Copywriting and the 80/20 rule: how the Pareto principle can help you

You may have heard of the Pareto Principle, often called the 80/20 Rule. What it says is that about 80% of your results will come from about 20% of your efforts. So if you feel lazy or want to maximize your results. Pareto’s ideas are worth paying attention to. Especially in copywriting, where I suspect the figure is closer to 90/10, maybe even higher.

Headline or Title is (almost) everything

Copywriting doesn’t just apply to sales letters. It works exactly the same way with website pages, blog posts, forum posts, tweets – absolutely anywhere people judge your work by its title.

It’s the logical extension of judging a book by its cover and we all do it, most of the time.

If you’ve ever left your Twitter feed unattended, perhaps because you went to sleep or for some other reason, you’ll probably be reading the most recent Tweets.

The same goes for your Facebook page or a forum you frequent or your email inbox.

If the headline or headline doesn’t grab your attention in the split second it needs to, whatever it’s trying to tell you may not exist.

This is why you should spend a decent amount of time crafting your headlines and titles.

Wherever they are.

But, even though they may account for 80-95% of the final “reads” of the rest of your missive, thankfully that doesn’t mean you have to spend most of your time on them.

Do you remember the other side of Pareto?

Most of your results come from a relatively small amount of effort.

Unless you’re creating copy for the next best-selling product, it might only take you a few minutes to come up with a pretty decent headline or title for your latest post or whatever.

But you need to really focus on those precious minutes.

Your article, post, or sales letter will likely be created at a much faster words per minute rate than your headline.

Because otherwise it would be excessive and you would spend countless hours for a few hundred words.

What is worth doing from time to time, but it is usually the exception, not the rule.

The classic Rolls Royce ad used a headline that read: “At 60 miles per hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the ticking of its electric clock.”

Those words are famous in the advertising world. That’s right.

But they are still the headline of the ad.

The rest of the copy is evocative (of course), but without those opening words it wouldn’t have been read as often.

Which brings us to another point for making the most of the relatively small amount of time you’ll spend on this ultra-important part of whatever you’re writing about.

Make claims and be specific

That headline used a very specific speed: 60 miles per hour. Today, depending on the country it was running in, the number would have been a mile per hour on either side of that to avoid encouraging people to break applicable speed limits.

The other claim is the ticking of the electric clock.

That actually creates intrigue because most electric clocks are silent.

So again, it encourages you to read more and find out the details.

All of which means it’s worth spending a little more time thinking about a title or headline.

Because if they don’t catch people’s attention, it doesn’t really matter what else you’ve written because only you and a few close friends will be able to read your wise words.

So be sure to keep the Pareto rule in mind when writing anything.

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