Don’t Read This or the Kitty Gets It!

Posted on February 6, 2011 | Comment (0)

Copywriting 101

Poor Fluffy. I asked you not to do this, and you’ve gone and broken the rules.

Things don’t look good for this cute little kitten I’ve taken hostage in case my demands were not met. She is awfully sweet, though.

We’ll just have to wait until later on in the article to decide the fate of Fluffy. But first, we really do need to discuss the ultimate goal of good copywriting.

Stick with me and I’ll go easy on the cat, deal?

Let’s get started. What is the primary purpose of any piece of writing that you put out online — whether a blog post, a networking email, a sales letter or a tutorial?

For starters, to get what you’ve written read, right?

Makes sense.

So, what’s the primary purpose of your headline, your graphics, your fonts, and every other part of the content?

The simple, surprising answer is…

To get the first sentence read.

This may seem somewhat simplistic to you. Or maybe even confusing.

For me, I came across this way of looking at copywriting later in my studies. I had spent plenty of time trying to master the art of writing a perfect headline, or properly conveying product benefits, or learning how to craft a compelling call to action.

But it all came together for me when legendary copywriter and direct marketer Joe Sugarman shared his secret for becoming a great copywriter:

Every element of copy has just one purpose — to get the first sentence read.

In his seminars, Sugarman would quiz his students on the purpose of various copy elements: the headline, the graphics, the sub-headlines, etc. Why are they important?

“What is the purpose of a headline?” Sugarman would ask.

Every time the student started with some complicated, jargon-filled explanation, he would cut them off.

“The purpose is to get the first sentence read,” he would counter.

“And the purpose of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read,” he continued.

And so on, down a slippery slide that leads to your offer and the sale.

This is an extremely valuable way to go about structuring any writing, and it’s crucial to writing intended to persuade or sell. Many times we find ourselves so eager to arrive at our conclusion that we forget that the essence of making a persuasive point (or causing any action) is how we get there.

Step by step.

Now… how do we get there?

With this simple framework in mind, the stage is set for drilling down deeper into the nitty gritty of the “step by step.” We’re now in a better position to more fully appreciate the specific techniques that apply to all of the various elements of strong copy.

For example, we can now see:

  1. why a strong, compelling headline is critical;
  2. why immediately focusing on the benefit to the reader is so crucial;
  3. why you must make a promise to the reader that you later fulfill; and
  4. why you must back up everything you’ve said with very specific proof.

If no one reads, all is lost.

And the key to getting someone to read is one sentence at a time, so compelled by that sentence that they want to read the next. In other words, how you say it is how you get there.

This is the first of the 10-part “Copywriting 101 series” From here we’ll examine the core principles and elements that take a reader from the first sentence to the sale, subscription, download or other action.

And while I did get you to read this entire article, I wouldn’t exactly recommend the strategy employed here. It worked, but pulling cheap stunts like this won’t help you in the long run.

Go back to the Copywriting 101 series.

Posted at Writing Tips



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