3 ways copywriters scare clients off — and how to turn it around

Who’s more important… me, or you?

As new copywriters prepare to market themselves, they’re often self-focused, insecure, and worried about losing the desperately needed job.

But one of the first lessons a direct response copywriter learns is that it’s a mistake to focus on one’s self in marketing, because no one is interested in “you.” But they are supremely interested in themselves.

Marketers often use the phrase, “what’s in it for me?” to remind themselves that prospects don’t want to hear about the company or the product… they want to hear about the benefits of the product… they want to know what it will do for them.

So the first thing a novice copywriter needs to do is quit thinking about themselves and their possible shortcomings, and step into the shoes of the prospect.

“What does the prospect want or need? How can I give her this? What’s music to her ears?”

These are the kinds of thoughts that should be going through the copywriters mind. It’s a total state-of-mind flip-flop, from hand-wringing over bills and worrying about rejection to thinking about how you can genuinely help someone else.

By taking the focus off yourself and putting it where it belongs — on the welfare of the client — you can leave the jitters behind and let your body fill with strength of purpose.

So lesson number one in your own psychology as a copywriter is that you’ll get in the door much faster if you shift your thoughts from “I need the money” to “I can really help this marketer.”

This changes everything, from the words you use, to the energy in the air, to the response you get.

If you’ve never done this exercise before, and you try it the next time you can, it’s as if the whole universe shifts. It’s amazing, unmistakable, and profound, and I don’t think you will ever forget it. Once you see this in action, the lesson will sear into your brain like a firebrand.

Eeek — you’ve found my weakness!

Another insecurity copywriters have pertains to a weak portfolio. It takes time to get “lots” of samples and it can take even longer to get a nice array of formats. Even intermediate copywriters struggle with this if their portfolio reflects only a particular niche or format.

Sometimes having experience in a format really does matter, like writing a Direct Mail Package, or a Magalog, or a Video Sales Letter. This is because these formats are complex and hard to do. Usually, the best you can do here is find another copywriter who has the sample you need and try and buddy up (and learn from them).

But many times, the potential client is asking for more mundane samples like blog posts, web page copy, product descriptions, and so on. If you don’t have a sample of what it is they want, all you need to do to turn it around (turn the focus from you to them), is ask them what they’re trying to accomplish.

Because this potential client didn’t really come to you to study one of your samples. They came to you to accomplish a goal. They want more leads. More sales. More comments or engagement. When you fear that the potential client’s question for samples is putting you in a corner, just go back to the conversation that’s going on in his head and turn it around.

For instance, the client might say, “Do you have any samples of lead-generating sales letters?” (You don’t.)

So you respond, “Ahhh… you’re looking for leads. Sure I can help you with that. Are you trying to beat a previous benchmark? Or what is the objective?”

So now you are bringing him back to what he really cares about, and that is having a more successful lead-gen campaign.

The point here is that rather than freeze like a deer in headlights, you take control of the conversation by refocusing on his real need, and then keep control of the conversation, taking it to the conclusion you want.

“I’m going to eat you!”

comic-1296117_1280A third mistake new copywriters make with new potential clients is an overly aggressive pursuit. Many times copywriters engage in a conversation with a potential client that seems to be going somewhere.

But then all of a sudden, conversation stops. Silence. No email response after one follow up email. Wait a few days, no email response after the second follow up email. What to do?

What to do is stop. You never want to look desperate for work. The more you contact them the more they think you have no work and you’re going to be a loser for them. It’s just human nature. The busier you look, the more attractive you are.

The world of work looks just like the world of dating in this respect. The more someone chases you, the faster you run away.

The best thing you can do in this case is pull back. Keep your integrity. And plan to contact them again in two or three months. You can also send them a short email saying something like this:

Dear (name),

Thank you for our discussions up to this point. Since they’ve dropped off (no response to my last two emails), I’m going to assume that other priorities have cropped up.

I remain interested in helping you with (XYZ), but must now turn my attention elsewhere. I do promise to contact you in a month or two to see if we can resume our conversation at a more convenient time, so I can help you (get more leads, etc. – end with the BENEFIT to them). Here’s my phone number again if you want to contact me between now and then.

So there you have it. Three ways copywriters mess up in the conversion process… and how to turn it around!

What do you think about these ideas? LMK in the comments below!

About Chris Marlow

The original copywriter's coach, Chris Marlow has worked with copywriters since 2003. Her acclaimed Marlow Marketing Method™ Client Acquisition Course has produced hundreds of successful copywriters. Chris' S.S. Treasure Hunt membership site not only houses this course but four more on the subjects of Copywriting, Advanced Copywriting, Productivity, and Closing Clients. The S.S. Treasure Hunt also contains the world's only statistical pricing database for about 100 copywriting jobs. Chris has put together this resource to give copywriters everything they need to succeed — and nothing they don't. Chris is committed to helping copywriters focus on what's important, saving them from the time- and money-wasting Bright Shiny Object Syndrome so prevalent on the Internet.

10 Responses to 3 ways copywriters scare clients off — and how to turn it around

  1. Gina Ritter October 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    Ah! The ‘you’ve found my weakness’ part of this was just what I needed!
    Shucks, the whole piece was needed…
    Thank you!

    • Chris Marlow October 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

      HAHAHAHA – thanks Gina! There’s more to come on this topic, believe me 🙂

  2. Sandy October 18, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    Thanks Chris, Good information and a good reminder.

    • Chris Marlow October 18, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

      you bet Sandy — thanks for stopping by!

  3. marie French October 18, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Great idea.

    Would you recommend a general website portfolio and landing pages with your niche?

    • Chris Marlow October 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

      Ahhh… so glad you got the comments to work after all!

      YES, you always want a standard service provider website with a portfolio page. Although you might see a few copywriters using landing page layouts, they work with entrepreneurial B2C guys and gals and that’s a different niche. 99% of copywriters would want the standard service provider website with home page, bio, portfolio, services, and contact pages.

      • marie French October 18, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

        Bless you and thanks. So the general website could be general and you could market your niche via marketing materials and landing pages directed back to general site?

        • Chris Marlow October 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

          Since you’re a member of the S.S. Treasure Hunt, you can go to the Marlow Marketing Method™ Client Acquisition Course and see how to do everything, including building your website. We really don’t do landing pages to attract clients… but copywriters often write landing pages FOR clients!

  4. Chris Marlow October 18, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Hi Marie,

    Sorry you could not leave a comment here but the answer to your emailed question about the portfolio is that these days a digital portfolio is all you really need.

    However, if you meet face-to-face with a new potential client I always like to leave them with something — a folder with my bio, business card and one very relevant hard copy sample. Hard copy samples can be tough to come by (when you’re doing print work), so I always make it a part of my Fee Agreement that the client agrees to provide them.

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