The One Rule You Must Follow In Copywriting


This article covers the one rule you must follow in copywriting; The Rule of One. If you’ve got a goal to reach or a problem to solve, you’re focused. Time is of the essence, and you don’t want to waste any of it plodding through the thick of things to get to a solution.


This is why most people have learned to be more specific when seeking assistance. For example, the majority of people looking for tips on blogging don’t Google, ‘How to write a blog post’. Not unless they want to find themselves drowning in a sea of information overload, most of which is irrelevant to what they really want to know at that very moment. 


Specificity is the better play when trying to get to the heart of something, and so now we ask more pointed questions to find out what we really want to know. Things like ‘how to write the perfect blog post title’, or ‘how long should my blog post be?’ are going to lead to more relevant answers, in far less time. 


No matter what you’re looking for, a single, targeted inquiry always promises to yield the most accurate results. The same idea holds true for sales copy. Simplicity sells, so it makes sense, then, that when crafting copy for one of your products or services, less is more. Which brings me to The Rule of One.



The Rule of One

The Rule Of One is a concept that has been honed, chiselled, and patched together over many decades by various noteworthy copywriters from John Caples to David Ogilvy and beyond. It works so well that iterations of it are still being heavily used to this day by some of the world’s most influential copywriters.


In essence, The Rule Of One states that for the most powerful copy the writer should focus on:

  • one big idea
  • designed with one customer in mind
  • that makes one specific promise
  • tells one story
  • has one call to action


Let’s break that down.



One big idea

When you sit down to draft a sales page, start by writing down a bulleted list of all the benefits (not features) your solution provides. People buy because they have a goal to reach or a pain to alleviate. Oftentimes their pain can be multi-symptomatic, but when you whittle it down, what is the one big benefit your prospective buyer wants? Focusing on more than one goal or benefit serves only to dilute the strength of the message. Are they saving time? Are they saving money? Are they increasing conversions? Are they growing their list? Pick one and commit to it. 


Once you’ve got your list together, choose the one benefit that makes your offering both different (and better) than anyone else, and position it in a way that makes the most sense to your ideal customer.


Example: FedEx Corporation, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”


If you aren’t sure which one to choose, think about how each specific benefit helps you stand out from the competition. Oftentimes whatever makes you unique is your greatest asset


That’s your one big idea.




One Customer

This is where a lot of people get it all wrong. You’re not writing for everyone, you’re writing for your ideal customer archetype. A little trick I use when writing copy is to create an individual persona that fits the ICA perfectly and write as though I am sitting across from them, talking directly to them. It’s so much easier than trying to cater an offering to a large group of people. Make your copy feel like a one on one conversation with your ideal customer.


Crafting truly exquisite and successful sales copy is a delicate balance of being general enough to include the entire spectrum of your right people, while at the same time, delicately yet decidedly filtering out your wrong people. You can say all the right things for all the right reasons, but if you’re talking to the wrong people it will never matter. Focus on one reader because when you talk to everyone, no one hears you.


Your ideal customer is your one customer.




One Promise

Here’s where you have to decide on what single thing you can promise your buyers. If you have a solid grasp on the experience or outcome they’re looking for, this becomes exponentially easier. Are they looking to feel excited, powerful, smarter, better equipped? Or maybe they want a more tangible outcome. For example, they may be looking to increase the open rate on their emails. If you’re offering an e-book on how to write a better advertising email, your One Promise might sound something like, ‘the next email you send will get more clicks than your last two emails combined’. That’s pretty powerful. Make sure you can stand behind whatever pledge you make.


Example: Coors Light, “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”


Successful brands are an experience, not an entity. 


Understand what your buyers desire most from you, and you’ve got your one promise.




One Story

Story sells. There’s no shortage of websites, products, services, blog posts, and gurus touting that concept. Using story in The Rule Of One can come in the form of testimonials. Testimony is so much more powerful than an advertisement, that includes your own mini-story as well as those of past buyers. While it isn’t a steadfast outline, a truly impactful mini-story will tell a specific, successful tale. 


It should include all or most of these: result, process, the name of the product, timeframe, strong benefit.


Example: As a result of a single consulting session with Melissa, I generated $5,000 in new client
business last week alone and new requests are still coming in!


Don’t be confused by ‘one’ meaning you can, or should, use only one testimonial. On the contrary. The more the merrier. But each testimonial should tell a single story. When you make the customer the hero of your brand story they walk away feeling victorious and will be more than likely honored to help you promote your offering to help others achieve similar success.


Your customer testimonials help you tell your one story.




One Call to Action

Your page should have a single goal. One. If that goal is for your reader to buy your offering as a result of having landed on the page, then don’t ask them to sign up for your mailing list, and don’t provide them with links to click away from your page. Don’t give them any reason whatsoever to do anything other than to buy the product or service that’s in front of them right now. To achieve this, you use the Rule Of One when it comes to your call to action.


By now you’ve funneled your ideal customer, identified their need, professed how your offering can solve their problem, and proven it to them with testimonials. All that’s left is for them to make a purchase. Write in such a way that by the end of the page, the buy button is the reader’s only rational response.


You can have several buttons with the same call to action spread throughout your sales copy for those who are quicker decision makers or more primed to buy. This will save them from scrolling through all of the sales copy to get them to their ultimate goal of owning the item. But all of your CTAs should have the same link. The same goal. 


The thing you want your customer to do is your one call to action.




Over to you

Go through your sales copy and use The Rule Of One. Challenge yourself to pare down your writing, tease out the more relevant specifics, and cut away the rest. 


For every page identify:

  • One Big Idea
  • One Customer
  • One Promise
  • One Story
  • One Call To Action


Once you learn to put The Rule of One to work in your writing, you’ll see just how impactful it can be.

Questions? Thoughts? Drop them in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.