Have you ever wondered who created the first checklist? It turns out that several test pilots for the U. S. Army Air Corps came up with the idea as a solution for a major problem with the Boeing Model 299 (later known as the B-17) which crashed on its demo flight on October 30, 1935.
The reason it crashed was pilot error … he forgot to do one thing … release the elevator lock before takeoff. Because of that one omission, the plane stalled and fell to the ground, bursting into flames just after takeoff. The pilot and one other crew member died. This new plane was too complex. There were just too many things for the pilot to remember.
To save the Model 299 project from being scrapped, the test pilots came up with the idea to have a step-by-step checklist of each and every thing the pilot and crew needed to do to get this “Flying Fortress” off the ground. The plan worked, and the rest is history. The B-17 was a very successful airplane and flew 1.8 million miles without a serious accident.
Today, checklists are used all over the world and many industries rely on them.
I use checklists all the time. My husband teases me about all of my lists. He says pretty soon I’ll need a list of all of my lists. But, you know what? They work for me.
They help keep me organized and save a lot of time. They are very effective.
You Must Be the Pilot of Your Copywriting Career
What does all of this have to do with web writing? A bunch! Just as a pilot is responsible for remembering to do everything necessary before takeoff, you, as a writer, need to make sure you’ve covered all the important steps when writing an article, direct mail piece, autoresponder, web page, or whatever it is you’re working on.
A checklist can be used as a job aid that reduces the risk of mistakes and oversights, and ultimately improves the quality of the work you deliver to your clients. When you use a checklist, you don’t have to depend completely on your memory to cover all the bases.
So, what would a copywriting checklist look like? Some of the items on that list should be:
- Have I followed Michael Masterson’s Power of One rule?
- Where are the 4 P’s?
- Does my headline cover the 11 points?
- Does it have the critical parts of the 4-legged stool?
- Do I have a strong call-to-action?
- Do I have a powerful P.S.?
This is just an example of some of the things you might include on your copywriting checklist. You’ll also add to your checklist based on your personal writing style. For example, one writer I know recognizes that when she’s typing fast, she tends to type the word “your” when she means “you.” She includes checking for this on her checklist so she presents her clients with the most polished copy possible.
You’ll find other good checklist items in AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.
Once you’ve built your checklist, print it out, and keep it in front of you so you can refer to it at each stage in your writing process. It makes things so much easier and gives you a template to use. This way, you can have confidence you won’t miss an important step.
Your checklists need to be specific to the type of work you’re doing. Just like a checklist for a B-17 is different from that of a Boeing 767, a checklist for writing a home page is different from that for writing an autoresponder series.
A home page checklist should include at least the seven things Nick Usborne suggests to help guide website visitors in his AWAI program, Copywriting 2.0:
- Is my home page visitor-centric?
- Is my headline visitor-centric?
- Is my introductory text clear, descriptive, and useful to the visitor?
- Did I make it easy for the visitor to find what he or she is looking for?
- Did I succeed in getting the visitor to do something?
- Did I build confidence?
- Did I make a sale?
The list above is different from the one given by Jay White for creating a subject line in his AWAI program, Autoresponder Apprentice.
The subject-line checklist should include:
- Is it provocative?
- Is it original?
- Is it intriguing?
- Is it different from everyone else?
A checklist is the vehicle that helps you deliver consistent, polished results, and makes sure you don’t omit anything by accident. You can perform with confidence!
So, before I submit this article, I’m going back over my checklist to see if I’ve covered everything. Let’s see …
- Conversation-like – ✔ …
- Golden thread – ✔ …
- The promise – ✔ …
Chris Butler is experienced in several kinds of copywriting media. She has designed websites, provided web content, authored articles, autoresponders, blogs, email ads, landing pages and other types of promotional material. Her clients extend from AWAI to artists, landscapers, and self -help experts.
Her primary niche is in the self-help industry specializing in relationship building and interpersonal skills development. To learn more about her, you can visit her website at www.TheButlerWroteIt.com.