Great copywriting, just like great story telling, starts with simple templates or formulas as a foundation.
Once you know some of the templates, writing becomes as easy as slipping into a few daggy dad dance moves after a few beers, and your words will deliver phenomenal results (totally unlike the ones you use after a few beers.)
The Hero’s Journey
In storytelling, the formula most commonly used is the Hero’s Journey, popularised by Joseph Campbell.
Many powerful stories, from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings (my nerd credentials are showing), through to Disney movies such as Beauty and the Beast, all start with our future hero living somewhat unhappily in their everyday life.
They often have a feeling of dissatisfaction with their life but don’t really know what the problem is or how to fix it. Then something happens to shake up their world. They may initially try and turn away from their quest, before they meet a wise mentor who guides them on their journey.
They head off on their quest and face many trials and challenges. Along the way they form friendships and meet new allies who join them on their journey.
The hero and the allies then face their greatest fear or enemy, and succeed in gaining the treasure against certain death.
They start to head home but may be challenged one last time before returning in triumph.
The hero’s journey template works and is one of the most bankable templates on the market! Most of the top selling movies and books all are simply telling this same templated story, just with different characters.
Think of Charles Dickens Christmas Carol – tick. Shrek – tick. The Wizard of Oz – tick. The Matrix – tick. Inside Out (from Disney) – tick.
This same hero’s journey story template has been used for everything from high literature to marketing, including selling chocolate bars!
However, trying to remember and incorporate all 12 stages in your story can be challenging.
So what about just three steps. Would three be easier to remember?
The Copywriting Master Formula
This is the simplest and most versatile copywriting master formula, and is equally brilliant when applied to job applications or sales copy.
What is the copywriting master formula? It is a simple three step process.
The 3 Step Copywriting Master Formula
Tell people WHAT you can do
Tell them HOW you do it
PROVE how good you are at doing it
It is deceptively simple, but surprisingly powerful.
Step 1: Tell people WHAT you can do
Many of our web copywriting projects are “renovations” of existing web copy for businesses that have had a website for a few years, but find their site is not converting lookers to leads. Where someone’s copy is not converting, the cause can often be pinned down to their words missing one of the three master steps.
Often small business website’s copy only covers step one of the formula: “We provide office ergonomics training.”
Great as far as it goes – but if they added in the two additional steps of the formula, their sales copy would be more exponentially more effective.
Other small businesses in telling people what they do, create web copy that goes on and on and on (… and on). They create lists upon lists of what they could do perhaps, someday, if someone really wanted it.
Lists don’t sell! The only people who thoroughly read lists are two year olds trying to spot their name on Santa’s naughty and nice list.
When writing about what you do, keep it tight and focused on the core services that bring in your clients, and don’t try and cover everything in the book.
Step 2: Tell them HOW you do it
Often your business’s USP (unique selling proposition) isn’t what you do – it’s how you it.
People are interesting in knowing exactly how you do things differently. By covering off precisely how you do something, you help your clients get a sense of what makes you different from your competitors.
This is where many small businesses come to grief. They are so enamoured of their own processes, they try to share everything from their corporate values, through to their policies and procedures, detailed checklists … and pretty much any other piece of paper they have ever created.
This means that many websites feel like fluffy pillows are smothering you. There’s simply too much “stuff” – and 90% of the content is incredibly irrelevant to the customer.
When you are highlighting HOW you are doing something, remember you are writing for the client and not for your internal needs.
“We provide office ergonomics programs that are evidence based and rigorously tested to deliver long-term outcomes.
Through our unique structured blend of skills based development, trouble-shooting and mentoring delivered over three short, highly focused sessions, we ensure maximum knowledge retention and application in the workplace.
Our courses are fun, interactive and results driven. This means they don’t labour the theory but focus on the skills individuals need to apply.”
Step 3: PROVE how good you are at doing it
The big rocket fuel turbo boost from the copywriting master formula comes from adding proof.
When marketing your business, people want to see that whatever you are offering works or is used by other trustworthy businesses.
Proof can come from testimonials, examples and case studies that highlight your expertise and quality of service.
If the proof is compelling enough – you can be average on the other two steps and still get massive conversions.
Find out how to get stronger testimonials for your business.
“Some of the Results we achieved from One Call Centre with 250 Staff
- 47% reduction in neck pain
- 05% reduction in upper back pain
- 81% reduction in lower back pain
These results were achieved with zero additional expenditure on new furniture, lighting or equipment or wellness programs (e.g. seated massages). This was simply effective ergonomics training in practice! “
The Copywriting Master Formula & Job Applications
How do you apply the master formula to applying for jobs (or when writing quotes/tenders)?
Applying Step 1: Most candidates, when applying for a vacant position, will happily complete the first part of the formula. “Proficient in Word”. “Experienced in all aspects of air-conditioning wiring”. “High level communication skills”.
The problem is that they are missing two steps of the formula. This means their application comes out half-baked and bland.
Anyone can say they are proficient in Word, but what does that really mean? If you want an interview, you need the next two steps to make you stand out from other candidates.
Applying Step 2: Remember to expand on exactly HOW you do something as
“Proficient in Word including mail-merging letters from large databases, and recording and playing back Macros to streamline data entry”.
Applying Step 3: Proof is the last and most important step.
You could choose to use your referee to provide proof
Your proof needs to be front and centre in your application. “Passed Advanced Word training through XYZ College”. “Appointed as the internal Help Desk to troubleshoot Word Macros for all admin team members”.
Taking those extra two steps in your application significantly increases your chances of gaining one of those elusive job interview spots.
So there you have the secret 3-step copywriting formula. Like all good marketing, you need to test it to check the results for yourself.
If you have a piece of writing that isn’t working for you – check to see if you have stopped after step 1 of the formula, and try including the other two steps.
Just remember to remove all fluffy pillows and take a pruning saw to your copy, so that your key points can shine.
Never underestimate the persuasive power of clarity!
Read more tips on writing great website copy.