Select Page

We’ve all been taught to start with the basics and build a solid foundation, no matter what goal you have in mind. But a common mistake is wanting to cover the basics and move on to advanced learning too quickly.

In order to write great copy that turns readers into buyers, you must know and master the basics – like how to write a good headline, how to write conversationally, and how to get your reader to take action – first. Speed through the basics, and you won’t absorb them well.

The best symphony musicians practice their basics every day. When they sit down to practice, they don’t start with the piece they’re learning or the most advanced music they know.

Instead, they start with the basics every time. Basic scales and exercises they learned the first day they picked up the instrument!

This practice is how they became successful. You can do the same – with writing – to propel yourself into the writer’s life.

Make a commitment to focus on mastering the basics first, really get them down, and apply them to everything you write before moving on to more advanced topics.

Once you have learned the basics and you’re able to put them into practice, you need to review them often. Keeping them fresh in your mind makes using them easier. And with new, fancy tricks emerging every day, it’s more important than ever to remember the basics.

The best way I’ve found to keep the basics in front of me while I’m working is AWAI’s Professional Writers’ Alliance poster. It’s a free bonus to members when they join, but it’s been invaluable to me.

It includes great tips on how to be a better copywriter, such as, “Your Headline Must Grab the Prospect’s Attention” and “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”

You can also create your own poster or reference sheet. Go through AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and write the basics on your own poster, note cards, or even on a sheet of paper.

The important thing is that you make reviewing the basics a habit. This will make you a top-notch copywriter sooner than you think.

Here are the basics I review often:

The Power of One

I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned from Michael Masterson and AWAI about copywriting. Keep these four points in mind when you think about the Power of One, and your copy will produce killer results.

  • Stir one big emotion – Pick one emotion (like fear or pride) for your project and use only that one. Trying to appeal to more than one emotion will cause your reader to get mentally jumbled up.
  • Emphasize one good idea – We call this the “big idea.” It’s an idea the reader can absorb immediately. It should hint at solving the reader’s biggest problem. Read a great article on the big idea by Sid Smith here.
  • Tell one captivating story – One main story should exist throughout your entire copy, whether it’s a sales letter or an email. Having just one story that relates to your big idea keeps them engaged. But multiple stories usually distract from the big idea. An example of a story you might tell is how the client came up with the idea for their product or service.
  • Direct your reader to one inevitable response – Your copy should have one goal. Example goals might be to get your reader to buy something, click a link, sign up for a newsletter, or even contact or visit the company. Be sure to keep that one goal in mind while you’re writing.

Call to Action

The call to action is so important because if you don’t ask your reader to take action, the copy won’t achieve the goal. The call to action usually comes at the end after you’ve written the letter and spoke to the prospect like a friend. You’ve told them about the product (including the benefits) and given them the proof they need to make a purchase. Now you just need them to take an action. You can read more about how to write an effective call to action here.

Be Conversational

People don’t like to be “sold,” and if your writing leads them to believe they are being sold, they’ll stop reading. Picture the reader sitting in front of you, and write like you’re talking to them. People have conversations with their friends and people they know. If they feel like they know you, they’ll be more likely to trust you – and buy from you.

People Buy for Emotional Reasons

I have to remind myself of this often, but people, in general, don’t buy for rational reasons. They buy a product or service that appeals to their emotions (fear, greed, etc.). Then they back up their decision with reasoning and facts.

An example might be a security system. Sure, it makes sense to get a security system, but most ads sell them by using fear (an emotion). Then they back up your decision by telling you how much money you’re going to save.

Don’t Forget Benefits

Features are easy. They’re the material details of a product, usually given to you by the client. Automatic transmission, 28 MPG, and 10 airbags are all features.

Benefits are a little more difficult, and many new copywriters often forget about them and fail to add them to their copy. Including benefits will get better results, so it’s important to take some time to understand them. You can find benefits by asking, “So what?” after a feature.

For example, a car has 10 air bags. So what? It will be safe for your entire family.

The car gets 28 miles per gallon. So what? You’ll save money on gas.

The above are just a few of the basics that copywriters should know. Review them before every project, and you’ll find the words come easier and your copy performs better.