Gary was not only my personal copy God, but I even got to go out to dinner with him once.
Mr. Halbert, sir… please tell me how you make millions selling “how to” reports in the Popular Mechanics classifieds?
Gary proceeded to tell me how “simple” it was and months later when I tried it with a business partner, I didn’t sell a thing. Lost my investment, actually, which was painful for me at the time.
I would have walked away then but as I later discovered, my partner was a retired IRS guy. He insisted that I report the loss to the IRS, even though the paperwork was more time-consuming than it was worth.
“But we made no money!”, I protested.
“You have to, the IRS wants to know everything,” he replied.
Like a dog on a leg, I couldn’t shake him off. And so my first tiny entrepreneurial effort lost money and got me annoyingly close to the IRS.
A bulldog copywriter
Gary was what I call a bulldog copywriter. A bulldog copywriter is a copywriter who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.
What I mean by that is that if you’re writing copy designed to get a lead or a sale, then not only will you give it everything you’ve got, but if necessary, you’ll give it even more.
Now sometimes a client will hand you a creative brief that’s loaded with fantastic information — real meaty demographics and psychographics about the target market… a robust list of features and benefits… all the potential objections laid out… samples of what worked before… and what didn’t. Everything you need to make a home run.
But most of the time you’re lucky if you get a creative brief at all and forget detailed persona information or Mailing List Datacards.
Instead, most copywriters get a sketchy idea of who the target market is. These are from a few of my own past jobs:
• For a high interest credit card offer: “Targets are males/females in their 20s, 30s and 40s with low credit scores.”
• For a natural health publisher: “Age 50+, both sexes who have an ailment or want to prevent illness and defer aging.”
• For a software product: “IT decision-makers at enterprise level companies.”
Sheesh! Not much to go on, right? Especially when results depend on how well the copywriter connects with the target audience.
How to get your hands dirty
From Gary I learned that to really succeed as a copywriter, you must know your target market intimately… their hopes, their fears, their dreams and insecurities. Now that’s no revelation. Most copywriters know this.
But it’s like hearing something in a book… and then later on, hearing the same thing from someone who matters. Listening to Gary, I “got it” that my job is not always confined to the Mac keypad.
To wit: If you are not nor ever have been part of the target market you’re preparing to speak to… if you don’t have enough solid demographic and psychographic information to write an on-target campaign… then you can use what little demo/psycho information your client gives you and run with it. You’ll get paid. The results will be predictable. And you might get called back.
Or you can get your hands dirty by becoming a detective.
Find out what you don’t know about your target audience. Get some names off the mailing list and call them.
Let them know you’re a copywriter doing research. They’re usually flattered and more than willing to be interviewed (keep it SHORT… maximum 10 minutes). These days online surveys and social media are fast and easy ways to gather info and test assumptions.
You could even meet someone from your target market in person and show them what you’re doing. I did that and it made millions for my client.
The one thing that makes you a copywriter
Lots of people can write well. And lots of people are smart marketers. Those who learn direct marketing vastly improve their potential for results.
But in the entire world there is no one like the copywriter.
Because only the copywriter takes the time to truly understand… to truly empathize… with the people at the other end of the sale.
And the best copywriters — the bulldogs — do whatever it takes to get there.
Have you ever taken an extra step to get information to boost the results of your copy? I’d love to know what you did. Tell me about it in the comment box below.
© 2016 Chris Marlow, All Rights Reserved