After a week and a half of furiously typing out research papers, I am now finished my college career, and therefore am finally able to reurn to blogging to finish my three part epic on planning and research in copywriting.
So, without further ado, the belated final installment of Proper Planning And Preparation: “Writing The Outline.”
What Is An Outline?
If you’re an experienced copywriter, you might think that the definition of an “outline” is obvious.
Of course, everyone who’s written a high school research paper will understand the basic idea of what an outline is. At the same time, outlining occupies a crucially central place in the world of long form copywriting, and for this reason, deserves some special attention in this article.
The basic definition of an outline, which most readers will probably be familiar with, is a series of points and sub-points (written in bullet or numbered format) that shows what basic information will be communicated in a piece of writing.
For the purposes of sales page/sales letter copywriting, then, an outline is a series of points and sub-points that shows what information will be used to persuade the reader to take an action (most likely, make a purchase).
The structure of a sales copy outline is the same as for pretty much anything else you would write. You use bullet points, numbers, or letters to illustrate each key piece of information in a condensed form.
So, a good outline for a long form sales letter covers all the essential elements that will make up the final copy, including:
- Bullet points highlighting key features and benefits.
- “The close” (i.e. asking for the sale).
- Concluding “P.S.” notes.
The specific order of these pieces will of course depend on the individual writer’s style, as well as the needs of the project. However, as a general rule, you want to follow this order:
- One large headline at the top of the sales page that identifies (or hints at) the key benefit, along with several sub-heads (one at the start of each section)
- A background story (why you’re making this offer).
- A section for testimonials.
- A strong ask with a price.
- A series of 3-5 post-script (P.S.) notes to re-cap the main selling points before you close.
How To Write An Outline
Once you understand the basics of sales copy structure, writing the outline for a sales page/letter is easy.
All you have to do is build a skeletal structure for your copy, and filling out that “skeleton” with bullet point details.
Here is the process summed up in 4 simple steps:
1. Write a series of bullet points outlining the background story you will use to explain your qualifications for selling what you’re selling. For example, if you’re selling a health product, write a series of bullet points describing your journey from couch potato to fitness freak.
2. Write a list of the key benefits that with your product or service, from most to least important.
3. Write the headlines for each section. One sign of effective headline writing is that if you take out the body content, the headlines themselves should serve as an effective general outline of your sales letter. So, make sure you know what you want to say, and write headlines that underscore all the key points.
4. Under each headline, insert all the key information that will go in the corresponding section (again, in bullet point form). For example, you’re going to want to have one or two sections that cover all the major points of the background story, another section or two that covers all the benefits, another section that includes the testimonials etc.
And that, in a nutshell, is how you write a sales copy outline.
Of course, the process isn’t entirely linear, so you can complete the steps above in a different order if you prefer. Everyone writes differently, and it’s ultimately better to follow your own style than to foll0w any set of guidelines too strictly.