Scripts. Templates. Formulas.
God help ’em, people LOVE them!
They promise to make copywriting easier… faster… surer.
They’re like their own “unique mechanism” that gives you some sort of edge or shortcut.
Just like many of the folks I’ve marketed supplements to over the past 3 decades, they’re the “magic pill” so many of us find irresistible, that promises to solve all of our problems without the hard work of eating a good diet or exercising regularly.
Now, I’m not saying ALL scripts, templates, or formulas should be avoided. My Ultimate A-List Copywriter’s Promo Checklist that you got when you became a Copy Insider is an incredibly useful tool for improving the quality of your copy.
And the templates, examples, and checklists you get in my Research Beast program (which you can get here for a limited time at $200 off) are designed to give you a framework for assembling and organizing your research.
You still need to do the work, but they save you time and make your research more focused and effective.
But copywriting or creating a new promo from scratch is NOT a connect-the-dots, color-by-numbers exercise.
It’s an art!
Which is why when people feel they have to follow some kind of forced outline… or include certain components because someone says they always have to, the result can be, at best, a cookie-cutter, “me too” promotion. And at worst, a bomb.
Having run my Fast Track to A-List mentoring group over the past 3 years, I’ve reviewed a lot of long-form sales page and VSL drafts written by my mentees.
One mistake I’ve seen time and again is when someone feels they have to follow a prescribed “formula” or outline when writing long-form sales copy.
I’ve seen paragraphs of meandering, superfluous copy wedged into a lead… or endless droning on that takes the prospect off on a tangent that distracts them from the key messaging or “big idea”. Both of these mistakes risk losing your prospect long before you even present what you’re selling.
Here’s the thing I’ve found in more than two decades of writing dozens of successful, long-running control sales pages, VSLs, and magalogs… mostly in the supplement niche, but also for financial newsletters, fitness products, and others.
It’s that each and every promo I write is its own unique creation. There are certain components or tactics I always include in a promo, and some that just don’t fit.
And that leads me to a question I got a few days ago from Mohammad Wasim, who’s been a Copy Insider since the beginning of April. Here’s what he wrote…
Hope you’re doing well.
I’ve gone through the whole ‘Research Beast’ program.
It’s been a fantastic journey for me.
It’s like a 30-foot Anaconda slithering in the Western Part of the Amazon river.
And it indeed is a ‘beast’.
According to what I’ve fathomed, the 30,000-foot view of the ‘Research Beast’ is as below:
- Gather nuggets>The Prism Exercise(customer research).
- 5-step process tying product features to dominant emotions (product research).
- Answering 3 critical questions in step 4 of the ‘Research Beast’ (Answer to the 1st question is customer research through The Prism exercise, answer to the 2nd question is product research through The 5 step process, answer to the 3rd question is competition research>Determine Stage of Awareness>Determine stage of sophistication>the unique mechanism>the big idea.
In the process of doing all of the above, refer to copy chunks, reference links, credibilities, nuggets, etc. whenever possible.
But there’s this one question I need to ask you if you don’t mind.
You have mentioned the Unique Mechanism and how to find it.
I’m sure you’re aware of the Unique Mechanism of the Problem and the Unique Mechanism of the Solution.
I’m guessing that’s directly connected to the stage of market sophistication where mechanisms and expanded mechanisms are added to make the product stand out.
My question is, don’t you think it might provide more clarity to the customer as to why the previous solutions of our product didn’t work because of the Unique Mechanism of the Problem and why having added that additional mechanism, which is the Unique Mechanism of the Solution, and now it works wonders and is the ultimate solution for what the customers are looking for?
It’s like addressing the thoughts that go through a customer’s mind as in ‘ok, this is good, this is the solution I was looking for. But I wonder why it didn’t work before. I hope it works this time.’
Addressing the part ‘but I wonder why it didn’t work before’ makes it more believable, I think.
Thanks for the wonderful program, Kim.
I mean, research is a lot of work that provides the confidence required to come up with a solid copy.
You’ve gone far enough to provide as many resources as possible to do the research the right way.
And now, let me share with you my response to Mohammad. I know that in recent years, some top copywriters “prescribe” that you should ALWAYS have a unique mechanism of the problem as well as the solution.
But I can attest that out of those dozens of aforementioned controls I’ve written, I’ve never routinely included one like it’s some kind of “rule”. Here’s how I explained it to Mohammad…
The reason I focus on the unique mechanism of the solution and not so much of the problem is because every promo doesn’t necessarily rely on there being a recognizable problem as to why someone hasn’t gotten results before.
For example, when I wrote a promo years ago for a new detox supplement (Pectasol), detoxing wasn’t a huge thing on people’s minds that they were trying to solve already and nothing had worked. It was more about creating awareness about all the toxins they’re exposed to, how they could be causing their memory problems or stiff joints or whatever, and then talking about the unique mechanism of the solution and how it solved the detoxing issue.
Or when I wrote a successful financial promo that beat Jim Rutz (Personal Finance), I didn’t go into telling people why all the investing advice or techniques they’d use before hadn’t gotten them where they wanted to be. It was more about getting them excited about the new opportunities that could offer much greater returns and they could get in early. Just about every successful financial promo today is mostly focused on a new opportunity as well. Some focus on a unique “system” but generally they don’t talk about the unique mechanism of the problem.
I only began hearing people talk about the unique mechanism of the problem (UMP) when [NAME DELETED] started talking about it, and that was based pretty much on the Clickbank promo model. Many of the Clickbank products are weight loss-oriented or other supplement solutions that compete in saturated niches and thus focusing on the UMP is a way to build belief. It’s an effective approach for the right product and positioning angle. I’ve used it with multiple successful control promos for supplements without ever thinking of it as UMP, but more like the hidden cause or the real reason what you’re doing isn’t working, etc.
But I’ve never heard one of the top A-listers I learned from who wrote for the biggest, most competitive direct mailers (i.e., Clayton Makepeace, Parris Lampropoulus, etc.) even use the term “unique mechanism of the problem”)… and maybe it’s because we all were writing successful copy long before Clickbank (-;
So to sum up, a UMP is not always needed nor plays a big role in every promo in my opinion, but finding the unique mechanism of the solution (UMS) usually is needed to convince people it’s a superior solution or opportunity. (In a financial promo, the UMS could be unusual access that uncovers opportunities, or some proprietary system that’s able to spot them).
The proof that you don’t always need a UMP (Unique Mechanism of the Problem) is easy to see. You see the lack of a prominent UMP in many of my most successful controls, like the ones I mention in my response.
You also see it when you go back and look at some of the most successful long-form promos of all time (for example, Mike Palmer’s “End of America” VSL… “Read This or Die” by Jim Rutz… or anything by the late Clayton Makepeace).
Now, I’ve seen formulas that work for email copy, for example… but just like anything, the same formula doesn’t work for all types of emails.
You have to know when to apply a formula or rule, and when to break it. It’s like a famous quote I first heard from my friend Brian Kurtz. He didn’t say it, none other than Pablo Picasso did…
So don’t feel that you have to be forced to follow a specific outline or formula when writing copy. It’s much better to “learn the rules like a pro”… become a master of your understanding of the timeless principles of copywriting and how to apply them..
Then go out there and break them like an artist!
May it lead you to many big winners and much success.
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. The crucial foundation for any successful promotion you write is based on copywriting research. Shortchange this process at your own peril! I know many copywriters don’t know where to start… or find themselves wallowing aimlessly with no structure or process in place.
So to solve these problems (and many more), I created my Research Beast program. It gives you the same six-step process I’ve used to write successful sales copy… and it’s the same approach I teach my copywriting mentees.
You can get all the details here. I’m offering $200 savings for a limited time (the coupon will automatically be applied when you go to check out). Note: the doors to my Mini-Mentoring Workshop are now closed, but should I offer any future workshops, you’ll be among the first to know!