“There’s Just One Thing…”*
In the classic Reality In Advertising, copywriting Hall-of-Famer Rosser Reeves re-tells a great story that’s been around for years.
It may or may not be true (those are often the best ones.)
Bluster and brimstone
Apparently, US President #30 Calvin Coolidge once went to a church service delivered by a very wordy, very blustery minister…
This old-school orator went on with his whole fire & brimstone routine for around two hours.
Later, Coolidge – a man famed for his economy with words – was asked what the lengthy sermon was about.
“Sin” he answered.
“Well, what about it?” pressed his companion.
“He was against it” deadpanned ol’ Cal.
Brilliant. I love it.
(It reminds me of that classic scene in the Indiana Jones film Raiders Of The Lost Ark – where Indy responds to a henchman’s 20-second display of exhibitionist sword-waving with a dismissive single round, straight from the hip.)
Anyway, there’s a point to all this chucklesome storytelling…
It’s that sometimes, you don’t need to wrap your marketing message in a lengthy sermon on your product’s features and benefits…
You don’t always need to prove your swordsmanship in showy detail when a gut-shot will do the trick.
Because these days – just like in Rosser’s time – your prospect will likely only remember ONE KEY THING about your message.
Just like Coolidge gleaned just one key point the preacher spent an age blathering about.
And it’s got nothing to do with decreasing attention spans (that classic placebo excuse for everything and nothing)…
Nor is it about NLP-ing your reader into a trance-like submissive buying state, or any of that hoo-ha.
It’s simply the way our brains work.
Each time we read a message, we’re subconsciously looking for the One Key Thing that resonates with us strongly…
And when we find it, we store it at the forefront of our minds.
The rest of the message gets filed away in a dusty brain-corner.
Some of it gets lost forever.
When you’re writing your copy, you need to ask yourself:
“Am I strengthening this message by adding to it, or am I weakening it?”
Too much waffling about your credentials, and you risk losing your reader before they’ve found the One Key Thing that really matters to them.
Overdo the origin story behind your product, and you might be talking yourself out of a perfectly good sale.
Chances are, your prospect isn’t as patient as Calvin Coolidge in church that day – they’re more likely the itchy-trigger-finger, Indiana Jones type.
So remember: if in doubt, keep it simple.
Copywriting’s great like that.
Because the simpler the message, the more effective it is.
Of course, the zillion-dollar question is:
What’s the One Key Thing you need to show your prospects to convert them into customers?
That’s the tricky part.
The answer may not arrive in a flash.
But that’s also what’s great about online marketing – you can always test to see what works.
Or, you can get a head-start and hire an expert to help you identify that One Key Thing and craft the best message.
Either way, beware ye of over-preaching.
And also of impatient archaeologists packing heat : )
* A free 20-minute consultation to the first reader who spots the musical reference in today’s headline and emails me with the answer… CLUE: they’re one of my favourite bands, referenced on this blog previously.