Hi, My name is Chase Canyon and I am a serial Post-it® noter. It has been 36 seconds since my last sticky note …
The area around my work space is wallpapered with a rainbow of reminders — inspirational quotes, instructions, to-do lists, checklists, and passwords for services I don’t remember signing up for.
Let me explain …
I’ve learned a ton about writing and marketing since I jumped into this copywriting gig with both feet. I’ve taken 5 or 6 AWAI programs, several programs from AWAI alumni and other marketing authorities, and I read at least a few articles a day from newsletters I subscribe to (including the Wealthy Web Writer gems, of course).
And I’ve been to AWAI’s Bootcamp where I learned as much in three days as I did from all the others combined.
It’s a lot to remember.
Hence my little Post-it problem.
Last week, when I had to do the backstroke out of my desk chair to get through the sea of neon stickies, I realized I could condense some of my copywriting scriptures into a master checklist that I could refer to each time I wrote a piece of content.
And I wanted to share it with my fellow Wealthy Web Writers.
So I give you The Down-and-Dirty Checklist for Rocket-Fueled Content.
Before take off
Before you start dishing out advice in an article (or a blog post or any piece of content), you need to give a lot of thought to who you’re serving it to. The more you know about your prospect, the more you can fine-tune your content to maximize response.
Consider more than just the “type” of person you’re aiming at. Picture an actual person in your head. Perhaps it’s your best current customer. If you’re just getting started, it might be your ideal target customer. If you’re writing for a client, they’ll likely need some coaxing to convey a clear picture of their ideal prospect (I always want to cry when they say “everybody”).
But go deeper than defining broad demographics such as age, gender, income, and location. You will be more in tune with what triggers response from prospects if you consider more of their behavior — what hobbies they have, what kind of music they listen to, whether they have a dog, if they would freak out because their neighbor hasn’t mowed his lawn, if they refuse to let their kids eat hot dogs, if they insist on wearing designer brands they bought at full price, if they refuse to leave the house without their hair done …
Some of these insights might seem trivial, but more behavioral details help you identify your ideal prospect and how you can appeal to her. If you try to appeal to everybody, you end up appealing to nobody.
Give your ideal prospect a persona and a name — Stressed-out Sally, Overwhelmed Joe, Queen Matilda McMudflaps — something that suits your industry and ideal customer. Someone you can picture yourself listening to, telling you their problems, their goals, their dreams, their fears.
Now keep in mind, you’re not just marketing to Stressed-out Sally (or whatever you name your ideal prospect) alone. You’re aiming at people just like her. Your “typical” customer.
Do I know Stressed-out Sally like an old friend?
Would I know what she wants most for her birthday?
Do I know what triggers her pain (stress) and prompts her undesirable behavior (chewing off her cuticles and washing down her Rolaids with that 8th espresso)?
Do I realize what her worst nightmare is?
How would she feel if her problem were fixed?
All systems go …
The headline (and subject line, if it’s an email) you craft for Stressed-out Sally should demonstrate exactly what there is to gain by reading the article, or include something that piques Sally’s curiosity. Something that makes her say, “I’ve got to check this out. This could be just what I need to fix my problem.”
Headline and Subject Line Checklist:
Is the benefit in the headline clear?
Does it inspire curiosity?
Does it include at least 3 of the 4 U’s© (Urgency, Usefulness, Uniqueness, Ultra-Specificity)?
Countdown to take off …
The average professional sends and receives about 100 emails a day, so people tend to skim for relevance. Therefore, craft subheadings and use images that will resonate with your target prospect to entice them to read the whole article.
Try to limit paragraphs to no more than five lines, and include spaces between paragraphs. Lists are fantastic — they make your article look powerful, to the point, and quick to read.
Outline and Format Checklist:
Could the reader get the gist of my article and be tempted to read it right now just from reading my subheadings?
Would the subheadings make the prospect’s mouth water?
Is the copy in bite-sized paragraphs so it’s easy to digest?
Is there lots of white space throughout the text?
Nab your prospect’s attention in the opening paragraph by nailing his pain point and the emotion it inspires. Be clear about the benefits he stands to gain by reading on.
Make the message personal and memorable by telling a story. I added the quick anecdote about my Post-it habit to show I feel your pain when you write an article and you worry if you forgot something. It also alludes to the fact that I planned to share a solution.
Opening Paragraph Checklist:
Does the article open with a seductive hook that stirs a powerful emotion or illustrates a pain point?
Did you make a clear promise about what problem you’re going to solve?
Is your message personal, like you’re only talking to Stressed-out Sally?
Is it memorable?
Houston, we have a problem …
Your entire article should be built around a specific person with a specific problem or desire to which you have a solution. The checklist below includes rocket-fueled recommendations you can apply to the body of your content to achieve maximum impact:
Is this article chock-full of juicy insider secrets readers can’t wait to try out?
Will Sally be itching to pounce on the “share” button before she even finishes reading it?
Does it make her feel like she’s part of an exclusive club?
Does it make her picture herself benefitting from the solution?
Does it include an unmistakable call-to-action?
Overall, does the article include the 4 P’s© (Promise, Picture, Proof, Push)?
Is the article sprinkled with keywords?
Is this article too valuable to delete?
That last point, “Is this article too valuable to delete?” really drives the point home, doesn’t it? (And a big “thank you” to Sonia Simone over at Copyblogger for sharing that valuable insight.)
If you follow The Down-and-Dirty Checklist for Rocket-Fueled Content, you’ll produce articles that are out of this world!