As a freelance copywriter for over seven years, I have developed a system for writing powerful sales messages.
This system is based on over a decade of studying the work of the greatest copywriters and admen who have ever lived, as well as studying directly under legends like Matt Furey and the “Billion Dollar Man” Ted Nicholas.
The truth is that there is nothing new or “ninja” about what makes advertising work.
All great advertising and marketing are based on the same fundamentals and psychology of master salesmanship.
It’s been the same since the first cavemen traded an extra slab of tyrannosaurus meat to a neighbor for something he wanted more.
In this feature article, I’m going to reveal for the first time my…
5 Simple Steps to Hard-Hitting and Powerful Copywriting
Now, you’re going to see much of this process focuses on ultimately crafting the most powerful headline we can for our promotion.
Why? It’s because the headline is always the most important part of any sales message you write. Its job is to grab the attention of your ideal prospect, pull them into your copy, and set the stage for you to tell the full story behind your product or service.
Okay, let’s get started.
Step 1. Decide on the Big Promise
The crucial starting point when you start writing a great sales message is to decide on what the “Big Promise” you are going to have to make to your target audience in order for them to buy from you.
This “Big Promise” needs to address something meaningful your product or service is going to fulfill for them.
Looking at the promise before the product might seem backward, but you ALWAYS want to start with your customer in mind.
In particular, what you need to say to them and what your product or service must fulfill.
For that reason, before you brainstorm headline ideas, it’s vital to the success of your sales promotion to figure out the most important…
💥or especially the biggest PROBLEMS that need to be solved.
When deciding on the Big Promise, really dig deep into who you are targeting, what their life is like, and what is most important to them.
I find a helpful way of deciding on the “Big Promise” is creating what we call an “Avatar”, which is a 3D image we create of our prospect.
It’s important because it allows us to write to them directly as we would a friend, family member, or anyone we know on an intimate level.
Think of someone you know well.
It could be a friend, spouse, maybe a parent, or your child.
Now, think about something you know they care about. Maybe, a problem they are going through or a desire they have for something.
If you were writing a sales letter to them, now knowing what they most care about, you should have an easy time coming up with a theme to write your sales message around.
A theme you know would fully engage them.
This would be your “Big Promise”.
Once, you have done your research into who your prospect is and have a 3D image of them in your mind…
You should be able to come up with a “Big Promise” which resonates with your prospects just as easily as you did for your close family member or friends.
PRO COPYWRITING TIP
Always remember the primary benefit everyone wants is a…TRANSFORMATION.
Most people are never satisfied.
What they want more than anything is to go from where they are now to a happier and more fulfilling place.
If you can show your prospect, first IN YOUR HEADLINE and then followed up in the body of your copy with how your product or service will create a real transformation for them you will have a much easier time in getting them to make a positive buying decision.
Step 2. Determine the Biggest Benefit
Copywriting can really be summed up in four main steps…
— > Get to know your prospects and find out what they want…
— > Figure out how your product helps them get what they want…
— > Clearly explain how the product fulfills what they want…
— > Tell them how to get what they want… (Ask for the sale!)
The process of explaining in a persuasive way, how the product or service is going to fulfill their needs starts with the Headline.
This is why the headline is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your sales message and why the majority of your time should be spent in making sure it’s as powerful as possible. Much of what we’re working on here in these five steps will first lead to crafting that headline.
Now, in Step 1 you decided on a BIG PROMISE that you will make to your prospect.
Moving on to Step 2, you will put on your detective’s hat and begin to analyze your product or service.
You are looking for all the benefits your prospect will gain from buying what you are trying to sell.
How do you figure out what the benefits are?
The easiest way to discover all of the benefits of a product or service is to make a detailed list.
What I suggest is to take a piece of note paper and write a straight line down the middle of a page. On one side you will list the features of your product or service. Then on the other side, you will write down as many benefits as you can for each feature.
Do you fully understand the difference between features and benefits?
If not, it’s okay. It sometimes takes a long time for even professional copywriters to fully grasp this concept.
So, the best definition I can give to you is…
A feature is a physical aspect of what you are selling. Then a benefit is what the feature does for the buyer.
For example, your Universal remote control is a handheld, wireless device with buttons to control your channels and the volume of your TV and other home electronics.
Those are the features.
A benefit would be that you can easily change your channels and volume without ever leaving the comfort of your easy chair.
Another benefit could be having just one device which controls multiple machines. It’s reducing the clutter and confusion of having several remote controls sitting around.
Okay, back to our list.
Again, you are now going to go carefully analyze your product or service and write down every feature you can think of on one side of the page.
Furthermore, on the other side write down as many benefits you can think of for every feature. It’s okay to have several benefits for a feature or even just one.
Now, take another piece of paper and rank what benefits you feel will be most important to your prospect.
Have you decided on one BIG BENEFIT which will mean the most to your prospects?
If so, then it’s time to move on to Step 3.
Step 3. Develop the Big Idea
Above all else, developing the “BIG IDEA” is the most important part of copywriting and in particular the headline writing process.
Why? Because the Big Idea is…
… the central theme…
… the overwhelmingly interesting, exciting, and intriguing element…
… that your entire sales message or marketing promotion is built around.
To that point, the “Big Idea’ should always include the “BIG PROMISE” you are making to your prospect that your product or service will do for them…
… (which we determined in our previous step) …
… and may include what we call a “built-in benefit” that makes the reader want to know more by piquing their curiosity.
You can start formulating your “Big Idea” by figuring out the core, singular concept of what your prospect most wants your product or service to ultimately do for them.
Example: For a weight-loss product, a good central theme which could also be the start of a great headline could be…
“It’s NOT Your Fault You’re Overweight!”
But, for now, let’s answer the question of…
How Do We Start Constructing the Big Idea?
To get started, you need to go back to the basics and gather all your raw research materials including:
— > Past and Present Sales Materials
— > The Actual Product
— > Interview with the creator of the product or service etc.
The result of doing an A-plus job with your research is that you will have an easier time deciding on a “Big Idea”.
In other words, it should be strong enough to carry the weight of your sales message from lead to close.
Therefore, your Big Idea should be the element that makes your promotion different from your competition and…
… gives your product a UNIQUE, competitive edge in the marketplace.
Now, here’s a great “Classic” example of a Big Idea that was remarkably successful as a headline (written by the legendary Gary Halbert):
“The Amazing Secret of a Marketing Genius Who Is Afraid to Fly”
When you read this your natural reaction is to read on to find out what the story behind this headline is.
Now, I feel the best way to guarantee you come up with the best possible “Big Idea” for our headline is to combine what we learned in steps one and two.
Remember, in Step 1 we decided on the “Big Promise” we need to make to our prospect to gain their attention.
Then, in Step 2 we determined the “Biggest Benefit” our product or service can provide to our potential buyer to get the sale and hopefully a customer for life.
Now we need to combine our “Big Promise” and the “Biggest Benefit” to create a single STRONG and UNIQUE message which can be easily understood by anyone who reads it.
So, we could just take the “Big Idea” we have decided on and haphazardly use it as the Headline. And many LAZY copywriters and marketers might do that…
… and truth be told, you probably could squeak by.
But WE ARE NOT lazy copywriters and marketers… Are we?
We want to make sure we are maximizing the effectiveness of ALL of our advertising!
So, in the next step, we’re going to really dig in deep and do A LOT of writing as we brainstorm the best possible headlines for us to test in the last step.
PRO COPYWRITING TIP
The Big Idea of your sales promotion MUST be interesting, compelling and curiosity-provoking enough to grab ahold of your prospect through the tool of the headline and lead…
And compel them to read your FULL message.
Your “Big Idea” can be your personal story or the story behind your product or service… or it can be your company’s Mission Statement that defines who you are as an entity and why you are in business.
It could also be an outrageous offer or off-the-wall gimmick that somehow relates to your product and more importantly to your ideal prospects.
The Big Idea should be the one, single biggest thought or storyline which JUMPS out at you when you are doing your research.
Some copywriters call this the “HOOK” as it is a BIG, sometimes CRAZY or at least extremely thought-provoking idea which REELS you in to the copy.
Step #4. It’s Brainstorming Time!
The brainstorming phase is about hammering out as many headlines as you possibly can and then narrowing down the best ones and then chiseling them to be as effective as you can make them.
When brainstorming, I like to sit back with a hot cup of coffee and just give myself permission to have some fun coming up with sometimes a hundred or more different headlines.
It’s important for me to step away from my computer and write with a pen and paper in a no-pressure state of mind.
It doesn’t matter how outrageous the headlines I write are as no one ever has to see them.
So, I just pretend I’m a writer for Weekly World News or some other tabloid paper and write down as many crazy ideas as I can.
This is just the best way to get my mind flowing with ideas.
When it’s time to get serious and I’m thinking about the perfect headline, I always keep in mind…
— > The Big Promise that needs to be made…
— > The Biggest Benefit our product or service can offer to our prospect, and …
— > The Big Idea we have decided on as being the theme for our sales message.
Finally, I like to do an exercise I learned from one of my mentors, Mr. Ted Nicholas.
This is about finding what he calls the “Hidden Benefit” which may have been overlooked and could hold the key to writing the most effective headline possible.
Here it is: Before you start writing down your headline ideas, ask yourself:
“If I Had Unlimited, God-like Powers and Could Grant My Prospects the Biggest Possible Benefit They Could Ever Get from My Product or Service… WHAT WOULD THAT BE?”
At this point, your mind should be swimming with excellent ideas.
A great way of making sure you are on the right track is to look at proven classic headlines and model them as a starting point for your headlines.
How exactly would you do this? Just start playing around with different headline formulas and change the words around to reflect something which makes sense for what you are selling.
For example, you could take a classic headline like…
“Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”
… and change it to …
“Are You Making These LETHAL Mistakes in Your Sales Copy?”
Can you see how I used the same basic psychology of the first headline for my headline?
They are different, as in, I didn’t copy the first headline word for word, which was written almost 100 years ago to sell a home study course on proper grammar …
… but I modeled it to raise the same curiosity and fear in my prospects for my copywriting services.
Now, see if you can do the same for whatever product or service you are selling with the following Headline formulas.
You can use the special bonus headline swipe file I’ve included later in this book to create as many of your own formulas as you could ever need.
Classic Headline Formula #1.
Give Me _____ and I’ll ______
Example: “Give Me Five Minutes and I’ll Show You the Secret to Making Big Money Online.”
Classic Headline Formula #2.
Who Else Wants _______?
Example: “Who Else Wants to Discover the Secret to Losing Weight… WITHOUT Giving Up the Food You Love?”
Classic Headline Formula #3
How to ______
Example: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Classic Headline Formula #4
We’re Looking for People Who Want To ______
Example: “We’re Looking for People Who Want to Quit Their Day Job in 30 Days or Less.”
Classic Headline Formula #5
Secrets of ______
Example: “Secrets of a Once Desperate Housewife Who Lost 40 Pounds Without Dieting”
Step #5. Test, Test, Test
Finally, it all comes down to this one, CRUCIAL step to guarantee the success of your sales message.
In my opinion, what makes direct response advertising superior to all other forms of marketing and advertising, is the commitment of continually testing, testing, testing… until you’ve gotten as close to perfection as is possible.
Until an ad or element of an ad has been PROVEN by being tested in the real world, then it is merely still in “process” rather than being completed.
I believe all copy and especially headlines should be tested thoroughly before being rolled out in any large campaign where any serious amount of money is being risked.
This includes more than just testing different headlines against each other but also it’s important to try switching out single words and then testing almost the exact ads against each other.
It’s been proven this one small change can make a HUGE difference in the pulling power of an ad!
How much is HUGE? How about a 40, 50, or 60% increase in response?
And here’s the good news:
Right now, it’s never been easier to test than it is right now.
In fact, most websites have built-in software, or with WordPress sites, you can buy plug-ins for very reasonable prices…
… which will automatically switch the headlines or other elements your visitors see…
… and then will store the results for you so you will know EXACTLY what is working best and how you can SCALE UP!
About Direct Response Copywriter Robert Sean Pascoe
Robert Sean Pascoe is a direct response copywriter and marketing strategist who works with entrepreneurs worldwide to create advertising and marketing campaigns that maximize their profits.
With 16 years of copywriting experience and a lifetime in sales, Robert knows how to use the power of words to sell virtually anything to anyone, especially if the market has been properly defined.
Robert enjoys primarily working with small business owners to sell more of their products and services through the power of direct response advertising and marketing.
He has written sales copy for companies in such diverse niches as Weight Loss Supplements, Skin Care, Male Enhancement, Local Marketing Agencies, Live Event Seminars, Software Developers, Insurance Agencies, Real Estate Brokerages, Marketing Consultants, and many, many more.
For help with your copywriting or marketing needs please click here now.