A thought on copywriters. OR, you vs. the A-Listers.

17 replies
Who is on your top 12 Hall Of Fame copywriters list? Doesn't matter, but they all share one thing in common, which I'll get to in a second.

From John E. Kennedy to Dan S. Kennedy, from Robert Collier to Gary Halbert, from David Ogilvy to J. Abraham, Gary Vencivenga, to whomever you choose...

They all may have started the same way, studying the successful ads of their day, and some may have even copied these out by hand. The studied, they WROTE.

In the case of Direct Response Copywriters (just one niche), they had RESULTS to guide them, to tell them if they could write or not. There is nothing truer than a promotion to a targeted market, to reveal your so-called copy chops.

But over the last century, there have been thousands of copywriters, and in agencies, they today would be the CONTENT writers too.

So, what do the elite share? What do the A-Listers have you probably never will?

What separates them from the crowd?

They EVOLVED into ARTISTS.

There is someone in your hometown, that teaches piano, maybe even plays in clubs and even performs. but they ain't no Billy Joel. They may even have better technical skills than he does. Maybe. BUT, there he is in his Hamptons mansion...while the local piano teacher comes to the WF to figure out how to get a student and eke out a living.

When do they become artists? Again, they almost all share a common denominator. It is when they have practiced their CRAFT, embraced the technical, mechanical, the rules of the machina copy, and then...

BREAK THE RULES. Sort of like Roger Bannister's first sub four minute mile.

NO one could ever sell to a phone book list. NEVER. Then Gary Halbert, with a proverbial gun to his head, TOSSED OUT everything he ever learned about writing copy and wrote the now famous NANCY LETTER, which sparked a huge business.

They break the rules, and have BREAKTHOUGH achievements when...

they find their own voice.

You can copy every Gary Halbert ad he ever wrote, and use them as swipes, but you won't get his results, not even close in most instances, because you are a parrot. A trained seal barking out jingle bells, because that is what you were taught to do.

Everyone, in every craft begins with imitation. You have to learn. So you follow the guides, lessons and stay the course, with practice and by doing, over and over and over, to the so-called tipping point of 10,000 hours of effort.

And you may become a hired hand, even a six figure a year in demand copywriter...but until you have the callouses of effort, the rejection from the market, the failure and disappointments, with the electric and water about to be turned off (like Gary Halbert), and you just keep grinding away at it.

You still may never become an artist, until you find your own voice and the world sees it, hears it, and wants more of it, and they gladly pay you for it.

I can go to my local library, listen to the HS music teacher sing all of Billy Joel's classics, but it sure as heck ain't Madison Square Garden for the real deal, eh?

Just a thought about copywriting. As an ART.

GordonJ
#alisters #copywriters #thought
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  • Profile picture of the author Copylifemike
    Well said Gordon and I'm sure after writing this, you probably expected me to pop up in response lol.

    It is definitely true everything you said. I would assume that many of the copywriters today are just "good" -

    Some may even fall in to great at what they do, but not many as one might think.

    I appreciate your post and bringing this up.

    On a side note while I have taken your advice in response to my thread -

    I do plan to continue writing (daily is the goal) to practice my craft.

    My issue still being new is how to schedule or at least have a very clear starting point to sit down and write copy.

    From advice on the internet to utilize Amazon to help create headlines or using formulas to making up your own products etc...

    What is a solid and sound method I can use to plan practices to accomplish getting better at,

    Headlines
    Leads
    Bullets

    and of course tying it in to full blown copy examples.

    I have 2-3 that I've done, but recently my practice slowed down.

    Working on my site took most of my attention, but again.. Listening to your advice, I'm stepping away from that for a few and diving in to other important areas.

    I have a book called Great leads coming my way along with the classic How to win friends and influence people.

    I'll be spending some time with those as well.

    Appreciate ya!

    Mike
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by Copylifemike View Post

      Well said Gordon and I'm sure after writing this, you probably expected me to pop up in response lol.

      It is definitely true everything you said. I would assume that many of the copywriters today are just "good" -

      Some may even fall in to great at what they do, but not many as one might think.

      I appreciate your post and bringing this up.

      On a side note while I have taken your advice in response to my thread -

      I do plan to continue writing (daily is the goal) to practice my craft.

      My issue still being new is how to schedule or at least have a very clear starting point to sit down and write copy.

      From advice on the internet to utilize Amazon to help create headlines or using formulas to making up your own products etc...

      What is a solid and sound method I can use to plan practices to accomplish getting better at,

      Headlines
      Leads
      Bullets

      and of course tying it in to full blown copy examples.

      I have 2-3 that I've done, but recently my practice slowed down.

      Working on my site took most of my attention, but again.. Listening to your advice, I'm stepping away from that for a few and diving in to other important areas.

      I have a book called Great leads coming my way along with the classic How to win friends and influence people.

      I'll be spending some time with those as well.

      Appreciate ya!

      Mike
      Mike, go to Amazon right now, BUY the book: STORYNOMICS by Robert McKee and Thomas Gerace. Have it sent ASAP.

      When you get it, turn to page 153, Chapter 9. Start there. Do this, and I guarantee you will have leap frogged over thousands of would be, wannabee copywriters.

      When you have read this book, your head will be spinning, and a light bulb will go off, maybe even explode your mind. OK?

      Don't talk to me again, until you have done this, and then I'll accept your thanks.

      GordonJ

      PS. I will also, THEN, answer your questions, fair enough?
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      • Profile picture of the author Copylifemike
        Fair enough!

        I'll have that book soon and do just that.
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    • Profile picture of the author colmodwyer
      Originally Posted by Copylifemike View Post


      I have a book called Great leads coming my way along with the classic How to win friends and influence people.

      Mike
      Lookout for my name in Great Leads. I worked at Agora Financial when John and Mark were writing it, and contributed a couple of pages.

      Cheers,
      Colm
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Write write write write then write 1 million more words. When you keep writing daily, you allow your voice to come out. Plus you innovate. The process flows smoothly when you keep writing like the dickens.

    Ryan
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    Ryan Biddulph, Blogger, Author, World Traveling Digital Nomad
    If you want to become a full time blogger you can buy my eBook here
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  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    What seems to get missed is behind every good
    money-making ad is the audience selection.

    The seasoned pro's that hire the so called A-List ciopywriters
    now the audience select is the biggest determiner of succes.

    If it wasn't for Brian Kurtz selecting the right lists
    for Gary Bencivenga's promo's
    then he wouldn't be the legend he is today.

    The students who got Gary Halbert's seal of approval
    had to study the SRD book to understand markets first.

    In the Internet age, the study of markets
    and lists of buyer's seems to be lost.

    Like getting a list of dog owners in a 5 mile radius of a veternarian.

    A list of all the rv owners in a 10 mile radius of a rv dealer.

    Or a list of all the new home buyers over the last 6 months
    in a county for a home improvement company.

    Real basic stuff.

    Real businesses in your local area that can be helped.

    Hate to pop the bubble of the Internet, but the US Government Census
    latest figures show ecommerce only makes up 11% of retail spend.

    Anyway, I'm getting off subject on the topic of copywriting.

    Don't get me wrong on dismissing the power of good adverting, I'm not.

    It's just one part of an equation.

    Gordon, you know it.

    This is for other readers.

    Best,
    Ewen
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

      What seems to get missed is behind every good
      money-making ad is the audience selection.

      The seasoned pro's that hire the so called A-List ciopywriters
      now the audience select is the biggest determiner of succes.

      If it wasn't for Brian Kurtz selecting the right lists
      for Gary Bencivenga's promo's
      then he wouldn't be the legend he is today.

      The students who got Gary Halbert's seal of approval
      had to study the SRD book to understand markets first.

      In the Internet age, the study of markets
      and lists of buyer's seems to be lost.

      Like getting a list of dog owners in a 5 mile radius of a veternarian.

      A list of all the rv owners in a 10 mile radius of a rv dealer.

      Or a list of all the new home buyers over the last 6 months
      in a county for a home improvement company.

      Real basic stuff.

      Real businesses in your local area that can be helped.

      Hate to pop the bubble of the Internet, but the US Government Census
      latest figures show ecommerce only makes up 11% of retail spend.

      Anyway, I'm getting off subject on the topic of copywriting.

      Don't get me wrong on dismissing the power of good adverting, I'm not.

      It's just one part of an equation.

      Gordon, you know it.

      This is for other readers.

      Best,
      Ewen
      Ewen is absolutely correct. In copywriting groups and forums, we tend to elevate the art, craft and skill.

      But, it is only ONE part of the equation, and depending on which methods one learns or follows, I lean toward it being one of FOUR parts to successful remote direct marketing.

      All are given equal weight, they are:

      PROSPECTS, always first. As Ewen points out, TARGETED.

      PROMOTION, where the copy comes in.

      PRODUCT, which at times needs very little copy, the "Halbert" 'starving crowd'.

      MEDIA. I call it the INTERSECTION. Your targeted prospect has to come across your promotion some how, somewhere...and plays a huge part in whether or not a campaign is successful.

      And onliners do have the tendency to give eCom more weight than it really has, albeit, it is the WAY for IM, and especially those at WF. But, I wish I had a little piece of a penny for every roll of toilet paper that is sold. There's Charmin, the TIDE or BMW of ass wiping, but tons of other UNadvertised brands flying off the shelves too.

      As a marketer, my evolution has been one from having/needing to sell stuff, in other words targets which need a promotion toward a more magnetic/pull sales concept of letting them come to me.

      But, I remain grounded in the idea of selling, probably because I like it.

      As for copywriting being one part of the deal, AMEN BROTHER EWEN, and for learning sake,

      where the head goes, the body follows.

      GordonJ
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    • Profile picture of the author max5ty
      Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post


      Hate to pop the bubble of the Internet, but the US Government Census
      latest figures show ecommerce only makes up 11% of retail spend.
      It's important to note that retail spending includes things like grocery stores, gas stations, travel, hotels, fast food, and automobiles, to name a few.

      These make up some of the largest categories of retail spend. But, usually, when most of the items I mentioned are bought online, they're bought through what is called an interface...where the buyer and seller are brought together online for an offline purchase.

      Uber and Travelocity and sites like those are considered an interface. An interface is still usually considered an offline retail purchase.

      Another fact to consider is that over 80% of all offline purchases originate online (Forbes)...or are affected by online behavior...

      also, when using your 11% statistic...several offline retailers have been decimated by online sales more than others. Books, video rentals, etc., to name a couple.

      What I'm saying, is when you look at a simple statistic, sometimes you have to take a lot of other things into consideration.

      The internet drives retail both online and offline.
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      • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
        [QUOTE=max5ty;11418960

        Uber and Travelocity and sites like those are considered an interface. An interface is still considered an offline retail purchase.

        [/QUOTE]

        My understanding is how the central government
        classifies business is by their SIC and NAICS Codes.

        The biz gets to decide that classification upon registration.

        Best,
        Ewen
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        • Profile picture of the author max5ty
          Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

          My understanding is how the central government
          classifies business is by their SIC and NAICS Codes.

          The biz gets to decide that classification upon registration.

          Best,
          Ewen
          Actually, no.

          There have been lawsuits over Uber (example), where the Uber drivers have claimed they're employees, but the company considers them contractors.

          Same with McDonalds in China...

          An interface that brings a buyer and seller together...is not an online purchase...it's simply an online broker that originates a sale to an offline service.
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          • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
            Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

            Actually, no.

            There have been lawsuits over Uber (example), where the Uber drivers have claimed they're employees, but the company considers them contractors.

            Same with McDonalds in China...

            An interface that brings a buyer and seller together...is not an online purchase...it's simply an online broker that originates a sale to an offline service.
            Lol,

            there seems to be a mix up here.

            When I use Uber, I get billed by Uber, not the driver.

            Uber Sec code is then designated by the Government as whether it is an online or offline purchase.

            How they decide that I don't know in Uber's case because they have 3 Sec codes...

            4121-001 - Taxis
            7372-001 - Software Publishers
            7372-017 - Mobile Applications Software

            Best,
            Ewen
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            • Profile picture of the author max5ty
              Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

              Lol,

              there seems to be a mix up here.

              When I use Uber, I get billed by Uber, not the driver.

              Uber Sec code is then designated by the Government as whether it is an online or offline purchase.

              How they decide that I don't know in Uber's case because they have 3 Sec codes...

              4121-001 - Taxis
              7372-001 - Software Publishers
              7372-017 - Mobile Applications Software

              Best,
              Ewen
              You get billed on the app because it's a convenient way to use your charge card without having the driver deal with charge cards...the money minus the Uber fee goes to the driver who is considered a private contractor.

              Uber also offers their own credit card that gives you perks.
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  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    I wonder how many could identify a target audience
    for these 2 products, within an hour...

    1 Hand made young girls silk dresses?

    2 Private jet leasing company?

    A copywriter is setting himself/herself up for failure if their
    client is sending a promo to a bad audience selection.

    Back to those 2 examples...

    I've found a list of women who have spent $150 or more on a girls dress
    and have bought more than one and the last purchase was in the last month.

    I can rent and may even be able to buy that list.

    I can get a list of all the non commercial jet owners
    and cross-reference with those that subscribe to the Robb Report.

    Now we can offer an upgrade, buy back offer to these private jet owners.

    The ad sales guy who sold ad space in a in-flight magazine
    for business class got me to write an ad for his client,
    a seller of helicopters for biz executives.

    It was a perfect match.

    Biz executives flying across country doing deals and staying out of town,
    therefore away from family.

    The message was about that.

    Same with selling jet lag pills.

    What better audience than those captive on a flight who will also have jet lag.

    Wrote the ad for those pills.

    Perfect audience to message to product match.

    It would be interesting to know how many on this forum have a go-to
    reference to find lists of buyers they can do more in-depth research on?

    I say buyers not suspects.

    And not any buyers, knowing how much they spent, frequency and when last spent.

    It's like raiding the buyer files of other companies.

    How many can honestly say they can do this?

    Best,
    Ewen
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    • Profile picture of the author GordonJ
      Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

      I wonder how many could identify a target audience
      for these 2 products, within an hour...

      1 Hand made young girls silk dresses?

      2 Private jet leasing company?

      A copywriter is setting himself/herself up for failure if their
      client is sending a promo to a bad audience selection.

      Back to those 2 examples...

      I've found a list of women who have spent $150 or more on a girls dress
      and have bought more than one and the last purchase was in the last month.

      I can rent and may even be able to buy that list.

      I can get a list of all the non commercial jet owners
      and cross-reference with those that subscribe to the Robb Report.

      Now we can offer an upgrade, buy back offer to these private jet owners.

      The ad sales guy who sold ad space in a in-flight magazine
      for business class got me to write an ad for his client,
      a seller of helicopters for biz executives.

      It was a perfect match.

      Biz executives flying across country doing deals and staying out of town,
      therefore away from family.

      The message was about that.

      Same with selling jet lag pills.

      What better audience than those captive on a flight who will also have jet lag.

      Wrote the ad for those pills.

      Perfect audience to message to product match.

      It would be interesting to know how many on this forum have a go-to
      reference to find lists of buyers they can do more in-depth research on?

      I say buyers not suspects.

      And not any buyers, knowing how much they spent, frequency and when last spent.

      It's like raiding the buyer files of other companies.

      How many can honestly say they can do this?

      Best,
      Ewen
      Thanks Ewen, I would say FEW. Don't know...but doubtful it would be too many.

      I'd like to point out, how, you did this, within my model (not mine, actually it was developed by Ben Suarez) of the FOUR elements.

      PROSPECTS first. Great job on both markets. A list of BUYERS, (girls and silk dresses) and with the old world gold standard of RECENTLY and FREQUENTLY.

      I bet you were chomping at the bit with this list, how perfect is it?

      And a marketer would find a source of silk dresses, silk scarf, silk handbags...a matching product of some sort, then create their

      PROMOTION. Depending on the list source, maybe a direct mail piece, with sheet catalog of silk products, or if online, maybe an email.

      Which would then determine the MEDIA to use.

      Even more perfect is the captive audience, what a great fit, message to market.

      Thanks for showing us all, that COPYWRITING is just one component of a successful campaign.

      It is still important, but the other ducks need to be lined up too before we pull the trigger.

      I'd bet you and a handful of other copywriters could create a successful promotion and find a product, for any list of BUYERS, especially those who buy frequently, recently and with higher dollar amounts where money is no objection. How sweet life can be then, eh?

      GordonJ
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      • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
        [QUOTE=GordonJ;11418828]

        Recency is one that defies logic for many,
        if they get to hear about the term.

        They think if those on the list have recently purchased
        they won't buy again for a while.

        Fortunately for us, decades of others money has gone into testing
        this theory.

        They are more likely to buy again a similiar product.

        That is why list owners get a premium for that sub set of buyers.

        PROSPECTS first. Great job on both markets. A list of BUYERS, (girls and silk dresses) and with the old world gold standard of RECENTLY and FREQUENTLY.



        PROMOTION. Depending on the list source, maybe a direct mail piece, with sheet catalog of silk products, or if online, maybe an email.

        An important tip for list selection is which media did they buy from.

        For example if they bought off a tv informercial,
        then they are not good prospects to buy off direct mail.

        If your audience is over 65, then newspapers and direct mail
        is the ideal option.


        The reason is not because they aren't on Facebook,
        because they are, it's because newspaper and direct mail,
        is their media they buy from.

        These are foundations rooted in decades of billions of dollars in testing.

        Not a quick trick that vaporizes next month.

        Best,
        Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author max5ty
    Anyways, Gordon, thanks for your post.

    I do wonder about some so called "artists".

    I think the real secret is in the marketing.

    A nobody can market themselves into being a real "artist".

    I'm a firm believer that a copywriter should also have a firm grasp of marketing.

    Some of the so-called great copywriters of today aren't so great, but they know how to use good marketing effectively.

    Thanks for your post.
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    • Originally Posted by max5ty View Post

      Anyways, Gordon, thanks for your post.

      Thanks for your post.
      Likewise.

      Whenevah ima scoutin' the forum & I seen you said sumthin', my ANTI-DRIVEL alarm kinda fires up big time.

      Plus also, comment trail slipstreamin' out from yr POV is also way illuminer than, say ... droppin' deep into MIND WARRIORS territory.
      Signature

      Lightin' fuses is for blowin' stuff together.

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