When you start copywriting, it’s easy to look for magic persuasive words. But the truth is that the story is more important than the words you use.
Seven years ago I signed up for a Copywriting course. One of the activity was to analyze classic examples of copywriting, for example, some of David Ogvily’s ads.
In groups, we discussed what we had noticed from the copy and almost all of us had focused on single words or sentences. Our tutor was patient, but stern. He redirected our attention to what really mattered.
While I was looking for the magic persuasive words or sentences, our tutor highlighted the bigger picture and story. Here’s why he was right.
The Big picture guides the prospect
The big picture frames everything else.
The story provides a journey from where the prospect is to the action you want them to take. If that path is broken, blocked or branches off into detours then your prospect won’t end up at the final destination.
Single words or even sentences can’t provide a path. While you should still aim for powerful chunks of copy, you need to get your story in place before that’s even possible.
And even when it comes to finding those rich parts of copy, the story has a key role to play.
You need the story to get the chunks
A powerful sentence is like a signpost on the path your copy creates. It lets the prospect know “yes, this is the right way” and quickens their step. But if you don’t know the current location and destination, you can’t point the prospect to the end.
The same applies to copy and your story. There are countless examples of good copy ruined by a “clever” sentence that is just a distraction or appeals to the wrong type of person.
As Steve King wrote about creative writing, sometimes you have to “kill your darlings”. Those brilliant phrases may just not work with your big-picture but a simpler, more boring sentence may.
It takes humility to focus on the customer and what will help them rather than show off your eloquence.
With the big story in place, you’ll be able to place the signposts down precisely.
But you still need clarity
No matter how great your big picture is, you still need to make sure that you have clarity in your writing. Confusion kills sales and drives people away. It not only looks unprofessional, but you place unintended barriers in the way of the reader.
That’s why clarity is the first step in copywriting. Clear copy is always better than confusing copy and an essential part of good copy.
Of course, great copy goes beyond clarity but requires a base of clarity to be effective.
Worry about the big picture first, then the words will come
Don’t worry too much about finding the magic persuasive words that can convince even the most skeptical prospect. Instead, start with focusing on the big picture and the story you want to tell. Then make sure your words fit with that picture.