I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
It’s something the immortals — from Aristotle to Ogilvy to Mamet — have known, but few have stated it as directly as I’m about to.
By now, many of you know the basics of the craft of copywriting …
Know your audience. Know your product cold. Research. Nail the headline. Write plainly, in the language of your audience. Research more. Write great bullets. Craft a great offer. Include a strong call to action. Et cetera.
These elements are the standard. They get the job done.
But this little truth I’m about to tell you is the foundation that makes all the rest of it work, and it’s the answer to getting you on the road to getting your writing read and shared.
So, try this on for size …
Every sentence you write should make them want to read the next sentence you write.
Yes, this entire business of creating content in order to build an audience (people who will potentially buy from you) can be boiled down to that stupidly simple statement.
The headline only exists to get the first sentence read.
The first sentence only exists to get the second sentence read. And so on, pulling your reader right on down through your page, story, bullets, and call to action.
It’s that simple. And it’s that difficult.
A great headline is followed by a single, compelling sentence that engages the reader’s interest. And then another, followed by another, and another.
You won’t be able to pull this off all the time. Hell, you won’t even pull it off most of the time.
But if you keep the raw horsepower of The Single Line in your mind as you work, you might make something good enough to be read and shared … maybe even shared widely.
This is foundational because even if you employ every bullshit “content distribution” trick and tip in the book, and your writing is bad, it won’t get you anywhere.
Write well. Line by line.
If you’re able to work in this way, all of those lines will begin to add up, and then they’ll go to work for you, day and night, for a long, long time on this thing we call the internet.
So yes, write urgent, unique, ultra-specific, and useful headlines.
Yes, demonstrate the benefits, not the features.
Yes, make them an offer they can’t refuse.
But do it all by deliberately crafting each sentence to honestly, accurately, and entertainingly tell the story you want to tell.
But, to quote someone that I could not confirm the identity of … that’s why they call it work.
Image source: Mathias Herheim via Unsplash.
Reader Comments (13)
Super interesting article; so simple, but so hard to do!
Such an important strategy every writer should use, but missed really often – I’ve personally never thought like this, but it agitates me to publish an article with any sentence I’m not 100% happy with. I’ll definitely have to consciously think about this when editing in my future writing.
WOW, this is teaching and giving example at the same time, sentence by sentence, line by line. I heard about the line-by-line chain-reaction in the reader’s mind before, but you’re in your own league of telling and showing it! Definitely encourages my sentences to “join hands” more often, thanks!
Kathy Steinemann says
Excellent advice, Robert. Thanks.
Creative writers would do well to heed this. I just read a book that didn’t engage my interest until the second half. Many times I was tempted to put it away. If the author had used your approach from the first page, I’d have awarded it five stars instead of three.
Michael LaRocca says
Simple but not easy, to quote someone else I can’t confirm the identity of. But at least we’re aiming at the right goal now.
Nayab Khan says
Your teachings can be easily seen in your practice.
A really simple but a very effective strategy put together with simple and clear thought set.
John Walston says
… which leads to my favorite quote (handed down from my great-grandfather).
It it was easy, they wouldn’t call it work.
Gerry Lantz says
Thanks for including David Ogilvy among the immortals. He is. He believed in copy that was backed up by proven principles. And his “rules” were merely tools to guide effective advertising in all its forms. David was a strong proponent of direct marketing and measurement, coining the phrase (at least within Ogilvy) “We sell, or else.” Proud of have worked in the house that David built for 17 1/2 years.
Brandon Duncan says
Informative and encouraging, thanks for sharing.. I’m in agreement and BELIEVING –
Jitendra Vaswani says
Thanks for the great post.
I am also working on it. Your post defines your knowledge in that niche.
And that helps you to increase your blog traffic.
O.U. Rasscalle says
One of my sons–a GM over several chain restaurants you’d know if I mentioned–was faced with a high-end competitor moving in to his neighborhood.
He had worked for that chain before moving over to his new employer.
“How are you going to compete with them?” I wanted to know.
Looking me straight in the eye, he replied, “Continue to be fucking awesome to the customer in front of us and just as fucking awesome to the next.”
That about sums it up. I try to write, love, and live with that same fire in my eye. The world would definitely be a better place if others tried.
Great information! I have been trying to learn to get better at copywriting and although I think I am somewhat of a good writer, I do find it hard to create compelling content that engages, at the beginning.
I am going to try this strategy out today and see how I go, thanks so much for the tips.
Saeed Ashif Ahmed says
Learning from experts is always a great pleasure. I would say this is the ultimate post for everyone who wants to get started with niche blogging. Really like the way you crafted this article along with suggestions from experts.
The best part of this article is “Every sentence you write should make them want to read the next sentence you write”. This can be easily seen in your practice. I can’t Stop myself to stop reading your content till the end.
Big, sweeping ideas for writing that gets read and shared are great.
And the technical details for accomplishing that are ultra-important.
But neither beats gun-to-the-head orders like “Write well. Line by line.”
I thought of this while reading “Big Law: A Novel” last month. Yes, the plot’s exciting, story moves quick, it’s full of short sentences, active voice, etc.
The thing that struck me, however, was the quality of the sentences. I’d say 80% of them were good or VERY good. Picture sentences… just vivid enough to “show.”
As for the 20% of lines that were superfluous or downright clunkers? So what. I’d take a 4/1 good to bad ratio any day for my writing!
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