My early days in the direct marketing industry provided an amazing education.
In just a few months’ time in the “real world” I learned more than my four-year business degree could ever offer in terms of business success.
Of course, it was a highly specialized education that I was getting – in the world of direct marketing.
There were so many daily conversations about what promotions were working…what promotions weren’t working…what our competitors were doing…and why.
Always the question of “why?” was discussed.
These weren’t typically formal discussions. (See here for more on that.)
In fact, most of the time they were just everyday conversations around the office. Someone would start talking about a promotion and they’d offer up a theory on what made it successful…or what made it a failure.
And everyone would chime in – not just the top brass…and not just copywriters.
Customer service reps would have an opinion. Marketing directors. Print buyers. Fulfillment directors. Everyone would offer their opinion…because everyone was pulling in the same direction.
Some of the time, though, these conversations would stray away from the strengths and weaknesses of a specific promotion and move toward more general principles of what made for successful promotions.
These “what makes for strong copy” discussions were a bit more clinical. And this is where some people would drop out and listen more while the more seasoned veterans would discuss what they had learned over the years.
These discussions sometimes led to the creation of “rules” for success or checklists that would get passed around.
There were the 4 essential rules for bullet points…the 3 keys to a strong headline…and countless checklists for offers and order pages.
But of all the lists and tests that were discussed back in those days, the one that resonated the most – and the one that I still feel is the most effective – is the Bar Stool Test.
Now, don’t get me wrong – passing the Bar Stool Test alone won’t make for great copy. Those other checklists and rules need to be taken into consideration as well.
But I look at the Bar Stool Test as a great “finishing” test for a new promotion…to make sure I haven’t missed the mark.
What is the Bar Stool Test?
Simply put, it’s a test to make sure you’re speaking to your reader as directly as possible. You read your copy – out loud, if possible – and imagine saying it sitting next to a friend or fellow patron at a bar.
If your words sound out of place – especially if you’re getting too technical…or trying to sound more intelligent than you really are – then your copy needs to be re-worked.
The very best copy is copy that moves quickly from Point A to Point B.
It makes its arguments effectively – but succinctly.
And it doesn’t try to talk down to the reader in any way.
I’ve been writing copy now for three decades…and I still use this test with every promotion I write.
When you’re speaking with someone sitting next to you at a bar – and trying to convince them of something – you have to maintain a conversational tone.
You’re trying to build trust – and eliminate any resistance to your ideas – without sounding pretentious.
It may sound ridiculous to read your own copy aloud and ask yourself if you’d feel comfortable speaking that way while having a beer with someone. But the Bar Stool Test is a proven, time-tested method for making sure your copy hits the mark.
I know of many writers who take the concept a step further and write with a specific person in mind. I know of one writer who thinks of his dad…and another who thinks of a colleague who he often argues with.
The point of the test is a simple one: clear, easy-to-understand copy is always better than complex writing.
So I highly recommend you grab a cold one…pass the pretzels…and incorporate the bar stool test into your regular writing and review process.
Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with 30 years of breakthrough marketing experience. To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit www.MadronMarketing.com.