Boosting your copywriting productivity is an ongoing challenge for copywriters as well as anyone who writes content. Nowadays, that’s practically everybody.
Before I started writing copy and working on the web, I didn’t think much about templates. If I had, I’d probably have turned up my nose.
After all, I spent many years in academia. One of our mantras was, “Do your own work.” Templates seemed lazy and somehow, just one step away from plagiarism.
I was a writing snob. Writing has been easy for me (that’s why I do it professionally). I’ve published a book with a traditional publisher and many more ebooks in all formats. So, I used to wonder, why bother with templates?
But then I studied copywriting. For a long time, I worked in the trenches. I’ve written copy for a wide range of businesses — from astrology to attorneys to accountants. I still do, although now I’m mostly called upon for coaching and consultation.
And you have deadlines. They’re firm and they’re tied to money. So you combine time pressure with money pressure, and you discover a whole set of tools that copywriters use to write copy. It’s not magic, but clients tell me it sometimes feels that way.
So let’s debunk some common myths about templates.
Q. What’s the difference between a template and a swipe file?
A. A swipe file is a piece of copywriting that you use as inspiration and as a model to write your own copy. It’s usually a sales letter or landing page that converted well. You like the style and you get an acute case of copywriting envy. So you tuck the copy away into a folder and bring it out when you’re working on a particularly challenging project.
A template is a fill-in-the-blanks guide to creating a specific type of content. You modify as needed but having the structure saves time.
We’re seeing templates for websites, sales letters, and landing pages. These templates have the elements of each marketing component, arranged on the page in a specific style.
Q: Won’t you have more success when you completely start from scratch?
A: There’s a myth that copywriting operates on pure creativity. For instance, clients sometimes say, “I want a website that’s completely different from anybody else’s.” A consultant once asked about copywriting the layout of her website.
The truth is, certain styles of copywriting and design will convert more effectively than others. Your clients won’t care if you use the same layout for your landing page as everybody else.
In fact, many top marketers rely on Lead Pages, the software I use. As a result, people in the industry get used to seeing the same layouts over and over, from different people. It’s not unusual for a business owner to see a big increase in results after adopting these same tried and true layouts.
Similarly, templates reinforce the most effective structure for emails, landing pages and even websites. That’s why they save you time and also increase your revenue.
Do you have more trouble differentiating from the competition? If you’ve got a clear, compelling message, nobody else could sound like you, even if they tried.
Once you become aware, you start seeing templates used everywhere. Lawyers use boilerplate language for contract basics and estate planning. Comedians use templates for setting up jokes. Nonfiction books tend to follow a formula (and those that go off on their own tend to get lower reviews). Stories follow an arc that listeners come to expect, whether they’re listening to a speaker, watching a movie or reading a novel.
Q: So where do you get to be creative?
A: Success doesn’t come from “power phrases” of copywriting or even the best-tested layout and structure. What matters is your positioning and ability to touch the emotions of your target.
That’s why just about every training program on any aspect of marketing begins, “Who is your avatar (a/k/a your ideal client)? How are you different from anyone else?” Answering this question is a combination of insight, intuition, and brain-wracking strategy development.
Most important: You can’t blindly adapt swipe files and fill in the blanks on templates. That’s why so many software programs will promise to write copy for you — copy that delivered results for the creators, but that won’t do anything for you. You have to understand exactly what belongs on each line of your template.
Q: Do you end up sounding like everybody else?
A. Not if you genuinely understand your target market and your differences from the competition.
You’ll also develop a writing style – some call it a “voice” – that makes you stand out. But you’ll probably find that clients are less aware of your voice than your promises. They’re looking for a credible source of help, not a new best friend.
Q: So the advantages of using templates are …
A: First, you save a ton of time. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you sit down to write.
Even more, you’re guided to set up your marketing materials in the most effective way. You get to double down, saving time while seeing stronger results.
You’re more likely to reduce procrastination. If you’ve been putting off writing that sales letter or autoresponder, it’s easy to get started by filling in the blanks. As you dig in, you’ll find yourself in the flow: you’ll modify the templates and write your own content to be most effective.
And if you still need some help, you’ll probably be able to get by with a consultation, rather than paying significant sums for someone to write the whole thing from scratch.
Copywriting is the most expensive service to outsource. The more you can bring to your copywriter, the more cost-effective your copywriting will be.
Q: But how do you know you can rely on the templates you buy?
A: Ah, there’s the rub. You have to know your sources. I’ve had trouble finding good templates myself.
Recently I learned about a brand-new place to get templates, from experienced marketers Alice Seba and Ron Douglas, who combine 30 years of marketing experience. They’re sharing the templates they’ve created for themselves via their new DFY Template Program.
Each month they focus on a strategy that’s proven to work and they send you the templates to support implementation. So you get access to all the templates and insider strategies to consistently grow your business, month after month.