Writing copy often makes me think of playing basketball, something I’d like to do in my next incarnation, when I’ll also be six feet tall and coordinated.
Many of us begin by thinking we should write our copy from beginning to end. Begin with a killer opening to draw in the reader. Add bullets. Insert call to action. Create brilliant sub-head. More bullets. Another call to action.
But it’s easy to get stuck writing the sales letter opening. We know it’s important, so we keep polishing. And the harder we work, the more frustrated we become. At least I do, anyway.
So how do we break the cycle? Take the pressure off. Don’t write just one sales opening! Write 2 or 3 in dramatically different styles, to see what happens.
And then don’t stop writing. Keep going. Often your killer opening will appear after you’ve written a page or two or ten.
In my experience, the only way to write compelling copy is to write lots and lots of bad copy. Be willing to toss anything and everything. One day, as you read what you wrote, you’ll realize, “That was a gem and I didn’t know it at the time!”
You can also get a coach. Even the most experienced copywriters – those charging stratospheric sums to write a single paragraph – continue to take classes and learn new techniques.
So how does this approach resemble basketball?
One of my favorite basketball players is Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury. I’ve followed her since she was a freshman at UConn. She’s been compared to Magic Johnson as one of the greatest women players ever and I think she plays a lot like Steph Curry.
A sportswriter once said, “Diana never saw a shot she didn’t like.” She shoots from anywhere, even when she’s double-teamed (which of course she usually is) and has a hand waving in her face. She plays like someone who still enjoys the game.
She has a lot of bad shots and, every so often, has a really bad game. But she gets star status for taking those shots over and over again. And when she’s hot, she hits three-pointers and makes them look easy.
And last night, playing in the semi-finals, she led her team to the Western Conference championship with 31 points – including a buzzer-beating half-court shot that was good for three points. She made it look easy!
Players who keep passing the ball, waiting for a perfect shot, come across as timid. Fans get frustrated. Let’s not even wonder what the coaches are thinking. Timid players often end up creating turnovers because, these days, you’ve got great players on both teams. Botch a pass and your opponent goes sailing down the court for an easy lay-up.
So as you write your web page or sales letter, take a lot of shots. Expect arguments with the self-appointed referees (like your client’s best friend, who considers herself a copywriting expert because she took one marketing class and got a B-plus after three grade appeals).
And, most of all, look like you’re having fun. The fans always know.
If you’re serious about getting some coaching for your copywriting, check out this program . I’d love to work with you, one-on-one, to encourage you not just to take more shots, but to increase the percentage of shots that go in and score.