Everyone has their addictions. I’m addicted to books.
Audiobooks, library checkouts, taking books from those little library boxes in front of people’s houses–I want ’em all!
My idea of a great evening consists of large quantities of coffee and a healthy dose of inspirational reading. Yes, I’m introverted.
My reading habits go like this:
- Find a kickass book
- Highlight important concepts
- Write about those concepts to clarify my thinking
- Apply ideas from kickass book to kickass in real life
Reading is like alcohol for the soul. It’s intoxicating. My hangover cure is writing. I like to throw up my thoughts all over the page.
Here are my hangover thoughts from the last couple of weeks…
I’m really into mental models. Mental models are those things that people hold inside their heads to help them navigate the world.
I like to think of them as frameworks for solving problems.
The more I read about copywriting, the more mental models I’ve picked up along the way.
Here are the mental models that help me write better copy. I know they will help you, too.
7 Mental Models That Help Me Write Better Copy
1) Features vs. Benefits
Whenever writing copy for a product or service, start by writing out all the features of the product. Then, draw a large line in the middle. On the other side of the line, write out the benefits of the feature.
This helps clarify the main idea behind your offering.
Can’t figure out what the benefits are? Ask yourself, “WHY is this feature important?” When you get your first answer, ask yourself the same question again. Do this three times. You’ll come up with something.
2) Slippery Slide
What good is it to write if no one reads it? Write as though you were creating a slippery slide. The purpose of each sentence is to get people to read the next sentence. You want to enthrall them so much that, hopefully, they read the whole thing and go down the slide of your copy–all the way to the end.
3) Utility X Empathy X Inspiration
I got this from the book Everybody Writes by Ann Handley. It’s a great way to think about writing. Provide value, empathize with your reader and inspire them.
4) Elephant and The Rider
People make decisions for emotional reasons and rationalize them later. This is something I learned from reading Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind.
In the book, Haidt makes this analogous to the elephant and the rider.
The main idea is that the elephant represents our emotional brain. The elephant moves first. The rider sways as a result. The rider is the logical brain. Emotions first, then reason.
What this means for you, the writer/copywriter: Appeal to people’s emotion, then provide the logical justification for it later in your copy (i.e. money back guarantees, customer testimonials etc…). Move the elephant first.
5) Set The Buying Environment
When you sell to people, you want to “set the environment.” If you’ve ever been in sales, you know the importance of getting a “yes.” Each small yes you get, the more likely you’ll get a big yes at the end.
Accomplish this by getting people to nod their head yes when reading the beginning parts of your copy. You want them to say, “yea, that’s right!” Empathize with your customer. Acknowledge their pain points and identify with them.
Nothing revolutionary here, but helpful nonetheless.
A- Attention- Get attention with your headline. Or, to paraphrase Ogilvy, “Get that eighty cents on your dollar.”
I- Information- Pull people into your copy. Get them down the slippery slide. Inform, entertain and educate. Stories work well here, too.
D– Desire- Lay on the benefits. Create a burning desire for your offering.
A– Action- This is the call to action. Ask people to buy and make it easy to do so.
This is a great way to think about copy and sales.
7) Social, Emotional and Self-Expressive Benefits
I got this from the book Aaker On Branding. When thinking of the benefits your offering provides, think about them in these ways:
Emotional benefits relate the ability of the brand to make the buyer feel something as part of the experience or purchase process.
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand I feel _____.”
Examples: “Driving a Porsche makes me feel powerful.” “I feel in control when I use TurboTax.”
People express their idealized self through things such as activities, job choice, and lifestyles. This is “self-concept.” Self-expressive benefits provide a vehicle for expressing either an actual or ideal self-image.
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand I am _____.”
Examples: “When I smoke Benson and Hedges, I’m a smooth and sophisticated gentleman.” “Driving a Mercedes makes me successful.”
3) Social Benefits
A brand can help people to be part of a social group and thereby convey social benefits.
Think of this as social proof. “A social benefit is powerful because it provides a sense of identity and belonging–very basic human drives.”
Question to ask: “When I buy or use this brand, the type of people I relate to are ____.”
Examples: “When I go to Starbucks I am part of a closed club of coffee and coffeehouse aficionados, even if I don’t interact with any.” “When playing with a Titleist Prov V1 golf ball, I am among a group of really good golfers.”
Continous And Non-Stop Learning
People say “leaders are readers.” I agree. The best people in their fields are continuously learning, experimenting, and failing–over and over again.
I’ll never stop reading. I love the process of learning and synthesizing new information.
These seven mental models have been percolating in my brain for some time. I’m confident they’ll help you as they’ve helped me.
What mental models help you write better? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
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