You've probably heard Malcolm Gladwell's famous dictum that to master any skill you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice. So did Justin Blackman, but the Atlanta-based copywriter decided to craft himself a little shortcut. If he needed to 10,000 of something to master the art of punchy taglines and irresistable content, then he was going to cram it all into just 100 days.
When Blackman announced his plan to write 100 headlines each day for 100 days on Facebook, his experiment is extreme copywriting was met with skepticism and a few stern warnings about burnout from his fellow copywriters. But Blackman is clearly a determined guy and he managed to make it through without his brain catching on fire. He recently shared his thoughts on the experience in a long Copyhackers post.
If you're a fellow marketer, the complete account is probably worth you time. It chronicles all the ups and downs of the slightly loony experiment. But for those who are just looking for some quick and dirty takeaways that can help them write better copy, here are some of the most useful:
1. Be your audience.
Entrepreneur and marketers are frequently told to understand their customers, but Blackman found really seeing the world through their eyes was often the key to a headline break through.
"After the initial flow of lines ended, I'd close my eyes and imagine myself as the consumer. I'd mentally put myself in their body and ask myself: Who would I be? What would I want? How would I feel? Which pains hurt most? What's missing in my life? Suddenly, the headlines were easier to write," he attests.
2. Google Images is a gold mine.
Blackman also discovered an unexplored gold mine of headline ideas: Google Images. "The day I accidentally clicked 'image results' was a game changer," he reports. "I was writing about owl rescue, and I was stumped. When I saw the pictures, memes, movie stills and gifs, it was an awakening. The Harry Potter theme alone provided enough inspiration to finish the post. I never would've made that connection. Now, whenever I get stuck, I go straight to images."
3. Write like Dr. Seuss.
Another underutilized copywriting tool? Your inner goofball, according to Blackman. "Let your mind get silly," he instructs. "Funny rhymes, alliteration and a little wackiness are great for getting into a flow. No, you're not going to use them on your final product. But the path they lead you down might take you to your goal."
4. Bold the important words.
Stuck? Try this: "Identify the keywords in your sentence. Delete the rest. Now go make new sentences with what remains. Tinker enough and you'll find your line."
5. Don't look down on templates.
Are templates a crutch? Sure. But sometimes a crutch is just what you need, in the short-term at least. "I've never been one to rely on templates. It always felt like color-by-numbers. But now I see, when you add your own spin, they have tremendous value," insists Blackman, who shares a list of 100 templates he relied on during his experiment via Airstory (actually getting to them requires a few clicks but is worth it.)