“An Open Letter From Kevin Halbert To Anyone
Who Wants Or Needs To Hire A Great Copywriter"
If you are looking to hire a copywriter... what you are about to read might rub you the wrong way, but I believe in the end, you will come to appreciate what I'm going to reveal to you, because very few people talk about it in the naked light of day.
First. let me start off by saying, the way I'm going to show you how to go about hiring a copywriter is very close, if not exactly, how the biggest players in direct response advertising structure their business relationships. When I say players, I'm talking about ten and hundred million dollar relationships.
And the same should be true of entry level players, as you'll soon see.
A copywriter is the rain maker. He's that all important thread that connects your products and services with your prospects and makes the sale.
A Good Product Doesn't Sell Its Self,
Even Viagra And Apple Advertise
Don't ever expect the public to appreciate your product the way you do. Or that the world will flock to your door no matter what copywriter you hire.
You should view the copywriter as a hired gun, he's the one who brings in the money for your accountant to count.
He should be treated with the same respect as anyone who can actually make it rain and...
There is no such thing as a natural born copywriter!
It takes years of experience to become truly world class,
Every great copywriter has something seriously wrong with him.
They are obsessive masochists, consuming an endless amount of dry information on copywriting, salesmanship and all manner of marketing. Yet they eat it up and can't ever seem to get enough. Like a golfer, they will live out their lives constantly perfecting their craft, always persuing a lower score. They may be far ahead of the pack but they won't stop until they shoot an 18... the learning never ends.
So unless there is something seriously wrong with you, I would strongly suggest that you are much better off hiring a copywriter than adding more work to your already busy day and delaying your turn around time to success.
If you are relatively new to copywriting, it will cost you more in time and lost revenue to study and write highly effective copy yourself.
And as I'll soon prove to you, even if you do write profitable copy, you'll kick yourself once you realize how much money you might be leaving on the table if you had done things just a little bit differently.
In a minute, I will show you how just a modest increase in conversion can more than double your profits. An increase so significant, it would have easily paid for a top copywriter's fee and put more bottom line money in your personal pocket than if you skipped hiring him and kept all the money for yourself.
Finding a copywriter is easy... very easy.
Finding a great one is a whole different story.
Recently I was invited into a $15,000.00 mastermind group and someone told me they get their copywriting done by hiring people on fiverr.com . Just in case you don't know, Fiverr is a site where you can hire people to do tasks for $5... incredible. Anyone can write an ad, few can write a good one, and even fewer can write a great one.
Warning: When you hire a discount copywriter you are doing him a favor, because he is using your money to test his copy.
Listen, no copywriter can look you straight in the eye, and guarantee you success. But if you are going to put your money down and take a spin, what kind of odds do you want to have?
Personally, I'd go for the machine that pays out more often than not.
I really wouldn't want to take a chance on an unknown who might miss the mark... making me ask myself if it was the ad or something else, and wondering if I should give up pursuing it any further, when a proven copywriter has a much better chance of knocking it out of the park on the first try.
Contrary to what you might think... just because you have money doesn't mean good copywriters need you... no my friend... you need a good copywriter to let you into his schedule. Sounds arrogant, it's just the simple truth and there isn't much use in pussy footing around it.
Copywriters sell their time, and good ones have more clients trying to hire them than they have time, so when it comes to hiring one, the copywriter must believe in the potential of the project and in most cases it must have the potential to have a big front end and... even better... a back end.
Because great copywriters usually have a line of people willing to pay their up front fee, they must choose wisely which client to take on. With all things being equal (everyone willing to pay his fee) the copywriter must now choose which client to take on. He is most likely to base his decision on three factors.
- The first thing he is going to factor is how much money does the project potentially offer him above and beyond his fee. This includes how much of the gross profits the client is willing to share (usually anywhere from 1%-5%, but it can also vary greatly depending on things like profit margins and the amount of work involved).
Think about it. How would you choose your clients?
- The writer will also consider the "back end" potential of the project, meaning is there a continued relationship with the client where he can write additional copy to sell more products and services to existing customers that he will also get a piece of.
It's much easier to write additional copy for a project he's already familiar with than trying to get up to speed on a new one.
- The other big factor is whether the copywriter likes the subject matter. A copywriter may feel burnt out on a particular type of business, others will prefer writing for the same types of business because they already know what it takes to make sales.
It's best to choose a copywriter who has had success writing for a particular niche and still loves writing about it. And never assume because a copywriter wrote a winner for one product or service, they can write a winner for another. Gary could write for just about any, but that is rare.
Another piece of advice:
Don't tell a copywriter money is no object. That's a sure sign money is a big object. And definitely don't tell him there is plenty of money but its all tied up right now, and then ask him if they can look past that and get started right away.
You should be cautious of a copywriter who goes along with these kinds of offers... it's a good sign he doubts his skills, and knowingly or not, he is going to be using your money to test out his theories.
The most expensive copywriter is one that doesn't bring in the money, and discount copywriters are the ones most likely to charge you the least for their services.
With everything riding on your business, many times even the most expensive copywriter, is the smallest risk and the most important investment you can make.
Any writer worth his salt is going to charge you 1/2 if not all of his fee up front and require the remainder just before delivery of the finished copy.
Don't expect a top copywriter to write for free for a larger part of the back end, because your project is a sure winner and has "a lot of potential." Never say he'll get paid his up front fee later with the profits he generates with his work. A good copywriter has been around the block a time or two … and have seen his share of “opportunities.” Please excuse the following double negative... but. This is not to say that some copywriters don't do something similar. Some A-List copywriters actually will make this type of deal, but the copywriter is making A LOT more money and is in such instances, is not being hired, but instead essentially own's a piece of the business.
Paying a copywriter up front shows him you are serious. And you want him to insist on you paying him up front. It shows that he has confidence in his abilities and will not waste his time on people who aren't serious players.
The highest paid copywriters in the world are paid by the people who fully understand their true value. And, the companies who pay the most money for copywriters make the most money in direct marketing... period.
Richard Stanton-Jones of Phillips Publishing once told Gary that nobody makes more money in that company than the copywriters, except, for the owner, Tom Phillips. The reason being: They are the ones that bring in the money.
A good copywriter knows his worth and any project can go tits up and taking on water for a million different reasons. None of which are under his control. A copywriter's only assurance he is going to get paid, is when he actually has the upfront money in his hands. Most importantly, it allows him to focus all of his attention on the project, and frees him up from wondering if he's going to get paid, and if he shouldn't have put his time and attention into something else.
If a client doesn't have to pay up front, neither he nor the copywriter feels a real obligation to follow through. A client who pays half up front has to look deep inside himself and measure his conviction that the project he is hiring the copywriter for is viable. It's easy to kid yourself and others when you have nothing to lose. Money always makes for a sober conversation.
Want to know how to really piss off a copywriter? Don't run the ad campaign he poured his heart and soul into. Like someone hired to build a plane, even though he got paid, he wants to see that sucker fly.
It only makes sense that a copywriter will work a lot harder for the client if he is getting a piece of the profits. Giving him a piece of the profits motivates him to get you more clients and more sales... he works harder to bring you more money so he can have a piece of it. Offering a piece of the profits can motivate a copywriter to strive for absolute perfection.
Think about it, if you only pay a copywriter a flat fee, he only has to sell one person... YOU.
All he has to do is take your first payment... go write you some good copy and come back to you with it to collect the other half.
And... when it comes to you, he's preaching to the crowd. You believe in what you are offering to the world with all of your being, and may not recognize the seemingly subtle differences that make or break an ad, website or other campaign.
How well the copy works in the real world doesn't matter as much to him if he knows he has already collected all the money he's ever going to get.
Don't get me wrong a good copywriter will work very hard to deliver you a powerful ad... but they will lack the total obsession that permeates every waking moment of their life.
This brings me to another point. A copywriter who is getting a piece of the profits is likely to "urge" you to do some things which might make you feel uncomfortable. This could be anything from making an extra long guarantee, using a headline with a very strong benefit. Or the way his copy sells, makes you feel like he is going to ruin your good reputation. I won't say you should give into everything the copywriter asks of you, but I would suggest that you give until it hurts.
Gary Halbert wrote this about his relationship with John Carlton:
His education with me included convincing famous celebrities to humiliate themselves on camera for obscure ads... telling rooms full of millionaire executives their ideas sucked (and making them like it)... saving corporations from bankruptcy with campaigns we had to whip up overnight (and then "con" the clients into running the ads even though it ran against every fiber of their being).” -Gary Halbert
One of the biggest risks a client can take is to make decisions based on their I.Q. , Education and Common Sense... instead of applying tested and proven marketing techniques.
If you are lucky... your copywriter is going to take a walk on you
Like most human beings, all clients want the copy written yesterday. After all, it's a very naked feeling to put the money out there and have to sit and wait for the copy to come in. But patience is very important when waiting for a copywriter to deliver the goods. The bulk of copy isn't written at the table. A copywriter is working hardest when he looks like he isn't working at all. All his hooks, headlines, closes, story telling and "reasons why" come after he's absorbed a vast amount of facts and information, and is now letting it percolate in his mind. Flashes of brilliance come to him when he is doing such mindless things as driving or taking a walk.
When he first gets to writing, he will spill his guts onto the page and walk away. He will walk away for an evening, a day, perhaps two. This is a very important part of the process, because it allows him forget a good deal of what he wrote and re-visit the copy with "fresh eyes", giving him the chance to more clearly see if the copy still makes sense from the perspective of a new reader. This is the time when he will be able tell if he was following a natural flow and thought process.
Another key to writing copy is to have your ideal customers read the copy. Input from customers can point out obvious flaws and omissions that are hard for the writer and client (you) to identify, because both of you are too close to the subject.
If you want to speed the writing process along, provide the writer with all the research he needs. This includes the competition’s marketing, your past ads (and their results), research studies and books written on the subject. Don't forget that the ad may be based on someone's personal story. Tell him your story, your customers' story, the inventor's story, the conspiracy story, the tragedy, the triumph. Give him anything that might be even slightly relevant.
A note on editing a copywriter's work. There is a famous story of when my dad was told that an ad he wrote for a client failed. And my dad asked the client to show him the ad they ran. Then he informed the client that the ad they ran wasn't the ad he wrote, they had changed it.
He told them...
"You've Spray Painted The Sistine Chapel" - Gary Halbert
Another common thing he used to say was...
"Don't even change one fucking comma of my copy" - Gary Halbert
David Ogilvy said...
"Any fool can write a bad advertisement, but it takes
a genius to keep his hands off a good one."
Copywriters are brought in to do something not even a fraction of one percent of the population can do. They are not interns or even employees, and standing over their shoulder as they write, will quickly end the relationship.
The best copywriter's time is monopolized by clients who afford them the most creative freedom, and the clients are very often richly rewarded for it. John Carlton only agreed to write for the golf and self-defense markets because they gave him carte blanche, and he blazed a trail for years that the competition, taken by surprise, could only try to imitate in a feeble attempt to keep up.
If you and the copywriter have a difference of opinion on the direction the promotion should take, don't dwell on it for too long. What you should do at this point is run a meaningful A/B split test. That is, an apples for apples test (from the same pool of names/prospects), comparing what you think is the best approach against that of the copywriter's. Your test, if possible, should be to a list of people no smaller than two thousand names (1000 for your version and 1000 of the copywriter's suggestions).
As the Legendary Claude Hopkins said:
"This puts men on their mettle. All guesswork is eliminated.
Every mistake is conspicuous. One quickly loses his conceit by learning
how often his judgment errs – often nine times out of ten."
When the copywriter is in for a piece of the action he is less likely to shine you on, and is more likely to persuade you to operate within the realm of reality, and do what actually works. You may look at him all the time wondering whose side is he on. But when the money comes tumbling in you'll look upon him as one of the most valuable business relationships you have, and see him for the rain maker he truly is.
There's a very important hazard you must be careful about when working with a copywriter, it is a common mistake a few business owners make. You see, after a copywriter creates a winning campaign and everything is humming along nicely, after some time has passed, someone will come up to you and ask you why you are still sending money to someone who did work for you over a year ago. And you'll start to wonder yourself, and you'll forget he doesn't work for you, he works with you. And unless he's written an ad like "The Lazy Man's Way to Riches" the promotion is eventually going to die and you are going to have to either create an updated promotion, go after a different 3%, sell to a new market entirely, or get a job.
(I'm going to tell you about the 3% shortly).
Short changing a copywriter will always get out in the back channels.You would not believe how quickly this chain of communication works.
A copywriter will never tell a potential client they know of their bad reputation, and would rather write for the competition. The copywriter won't give them a clue about what they know or where they heard it. They will simply avoid them. They will suddenly be too busy to fit the client into their schedule or just won't pick up the phone. Leaving the client with only B-List copywriters to choose from, copywriters who will be glad to use their client's money and time to test their copy.
Don't be like some, and become a one hit wonder. Take care of your copywriter... he takes care of you. The reverse is also true, if a copywriter stiffs a client and leaves him high and dry, the world will know.
OK, as promised I'm going to show how an increase in response from 1% to 1.3% can, in some cases, more than double your profits.
Let's do some arithmetic Gary Halbert style.
With most paid advertising the product or service owner pays someone to get people's attention and direct it towards your product or service. The person pointing potential customers in your direction is going to charge you on a "PER" basis.
(even search engine optimization has it's costs)
The very important math any good direct response marketer measures is the ROI (Return On Investment). And obviously NET PROFIT.
What you are trying to measure is how much money you had to spend on advertising and how much money you got back in return after expenses.
(By the way this is why info products are what everyone wants to sell. Because it costs little to nothing to reproduce and deliver.)
Let's say you spend $1,000 to advertise your product to 1000 people and you convert 1% of those people into buyers of your $200 product.
1% of 1000 people = 10 (customers)
10 customers X your product ($200) = $2,000
That means for every dollar you spend on marketing you are taking in two. Now for this example that extra dollar you got back isn't pure profit. You have costs (also known as contribution to overhead), whatever they may be.
Where was I, oh yeah, OK so we've taken in an extra dollar for everyone we've sent out, but again that extra dollar isn't pure profit we've got costs such as:
Merchant account fees
Pay Per Click
Pay Per Impression
Letter shop costs
And the list can go on ad nauseum. But for simplicity sake lets just say when all is said and done it costs you $75 to service each of those 10 customers. That means those ten customers cost $750 total in delivering whatever we have sold them.
Let's see where we're at. We took in $2,000 total after spending $1,000. And we've got $750 in fulfillment.
On paper that looks like
$2,000 Gross income
-$1,000 Initial Advertising Investment
=$1,000 left over
Now we've got $750 in fulfillment, so that looks like
= $250 profit
That is, for every $1,000 we spent we took in $2,000 gross. But what really matters is we made $250 profit.
Put another way. For every $1 we spent we made 25 cents (25% net profit).
Now let's imagine we call in our rock star copywriter and he ups response to a measly 1.3%, copywriters have routinely been known to up conversion several hundred percent. But that entirely depends on how bad the copy was to begin with.
Lets get back to that puny .3% increase in response. Truth be told the copywriter is increasing response by 30%
That means we are now getting a 1.3% customer conversion rate.
The key point to remember here is we are still only paying $1000 and we are now getting 13 people to buy instead of only 10.
Lets see how it looks on paper now.
13 customers X $200 (purchase price) = $2,600
Now that's not all profit, we still need to deduct the cost of the product and fulfillment like we did last time.
X $75 (product cost & fulfillment)
Ok lets see where we're at with this new 1.3% response rate.
Now we are taking in $2,600 gross instead of only $2,000.
But $1,000 was spent on advertising so that works out like this:
$2,600 Gross Income
$1,600 Gross Profit
Now we have to deduct the cost of the product and fulfillment, so:
$1,600 Gross Profit
-$975 Fullfillment Costs
$625 Net Profit
Ok, so for the same $1,000 spent we are now making $625 Net Profit
Another way to say it is, for every dollar spent you not only got your dollar back but you also covered all of your costs and made 62.5 cents left over (a 62.5% profit for the same one thousand dollars invested).
Now in the first example we made $250 over the advertising and fulfillment costs for a net profit of 25 cents (25% profit) for every dollar invested.
That means if a copywriter can boost your conversion rate by just .3%, an increase of (a 30 percent increase in gross sales) it would, in this case, more than double your profits. to be more precise it would increase your profits by 250%.
Well, not exactly, because you are a smart cookie and you've thought ahead and you want your star copywriter to take your call while he's off on a year long tour of the world, trying to regain his sanity. So you've been kind and generous enough to give him 5% of gross sales. That means he is going to receive $130.00 for every $2,600 you take in.
Ok, yet again, let's see where we're at. So the copywriter bumped up response by 30%. Instead of making $250 for our luke warm copy we are now making $650, but we are paying him $130 in commissions. So now we are down to $520, (still more than double our profit!).
Truth be told you would actually make more than 200% profit because some of the monthly costs involved with product fullfillment are fixed, like rent, web hosting, and in some cases customer service. These costs don't increase considerably when you increase sales. This is why monthly turn around speed is so important.
It also proves that the longer you take figuring out how to write the best copy, the more money you leave on the table.
Now if you are nit picky, when it comes to calculating your profits from writing your own copy compared to hiring an A-List pro, you've probably not forgotten about the up front fee. Truth be told, neither have I. In the beginning the upfront fee feels very significant, but when you are up and running with a hot campaign it becomes increasingly smaller in the distance.
When you are in the middle of a hot campaign all you will be able to think about is how, for every dollar you send out, a $1.50 net profit comes back, and you will be solely focused on trying to turn the crank faster and faster.
The icing on the cake. Now not only are you growing your business at an exponential rate, but now you are also packing 30% more people on to your customer list. Any savvy marketer will tell you it costs you literally ten times as much to sell something to a new customer than to an existing one. All things being equal, you should pick a business venture that has a larger back end. And in businesses that have enduring relationships with their customers, most of the money isn't made on the first sale.
Now you can see how small increases in conversion can lead to huge increases in profit.
This is the simple secret that every successful direct response marketer knows. And it is why they NEVER STOP TESTING.
That's because they know seemingly small changes can make a big difference to their bank account. And especially when you've got a finite list of HOT LINE leads, you want to make the most of your marketing to them.
As I said before, the biggest mailers pay the most for copywriters, because ultimately, even after they pay the copywriters their fees and royalties, the clients make more money FOR THEMSELVES in the end.
Another way of putting it is to say...
Great Copywriters Sell You Money At A Discount!
So, what makes a great copywriter?
It's not how much YOU like him or his work. It's their ability to effectively communicate with your prospects.
In most cases you are not your customer, and relatively speaking, all ads fail when they are selling to new prospects. What I mean by this is that if an ad converted 3% of the prospects to a sale, that means 97% percent (the vast majority) didn't buy.
It's like panning for gold. And identifying this 3% of your prospects, and knowing what makes them different.... is EVERYTHING!
A great copywriter is able to do what I call....GETTING IN PARALEL... with the customer. A more common way of putting it is... getting in his shoes... or ..... getting in his head. That means knowing how he lives...where he's been... where he wants to go... and what he believes... in order to "speak his language" the language of the 3%.
That means knowing what a potential customer needs to hear in order to be sold and how it needs to be said.
Does your copywriter understand your customers?
Can he get in their shoes and speak their language?
Do you know what good copy looks like?
Here's a simple test... take your ad and show it to some ideal prospects and ask them what they think of it. If they say its a "good" , "great" or "OK" ad... it has failed miserably, and they are only giving you lip service.
A good ad makes the reader say...
“Wow, where can I buy that!”
A good ad produces sales not compliments or awards.
This is no easy task and shouldn't be taken lightly. Remember I said in most cases you aren't your customer. To prove it to you, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to imagine calling up your customers and striking up a conversation with them, and after you start to get a feel for who they are, I want you to imagine how many of them you would be willing to spend the weekend alone with. Probably not many.
But knowing why you wouldn't spend much personal time with them can help you understand your customer better. To young, too old, male, female, single, married, religious, atheist, lazy, greedy, political, smart, stupid, living in the moment, thinking long term, lonely, in love, thin, fat, insecure, giant ego, competitive, charitable, city slicker, hillbilly, country, classical, rock and roll, and on and on.
Many smart marketers reach out to their customers to understand them on a deeper level, and in the end it really pays off.
A good copywriter understands the customer and just how to TALK (write) to them.
The most important indicator of a great copywriter is how much money his ads make compared to others, perhaps someone else you've hired before who only got mild results .
There are a lot of writers who will talk of their runaway blockbuster ad campaigns that brought in an avalanche of cash, when in reality, they wouldn't recognize a good ad if it bit them on the ass, let alone be able to write one.
The other way to know who is a good copywriter is to be well connected in the business to those in the know, who would never ruin their own good reputation endorsing a nobody just because the novice copywriter is a nice guy.
And lastly, great copywriters usually have years of experience studying great copy that speaks to the target audience.
If you are interested in hiring Bond or myself to write your copy for you. Or you would like us to help you find a copywriter, because you have no way to confirm a copywriter's abilities; aren't well connected in the business, or can't tell the subtle differences between mediocre and great copy, write or call us and we'll be glad to try and help you out.
The Prince's Prince of Print
Beware of copywriters that have a college education in advertising or marketing. 99% of people teaching college students don't know a thing about real world direct marketing, and shouldn't be allowed to teach others theory. No successful direct marketer would ever encourage an up and commer to get their marketing education at a traditional college. And a guy wearing a cheap suit and a toupee who repeatedly shows up on late night infomercials will outsell any professor of marketing with a doctorate from the most prestigious college in the country.
You are much better off hiring a professor from the psychology department or a pick-up artist... I'm not kidding.