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Does Your Business Need Blueprints?

In April 2012, I wrote a post that brought 30 times my normal traffic to my blog.

To say I was a beginning blogger at the time is a vast understatement. I’d been blogging for about a year, but had no idea what made a good blog post. Clickable headlines? SEO? I had no clue how to build a business related to my blog.

But I knew it was possible to make money blogging, and I wanted to learn how.During my research in best blogging practices and the difference between a good blog post and a great one, I came across Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks.

Headline Hacks

If you’re not familiar with Headline Hacks (in which case you should go download it right now!), it’s a list of different formats for headlines and a brief explanation of why each one works. But the meat of it is the list of 52 headline templates, such as “7 Warning Signs That [Blank].” Replace the part in brackets with your own topics, and you’ve got a powerful, ready-made headline.

So one afternoon while my daughter was napping, I wrote a post using one of his headlines as a template: 5 Baby Sleep Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.

Two days later, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw my blog had hit 6,000 visitors in one day. After averaging 200 visitors a day, it felt like a miracle.

The Moral of My Story

And that’s the power of blueprints. From headline templates and swipe files to step-by-step systems like the Audience Business Masterclass, blueprints can take your business to levels you could never reach on your own. Instead of reinventing the wheel, you can borrow a blueprint that’s already proven.

However, there is a fine line. Follow a blueprint too closely, and you weaken your brand. By using someone else’s words or strategies, you risk losing your personality and voice.

But change the blueprint too much, and you might lose its power — especially if you don’t understand the principles of why it works.

So tell us what you think: How can you use a blueprint while keeping your brand and personality intact? How much can you change a blueprint without reducing its effectiveness? Have you ever used blueprints, and did they work — or did they backfire? 

About Lisa Baker

Lisa C. Baker is the founder and partner manager at Authentic Partnership. Her mission is simple: to connect your business with influential partners eager to promote your products and services to high-value customers.

14 comments

  1. Pamela says:

    I look at blueprints as possibilities, but then I also do 2 things: 1) analyze the strategies underlying the elements of the blueprint, and determine whether they are actually applicable to my work, and 2) adapt those strategies to my own audience in fresh ways with my own creative use of language. Personally, when I read a headline with the “5 ways or 7 ways or 3 ways” sort of approach, I’m instantly on the alert to be mistrustful of the info. For me, that template has the opposite effect. I’m less likely to believe anything the author is saying because I know they took it from a template. And since I attract an audience who tends to be like-hearted to me, I assume they might feel the same. When I have used those types of swipe-file headlines on occasion, I inevitably get a couple of “unsubscribes” from my email list, which is interesting information for me. My audience seems to be savvy enough to demand something else from me. . .the key is for me to try my best to understand the “something else” and provide it.

  2. Tushar says:

    Why do we do the things we do? This always fascinates me!:) Why does it fascinate me? Cause we are all so different and have different perspectives, but we are still A LOT alike in many ways.

  3. This is such an honest post, Lisa! Using swipes and blueprints isn’t a *sin* while you are learning. I am a copywriter but always keep a wide library of swipes and blueprints for inspiration. Even the best have “writer’s block” sometimes and those blueprints come in handy to give you ideas and unlock your creativity!

  4. Marie says:

    Additional to what Lisa wrote, here are some thoughts on how to choose a blueprint:

    1. Does it fit the next step in your business strategic plan? In other words, not an untried as yet bright shiny object–it is actually needed to accomplish the next step in a bigger plan.

    2. Does the blueprint or system come from a reliable source? Is the blueprint or system from someone with clearly demonstrated results in the area of interest–and also clearly demonstrated results teaching others how to use systems–and some sort of support where you can get answers to your questions? This is vital as only this caliber will know enough to survey real clients in that niche and refine their products based on client feedback–the true professional.

    3. Does the philosophy of the developer fit your own both in terms of professionalism and what you believe is right for your clients. I once bought a “done-for-you” cleanse that was loaded with sugary treats and bananas but could not be inspected ahead of time nor was there any refund available. These foods cause more inflammation and don’t work for my clients so I had to rapidly remake the entire program. I should have asked more questions before I bought.

    If the blueprint or system you are considering meets these criteria (and probably some others–love to hear thoughts :), then I highly recommend using it exactly as written the first time. And probably the second, third… until you are so familiar with the ins and outs of that blueprint that you understand why it is working the way it is working.

    I say this because I write blueprints for my clients. With 30 years of using whole foods to heal (including published research) and also consulting brick and mortar holistic health businesses, my blueprints for those topics are very refined and they do work. The biggest challenge I face is clients who–not understanding why a step is included–skip or alter a step and then don’t get results. Usually they say they didn’t understand it (so of course they couldn’t do it) but sometimes it is of the more self-limiting “I don’t have time” or “I don’t like doing that” or…

    So… I also walk my talk and use the blueprints out of the box when I get them from a reliable source. If they include exact copy I assume this has been surveyed so try not to alter it except, perhaps, to use a more relevant example where I can (but one that handles the same potential objection being thought by the reader or supports the same benefit likely desired by the reader–and thereby makes the whole thing sound more like *me*). On the first round, I always get feedback from my clients and only adjust based on that feedback. This is how I see what is working. Only after I understand it would I change it more than that. Too blind otherwise.

    There are a lot of repackaged materials available for free download on the web–also cheap “teaser” materials. For these use due diligence. Some of them are great; but I’ve been set back by some of these also. I once followed a funnel system to the T but it was so dang complicated it took me 3 months to set it up and create the content… now understanding these systems I can see the flaws… it was made to look like a lot of systems volume for low cost “buy now”. Lots of fluff really.

    1. Lisa Baker says:

      The “bright shiny objects” is a BIG one that I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with. We’re out-of-the-box thinkers, so we love new stuff… 🙂

  5. Lindsay says:

    I always take the blueprint exactly as is. However, before I apply it, I look over it and ask if anything feels forced. If it feels forced (such as a blog post that might have a great headline but I’m really struggling to find the right content to write) I either adapt it to something that feels less forced or I scrap it.

    In my experience, if something feels forced, it’s always going to come across and inauthentic and definitely not in my voice. So that’s really my prime guiding light — does it feel easy and aligned with what my overall message is.

  6. I’m a copywriter. We live and die by swipe files – the ultimate blueprint! You do have to know where to find the *good* blueprints and how to use them. I collect them (Morrow’s Headline Hacks and Levis’s Email Alchemy are there) and keep my own secret swipe file too.

  7. Ken Boyd says:

    I get a tremendous amount of guidance through blueprints. However, not everything applies to me. As a specific example, Danny Iny’s tips on Guest Blogging have been great. I try to always step back and ask: How does this help me reach my audience?

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