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The “one ring” secret to copywriting

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them!”

— Gandalf

In the world of business, copywriting, and persuasion, there’s one aspect that trumps every other one.

In fact, if you mess up this “ingredient,” the best copy in the world won’t lead to one sale. It’s like trying to sell ice to eskimos instead of selling water to a parched, dehydrated desert traveler.

The worst copy in the world, something like, “You might find water over there,” would convince our parched desert traveler to wander the way the sign pointed.

But having a “Buy one bag of ice for $0.99, and get 30 bags for free” to our group of eskimos won’t lead to one sale. Because they don’t need the ice, no matter how good of a deal you give them.

Which brings me to the point:

Over the weekend, I received an email from Quora.

Quora is a forum where you can ask and answer questions.

And many years ago, I committed to writing one answer per day for a question I found interesting. This was one of the first “writing exercises” I did, which sparked my long journey into the world of copywriting.


Quora emailed me a few days ago about signing up for Quora+, which is their new way of paying people who spend their free time answering questions on the platform.

I signed up immediately.


My answers received around 40,000 views. They still receive views (even though they’re years old). And I figured I might as well get paid for my hard work I did 5 or so years ago.

Now, I can’t even remember what subject line Quora used for this email.

I don’t remember their body copy.

I don’t remember what their CTA was.

None of that mattered.


Because they had a good offer.

Which brings me the rub:

Your offer trumps everything.

Bad copy can sell a good offer like hotcakes. Amazing copy can’t sell one bad offer.

Reminds me of the 40/40/20 rule I’ve written about before.

40% of your success comes from your offer.

40% of your success comes from your list.

The last 20% of your success comes from your copy.

Understand this and prosper.

If a certain campaign doesn’t make any sales, maybe your copy sucks.

But more likely?

Nobody was interested in the offer.

Speaking of offers…

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