At this time of year, you tend to see every man and his dog laying down their predictions for the year…
I find the exercise a bit ‘meh’, to be honest.
Predicting how the world will change is a real fool’s errand.
Don’t get me wrong…
Keeping an eye on how general trends are shifting is worth doing and can help influence your copy to make sure it remains relevant.
But trying to predict specific things, such as where the value of the pound will be this time next year, how Brexit will play out, or what the price of Bitcoin will be.
Well, that’s not for this e-letter.
And it’s especially redundant if your readers don’t already agree with your predictions.
It goes back to the idea you can’t convince someone to take action on something if they don’t already believe it’s going to happen.
For example, I could predict that Brexit won’t happen and David Miliband will launch a new centrist party in June. But unless you already – weirdly – believe that, I’d spend a hell of a lot of time and energy trying (and most likely failing) to convince you why you should.
Good copy doesn’t aim to change minds.
Good copy reaffirms what you already think and tells you what to do about it.
But hey, I also know that we all have a certain itch to see people making predictions at this time of year.
So, this man and his dog (as I now have a dog, I can finally say such a thing) is going to do something slightly different.
I’m going to predict five things that WON’T change in 2018.
Well, it’s a bit of fun, isn’t it… but also because by understanding these things will stay the same, you will hopefully be able to ignore all the bandwagon-jumpers and desperate terminology re-inventors and focus on the fundamentals this year.
So, here are my top five anti-predictions for 2018:
Actually, before that…
Would you like to get hold of a simple guide I’ve put together that outlines my own copy training methods?
Filled with specific writing tasks I’ve used to train successful copywriters, I guarantee this will help improve your copywriting – or your money back.
Anti-prediction #1: Long copy will continue to out perform short copy
This argument has raged on for decades and will continue to do so for many more…
What’s more effective:
Long or short copy?
Frankly, the question is irrelevant. What works best is the amount of copy needed to persuade your reader to take action.
If you think of it in those terms, you’ll stop worrying about how ‘long’ your copy is…
And you’ll do something else:
You’ll write more copy.
You see, when you start thinking in terms of persuading your reader to take action, you’ll soon realise the best way to do that is to give them more reasons to take action.
You’ll want to tell them more about what you’re trying to make them do and why. You’ll want to tell them about other people who previously took the action. You’ll want to tell them about the benefits of taking the action.
And thus the more reasons you give – and the longer your copy becomes – the more effective it will be.
So, this year, if someone tries to opine that ‘the shorter the copy, the better it is…
Interrupt them with a polite but firm hand gesture, take a large Alaskan trout in the other hand and put it about their face with a vigorous slapping motion.
Anti-prediction #2: People will still be persuaded primarily by fear or greed
We copywriters are a noble lot.
We blend art with science, salesmanship with authorship.
We’re often kept behind the scenes whilst the owner of the voice we inhabit collects the plaudits for our handy work.
Alas, we are ultimately underappreciated.
Sob. Sob. Sob. Woe is me.
OK. Enough soppy balls.
Despite all the fancy psychological stuff, all the ‘tone of voice’ antics or the ‘art’ of sentence structure we all like to debate about…
We as copywriters need to get one thing in our heads above all else:
Fear and greed are our two most powerful tools.
It has always been that way and it will always be that way.
Never forget that. If your copy doesn’t speak to either of those two emotions in some way, then take a good look at it and rethink.
No matter how many technological advances we see made in 2018… at heart, us humans will, at any one time, be full of fear or greedy for more stuff.
Anti-prediction #3: Surveys will remain largely redundant
A small personal gripe of mine, but I’ll cover it here as part of my anti-predictions…
A formula for you:
Customer surveys = ultimately pointless.
Don’t get me wrong; asking your customers open-ended questions about their habits can be both interesting and useful.
And I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to understand what your customer wants and needs.
Indeed, I encourage you, dear reader, to email me as often as you like.
But closed-question, ‘how-much-do-you-spend-on-your-weekly-shop-type’ surveys are pretty much kebab.
(I’m using ‘kebab’ here as synonym for ‘useless’ – I’m not sure why, but it seems to work.)
If you ask most people if they would pay thousands for advice on how to invest in cryptocurrencies, they’ll say no.
Yet in 2017 millions of pounds and dollars was spent on cryptocurrency advice. And I dare say many of that was spent by people who would have claimed not to be prepared to spend a single penny.
Better to study what your customers actually do, not what they say they do.
Anti-prediction #4: In financial copy, Bitcoin will remain one of the ‘must-reference’ topics
Talking of cryptocurrencies…
Let me get a little financial-copy-specific for a moment. (That’s where the money is, frankly.)
Whatever your view on Bitcoin and the whole cryptocurrency craze, let me tell you this…
It’s not going anywhere in 2018.
That is not to say Bitcoin will mount a second coming and surpass the highs it saw towards the end of last year – as I say, I’m not looking to predict price movements.
Sure, it could do and that’s why I’m still holding my Bitcoin.
But it might not. Who knows.
What I do know is that Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are here to say for the next year as a theme.
Even if Bitcoin dives, other cryptocurrencies take over or the whole thing unwinds completely…
As a copywriter in the financial space, you will need to acknowledge it and you will need to write about it.
So, don’t try to find ‘the next big trend’ to replace cryptos. Focus on the trend we’re seeing play out right now.
Anti-prediction #5: Direct response copywriting theory will continue to be underused in marketing
Bit of an unashamed book plug here, but the point is true…
You see, the book I’ll be publishing later this year is all about how you can harness the power of direct response copywriting in any business, whether you’re a copywriter or not.
Indeed, I’ll be preaching the same story to people at various speaking gigs I’ve got lined up…
And I’ll continue to share direct response copywriting insight with you in the email.
This year, like most before it, will see thousands of businesses – and even copywriters – ignore the wealth of insight and ideas you can take advantage of if you study direct response copywriting.
Instead, you’ll hear about various new types of new content marketing techniques or imaginary copywriting approaches, which I guarantee will all be rehashed versions of something Hopkins, Schwartz or Halbert wrote years ago.
But thankfully, you can avoid all that guff…
You can go against my prediction of nothing changing and actually study direct response copywriting.
Indeed, by reading this email, you’re already doing so.
And there we have it… five predictions of things that won’t change in 2018.
A mildly curmudgeonly take on things, I know. But hopefully you see the deeper messages I’m trying to convey here.
Oh, and despite my dislike of surveys… please do keep sending me your biggest copy challenges for 2018. I’ve already started drafting articles around the suggestions I’ve received so far.
P.S. Have you checked this out yet? I think you’ll find it useful.