What's Your Take on Customer Service as a Copywriter?

by Iconik
15 replies
Every now and then I like to rummage through the
Archives of the 'The Gary Halbert Letter' and read
through a couple editions.

I usually gain some new insights by doing this. This
time, however, I came across some info about how
Gary conducted business as a copywriter that I
thought would make for useful discussion.

Here is the quote that spawned this thread...

Back in the old days, when I used to have the time and inclination to take on new clients, my standard fee was an up-front payment of $15,000 plus 5% of all gross revenues I was able to generate for that client. I could have gotten much more than $15,000 up-front from many of my clients however, I didn't feel right about it. You see, in my mind, if a guy paid me $30,000 or $40,000 up-front to write an ad for him... and... if my ad failed to generate a profit, it would create such a feeling of guilt and be of such an emotional cost for me, it would be too much of a burden to carry around.

On the other hand, charging anything less than $15,000 up-front would have been foolhardy on my part. Why? Simply because I can always be guaranteed many times that amount of money by putting my efforts into writing a good sales letter to my own in-house proprietary mailing lists.

By the way, my deal with clients also stipulated, if my original ad failed to work, I would write a second ad. If that second ad failed to work, I would write a third. After that, we'd call it quits and the client would be out $15,000... and... I would be out an enormous amount of research, time, energy and work I could have spent elsewhere.

The few times my ads have failed to work, it was almost always because the client was trying to sell something the public didn't want to buy. Honestly though, there were times I just couldn't come up with a piece of copy which would make everything work. Like I said earlier, it happens to everybody. If you choose copywriting as your career... I want you to know... it will also happen to you.

~Gary Halbert, The Gary Halbert Letter~
The Question:

How do you handle ads that don't make the cut
and what is your rule regarding customer service
and rewrites?

Mike
#copywriter #customer #service
  • Profile picture of the author dtendrich
    Hey Mike,

    Excellent question man. I'm trying to remember some movie or book I read recently where the guy said he used to idolize certain people until he realized that everyone's just guessing. That's really the best you can do in certain situations.

    (With that said - here's my current best guess...)

    The few times this has happened to me, the first thing I've done is talk to the client about how they're using the copy.

    Sometimes people aren't driving the right traffic to it, etc.

    I tell them after we make sure we're getting targeted traffic to it - if it still doesn't convert we can talk about doing some editing / re-writing. At this point generally two things have happened:

    One... They're too lazy to put my suggestions to use and the whole thing gets dropped (aka they just don't write me back / call me back).

    Two... I'm unsure of whether they've put my suggestions to use, and I don't hear from them about it (I assume they get caught up with their busy lives and placed it on the shelf of "I'll get to it later".)

    I've honestly never had a client come back and say, "David, I put what you said to use and it's still not converting." If they did I'd gladly talk to them about re-writing (well, not gladly cause it's a pretty harsh ego blow to not get it right the first time... but you get the drift)

    But Gary's right. Sometimes no matter how hard you try your copy just doesn't make the cut. I think it's awesome that he had the balls to admit that.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    David
    Signature
    Copywriting Tips, internet marketing jargon, thoughts, and rants by me.

    Atlanta Copywriter, serving clients worldwide.

    Write your life.
    David Tendrich
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2178803].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author Iconik
      Hi David,

      Thank you for sharing that, very insightful.

      Particularly the part about driving the right traffic to the offer.

      Often, we overlook the fact that first and foremost a
      copywriter is a direct response marketer.

      What I mean by this, is that an understanding of the
      direct response system which your copy will be "plugged"
      into is just as important as the copy itself.

      In fact almost every top level copywriter says the same
      thing...

      A strong offer directed at a group of well targeted prospects
      can pull great results even with weak copy.

      But, even great copy cannot overcome a weak offer
      or non-interested prospects.

      (i.e. you can have the best copy in the world with perfect appeal,
      offer and premium, but if your offer is for racing tires and your
      sending your mailing to dentists, you'll miss every time.)

      I think it's great that you know this and make an effort
      to address this before attempting to rewrite your copy.

      Knowledge of this doesn't only save you time and effort as
      far as rewriting is concerned. If you work closely with your
      clients you can help them to improve response even if your
      copy is already pulling well. Which provides 2 distinct
      benefits to you..

      1. By helping your clients to improve response outside of the
      copy you're able to offer a better service than other copywriters.

      2. By improving your conversion rates through better targeting
      you are able to show better numbers to prospects who are
      interested in your service.

      Which translates to more new and repeat business.

      Mike
      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179010].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Enthusiastic
    I like that quote from Gary Halbert. I also like Bob Bly's policy: If the client pays the bill on time and is not completely delighted, Bob will make any changes they want for 30 days at no additional charge; but this does not include revisions to the nature of the assignment after Bob did the work. You can find his exact contract language in some of his books.

    Chris
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179381].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
      I must be cut from a different bolt of cloth or something.

      Whether it's clickthroughs, orders, optins, etc. I stick with the project until it performs at acceptable levels.

      In my world, I do not abandon an under-performing piece I wrote or strategized. If the Client paid me good money, they deserve me to see it through and all will get an education.

      You can probably call it bullheadedness or pride of authorship. But once I take something on, I rarely abandon without good cause. I do not sell words, I sell results.

      Unlike direct mail where it's costly to test and re-test, online, my attitude is easily and cheaply afforded. You just work at the piece until it sings for the Client.

      - Rick Duris

      PS: Those folks who have experienced my attitude know I am a bit of a perfectionist.

      Of course, I do not hit it out of the park every time. Fact of the matter is I course correct if I am working in a new market or with a new Client.

      But I will ultimately have my way and that piece will perform.


      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179558].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Iconik
        Hi Rick,

        I think that you share that attitude with most
        great direct response copywriters.

        It is almost a hallmark of successful people in
        any industry in fact.

        I would not want to work with a client or
        partner who does not take personal ownership
        of their work or business nor one who does not
        feel that the quality of their work is, at least
        in part, a reflection of themselves.

        This really is the chasm that separates great
        work from mediocre work. It's also an important
        aspect of customer satisfaction which leads to
        bigger profits.

        Thanks for sharing that Rick.

        Mike
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179617].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author dtendrich
        Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

        I must be cut from a different cloth or something.

        Whether it's clickthroughs, orders, optins, etc. I stick with the project until it performs at acceptable levels.

        In my world, I do not abandon an under-performing piece I wrote or strategized. If the Client paid me good money, they deserve me to see it through and all will get an education.

        You can probably call it bullheadedness or pride of authorship. But once I take something on, I rarely abandon without good cause. I do not sell words, I sell results.

        Unlike direct mail where it's costly to test and re-test, online, my attitude is easily and cheaply afforded. You just work at the piece until it sings for the Client.

        - Rick Duris

        PS: Those folks who have experienced my attitude know I am a bit of a perfectionist.

        Of course, I do not hit it out of the park every time. Fact of the matter is I course correct if I am working in a new market or with a new Client.

        But I will ultimately have my way and that piece will perform.


        Hey,

        Totally agree, which is exactly what I was getting at. I bend over backwards to try to help them - but what I find is most of the time they don't take me up on it.

        My guess is either things started working, they didn't implement what I suggested, or they were too lazy or too backed up to implement it.

        I take it very personally when something I write doesn't pull. So I try to make it right.

        But all I can do is make the effort - if someone doesn't take me up on it then I let it go and move on to bigger and better things.

        David
        Signature
        Copywriting Tips, internet marketing jargon, thoughts, and rants by me.

        Atlanta Copywriter, serving clients worldwide.

        Write your life.
        David Tendrich
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179839].message }}
      • Profile picture of the author Rezbi
        Originally Posted by RickDuris View Post

        I must be cut from a different bolt of cloth or something.

        Whether it's clickthroughs, orders, optins, etc. I stick with the project until it performs at acceptable levels.

        In my world, I do not abandon an under-performing piece I wrote or strategized. If the Client paid me good money, they deserve me to see it through and all will get an education.

        You can probably call it bullheadedness or pride of authorship. But once I take something on, I rarely abandon without good cause. I do not sell words, I sell results.

        Unlike direct mail where it's costly to test and re-test, online, my attitude is easily and cheaply afforded. You just work at the piece until it sings for the Client.

        - Rick Duris

        PS: Those folks who have experienced my attitude know I am a bit of a perfectionist.

        Of course, I do not hit it out of the park every time. Fact of the matter is I course correct if I am working in a new market or with a new Client.

        But I will ultimately have my way and that piece will perform.


        I prefer to work this way, too, which is why I like to pick jobs I know stand a decent chance of making money.
        {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2180100].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Mr. Enthusiastic
    Rick, I also admire your attitude.

    Both the gurus I referred to gave a lot of extra work before giving up.
    But they did, eventually, give up now and then.
    Both have discussed a few client-from-hell horror stories... and a few times that it seems things should have worked, but they never did.

    At what point would you feel OK about saying that a project simply isn't going to work, as far you can tell?
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2179831].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author power88
    The great Eugene Schwartz said that he had a high failure rate. You can't always hit a home run. Ain't gonna' happen. If a client pays a high enough fee, I offer two revisions within a certain time frame. If they low ball me, I might give them one minor revision within three days. I even offer a single draft version with no revisions for the el cheapos. Unless the client pays an enormous sum, don't offer to do more than one to three revisions within a certain time frame. Moreover, after a certain number of revisions and/or rewrites, you've done all you can.
    Signature

    http://www.susannahutcheson.com
    http://www.copythatconverts.com
    http://www.powerwriting.com

    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2211697].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author DCromwell
    I'm a stickler for service because I want clients to keep coming back. I have an ex-wife, that's more than enough grudges against me. I don't see any way that a copywriter can make guarantee's. Period.

    There are far too many factors involved right down the other content they have surrounding the content that's being produced. Hell, one garbage image on a page can completely ruin it for conversions. Buyers are fragile.

    With that said, I offer similar revisions to my own clients as Halbert stated but I'm right there next to Rick. I try to keep providing revisions until we hit something that works but I won't ever claim responsibility for conversion issues. I know that my copy is only a small part of it. I do everything I can ahead of time to make sure my clients are successful with the copy I create, and I cover a variety of topics with them both before and after.

    That includes placement of the copy & how it's used, the content surrounding it (images, other written content, sidebar content), ease of navigation within the site, the keywords being used and most important the traffic.

    dtendrich mentioned this as well and I'll agree that some clients just don't pull their weight and I won't keep at it if they aren't doing their share to sell their stuff. I discuss targeted traffic before work even begins because I want to know what the client has planned to make sure they're marketing properly. I've gotten everything from "I don't know" to a detailed 5 year plan that makes my wallet cry.

    If they don't have a clue on the marketing to get the right traffic, or they need some tweaking, then I network with some Marketing agencies that I trust to handle my clients and I make the referral. Eventually, everyone ends up happy.

    I think it helps to make sure everyone is on the same page up front so that the client understands your copy is only a small part of the machine. We can't be held responsible for a failed campaign.
    Signature

    We do amazing things with words - http://www.thunderbaymedia.net


    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2211757].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author travlinguy
    Everything has to be taken in context.

    New writers will usually take on any project that offers payment. Those projects are often doomed for failure right from the start for various reasons. Those reasons may include but are not limited to:
    • Piss poor niche market research on the part of the client (In other words, there may be absolutely no demand for the product or the product is priced out of the range of reality)
    • The client has no idea who or where his market is
    • The client is stubborn and wants it done his (or her) way without regard to the writer's experience or ability in wanting to tweak the project into profitability
    • The client changes his or her mind multiple times during the writing stage
    • The actual product quality sucks in FLASHING BOLD RED NEON and even with the best copy available, the return rate is OUT OF THIS FCUKING WORLD
    I could go on but I won't. Bottom line, I screen clients. And if they have a product that has a chance I'll do anything I have to get it profitable. That includes as many re-writes as it takes. But I rarely have to do re-writes because through experience, I recognize most of the warning signs of a crappy product or a poorly conceived venture and won't take the assignment.

    And... after years of experience I find (and this part has become simple) that if the client is completely clueless, I don't take the assignment.
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2211809].message }}
    • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
      This week I had a coaching Client who was writing for his Client. It was a time-sensitive product launch.

      The copywriter is more than competent for the work he does.

      Initially, he asked for my opinion on his copy, I gave him some ideas. And we both thought given the market, and the copy, we would be fine. Of course, there are always limitations and restrictions, nothing is ever perfect, but the man did his best work.

      When the product launched, the feedback from the market was bad. Very bad. And my Client was looking for a lifeline.

      Now many copywriters would normally throw up their hands and say "It's must be graphics!" or "The traffic is untargeted." Or whatever the excuse as to why the piece wasn't converting.

      For me, when this kind of thing happens, and believe me it does, I smile to myself.

      Because we are about to learn something incredible--I just don't know what it is yet.

      But what we all want is copy that converts at acceptable levels.

      So as a part of customer service, I submit you have to become competent at "conversion"--AFTER you write the copy. That HAS to be a part of your offering. Even if you don't explicitly state.

      In this instance, with the piece for the product launch, we rewrote the headline and we pulled all the testimonials because they were not up to snuff. Then we added copy to clarify why there were no testimonials. And then, we added a short personal video.

      That did the trick. The Client was happy.

      Now, I'll never know who the ultimate Client is, because frankly it's none of my business. But it was extremely fun turning around a piece that wasn't working in just a couple of hours.

      This happens to me daily and is a part of my "service."

      On this part of the Warrior Forum, there is ample opportunity to hone your conversion skills. The ideas from the people who contribute are amazing. All should be tested. (Except the ones that are really gross--like from Kevin or Malcolm.

      It's one thing to have great customer service skills and values, but even if you suck at those, all will be forgiven if you can noodle some ideas to immediately improve conversion.

      I'm lucky. I can do that. And you really can do it too with a bit of practice.

      - Rick Duris

      {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2211973].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author Iconik
    Thanks for your input guys. Great stuff.

    It's important to note that the great copywriters of our
    industry where first and foremost brilliant direct response
    marketers before being great copywriters.

    I believe it was Halbert who said that he turned down
    9 out of every 10 clients that wanted to work with
    him.

    Which is a major contributing factor to his success and
    legend. Choosing to work with only those businesses who
    already have a winning plan in place, ensured that he would
    drastically increase his odds of "hitting it out of the park".

    Pilots don't fly until they've done a walk-around to ensure
    the flight worthiness of their aircraft...

    Pro card players don't bet on a weak hand...

    and...

    Great copywriters don't work with clients who are setup to
    fail.

    It's about stacking the odds in your favor and then going
    "all in". Giving it everything you've got in order to make
    the piece a real winner.

    This is what separates the guys making the money and those
    still messing around with small bills.

    You can only command big bucks if you provide top-level
    response. And you can only get top-level response if the
    product or service your selling is positioned to make sales
    and keep customers happy. Otherwise...

    Your stacking the odds against you.

    I'm continually impressed with men like Gary Halbert and
    Dan Kennedy, not because they where great copywriters
    but becuase they where (and are) great marketers.
    Check this out...

    Both of these men regularly held (Kennedy still does)
    seminars on marketing and product development. These
    seminars often included attendees who are not
    copywriters, but business owners.

    Do you see the genius behind this?

    They weren't only making massive fungolas (Gary's term
    not mine) from these events, they where literally creating
    a better pool of clients!

    Many of these attendees would seek them out as
    copywriters and consultants for their own projects.
    And because they had taught these clients how to...

    *Target an affluent wealthy market of buyers

    *Effectively position their products and services

    *And to develop an offer that would ensure them sales

    they where increasing their odds of success. Is it any
    wonder why they always have a pool of eager clients to
    work with?

    Please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that skill in
    copywriting isn't important, it is. Without knowing how
    to craft a sales letter that get's response you risk
    doing more damage than good for your client. However...

    Make sure your clients are doing as much to make the
    sale on their end, as you are. Like pro ball players,
    be concerned with your stats...

    Because, your potential clients are.

    Mike
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2212016].message }}
  • Profile picture of the author mccflo99
    Scenario #1 - You wrote copy that didn't convert when shown to targeted visitors and you need to re-write it.

    Scenario #2 - You wrote good copy and the customer is sending sub-par traffic to the ad.

    Unfortunately, many projects stemming out of the warrior forum are with people who are completely new and have never successfully marketed a business. This also usually means that they don't know what they're doing when sending traffic to the sales message.

    If you're doing any kind of steady work, and you're working with people new to marketing a business, you will have some people complain about response after sending sub-traffic to your sales message. You have two options to deal with this...

    1) You need to screen your clients better and make sure you're working with someone who knows how, and has the ability to get targeted, quality visitors to the sales message you create. This is what I do.

    2) You need to be prepared to do an audit of the traffic source and work with the client to either improve the copy to convert to that traffic source or make suggestions as to where they can find higher quality traffic while explaining the importance of traffic quality. Don't want to offer to help get the response up? No problem. They won't be buying from you again and they will be spreading the word.

    Chris Elliott
    Signature
    Copywriter With High Profile References...
    Click Here >>> Copywriter
    Personal Blog (Music Reviews, Bad Business, Poetry)...
    Click Here >>> http://www.ibechris.com
    {{ DiscussionBoard.errors[2212535].message }}

Trending Topics