The 40-40-20 rule: It's about way more than "better copy."

The 40-40-20 rule: It’s about way more than “better copy.”

Too many people focus on the wrong things when it comes to marketing and selling…

Rainmaker, I’ve written about this before, and no doubt I will write about it again.

But today, I write about it in a new light, from a new perspective — and hopefully it will give you new takeaways from an old and familiar topic.

You’ve heard of the 40-40-20 rule in direct marketing?

Basically, 40% of your results come from the list or market you’re going to…

40% of your results come from the offer you’re making…

And only 20% of the results come from the creative you send…

And in fact I think a full half of each element can be attributed to strategy…  Strategy for reaching and getting the attention of your market…  Offer strategy in the context of acquiring customers and maximizing lifetime value…  Strategy in what kind of creative you’ll use, what format you’re using, and what it will say…

Which brings the actual value of the words you’re putting on page down to 10% of your total selling and marketing success.

Everything else makes up 90%!

The lesson?  Words matter, but not nearly as much as many other factors…

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently in the context of copywriting clients.

I actually had an interesting conversation with a very skilled but not well known copywriter recently.  And she was talking about certain clients in the industry, and explained that they were just not big enough for her.

I tried to understand what she meant, and I get it.

It’s not that a client is big enough or not, because many top copywriters are willing to work with smaller, very entrepreneurial and growth-oriented companies.

The key is not the size, it’s how big they can get when handed powerful, high-converting copy on a silver platter.

I was talking to someone else the other day who is building a supplement business that is doubling every couple months.  They’re spending six-figures a month on traffic.

I don’t care how big or how small that company is, their aggressive approach to growth is an indicator that if they were given the right campaign, they could really maximize sales with it.

Compare that to the marketer who has a good list, but isn’t doing a lot with it.

I’ve worked with a lot of these businesses and generally they’re run by nice and well-meaning people.

But they’re not committed to really going out and reaching and growing their market…  They’re not innovative in terms of the different levels of offers put in front of folks for the functional reasons of bringing them in then ascending them up a ladder of customer engagement…

Understanding copy is important.  In fact, in some markets where your competitors are powerful in terms of market engagement and compelling offers, it’s copy that will give you the slight edge and allow you to succeed where others fail.

But even as I’ve risen through the ranks of the direct response copywriting world, I’ve grown to recognize that there’s just as much opportunity — if not more — in understanding these other pieces of the marketing pie.

The lesson for copywriters…

Since so much of my readership base is copywriters — aspiring writers, freelancers, staff writers, and copywriter-entrepreneurs — I feel the need to address this directly…

Your first lesson is that you should consider what you can learn about markets and offers just as important as hand-copying another sales letter.

Who is your market?  How are they reached?  What is the best way to get in front of them?  Is there a best way today to sift and sort the most interested segment of your market, for getting in front of them more often?  What other markets can you reach out to, that would be interested in your offer or a variation on it?

I think you’d be ignorant in this regard to ignore the skill set involved in paying for website traffic.  If you know what it takes to buy traffic to a website such that you can put offers in front of a functionally unlimited pool of prospects, you bring so much more to the table.

I’ve seen so many cases where mediocre copy converts just well enough that companies have been able to make literally millions of dollars because they also had a system for putting it in front of cold traffic to bring in new customers.

Compare that to the copywriter who can write even a great sales letter or landing page or VSL script.  That copy is dead on arrival if no eyeballs see it — no matter how well it would convert with adequate traffic.

Further, if you understand what offers are working now, across markets, you develop a huge advantage.  The free book offer, for example, is highly-effective at getting first-time buyers for companies in all sorts of niches — and I’d contend this is not confined to publishers and information marketers.

The key is understanding what the next offer, and the next, and the next have to be — having a complete funnel-based offer strategy — so that you’re able to make the first sale or two at a loss.  But recoup it quickly based on the percentage of people who take higher-priced offers.

And further, study the strategy for using copy, not just the words used.  Simply understanding how to write headlines and bullets and guarantees does not magically teach you how to run a Jeff Walker style product launch sequence.  Or how to write a 15-step email autoresponder sequence that has the prospect so primed to buy when you first introduce the offer in email five that it reliably dumps new sales into your system on that fifth day — and for the following 10 emails, too.

Great copywriters are NEVER just copywriters.  The more you remember that — and bring the other 90% to the table — the better off you’ll be.

And while you’re getting good at all the other stuff, try to work with clients and marketers who are good at those pieces, too.  Which leads me to…

The lesson for marketers and clients…

If you hire copywriters, and you want to work with the best, you should consider a lot more than your list size, or your willingness to write checks.

Gary Halbert famously wore a hat that said “Clients Suck” to put on a seminar to a room full of potential clients.

He also spent an inordinate amount of time ranting about the top 10 ways copywriters don’t get paid…  Which were all — 1 through 10 — “Client screws it up.”

Even if a great copywriter can and should bring insight and strategy and recommendations around putting your marketing in front of the right target market, building effective offers, and establishing a total campaign strategy for the use of their copy…

YOU can go a long way toward working with the best if you make all these other elements a crucial part of your business…

For example, the online direct marketers with a “traffic team” are infinitely more appealing to a great copywriter than a marketer who simply has a list.

A list is a defined and limited universe of prospects — no matter how big it is.

If you have a way that you can put your best copy out in front of a steady stream of traffic that represents new customers waiting to happen, the best copy has multiples more potential.

And since most of the best copywriters get paid on royalties, that’s an incredibly appealing proposition.

Further, test offers.  While you have every right to make your business decisions based on how you want to do things, you’re short-sighted if you ignore what works.  Pricing, deliverables, payment installments, and more are fair game when it comes to offers.

You should have your own set of tested best practices for the offers you’re using…  AND you should be more than willing to work with copywriters to develop an offer they can use that will really move the needle.

Ultimately, when you pay attention to everything, everybody wins bigger…

That’s the biggest takeaway I have for you today.

The more you pay attention to the market (and how to expand it), the offers you’re using, and the copy including the campaign strategy for using it, the better off you’ll be.

And it doesn’t matter what angle you’re coming at it from — it’s this multi-pronged approach that leads to bigger winners and bigger paydays for everybody.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets