Take a look at this scrap of paper:
Though it might look like nonsense right now…
I guarantee it will help you shave hours off the time you spend reviewing and editing your copy.
And it’ll make your copy a damn sight more effective.
It’s almost too simple to follow…
And it only takes about five minutes from start to finish.
Good. Let me show you what it’s all about…
Why the golden thread is more like a golden scarf
There’s an old concept in direct response copywriting known as the ‘golden thread’.
If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s pretty straightforward to figure out.
It suggests that when it comes to a piece of long copy, you should make sure the same idea runs throughout the piece, from the headline all the way to the call to action.
It’s this central, core idea we refer to as the ‘golden thread’.
It speaks to the ‘power of one’ idea in advertising… that sticking to one message is more powerful than trying to deliver numerous messages to your reader.
Makes sense, right?
In fact, despite my instinct to go against any long-held idea, in this case… I agree with both concepts.
Both the power of one AND maintaining a golden thread throughout a piece of long copy are good theories to follow.
Of course, there was going to be a ‘but’.
The concept of the golden thread is a little high-level and conceptual for my liking.
I’d like to go deeper.
Sure, it makes sense that if you’re selling a gold mining advisory service, for example, you wouldn’t suddenly start writing about Elon Musk developing a super battery in Arizona…
They’re two different ideas: gold mining and renewable energy.
The golden thread, you could argue, in a letter about the opportunity in gold mining needs to be about gold mining throughout the letter.
Stands to reason.
But on a practical basis, when it comes to writing a long copy sales letter, is it enough to just focus on pulling that single ‘golden thread’ tightly through the letter, whilst leaving everything else random and bitty?
The answer is: most definitely no.
For a long copy sales letter to be effective you will need to add many more elements to it, or ‘threads’, which are just as important as the main idea.
All of these different elements need to be weaved throughout the letter too.
Here’s how you do it…
Identify the key elements in your headline complex
Hopefully you’re with me here…
Personally I thought the introduction there was a little cerebral. But to make up for that, here’s a cold, hard example from the long copy sales letter I’ve been working on this week.
To set the scene, I’ll tell you the letter is all about the opportunity of investing in gold mining companies on the verge of discovering gold and other precious metals.
The basic pitch of the letter – the golden thread – is about inviting people to “claim a stake in the world’s biggest new gold rush.”
Throughout the letter, I need to make sure I’ve touched on that key idea on almost every page.
But, when I came to write the headline for this particular sales letter, I added a lot more than just that basic pitch.
Indeed, there are SIX additional elements I added in the headline complex.
1. A forecast of the gains the expert believes readers can make.
2. The number of limited places available on the service.
3. The date of the deadline for new members to join the service.
4. A promise of a genuine gold coin for the first 50 to respond.
5. A map showing where the reader would be claiming their stake.
6. Detail that you can do this from the comfort of your own couch.
Now, each of these elements is designed to add something to the headline complex, be it urgency, uniqueness, scarcity or ease of use.
I’ll cover those a different time.
For now, the key point I want you to take away and apply to your own writing is this…
Each of these elements should be individually threaded throughout the pages of copy that follows the headline.
If it’s mentioned in the headline complex, it needs to run through the entire letter.
If it doesn’t, it means you’re either missing an opportunity to touch on a key sales element, or you’re leaving your reader with unresolved questions – which is even worse.
The good news:
As I say, I’ve got a very simple and practical approach you can use to check you’re pulling each of these multiple threads through the letter.
HOLD ON, did your school teacher tell you this LIE too?
Without evening realising it, chances are your teacher told you something in your English class that could be completely ruining your ability to write good copy.
Good news is: the effects can be reversed (unless you leave it too long).
Checking the thread: have you paid off your headline?
So, the aim of the game here is to make sure you’ve not only paid off the key elements you added to the headline, but that you revisit them throughout the letter.
Here’s my process:
First, get a sheet of paper and a pen.
Next, you need to take each of the key elements you added to the headline complex and boil them down to a word of phrase. Here’s how I did it:
1. A forecast of the gains the expert believes you can make = the numbers ‘£1,000 and £15,000’.
2. Detail of the limited number of places available on the service = the phrase ‘195 spaces’.
3. Detail of the deadline for new members to join the service = the date ‘Wednesday 20th December’.
4. Promise of a gold coin for the first 50 to respond = the phrase ‘gold coin’.
5. A map showing where the reader would be claiming their stake = an the image of the map itself.
6. Detail that you can do this from the comfort of your own couch = the word ‘couch’.
Write those words or phrases down on your scrap of paper.
Now, take the first word or phrase on your list and – using the search function in Word – find every occurrence it in your letter and jot down the page number it appears on.
It should look something like this:
Key element: 195 spaces
Appears on pages: 11, 18, 36
Do this for each of the key words or phrases you’ve identified.
You should end up with a scrap of paper that looks something like mine:
Once you’ve got that we can move to the final phase of this process:
Pulling the threads
Now you have a list of the key elements used in your headline complex and a very visual record of how often they appear in your sales letter.
In my example, you can see that I’ve marked my ‘golden thread’ idea (stake, gold rush) as appearing on ‘EVERY PAGE’.
I’ve been doing this copywriting lark for a while, so I tend to inherently stick to the golden thread.
And you can see that I’ve also immediately ticked a few of the other elements off too.
I’ve done this wherever I can see that the page numbers run pretty consecutively and there’s not more than a 3-5 page gap between mentions.
As you become more experienced, you’ll naturally pull more and more of these key threads through your copy without thinking about it.
But, you’ll see that despite my experience, for some of the other key elements, I’ve circled them and marked a cross next to the number series.
For example, by following this process, I found that after the headline, I’d only mentioned the urgency date on pages 3, 13, 14 and 33.
There are some big gaps there, particularly between pages 14 and 33.
Here you should review the copy and look for places to repeat the key element that’s missing.
Of course, this comes down to your own judgement and there might already be too many elements in a section for you to add it easily.
That was the case when it came to finding a place between page 3 and 14. I can live with that as there are lots of other effective elements at work in the copy between those pages.
But that gap between 14 and 33 was just too big. That is much too long for the element not to be mentioned.
So, I found a place between there – on page 24 – to repeat it.
I followed this same process for each of the elements that I’d not repeated in the letter, making sure to pay them off and pull them tight throughout the piece.
All in all it took about five minutes.
But in seriousness…
I think it’s a great exercise for any copywriter to do when they’ve finished a first draft.
This is a very simple and effective way of making sure you carry all the key elements of your headline complex throughout your sales letter and I guarantee it will make it more effective.
When reviewing copy – and having my own copy reviewed – this is by far one of the biggest areas for error.
Over such long pieces of copy – and when you consider how many distractions we have around us when reading such a letter – it’s important that readers are regularly reminded of the key elements that caught their attention in the first place.
This process makes sure you do that.
So, give it a go.
Indeed, I’d love to hear how it works for you. Give me a shout and let me know if it helps.
P.S. In case you haven’t see before, I’ve put together a simple to follow guide that outlines my own training methods as well as detailing more than twenty ways to boost the conversion of your current copy.
Filled with specific writing tasks I’ve used to train successful copywriters, I guarantee this will help improve your copywriting – or your money back.