bullseye.22112600_stdBeing on target [with your messaging] is much more important than being facile with words.” – Gary Halbert

…stories without words can have enormous power. Just look at the first acts of Pixar’s UP or WALL-E… So what if when we sat down we gave ourselves a task other than producing words: Changing the verb from writing to storytelling may change the way we think about the work.” – Brian McDonald

Improving copy rarely comes down to improving the words.  Once in a blue moon word choice proves decisive, but even then, what leads a good copywriter to select the better word has nothing to do with vocabulary size or what most people think of as wordsmithing and everything to do with an ability to match the emotional nuance of the word to the psychology of the prospective customer. Even when it comes down to the words, it’s not about the words; it’s about the customer.

Creating Copy That Is On Target

The number one thing you can do to improve your copy is to ensure that it is “On Target,” or to continue to improve the degree to which it is on target.  And by that I mean improving the match-up between customer desires/motivations/expectations and the message sent by the words.  In the video below, copywriting legend Gary Halbert provides a strikingly clear explanation [Note – Skip to the 1:40 mark if you’re in a hurry]

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And yet, as important as this factor is, most copywriters don’t have a systematic, proven method for ensuring that their copy is on target – mostly because they don’t have a system for modeling their client’s prospective customers psychology.

I teach a fair amount of copywriting to client’s internal copywriters, private students, and open classes, and by far, these are the top not-so-secret “secrets” that I teach:

  • how to model the prospect’s psychology
  • how to ensure the messaging is on target.

And I’ll be teaching both of these things this December 8th and 9th in Austin.

Writing for Radio and The Internet

Fortunately for me, I co-teach my Wizard Academy Copywriting class with Chris Maddock, who tackles copywriting from the other end.  He works on the storytelling aspect that Brian McDonald alluded to in the quote I pulled from his blog post.  By teaching students amazingly efficient techniques for creating gripping and vivid mental movies in the minds of their readers, Chris works on the student’s core writing abilities – their ability to generate an emotional response.  I simply ensure the students can direct those newly developed abilities at the right target.

If this sounds like what you or your company’s copywriters need, there are still seats available, and if you act soon, those seats come with free on-campus room and board.  Check it out.


  1. Brian Killian on 11.28.2010

    Images are the most concrete and emotional forms of communication. Words are the next level (concrete words not abstract words). Words are like surrogate images.

    You ever sell online courses?

  2. Jeff on 11.29.2010

    Not at the moment, Brian, but I have done them before and will be involved in a few online classes early next year. I’ll be sure to announce them on the blog when they’re ready.

    That said, I still do conduct online classes on a custom or 1-off basis, so if you’re interested, please send me an e-mail and we can discuss. Might be able to arrange for a group class, too, if there are enough people willing to join in.