Let’s face it, human beings are lazy.
If we can get away with sleeping in… we’ll do it.
UberEats and MenuLog — admittedly lifesavers during lockdowns — have flourished off the back of our “meh, let’s eat in” attitude.
And of course, work gives us a smorgasbord of opportunities to take it easy. Finish the financials spreadsheet or watch newscaster bloopers on YouTube? I know which one I’d choose!
Unfortunately, laziness can leech into the quality of our work… and for a copywriter, that can be disastrous. In our efforts to avoid spending “too much time” on a project (or worse, to avoid having to think), copywriters can resort to all kinds of shortcuts that leave their clients with sub-par copy.
These are just 5 of the easiest traps those copywriters can fall into…
1. Flat-out copying of a hook, angle, or big idea
OK, let me state this first: “swiping” an idea — where you take something and adapt it to your own promotion or marketing — can work. But it still means you have to mix things up, change the context to what you’re selling, and effectively make it your own.
For example, the classic John Caples headline “They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano… But When I Started To Play!” has been tweaked in dozens of sales pages over the last few years alone.
A bald-faced “copy/paste” of a sales letter (or even a section of it) is something else altogether. It’s not only one of the laziest things a copywriter can do, it’s also one of the most destructive for both copywriter and client. And there’s two reasons for that:
- If there’s a chance the stolen copy is something people have seen before, they’ll switch off, making the job of selling that much harder.
- When you drop different copy into your promotion, it makes it “Franken-copy” with contrasting tones and poor pacing… which also hurts your chances of conversion.
There’s simply no argument that trying to cut corners doing this will help you sell more (in other words, what the #1 job of a copywriter is).
2. Applying persuasion principles without considering context
Open loops… future pacing… scarcity/urgency… even how you structure copy can be a persuasion principle.
But these principles are useless — or even counterproductive — if you don’t know how, when, and why to use one. And that’s a trap too many copywriters fall into. I mean, we’re “copywriters”, right? We focus on words, don’t we?
It’s easy to think that… but it’s also lazy to think like that too.
As copywriters, we have to know persuasion principles just as well as we do writing (perhaps even more so).
There’s one example that especially bugs me! Marketers love to include a button at the top of a sales page. And that’s fine… if you’re not driving cold traffic to the page. The problem is when people see a button, they click. But if they’ve just landed on your page and don’t know you or what you’re selling, a button that pulls them away before they start to read the copy makes it unlikely you’ll get them back.
3. Leaving logic “gaps” in the copy
This trap applies more for sales letters, VSLs, or long-form copy where you put together a persuasive argument over a lot of words.
First up: yes, it’s tricky to write 10,000+ words of copy without some small inconsistencies, assumptions, jumps of logic, and the like. For anyone but the top copywriters, you’re going to end up with a few little gaps.
But from what I’ve seen, too many copywriters are happy to leave yawning chasms in their narratives or arguments. That pulls readers (or viewers) right out of the presentation… and gets them thinking about the mistake they noticed. And if that happens, you’ve lost any chance of picking up a new sale or customer.
- When writing long-form copy, “minding the gap” is an essential part of your work.
4. Not doing the research
Heard of the 40-40-20 rule? It’s an old marketing maxim that states 40% of marketing success relies on the offer, 40% on the audience, and 20% on the creative, like copy and design.
(Yes, copy is less important than a good offer and the right audience! But that’s a topic for another day.)
This rule is also the perfect place to start when you do your legwork for any promotion. At the absolute minimum, you need to know:
- What you’re selling (the offer)
- Who you’re selling to (the audience)
Not bothering to go deep into these “because research is hard, man” might save you a lot of time… but it’s going to cost your client a lot of sales.
One of the telltale signs I haven’t done quite enough research is when writing’s a constant struggle or the copy sounds like generic pap. When I find either happening, I go back to my research files, review them for gaps, then start digging again for more info.
- “Oh, I don’t research – I just start writing”… said no successful copywriter ever.
5. Writing “good enough” copy
It’s easy to fall into the “I’ve spent a good three hours on this sales page, that oughta do it” trap. And that can often come back to bite us. Too often, copywriters are happy to be hired for a project, write the copy, get paid, and ride off into the sunset…
…never stopping to think about the results (or lack of results) the copy brings the client.
In the direct response game, results are what we’re hired for. The copy is simply how we deliver them. If we can’t pull the results, we’re doomed to forever jump from project to project, never being able to charge the big bucks or lure the big clients who look for copywriters who can deliver. And most of the time, million-dollar ideas don’t fall on your head with just 5 or 10 minutes work.
This is a trap I sometimes fell into during my early days. In fact, way back in one of my first sessions with my mentor, she pulled me up on a decidedly average headline when reviewing a sales page I’d written. After breaking down what was wrong with it, she asked how long I’d spent on it. “5 minutes”, was my sheepish reply.
Don’t be like “Lazy Dean.”
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This is by no means a definitive list, but just 5 traps I’ve seen copywriters fall into (including myself) when they’ve been sluggish at their writing desk.
Do you have dangerous “shortcuts” when you get a little lazy?