One way to dramatically improve the quality of your sales copy is to “show, don’t tell.” You’ve probably heard this a few times while reading up around the internet – and if you’re like most people, you’ve probably been left scratching your head – what does that really mean?

It is one of life’s ironies when a formula for great copywriting happens to break its own rule by, well, telling rather than showing – but that’s life.

Because of this irony, many people don’t really get it. What does it mean, exactly? What are you meant to be showing?

Isn’t copywriting about story-TELL-ing?

What’s going on?

It’s not hard to see why a lot of people have shoved this rule into an arcane box of secrets to collect dust while they work on stuff that they “get.”

“Show, Don’t Tell” Isn’t Really That Complicated

The secret behind all the best copy is that it elicits an emotional reaction in your audience. You’re showing your audience that you feel their pain, that you understand their needs, that you know what they really want.

You use emotional words – you don’t just work hard, you feel drained and exhausted after forcing yourself through yet another mountain of stuff that sucks away all your time.

By using all this emotion, you’re telling a human story – there’s clearly a problem here: nobody should have to work so hard that they’re physically and mentally exhausted every darn day with no end in sight.

That’s the story.

You’re showing people the point they’re at now – or have been with a big problem in their life.

A lot of people will identify with it – and that’s when you do the big reveal: ta-da, you have a Miracle Product that helps people slash through work like a superhero without having to work 15-hour days!

It doesn’t really matter what the problem is, or what the product is.

People are looking for something that can help them, and you really have to make them feel it in their bones – in their emotions.

If you can get them to a place where they are imagining – or remembering – the horror of the last time they were hopelessly stuck in a problem, then show how your product solves it, you’ve won the marketing war.

Show, don’t tell, is about using emotions and storytelling to make people feel and imagine how something will work out for them.

If you just march in there and say, “Buy this, it makes your life easier,” then that’s just not going to have as much of an impact. You’ve told them, but you’ve given them no reason to believe you.

Why Should You Care About “Show, Don’t Tell?”

Show, don’t tell is the most powerful marketing rule out there, and you should be using it in all of your copywriting. Sure, it breaks its own rule and confuses a lot of people…

…But that just makes it even more powerful for those people who do understand it. Now, I’m not saying this is easy to do – in fact, it takes a lot of time to master and a lot of research to get right. If you don’t know your target audience insanely well, all your showing may just leave them completely cold.

However, for those who are prepared to put in the time to master the art of show, don’t tell and also take on the burden of market research you absolutely need to make it work, your copywriting skills are going to go through the roof.

More than that, so will your sales – simply because you can leverage it and instantly leapfrog ahead of those competitors who aren’t taking the time to make their copywriting sing, dance, and make tea for their traffic.