Do today’s copywriters have tunnel-vision?

They say perception is everything…

And in marketing, that statement is particularly true.

Unfortunately I’ve seen a lot of erroneous perceptions going on among the newer copywriters… especially those who have bought a lot of information from the many providers selling infoproducts in our space in the online world.

What happens in the mind of the writer is that they buy a special report, read it, and think that’s the only way to produce a copywriting project.

This is the only way to write a Case Study… this is the only way to write a White Paper… this is the only way to write a Video.

Copywriters adore and respect their gurus, and they’re also thankful to them for creating information that offers guidance and structure to a copywriting challenge. After all, the information we buy is highly niched… it’s not like you can go to AmRattenfängerazon and find dozens of books on writing Direct Response Videos.

But what I have seen repeatedly over the many years that I’ve coached copywriters is a kind of tunnel-vision… a blind belief that what their guru says is the only way to do something.

For instance, copywriters are sometimes surprised to find out that I’ve written White Papers in my past. Because Mike Stelzner and Gordon Graham became noted White Paper writers, copywriters tend to see White Paper writing as a specialty; that’s all you do is write White Papers.

But many times I would “add on” a White Paper to a direct mail job. I made that White Paper into the “offer,” and it drove response.

And while I have nothing but respect for our White Paper gurus — and support them and encourage the purchases of their books and infoproducts — I want to set the record straight that in copywriting, there’s usually more than one way to skin a cat.

For instance, my coaching students all write White Papers to offer to their leads. But very few will write a White Paper that’s extremely formal in style. Having read the books and products of our reigning White Paper gurus, they come to me with the formula in hand.

But this is where I take them aside and remind them that our target market is the Marketing Director. “Would you rather read something that is dry and traditional, or would you rather receive a niche-appropriate White Paper that has some pizzazz?”

The better way to use the information we have available to us is to learn from it, allow it to become a backbone to the work you’re doing, and then ask yourself if there’s anything more that you can do to strengthen your work.

If you’re writing a White Paper for Siemens on x-ray Collimators, your paper should indeed be very formal in tone and style and you might do well to follow Gordon’s White Paper book to the “T.”

But if you’re writing a White Paper on the rise of video as an essential marketing tool and you’re targeting Marketing Directors, then your White Paper could take on a decidedly different tone.

You might have lots of color and some flash and dazzle… images and creative design work… perhaps even an embedded video.

The point that I’m making here is that I clearly and often see copywriters who are following an author’s instructions slavishly. They’ve somehow adopted their learning as “across the board”… that everyone in marketing everywhere “does it this way.”

I don’t know who wrote a course or ebook on how to write Case Studies, but when I help my coaching students they all say that they must do an interview for the Case Study.

Really? I’ve written many Case Studies where an interview wasn’t part of the content. My students are astonished to hear this. I explain to them that not even the most comprehensive learning tool is going to give you all of the information. So much is nuanced and there just isn’t enough space or time.

So the takeaway is this: use you courses and ebooks and audios. Realize the gurus are showing you their expert way of doing things in order to steer you the right direction. And to give you a roadmap if this is your first project in a particular writing category.

But don’t make the mistake of being slavish. Use your own thinking and creativity to layer on even more power. Always be sure to make it appropriate to your niche market or challenge.

Also know that in my membership site for copywriters — the S.S. Treasure Hunt — you can access hundreds of samples of effective client acquisition White Papers, Case Studies, Direct Mail Letters and other marketing materials that show just how creative copywriters can be.

This brings to mind Holly, a copywriter I used to hire. In her direct mail piece she once told her prospects: “I’m thinking inside the box now that everyone else is thinking outside of it.”

© 2016 Chris Marlow, All Rights Reserved

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.

18 Responses to Do today’s copywriters have tunnel-vision?

  1. Donald C. June 15, 2016 at 2:28 am #

    Well said Chris… We all need to be free to be who we are in what we do and not a ‘bottled up’ – cheap imitation of a guru we admire.

    Thank you… By the way, I also like the angle my your copywriter ‘Holly’ – saying: “I’m thinking inside the box now that everyone else is thinking outside of it.” – that’s just brilliant! 🙂

    • Chris Marlow June 15, 2016 at 11:11 am #

      Thank you Donald, for the validation — and yes, I wish I had been the one to make that Holly quote!

  2. Carol Bentley June 9, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    Hitting the nail on the head as always Chris. 🙂

    I’m currently writing new approach marketing material for a company that targets government departments. Glad to say their CEO is very open to new methods and is keen to see if my more relaxed, chatty style hits the hot spot for his target audience.

    Needless to say, my writing style is very different to their current marketing material. 😉

    Just hope all the less experienced copywriters read your post and take the lesson you are sharing on board.

    • Chris Marlow June 9, 2016 at 8:49 am #

      Hi Carol,

      So nice to hear from you! You are one busy copywriter. A real master also. Thanks for your support and for encouraging newer copywriters to flex their creative muscle! To “lighten up” government material must be a fun job!

  3. Nan Devlin June 8, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

    I coach travel writers on how to make a full-time living as a freelancer, and I’m astonished at the tunnel vision mindset, and inability to think outside the very narrow publishing opportunities they think they are locked into. There are so many publishing outlets, but they have it in their heads that “real travel writers” are those who get a byline in 3-4 magazines.

    • Chris Marlow June 8, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      So you see this too, Nan? Well as new freelancers we see only what’s obvious and miss everything that’s going on in the back room so to speak. I think a big part of the coach’s job is to shine a light into the corners. And that way we shave the learning curve enormously.

  4. Julia June 8, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    A friend of mine pointed me to you, Chris! Actually, it has been very helpful for me to listen to lots of different copywriters. What you said! Different strokes for different folks. Thanks for the affirmation that this is okay.

    • Chris Marlow June 8, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      Glad to have you here Julia! Yes, it’s our job to be creative… I think coming from the conformist backgrounds that most of us do, that many new copywriters don’t fully understand the opportunity copywriting gives us to stretch our thinking. You might say the sky “isn’t” the limit!

  5. Billy June 8, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    Perfect timing Chris! Thanks for the insight.

    • Chris Marlow June 8, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know that Billy! Getting feedback like this encourages me to stay alert of those truths that so often never see the light of day!

  6. Shawn Dady June 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    Totally agree with this Chris. Wisdom.

  7. Rick M June 7, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

    Thank you! I’ve seen something like this recently. One of the common learning techniques for copywriting is the old “copy a famous letter by hand” exercise. Which is indeed a good thing to do. But lately I’ve seen Internet arguments where people seem to be doing this as their main source of training, which is ludicrous. Can you imagine a writing workshop where the students do nothing but handcopy famous passages, rather than actually creating work? Some of the copywriting threads will be questions from newbie writers about which cool letters to handwrite next, and how many times, and so on.

    • Chris Marlow October 17, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

      Cant believe I missed this earlier but you’re right Rick… getting it by osmosis isn’t a bad idea but it could only be a small part of real learning.

  8. Bryan Aucremanne June 7, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Hit a nerve…Thanks Chris!

  9. Larry E June 7, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    Great article Chris…thanks!

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