Today’s message has multiple audiences — not the least of which is ME!
Sometimes I write these messages 100% for you. As in, it’s something I don’t necessarily need to hear, but I’m inspired to share it because I believe it would help you.
Other times, I’m maybe the primary audience, but I also share the message with you because I know you could benefit as well.
Today, my reasons fall under the latter category.
I have not one… Not two… But THREE examples in my life right now — involving marketing and copywriting — where the best advice is:
“Don’t reinvent the wheel.”
I have to veil these references a bit. In some cases, I’m referring to active and confidential client work. But I’ll try to reveal at least enough that you can take the lesson and apply it to yourself and your business.
FIRST — How to maximize your chances of success by copying what works…
A recent control of mine is being converted from online to offline, to go out in direct mail within the next month or two.
I’ve written a few direct mail promotions, but none for this client. And, it’d been a while since I’d written for this particular format.
So as I was adapting the copy for direct mail, the client sent me a few of their sample controls in the format that I could use as inspiration for the various changes that need to be made to make it work in the mail.
As I studied these, I noticed one important trend: nearly every order form was almost identical.
Different products, somewhat different offers… But, all identical order forms.
A lot of boilerplate copy. A lot of standard formatting and phrasing.
And these were all effective direct mail pieces, written by very good copywriters.
And — importantly for the purposes of intellectual property law — all the copy is “owned” (as in, copyright) by my client, who I was doing this piece for. (As opposed to the copywriter or some third party.)
Now, when I go from client to client, there are things I bring with me. For example, when I talk about a refund for a guarantee, I’ll almost always write some version of “you’ll get a prompt and courteous full refund of every penny you paid.” That’s just efficiency. But I don’t “swipe” much — not even from myself.
I DO NOT swipe large chunks of copy from one client to the next, even if it was my own.
I also do not swipe any large chunks of “pitch” copy from other copywriters, even if it’s for the same client, talking about the same product. The pitch is mine and mine alone.
But when it comes down to the logistical text and general offer presentation to fit the tight spacing on a 1-page, printed order form, for the same client… DO IT!
I like to re-type it, and occasionally change phrases around. But for these little non-core pieces of copy, if I’m pulling it from something that’s already working, it has two big benefits:
- It gets it done faster, and since money loves speed, that’s a good thing!
- It leverages proven performers.
Again, even this much borrowing is based on a very specific set of circumstances. But when there’s a wheel sitting there in front of you that’s yours to use as you need, there’s no reason to try and re-invent it on your own.
SECOND — Leverage existing assets before creating new ones…
I’ve heard this advice from about three different angles recently. And it has special relevance to me as I create my plans for 2018, and specifically the first quarter.
YES, it’s important to create NEW in your business.
NEW messages. NEW products. NEW services. NEW processes. NEW offers.
And so on…
But every, every, EVERY business has a pile of things that worked before or are working now that aren’t being leveraged to the fullest, and that represent big opportunities for improvement with minimal effort.
Make the most of them.
Don’t let entrepreneurial ADHD pull you in a million directions.
Don’t try to constantly reinvent the wheel of what you do, just for the sake of NEW.
That means going back to your current and past clients and customers, and finding ways to serve them more.
That means looking at proven offers you haven’t focused on as much recently, and finding the segment of your market that hasn’t seen them recently (or at all).
That means looking at your past messages and seeing what little changes you can make that would make them new all over again, to bring back to your market.
Which brings me to…
THIRD — Everything old is new again…
I’m going to tread carefully here. Because this example is actually about a past client who reads many of these daily essays. And it’s about an active proposal to this client.
Basically, most markets have narratives that don’t change very fast.
For example, in investing, most successful newsletters are really built around one of these narratives.
So, for example, there’s the newsletter about technology breakthrough investment opportunities.
Then there’s the newsletter about resource stocks, such as junior precious metals explorer companies.
And so on…
Once you have a proven selling narrative around one of these pitches, you often don’t have to change nearly as much as you might think to put it in front of the market again, with a new test.
So, for example, you’ve written about biotechnology breakthroughs. Well, you may have one particular stock that you’ve featured, that made for a great (and profitable) promotion, but that’s no longer a recommendation. But 80% of that promotion was about a trend that’s still investable, with a new stock pick. So rather than finding a brand new tech breakthrough to write about (and having to write a whole new promo), you could adapt the previous promotion, and have a brand new test with about 20% of the work.
Or, let’s say you’ve written about junior mining stocks, and about one particular analyst’s method for picking the best junior mining stock opportunities. You featured one company’s story in the lead, but a ton of the copy was about how to consistently pick winners in this space, and about the offer. Adapting this to the new company’s story is a huge opportunity.
Gary Bencivenga even used to ask clients if he could write two promos for a product back-to-back. It added a lot of efficiency because much of the copy, ideas, and research was as useful on the second promotion as the first!
I have a past client who sold a ton of product on a narrative that worked then, but that’s no longer relevant. At least, about 20% of the narrative including the headline and lead are no longer relevant. But, in fact, one of the big news narratives today that continues to make headlines (and will likely do so for the foreseeable future) could easily be adapted to fit this pitch.
It’s not a GUARANTEED winner, but it’s as close to a sure thing as possible. So I pitched it to the client as a way to try to replicate our previous success. It would be a smart move to do it, but they’ll have to decide if it fits in their plans.
But again, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
If you have something that worked (really well) before and there’s a way to adapt it to use it again now, there’s very little good reason not to.
Here’s your empowering question:
What do you have in your business, your market, your life that represents a huge opportunity to get what you want — by using what is already proven to work?
It’s there. You just have to find it.
And that starts by asking that question.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,