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What every copywriter doesn’t want you to know

Don’t tell anyone I revealed this. I’ll get enemies left and right. But here’s the reason I always talk about missing 20% of your best opportunities. Because even the best copy only accounts for 20% of your results. There are two other factors that are twice as important: Your list, and an offer.

But before you even get started writing copy, or especially before hiring someone else to write copy for you, get clear on the two things that may account for up to 80% of your marketing success: The right offer to the right people.

Be the demanding client for a moment, and let’s see how this works.

The backpacker principle

Suppose you’ve earned some free time, and you want to do something special. You’ve always wanted to go backpacking in the remote parts of Hawaii. You want to climb volcanoes and watch them erupt at night. Hey, you’re even going to sleep in a lava tube if you get the chance.

Four hundred travel agents are competing for your business. But they’re not all on a level playing field. After some initial research, you start getting emails from 100 travel agents that are based in Hawaii, and specialize in travel there.

Which one will you choose? Out of 100 possible agents, fifty of them advertise on outdoor adventure websites. You now have 50 agencies that specialize in outdoor Hawaiian adventures. They know where to find the most comfortable lava tube beds. They can get your camping gear safely on and off the plane, and bring you to the best trailhead.

Ten of these companies are offering special discounts or premiums for the month you want to travel. Guess what? Out of 400 competitors, these 10 are the only ones in the running, based on choosing the right list and the right offer.

Who will be the winner? Assuming the 10 finalists offer comparable value, then and only then will the copywriting make a difference.

What the research says

A lot of market research over the last 30 years has produced the same conclusion. Getting the client is 40% list-building, 40% the offer, and only 20% the copy. A good copywriter will help you write a good offer, and could therefore contribute 60% to your success. But finding the right list is critical. Don’t waste your time selling lava tubes to clients who want a 5 star hotel.

Does copywriting still matter?

These are tough times. There are still plenty of people spending money, but everyone is more careful about where and how they spend it. Focusing on a narrow list is critical. (You can have multiple lists, but you need to market to each one separately.) Constructing a worthwhile offer is vital.

But then, in the end, when you’ve done all your hard work and research and you’ve made the right offer to the right market, all of your efforts can go to waste. Because when you’ve fought your way into that last handful of carefully-selected candidates, you’re competing with businesses that did all of their homework too. You’re up against the toughest and smartest competitors, and they’re going to fight you with everything they’ve got.

This is when you need a copywriter at your back.

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