There are sites and sources that promise “the perfect copywriting template for effective emails!” or “the formula for copy that converts!” And that sounds great, right? But not only are “formulas” not great, they’re both full of crap and bad for copywriting professionals.
You’ll often see sites and opt-ins that try to sell you on formulas or templates for killer ads and emails. Sometimes, these are even paid products that people are selling.
Too good to be true? You bet. Think of it this way: If there were a formula for perfect copy, there would be no need for copywriters. And there’s still a large (and largely unanswered) call for great copywriters.
There is no perfect formula.
Why Copywriting Formulas Fundamentally Don’t Work
There are just too many variables and elements that go into pieces of copy that even a “killer” copywriting template can’t take into account. Even if a formula has a place for you to plunk in the benefit, how do you target it to your audience? How do you adjust it to their particular needs and concerns? And how do you convey your company or client’s branding and voice? And how do you break out of the box to offer a message that’s unexpected, exciting, and effective?
A formula for copy is like a formula for an oil painting. Can you create a plan that tells people exactly what colors to put and where? Of course you can. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would call that real and professional art. Can you give a someone a scalpel and a list of steps to perform a heart transplant? Sure. But I think you and I would both prefer to be operated on by someone who’s been trained, as experience, and just overall understands what he or she is doing and why.
Look, formulas sound great. Everybody wants “easy,” right? But some things just don’t come easy. Good, effective copy requires thought, planning, strategy, insight, and creativity—and a formula completely eliminates all of those.
Examples of Copywriting Formulas
Often, copywriting formulas look like Mad Libs. Just plug and play!
- Finally, the [solution your product provides].
- Where [ultimate outcome] happens.
- Never [verb + pain point] again.
These are prompts that came through an email Kate, our head copywriting coach, subscribes to. But, as you can imagine, if thousands of people subscribe to this newsletter, it won’t be surprising to see dozens of “Finally, the perfect car for moms” or “Finally, the apple crisp recipe you’ve been waiting for.”
Even if they connect with your target audience, you end up writing copy that sounds tired.
If anything, these formulas may serve as a jumping-off point. They’re a way to get your ideas flowing.
Too often copywriters use them as a crutch. But what these formulas don’t account for is all the work you need to do before even writing! You need to dig into your client’s pain points, their audience, their tone, their offer’s benefits. You can’t simply throw words onto the page and hope they’re effective.
Copywriting Templates Are Aimed at Business Owners Who Don’t Know Any Better
Admittedly, part of the reason copy formulas bother me is that it makes it seem like copywriting is something that can be done quickly, easily, and by anyone. It devalues the role of the copywriter for people who don’t already understand our value.
It smacks of the idea that “anybody can write copy—copy’s easy” and you and I know that that’s no more true than “anybody can be a molecular biologist—molecular biology’s easy.”
Great copy comes from a combination of a writer’s training, experience, and inspiration.
Luckily, most professionals understand that great copy can’t come from formulas. But that means that the people that are getting duped tend to be those who don’t know better; those who are just starting out in their careers or just starting out in their businesses. Basically, people who could really use our help.
Think about it: A business owner knows messaging is THE most important piece of their business (assuming they have a great offer).
They hate writing, so they look for ways to strengthen their messaging—fast. But, as with anything, if it was truly fast and easy, we’d all be doing it.
Copywriting Templates Undermine Your Expertise
Even if you’re brand-new to copywriting, if you’ve started to get some training, you likely have more understanding and skills than you realize.
What we most often see is new copywriters—and even some experienced copywriters!—turning to formulas and templates because they are doubting their own skills.
We all face crises of confidence now and then. The key is to not let these confidence conundrums shake up your tried-and-true process for writing effective copy.
Imposter syndrome will continue to sneak up on us throughout our lives. It’s your job to recognize when it’s happening. And to do the hard thing anyway.
What to Use Instead of Copywriting Templates
So, what’s the solution? You use your copywriting skills, friend. Your strategic brain. That’s your superpower—not a Mad Libs style template that anyone could plug words into. (There is a standard way to write a copy doc, however; find out more here.)
Keep reaching out. Keep finding new clients. Keep educating people about your career and its value.
And remind yourself that you are skilled. You are talented. And you can write wildly effective copy because you understand how to connect with clients, understand their challenges, know their audience, and can turn all that information into the right messaging that connects with the right people in the right way.
Someone once said that (to paraphrase) if you have the solution to a problem and you don’t do everything you can to market yourself and help people who have that problem find you, you’re doing a great disservice to the world.
So, get out there. Write great copy. Show the world.
Watch More: Why Templates Are Bad
On episode 161 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate are getting a little rage-y in the name of copywriting templates. Templates seem like an easy solution to your clients’ biggest marketing challenges.
“5 subject lines to increase open rates!”
“10 winning headline formulas to increase conversions by 10%!”
If it was that easy, we wouldn’t have jobs. And when it comes to metrics, the proof is in the data. What works for one company in one industry may not work for another company or another industry. Roundups of winning copywriting templates twist data in a way that is disingenuous.
Watch to hear why copywriting templates are bad for you and bad for your clients.
What’s your favorite part of being a copywriter? How do you feel that we bring value to the world? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on February 15, 2024