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The 3 Golden Keys to Success in Copywriting

woman with key standing in front of 3 padlocks

1. The Brief. 2. Research. 3. Instinct. 

That is what ‘success’ in copywriting comes down to. Because no matter how many:

  • Years’ experience you have (even > 30)
  • Content pieces you have crafted (even > 10k)
  • Steps to success you have on your list (5, 10 or 20)

Without:

1. Mastering the ‘brief’ through winning communication

2. Mastering the ‘art’ of research

3. Following your ‘instinct’

Success in copywriting can never be achieved!

Mastering the Brief Sounds Obvious but is Crucial to Success!

1. Master the Brief through Winning Communication

A copywriting brief is meant to be:

  • Concise
  • On-topic
  • Brief.

Note: Read more about best practices for briefs here, according to Ziflow (if interested).

But brief or no brief, success in copywriting cannot be achieved without a:

  • Concise
  • Well structured
  • Clear master plan.
winning-copywriting-never-achieved-without-master-plan

Let’s break down both scenarios:

  • Where you have a brief (hooray an organised client!)
  • Where you don’t have a brief (time to create one for your client!)

You Have a Brief

man with pencil standing front of completed checklist

Because if your client has provided you with a brief it does not mean you should quickly finish your conversation (phone / email / whatever) and say I will check the brief and get right back to you!

While there is nothing wrong with doing that (certainly gives you more thinking time) – it’s better to ‘catch’ your client when first talking to them.

Note: When you ‘first’ talk to a client (as you likely know), that is when they are In the moment’ and most receptive to any questions you have about the brief.

Therefore, (as a copywriter):

  • Speed (catching the client quickly)
  • On-the-fly analysis (quickly eyeballing / dissecting the brief)
  • A final analysis (determining a clear path going forward)

Is all part of the ‘winning communication’ (ultimate guide here) you need to ensure that you have a brief to move forward:

  • Confidently (knowing all you need to know about the project)
  • Precisely (with all details accurate)
  • Quickly (starting ASAP to meet your important deadline).

You Don’t Have a Brief

blank notepad on desk with two pencils

Surprising? No.

Because any experienced copywriter will tell you the onus is on the copywriter to come up with the brief because this is key to being a successful copywriter.

No brief = no direction = no goal met (for your client).

So what is the solution?

You probe.

Probing is an art (as we discussed in another top blog post – that copywriting is 80% art) and you can learn more about probing (with 12 ultimate tips) in this post.

Takeaway: Your ‘probing skills’ (no brief or a bad one) is what allows you to master your client’s brief.

picture of keyword research strategy

2. Master the Brief through Winning Research

Any copywriter knows that research is fundamental to success.

But how much research is enough?

Because:

  • You can do too little (jumping straight into the copywriting job)
  • You can do too much (checking every resource on the net).

And we all know the latter = missed deadlines (and an unhappy client).

The solution (as a copywriter) is to research smarter (not harder) with results research.

man rolling sphere easily as opposed to box

Smart copywriting research is about:

  • Knowing your brief ‘comprehensively’
  • Knowing how to ‘summarise’ your brief’s goal
  • Knowing how to ‘choose’ the best resources for your research.

Let’s start with:

 Knowing Your Brief Comprehensively

know-client-brief-comprehensively-copywriting

And this sounds obvious, but just because you’ve nailed the brief, does not mean you have ‘absorbed’ the brief (into all key parts of your brain) required to take action.

Ensure you:

  • Read over the brief (however many times it takes you to absorb it)
  • Even write it out by hand (for best results – to absorb it quicker).

According to the BBC (read more here) taking notes by hand supports the brain’s capacity for retrieval of information.

person about to write notes

And this does not mean you have to write out your brief word by word!

But ‘summarise’ (based on importance) – which leads on to the next point for smart copywriting research.

Summarise Your Brief’s Goal

 

Rather than being systematic (even though your brain is wired to be ‘systematic’), get in the habit of straight away noting the goal:

  • At the top of your brief, or even
  • Write it down on your nearest notepad (to better absorb it).

Not the correct goal?

The beauty of doing this, is it’s an ‘art’ and a ‘skill’, that you will get better at over time.

Because by doing this (even if the goal is not correct) you can easily ‘shape’ it quickly to be correct (by reading a bit more of the brief and reflecting on your conversation with the client).

And get in the habit of asking your client early in your conversation with them.

Going straight to the goal (even though it may take time to master at first) is sure to save you ‘tons’ of time and leads on to the third and final point in smart copywriting research, which is:

Know How to Choose The Best Resources for Your Research

know-how-to-choose-best-resources-copywriting-research

This component of smarter copywriting research takes the most time to learn because it’s an ‘art’ (like copywriting is).

Choosing the best resources is logical. You need the right keywords and page 1 of Google is your starting point.

But the art’ (what takes the most time) is being able to quickly summarise what resource is:

  • Relevant (for your project)
  • Valuable (and highly)
  • The best resource (and authority) to help you craft winning copy.

Takeaway: Experience helps a lot but it’s your ability to have your client’s goal (engrained in your brain) that will help you in mastering the ‘art’ of summarising and quickly choosing the best resources.

Are you an Instinct Follower or an Instinct Doubter?

3. Follow Your Instinct and Make the Play

I should have gone with my gut feeling?

How many times have you heard this throughout your life? Too many – I bet.

We already discussed that copywriting is 80% art and 20% science (in this blog post), and to summarise: Without ‘instinct’ in copywriting, you cannot even achieve 1% of what it takes to be to be successful.

Think about it logically. Take baseball for example.

baseballer smashing home run out of park

It is bases loaded and it’s bottom of the ninth (bottom of the ninth is the final inning – for those who don’t know baseball).

It is the last game in the World Series (the pinnacle in Baseball).

And this is the ‘play’ that stands between the trophy every baseballer dreams of holding high in the air!

person holding trophy with others reaching for it

This is it. It’s nearly midnight (on the dot).

This game has been going on forever, but it is now or never, because this is the ultimate play!

  • Win (and go down in the history books)
  • Lose (and be quickly forgotten).

 It is:

  • Pouring down rain (the heaviest ever)
  • 2 strikes down (this is the last chance now)
  • Bases fully loaded (runners ready and creeping to the next base).

 The hitter has over 52 home runs in their career but is tonight the night for that?

 Must score 4 to win the game and win the World Series!

now-or-never
  • Does the batter: Have multiple scenarios going through their head (potentially overcomplicating the moment), or
  • Does the batter: Step up to the plate only thinking ‘instinct’ (and will only play off that instinct for the next ball fizzing their way).

You know how this story ends!

Instinct Wins and Overcomplication Loses

 

Takeaway: As a copywriter you must (and only after comprehensive preparation) follow your instinct and make the play.

follow-your-instincts-make-the-play-copywriter

And of course, that is making the play to results and a happy client.

The BBC reports (read more here if interested) that your gut instincts are not as random as they seem.

Because you might not realise it, but your brain is constantly comparing your current situation with memories of previous situations.

And this means even though a decision may feel ‘intuitive’, it might in fact be based on years of experience.

decisions-may-feel-intuitive-but-actually-based-experience-copywriting (2)

Does this Mean as a Copywriter You Should Always Go with Your Instinct?

 
Yes and no.
 

Confused?

The no: Unfortunately, you cannot always follow your ‘instinct’ because you are working within your client’s requirements and working towards their goal. 

Therefore (even with comprehensive preparation and knowing the goal) your instinct could pull you in the opposite direction.

two men in canoe rowing opposite direction

But the good news is: Instinct can be followed most of the time. 

And this is particularly with more copywriting experience, because again, your instinct (more often than not) = is driven by past experience.

And you can only gain more experience in copywriting by writing more.

Brown short coated dog on white ceramic plate beside clear glass vase and wine glass

Conclusion

Scottish-born inventor, scientist and engineer Alexander Graham Bell once said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

So master preparation with your ‘brief’ (golden key #1) and ‘research’ (golden key #2).

But as many entrepreneurs have successfully done, don’t forget to follow your instincts (golden key #3).

Because these are the 3 golden keys to success in copywriting that set you up to win!

Over to You…

Do you agree with The 3 Golden Keys to Success in Copywriting? Or is there something missing, or you would like to add?? Would love to hear from you in the comments – any feedback is greatly appreciated.

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