Writing copy seems to bring out the perfectionist in everyone. It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re writing a short letter, long letter, emails, or anything else. Before you publish your copy for the whole world to see, you want to make sure every word is perfect.

Such careful attention is a good thing. Making a sale is a fragile process. Sometimes a single word can make or break your promotion.

Let me give you a real example.

I once wrote dozens of Google AdWords ads for the homeschooling company I used to work for. In one test, I used the phrase “no sweat” in the body of the ad and pitted it against the phrase “no problem.” Every word was the same in each ad.

Which Ad Won?

In a market dominated by 30- and 40-something moms, the word “sweat” was a big turn-off. And so the ad that used the word “problem” instead received more than three times as many clicks. All from a single word that didn’t even appear in the headline.

Had I not conducted the test, I would have never known the outcome.

Here’s why I bother to share this with you in the first place:

Testing trumps perfectionism every time.

You can spend hours polishing copy. You can put in every ounce of effort you possibly can. You can be a perfectionist with a capitol “P.” And you’ll still never get the results that are possible with split-testing.

The 80/20 Rule

With the recent popularity of The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss, you’ve probably heard about the 80/20 Rule.

The concept was developed by an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto over 100 years ago.

But it was not until Rich Koch began publishing books about it in the 1990s that the concept really gained traction with business owners and independent professionals.

The 80/20 Rule is simple. It says 20% of inputs create 80% of outputs. Conversely, 80% of inputs create only 20% of outputs. For instance:

  • In a house that is carpeted, 20% of the carpet will get 80% of the wear.
  • On a blog, 20% of the blog posts will get 80% of the “reads.”
  • In a business, 20% of the customers will produce 80% of the revenue.

In anything you apply the 80/20 Rule to, you will find both great leverage and great waste.

How to Write Copy the 80/20 Way

Step #1: Write sales copy that is “good enough.”

Let’s assume for a moment that it takes you 20 hours of writing time to write a really strong sales letter. So 20 hours are 100% of the time you invest to write it.

Using the 80/20 Rule, we could say that it takes only four hours to get the letter 80% done. At the 80% level of completion, we might say that the letter is “good enough.” It is not a masterpiece, but it is at a point where it could be used.

Step #2: Split-test the elements that have the greatest impact.

Rather than relying on your own instincts and assumptions to complete the letter (and wasting an enormous amount of time and energy in the process), the next step is to split-test your “good enough” letter.

A split-test is like surveying your market. You give them a multiple choice survey with options a, b, and c. Then they tell you — by voting with their dollars — which “answer” is right.

Test the elements that have the greatest impact on conversion first (headline, opening paragraph, etc). All it takes is little bit of brain power to set everything up. After the test is running, your market will tell you exactly what it wants to hear.

This process, which relies heavily on the 80/20 Rule, is much faster, easier, and often more effective than the traditional method of writing copy (which is to simply write your “best” copy and let it ride).

To prove that the concept of 80/20 copywriting works, I’ve been trying it out with my own copy projects. Most recently, I applied it to a sales letter that sells a report about how to get copywriting clients.

The results?

That letter is converting at 5.97% even though I only spent about three hours to write the letter, code it, and set up the split-test.

Less Effort, Better Results

Writing copy the 80/20 way is about getting maximum results with minimum effort. It’s about doing more with less.

Don’t waste hours trying to create the “perfect” sales letter. Rather, write a letter that’s good enough. Then split-test it to success. Let the software do all the heavy lifting for you.

If you write all your own copy, give this approach a fair shot. I believe you’ll be pleased with the outcome.

If you would like to go even further, grab a copy of Richard Koch’s The 80/20 Principle. See how many things in your life you can improve — in addition to copywriting — by applying the 80/20 Rule.