A revolutionary new way to look at copy

Why is some copy so ineffective at getting customers to do whatever it is you want them to do? Whether it’s clicking through to your website, clicking through to another page or even placing an order? I have a brand-new theory. Or, rather, a brand-new technique. One that will make your copy considerably more effective. I think it’s actually fairly revolutionary!

I’ve called it Micro-Objectives.

And as the name suggests, it’s all about setting yourself small, staged objectives at each point in the copywriting process.

So, instead of saying to yourself “What do I want this website/ad/email/article to achieve as a whole?” you set yourself Micro-Objectives that break the copy down into smaller, discrete steps. Each with its own desired outcome.

Here’s how it works.

You start with the headline, the attention grabber.

You ask yourself, “For this customer, with her needs and problems that I understand completely, what headline message is going to stop her in her tracks and make her read a bit more?”

So you focus on the headline as a Micro-Objective: which is simply to make her read more. Not to buy. Not to enquire. Not to communicate stuff about your brand values.

Assuming your headline delivers on Micro-Objective One, you move on to Micro-Objective Two: the opening sentences.

Micro-Objective Two

This time your Micro-Objective is this: I need to keep her interested, what are the messages that will achieve this most effectively? Again, you don’t focus on anything but the words that will keep her reading just a little bit longer.

In practice, of course, this might be an expansion on whatever you promised in the headline.

But not necessarily.

When I’m writing direct mail copy, for instance, I often promise something in the headline then take a slightly different tack in the opening sentence or two.

I know that my headline (or stacked headlines) is ultimately powerful enough to whet their appetite for more while I give them some new stuff to add to the sense that this is something they really need to know about.

For example, the main attention-grabbing headline might be a powerful offer: “Today only, get this £224 set of designer saucepans for just £35”.

But, to meet Micro-Objective Two, I might start the main copy with a powerful and engaging product benefit: “Someone once said ‘You should never buy cheap pans or cheap tools’. Wobbly handles, impossible-to-clean surfaces, lids that burn your fingers — we’ve all experienced what cheap pans are like! That’s why these XYZ pans are the bargain of the century. Not only are they made from…”

So, Micro-Objective Two is achieved. They’re reading on.

Micro-Objective Three

Keep them reading. Use linking phrases like “Not only that…” “Here’s the deal…” Make sure all your subheads offer another benefit if at all possible. More reasons to buy equals more reasons to read on.

Micro-Objective Four

Make them trust you as a supplier. You’re getting close to the ultimate objective now — to ask for the order — so you need to make sure they trust you and know they can get a refund if they’re not happy.

So M-O 4 might be achieved by offering a guarantee and showing some testimonials.

M-O Five

 This is the big one, the Micro-Objective that all the others have been leading to. Get them to order. Right Now.

Not tomorrow. Not this afternoon. Right now. If our M-O 5 objective is specifically to get them to buy NOW (not just BUY) how do we achieve it?

Perhaps we use an incentive…

An extra 10% off if you order today

Get this Swiss Carving Knife free with your order if you buy today

M-O Six

The final objective (in this made-up example only, of course) could be phrased as “Ensure they understand how to order”. Again, by writing brief to yourself as an objective, you should approach the words differently. Focusing on the short-term outcome i.e. the understanding rather than the action.

To be certain you’ve achieved this objective, you’ll probably find yourself writing more clearly and perhaps using more words to make your description of the buying process absolutely idiot-proof.

I’ve never heard of copywriting being described in these terms before, so I hope you found this post useful. I know I did!


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