Today I have advice that you’re either going to love or hate…
And, I have a bit of a damaging admission — that actually serves as an object lesson of the power of this advice.
If you want to get really good at copywriting (whether for your business, or your clients’), you will want to read every word of this, very carefully. And then, read it again. And use my advice — whether you love it or hate it.
Before we dive in…
Reminder: this is your weekly Mailbox Monday, and I need your help!
Your participation is necessary, to make each issue of Mailbox Monday to be as awesome as both you and I know it can be…
I need your questions: about marketing, selling, copywriting, business-building, whatever.
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I’m not sure if this is the type of marketing or business question you are looking for, but I’ll ask anyway…
I’m always looking for ways to practice writing sales copy and promotions. Now, I can write all day long but without proper feedback I don’t know if what I’m writing is good or bad.
I hate to develop bad copywriting habits because I was never corrected on something.
Spec challenges are great but I struggle to find any that offer feedback.
Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to get feedback on my copywriting?
Thanks and have a great weekend,
I’ll start with a story of my own very recent failure…
I have a campaign that’s in its earliest testing right now. I’m not ready to reveal quite what it is. In fact, as I type that, I wonder if even deciding to use it as a story is stupid, because I’ll have to talk around the details. Ah well, I’ll make it work.
Last week, I built a funnel. It’s a two-page funnel. The first page, to get the opt-in. The second, to try to make an immediate sale.
And then, on Saturday morning, before the family was up, I sat down and cranked out a Facebook ad for it.
I set it up to target cold traffic (but based on a lookalike audience with a high likelihood of interest). And I threw a very small initial test budget at it, enough to drive the first little bit of traffic over the weekend.
Then, my wife and I hit the road for an all-day road trip to Kansas City.
After we got back to Nebraska, late that evening, I checked out my Facebook advertising stats.
I think “dismal” would be an appropriate word.
A good cost-per-lead out of the gate would’ve been somewhere short of $5. In an ideal world, I’m going to push that down below $2 and maybe even below $1.
That’s my average cost to get someone interested enough to click on the ad, visit my landing page, and enter their email address.
Well, at the end of the day, I’d spent $27.88. And it generated exactly one lead.
And the click-through rate? Well, I’m ideally looking for something a little over 1%. .75% is tolerable. But it was only .28%. That means that for every 357 people who saw my ads, 356 of them though it wasn’t worth clicking on!
In fact, while I was hoping for a cost-per-lead below $5, I was actually paying more than $5 per click!
Now here’s the big lesson.
I’m a professional copywriter. I’ve run campaigns that have chalked up millions in sales.
I thought what I wrote was good enough to throw at least a little test budget at. And frankly, I could have probably bounced it off a committee of copywriters and they could have given it a green light.
The market definitively gave it the red light.
I spent yesterday licking my wounds. And, deciding what I was going to do next.
I hit on another idea worth testing.
And this morning, the first thing I did when I sat down at my desk was to write an ad based on this new idea.
I loaded the ad up in Facebook, and turned on traffic again.
And at first blush, it’s pulling a lot more clicks. We’ll see how it shakes out, but there’s almost no way that this new ad doesn’t outperform the hunk’a’junk I ran this weekend.
As I was looking at clicks coming in today, thinking about what made the difference, I realized I’d made a rookie mistake…
When I wrote that first ad on Saturday, I talked about my offer.
Which is good for a segment of my audience — the warmest, most-aware members of the market. And if I were to actually share that with YOU as a loyal Breakthrough Marketing Secrets reader (and yes, you’ll hear about it soon enough), you’d probably at least opt-in for what I’m offering.
I know the only way to scale is to be able to move a market from cold to warm to hot to buyer… And until I crack that code, I won’t consider this particular funnel a success.
So in today’s ad, I tried something radical: I talked about my market!
That is, I shifted the focus of this ad from the offer to a leading desire of my core audience, that I could connect to the offer in my ad.
So instead of talking about ME, I was talking about YOU, the reader.
The crazy thing?
It took a small, low-cost failure for me to open my eyes and see that stupidly-simple truth, and my stupid (but very common among business-owners and marketers) mistake.
And yet once I’d actually committed that grave copywriting sin, the error of my ways became abundantly clear, and the harsh lesson was learned!
Which brings us back around to the question Kris posed, about the best way to get feedback on your copy.
The best advice I have to get better at copywriting is…
Pay money out of your pocket to put your copy in front of a market, and see how they respond!
This most definitely goes against the copywriting-as-a-service model. I recognize that it will not get you direct feedback or mentorship from a professional copywriter. (I will also give tips on that in a moment.)
It also requires quite a bit more effort than writing in a Word document, and sending it off to someone, then hopping on a phone call.
There are a lot of reasons to think this the worst, NOT the best, advice…
And yet, it’s the surest way I know to get honest, radically-applicable feedback on what does and doesn’t work in copywriting.
The market’s opinion is expressed with its wallet, and that’s the only opinion that really matters.
And, it’s relatively easy to get this going — easier than it’s ever been in history.
With the tools available to you today, you can build an ecommerce site on a minimal budget. There are plenty of freemium-model platforms that only require you to pay based on transaction volume, or once you reach a certain size. Ecommerce, email, payment processing, etc. They may not be the cheapest in the long run, but they bring down the cost of starting to near zero.
You can source a product, or create one. That’s kind of beyond the scope of this, but the idea is that you want to be able to offer something of high value, so customers will be very satisfied with their purchase.
(You can also sell affiliate products, but tracking tends to be more difficult, and you don’t own the customer, which has big downsides.)
It costs very little to actually get something put out into the market and available for sale.
Then, you get to experiment.
Put together your own campaigns. Throw a little money at them. See how they work. Then, whether you succeeded or failed, try something else, and see if it works better or worse.
Then, ask yourself why.
Why did one campaign out-perform the other? What was different about your approach? What made one thing resonate and get clicks, opt-ins, sales — while another didn’t?
I call this a sandbox side project. Because it’s something you can play in.
It doesn’t have to be a huge market. Hobbies and passion products are great for this. (My first side project, selling my dad’s video on how to cut foam wings for model airplanes, definitely fit the bill.)
The goal isn’t necessarily to get rich here. It’s to get really good at marketing, based on direct and regular feedback from the market.
Doing better than break-even is required, to keep it running. Some extra spending money is nice. Buying dinner every once in a while is a splendid byproduct.
But the real payoff comes from actually getting really good at getting the market to respond.
And as you do this, every lesson I share here, and every lesson you pick up elsewhere will have added meaning, depth, and dimension.
You’ll learn more about marketing from 12 months of running your own campaigns A-to-Z than you will in 12 years of just writing copy for others.
In fact, I’m toying with a new discipline for myself.
I’m toying with the idea of writing a new ad to test every single day.
I have to figure out if I can work it into my calendar, and keep all my other obligations. (Heck, these emails are already one type of ad I write every day — although they usually come across as content, as much as advertising.)
Even if you were to write a new ad every week, just think of the benefit. After 52 consecutive weeks of testing — that’s one year — you’d have an incredible depth of data and experience on what works, and what doesn’t.
It’s likely that in those 52 weeks, you would’ve found one thing that performs at least 10X as well as the closest competitor.
And you may have made a pretty penny as a result.
Just imagine what that teaches you about copywriting…
Now for a very quick version of the OTHER answer to this question…
In addition to writing for my own projects, I’ve gotten a ton of feedback — including from A-list copywriters — by writing for the right clients.
In the context of a spec assignment, you can’t expect you’re going to get all that much feedback.
Consider it from the marketer’s side. They put out a spec assignment. They get a dozen or more submissions. They’re busy trying to do their job, which is making sure great marketing goes out the door.
While they will do some work to nurture any writers who come on board for a project, they can’t afford the time to give feedback to all the writers who submit spec work.
So if you don’t get a yes, you probably just get a polite “Not this time,” and they move on.
Want more feedback?
One thing you can do is ask just one more time, in a way that’s incredibly respectful of their time. Such as, “I know you’re probably busy, but is there one specific piece of feedback that would help me write better copy for you next time?” And if they do reply to that with a piece of advice, thank them, and ask politely, “If I were to make some edits based on this, would you be willing to give them a quick peek?”
If you get a yes to this, make those edits, and do it promptly. Send them in, and remind them of the previous conversation, again in a way that’s very respectful. Tell them you’re happy to get a simple yes/no.
If you get a yes, you’re in the door, and likely on good terms. If you get a no, be gracious, thank them again for giving you a second look, and be willing to move on.
If you do this a few times, you will have gotten a few really good individual and personalized pieces of feedback.
Also, consider “pay to play.”
If you are really serious about having a top copywriter break down your copy and give you explicit instructions for how to improve it, consider paying for a copy review.
For a copywriter that’s any good, expect to pay $500 to $1,000, or more.
For that, they’ll likely spend up to an hour reviewing the copy, and then get on the phone with you for an hour to discuss their feedback.
I know this isn’t cheap. But if you are dealing with a copywriter who knows what they’re doing, it will be worth it many times over as you apply their feedback. Not only for that project, but throughout your career.
Finally, remember this…
If your success is their success, they will invest in you becoming successful.
The many Agora divisions, as an example, have in-depth copywriter training programs. As a new in-house copywriter, you’ll often spend the first year or more just getting your copy reviewed by more senior copywriters.
You won’t see much of your copy go out the door, but you will be getting a ton of feedback, and you’ll be writing very regularly.
It will make you a much better copywriter.
Likewise, any in-house writing job with a good direct marketer as boss will give you plenty of opportunities for feedback.
It’s not the writer’s life that you’ve been promised, but it can be a very effective stepping stone.
Alternately, if you manage to land a few freelance gigs working with companies that have top copywriters on staff, you’ll occasionally get brief reviews from them.
Don’t expect the world, but even a few off-hand remarks can shift your perspective enough to give you a lifelong breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,