The Power of One – One Big Idea
One of the biggest lessons I have ever learned about writing came very late – in fact, more than twenty years after I wrote my first piece of copy.
It happened about a year after I began writing Early To Rise (ETR). I was looking over issues I'd written that year and noting which ones readers rated the highest. Without exception, those achieving the highest scores presented a single idea.
It struck me that readers didn't want to hear everything I had to say about a topic every time I wrote. They were looking for a single, useful suggestion or idea that could make them more successful.
That was one of those "aha!" experiences for me.
As a reader, I had always most enjoyed stories and essays that tackled one subject effectively and deeply. As a writer, I sensed my readers felt this way too. But it wasn't until I looked at the ETR results that I recognized the power of a narrow focus in writing.
I checked to see if this same phenomenon applied to advertising copy. I pulled out my box of "best promotions of all time." While not all of them were on a single topic, most of the very best hit just one idea strongly.
It seemed I was on to something. I presented this idea as one "powerful secret to publishing success" when Agora had our first company-wide meeting for publishers in France.
Bill Bonner reminded me he'd learned about the Power of One from the great advertising guru David Ogilvy. Ogilvy's concept was that every great promotion has, at its core, a single, powerful idea that he called "the Big Idea."
At about that same time, John Forde was rereading the classic 1941 book, "How to Write a Good Advertisement" by Victor Schwab – the man Advertising Age called the "greatest mail-order copywriter of all time."
In that book, Schwab listed his choice for the "Top 100 Headlines." John found that of those 100 top headlines, 90 were driven by single, Big Ideas.
Note how instantly clear and engaging these "Big Ideas" are …
- "The Secret of Making People Like You"
- "Is the Life of a Child Worth $1 to You?"
- "To Men Who Want to Quit Work Someday"
- "Are You Ever Tongue-Tied at a Party?"
- "How a New Discovery Made a Plain Girl Beautiful"
- "Who Else Wants a Screen Star Figure?"
- "You Can Laugh at Money Worries – If You Follow This Simple Plan"
- "When Doctors Feel Rotten This is What They Do"
- "How I Improved My Memory in One Evening"
- "Discover the Fortune That Lies Hidden In Your Salary"
- "How I Made a Fortune with a 'Fool Idea'"
- "Have You a 'Worry' Stock?"
At ETR, we made this concept a "rule" for writing. The mandate was clear. Write about one thing at a time. One good idea, clearly and convincingly presented, was better than a dozen so-so ideas strung together.
When we obeyed that rule, our essays were stronger. When we ignored it, they were not as powerful as they could have been.
Here's an example of the Rule of One as applied to an advertorial taken from ETR:
Subject Line: The Easiest Product to Sell Online
Dear Early to Riser,
Would you be interested in investing $175 to make $20,727?
That's exactly what Bob Bly just accomplished!
See how he did it below … and how easily you could do the same.
There's no product easier to create or sell online …
… than a simple, straightforward instructional or how-to e-book.
Why are e-books the perfect information product to sell on the Internet?
- 100% profit margin.
- No printing costs.
- No inventory to store.
- Quick and easy to update.
- No shipping costs or delays.
- Higher perceived value than regular books.
- Quick, simple, and inexpensive to produce.
My very first e-book has generated $20,727 in sales (so far).
My total investment in producing it: just $175.
Now, I want to show you how to make huge profits creating and selling simple e-books – in my new e-book "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit."
Normally my e-books sell for anywhere from $29 to $79, and later this year, "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit" will sell for $59.
However, to make it affordable for you to get started in e-book publishing, I'm letting you have "Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit" for only $19 today – a savings of $40 off the cover price!
For more information … or to order on a risk-free 90-day trial basis … just click here now.
P.S. But, I urge you to hurry. This special $40 discount is for a limited time only. And once it expires, it may never be repeated again.
Let me explain how the Power of One operates here.
In the lift letter (signed by MaryEllen Tribby), Bob asks a question and then tells a single sentence story. The question is an inverted promise. The story validates the promise.
The sales letter follows. This, too, is a beautifully simple piece of copy. It leads with a statement that expresses one clear idea: "The easiest way to make money on the Internet it to market e-books."
That statement is supported by a number of bulleted "facts." Then, Bob validates the statement by mentioning his own experience.
The reader is already sold. Bob makes the sale irresistible with a strong, one-time-only offer.
Short, sweet, and simple.
The Power of One is not only one big, central idea. It's a fully engaging piece of copy with five necessary elements. Using Bob's example:
- One good idea : "There's no product easier to create or sell online than a simple, straightforward instructional or how-to e-book."
- One core emotion : "It is simple! I bet I can do it!"
- One captivating story: Told brilliantly in 11 words: “My very first e-book has generated $20,727 in sales (so far).”
- One single, desirable benefit : "Now, I want to show you how to make huge profits creating and selling simple e-books"
- One inevitable response : The only way to get this book for $19 is "click here now."
To create blockbuster promotions time after time, you must understand the difference between good copy and great copy. The Power of One is the driving force behind great copy.
Veteran advertising consultant James Loftus, who's worked with Anheuser-Busch, Holiday Inn, McDonald's, and many other clients, agrees:
"Also keep in mind that the more points you try to cover, the less effective each point, and therefore your ad, will be. An effective ad will actually have only one central focus, even if you discuss it from two or three perspectives. If your points are too diverse, they compete with each other, and end up pulling the reader's attention in separate directions."
When challenged with an advertising assignment, most writers conjure lists of features and benefits, then mention as many as possible. Their thinking goes, "I wonder which of these benefits will really push the buttons I want? I'll throw them all in. That way if one doesn't work, another one will."
This is B-level copywriting. It's not the way to create breakthrough advertising.
The Power of One is commonplace now at Agora … it’s taught by AWAI … and you’ll see that most top copywriters follow it.
You can use the Power of One to create your own blockbuster copy. Ask yourself: "What is the Big Idea here?" "Is this idea strong enough to capture the hearts of my customers?" Or "Are my ideas all over the place?"
The challenge is to find that one good idea the reader can grasp immediately. And stick to it. So the idea has to be strong, easy to understand … and easy to believe.
Put the Power of One to work for you in all your communications. You'll be amazed at how much stronger – and successful – your copy will be.
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