3 Mistakes My Client Made Writing Short Copy[With Scripts Featured]

Zachary Tan
6 min readAug 20, 2019

What’s the difference between a mom coaxing her child to sleep, a CEO pitching to an investor and a man proposing to his fiancee?

Knowing when and how to propose is half the battle won.

All three of them need the power to persuade… in a short, sweet and succinct way.

But short copy is tough.

You’ve got to cut out the fluff… just like how you remove dirt residue from pearls. Only retaining the “steak” in your conversation. You’ve got to be pin-point accurate on persuasion elements.

In this article, I’ll show you how to write short copy effectively and 3 big mistakes when writing them.

In case if you’re wondering if this applies to you even if you’re doing marketing work… the answer is YES.

Even if you’re not a salesman or marketer… you still need people to believe in you.

Just like how you need your boss to listen to you and your ideas.

And your spouse to trust and believe in you.

Selling is part of human and there’s really no way to escape it.

So read on.

In case, if you’re wondering how useful this is…

You can use short copy in chatting platforms (Whatsapp/Telegram) and email because people are generally conditioned to receive short messages from these platforms.

Most people aren’t used to reading long-form text on Whatsapp/Telegram so if you want to communicate something longer… you should explore video/articles. (I’ll talk about reading psychology in a separate article).

Last week a friend who is doing financial consulting requested help from me. Turns out that he was writing a short ad (for Whatsapp/email) to get referrals from his existing clients.

And he needed help to review the ad.

As soon as I agreed to help, he sent me 2 variations of his ad copy.

Variation #1:

As you know, I’ve always been operating on a referral model for my clients so I can provide a better customer service experience for them in terms of planning advice and claim.

I’d like you to recommend 5 people whom you think can benefit from an insurance /retirement planning with me.

As you may be aware, I’ve been in the insurance industry for the past 10 years and have also been referred to you by your common friend (e.g. Mark). I have also not been pushy for sales and instead come from a planning perspective.

So let’s start with the 1st person that you are referring, can i know a bit more about him (job, relationship to you)

Variation #2:

I am reaching out to more people through my existing clients as my clients are the best people to attest to my service.

I believe in word-of-mouth and that trust from relatives and friends and clients are strong testimonials. It is through such recommendations that I have managed to touch as many lives as I can.

However, I want to do more for people that I have yet to meet, with what I can offer. Will really appreciate if you can refer friends to me.


Look. For persuasion to be seamless so your readers can obey your command, your copy has to obey 2 principles:

  • Principle #1: Crucial Elements like Authority, Social Proof, and Context has to be there.

See. Human beings are wired to respond to certain triggers psychologically.

For example, people are more inclined to listen to you if you’re seen as a leader holding a significant amount of influence (Having Authority) or if you have a crowd of raving fans who are spreading good word for you (Having Social Proof).

Tribal leader usually gets all the attention

Principle #2: Redundancies weaken your copy so remove them ruthlessly.

Redundancies refer to paragraphs or sentences which do not have any value-add to your copy…

If it doesn’t make your ad more powerful, it weakens your ad.

Think of your ad as a sword. The more sharpened it is… the more deadly it is. If there are redundancies on your sword (like rust or dirt residue)… the weaker it’s gonna be.

A blunt sword doesn’t kill.

Common mistakes in writing short copy:

  1. Having a weak first paragraph.

The first paragraph is weak and redundant in Variation #1. That’s the only thing your readers read and if it ‘s not attractive — they’re gonna LEAVE.

So make sure you write something that interests them and catches their attention.

On a more technical note, most people don’t understand insurance so it’s not easy to see the link between running a referral model and how that provides better customer service.

Also, it’s not really helpful in driving action — which is to get your reader to refer you to a family/friend/relative.

2. Putting the Call-To-Action (CTA) too early.

The CTA was in the second paragraph which is way too early. Your readers have to buy your case before they click.

Gary Vaynerchuk gave a simple and effective copy formula in one of his books — Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.

Before you go for the “Ask” (CTA), you’ve to ensure that you’re ready for it. Just like in boxing, you need to be crystal clear that your right hook will hit your opponent or else it’ll just leave you open to a counter-attack.

I know “being ready” is vague.

In Gary’s context, “being ready” refers to a state of which he has given enough value for his prospect or lead to take action.

In the context of writing ads, I’d define “being ready” as the state of having the build-up of your ad done right — having the right elements in the right structure so your prospect is at an emotional high before they see the “Ask”.

Applying just this one trick alone can already multiply sales.

3. Fact-telling rather than Story-selling

Paragraph 3 has 2 elements — the Authority element of “having over 10 years in an X industry” and the social proof of “Not being pushy for sales”.

It’s nice that these elements are being applied in this ad… but here’s the thing:

By stating these elements outright as facts, it makes your ad copy much weaker.

Perhaps you’ve been in XXX business for 15 years… or you’ve won an award in the financial industry,

I get that these are important information — proof that you’ve been in the game long enough, proof you’ve done great work and you deserve to be trusted and recognised.

Instead, you can use these credentials or elements indirectly… to illustrate a point or tell a story, rather than stating it out directly.

For example, showing how people have been sending referrals his way so he can sustain his insurance business for 10 years all WITHOUT having to be pushy for sales (Noticed we combined both Authority and Social Proof elements and made it far more powerful?)

Writing it this way almost seems as if he’s backed by his client network to be successful in financial planning (social proof here) for 10 years.

Just by changing the structure alone, you can already see a big difference this makes.

That’s all for my critique of the ad.

Let’s see how I rewrote it:


Hey [Name], how have you been?

It’s the 3rd quarter of 2019 now and I’d like to thank you.

Today, I no longer have to do cold-calling or roadshows because I’ve been getting referrals from most of you. Having qualified for MDRT for the last few years, my team and I have been growing to protect the financial futures of more Singaporean families.

This wouldn’t have been possible without your trust in my character and expertise.

But with recession looming around the corner, I wanna do more for people I’ve yet to meet.

I want to protect more Singaporeans before the real financial crisis hits.

Word of mouth is powerful and I hope that you can continue to recommend me to your friends, families and relatives.

Will really appreciate it if you can spread the word.


Of course. I didn’t take a day to wrote this — just 15–20 minutes. It’s not a perfect piece but my friend was delighted with it.

It feels so much more driven and persuasive when there is a vision anchored on it.

Can you see the different persuasive elements I used?

Leave a comment below so that we can discuss it more in-depth.

Meanwhile, if you’re running a business and you need help with copy or content, feel free to contact me here.