The secret to selling more: The Big Idea

You have a business and you want to sell lots, or am I wrong?

You need to sell your products and services if you want to survive with your business, and sell lots of them if you want to, not only survive but live a good life.

We saw in one of my previous posts what exactly copywriting is and which elements shouldn’t be missing in order to sell more with words.

Businesses today use the power of the Internet to sell their products and services through content and paid ads on social media and Google.

I don’t have to rub your face in it, because you already know: the competition is fierce.

More and more businesses have realised how important it is to have an online presence and to take advantage of the number of hours a day people spend on social media and searching for information.

Therefore, what will differentiate your business from the rest is how well you sell your product.

That’s all.

Direct response copywriting nudge the reader to take the action we want.

Let’s say that, to put it simply, marketing is a contest to win people’s attention and copywriting is your way of winning that contest.

As I said before, in the post I wrote a few months ago I told you about the elements that a piece of copy need to have in order to be persuasive and achieve its main purpose, which is to sell as much as possible.

I didn’t tell you at the time but I kept an ace up my sleeve, which is the most important element that should never be missing, and I did it because I wanted to dedicate it the time it deserves.

So here it is. My ace up the sleeve to convince customers of all kinds with my copy which I’ve learned from the best copywriters in history.

And now I’m sharing it with you.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea in marketing and advertising, according to Wikipedia, is a term used to symbolise the basis of a great project. In other words, it is an attempt to communicate a brand, product or concept to the general public, creating a strong message that reaches out and resonates with consumers.

The term “Big Idea” appears in the works of marketing geniuses David Ogilvy and George Lois (the latter is the brains behind some of the best magazine covers in history and who saved the decadent MTV with its iconic logo in the 1980s).

MTV Logo George Lois

The Big Idea is the basis of direct response copywriting taught in the leading copywriting schools in the US.

But let’s elaborate on this definition further so we understand the concept perfectly.

The Big Idea is the basis of our message, that powerful idea that is going to make the difference between our product and that of the competition because it’s going to be the great argument that our buyer persona needs to buy.

Direct response copywriting is nothing more than a series of very well expressed arguments so the prospect has no reason left not to buy from us.

But for a piece of copy to be persuasive it has to be based on a single Big Idea, and nothing else, and we’ll see why.

A Big Idea and only One

“Simplicity is the greatest sophistication” Leonardo Da Vinci

People at heart are not as complex as we think, we are much simpler than we may appear.

Some of us more than others 😊

That’s why the most successful pieces of copy are those based on a single Big Idea.

And why is that?

For two reasons:

– Because the message becomes more powerful

– Because the prospect understands clearly the main benefit

Also, when we are very clear about our Big Idea, writing the rest of the copy becomes easier.

The thing to keep in mind is that the more points you add to your sales copy, the less effective each point is, and therefore the copy will be less effective as well.

An effective piece of copy will actually only have one central focus, even if it’s explained from 2 or 3 perspectives.

If your points are too diverse, they compete with each other and end up sending the reader’s attention in different directions.

In other words, you end up making him dizzy and no longer knowing what it’s all about.

But be careful not to confuse the Big Idea with the different benefits you should add to your copy.

Each of those benefits will be ramifications of that main benefit that is the Big Idea and with which you will attract the reader’s attention to keep reading.

Finding the central idea is the hard part.

It has to be precise. In order to reach the Big Idea you need to know your target audience very well or you risk failing miserably.

The Big Idea has to follow the Rule of One:

– A major benefit

– Appeal to a single emotion

– Tell a story

– Nudge the reader to perform a single action

When we concentrate on these 4 elements, all derived from the Big Idea, our message becomes more convincing and we prevent the copy from becoming sloppy and lose our reader’s interest.

Let’s look at an example of an ad that follows the Rule of One.

Ramit Sethi and the Rule of One

Ramit Sethi is very successful because all his marketing strategy follows the Rule of One. Check the website and read the copy and you will realise that everything works around a single Big Idea.

 – A major benefit – Not having money problems anymore

– Appeal to a single emotion – Not worrying about money

– Tell a story – He had money problems but learnt how to live a rich life

– Nudge the reader to perform a single action – Sign up for the newsletter to receive free material on how to improve finances

How to get to the Big Idea

George Lois on The Big Idea

I really like how Paul Hollingshead of the American Writers and Artists Association describes the elements of a successful piece of copy and how much each of them scores.

Let’s see them.

  1. The Big Idea – 30 points

This is the idea that makes the copy stand out from the constant noise on the Internet and catches the reader’s attention.

  • The headline – 25 points

The headline captures the Big Idea in an intriguing way, makes the reader want to know more, and gives clues to a promise or benefit.

  • The lead – +25 points or – 25 points

The lead sets the tone of the text, establishes the relationship with the reader, develops the Big Idea, makes it a reality and offers a powerful benefit or promise.

  • Everything else – +25 points or – 25 points

Everything else is this:

Proof that you can deliver what you promised through the lead with testimonials, numbers, graphs, data, etc.

Secondary benefits

A strong and clear offer – what customers get and how they get it. Discounts, extras, etc.

Satisfaction guarantee – or your money back

Urgent call to action

Paul also assures through experience that a piece of copy (web copy, Facebook ad, email marketing, etc.) that totals 100 points is a masterpiece, one that totals 75 points is guaranteed success and one that gets 50 points may work, or may not.

But those texts with less than 50 points will be a total failure.

So, all in all, if you can get to the Big Idea and express it really well with a headline that intrigues the reader, you’ve already have a lot of chances to succeed.

Then, if you are able to develop this idea in the lead and put the reader in the right mood, that is, if he or she is open to your offer and has no objections, you are guaranteed success even if the rest of the copy is not that good.

With this preliminary I just wanted you to realise how important it is to have a Big Idea, because, without it, I doubt very much that you can sell anything.

Now let’s see how we can get to it.

George Lois said “You can’t research a Big Idea. The only ideas that truly research well are mediocre ideas. In research, great ideas are always suspect.

I agree with George in part, it’s true that Big Ideas sometimes turn up as if by chance.

But in the end, as we know, nothing happens purely by chance.

Just because a Big Idea comes to you while you are preparing dinner or walking the dog doesn’t mean that it came out of nowhere.

It’s most likely the result of intense research you’ve done before.

And above all, from living experiences.

Yes, you heard well, living life will help you have big ideas.

Reading books, watching films, talking with the person who has sat next to you on the bus, or with the shop assistant at the corner store, with a customer, with a friend of your child.

All these experiences teach us a lot about human behaviour and about our life’s quests, why we do things and behave the way we do.

So, if you want to be really good at writing copy or fiction or just want to improve your power of conviction because it’ll help you progress at work, always keep your eyes and ears open and go out there.

Life will give you the ideas you need to reach people’s hearts.

What is the Big Idea in the end?

The Big Idea is the idea that drives the sales copy and makes it stand out from all the junk on the Internet.

It’s actually a way of saying what everyone else is saying or has said many times before but in a new and more interesting way.

As simple (and complicated) as this.

The Big Idea has to be powerful, unique and compelling.

To come up with this Big Idea you have to study your product or service and what it means to people.

The benefits it provides and how it differs from the rest of the competition.

Study your competition, what they stand out for, what they are weak on, and write down all these details on a piece of paper.

Then compare them with the benefits and features of your own business and find out the differences, like in the games we played as kids.

From this comparison, you can get a Big Idea. Find out how they make the product, where, with what kind of materials, etc.

If it’s a service, find out how is their relationship with the clients, how do they solve a certain problem, and find YOUR difference.

Sometimes this difference may seem insignificant as in the game we saw before, but you can make it important.

Talk to customers, read reviews and ratings, send surveys.

Most of the time, the Big Idea isn't about the product itself – it's more about what's going on in the world or in the reader's mind. Click To Tweet

Collect all this data in your head and when you think it’s going to blow up go for a walk and forget about it.

Do something relaxing like drawing or sewing or go for a run.

Your brain keeps working without you noticing.

And at any moment you can get the Eureka!

How do you identify the Big Idea when you have several ideas?

If you have come up with several ideas and you’re not sure which of them is the Big Idea, consider all of them carefully and rate them.

Rate how new, unique, desirable, and powerful each one is, and decide which one gets the highest score.

It’s also a good idea to ask others, ask people you trust, customers, colleagues or friends.

The Big Idea has to be easy to grasp and easy to explain.

Conclusion

I hope this post has helped you understand what The Big Idea is and why it’s so important to have one, so your copy, and ultimately your marketing strategy, is persuasive and achieves its goal.

Remember that when you come up with a Big Idea you already have a lot done and all the rest of the copy will be much easier to write.

The most important thing is not to give up, ideas come when you leave room for reflection.

Getting away from the computer also helps to generate ideas.

Look, for instance, at the Silicon Valley gurus. They are creating schools for their children without access to digital devices or the Internet, so that they can learn as we did in past generations, with blackboards, pencils and notebooks.

Because living a totally digital life numbs our brains and keeps us from thinking clearly.

So remember, take advantage of the Internet but don’t let it take over your life.

See you around!

About Elena de Francisco

I write copy that hooks into prospects minds for businesses without borders. I live in the Netherlands, but I write everywhere. My favourite pastime is to crush dull content and turn it into words that sell.

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