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cookie cutter

The Risk of Copy Templates and Cookie-Cutter Outlines

1/11/21

Content Marketing, Content Planning, Website Copy

Written by: JESS HAMMONS

We know there’s a huge market out there for content and copy templates. Sales pages, blog outlines, opt-in pages, you name it. There’s a template for it. Honestly, we’re not here to hate on all of them — and we cheer on other copywriters who do create them with intention and care. 

However, we think that YOU as the end user should be aware of what you’re getting into. Let’s talk about why we don’t love copy templates for everyone.

The problem we’ve seen with clients

First, let us explain why we’re covering this topic. In all our years running the Uncanny Content biz, we’ve noticed some emerging trends lately that are…kinda iffy. Tell us if the scenarios below sound familiar to you.

Scenario One

Fresh-faced new clients come to us for help, toting along with them an entire template set of copy documents for their sales page, landing page, webinar or challenge emails, all-access pages, you name it. 

They’ve realized, “Oh god, these templates tell me I need this or I have to do this… and I just want to host a damn webinar. I don’t want all these bells and whistles, so what do I do with them?! SOMEONE HELP ME.”

Arrested Development Mistake GIF

Scenario Two

A potential new client has paid a buttload for a sales page, only to realize that:

  1. The sales page doesn’t sound like them. (Remember how important brand voice is?) 
  2. The sales page agitates pain points or supports negative “buy-in”messages. (“You may be risking your money/business/life if you keep doing XYZ!!”)
  3. Both a) and b), and it feels gross.

This client leaves their templatized sales page untouched and blank. Plus, they feel yucky, and even more stressed and afraid to launch their offer. Also broke.

Our solution to fixing templatized copy?

Don’t use these templates. Or, stop buying them right now. Also, work with copywriters who may use a general structure, but who don’t shoehorn your brand to fit that structure. It’s as simple as that.

What does this look like? Well, just as an example, we have a landing page outline for webinars or challenges that we know needs to cover things like:

  1. The audience’s challenge
  2. The solution (hi, your challenge)
  3. What’s included/what they’ll take away
  4. How to sign up and where to go after that

This does qualify as a template, because it is “used as a pattern for processes” — but it does not tell people to fill in the blank, i.e. “Are you feeling ____? Our ___ Challenge is your answer!” Literally nobody talks like that. 

Templates are NOT the bee’s knees

To be clear, we are not trying to make you feel bad if you’ve bought a template in the past and it didn’t work out for you. Nor are we trying to say that we’re the absolute best and every other copywriter out there sucks. (To the contrary, we have a healthy dose of reality and know where we fall short, like social media and writing for bro marketers.)

If you’ve had bad experiences with templates and cookie-cutter outlines before, it’s not usually copywriters who are the problem! It’s not even the templates. It’s the masterminds. The group coaching programs. The “tiny offers” out there that we keep seeing people buy because they promise to make your launch, promotion, or life easier.

If you choose a template based on how it worked for someone with a different business model, mindset, or brand than you, you run the risk of being shoehorned into a place you don’t belong.

Templates can make your business faster if they’re catered to you – like a design template that your awesome designer makers. They’ve got your basic building blocks in there (audience, brand colors, fonts, etc.) and then you can hit the ground running with them.

There just isn’t a way to do this with an entire page of copy. Yes, you can absolutely use templates that offer sections, checklists, or prompts to fill in your copy. But a fill-in-the-blank formula for your copy is going to sound stilted and forced.

These kinds of templates don’t make running your biz easier, and they won’t make your dreams come true. They may promise to save you time spent building content from scratch, but there’s no guarantee of the quality of that content. 

It’s a shortcut that’s really not worth taking.

Beware the bro marketer culture

Latasha here, with an important safety note: Many of the templates and copy formulas we’ve found can be wonderful. But I also know that many of our clients and our wider audience are really, really focused on building ethical businesses and supporting other businesses and brands that do the same.

I ask that you do your research before investing in a sales copy formula that sounds great. Does the brand practice ethical selling? Do they have “psychology-hacking” marketing webinars? Do they use fear- or scarcity-based tactics in their formulas? And if it’s a personal brand or solo copywriter, do their values align with yours? If so, and that’s what you want to use, then that’s OK. But if you run a business that is outwardly advocating for inclusion and ethics, please support businesses that also align with those values.

Honestly, the same goes for anything you buy for your business, but I digress…

Give your audience (and your offer) what they deserve

Last but not least, let’s talk about why overblown and complicated templates are a disservice to your audience. Your offer deserves to have its features and benefits highlighted in a way that feels right. Wanna focus on the kind words your past customers have given you? Would you rather lay out how your offer will benefit your target audience? Wanna talk about all the annoying pain points your offer solves? 

However you want to approach and package your offer for the public, you can do it without the “help” of a complicated template. (Notice how we said complicated? Some of the best templates are simple as hell, with section guidance and prompts.)

Don’t forget that your audience also deserves to feel seen. You absolutely need to be using the voice of your customer. And don’t forget that brand voice matters. It is what makes you you. It’s part of why your customers support your biz, follow and engage with you on social media, or recommend you to their friends. 

These convenient templates aren’t so convenient, because they remove your brand voice and that “personal connection” from the equation. And that’s a problem, because no one wants to be talked to by some generic, faux-inspirational “brand” that we see all the time. (Lookin’ at you, broetry writers.) Your audience knows when they’re reading the same shit they’ve seen on other entrepreneurs’ websites. Don’t do them like that.

Figure out what works for your copy and your audience

We may not be swayed by corny infomercials on TV or get-rich-quick schemes as often anymore, but people on the internet still sell us shit we do not need. It takes practice sifting through all these alluring products and packages to realize that.

infomercial popcorn GIF

(We have to admit, those infomercials were pretty damn entertaining, though.)

Just because someone has a certain package, formula, or “funnel” that supposedly made them a million dollars doesn’t mean you have to buy into it or use it. You can use pieces from it or be inspired by their story, sure. But remember that their individual success story is not a fucking map to buried treasure. It’s what worked for someone else. 

It’s time to figure out what works for you. Devote some time to crafting your offer correctly, or hire the right copywriter who can do it well. Just please…don’t waste your time and money on cookie-cutter templates or someone telling you that their formula applies to every business that’s ever used it. They’re lying.

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