“A template is a tool. Like any other useful tool, you need to know how to use it otherwise it will just sit on the shelf taking up space.”
~ Debra Hilton
Templates, Copywriters, and Your Business
Most of the great copywriters I’ve talked to or read about don’t ever start with a blank page in front of them. Instead they start with a template, questions, and their preliminary research. They use these things to write customised copy for a specific purpose and product.
The template helps direct a trained copywriter’s thinking towards the desired destination… rather than providing an outline to slavishly follow. That’s why they can use the same template on a variety of projects and come up with totally different (yet highly effective) sales pages, letters, emails, advertisements, etc.
What I often see people doing with templates is trying to simply fill in the blanks without putting any thought or energy into the process.
Why You Should Use Templates to Write Copy for Your Business
I believe that writing your own copy is the best solution for many small businesses IF three or more of these things are true:-
- You care about your product/service and believe it meets a real need;
- You enjoy writing and are happy to sit down and write your own copy;
- Finances are an issue and you are trying to keep expenses down;
- You know what your clients care about and are curious to learn more about them so you can communicate better;
- You have the time and energy to produce regular, timely copy if that will help your business grow;
- You are able to explain how your passion will profit the other party.
It is true that in many cases the business owner knows and cares more about their product and the value it delivers that anyone else does. They also often understand their buyers concerns better than any outsider could ever do. The question is: Are they willing to learn enough about writing basic sales copy to apply that knowledge and passion?
So Why Should You Use a Template?
For the same reason A-list copywriters do… which is also the reason why pilots use checklists:
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it before,
You use a template to make sure you don’t miss anything critical…
So that every piece of copy is as persuasive as it can be.
It serves as backup and insurance to maximise your results.
How to Use a Template Effectively
That set of templates you bought that were specific to your industry: if they are well written, they could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to you… once you know how to use them. Here’s what you need to do:-
- Research & Write this Down in a Central Place!
You need to know all about:
- your product(s): why people like and dislike each one, what it does, how it makes life easier, etc.
- your process: what is unique and valuable about it and why
- what people say (testimonials) and how they feel about it
- what emotional need your product/service satisfies
- your competitors: what they say, do, and charge, where they advertise, how their products/services work
- questions people ask about your product, service, industry
- industry news, data, and information
- design guides and other graphic information
- all the questions you and others have that you’d like to find answers to
- useful templates for most documents and marketing collateral
- previous marketing collateral and notes on its effectiveness
When I’m working with a client I create a document for myself that I call a Core Message Guide that contains all this information and more. Some of my clients create their own, others purchase the one that I use so they can follow it for their in-house copywriting.
- Create or Purchase Templates that Cover all Your Key Marketing Needs.
Now you need to modify them for specific segments of your market and use them because they will ensure that you cover all the bases, every time your communicate. Over time you may modify these templates some more, but they will always remain a guide rather than something you slavishly copy.
One of the reasons why owners are often the most successful at writing their own copy is because they have a particular style which is reflected in all the copy they write themselves and which is enhanced when they use a template.
When a Template Doesn’t Work…
Truth is, it’s rarely the template’s fault. It’s the user’s fault. I was working with a client the other day and she complained that the templates she had purchased from a very successful marketer were useless for her business.
When we looked at them together she quickly realised that she was approaching them as cut-and-paste documents rather than templates. She went carefully over each paragraph and thought about why it was in there and what she could say to communicate a similar point for her business. The outcome was fantastic and she is still using those templates as the basis for ongoing sales letters and communications and generating excellent results.
Not bad for a set of ‘useless templates’ and two or three days extra work to modify them.