It was about four years ago…

Michael Masterson flew into London to meet with us young copywriters to teach us a thing or two.

He actually taught me a fair bit, but one thing stuck above all else.

Ironic really, because that one thing was his concept of ‘the power of one’!

Seriously though, whether you’re a copywriter, a marketer, a designer, website builder or business owner… this is an idea you should drill into your head, fill with superglue and cover in triple-sided sticky tape.

Whatever it takes: make this stick!

You see, the power of one is the deceptively simple idea that you should only ever focus on one thing at a time.

Yes, yes. I know it sounds like some guru-spouted crap that doesn’t really mean anything, but trust me: this idea will make you more successful in everything you do.

Here though, we’re all about copywriting and so I will show you how it applies to good copy.

To do this, I’m going to hint at some aspects of something I call the ‘one step removed theory of copywriting’ but I’ll go a lot deeper into that another time (it’s a very useful theory).

You see, a sales promotion has ONE job to do – sell.

Now, that may be a product or a service or it may be an idea, an emotion or even a request for charity.

But whatever it is: you’re selling. Remember that.

Unfortunately, we live in a cynical world and selling isn’t as simple as it once was. You can no longer just say: “I have this thing, would you like to buy it?”

Of course, we could argue about the moral, socio-economic and indeed political reasons why this is the case and we could complain about the state of the nation until the cows come home. But that won’t get us anywhere, so we won’t.

Instead, we’ll accept that to sell things these days you’ve got to approach what you’re selling from a unique angle that resonates in some way with the needs and wants of the customer.

To do that, as a copywriter you need to be pretty clever. You need to go beyond the basic concept of the thing it is that you’re selling.

But when you do that, you run the risk of becoming a step removed from that initial goal of your sales promotion i.e. to sell.

And you might think that to do so, you need to forget the power of one. I mean, how can you stick to one idea if you need to invent unique reasons to buy and tap into people’s emotions?

Well, that’s where my ‘one step removed theory of copywriting’ comes into action. In fact, you should think of it (at least for the time being) as an add-on to Masterson’s ‘power of one’.

A crude but illustrative example…

Let’s say you’re tasked with selling a banana to someone who owns hundreds of equally nice bananas – in other words, they want your banana like they want a hole in the elbow.

The most direct way to sell to them, would be to say: “I have this banana, would you like to buy it?” That is one idea, right?

But you can’t sell it that way to a guy who has a load of equally good bananas.

So, you might try to focus in on an emotion: let’s say pride.

You say: “You have many bananas, sir, all of which are of a very high quality. But you do not have THIS banana. You can not say that you own all the best bananas in town and you must forever live knowing that I have one equally lovely banana that you do not have. Indeed it is a shame when you consider that if you had THIS banana you could fairly claim to own ALL the best bananas in town. You would be the toast of all the banana admirers.”

The man would look at you. He would think for a moment. And then, with a soft prompting from you, he would surely buy the banana.

You would have achieved your goal – to sell – and you would have done so buy sticking to ONE idea: that without this banana in his possession, he could not be considered the Don of banana ownership.

So, in this example, we have moved ‘one step’ away from our original aim – to sell – whilst still remaining within the boundaries of Masterson’s concept of ‘the power of one’ i.e.. we have stuck to one idea.

Hurrah. And well done to all involved. Sadly, this is not what the majority of copywriters working today actually do.

No. They complicate things. They try to be TOO clever and often try to go two or three or even four steps removed from their primary goal. They forget that they need to sell!

You see, no matter what angle you choose to take for your sales promotion, you should ensure that it is never more than ‘one step removed’ from your initial goal: to sell.