Hello and welcome to another Mailbox Monday!
… For those of you who are new this week, this is the day every week where I answer YOUR questions! To have yours answered on an upcoming Monday, simply email it to [email protected].
… And for those of you who aren’t so new — you can ALSO send in your questions!
Alright, let’s dive in…
Would like to get your take on this question/situation…
How do you make the best of a situation where you have a direct shot at winning a “leveling-up” gig — one that is outside your proven skill set — but you’re 95% sure you have what it takes and know delivering results on it would be a career-advancer?
Here’s the background:
Client X (longtime client of mine for public relations-esque copywriting) referred me to Product Creator Y who was looking for e-mail copywriting, but also (and even more so) e-mail list building to sell a product launching in April 2015. Basically a full-service e-mail marketing campaign.
I’ve done lots of e-mail copywriting for other marketers but don’t know much beyond the basics of list building and have no track record with it. Still, it seemed like a great opportunity I had a good feeling I could hit out of the park if given a shot.
I did a solid 3/4 day of research on list building techniques then pulled together and submitted a proposal.
In proposal follow-up call, Product Creator Y put me very much on the spot to state (and, pretty much, guarantee) the percentages by which I would increase open rates, clickthrough rates, and ultimately, sales. Also asked for detailed summaries of past campaigns I’d run (I had not represented anywhere that I had run past campaigns). Aside from the guaranteeing results part (which was more implied than stated anyway) I find these reasonable questions. I did quote a high fee and I don’t think Product Creator Y is swimming in cash.
I didn’t handle it terribly, but I didn’t handle it terribly well either. I said I would get back to PCY tomorrow with some case studies proving the general value of e-mail as a marketing tool. I probably should have had these ready to go before the call, but I also think the main issue is not whether e-mail marketing works at all… rather it’s whether *I* can craft that killer campaign. Bottom line, it was clear PCY needed a massive dose of reassurance that by hiring me she would — at the very least — get the fee back in sales of the product, and I don’t feel like I provided that. Was there some way to?
Okay, so that’s a pretty long question, but I hope you got the gist of it. Basically, that J is an established copywriter, but he doesn’t have a ton of experience in this specific type of campaign (soup-to-nuts email campaign). And he’s looking for how to handle it — including what to do for a client that asks to guarantee results.
I’ll give you my response to this, and a little follow-up that came back from J afterward — which will shed even more light on the situation, and one way it could be handled (successfully).
First off, I think J did handle it well…
As a copywriter you can never guarantee results.
There are just too many variables. A new product could be one that nobody would buy, no matter how good the marketing. A good marketing campaign could bomb because the client screws it up. You could do your best, applying proven principles, and have something just not work out…
Those are three of hundreds of possible scenarios, and only one is (maybe) your fault.
Again, you just can’t guarantee results of any marketing. Anyone who does is lying or dumb, and anyone who expects you to isn’t that bright either. I get where they’re coming from — they just don’t have much of an awareness of how marketing works if they expect you to be able to absolutely guarantee performance.
So how do you gain the confidence of a potential client?
The single-best thing you could provide a client would be examples of things that you did that worked. Preferably, either in a situation very similar to theirs, or in a LOT of diverse situations. This will help assuage their fears. But again, you can’t guarantee anything.
The one reassuring statement that you can make is, “Nobody can guarantee results, and if they did, they’d be lying to you. But what I can do is offer to continue to work with you on XXX terms — as long as you’re actively testing — until we have a winner.” It’s something I learned from Dan Kennedy. His promise to clients is that he’ll keep coming up with things to test as long as they’re pouring money into testing his copy.
This really is best when there are royalties at stake — you can’t afford to work indefinitely for a flat fee with no upside. But it is a good way to handle that objection.
That’s basically what I told J, then he surprised me!
He wrote back a little later, indicating what had happened with this client.
Here’s what he wrote…
Thanks a lot Roy,
It looks like I handled this situation reasonably well in the end… I wound up putting the product creator in touch with the head of the marketing agency I’ve been doing e-mail and web copywriting for since last April. They had a conversation and the marketing agency submitted a proposal which is still under consideration.
(I was a little worried about whether “Client X” would be pissed I arranged a sub-arrangement with her client, but that ended up not being an issue at all. Ever been in a similar situation?)
If the proposal goes through, the marketing guys are going to hire me as the copywriter on the project, and add on a decent “finder’s fee” cut of whatever they negotiate with the product creator. They were really stoked about me making the referral (and I think it somewhat “de-commoditized” me in their eyes, moving me closer to a partner who adds real value to their growth goals beyond just churning out words)
And the product creator expressed lots of gratitude for my forthrightness in suggesting building a team that could do a better job than I could flying solo.
So at any rate, it’s a better outcome than any of the ones I was fearing when I sent the e-mail.
Wow, that was a smart move…
And I can’t even claim credit!
It’s almost always better to have a team on a project than go it alone. I have a handful of people I can call on at any time to help me help clients. And J did the same thing here.
While I’ve never been in the exact situation, I’ve found it always worked out very well to bring in trusted partners on projects.
The partners like it, of course, because you’re doing the tough work of selling their services for them (and, like in J’s case, are often willing to give a finder’s fee as a result).
The clients like it, because you’re often able to deliver a better end-to-end result.
And you can like it too, because you can often get paid as much or more, help your client and your partner, and enjoy a bigger success as a result.
If you do more to formalize these relationships — where you have a set commission on the deals — you can end up with a pretty robust team and income as a result. Without significantly increasing the amount of work you do (and possibly even decreasing it).
Final thought… This really underscores the value of having a strong network in place…
I don’t talk about this a whole lot. But when you have trusted partners whose skills compliment yours, you’re much more than a gun for hire “commodity.” You can become a strategic partner.
The best place to meet these folks is to get away from your keyboard, out of your office, and go places. It can be to local business and entrepreneurship groups. It can be to conferences. It can be wherever. Go out, meet people, and grow your network. You’ll never know when a deal will come along where you can call 3 people and suddenly have a big team for a big project, and a big success story in the making.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets