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Failed Copywriting Pitch: 5 Lessons

Aaron Orendorff

Is there a secret to writing copy that sells?

Some dark-magic formula that breaks through the barriers, barricades, and psychological bulwarks? Some universal formula that stretches across sales, traditional media, content marketing, social media, and and search engine optimization (SEO)?

Yes.

And I have proof.

The year was 1976 and Martin Edelston, founder of the now more than $50-million annually producing and direct-marketing powerhouse Boardroom Inc., was broke.

Well, not quite broke broke. More like down to the nubs.

42 years old and working out of his basement, Edelston had burned through half his start-up capital with nothing to show for it save an empty desk … furnace adjacent.

Enter Eugene Schwartz: the hero of our story and a man who knew what words were worth.

“He came to me,” Schwartz recalled, “with $3,500 in his pocket, and I told him I’d have to charge him $2,500 as a copy fee.”

$2,500 might not sound outlandish, but today that’d be a $10,497 price tag for a single piece of sales copy. Even more amazing is what that number represented for Edelson himself. Imagine it:

Yes, Marty, I will write you an ad … just one. And all it’ll cost is 70% of everything you have.

Such is the stuff of marketing legend.

Thankfully, Edelston agreed. The two met. And that night Schwartz wrote it … all of it.

Of course, when you finagle someone out of 70% of their operating capital, you can’t just deliver 24 hours later. “I put it away for two weeks,” recalled Schwartz. “And in two weeks, I sent it to him and he ran it.”

What happened?

With one ad Schwartz rescued Edelston from the brink of small-business bankruptcy and set Boardroom Inc. on a path to becoming a multinational marketing empire.

Not surprisingly, Schwartz’s success with Boardroom Inc. was anything but a fluke. Over his career, Schwartz’s direct mail, sales letters, catalogue copy, and ads were responsible for …

  • 1.98 million copies of a $25 book
  • 2 million orders for a fishing lure
  • Nearly $50M for a textbook on natural health
  • $150,000 for a volume on car repair in three days

Most legendary, Schwartz’s produced a single television campaign that resulted in purchases from 1 out of every 14 TV owners in America.

A month ago, I sat down with Schwartz’s 228-page classic Breakthrough Advertising. Sixty pages in I came across three lines that stopped me in my tracks:

I — deep breath — am a failure.

Well, that might be too harsh. Let me reframe …

I have failed.

Actually … you know what? In black-and-white, even that sounds kinda rough.

Maybe some specifics would soften the blow.

Four weeks ago I had a failed copywriting pitch.

(There, that feels right.)

I won’t go into the details about names and places. Not so much to “protect the innocent,” more that I’m still hoping it turns into something. Although after this post, who knows. 😉

Here’s what happened …

A friend of mine called me up and said she and her company were looking for some “help connecting with bloggers.”

“Why, yes,”  I excitedly replied, “I have had a bit of success on that front recently.”

So, we set up a meeting with her and the marketing team, solidified that my part in the consultation would be a freebie, and, a few days before our sit-down, I received a handful of links to peruse, including one to her company’s website.

This is where things start to get sideways.

The website was … not good.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty. In fact, it was very pretty.

But (and this is an enormous “but”) everything else was a train wreck.

Weak copy.

Company-focused tagline.

Missing headline.

No value proposition.

No benefits.

No offer.

And, worst of all, no clear audience.

There wasn’t even a place to signup had I wanted to give them my email.

Instantly, my mouth watered: “This is a goldmine.”

Everything my friend had told me about “wanting to connect with bloggers” ran from my mind. All that remained was, “How can I leverage this murder-scene of a website into new business.”

Fast forward a few days and the meeting itself went well. At least, I thought it did.

We talked for a little over an hour and, while my friend was pretty quiet, her “boss” was more than willing to dive into the nitty-gritty of what I said were their “big problems.”

I went after it. Or rather (as it became clear later), I went after them.

With all the tact of a unsolicited surgeon performing an unsolicited appendectomy, I tore into ‘em.

I walked through the importance of identifying a single target market. I pontificated about the difference between a motto and a value proposition. I went on at length about how vital it was to have a headline that addressed their audience’s “mass desire.” I pushed hard on the need for an offer — a single, driving call-to-action — around which everything else should turn.

I even asked if they were A/B testing.

“Not really,” was the response.

“What? That’s crazy.” And, yes, I could fix that too.

After the meeting, my friend walked me out and we talked in the parking lot for another 15 minutes or so, happily basking in the warm glow of our shared ignorance.

I got home. Smiled self-satisfactorily. And sent off a proposal.

Three days later, came the call.

The meeting had been on a Friday, and Monday I got a voicemail from my friend that simply said: “We need to talk.”

Nothing good has ever followed those four words. Not in my personal life. Not in my professional life. And not that night when I called back.

Turns out, after our little post-meeting pow-wow in the parking lot, my friend had walked back into a lion’s den.

What we thought was a “good meeting” was, in her boss’ mind, not only a complete waste of time … it was sabotage. An attack: a poorly disguised attempt to get me in the door, and to push the regulars out. Regulars who — by the way — the company had literally spent millions on less than a year ago for a comprehensive “re-branding” effort.

I was shocked. Disappointed. And more than a little defensive.

After all, I’d gone in with the best of intentions. I was trying to help. My soul aim was to add value.

Slowly, however, a strange sort of conviction began to settle in.

Sure, it’d be easy to just say, “Well, they shoulda listened to me. I was right. They were wrong. If they’re not willing to face the truth, so be it.”

But honestly, that kind of it’s-all-their-fault attitude gains me nothing.

So in lieu of taking the easy way out, here are 5 lessons from a failed copywriting pitch.

1.  Honor Your Loyalties

You’ve heard it before, “You gotta dance with the one who brung you.”

In other words, loyalty matters. And there’s no better way to guarantee failure than to try changing horses mid-race (especially if it’s because the “next” horse is faster, prettier, and richer).

My friend had vouched for me. She’d put her neck on the line. And instead of honoring that trust, I sold it out.

I didn’t champion her; I championed me. I didn’t address her needs; I addressed my own.

The lure of new business replaced the value of an old friend.

Instead of making her look good, I tried to make me look good. And, in the end (of course), neither one of us did.

Honor your loyalties. Dance with the one who brung you.

2.  Do Not Make It About You

The first thing my friend asked me when we connected after the meeting was, “Tell me what it was you thought I’d brought you in for.”

She asked it gently, and with genuine inquisitiveness … but I knew what she meant.

I’d missed the mark.

Why?

On the surface, because she’d brought me to talk about connecting with bloggers. And I’d spent the entire time tearing apart the company’s online marketing.

I got distracted and lost sight of why I was there to begin with.

At an even more basic level, however, the real reason I’d missed the mark was selfishness: I made the pitch about me … not about them.

I talked about what I wanted to talk about. I focused on what I thought the needs were. And I ignored what it was they were really after.

This is what Geoffrey James calls “Selling before assessing needs”:

Probably the most common selling error in the world is to think that what you’re selling is so wonderful that you can just assume that the customer wants it.

I’ve fallen prey to this kind of thinking repeatedly in my career and it’s probably cost me many thousands of dollars in lost business. And rightly so. After all, if I can’t take the time to find out how I can truly help a client, why should I expect a client to hire me?

The real problem here is that I sometimes let my ego get in the way of my purpose.

Selling is always about the customer; it’s never about you.

3.  Ask Questions

These next two lessons, aren’t quite as philosophical … but they are practical.

As simple as it sounds, I could have asked questions, both before the meeting and especially during.

If I’d have started our face-to-face time by asking, “So, tell me exactly what I’m doing here? How do we make the most of this next hour? What is it you need?” imagine the world of hurt I could have saved both my friend and myself from.

The point here is so universal, that it bears repeating.

Questions are powerful.

Questions force you to stop thinking about yourself and to start thinking about your audience, the people who actually matter. Questions generate dialogue, genuine dialogue. Questions engage people. And (most importantly) they build relationships and they make people feel together instead of separate.

4.  ALWAYS Have an Agenda!

Oh, the pain and sorrow I could have been spared, if only I’d made an agenda.

Even a rudimentary outline of what I hoped to accomplish — a list of the key take-aways or essential topics — would have immediately exposed just how off course my plan was, especially if I ran it by my friend before the meeting started.

Get clarity. And get that clarity on paper.

5.  “Speak the Truth in Love”

This last one might sound a bit touchy feely for a sales pitch, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

What does speaking the truth in love mean?

Two things …

First, speaking the truth.

The truth was their online marketing sucked. Period.

It was a genuine train wreck: quantifiably awful.

But, that was only half of it.

Second, speaking the truth in love.

Okay yes, the marketing sucked. But did they really need to hear that from me? Did they need to hear that from some they didn’t know, like, or trust?

Forget about “need to” for a second … did they even have the capacity to hear me?

The more I think about it the more I think the answer is, “No.”

Why?

Because I didn’t take the time to love them.

This is what the other four lessons add up to.

We all have people in our lives who need to hear hard things. Sometimes it’s professional. Sometimes it’s personal. But if they’re gonna hear us, the common denominator is always love.

Only when we feel cared for, respected, and honored are we ready to hear those hard things. Only when I believe you have my best interests in mind, that you aren’t trying to get over on me, that you value me as a real person and not just a dollar sign am I ready to truly listen.

6. Charge for everything!

This is a bonus lesson courtesy of Joanna Wiebe’s comment on my original post:

I love this, Aaron. Really nicely told. We’ve all been there — trust me! To add to the conversation, could it be that the fact that you went in there as a ‘freebie’ diluted the value of your expertise? Free advice is worth every penny…

…of course, I’m giving you free advice right now, so. 🙂

Anyway, I hope you charge for every service going forward. You not only gave them free help connecting with bloggers — hello huge value! — but you also gave them a free website review.

Charge for everything, and you’ll never give unsolicited advice. 🙂

Boom. What an insight!

Charge for everything.

After all, what is it the great and might Dr. Phil says? “We teach people how to treat us.” (That’s “Life Law 8” if you were wondering. And, yes, I did have to Google it.)

But seriously, such a good lesson. If they’re not paying for it, they won’t value it.

This is what’s know — in psychology — as the endowment effect:

The endowment effect (also known as divestiture aversion and related to the mere ownership effect in social psychology) is the hypothesis that people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them.

And as John Jantsch points out in his Inc. article How to Get Paid for Everything You Do:

The reality is that when someone gets something for free, they value it far less than if they pay or exchange something for it. When you establish value in what you provide, what you do becomes more valuable to the recipient.

Pretty stellar advice … even if it was free. 😉

So, what has failure taught you recently?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Naturally, Schwartz didn’t mean that good copy should ever exceed 10 words. What he meant was that the core of your ad and, in particular, its headline will always come down to 10 words or less.

Below, we’ll walk through exactly how to unearth and unleash the right “5 to 10 words” in your copy through three unbreakable laws.

We’ll also discover why — as Schwartz put it — “nothing” else you write matters without them.

1. The First Law of Writing Copy: ‘Mass Desire’

Drawing from Schwartz, let’s start with a simple definition.

Another word for “mass desire” is emotion: “the public spread of a private want.”

An ad’s ability to sell begins and ends with identifying a “private want” and  channeling that want into “public” words. Only when an audience and an ad share the same dominant emotion does that ad stand any chance of compelling, converting, and closing.

Put more simply, writing copy that sells lives or dies by the right “mass desire.”

A friend of mine calls this the “Puppy Principle.” If you’re trying to sell leashes or organic Alpo, forget about all the logistics of dog ownership.

Just show ‘em the puppy!

Why?

Because unless how you’re presenting your product makes your audience want to hold it, love it, and give it money … you’re not selling it right. And — chances are — you aren’t selling it at all.

Mass desire means majoring on dreams, fears, desires, needs, pains, and pleasures. And than means …

However, this means the real question isn’t “What?” or “How?” but “Where?”

Where does “mass desire” come from?

The answer might surprise you.

It doesn’t come from your product, your benefits, your USP, your value proposition, your copy, or even from you.

It comes from your market itself. Schwartz explained:

The power, the force, the overwhelming urge to own that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the copy.

Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product.

This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire—but to channel and direct it (3).

Naturally, this assumes that you have a market — a narrow and clearly targeted group of people whose lives your product would be legitimately improved. But I realize, that’s kind of a big assumption.

Who is your target market?

Copywriters often obsess about what they should write: product features versus product benefits; using the right keywords; nailing the headline, subheadings, images, and first line of copy; banging out a rough draft, and then editing, editing, editing.

Wrong.

Your real obsession shouldn’t be what, but who.

Copy without a target market is worse than worthless. It’s costly.

Without a clearly defined target market — real people with real problems looking for real solutions — you inevitably end up writing for the one person you shouldn’t be: yourself. Self-centeredness is a plague, especially when writing copy.

Begin with the demographics of your ideal customer. Richard Lazazzera’s How To Build Buyer Personas For Better Marketing dives into the sea of personal characteristics and eventually this example of “Alex” for a fictitious company, Bold Socks, surfaces:

Demographics, however, aren’t enough. Not if what you’re really after are words that sell. You’ve got to go deeper than age, ethnicity, income, location, and familial status.

How?

Through personas. On this front, three brilliant (and, thankfully, free) resources stand out.

First is Jen Havice’s How To Create Customer Personas With Actual, Real Life Data over at ConversionXL. As Havice explains:

Patching together actionable information about your customers with gut feelings, good intentions and some duct tape is not a recipe for conversion success. [P]ersonas are fictional representations of segments of buyers based on real data reflecting their behaviors. Their purpose is to put the people behind company decision making in the shoes of the customer.

Havice them shows how to shape personas through qualitative research.

The breakthrough insight — especially for anyone without a budget for focus groups — comes from her review mining work, which she’s consolidated into a recent book: Finding the Right Message. By all means, buy it. In the meantime, work through the above article as well as How to Boost Conversions with Voice of Customer Research [Case Study] that includes this free template:

Writing Copy Through Review Mining
Writing copy through review mining

Review mining to craft copy is one of my own copywriting hallmarks, especially when it comes to landing pages. You can see how I created this simplified copywriting cheat sheet directly from “feedback and comments on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Amazon, Reddit, app stores, and blogs,” along with what the landing page itself ultimately looked like over at KlientBoost.

Writing Copy from User-Generated Content
Writing copy directly from user-generated content

Second, Demian Farnworth’s Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head (via Copyblogger). Empathy consists of two parts:

1. The intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. The vicarious experiencing of those feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

After a brilliant overview of empathy in marketing — old school and new — Farnworth drops the gold (which you can download as a PDF simply by clicking the image).

Empathy Map
The Empathy Map Lets You Dissect Your Target Market into Four Quadrants on a Person-by-Person Basis

Third, my own The Only Copywriting Formula You’ll Ever Need.

That’s a post all about fear: hands-down the “most primal” human motivator. At the end are thirteen questions to help you haunt your target market (in the best sense possible).

Here’s a quick sampling:

  • What does your audience hate… about their life, about their job, or about your particular type of product or service?
  • What are the real-world consequences of these problems? In other words, how can you quantify, in real numbers, their hates and headaches?
  • What’s the most awkward, confusing, or inconvenient thing about your type of business?
  • What are the two to three biggest barriers to becoming a customer?
  • What nightmare or hell (be as vivid and emotive as possible) does your business save its customers from?

In all those resources, the point is to define your target market as concretely and viscerally as possible.

What are your target market’s mass desires?

Once that group is fixed, the next step is to make a list of all the possible emotions — the raw emotions — that might inspire someone in that specific market to act.

On the negative side, it might be:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Uncertainty
  • Embarrassment
  • Envy
  • Resentment

On the positive side, it might be:

  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Accomplishment
  • Satisfaction
  • Elation
  • Desire
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Comfort

After you’ve selected two or three dominant, raw emotions, get specific.

For example, the most dominant human emotion is fear. But nobody (despite FDR’s sound advice) fears fear. What we fear are people, places, things, and events. We fear the future. Or we fear situations that may arise in the future. We fear loss. We fear uncertainty. We fear failure.

On top of that, every market — just like every person — has its own unique list.

Take the real estate market for instance. What do new homebuyers fear most?

Some of the obvious boogiemen are …

  • The fear of being overwhelmed by the process.
  • The fear of being turned down for a loan.
  • The fear of picking the wrong neighborhood.
  • The fear of not having enough money for a down payment.
  • The fear of something better coming along and missing out.

Whatever it is, by selecting one of those fears and placing it front and center in your copy, you “enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind” (Robert Collier).

Actually, what you enter is the conversation already taking place in the customer’s heart.

Either way, the keyword is “customer’s.” Their mind. Their heart.

Mass Desire in Action

To put a little more flesh on this idea, here are some classic examples of wildly successful headlines from Schwartz’s era that tapped into their market’s mass desires:

  • “Hair Coloring So Natural Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure”
  • “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in a Rolls Royce is the electric clock.”
  • “The Skin YOU Love to Touch”
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • “Stops Maddening Itch”
  • “Do YOU make these mistakes in English?”
  • “How a bald-headed barber helped save my hair.”

Today, with advertising exposure rising exponentially, you may think that such straightforward appeals no longer work.

Just to prove they do, here is a handful of my favorite mass desire headlines from the web:

Unbounce: Speed

Sweat Block: Embarrassment

Basecamp: Stress

Mint: Relief

Memit: Simplicity

eHarmony: Winning (and, of course, love)

Blue Apron: Authenticity

Weight Watchers: Release

Designed to Move: Justice

Shopify Plus: Easy

Dapulse: Vanity

Apple Watch: Flexibility

MacBook Pro: Creativity

AirPods: Intrigue

What each of these headlines (classic and contemporary) does beautifully is identify and channel one desire: love, greed, entertainment, the fear of inability, or the fear of difficulty. They use emotive language to capture their audience’s hearts and minds. Emotive language that already exists in the market they’re trying to reach.

To breakthrough, your ads must do the same.

One more law about the word “one”

Having generated a powerhouse list of market-inspired mass desires, your greatest temptation will be to employ them all, like a sort of emotional machine gun.

Don’t.

You only get one.

(Well, you may get to split-test more than one. But each ad only gets one!)

Why?

Because in Schwartz’s words:

Every product appeals to two, three or four of these mass desires.

But only one can predominate; only one can reach out through your headline to your customer. Only one is the key that unlocks the maximum economic power at the particular time your advertisement is published.

Your choice among these alternate desires is the most important step you will take in writing your ad.

If it is wrong, nothing else that you do in the ad will matter.

So remember: Just. One.

2. The Second Law of Writing Copy: State of Awareness

We all know how vital headlines are.

As Brian Clark puts it, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” That means your headline isn’t just your audience’s first impression … it’s more than likely their only impression.

So here’s the question:

Where do “breakthrough” headlines come from?

You know what I’m talking about. The kind of headlines that pop up, stop your market in their tracks, and compel them to read every word after it.

Now sure, there’re a ton of great cheat sheets out there to get the creative ball rolling. Jon Morrow’s “52 Headline Hacks” is among the best.

The problem is most of us start out wrong because we start with us: our idea, our product, our service, our copy.

But …

What if there was a way to systematically craft breakthrough headlines based entirely on your market?

What if there was a proven formula to pull your prospects into your copy because it actually started with your prospects themselves?

On this front, three brilliant (and, thankfully, free) resources stand out.

First is Jen Havice’s How To Create Customer Personas With Actual, Real Life Data over at ConversionXL. As Havice explains:

Patching together actionable information about your customers with gut feelings, good intentions and some duct tape is not a recipe for conversion success. [P]ersonas are fictional representations of segments of buyers based on real data reflecting their behaviors. Their purpose is to put the people behind company decision making in the shoes of the customer.

Havice them shows how to shape personas through qualitative research.

The breakthrough insight — especially for anyone without a budget for focus groups — comes from her review mining work, which she’s consolidated into a recent book: Finding the Right Message. By all means, buy it. In the meantime, work through the above article as well as How to Boost Conversions with Voice of Customer Research [Case Study] that includes this free template:

Message Mining by Jen Havice via CXL

Review mining to craft copy is one of my own copywriting hallmarks, especially when it comes to landing pages.

You can see how I created this simplified copywriting cheat sheet directly from “feedback and comments on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Amazon, Reddit, app stores, and blogs,” along with what the landing page itself ultimately looked like over at KlientBoost.

Writing Copy from User-Generated Content
Writing copy directly from user-generated content

Second, Demian Farnworth’s Empathy Maps: A Complete Guide to Crawling Inside Your Customer’s Head (via Copyblogger). Empathy consists of two parts:

1. The intellectual identification with the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. The vicarious experiencing of those feelings, thoughts, or attitudes.

After a brilliant overview of empathy in marketing — old school and new — Farnworth drops the gold (which you can download as a PDF simply by clicking the image).

Empathy Map
The Empathy Map Lets You Dissect Your Target Market into Four Quadrants on a Person-by-Person Basis

Third, my own The Only Copywriting Formula You’ll Ever Need.

That’s a post all about fear: hands-down the “most primal” human motivator. At the end are thirteen questions to help you haunt your target market (in the best sense possible).

Here’s a quick sampling:

  • What does your audience hate… about their life, about their job, or about your particular type of product or service?
  • What are the real-world consequences of these problems? In other words, how can you quantify, in real numbers, their hates and headaches?
  • What’s the most awkward, confusing, or inconvenient thing about your type of business?
  • What are the two to three biggest barriers to becoming a customer?
  • What nightmare or hell (be as vivid and emotive as possible) does your business save its customers from?

In all those resources, the point is to define your target market as concretely and viscerally as possible.

What are your target market’s mass desires?

Once that group is fixed, the next step is to make a list of all the possible emotions — the raw emotions — that might inspire someone in that specific market to act.

On the negative side, it might be:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Uncertainty
  • Embarrassment
  • Envy
  • Resentment

On the positive side, it might be:

  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Accomplishment
  • Satisfaction
  • Elation
  • Desire
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • Comfort

After you’ve selected two or three dominant, raw emotions, get specific.

For example, the most dominant human emotion is fear. But nobody (despite FDR’s sound advice) fears fear. What we fear are people, places, things, and events. We fear the future. Or we fear situations that may arise in the future. We fear loss. We fear uncertainty. We fear failure.

On top of that, every market — just like every person — has its own unique list.

Take the real estate market for instance. What do new homebuyers fear most?

Some of the obvious boogiemen are …

  • The fear of being overwhelmed by the process.
  • The fear of being turned down for a loan.
  • The fear of picking the wrong neighborhood.
  • The fear of not having enough money for a down payment.
  • The fear of something better coming along and missing out.

Whatever it is, by selecting one of those fears and placing it front and center in your copy, you “enter the conversation already taking place in the customer’s mind” (Robert Collier).

Actually, what you enter is the conversation already taking place in the customer’s heart.

Either way, the keyword is “customer’s.” Their mind. Their heart.

Mass Desire in Action

To put a little more flesh on this idea, here are some classic examples of wildly successful headlines from Schwartz’s era that tapped into their market’s mass desires:

  • “Hair Coloring So Natural Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure”
  • “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in a Rolls Royce is the electric clock.”
  • “The Skin YOU Love to Touch”
  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • “Stops Maddening Itch”
  • “Do YOU make these mistakes in English?”
  • “How a bald-headed barber helped save my hair.”

Today, with advertising exposure rising exponentially, you may think that such straightforward appeals no longer work.

Just to prove they do, here is a handful of my favorite mass desire headlines from the web:

Unbounce: Speed

Sweat Block: Embarrassment

Basecamp: Stress

Mint: Relief

Memit: Simplicity

eHarmony: Winning (and, of course, love)

Blue Apron: Authenticity

Weight Watchers: Release

Designed to Move: Justice

Shopify Plus: Easy

Dapulse: Vanity

Apple Watch: Flexibility

MacBook Pro: Creativity

AirPods: Intrigue

What each of these headlines (classic and contemporary) does beautifully is identify and channel one desire: love, greed, entertainment, the fear of inability, or the fear of difficulty. They use emotive language to capture their audience’s hearts and minds. Emotive language that already exists in the market they’re trying to reach.

To breakthrough, your ads must do the same.

One more law about the word “one”

Having generated a powerhouse list of market-inspired mass desires, your greatest temptation will be to employ them all, like a sort of emotional machine gun.

Don’t.

You only get one.

(Well, you may get to split-test more than one. But each ad only gets one!)

Why?

Because in Schwartz’s words:

Every product appeals to two, three or four of these mass desires.

But only one can predominate; only one can reach out through your headline to your customer. Only one is the key that unlocks the maximum economic power at the particular time your advertisement is published.

Your choice among these alternate desires is the most important step you will take in writing your ad.

If it is wrong, nothing else that you do in the ad will matter.

So remember: Just. One.

2. The Second Law of Writing Copy: State of Awareness

We all know how vital headlines are.

As Brian Clark puts it, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” That means your headline isn’t just your audience’s first impression … it’s more than likely their only impression.

So here’s the question:

Where do “breakthrough” headlines come from?

You know what I’m talking about. The kind of headlines that pop up, stop your market in their tracks, and compel them to read every word after it.

Now sure, there’re a ton of great cheat sheets out there to get the creative ball rolling. Jon Morrow’s “52 Headline Hacks” is among the best.

The problem is most of us start out wrong because we start with us: our idea, our product, our service, our copy.

But …

What if there was a way to systematically craft breakthrough headlines based entirely on your market?

What if there was a proven formula to pull your prospects into your copy because it actually started with your prospects themselves?

Let’s save the world from bad content