This could upset the apple cart…
Since 2010, I’ve made most of my living as a “gun for hire” copywriter, working for some of the biggest, best direct response marketers on the planet.
Since 2014, I’ve written the daily Breakthrough Marketing Secrets essays with a strong following of copywriters from around the world (including some of the best copywriters on the planet)…
I’ve worked with the world’s top trainer of copywriters. I know many of the best copywriters in the biz — some of whom I correspond with regularly. I count among my clients many of the world’s top employers of copywriting talent — many spending multiple millions of dollars per year on copywriters.
Who better than someone who has found themselves occupying this position in the middle of the industry to declare its death?!
The case against copywriters is stacking up…
If you’re a business owner or marketer who hires copywriters — or who intends to — I encourage you to read every word of this, carefully.
And if you are one of my many readers who is a copywriter, you should probably read this closely, too — as it may have a dramatic impact on your livelihood in the coming weeks and months.
I’ve been hanging out in forums where copywriters and business owners communicate — and even do the dance of trying to find a way to work together.
And I’ve noticed something interesting.
Copywriters don’t know jack about business.
And frankly, it’s hurting them — now more than ever. Not only that, the copywriter who doesn’t know jack about business, but whose client believes they do, is hurting their client’s business as well.
While many of the top marketers I know and work with get it, too many entrepreneurs, founders, and business builders are getting burned.
They hire a copywriter, on the hope that they’ll fulfill on the big promises that good copy can offer — more customers, more sales, more profits. In the end, they have a big bill and a bunch of words on the page that are doing nothing.
The copywriter keeps going around making big promises, looking for the next client and the next one. And the client often goes back for another drubbing, still believing they really need one good sales letter (or VSL, or webinar, or whatever).
Here’s the thing. Words on the page are a dime a dozen. Or perhaps $5 for 100…
“The Fiverr Phenomenon…”
I was re-listening to the DVDs from The Titans of Direct Response the other day. And Perry Marshall’s talk is as provocative today as it was nearly 2 years ago.
Direct marketing is now a commodity, he said.
Copywriting, conversions, analytics analysis, Google Ads, and so on… If that’s all you’ve got, you’re increasingly holding onto nothing.
It used to be that someone with a rudimentary knowledge of copywriting and Scientific Advertising could go into any company and make a big difference in a matter of minutes.
Those opportunities are evaporating.
The whole of direct marketing’s best wisdom is available online today. And most of it is free for the taking — although in some cases you have to break the law to get it free.
Nonetheless, there are people in every corner of the globe — including places that don’t enforce copyright law — that are becoming world-class experts in the fundamentals of direct marketing, and building a direct marketing business. Copywriting, too.
And, you have access to these people via fiverr and other outsourcing platforms.
Which means that you could spend $50 on fiverr today, have 10 headline ideas within a couple days (if not hours), pick the top 3 to test against each other, and have a winner in a few days.
Need new banner or AdWords ad copy? Run a few fiverr gigs.
And so on.
Will everything you get back by spending $5 a pop be a winner? Absolutely not. But if you get 1 in 10, you’re probably doing better than if you hired someone like me.
When it comes to simple copy tasks, this is absolutely killing the freelancer.
But it’s not the only threat…
Persado and the rise of the machines…
Adding insult to injury is the fact that artificial intelligence and machine learning technology are advancing, fast.
It recently made news that there’s a digital marketing company who has created an algorithm for writing copy.
It takes winning copy, internalizes its features, and with a little bit of input will spit out “best practice” lines of copy for your next ad.
Right now it’s limited to the equivalent of an email subject line. But technology has a way of being very easy to ignore, until it trounces you. That’s the nature of the exponential curve.
We laugh at it, and laugh at it, and laugh at it. Then, one day, we wake up, and it passed us. A few days later, it’s so far ahead we can’t possibly catch up.
When it comes to turning a simple offer into copy, it won’t be long (a few years, maybe a decade) before these algorithms are really knocking it out of the park.
Which points us to…
Copy is fast becoming commodity…
Maybe it is already.
Maybe we’re still a few years away.
I guess it depends on your perspective.
What I can tell you is that just like almost everything that starts out unique and then gets adopted en masse, copy is becoming commoditized.
That means you can get it at a high quality, and cheap. It’s widely available. Supply outstrips demand, and prices plummet.
This is GREAT news for businesses who need B-level copy. That is, copy like you see in most ads, where the benefits are put front and center, a big promise is presented, and an offer is made.
This is so formulaic, it won’t be long before a computer can do this at virtually zero cost. And for now, you can outsource it to humans at such a low rate that it’s almost akin to having it done by computer.
So where does that leave us?
Creativity cannot be cloned, yet…
This morning, I woke up at about 4 AM, and dove into research on a new project.
I creatively connected the dots from news story to news story, idea to idea. These were novel connections, not obvious from a superficial read of the sources I was looking at.
These come from the quirky and sometimes offbeat way my mind works.
Plus, I had a very specific intention, to follow a proven selling narrative I’ve seen work in the same industry.
It’s a financial promo, following a story arc very similar to other successful financial promos.
At some point, artificial intelligence will be able to do this — better than me, or any of us. But that’s likely decades away.
Then later this morning, I had a call with a guy that runs a nonprofit teaching life skills to at-risk youth, through the game of chess.
Wonderful cause, but not a very good fundraiser.
I shared a few ideas that are common wisdom in commercial direct marketing, that were brand new to him (and to most nonprofits).
This thinking is hard to replicate.
Then there’s the Unique Selling Proposition. That was one of Perry’s points, at Titans.
It’s easy to outsource turning your message into copy. It’s very hard to define your message. Specifically, how that message is presented to your market to make it clear why your prospect should choose you over every other option available to them in the marketplace.
That’s something that requires an extra level of experience, knowledge, and thinking. While it can be developed through experience, it’s not easy to replicate.
And then there’s the human touch. When it comes to AI, I frankly think this is the one thing AI will never really replace. We’ll always have performers and entertainers. People will always drive for hobby and sport, even after we don’t have to.
And the art and humanity of an innovative company, its products, and its advertising will be almost impossible to outsource or create by machines. There will always be room for thought leaders and visionaries who move markets with their ideas.
Bringing this back down to earth…
Copy in a vacuum is not enough…
I can tell you from being inside this industry for over a decade — more than half a decade as a freelancer…
Most “copywriters” do not see themselves as business people — they see themselves as writers.
And this is where the root of the problem lies. They believe the job of the copywriter is to put words on the page.
But that assumes that words on the page are enough to move the market, get prospects and leads, convert customers, make sales, and earn profits.
Words on the page are worthless.
You could pay the world’s best copywriters $100,000 to write an ad for you. Put their words on a page that nobody sees, or that you show to the wrong target market, and you’re not going to have anything to show for it.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if you hired them, or spent $5 to outsource to a commodity copywriter on the other side of the planet.
Is that world’s best copywriter better? Well, I guess by definition they are. Are they 20,000X better, to justify the 20,000X-higher price?
Probably not, when it comes to putting words on a page.
If you’re just looking for bang for your buck in getting words put on a page, hiring 10 or 100 outsourced, commodity copywriters is probably a better bet.
And frankly, when I see copywriters offering their services, or businesses looking to just hire a copywriter to write something, I think that’s what should happen. This is why I say you should NOT hire a copywriter.
That writer who wants to be a writer should be on fiverr, offering that commodity for every penny it’s worth…
And the business owner who only wants a writer to write to assignment should go looking on fiverr or a similar site for writers who are happy to do that at incredibly low-ball pricing.
And yet, that’s NOT the best thing you can do for your business…
What you really need if you want more customers, more sales, more profits…
If you don’t need a copywriter, then what?
Well, you need a strategist. Someone who understands business. Someone who is able to sit down, understand all the moving pieces that make your business and your market unique, help to diagnose your biggest business challenges, prescribe creative applications of proven solutions, and perhaps help with the implementation including specific messaging.
Sometimes this means reworking your entire business model. Sometimes, it’s finding markets for your offers that you didn’t know existed. Sometimes, it’s fostering connections and joint ventures with other businesses you wouldn’t reach otherwise. Sometimes it’s defining your unique selling proposition. Sometimes, it’s helping you with messaging, including writing copy. Sometimes it’s helping you find, flesh out, and tell your story that will compel your target market.
And it’s almost always finding the right things among these to do first, second, third, and so on… Then kicking your butt and being the grown up in the room to make sure you implement and get these things done.
This is why I’ve always admired folks like Jay Abraham, Dan Kennedy, Perry Marshall, and their ilk — and sought to emulate them in everything that I’ve done. Because even though they’ve billed themselves as something else, it’s what they do FIRST, before anything else when they work closely with clients.
It’s why I’ve risen so fast through the ranks of direct response copywriting, and created so many business success stories. Because this is what I do.
It’s why in just a decade I’ve become a thought leader that’s often compared to my heroes.
While my deliverable is often copywriting, that’s the LAST point of impact I have on my best clients’ businesses.
Because, with the exception of the world’s top direct marketers, when a client goes to a copywriter saying, “I need to hire a copywriter to write a sales letter,” that’s the last thing they need.
Instead, they need strategy, business reinvention, strategic thinking, processes and system creation, offer and message redefinition, market targeting, and so on…
I’m not that interested in working with new copywriting clients at this point. But the opportunity to step into a business who is ready for this kind of work on the road to massive growth is the kind of challenge that still stimulates me. If that’s you — AND you’re willing to structure the deal in such a way that I get paid more for creating new profit centers and growth in your business — you can reach out to me at [email protected] to start the conversation.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,