The battle rages on…
You’ve probably heard various versions of “Copy is King” or “Copywriting is King.”
MaryEllen Tribby declared it once again in a piece in the Huffington Post two weeks ago.
Content marketers take umbrage with that statement, as Brian Clark did with his post on Copyblogger a while back, “What’s a Content King Without a Kingdom?”
Then Copyblogger trumped their own proclamation with this blog post, which posited that context, not content was king.
Of course, high-flying Internet marketers like Frank Kern and Ryan Deiss would laugh at both and say it’s all about marketing funnels and driving traffic.
Everyone things their discipline is the key factor, and the hardest to master.
So who’s right?
Ha! You think I’m getting in the middle of that one? No way.
I have a different take all together, and since none of the aforementioned gurus follow me, I probably won’t have to answer to them.
Look, all those things are important. Copy, content, the list, the offer, the marketing channels, the funnel or system – each plays a part, of course.
But I would say there’s one role that’s even more important…
The Idea Generator reigns supreme
Yes, the world is at your command if you can come up with Big Ideas on a regular basis.
It’s one of the key themes of my Ultimate Writing Retreat™ and one of the main reasons I’ve succeeded as an Independent Creative for five and a half years.
Your business will grow when you become known as someone who comes up with good ideas to help your clients make money.
You have to read like crazy, observe people and trends, and find a gap in the marketplace where there’s a demand that’s not being served.
Then you have to communicate effectively (read: sell your ideas) to people who can help you make those ideas happen. You have to connect with the marketers, venture capitalists, copywriters (unless you’re doing it yourself, which I’d recommend), and maybe technical people.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Copywriters are idea people
If you’re a copywriter, for example, you come up with ideas for your client before they “give you an assignment.” It could be as simple as suggesting a new welcome video and writing the script for it, or creating a true sales funnel for them to replace their two-step process.
It could mean reading the Wall Street Journal and New York Times everyday and noticing consumer trends. Then you think of an idea to help serve people, come up with a great name, register the domain, and create an information marketing product and campaign to promote it.
I’ll let you in on something here, too. Most copywriters are more focused on the craft of writing copy itself than developing their idea-generating muscles.
Much easier to have someone tell you what they need than to come up with brilliant ideas for them, which you can then help put into action. The former won’t make you wealthy, the latter will.
Where do ideas come from?
You have to write, of course, and I try to put in 4-5 hours a day – writing for clients, my own personal projects, and for fun.
But I’m going to go against the grain here. Writing in and of itself won’t do anything to make you a better Idea Generator.
I know copywriters who spend countless hours every week practicing their craft by copying classic sales letters by hand. Not a bad idea if you don’t go overboard on it.
And certainly time spent writing on client projects will yield profits.
If you want to make money and build a business, however, your time is even better spent elsewhere. I maintain that you get ideas by spending lots of time reading, thinking, and having deep conversations with interesting people.
Here are five offbeat ways to do that:
1. Read outside of your niche. If you’re an alternative health copywriting specialist, read Forbes. Financial writer? Subscribe to Organic Gardening. You never know where the Big Idea for your next promotion will come from.
2. Read things you disagree with. Dyed-in-the-wool conservative? Go to the library and pick up Mother Jones (you might be surprised by common viewpoints). Progressive through-and-through? Read Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.
3. Interview people you’d like to learn from. One of my plans is to interview celebrities – actors, athletes, and musicians, to start with. I’ve been interviewing people for almost five years for one of my clients, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Start with local “celebrities.” People love giving advice and ideas, and you can spin them into articles and possibly business ideas.
4. Follow someone you’ve never heard of. As direct response copywriters, we’re constantly told to learn from giants like Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, and John Carlton.
I’ve learned a lot from each of them myself, but I’ve also veered off the path lately. I’m incorporating ideas from a lesser known legend named Howard Luck Gossage and modern-day bestselling author and podcast master James Altucher.
5. “Connect the dots.” Go somewhere every day, unconnected to any device, and just think. After reading a lot and talking to interesting people, find a way to make connections based on observations, trends, your ideas, and others’ ideas.
Keep a journal with you at all times, and write down these ideas before you forget them. If you’re like me, you also have a favorite domain registrar where you rack up good domain names. I’m currently up to about 55, and surprisingly, many of them are in use and making me money.
The big takeaway
Copy is not king. Neither is content, context, or whatever you want to call it. Marketing systems and funnels will make your life a lot easier and more profitable, but they’re secondary.
First and foremost, you need to be able to come up with ideas.
Read more, think deeper, and have higher-quality conversations with interesting people. Then “connect the dots.”
I’d love to know – what is one way you generate ideas? Tell me about it here.