Before You Write Copy

This is Lesson Four in a series of six posts that preview just some of the content from my Put the Mojo in Your Message training.

Every single business owner needs to be able to use written words to tell the story of what they offer and why it’s important. It doesn’t even matter so much that story is being told on a flier, on a webpage, or in a promotional email. Regardless of where those written words are showing up, telling a compelling story (not your personal rags-to-riches story, but a clear flow of ideas) is key to promoting and selling your programs, products, and services.

The biggest underlying reason I see business owners struggle with copy is that they haven’t actually worked out yet what they are trying to say. That’s why I encourage all my clients to take the time to write that basic story about what they offer, before worrying about what the program or product is, or what the details of the offer are, or where the words are going to appear.

And, once you invest the time in writing your basic story, then most of your copy is already written, you just need to add:
• Headlines and sub-heads
• Bullet points
• Offer details
• And a strong call to action

Here’s the thing, all marketing pieces, have an underlying structure. And what is really cool is that if you understand that structure, then writing your story becomes much, much easier.

So, the simple formula for creating your basic story, the formula that underlies pretty much every effective marketing piece is The Love + The Hope + The Plan. What you have to say about these three things will be fundamentally the same for most of your offers. So when you write this “story” in a way that satisfies you, you’ll be able to write copy with more fluidity and ease.

Let’s talk a bit about each of these sections:

The Love

So the Love is where you write a little bit about what you know and love about your prospective client.

This can include talking about their pain: not a whipped-up exaggerated pain that wasn’t there before. But a compassionate acknowledgment of all they may be dealing with.

If you can talk about those challenges and demonstrate that you have some understanding and intimacy of who they are and what they’re up against,you earn the right to make an offer.

This is where you’re creating connection with your audience. Tihis is where you demonstrate the Love you have for them.

The Hope

This is where you want to paint a vivid and compelling picture of how great life can be when someone takes the leap of faith and experiences the transformation you have to offer.

A very simple way to think about this is the Love is the before, and the Hope is the after. The Hope is the relieving of the challenges described in the Love.

So the Hope section will be a blend of the outcomes, solutions, and experiences your audience knows they’re looking for (even before they know you exist) with the concepts and ideas that you hold most dear. When you blend them together, it really makes your story very compelling.

If I were writing the story for my business, using this principle, I might write about practical outcomes that result from working with me, like having a successful business, getting more clients, making more money, but I would also write about the things that are meaningful to me, like connecting with the deepest message you’re here to share, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re fulfilling what you were called here to do. I would write about both of those.

Within this section, you can go back and forth between the practical outcomes and the deeper meaning. If you had to put it in order, I often recommend you talk about the practical benefits first and then unfold in to the deeper meaning.

So, if use an example about a woman going through a divorce; it would sound like: “When you connect with and recognize your own beauty, then this is what becomes possible. You move out in to the world with more confidence. You engage in relationships from a different place. You have more courage and confidence to create new friendships or even new romantic relationships.”

The most touching, moving writing has a well-developed Hope section. Copy that feels more flat or superficial, or hype-y, tends to not have a well-developed Hope section.

The other thing that will happen is this section will go flat if you’re only focusing on the concrete, tangible outcomes, and you’re not including your deeper meaning. And then it’ll sound more like, “Oh, are you having trouble finding words and communicating what you do? Well, I can help you get more clients and make more money and it’s going to be great.”

It actually will feel disconnected. It will feel like, well, wait, we were just talking about one struggle, and now you’re talking about a solution. But there is nothing in between to help your reader shift from one to the other.

The Plan

The final part in our formula is the Plan.

In finished copy, the plan can be as simple as the next step your reader needs to take to move towards a solution of their challenge, or as complex as you walking them through your process. It’s either “here’s what you need to do next,” the call to action, or a longer description: “Let me walk you through how I help you to go from the before to the after.”

So what that will sound like is something like, “So what I do is teach you the five steps of shifting your beliefs so that you can earn more money.” Or, “What I do is guide you through the four phases of loving your life as a single woman.” Or, “What I do is take you through four steps to aligning with our deeper message and bringing that out in your business communication.”

To have credibility, you want to give it structure. I recommend you have a defined number of ingredients or elements or components. And you want to craft that phrase that says, “So what I do is…” and then you have some kind of verb. It can be “Teach you,” or “Guide you through,” or “Support you with,” and then you want the number of things, and then that last piece is about the outcome.

“What I do is teach you the five steps of shifting your beliefs on a deep level so you can earn more money. ”

So if you’re writing a longer written piece, like a web sales page, after you say that first line, like “The five steps of shifting your belief,” you would actually want to list what the five steps were, and you might actually write a paragraph or have a bullet list under each of those five steps. That would be the long version.

In a free report, you might say, “I like to guide you through the four phases of loving your life as a single woman.” In that report, you might write about each of those four phases.

In a promotional email, again, if you said “I have five steps to better business results,” you might bullet list the five steps and then have the call to action. Or you might say: “I want to teach you my five steps to better business results,” and then you might have a link to a register for a free teleclass where you actually then give all five steps and talk a little bit about each.

The great thing that you’re demonstrating is that when you know your basic story, and you’ve written it, you can use it in a longer piece, you can use it in a shorter piece, you can use parts of it. It gives you so much flexibility.

Clients just have told me over and over that once they’ve written this basic story, they are so much more clear and confident about the value that they have to offer. They are finally focused on the story they’re here to tell. They’re not trying to tell ten different stories.

My clients use this basic story as a reference piece in their library so that whenever they have to write a new marketing piece, they go back to this and they pull from it. They spend much less time writing than they did before when they had to write everything from scratch.

An Action You Can Take Now

Set a timer for five minutes. Quickly brain dump some ideas and bullet points for each of the three sections above. Great! You now have a clearer idea of what you already know to say, and a sense of where there are gaps or holes you need to fill in.