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August 27, 2019

The best way to test your copywriting? Throw a fishing-themed party.
(Yes, seriously)

By: Andrea Watts

It all starts with an idea

We were in the midst of a creative brainstorming session for an upcoming awareness campaign when my teammate, Anna, cracked a smile. 

“I have an idea. Let’s throw a copywriting party to test all of our messaging,” she said, “We can call it ‘hook, line, and sink’em.’ It can be fishing themed!” 

“Swedish fish and gummy worms for snacks!” I heard myself say. 

We were excited.

The hook is everything

Recently, our marketing team has been making it a point to spend more time writing headlines and hooks when launching campaigns or pieces of content. Many times, we spend hours on the piece of content or campaign logistics, and then only a couple minutes on what the headline should be. Like many other marketers, the headline was an afterthought instead of a priority. Considering the hook is what drives someone to read a piece of content or check out a landing page, we know writing a compelling headline is paramount.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.” – David Ogilvy

Personally, I had looked to a few sources of inspiration including books like “Oglivy on Advertising” and Drift’s Copywriting 101. Throughout my research, there were a couple pointers that stood out to me that I try to keep top of mind when sitting down to write.

  • Look at what other people are doing. Think about the links you click on. Why was that? What companies or people are doing this well? As a marketer, I always make a little mental note when I think someone has great marketing (which led me to Drift’s Copywriting tips).
  • Write like you talk. Don’t complicate things. Don’t use jargon or acronyms. Make it simple but significant (shout-out to Don Draper!).
  • Give yourself options. Write down at least 10 headlines. If you are on a roll, keep going. Allow yourself enough time to test a few ideas. Swap out a word. Don’t settle for the first thing that comes in your head.
  • Test it on others. Ask a coworker. Better yet, ask a friend. Or your mother. Chances are your target audience is less familiar than your teammates. Maybe throw a copywriting party?! However you do it, remember the goal is to get someone to act.

Let’s get back to the copy celebration

The (modest) budget was approved. 

The Phish playlist was streaming. 

The snacks and refreshments were displayed.

The messaging was written on the whiteboard.

Would anyone find the value and humor in it that we expected?

“Clickbait”

Anna and I nervously watched as the clock hit party time, worried that we would just be staring at each other for a couple of hours. We were lucky enough to get a bite though. We soon had a whole room full of Narrative Scientists ready to give feedback on our existing messaging and write some of their own!

Over the two-hour session, we asked people to vote on their favorites and spend time riffing on what they would click on themselves. What was the right flow? What words did they like? What was confusing, distracting, or not resonating? What would motivate them to act? At the end of the session, we had reeled in a few good ones. We had more than 150 different hooks and 10 clear winners. We definitely needed a bigger boat.

So what were the results?

We kicked off the campaign based on this party. One of the first channels was LinkedIn, where we used our new hooks for paid ads.

I’m excited to share with you two of our favorites:

  • Spend less time with bar charts and more time with bar carts.
  • “Why don’t you explain this to me like I’m six.” – M. Scott / You, probably

Oh, and guess what? These two are also the top performers. The ones we liked, and our colleagues responded to, are the same ones getting your attention.  

And what’s more…

We found a number of benefits that we were not expecting (I am sure the free drinks and food helped):

  • Rather than being perceived as us asking a favor or distracting from their day jobs, many people found this creative break to be enjoyable. 
  • It gave individuals across different departments a reason to engage with each other, particularly the customer-facing and product teams. They presented new angle(r)s for us to consider.
  • For the 90-plus percent of the company that are not in marketing, they gained an appreciation for what we do. Many asked questions beyond the headlines, such as: Where would these be used? What tools do we have? How did they work? 

And the most flattering proof point: Anna and I received requests to do it again.

I guess this means we better start thinking of a new theme!

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