I’ve just listened to a really interesting podcast hosted by Michael Stelzner and Ray Edwards on Social Media Examiner, and while I don’t necessarily agree with it all, there’s loads of stuff to think about that we could find genuinely useful when it comes to writing copy.

We know that basically, copy is persuasive communication however we do it (blogs, email, press releases, ads, etc.) and the point of it is, and always has been, to get people to engage with your words which then get them to act in some way.

Traditionally, marketers focus almost exclusively on the positives of their message and ignore the negatives. But actually, what we want is for a product or service to get us out of a painful situation (metaphorically speaking). So, by using the negative part of your message to name the problem that your product solves is a powerful tool – it makes the carrot more appealing by raising the stick.

Understandably, we want to talk about solutions rather than problems so that we don’t feel like we’re manipulating people through fear – so we focus on how we can help. But, is there actually anything wrong with naming a problem and then showing people how we can solve it?

A great example is a Fitbit. I have one, and it tells me how many steps I do in a day. So what? Well, when combined with the knowledge that I wasn’t doing enough (the problem), suddenly the Fitbit matters to me because it enables the solution. That a Fitbit is a great way to count my steps isn’t as powerful a message on its own as it is when I know that I should be doing 10,000.

So, back to the podcast. It focuses on how, when we’re writing copy, we can create phrases that sell by using 8 strategies or communication patterns that actually engage with people powerfully enough to move them to action:

  • ‘If/then’. If you have the following problem… then here’s the solution and this is why…So, if you’re confused about social media and want to know which strategies work, then contact Martin because he runs a digital marketing agency and knows exactly what you should do.
  • If you don’t do anything, the problem will just get worse. For example, if you don’t engage with social media it won’t go away – you will simply not be part of it, and it will continue without you as you fall further and further behind. Because ignoring a problem doesn’t solve it. So, find out yourself, or talk to someone who knows.
  • You’re not like most people. Okay, so this one uses a little bit of flattery. Most people simply copy their competitors by + or – 10% and think that what they’re doing is good. And yet most people do the wrong thing or do it badly. But you are not like most people… which means that you’re smarter and savvier… so you should do this instead…
  • Imagine…a blue dog wearing a yellow cape and red boots. You can’t not imagine it once you’ve been told to. So, likewise – imagine success. For example, imagine the success of your social media marketing.
  • If the only thing you get this one benefit …then it’s still worth the time and the investment. But you don’t only get that one benefit…you get all this as well…
  • Don’t let this happen to you:
    Don’t get caught out by using yesterday’s outdated ideas.
    Don’t be ashamed if you don’t know the answer (but find out).
    Don’t think you know everything.
    Don’t think that this (e.g. social media) is above you (or below you).
    Don’t let the social platforms tell you what you should do if it doesn’t suit your purpose. Talk to people who know whether it really works or not.
    Don’t keep offering the same thing year after year – rules change and so should you.
  • Positive possibility – what if…? Invoke possibilities by asking this question. For example, what if you could accomplish more yet spend less? What if the tactics you implement actually work? What if, every time you launched a new campaign, it did better than the last one?
  • You’re standing at a crossroads…put people in the position of having to make a binary choice. When the road to your left carries on like the one you’ve been on – bumpy, uneven and difficult (same tactics, increasingly less effective, more costs) but the road to your right is paved and smooth (reduced costs, more reach, more engagement) then make sure you choose the right path. Remember that we must change to improve, and be willing to learn.

 And that’s it. Much of copywriting is repeated reiteration of the same points. You can use any of these strategies in ads, Instagram, blog posts, podcasts etc. You don’t have to use them all in each communication – and they can be anything from tiny snippets to stand alone articles. The trick is simply to weave them into your system and use them to extend your message and increase opportunities.


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