A fail-safe copywriting process

If you’ve been to school and learned how to throw a sentence together, you might think you can write your own marketing copy. Chances are, you can’t! But, if you want to try anyway, here’s a failsafe process used by the professionals:

1. Do 360-degree research, understanding everything you can about your product/service, your competitors and your target customers.

2. Draw a mind map (also known as a spider diagram), where you note all your thoughts in a random way then number them in order of priority. Get a big piece of paper and turn it sideways so you tap into the creative right side of the brain. Write the main subject in the middle of the page, with lines coming out of it in all directions. Write an idea along each line, adding more ideas as you think of them, until you have done a ‘brain dump’ of everything you know about that subject. Then, using your rational and logical left-brain, number your points in order of priority and rewrite it in a standard, linear format.

3. To help beat writers’ block, take a blank page and write something, anything, to spoil the scary pure whiteness. It can be your name, the date, a squiggle…

4. Write the main content or body text, following the order you identified on your mind map. Change all features into benefits. For example, don’t say: ‘We sell seashells’, say what your seashells will do to help the reader.

5. Write the conclusion or summary. For marketing communications, this will usually be a ‘call to action’ telling the reader what you want them to do.

6. Write the introduction. Yes, it helps to write this after the main content so you can introduce exactly what you are going to say next.

7. Write the heading from the reader’s point of view, answering their question: ‘What’s in it for me’.

8. Add sub-headings to aid skim-reading and navigation.

9. Edit the content. Cut, cut and cut again until you have deleted anything that doesn’t fit your introduction and conclusion.

10. Ask ‘so what’ at the end of every statement and rewrite it until all the content is relevant to the reader’s needs.

11. Read it aloud to see whether it flows easily.

12. Edit again, until the text is perfect.

13. Sleep on it.

14. Read it again and make any final tweaks.

15. Proofread it thoroughly, perhaps getting someone else to check it too.

16. Finished!

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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