You’ve probably heard this old maxim before… write what you know.
Great advice… Just not for copywriters, and you’ll see why in a second.
Last night, I was re-listening to this interview Mike Dillard did with pro copywriter Craig Clemens. In the interview, Craig shares one of his best writing exercises that his mentor, and former boss, Eben Pagan taught him.
The exercise is designed to place you inside your reader’s mind so you know exactly what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and what they want to hear from you to help solve their problems.
Craig explains the exercise like this:
A truly skilled copywriter — if you’re going to do this and make a good living at it — needs to be able to get in the head of a prospect, whether you can directly relate to them or not.
Eben taught me a fantastic exercise for doing this that I teach to my guys now. What Eben had me do was he had me sit down and write an autobiography as that prospect.
So, if you remember, I was also writing for Catch Him & Keep Him at the time. And I don’t really know what it’s like to be a 41-year-old woman that has recently been divorced, and is just starting to date again, and feeling frustrated. I cannot relate to that, at all. But, what I would do is, I would sit down and I would imagine myself as one of these women.
I would read their comments and emails they would send in and I would give myself a name and age. I would think about how many kids I had, what type of career I was in, and just start writing all that.
“Hi, my name is Marcy and I’m 41-years-old. I have two kids that are 5 and 7. You know, I really thought I was going to be married to their father for the rest of my life and then, you know, things don’t always turn out as planned so here I am. I love my job, working as an elementary school teacher, but I had a really frustrating time meeting men lately. That was until I met James. James and I have been having some really exciting talks but I just can’t figure out if he’s feeling the same way I am — and it’s really frustrating.”
And I would just keep writing and writing. And that’s what Eben would have us do — go in to all these details. And then he would say, finish that autobiography and then pick up your blank piece of paper and now write your sales message to that person.
The key to making this autobiography exercise work is you have to write it like an actual autobiography.
Talk as if this is how you thought your life was going to play out, then talk about what actually happened, and then talk about where you’re at now.
This small distinction makes this exercise different than writing a regular customer avatar because it forces you to live your readers’ life.
Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.
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