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What does it take to write great copy? What quality do you need to write words for your website, your sales letters and your blogs that are genuinely effective?
Is the answer ‘talent’? Are bald, bespectacled, bearded 62-year olds natural-born, brilliant copywriters? Don't answer that question. Writing is a craft that can be learned. To write well requires study and research, as well as a knowledge of grammar and syntax, not to mention the psychology of language. But there’s a further element that is perhaps not understood.
Ever tried your hand and making pottery? No? Me neither. (Although, if ever the cliché, ‘it’s part of my DNA’ were to be appropriate, this would be it. The ceramics industry has been a massive part of my life and of the five generations before). No matter. Only yesterday, I heard an intriguing story that sits beautifully with the craft of copywriting. This story is about a pottery class.
The teacher divided the class into two.
He advised one half, “Your final grade will depend entirely upon the weight of pots that you create. See these scales? At the end of every session, I’ll weigh your pots and, at the end of the course, the student who has produced the biggest weight in pots will be top of the class.”
To the other half of the class, he announced, “Your final grade will be judged on the aesthetic quality of whatever you produce.”
Well, surely the second group produced much finer work. Right? Wrong. Here’s what happened. The first group dedicated themselves to volume, producing five, six, seven pots a day. They experimented, trying weird stuff, random ideas - seeing what worked, what didn’t.
Group two? Well they were equally diligent. They researched. They analysed. They discussed, philosophised and speculated about concepts. They visited galleries to examine the works of renowned potters. So dedicated were this group to their research that their hands didn’t touch clay till three days before the end of the course.
By now you’ll have guessed the outcome. The group that produced the best-looking pots were the first group. Because … they learned through doing.
And it’s just the same if you want to learn how to write well. You simply have to do it. Again and again and again. You have to be brave - trying different ways of saying the same thing. You need to show your creations to friends and demand honest feedback. You could even send them to your friendly local copywriter. His faculties may be on the wane. He may use a giant magnifying glass to read your lovingly crafted fine words. But he knows his stuff and he may have time to give you a few pointers.
But you get the message. Creating great copy that engages the target audience doesn’t come easy. But with regular practice, you have half a chance. And if you just don’t have time? You can always engage a professional!
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