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Maslen on Marketing June 2013: Why double-amputees can make great copywriters

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Many laypeople (and not a few copywriters) imagine the job of a copywriter involves sitting at a computer and typing.

Well, that’s true as far as it goes. It does involve typing.

But in much the same way as the job of an architect involves drawing.

The real job of a copywriter is selling.

And that means we have to be adept at figuring out what makes our – or our client’s – customer tick.

We’re psychologists. Sales psychologists if you like.

The real copywriting process

The process goes something like this.

1 Figure out what makes our customer tick.

2 Identify their point of pain (as it relates to the product we’re selling).

3 Show them how the product makes the pain go away.

None of this involves typing.

And, in fact, you could be a perfectly good copywriter even if you couldn’t type.

“No-hand copywriter wins award”

Even if you lost your hands in a bizarre keyboard accident, you could still be a great copywriter.

Here’s how.

You spend time thinking your way into your customer’s world.

Think about your customer

What are they like?

What drives them?

What do they love?

What do they hate?

What are their values?

How do they see themselves?

How do others see them?

How would they like others to see them?

If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?

Why would they change it?

How would they change it?

What does your customer want to know?

Then you imagine you are face-to-face with them in a quiet space.

They ask you these questions.

Why did you want to see me?

What do you want to talk about?

How do I know I can trust you?

How are you going to make my life better?

Can you prove it will work?

Who else has it worked for?

How do I get hold of it?

What if I don’t like it?

Then you do this easy thing…

Using a voice recorder, you speak your answers.

Speak at length; leave no question unanswered or point unmade.

When you’ve finished, upload your file to an Internet transcription service and get it typed.

This is your first draft. It will be packed with amazingly powerful language, couched in a natural, conversational, convincing tone of voice.

Then you edit it. (OK so fingers may come in handy here).

Why speaking your copy works so well

This approach has three big benefits.

First of all, by freeing you from the tyranny of the winking cursor, it allows you to focus on what you want to say, not how you want to say it.

David Ogilvy and John Caples were both fans of this approach, independently stating that the content of your copy is more important than its form.

Second, it’s a lot faster, so you save time.

Third, the resulting copy sounds like a real person, not someone choking simultaneously on a dictionary and a corporate style guide.

And the net result of all of this is copy that is far more likely to achieve the goals you have set yourself.

And I’m telling you this because

At its heart, copywriting is about behaviour modification.

Your customer wakes up in the morning with no intention of doing X.

After reading your copy, they do X.

Modifying a human being’s behaviour is difficult, but not impossible.

But typing has very little do with it.

Empathy, insight and understanding have everything to do with it.

***

For more information on how to acquire these skills, and a lot more besides, take a look at the course page for Breakthrough Copywriting, our video-based distance-learning programme.

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Categories: Business-to-business, Customers, Email copywriting, Maslen on Marketing, Selling, Structural tools, and Web copywriting.

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