered 3 points about each during the speech.
I’ve found — through personal experience and learning from others — that this works in copy, too. There are usually three main supporting points for your big idea. Three big belief changes that happen, or agreements that must be made, as they read the copy. Three huge proof points. And each of these is often supported by three smaller points. Done right, this gives a sense of not too much and not too little support for your big idea.
And finally, even with the humble bullet point, 3 is a magic number. As a general rule, you want an odd number of bullet points. There’s just something more pleasing to the eye about it. But if you have a list of 11, it will likely get scanned. With 3 tightly-worded bullets in a row, it’s hard for the prospect to NOT read all of them.
Use The Rule of 3 to your advantage…
— It clearly has roots in the natural, physical world…
— We learned it from a very young age, through story and other communication…
— And it’s proven-effective when used in marketing, too!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,