A couple of summers ago, a friend of mine named Don hired a contractor to repaint the front porch on his two-story brick colonial home.
The painter arrived, did his thing and collected the check.
Don was happy with the work. The guy didn't splatter paint all over the place. No nasty drip marks on the pillars. Clean, crisp edges where the white wood met the deep red brick.
A few weeks passed, and one day Don looked out his front window… and noticed something odd.
“Huh, why is it snowing? It's July.”
He poked his head out the front door and took a look around. The brand new paint was flaking and peeling all over the place.
Seems Don's painter took his job title a little too literally. He skipped that whole annoying process where you scrape off the old, loose paint, sand the surface and apply primer.
No sirree, he just got right to the painting.
He forgot that the most important part of the work is done before you ever pop the lid on that first can of paint.
Copywriting is a lot like painting.
I got a reminder of this today.
This morning I did back-to-back consultation calls with a couple of marketers in Perry Marshall's “Definitive Selling Proposition” program.
I'm one of the designated copywriter-coaches for the program, and it's my job to help the participants fine-tune a USP for their services. (USP is short for unique selling proposition—a super important concept that I'll talk more about soon.)
My first call was with a guy named Chuck. He'd invested a lot of time filling out a detailed questionnaire for me ahead of time.
I spent several hours studying his answers and mapping out my plan of attack, and when our call started, I was ready to rock and roll.
I hammered Chuck with questions, and at the end of the hour, I had enough raw material to put together a strong USP for a new service he's launching.
My second call was a different story.
For this one, I wasn't able to prepare as throughly. The student I was working with hadn't had a chance to finish his questionnaire, so I was flying blind.
And I'll be honest—it was tough sledding. I pounded away at the problem as best I could, but when we wrapped up the call, I knew there were some pieces still missing.
We'd made progress, but it felt like a defeat.
When you're putting together a new piece for your marketing—whether it's an email, or a postcard, or a sales page…
80-90% of the work happens before you ever write a single word of copy.
Reading reams of background material. Studying the product. Digging into the market. Interviewing happy customers.
There is NO escaping this.
Sure, you can try to shortcut it.
You might even come up with something that looks like good copy.
But chances are good that later you're going to find yourself staring out the window, wondering why shredded dollar bills are falling from the sky…