How Being Predictable Can Ruin Your Copywriting Success
Most of us want predictability in our lives.
Your prospects certainly do.
But predictability can damage your quest for the writer's life.
Understanding this master-level secret adds power to your writing. (And not just in copywriting.)
Let me show you what I mean. Fill in these blanks …
… just the tip of the ____________
… barking up the wrong ____________
… buy one, get one ____________
That wasn’t hard, was it? You could do it with your eyes closed.
Or, more to the point, with your mind closed.
Your brain is an amazing information processor. It wants to make sense of all the stimuli bombarding it. When it gets information, it tries to “fill in the blanks” to make sense of experiences.
This wonderful capability — called the categorical imperative by psychologists — makes life manageable and simpler. This is why when you see a Chihuahua and an Irish wolfhound, you recognize both as dogs.
This is also why you’re able to fill in familiar phrases like the ones above without even thinking.
While this ability to fill in the blanks is good in everyday life, it’s not good when your prospect is reading your copy.
If your prospect anticipates what you’re going to say, he’ll stop paying attention to the details. He figures he already knows what you’re going to say.
He’ll skim. He’ll read your letter intellectually and not emotionally.
And quite possibly, he’ll stop reading entirely.
If he stops reading your letter because he thinks he knows where it’s going, your letter — and your sale — is dead.
When does this beast raise its ugly head?
One sure way to stir up your prospect’s categorical imperative comes when you’re too organized! When your writing and the flow of your copy is predictable.
Nervous new copywriters fret they’ll leave out something important. So they meticulously outline their letters. Then they carefully follow those outlines in hopes of getting everything in.
Writing strictly by outline has two unintended effects. First, it makes your copy predictable. Your prospect anticipates where it’s going. And loses interest.
Equally important, when you write by a strict outline, you’re crippling your ability to write from your heart. You limit the passion in your writing. And worse, you may kill the emotional appeal to your prospect.
Taming the beast
How can you tame the categorical imperative? (The nuns who taught me in grammar school aren’t going to like this, but … )
Don’t use a strict outline for persuasive copy.
Notice my emphasis on the word “strict.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach your copywriting with a strong plan. You mustn’t write it like stream of consciousness poetry.
But avoid having copy so structured, so outlined, so preplanned that it leads you step-by-step through the writing process and leads your prospect step-by-step through your copy.
Instead, follow the 4-P’s© — the Promise, Picture, Proof, Push structure of a successful promotion (taught in The Accelerated Program).
This structure lets you touch both the emotional and intellectual centers your prospect uses to decide to buy.
Start with one, strong, irresistible Promise written out. List benefits with the biggest one first. This is the one you’re going to use for your headline and lead.
Develop an informal list of possible Picture elements. Imagine as many as possible, knowing that you won’t use them all.
Then start writing. Follow the 4-P’s as your guiding structure … but let your words flow.
Once you’ve written a good part of your copy, let it sit for a day or two.
Go back and read it with new eyes. Does it sound like a neatly structured, outline-driven treatise? Or does it flow and rely on emotion to carry it along?
If you avoided using a strict outline, you’ll be surprised how many of the most compelling Picture elements you got in without it.
If your copy sounds too organized, revise it.
Write from your heart. Not from a highly structured outline that feeds the categorical imperative beast and kills your sale.
And kills your effectiveness as a copywriter.
Let us know your thoughts on predictability and achieving the writer's life. Comment below.
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