I’m a little fired up…
Which is good, because I’ve given myself about half the normal time to write this essay. Which means I don’t have time for long meandering thoughts, or deep reflection.
I must write this at rant speed!
And, luckily, I’ve had something to rant about…
Dropped in my lap, by one of my original (and most influential and valuable) business mentors.
Names will be withheld to protect the guilty.
I’ve just been emailed a photograph of a copywriter’s pitch letter, to try and land this mentor as a client.
And there is so much that is wrong with it, that I could potentially try to block out all identifying information, and break it down, line-by-line, as to why it has a snowball’s chance in hell of working.
But again, time is of the essence. So today, I’m going to focus on…
One huge mistake that will kill any marketing campaign!
And this is important, because it doesn’t matter if you’re a copywriter selling your services, a retailer selling widgets, a software programmer selling your SaaS, whatever…
This one mistake will absolutely kill your marketing message — even if you do everything else right!
Here’s where this copywriter fell flat on his nose, in this paper-and-ink letter he paid to get in the hands of my mentor…
He had NO offer!
His whole letter was a hot mess. He tried to stimulate emotion and fear and pain and agony and suffering around the changing world of commerce (and the death of retail, etc.)…
But when it came time to seal the deal?
He talked about maybe someday you could hire him for copywriting services… Or something…
Now, this letter got a LOT of attention from my mentor. Mostly, because he and I chat about marketing and copywriting all the time. And so anytime anything from a copywriter comes across his desk, he thinks, “Would Roy be interested in this?”
Also, this mentor doesn’t necessarily have the budget to pay my fees today, and is in a different industry than I do most client work in…
However, he would certainly have the capability to hire a good copywriter, and would actually be a really great client to work for and with. And because they do a fair amount of direct marketing, he kinda pays attention whenever someone pitches him direct marketing services.
So this copywriter had an easy attention sale (the first sale you always gotta make if you ever want to make the later sale of actually getting the order).
But from that point forward, he just screwed it up.
Here’s the thing: a clear offer that appeals to your target audience’s interests is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF A SUCCESSFUL MARKETING CAMPAIGN!
Sorry for the yelling. I know I’m getting a little ranty.
But that’s what happens when I see a so-called professional screwing up so badly, making a fool of himself and our entire profession.
Direct marketing success hinges on three critical elements: the list, the offer, the creative.
The list is who you’re selling to. The market that is getting the promotion. If you’re not sending your marketing message to a bunch of potential buyers, you don’t have a chance of success. Traditional wisdom says a good list will account for 40% of a campaign’s success.
The offer is what you’re selling. What the buyers get, in exchange for what they have to invest. Plus it includes things like guarantees, risk-reversal, and more. Your offer MUST be something that has immediate appeal, solves a problem of your target market, and is seen as a good value. This also accounts for 40% of a campaign’s success.
Then there’s the creative. What you say is important. You have to actually make the sale, with the messaging you send out. This is what great copywriters get paid the big bucks for. The job of the message is to present the offer in a way the list will be interested in. If you have the right list and the right offer, this accounts for about 20% of a campaign’s success.
But what happens when you don’t have a clear and compelling offer aimed at the heart of your target market?
Well, it doesn’t matter how good of a prospect you’re speaking to, or how compelling the rest of your message is…
If your offer sucks, nobody responds!
This is why many copywriters are failures…
Because they think their job is to be a writer. Nada.
“Copywriter” is actually a horrible name for what we do, when we’re being successful.
It’s shorthand, relevant in the industry, to clients in the know, that describes a certain role.
But it’s irrelevant to the language most clients in most businesses use to describe the problem they want to have solved.
What does a business really want, that might lead them to hire someone who eventually, as part of their offer, will write some copy?
— More leads.
— More sales.
— More customers.
— More profits.
Writing? Irrelevant. The client needs words like they need a hole in their head. It’s not what they want. It’s not what they value. And it’s not what they buy.
They want results — packaged up and delivered to them on a silver platter!
(And this applies to all buyers, of all offers, in all markets — the results they want are different, the principle is the same.)
They don’t want to hire a copywriter. They don’t want copy. And they especially don’t want to have to think about what to ask a copywriter for that will lead to them getting the results they desire.
Even a smart direct response business owner who hires copywriters by name and values copy still doesn’t want to think about what they have to ask you to do to get results — they want you to show up as the professional you are, and offer them results on a silver platter. Because you freaking know what you’re doing.
You want to sell your copywriting services?
You don’t say, “Hire me as your copywriter, and I’ll write good copy for you.”
You say, “I have a proven 23-part process for delivering your 10,000s of leads within a 3-week period. And, converting at least 5% of those leads into first-time buyers. A strategy session to see if this works for your business is 2 hours long, costs $1,000, and the fee is fully refundable if we determine we’re not a fit, and fully-applicable to the full project if we are. You can get started by submitting your payment through my site at…”
Or, “I look at 11 separate steps in the customer’s lifecycle with your business, to identify exactly what to do to maximize per-customer value and profits within your business. If we improve each of the 11 steps by just 11% over the next 12 months, we more than triple your business. All we have to do to grow your business to 11-times its current size is to improve each step by just 25%. We do a 4-hour in-depth interview and opportunity analysis to figure out if this is a fit for your business, which is followed by an explicit plan for how to implement in the coming 6 months, including which of the 11 steps offer the most low-hanging fruit opportunities for improvement. The opportunity analysis and implementation plan is by application only. The application fee is $500, and if approved, that will be applied to the $10,000 fee for the entire opportunity analysis. To get started…”
And so on, and so on. Et cetera, et cetera.
You just want to write copy?
At least package that up and offer that to businesses that regularly hire copywriters, that have processes in place for working with professional freelance copywriters.
My standard offer since 2010, when working with these businesses?
I’ll write a long-form sales letter, order form, and supporting copy, all designed to drive direct sales of your product or service.
My fee for this started at $2,000, in 2010, with a 2% royalty on sales generated. Today, it’s $20,000, with a royalty in the 5% to 10% range. To get started, you pay 50% of the project fee, up front, to claim a spot on my calendar.
Currently, I’m not even taking projects — I’m booked out for as many future projects as I care to take on.
This only works because I’m working with the clients that hire a-listers. If I were going for the unwashed masses of business owners and marketers everywhere, my offer would look very different. I wouldn’t even talk about copy or sales letters. (I’d probably go for something close to the 11-step offer above, actually.)
But no matter what, I’d make sure I had a crystal-clear offer so that the client knew exactly what they were getting when they responded, and I’d have something far more compelling to talk to them about than “if you hire me as a copywriter…”
My parting shot…
If you want to make money as a copywriter, you need a clear, compelling core offer. Depending on who you sell to, that looks very different.
I explain in detail in The Copywriter’s Roadmap to Building A Core Offer.
I just heard from someone I taught the Core Offer strategy to as he was struggling as a copywriter. He took it and ran with it, and is on pace to make $750k per month in his business by the end of the year.
It’s a whole lot more than a “work from home” copywriting-for-clients business. But he sure nailed the core offer thing, and is making the most of it. Of course, that’s exceptional.
Many people would go through the training and still send a letter like the one I’ve ranted about today.
But when you do get the core offer right, magic can happen.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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