I'm a Copywriter. But Writing isn't the Most Important Thing I Do.

Earlier this week, I reached out to a copywriter I admire.

Let’s call him Greg.

(That’s not his real name, but telling this story is easier if he has a name. And I didn’t ask to use his real name, so you get Greg.)

I said a few things to Greg, but the gist of it can be summed up in these lines:

“So, full transparency: I’d just love to become a writer that you trust and would feel comfortable referring people to. And I’m wondering if that’s a possibility.”

Greg has worked with some really cool brands in the personal development industry — brands I would love to work with.

Brands that ride that fine line of giving away a ton of valuable content for free, but also not being afraid to sell when it’s warranted.

Bottom line:

I wanted to be one of those people who come to Greg’s mind when a potential client asks:

“Is there anyone you can recommend?”

So Greg asked me what my ideal client/project would be. I told him:

“Basically, sales page and/or email funnel for a personal brand selling an info product that makes peoples’ lives better.”

Greg responded:

“By ‘make people’s lives better’ do you mean personal development stuff? Because simply ‘making life better’ is the promise of every single thing that’s ever been sold ever :)”

And he made a good point.

No matter what you’re selling—

We’re all really selling the promise of a better future.

A future in which our customers are more confident, more certain, healthier, more productive, happier, ad infinitum.

But there’s a complication here.

We can’t just tell our customers that our products make their lives better.

Like someone who’s had a string of bad relationships, our customers have been burned.

They’re wary, skeptical, untrusting.

In legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz’s terms, our audiences are often in the later stages of awareness. They are either:

  • Solution Aware: They know they have a problem and they know there is a solution for it, but they don’t realize your product is a solution.

  • Product Aware: They know they have a problem, they know there is a solution for it, and they know your product is a potential solution, but they haven’t bought it.

Bad advertising tells readers a product will improve their lives. It will make them more productive, more efficient. It will save them time and effort.

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

But here’s the problem:

Those promises aren’t enough anymore.

Customers these days are too smart to fall for that. They’ve seen this game before.

They’ve been burned, remember?

And if you don’t do any work to show them how your product is different than everything else they’ve seen…

They’re probably not going to care about it.

When they read your copy, their eyes will glaze over and their heads will softly hit the keyboard as they fall asleep.

So, if you’re offering a product similar to others out there (like most companies are), I’m going to show you 3 major ways you can make your product stand out, even if, on the surface—

It’s just like everything else.

Here’s what they are:

1. Identify and emphasize the Mechanism

2. Find evidence of your product’s Performances

3. Discover — and tell — the story of your product itself, its Mechanism, Performance, or history

I’m about to show you how to do these things, but they all start at the same place:


This is the most important thing a copywriter does. Everything else, including the writing itself, comes second to that.

Research is what allows you to write the most effective copy possible. And the 3 tips we’re about to dive into will show you how to mold that research into something useful.

So let’s break these 3 things down, because they might sound like gibberish right now.

1. Identify and emphasize the Mechanism

Yes, readers need to know your product will make their lives better, but more importantly...

They need to know HOW your product is going to do that.

Gene Schwartz called this the “Mechanism.”

If you’re writing for a diet product, and your promise is that it will help someone lose weight…

The Mechanism is HOW it will help them do that.

If you’re writing about this product, your job isn’t just to say:

“Wow! Can you imagine how GREAT you’ll feel when you’re eating healthy and losing weight!?”

Sure, that’s part of it. But there’s more.

It’s your job to dig deeper into the Mechanism of how the diet works.

So, let’s say the Mechanism of this diet (i.e. the way it enables someone to actually lose weight) is that it’s a ketogenic diet.

It’s extremely low-carb and very high fat. So, it switches your body to “fat-burning mode,” causing your body to burn fat as a preferred fuel source, producing ketones as a byproduct.

Not only that, but the low carb aspect of the diet also means that it sheds water weight, adding to the dramatic weight loss that can happen very early on.

Pretty interesting stuff, right?

With this information about the Mechanism, you could write stuff like:

“This is the only diet that literally trains your body to burn fat”

“Turn your body into a verified fat-burning machine”

“Reprogram your body to shed fat like an old skin”

...or some other stuff like that.

(Yeah, the “shedding skin” part is a bit odd — but I bet you’d be intrigued, and that’s the point.)

And those things are pretty convincing!

But what if it got even more interesting?

2. Find evidence your product’s Performances

We’ll reference Gene Schwartz again.

He defined a product’s Performance simply as “what your product does.”

His point was that no one actually buys a product itself. Instead, they buy what the product does.

No one buys a diet plan.

They buy the idea of themselves as thinner, happier, and healthier.

No one buys a pack of cigarettes.

They buy the feeling the cigarettes give them. The slowing down. The relaxation.

No one buys a self-help book.

They buy the version of themselves they will be after reading the book. They buy the results — the better life — the book can give them.

Is this starting to make sense?

I hope so.

So, for our example, let’s assume our audience feels like they have no control over their weight.

Our Performance then — what the product does — could be something like:

“Gives the reader control over their weight, by providing a new framework to help them lose weight effectively.”

(Tangent: I think there’s a tangible and intangible aspect to the Performance of a product. In Breakthrough Advertising, AKA The Copywriting Bible, Schwartz uses the example of a car and refers to the Performance in terms of intangible value it gives the customer, like power, novelty, recognition, etc. and then elaborates on those with more tangible features like top speed, trade-in value, electric door locks, etc. In this case, the tangible aspect is losing weight, but the intangible aspect is the new sense of control.)

So, what if we had evidence to back up our Performance?

Something like a real-life example of someone losing 15 lbs in their first week on the diet?

Now, we’re selling something readers can grab onto.

They can’t exactly feel “weight loss,” because it’s vague.

But they can feel what it would be like to lose 15 lbs in one week...almost a pound per day.

This evidence of our product’s Performance makes its promise stronger, more believable, more likely to grab a reader’s attention.

As a bonus, you can instantly add some extra strength to your copy by juxtaposing the evidence of its Performance with something unexpected —  

Something that should, at first glance, make your product not work.

For example:

When most people think of weight loss, they imagine giving up their favorite foods.

And if you’re telling them they could lose 15 lbs in one week, they might believe they’ll have to starve themselves to get there.

But in the case of the ketogenic diet, that’s not true.

In fact, you can eat some of your favorite foods like bacon and steak on the keto diet and still lose weight.

That’s some strong copy.

And if you understand how the diet works, this makes perfect sense.

Bacon and steak are allowed because they’re low-carb.

Basically, if you can make it seem like the product works in spite of something, then you’re able to create a pretty convincing argument or, at the very least, grab a reader’s attention.


Seriously, though.

3. Discover — and tell — the story of your product itself, its Mechanism, Performance, or history

The ketogenic diet was officially developed in the 1920s to treat patients with epileptic seizures, but it hasn’t become popular in the mainstream until recently.

Adding to that, the Mechanism behind the ketogenic diet goes against-the-grain a bit.

Its low-carb, high-fat recommendation flies in the face of the USDA food pyramid, which recommends that most of a person’s calories come from carbohydrates and fat intake be kept to a minimum.

That gives you a whole slew of other angles:

“This controversial diet was largely overlooked by the mainstream for nearly 100 years. Could it be the key to rapid weight loss as extreme as 15 lbs in one week?”

“Don’t put down that bacon. In fact, eat more of it. This nearly 100-year-old diet lets you eat as much as you want, and could help you lose up to 15 lbs in 7 days.”

“The USDA might hate me for this, but I’m going to show you a controversial way of eating that could help you be 15lbs lighter this time next week.”

And so on.

So what does all this mean?

The “writing” part of copywriting is actually very minimal in comparison to the rest of it.

Copywriting is actually mostly research.

Because, as you saw through the evolution of our example headlines in this article—

The more you know about a product, its Mechanism, its Performances, and its history…

The more unique angles you can have from which to present your product.

And the more likely readers are to actually pay attention to what you’re saying.

So, while you might think you’re hiring a copywriter to write, what you’re really hiring them to do is research, so they can come up with a unique big idea that will grab readers’ attention and get them to read the next line, then the next…

All the way down to the buy button.

In the end…

We’re all selling better lives for our customers. And we should be.

But don’t stop at:

“This makes you happier.”

“This makes you more successful.”

“This makes you more efficient.”

Show your customers HOW your product does that and present that information in a tangible, unique way.

So if you’re having trouble selling your product, maybe the product itself isn’t the issue. Maybe it’s the way you’re presenting it.

Dig a bit deeper. And see what you come up with. :)

Robert Lucas