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Great Copywriting Starts Before a Words is Written
Thereís a wonderful saying in theater: ďIf itís not on the page, itís not on the stage.Ē
It means that no matter how great the acting and direction, itís the idea at the core of the play that matters. In fact, all the crying and costumes and smoke and mirrors are just an embodiment of an idea that begins in the mind of the creator. If there is no idea, itís just a lot of smoke and mirrors. (Remind you of some action movies youíve seen lately?)
Uh, thanks for telling me all this, Paul, but I sell wholesale meat. I create software. I manage a financial management company. So you might want to chat with my cousin Harvey about all artsy theater stuff, but Iím a little busy.
Hang on. Iím talking about selling soap, here. Iím talking about building brands here. Iím talking about ruthless and hard-headed marketing.
There are many rules to powerful, effective copywriting. (Theyíre described in fascinating detail in my book Maximum Strength Copywriting.) But the first secret to effective copywriting is to put your pencil down. Now, I hardly think you write with a pencil and paper, so what I really mean is, take those fingers off that keyboard and do a lot less typing and lot more thinking.
If itís not on the page, itís not on the stage. Meaning, if your selling proposition is not clear in your mind, and burning in your cells before you even begin to write, donít bother writing. In advertising, itís called a strategy. It is a clear positioning for the product, a clear personality for the brand, and a clear proposition for the particular ad. Once thatís clear, an effective ad, website, or brochure can be written.
Conversely, if you really donít know what you want to say. Or you want to say 16 things. Or you want to say three things but youíre not sure which is the most important. Or youíre certain your widget is ground-breaking but youíre not exactly sure why. Or you know every molecular molecule about your product and by George, youíre going to put your head down and pour them all onto paperÖ.
If any of these scenarios are the case: STOP!
Iíve often said an ad is the answer to a question. If the question is clearly stated, the answer will be clear. If the question is muddy and unclear, so will the answer. You know those brochures and ads that make you go: Huh? They are examples of the question not being clear so the answer is a pile of unintelligible nonsense.
What is the argument. The first, the best, the most. It must be clear and it must be distinguishing. Put that pencil down until youíre clear.
And then make sure the intention to persuade burns in every cell, and informs every word you write.
Because if itís not on the page, itís not on the stage
Or, if itís not in the strategy, itís a tragedy.
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Travel Part B