Stage 1: Understanding the Mechanics — The untrained copywriter can become exponentially better in a day’s worth of training. It really is that easy. And a copywriter that’s made that minimum effort can get results, right away. That’s why a lot of A-List copywriters will tell you that you don’t have to become a great writer to make money copywriting.
Stage 2: Learning the Psychology of “Salesmanship in Print” — Semi-decent copywriters won’t continue to get better without at least a few month’s or a year’s worth of continued study and practice. That’s because they’re moving from the core mechanics and basic mindset of copywriting, to applying effective sales psychology to their writing.
Stage 3: Becoming a Serious Student of Advertising Artistry — Moving from seasoned, journeyman copywriter to true pro DOES require that you become a better writer and a better director of the “movie in the mind” of your prospect. This requires artistry above and beyond the previous two stages and it naturally takes a lot longer to learn.
Why should you care?
You’ll get better faster if you understand what stage you’re in and what resources will help you the most for any given stage. That’s not to say the components of each stage don’t overlap or feedback into the other stages, but that you shouldn’t spend too much time, say, trying to learn rhetorical flourishes if you haven’t mastered the basics of WIIFM, substantiation and proof, etc.
So with that in mind, here are some solid, mostly free resources to get you to that next level:
Understanding the Mechanics
To me, the basic mechanics of copywriting includes the following:
- Moving from We-We to You-You Copy
- Why We-We talk never gets the
- A quick and dirty calculator to see how much you’re copy is “we-we-ing” all over itself
- The Carlin Ad-Speak Calculator — how much BS does your copy really contain?
- A Case Study: Speak to the Dog in the Language of the Dog About What Matters to the Dog
- The Importance of WIIFM and Benefits vs. Features
- WIIFM and moving the needle on the “Who Gives a Shit” Dial
- Copyblogger on Real vs. Fake Benefits
- Gary Bencivenga Asks: What Are You Really Selling?
- Tim Miles on What’s Your Better Business Reality
- Learning AIDAS and/or the Four “P“s of persuasive messaging
- Bryan Eisenberg (AKA The Grok) teaches AIDAS for beginners
- Brian Clark on the Four P alternative to AIDAS
- UVPs, Irresistible Offers, and Calls to Action
- Gary Halbert demos the “how to” of creating an irresistible offer as only he can
- Sonia Simone’s 15-minute Guide to Creating a USP
- Charlie Moger on why it should really be the Unique BUYING Proposition
- Brian Clark on why it should be called the Unique STORY Proposition
- The Grok on the importance of Calls to Action
- Writing Calls to Action as Persuasive Links
- Substantiation & Proof Elements
- Do Your Readers Secretly Think You’re a Liar?
- How to Signal Sincerity When Words Alone Won’t Cut It
- The 6 Currencies that Buy Credibility
- Infomercial Proof Elements Guaranteed to Work — Or Your Money Back
- Dave Young’s Video Explains Online Trust and Credibility Builders
- Marketing Experiments Explains Credible vs. Non-Credible Copy
- Anticipating and Answering the (prospect’s) Freaking Question & Objection
- Roy H. Williams on Look for the Loophole
- The Promise and Permission of Hyperlinks
- Does Your Copy Pass the Parent Test?
- Achieving Clarity and Conversational Tone
So, there’s obviously a bit more to the basic mechanics of good copywriting than JUST these elements, and for you dedicated students, I’ve come up with two entirely FREE resources to cover those:
- Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg have graciously agreed to let my readers download a free copy of their highly praised and sought after book, Persuasive Online Copywriting.
- You can download a free, no-email-necessary PDF of Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising right here.
Learning the Psychology of Salesmanship in Print
Sales Psychology is a BIG topic, and I’m sure I’m leaving lots of topics uncovered, but for me, the must-have basics include:
- Understanding The Elements of Influence
- Just go buy a copy of Cialdini’s Influence
- A quick and dirty explanation of Cialdini’s Elements of Influence as applied to Social Media
- John Forde gives a copywriting-centric explanation of Cialdini’s Elements of Influence
- Learning about Temperaments & Decision-Making Styles/Needs
- A Brief Overview of the 4 Temperaments (AKA Decision-Making Styles)
- Presidential Candidates, Temperaments, and Website Copy
- Temperaments and Headlines
- Eye-Tracking, Heat Plots, and Temperaments
- Michele Miller on Jenny Craig’s use of Temperaments
- Understanding the Role of Self-Image in Persuasion
- Emotioneering Your Message
- Self-Identity and Powerful Messaging
- Brian Clark Discusses Headlines Based on How Prospects Want to Feel About Themselves
- Self-Image and Magic Words
- Understanding the Importance of Persuasive Momentum
- Persuasive Momentum (or the lack thereof) and Cart Abandonment
- Avinash Kaushik on the Importance of Measuring Micro Conversions
- Scent Trails, Clickstreams, and Persuasive Momentum
- 2-Steps to Beating Buyer Procrastination
- Framing Arguments & Manipulating Context
- Understanding how prospects are Predictably Irrational
Obviously, there is a lifetime’s worth of learning around these topics and any number of “additional reading” books could be recommended. That said, the best FREE resources for this stage are Roy H. Williams first two books in his Wizard of Ads trilogy, The Wizard of Ads and Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, both which you can download as audio and e-books for free at Roy’s Website.
Becoming a Serious Student of Advertising Artistry
Once you understand the mechanics and the psychology, you enter the realm of advanced techniques, subtlety of execution, and general artistry. This is where the ad writer has the most in common with the novelist, playwright, movie director, entertainer, and even the stage musician. Here are
- Frameline Magnetism & Closure (aka, Knowing What to Leave Out)
- The Language of Silence and Shadow
- The Secret of Obscenity
- Revealing the Vivid Unexpected
- Roy H. Williams and the Invisible Backboard
- Making Copy “Interactive”
- Short-Form Drama and Storytelling
- An Example of Short Form Drama
- What’s In It For You
- Inception’s 4 Rules for Ultimate Influence
- The Power of Smug
- A 30-Second Length Feature Film?
- The Southpark Guide to Storytelling
- Structuring Stories for Memorability
- Ira Glass on Storytelling
- The Magic of Portals
- Nested Storytelling
- 3 Steps to Finding Your True Writing Voice
- How to Find Your Website’s Voice
- Can You Make it Talk?
- Steven Pressfield on The Writer’s Voice
- Mental Imagery & Image-based Ad Writing
- Visual Images vs. Mental Images
- Normal vs. Average
- Mental Images and Emotional Priming
- Foolish Children, Mental Movies, and Persuasive Copy
- Believe Everything Your Told?
- Magical Thinking
- One Tough Mother’s Magical Advertising Secret
- Magical Thinking and McDonalds
- A First Class Ticket
- Set-ups and Payoffs
- Hooking the Reader /Listener
- What Plumbing Can Teach You About Copywriting
- Merlin’s Magic Copywriting: Buy Now, Be Happy Long Time
- Does Your Copywriting Augment Reality?
- 14 Design Resources for Copywriters