Underneath the best copy lies … a story
One question that comes up a lot is, “What are the power words in copywriting?”
That question makes me cringe. True copywriting isn’t about wordsmithing. Experienced copywriters work with words so often, they can often put a phrase together. They’ll share some basics, such as:
Avoid repeating words and phrases
Use a conversational tone
Keep sentences short
Paint word pictures
Copywriters also use swipe files — examples of high-converting copy that can be used as inspiration and sometimes as templates. They use books like Words That Sell and headline generator software. One reason copywriters get your projects done is that we’ve already got these systems in place and we know where to find things.
But none of these elements matter if you don’t have a good story — a deep understanding of the client’s story and backstory.
Suppose you’re a dog trainer. Your client calls about obedience training, specifically to stop chewing.
Their backstory might be, “We’ve been through three outrageously expensive training programs. This dog makes Marley look like a model of canine obedience. We don’t want to give him back to the shelter, but he’s destroying our home and our bank account.”
You may not get this information right away. But knowing your client has been through three programs that didn’t work, you also know she might be open to a totally different approach. She might be willing to pay extra to solve the problem once and for all.
The client’s backstory will often be the best resource for your headline — even when you don’t share the story anywhere in your copy. For instance, Connie Ragen Green recently shared a headline she wrote for a multi-million dollar home in California: “The paparazzi will never find you here!”
Now there’s a back story. Connie would have identified her prospective buyers – people who were famous (or wanted to be famous) for the right or the wrong reasons. They probably wouldn’t have told their agents up front, “Find me a place to hide!” But most likely they’ve had experience with TV trucks parked in front of their homes.
True, the word “paparazzi” captures the essence of “unwanted media attention.” But that’s not what makes the headline successful. It’s the way the headline responds to the audience’s backstory.
Storytelling can be powerful — but it’s easy to make mistakes that actually work against you. If you’d like to learn more about storytelling, download 3 Storytelling Mistakes Most Business Owners Make.