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What is the Rule of One in copywriting? A beginner's guide

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

The Rule of One means focusing on one specific reader, with one specific problem, and one clear message about how you’re going to solve it. It creates a clear USP and increases conversions. Here’s what you need to know.


Illustration showing one woman standing out from a crowd - illustrating the concept of 'one reader' as part of The Rule of One in copywriting.

What is the Rule of One?

The Rule of One is a copywriting technique you need it know. It says that you should focus on

  • One reader

  • One big idea

  • One promise

  • One offer

  • One call-to-action

Let’s look at each of those in detail.

 

The Rule of One: One reader


In copywriting, if you’re talking to everyone, you’re talking to no one.


It’s better to target one highly motivated buyer with a strong single message that moves them to make a purchase, than a mix of weak messages that vaguely address multiple audiences and moves none of them to purchase.


You may have multiple target audiences. But your webpage copy should just target one of them.


Picture one specific person that you want to buy your product and address all of your copy to them, and only them. Use customer and market research to understand their pain points and what will motivate them to buy this product.


Imagine you sell nuts and bolts. One audience could be luxury yacht manufacturers. Another could be DIY hobbyists. The messages are going to be very different for these two audiences. And trying to talk to them both at the same time is madness.


You can have multiple individual pages to target each audience. But each page should focus on just one of them.


 

The Rule of One: One big idea


Your one big idea is the story you want to tell about your product or service - your primary message, your biggest benefit.


This is the most important information you want to communicate to your audience. Trying to cram in every single benefit is going to get complicated and dilute the impact of your message.


Your one big idea should come from customer research. Why do they buy your product? What pain point are they trying to solve? What benefits does your product bring to their lives or business? Why does that matter?


If you can’t find your big idea, try asking why. Why do people buy your nuts and bolts? To fasten things together! But why? To build safe, secure vessels. But why…? Keep going until you get to the heart of your offer. This technique takes you beyond superficial benefits and drills down to what really matters.


 

The Rule of One: One promise


Your promise is what your audience can expect to get from your product or service. For example, the world’s most reliable marine fastening solution. It’s often referred to as your USP or Unique Selling Point.


It needs to be clear and compelling and address their major problem. In this case, a reliable solution in a very specific market.


Actually, make it a promise by backing it up with a guarantee. Use social proof to show that external parties support your claim.


 

Rule of One: One offer


Your one offer is the offer you’re making specifically for this one audience. Again, the aim is to make your copy compelling for a specific reader. Your DIY hobbyist isn’t going to be interested in a discount for bulk buying 100,000 nuts. Nor is a yacht manufacturer going to be moved by a BOGOF on bolts.


 

Rule of One: One call to action


The idea of The Rule of One is that you have one thing that you want your reader to do. And everything on your page is designed to get them to take that one action. The aim is to maximize your conversion rate.


You don’t want to divide your audiences’ attention and give them a range of options. For example, if you have lots of CTAs - request a callback, register for new product alerts, ask for a sample - then the reader won’t know which is the next best step.


Plus, they may choose the path of least resistance. For example, registering for alerts because it’s less of a commitment than actually talking to you. All of this risks diverting them from YOUR goal and undermines your conversion rate.


(Remember, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you might want to give readers a choice of CTA, so you get SOMETHING rather than nothing from them. But in the Rule of One, you have one compelling CTA that everything drives people to complete).


 

What are the benefits of the Rule of One in copywriting?


1. Improved clarity

Focusing on one thing makes your web page easy to understand and minimizes the risk readers will get confused, distracted, or diverted. It’s also easier for you - as a marketer - to focus on what to write.


2. More attention-grabbing

How long do you read a webpage before you get bored and move on? You can grab people’s attention faster with a single, clear offer.


3. Better engagement

If you get your one big idea right, your reader will be engaged from the get-go, sucked down the page to an irresistible call-to-action.


4. Stronger brand recall

It’s easier to remember one simple clear offer than a matrix of different features and benefits. So even if your reader doesn’t convert immediately, you’re easier to remember when they’re ready.


5. Increased conversion rate

A single, strong call-to-action increases conversion rates, by funneling all readers towards your desired conversion goal. And - after all - isn't that the name of the game?


 

Photo of copywriter - Libby Marks - leading against a glass wall in a modern office, smiling and wearing a fabulous leopard print dress.

About the author


Libby Marks is an award-winning copywriter and content marketer. After 15+ years in marketing and communications, she escaped the 9-to-5 and started Write on Tyne.


Write on Tyne is a small content and copywriting agency dedicated to making marketing managers' lives easier.


We provide top-notch copy for campaigns, content marketing, and websites - underpinned by expertise in marketing strategy and SEO.
















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