How Do YOU Write Copy?

13 replies
This is more for the benefit of newbies...

A discussion the other day with a fellow copywriter got me thinking. We were talking about how we write copy and I realized we both had extremely different ways of putting the copy together.

Naturally, I think my way is best because at the end of the process, the copy flows incredibly easily and makes the process simple

So here's my question to you guys - how do you write your copy?

Do you follow a formula, a template and fill in the blanks? How do you weave the emotions and stories in your copy? What techniques do you employ?

I'll get the ball rolling...

I put together a very detailed prep file. It usually takes me a week to comb through a product and put the prep files together, sometimes less, sometimes more.

Prep file itself - covers the emotions, fears, frustrations, hopes, aspirations, benefits, desires, indentity, proof and war stories I use in my copy.

I also create an avatar - a fictional 'ideal prospect' and use this as a focus for my copy - writing to the avatar only.

Pre-product map - this is where I briefly plot the copy in sequential order before introducing the product and includes problem setting, stories, emotions, and build up towards the solution...

Post-product map - this is the benefits, the offer, guarantee, testimonials and the fork in the road (what happens if you don't take action, what happens when you do)

I usually chop and change things around depending on the copy - there is no definite order in how things are done, since each copy has its own challenge...

And once this is done, I start writing my copy. I find this an invaluable exercise, especially for expensive products, since the copy virtually writes itself.

Now over to you guys!
#copy #write
  • Profile picture of the author ARSuarez
    My process, to someone on the outside, looks like a schizophrenic child with ADD was given 20+ documents and a computer.

    In short, a mess.

    But let me break it down...

    1. Read the past promotions (if there are any) for that product. Anything that has been written about it or for it.

    2. Find out what appeals worked and which ones didn't.

    3. Examine the product thoroughly. Highlighter in hand.

    4. Create a features to benefits chart (this is a real pain in the ass).

    5. Put together a customer profile of beliefs, desires, etc. Give this 'profile' a person's name and describe this person in minute detail. Think of them whenever you write to this list/customer.

    6. Put together a list of the product creator's credibility/proof elements: testimonials, past successes, media appearances, articles, books, etc. Pretty much find the stuff that makes them worth listening to.

    7. Look up the top-selling/best books in that field to read. Literally, the bestsellers. This shows what's on people's minds right now and what they're looking for. To be honest, I did this for a while, then stopped (because it's time consuming), and started doing it again (because it's worth it). Magazines on the subject are good to study for language, too.

    Usually this step also includes competitive research, such as studying other people's related ads, related products, appeals, etc.

    8. Type up my notes from all the previous exercises - highlighting/studying the product, books, the market, etc. Type them up and print them out, then highlight what really stands out to me from that.

    9. Pinpoint an essential 'idea' and then see how it could work in copy. A quick note: some good ideas simply don't work - they seem fun and cool, but they end up leading nowhere because it's impossible to transition into the offer through them. Savvy?

    10. Create a logical sales structure - this is when I find the major points I have to hit, and then arrange them in a way that flows into a logical buying decision.

    11. Write up the copy by sections. I have to write my stuff piece by piece - so, eyebrow, headline, and deck get put together as a placeholders (this comes later). Then the lead. Then section 2. Section 3. Section 4. There can be as many as 1-3 sections for a single logical sales point.

    12. Edit, edit, edit, edit.

    13. Write up about 20 headlines, find the best one, craft an eyebrow and deck (main subhead) that fits it.

    14. Edit, edit, edit, edit, edit. Punch it up with stronger words, shorten sentences, use Flesch-Kincaid to make sure it's only 8-9th grade reading level with at least 60+ reading ease and less than 8% passive sentences.

    I know I missed something... but it's rather sloppy process. It doesn't always go the way I just described.

    Enjoy.

    -Angel
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    • Well I was trying to type up how I write copy.

      But thank goodness Arfa and Angel have done it for me.

      I basically do what they both do.


      Steve
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      • Originally Posted by Steve Copywriter View Post

        Well I was trying to type up how I write copy.

        But thank goodness Arfa and Angel have done it for me.

        I basically do what they both do.


        Steve

        Like Steve, I use a combination of both processes...

        but I still haven't figured out how to get the copy to write itself!...:rolleyes:
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        • Profile picture of the author ARSuarez
          Originally Posted by MoneyMagnetMagnate View Post

          Like Steve, I use a combination of both processes...

          but I still haven't figured out how to get the copy to write itself!...:rolleyes:
          I find that laying several blank pieces of paper on a desk and then yelling at them for 2 1/2 hours does the trick.

          -Angel
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          • Or have another cup of coffee.

            Go back to the desk and see if it's all brilliantly written.

            No?

            Dammit.

            Ahh well you've just got to bang away on the keyboards.

            The secret is type anything, it really doesn't matter what it is.

            And amazingly after a while...you somehow get onto the "track" of whatever it is you're supposed to be doing.


            Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
      Originally Posted by ARSuarez View Post


      5. Put together a customer profile of beliefs, desires, etc. Give this 'profile' a person's name and describe this person in minute detail. Think of them whenever you write to this list/customer.


      -Angel
      Ah yes!!

      I nearly forgot about that - will have to edit my post as I forgot to mention about creating an avatar - thanks for reminding me

      I write a lengthy one and then write to this avatar. One tip I learnt was to 'switch heads' and write to the opposite gender than you normally would unless you are selling an item which is gender specific such as stuff for new mums.

      The reason behind this is because women and men think differently in terms of wants, needs, aspirations etc - so its easy to miss what I guy might want if your avatar is female and vice versa.

      I hope that's making sense!

      Yes I do find the process a pain, and like you Angel, its a mess!! In fact, you should see my work space - my mum would disapprove! notes and scribbles everywhere...but I like to call it an organized mess
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  • Profile picture of the author ThomasOMalley
    After I have completed my research and I have given my subconscious mind time to digest the research material, I spend a fair amount of time looking over my relevant swipe files.

    As I review my swipe files, I jot down ideas for copy as they come to me.

    Then I let those ideas swirl in subconscious for a day or so.

    Finally, I sit down to write my copy. I usually write different sections first. I usually have the inspiration of a powerful letter or more from my swipe file in front of me as I write my copy.

    I write until I have completed the first draft. Then I edit it a day or two later.

    The key is to never look at a blank page.

    Excellent research and a good swipe file are the foundation for successful copy.

    Best,

    Thomas O'Malley
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Andrews
    Banned
    [DELETED]
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Well Arfa, it sounds like Mark's trained you pretty well...maybe I should follow some of his pointers.

    Since most of my work has been ad type copywriting...here's how I do it.

    I'm not a big fan of long sales letters -- some copywriters want to wound their prey before they move in for the kill...

    ...I just get right to the point...and finish things quickly.

    Before I start any project, I always come up with a theme...everyone should focus on a main theme...it's what sets the tone for the piece.

    I do it all in my head.

    I usually only care about the benefits...anything else is usually just fluff.

    After I've got my theme, I sit down and type the whole piece...from start to finish.

    Once you have something on paper, you can then start working with it.

    Since I realize everyone has the same basic thoughts and wants -- although it changes by age group...I simply focus on the age group I'm targeting and use a theme and language that appeals to them.

    That's my quick answer to how I write copy
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    • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
      Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

      Well Arfa, it sounds like Mark's trained you pretty well...maybe I should follow some of his pointers.

      Since most of my work has been ad type copywriting...here's how I do it.

      I'm not a big fan of long sales letters -- some copywriters want to wound their prey before they move in for the kill...

      ...I just get right to the point...and finish things quickly.

      Before I start any project, I always come up with a theme...everyone should focus on a main theme...it's what sets the tone for the piece.

      I do it all in my head.

      I usually only care about the benefits...anything else is usually just fluff.

      After I've got my theme, I sit down and type the whole piece...from start to finish.

      Once you have something on paper, you can then start working with it.

      Since I realize everyone has the same basic thoughts and wants -- although it changes by age group...I simply focus on the age group I'm targeting and use a theme and language that appeals to them.

      That's my quick answer to how I write copy

      Nice

      Yes, always good to have a theme or angle to take - and I find it helps clarify the overall message...

      oh and just in case anyone hasn't worked it out yet - Mark hasn't trained me at all...he just likes to wind me up :p
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  • Thanks for these. I'm glad to see that I don't differ from you guys too much. The general theme is that research is key; even looking just at the way you describe the process, there's a lot more about research than writing.
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  • Profile picture of the author Top Dog Marketer
    I like to spend several days researching and I have my assistants research as well, then I break down all of the most important information on to 3x5 index cards. Combine this with a good swipe file and you're well on your way to writing powerful sales copy.
    Signature

    I'm the "Top Dog" when it comes to marketing.

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  • Profile picture of the author Jake Dennert
    Originally Posted by arfasaira View Post


    I put together a very detailed prep file. It usually takes me a week to comb through a product and put the prep files together, sometimes less, sometimes more.
    Awesome, I'm not the only one!

    Haha, I redefine the word 'thorough' with my research and preparation process most of the time.

    Normally I try to cram all the prep work into one or two days... but I'm seriously considering borrowing a page from your book and stretching it out to a week.

    Don't want to be burned out right when I'm sittin' down to start writing!

    Lately I've been shifting into emails though... LOT shorter, not nearly as much research.

    Thanks for sharing your process!


    Jake

    (Like a couple others I saw no point in actually detailing my process... just too similar to yours.)
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