If you ask any great copywriter what they think about copy critique, they’ll probably tell how much they crave them. But not all copywriters think alike.
In fact, have you ever heard the expression, “Ego is your enemy”? It’s a quote from Ryan Holiday. And he’s right. But here’s what’s interesting. A lot of copywriters make the mistake of letting their ego get in the way of copy critique. It’s a normal reaction as we’re all humans.
Like them, even the greatest copywriters on the planet invest a lot of effort into their craft. And they spend a great deal of time dedicated to it as well. So it’s fair to say after you submit your first draft, you’ve formed a little bond with your copy and you care a lot about the results.
To you, it might be a rare gem you traveled far and wide to find. But when you find a gemstone in nature, it looks more like rough rocks than the polished gemstones you see in fine jewelry.
Your first draft of copy is a lot like these raw gemstones. It’s unique and may sound really good to you. But if you want it to look its best, you have to put it through a refinement process. It has to be cut and polished for you to see the shine hiding under the rough edges, just like a gemstone.
Even the most beautiful gemstones in the world go through this process. So you’d be making a mistake thinking that your copy looks good right from the start. There is always room for any piece of copy to improve. In fact, it’s never perfect and it never will be. The only factor that really matters is if it performs well in the marketplace.
If you’re given an opportunity to receive copy critique, don’t let it slip by. It’s not always easy to get quality feedback on your work so take advantage of it when you can.
Copy critique is also not black and white. While it differs for everyone, there is a simple framework that anyone can use to critique their own work before and after writing it. In this article, we’ll share four common copywriting mistakes and how you can use our copy critique formula to fix it.
Take a look at this list of names:
Dan Kennedy, Gary Halbert, David Ogilvy, Victor Schwab, Eugene Schwartz, Michael Masterson, Gary Bencivenga, John Forde, Clayton Makepeace, Jay Abraham, John Caples, Joseph Sugarman, Maxwell Sackheim, Claude Hopkins, John Carlton, Alan Jacques, Ben Settle, Matt Furey, Frank Kern, Justin Goff, Stefan Georgi…
What do they all have in common?
They are among some of the biggest heavy hitters in copywriting and direct marketing.
But more importantly, they’ve pumped out numerous winning sales copy and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. But much of their tremendous success was made possible because they had great mentors. Some of them had personal mentors. Others had virtual mentors. And a select few had a mixture of both.
Whatever the case, mentorship is probably the single most important factor to their success as copywriters. You could definitely figure things out on your own and start throwing stuff at the wall hoping one of them sticks. There really isn’t anything wrong with this method. But it’s worth mentioning that it does take longer, could cost you more money, and your chances of success are unpredictable.
If you think about this from a “return on investment” perspective, your chances of making more money than you invested would be a lot higher with a mentor. And here’s why. When you have a mentor, you’re getting personalized feedback and copy critique that you wouldn’t otherwise get from books and courses.
And that kind of value cannot be overstated. For example, let’s say you spend a few a thousand dollars to learn from a mentor. You could go from making $20,000 a year to making $50,000 or more a year. Some of the smallest changes can easily make the biggest difference.
Over the years of mentoring many people and being mentored himself by Alan Jacques, Dan has had his fair share of copy critique. So he and the team compiled a list of common mistakes copywriters make and turned them into a copy critique formula for you to follow. So let’s get right into it.
Can you think of anyone in your life who’s really bad at sticking to one train of thought and they jump around from one topic to the next? They can be a bit annoying.
You ask them a simple question like, “Hey, are you going to work out tomorrow?” And they give you a 5 minute talk about what exercises they’re going to do and what their weight loss goals are. But then they switch over to talk about what they’re going to cook that day, to an argument they had with their coworkers, to speculating in the stock market, and to 15 other unrelated topics.
They go on and on until they stop and say, “Wait. What were we talking about?” And you look at them confused because you can’t seem to remember either.
It’s really confusing when people do this in real life. But it’s especially worse when people do it in their copy. You might be surprised but readers really do not want to hear everything you have to say about a topic. They’re looking for a single, useful idea that can help them solve a problem, which brings us to the first rule in our copy critique formula.
Have you read a story, an email, or a piece of copy that you thoroughly enjoyed reading?
If you go back to read it again and actually look, there’s a good chance you’ll find that the writer deeply focused on talking about one single subject. They didn’t share everything that popped into their head. They shared one big idea and expanded on it.
This is what great copywriters do when they’re writing any form of copy. And that’s what makes them great because they understand that a confused reader does not read on. If you’ve read any copywriting books by Joseph Sugarman, you’ll know that the purpose of the first sentence is for the reader to read the second sentence.
If you share a bunch of disconnected ideas in the first few sentences, the reader will stop reading even if the rest of the copy is actually pretty good.
The concept of the sticking to the power of one originally came from the great advertising expert David Ogilvy. He said that every great advertising promotion has at its core, a single, powerful idea that he called “the Big Idea.”
This was so important that Michael Masterson and John Forde wrote a book called, Great Leads, where they dedicated the first chapter to this concept.
Unless you’re planning to submit a research article to The Journal Of Neuroscience, it’s not a good idea to write like this in your copy. And here’s why. Read this short excerpt we found from the journal.
“Auditory nerve fibers (ANFs) exhibit a range of spontaneous firing rates (SRs) that are inversely correlated with threshold for sounds. To probe the underlying mechanisms and time course of SR differentiation during cochlear maturation, loose-patch extracellular recordings were made from ANF dendrites using acutely excised rat cochlear preparations of different ages after hearing onset.”
Can you see why this type of writing wouldn’t do well in a sales copy? The sentence structure and the language they use is very complex. And it packs in a lot of technical terminology the general public would not understand.
You might be surprised but simple writing is actually harder to achieve than you think. It’s probably because we were taught in school to write academically. And to make matters worse, we had to remember a bunch of writing rules. But of course, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just doesn’t apply as much when you’re writing copy.
Eugene Schwartz said it best, “Write to the chimpanzee brain - simply and directly.”
Micheal Masterson also said something similar, “Successful writers have two skills: coming up with good ideas and expressing them clearly...Simplicity of expression is not the most important quality of good writing. Content ranks first. If you want to be a good writer, the most important thing to do is present your reader with good thinking. If your thoughts have quality, your writing will too.
But if you express your good thoughts in a complex or clumsy way, you make it difficult for your readers to grasp them. Good ideas have the greatest impact when they are expressed simply and directly. A good thought, like a beautiful woman, should not be cloaked in a bundle of rags.”
The key is to make your copy easy to read. You should make it conversational. Now, you might think that seems easier said than done. And you’re right. It probably is. But lucky for you, we have tools and apps to lend you a helping hand. There are several apps available online like: the hemingwayapp.com, grammarly.com, readable.com, and more.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you thought to yourself, “I can’t relate”? This is what happened to Mia when she moved to the United States with her family.
She got a regular office job. But after a few days, she started to feel really out of place. At work, all of her coworkers would gather in the lounge and talk about movies, basketball, and American football. They talked about everything that Mia couldn’t relate to.
Everyone at the office tends to think Mia is super quiet because she doesn’t say much. But in Mia’s case, she actually talks a lot to say when she meets someone who shares similar interests as her. Mia felt alienated.
If you’ve experienced something similar, you’ll know how horrible it feels. With that in mind, this is something you do not want to do in copywriting. At the end of day, you are speaking to another human being. So if you know exactly who your audience is, you should do your best to relate with them not just logically but emotionally as well.
Movie screenwriters are experts at this. They know we all love a good story. But we don’t resonate with the story. We resonate with the emotions and feelings we get from the story.
Think of a movie you really loved and picture your favorite scene. Can you put yourself in the character’s shoes? Can you feel the emotions they’re feeling? Can you resonate with emotions in the story and what they’re saying? This is partly why we love stories.
In copywriting, stories are very powerful. Because if the reader can imagine themselves in the same situation, they can experience the same spectrum of emotions. They go through the same ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster.
But that’s not the most powerful part. When they can experience the same emotions, they feel like the emotions the writer is creating are their own. In this case, they will be more inclined to accept those emotions and accept world views as their own. You might be thinking, “Isn’t this like manipulation?” No. It’s not.
Manipulation is when you try to influence others for your own or an entity’s selfish reasons. Persuasion on the other hand is when you influence others so that all parties can get the results they want. The main difference between the two is intent: negative or positive. So in stories, this is a technique writers use to shift people’s worldviews and belief systems.
But here’s what’s interesting. There are a lot of great stories out there. And a lot of times the characters go through some crazy experiences. As a viewer, we may not have had the same experiences or have been in the same situation, but we can relate to how the characters feel. The same principle applies when you’re writing copy. You want to be able to answer the question, “what does this have to do with me?”
This is perhaps the most common mistake among many copywriters. They don’t clearly answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” Why should they care? What are they going to get out reading the copy?
To put this into perspective, have you ever found yourself reading a book but then you suddenly stopped reading and thought, “Wait. What was the point again? Or why am I reading this?”And then you realize, you have no idea so you go back 15 lines and read it again.
It’s really frustrating when you have to do this multiple times throughout one book. And when you can’t take it anymore, you give up and put it back on the shelf thinking you’ll get back to it another day but you really don’t.
When you’re writing copy, this is perhaps the last thing you want to do. Depending on who you’re talking to, most people are busy. They’re dividing up their attention for a number of different things. If you make them read and stop over and over, they will not continue to read. In fact, if they have to do it within the first few seconds of reading, they’ll most likely just stop reading all together.
If you’ve never read the book, Great Leads, you should make some time to go read it today. The lead is undeniably the most important part of your copy. It’s the first few hundred words of the copy. And if you don’t write a good lead, chances are, people will not read the rest of your copy even if the rest of it is pretty good.
The lead holds the most attention grabbing hook. But it also includes a clear benefit and answers the question, “What’s in it for me?” So why exactly should they read it?
Are they going to hear an interesting story? Discover a secret? Learn a new skill? Shift their belief about something? Feel better about themselves? What are they going to get out of reading? What are they going to get out of purchasing your product or service?
But it’s not just about spitting out claims and promises. We’re talking about how you need to craft your marketing message. You want to be able to clearly express a clear benefit in a way the reader can feel the emotion of what it would feel like when they achieve what was promised.
For example, let’s say your main benefit is, how to learn Mandarin. This is okay. But what if you said it like this instead: This powerful F3M method has been used by over 1,202,587+ people from all over the world to travel to China and speak Mandarin like a native a speaker. People who have always felt left out are finally enjoying long, fun-filled conversations with people without worrying about forcing out weird, fragmented words and awkward pronunciations.
Do you see how the second example expresses the benefit more clearly? As a reader interested in learning Mandarin, you can easily picture the end result and what the F3M method can do for you. It’s much more powerful than saying, “I’m going to teach you how to speak Mandarin.”
Once you have a clear benefit, you also want to make sure you repeat it in different ways throughout the copy because people forget. You should always aim to remind them because they should never feel like they don’t know why they should continue reading.
The art of copywriting goes beyond what you learn in books and courses. You can easily venture down a deep rabbit hole. But that’s where you’ll find out exactly where your copy needs to improve.
With the copy critique formula, you can now examine your own copy and see what you can do to make it even better. Because remember there is no such thing as perfect copy. But if you want to take copy critique to the next level and get real, personalized feedback, click here to have your copy critiqued by Team Dan Lok’s top copywriters.