Imagine you’re pitching a new client. You spend the first 15 minutes rambling about your research, process, potential team. Five minutes from the end, you bury the clincher: how you’re better, faster and more experienced than the other guy. A done deal? Naturally.
You wouldn’t do it in life. Don’t do it on the page. The best copy leaves your audience clear on what you’re about—and curious (if not compelled) to learn more. Follow these three killer hacks, show you’re a pro and close your reader every time.
1. Have one big idea—and get to it early.
The biggest mistake writers make is stuffing too many ideas in the same story. Or focusing on one idea. A tiny and irrelevant one. Instead, pick the single, most important thing you want your reader to take away about your topic. Make it the single, most important thing they’re going to care about that you can offer. Like ‘the best way a new business can boost sales.’ Or ‘how to apply neuroscience to your communication.’ Or ‘why your new brand is a flop—and how to fix it.’
Then put it in your lead.
Don’t bury your big idea somewhere in the middle or save it for a final reveal at the end. Your reader won’t stick around long enough to see it. And the rest of your copy will be mere preamble because you’re unpacking a mystery premise.
2. Map out your story—before you start writing it.
When you figure out what you want to say as you go along, it shows. It’s like taking your reader on a meandering hike through your inner creative process: random, disconnected and full of stuff you’ll eventually discard. So, keep your method behind the curtain, bang out an outline for every story—and present a polished piece that’s well-planned.
To start, identify three to five simple key messages that support your big idea and help tease it out. Imagine you could only tell your reader five things, tops, about your topic. What would they be? Then take each message and work out what evidence you need to back that idea up and make it believable. Hello, proof points.
In this blog, for example, the big idea is ‘how to help you write like a pro.’ The three tips in bold are the key messages that bring that to life. And under each, I expand and explain why.
3. Link back to your lead.
You know those movies that fail to tie up the plot and leave you wondering just what exactly happened to the girl, who met the guy, who gave her the dagger…? It’s not only frustrating—it’s also a failed opportunity on the writer’s part to hammer home the film’s overall message.
Don’t leave your reader dangling.
At the end of your story, refer back to your lead. If you’ve posed a question in your opening, answer it. If you’ve raised a problem, reinforce the solution. Whatever the premise, close the loop so your audience is in no doubt as to what your big idea is, and most importantly—what they should do about it now.
Use these nifty hacks and set yourself apart as someone who really gets how to write with clarity and respect for your readers. And don’t be surprised if you get more of them as clients.