What's the most important part in copywriting? Is it the headline? The bullets? The benefits? The testimonials? The guarantee? The offer?
While all important, none of these are as important as this single yet powerful element. It trumps all the others by a longshot, and it's the one element all copy must absolutely have to succeed. Once I tell you what it is, you're going to smack your head and say, “Of course!”
But, it's not what you think — at least, not in the way you think…
First, let me point out that “salesmanship in print” is a popular definition of copywriting, originally coined by John E. Kennedy in 1905. (Did I mention he was Canadian?)
Just like a sales professional delivering a good sales presentation, a good copywriter will hit all the emotional hot-buttons, give all the reasons why, and answer all the objections. The result will be leading the customer to the best solution, which is to buy. But…
A debate seems to be raging between content developers and copywriters as to how important copywriting is to a promotion. One side says copywriting is all-important while the other side says it makes no difference, or that content is more important.
Copywriters say, “you must sell,” while content writers say, “you must educate.” One side says, “don't bore them with information,” the other says, “copy is too hypey.”
Both are wrong.
My take is simple.
A promotion has many parts. Every part must be firing on all cylinders. Like a puzzle, if you are missing too many pieces it just won't work. Copywriting is a critical part of the marketing puzzle, and can play a major influence in the success of any promotion.
However, there's one thing that copywriting cannot fix — no matter how great the copy is, who wrote it, how enticing the offer may be, how great the price is, how many bonuses it has, how much proof it provides, or how strong the guarantee it promises.
In fact, you could take all the greatest copywriters that ever lived, like Robert Collier, Mel Martin, Claude Hopkins, Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, Dan Kennedy, and John Carlton, and stick them in a locked room and force them to create a masterpiece.
And it still wouldn't matter.
It wouldn't matter if you put a promotion in front of a group of people who could care less about what you are trying to sell them. A group of people who wouldn't buy your product to save their mother-in-law. (Hmmm, maybe that wasn't a good example.)
Plain and simple, without a starving market you're dead in the water. A rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth, wallet-in-hand market desperately seeking a solution to their problem is the key to any online project. And to do that, you need to find out what people want.
This is the foundation not only to writing great copy but also to building any successful online business. Nothing earth-shattering here, right? I mean, how many times have you heard someone say, “You must find a hungry market?” Countless times, I'm sure.
I Googled “find a hungry market” today and it appears 4,410 times. There are a lot of people telling you to find a hungry market. But here's the kicker…
Many don't tell you how to go about finding that hungry market, much less figuring out exactly what do they want — I mean, what do they really, really, really want!
I suspect it's because most don't really know how to do it themselves. They just do it. For others, it may be hard to explain. After all, for many successful marketers, it's second nature to them. It's largely an intuitive process. It's almost psychic-like.
And that's a shame because it's an important skill, which can be mastered provided you are shown how. Imagine if you could crawl inside the minds of some of the most successful marketers to find out how they zoom in on hot, hungry, eager-to-buy markets.
If you could, then how successful would you be? When launching a new product, how confident would you be of your return on your investment of time, money, and effort?
Unfortunately, you can't. Sure, you can get an idea. As I looked around I noticed there were plenty of products on the market teaching keyword research, which is the most common way of finding markets. At first glance, they looked good on the surface.
But upon further examination, I could see they were missing a key understanding.
Some will teach you how to find a market, and find out who they are and what do they want. But this is where most of them stop. The problem is, they ignore a third, more important element you absolutely need to know before you tackle any new market.
In fact, there are three critical questions you need to ask yourself when finding a target market, creating a product for her, and writing copy to her. Because the appeal you choose is crucial to making a connection with your market when you know exactly:
- Who they are,
- What do they want
- And why do they want it?
Specifically, you also want to know how do they want it. Knowing the answers to all three questions, clearly and correctly, allows you to craft a message that directly appeals to your market, and connects with their dominant fears and desires.
If you don't know the answers, you will end up trying to sell to the wrong market, to a good market but one that's not hungry, or to a market who's indeed hungry but wants a certain kind of food, for a certain reason, and delivered in a certain way.
It's like trying to sell an Italian cookbook to a market hungry for home-delivered Chinese.
Many keyword research tools will not answer these critical questions for you. They might tell if there's a market out there (or, if you're researching an established market, what they're hungry for). But they stop at this point. They don't dig deep enough.
From a copywriting perspective, to be successful you need more than just the right market. You need the right offer, with the right message, delivered in the right way.
Many people will have the first one down pat. Some may get the second one — but when they do, they only have half the picture or do it bass-ackwards. Yet, the third one, which is the most important of all, is the one simple keyword research cannot tell you.
The second and particularly the third are usually the ones people ignore or fail to answer adequately. When they see a market with a need, they tend to jump in head first without knowing if the market wants what they offer, much less in the way they offer it.
It's about having the right appeal — one that delivers a meaningful message about the product, and sells the product in the way they want it, for the reasons they want it.
Having the right appeal is something Dan Kennedy often calls “message-to-market match.” The problem, however, is the fact that people focus on the first two. They may have the right message for the right market. But they don't have the right match.
The golden rule says, “Do unto others as you would want to have done unto you.” But I prefer what sales trainer and behavioral psychologist, Tony Alessandra, coins as the “Platinum Rule.” It's “do unto others as they would want to have done unto them.”
Can you see the difference?
I think one of the most important lessons in copywriting I've learned of late is from my good friend David Garfinkel, also known as the world's greatest copywriting teacher.
According to David, to write effective copy you should ask three important questions. They are very similar to what I presented earlier, but they are specific to copywriting:
- Who is your market?
- What is their problem?
- And how do they talk about it?
Again, the third question in David's premise above is key — but it's also the one most people tend to ignore, skip over, or fail to answer adequately or correctly.
At the same time, it's the question most keyword research tools fail to uncover. Obviously. Because tools only offer numbers and search volumes, without a proper understanding behind them. They offer mere glimpses and not the whole picture.
Which is why typical keyword research sucks.
Look at it like a recipe. Many ingredients are required to create a gourmet dish. But ingredients alone are not going to guarantee your success with any market. Keyword research tools are like recipes that simply list the ingredients — and nothing else.
You need to know not only the right ingredients to use, but also how each ingredient must be used in the correct order for the dish to turn out fantastic. Just one missing ingredient, or one misused ingredient, many times will ruin a dish.
Well, there is a way to learn the answers to all three questions, and how to use them to maximize your chances of success. A way to get the entire recipe, so to speak. But before I share it with you, let me explain how this process came about.
My wife, Sylvie Fortin, and I have helped some of the top marketers rake in millions in sales. What you may not know is that many of the top marketers on the Internet actually hire her company to conduct much of the same research I've talked about in here.
(The service is actually called “Viability Research.”)
During our coaching sessions, our students often ask us about viability research. But explaining how to do this — and how to do it right — is not an easy task. How can you explain something that is, for most people, considered intuitive?
So after nine whole months, my wife has skillfully put together the first in a series of “marketing cookbooks” aimed at answering these three key questions.
We took our combined experience from over 15+ years helping people create profitable businesses, launch successful products, and implement masterful campaigns…
… And finally created a unique training system for finding hot, hungry markets online using easy-to-follow instructions, videos, tools, websites, and resources.
This system is broken down into four simple, easy-to-implement steps. Steps you can use no matter if you already have a product or if you have no idea where to begin. It takes you by the hand and covers everything, step by step, and shows you how to:
- Step #1: Find hungry markets you can sell to.
- Step #2: Dig deep inside your market, read their minds, and think like they do.
- Step #3: Ethically spy on the competition to get sure-to-sell product ideas.
- Step #4: See things through your market's eyes to understand their true motives.
Called, “Marketing E.S.P.: How to Pinpoint Hot, Hungry and Highly Profitable Markets,” Sylvie goes over the same process she goes through while conducting proper viability market research for her top marketing clients. A service clients pay her handsomely for.
It's one of the most important skills you will ever acquire to help build your business. It's one that will improve your copywriting dramatically, too, because it allows you to dig deep so you can choose the right message to properly connect with your market.
(In fact, viability research is crucial when writing my own copy, because it helps me gather more in-depth market research before I even write the first word.)
Imagine a website that hands to you on a silver platter the most popular topics, an almost endless stream of product ideas, a list of customers perfectly targeted to your market, and an understanding of the mindsets and driving emotions behind them.
Not only does she show you how to find these websites (often, there are several of them for each market), but she also shows you how to pull key information from each one…
… Information that will ensure the next product you sell and the next piece of copy you write is a surefire winner. (And how to get maximum value from each one, too.)
For example, my wife exposes a simple offline source to find markets with money to spend, what products the market is currently buying, what offers are working best, the most popular topics, answers to questions the market wants, and much more.
Most people are oblivious to it!
Marketing E.S.P. gives you the tools to develop this skill. It's almost a one-stop shop for research. It's my wife's product, so admittedly I am biased. But the bottom line is this…
Before you start writing your copy, are you appealing to a hungry market? If you are, are you giving them exactly what they want, in the way they want it? Because, in the end, no matter what your marketing message is, it's not about selling or educating your market.
It's about connecting with them.
Michel Fortin is a certified digital marketing expert and renowned copywriter who specializes in a unique combination of SEO, CRO, and UX to improve traffic, leads, and revenue for his clients. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless wins, generating in excess of $300 million in sales and results that have broken many industry records. He has worked with thousands of businesses ranging from individual entrepreneurs to enterprise-level multinational companies. He's the author of two top-selling books and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.