In my copywriting coaching program, the very first lesson I encourage all my students to do is one entitled “Persuasion Architecture”. This video tutorial explains how, just like any other type of writing, a sales letter must have a STRUCTURE.
In fact, I would require my students to study famous direct marketing pieces and determine what “persuasion architecture” the copywriter follows. This gives the students practice through this ‘reverse-engineering’ process to appreciate that beyond the words and sentences there must be a certain flow, plan, map, or whatever other name you want to use, to great copywriting.
I’ve only recently completed a Masters Degree program and one of the courses I had to take was ‘Research Methods’. Apart from teaching you how to carry our academic research, it also has a heavy writing component. The text used for the class for the writing component of the course basically covered things I already knew from copywriting but with an academic twist.
In fact, I got an “excellent” for my writing but the paper mechanics (formatting) was a little lacking. (I just hate all those footnote, bibliography, etc, ‘rules’ that go with academic writing. I guess I’m so accustomed to the freedom of copywriting!)
For example, if you are writing a paper based on a deductive argument then you must start with a thesis statement and “tell the readers what you are going to tell them, then introduce the general topic, narrow your claim, followed by supportive arguments and after “telling them what you told them” you conclude with the claims of the thesis statement and its implications.
In other words, there is a pattern you must follow to make the paper logically connected and lucid. You readers are prepared for what you are about to explain and after you have explained this, summarizing what your paper is about.
As a copywriter, you must also think about the structure you are going to use for your letter BEFORE you even start writing. This would be your plan from which you will build your literary house made up of words, sentences paragraphs and sections.
One of the most common mistakes I see rookie copywriters make is that they concentrate so much on the “power words” and “sounding like a copywriter” that the flow of the letter suffers. The main reasons for this lack of flow arise because:
* The headline does not logically connect with the opening paragraph but addresses two different ideas
* The topic sentence of each paragraph is not logically supported by the following ‘body’ sentences.
* The “transitions” from one paragraph to another is almost ignored so there is an awkward disconnect.
* The right information is given in the wrong places such as the ‘call to action’ given before the list of benefits. (Think AIDA.)
* Too much real-estate is given to a minor selling point.
In order to maintain the “slippery slide” in my letters I always try and write my letters in one sitting. This may sometimes mean writing for 12 hours straight but while I’m writing the last sentence I still have the first sentence in my head. If I do break off from writing I’ll have to start reading from the very beginning to make sure that I have the entire letter in mind. Interestingly, one of the great techniques used by article writers and which can work in sales letter writing is to bring the article full circle by ending on the same idea, story, or issue that you started with.
Now, it would not always be possible to write a long sales letter in one sitting, but in the planning process (just like you ‘outline’ an essay) you can ensure that the letter will flow smoothly from beginning to end. A disorganized sales letter is a major hindrance to persuasion. It is often said that you sell the sizzle but not the steak but even the sizzle must have some rhythm and cadence to it.
When I first started writing my own sales letters for the internet I took a letter written by a top copywriter and studied the patterns he used and did the same for my letter. Do this work? Like gangbusters. No, I wasn’t a “swipe” because the products were different and you will never be able to recognize this as a “swipe” because I borrowed only the “plot” of his letter.
Speaking of plots, (which is another word for the ‘plan of the story’) just the other day I was telling my kids that the best plots are used over and over again with different story and its no accident the top movies and stories use common plots.
So study those famous pieces in your swipe-file and determine the plan or structure the writer used and borrow those ‘persuasion architecture’ to build YOUR own persuasion masterpieces.