There’s a category of businesses I call “cookie-cutter” because they all look the same.
You can tell who runs a cookie-cutter business because they’re obsessed with business “formulas” for scaling.
And they do it quite well.
If you want to run a cookie-cutter business it will probably work, at least for a little while. Books and movies do this all the time. There is a market for a story that follows a formula (see: action movies and romcoms).
What you won’t get from businesses like that is independent thought. Cookie-cutter businesses follow the Latest Business Guru and they have numbers to back it up. Latest Business Guru is very good and he has lots of data, a large audience, and impressive self-reported profit margins. Plus, he gives a damn good keynote.
I have no beef with cookie-cutter businesses, but I do have beef with cookie-cutter copy.
My #HAMYAW cohost and I used to argue about this – she’s a fan of formulas, arguing they have utility as training wheels for when you’re lost or starting out. I disagree. And I have hundreds of data points of evidence to back up my claim.
Whether you’re using AIDA, PAS, FAB, the 4 U’s, or whatever other acronym someone who-doesn’t-actually-use-formulas cooked up, you’re not being helped. You’re being robbed.
I’ve witnessed it personally. The more answers I gave students, the less independent thought they were able to exert when I was gone and it was between them and The Blank Page. They were stuck, lost, and confused – and instead of relying on their own discernment, they leaned on formulas – copying my headlines or tone – unable to write their own copy, in their voice, for their unique audience.
I’d robbed them of independent thought.
“That’s why memorizing theories won’t make you a scientist…or rewriting somebody else’s headlines won’t make you a copywriter,” OG Copy Legend Eugene Schwartz, Breakthrough Advertising, 1966.
Schwartz said, “No formula works twice. Each and every formula is simply the written solution to a particular problem that occurred in the past. Change even one part of that problem and you need an entirely different formula.”
My data corroborates this. In 10 years I’ve never seen a student improve without learning how to ask better questions and solve the problem before she gets to the words.
Which is precisely what Schwartz says: “The correct solution, the right headline, the perfect ad lies buried in the problem itself. It has never been written before.”
Independent thought, asking better questions, and deploying empathy will make you a stronger copywriter than memorizing formulas.
Every moment you sit down to face The Blank Page, you are encountering something no one in history has ever encountered.
WHAT A GIFT!! What a puzzle. What a miracle of connection. You stand at the precipice – between you and your market. An opportunity where you can either bring them closer and help them feel seen, or push them away.
It’s a privilege. And you will know what to do with the privilege when you learn to see that copy isn’t about clever words and quick hacks – it’s about empathy.
Right now, I’m not following a formula to email you a High Converting Sales Email. I’m thinking about Imogen. And Marley. And Jessica. And Lou. And Ahmed. And Almaz and Edmund and Tim and Mike and Josh and Mandell.
The reason we think there is a “Secret” to “Unlocking” a “Steady Stream of Endless Sales” is because copywriters manufactured that idea and put it into their copy. And it worked.
But it isn’t true. The “secret” to persuasive copy is being able to take the perspective of someone who isn’t you. That’s step one. Step two is to ask, “What do THEY need to hear?” Step three is to ask, “How do they need to hear it?”
Step three is the only step that involves words and tactics.
So, now you have the secret.
But it can’t help you unless you do it. Unless you sit down in front of The Blank Page and ask, “Who is it for? What do THEY need to hear?” And then try something that might not work. Then try again. And again. And again.
Then you will know what it is to write effectively. In a way that stands out, captures attention, and inspires action.
But don’t take my word for it. Take theirs.
Students from all over the world have taken The Copy Workshop and significantly improved the results their words create. Read more of what workshop graduates had to say here.
It’s possible for you to do this on your own, but the journey is dark and full of terrors, and most people bail before they ever see any results. You will skyrocket when you practice copywriting with others who also want to improve and are committed to YOUR improvement. Your learning curve will be significantly truncated AND you’ll actually have fun.
To quote copy master David Ogilvy: “A blind pig can sometimes find truffles, but it helps to know that they are found in oak forests.”
I found you an oak forest. Let’s go find some truffles.
Break free of the cookie-cutter copy and write effective copy that moves people into action AND you’re proud to put your name on.
Margo Aaron, proud author of this copy