October 17, 2021

“Do you know a good copywriter? 

”That’s a question I get multiple times a week. 

Of course, the answer is “yes” …however, the answer is not simply knowing them and then throwing names at the people who ask me. 

I’m proud to say that I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best copywriters ever (as a client). 

And I’m currently working with the next generation of copywriters who will become the best ever themselves in the years and decades to come. 

I am not only working with them as a client now but also as a coach inside my Titans Xcelerator mastermind. 

Working and coaching with these rock stars…over the years and now today…has taught me a lot…and a lot of what they do has rubbed off on me despite not turning me into one of them…yet. 🙂 

And I promise to not go down the road (again) about being a copywriter wannabe. 

I just got off the (virtual) stage at the AWAI Bootcamp (which is the annual assembly of the copywriting community) and gave a presentation titled:

Why copy is the least important element of any promotion…until it’s not 

My preamble to this included some of my greatest hits proving why your list (market, media, audience) is far more important than your copy (at the outset of any project) …and why the copy becomes the most important once you have your audience and offer dialed in to the max. 

Those greatest hits (“useful reruns?”) included: 

  • The 41/39/20 rule
  • Why copywriters can never be one dimensional and only “write for food” (i.e., they need to be more like a Swiss Army Knife and not just a writer)
  • “It’s all about the list,” …and everything (i.e., deep research on the market they are writing for) a copywriter needs to do before they put pen to paper.

If you want to read up on any of these concepts, go to my blog page and search by topic.

I also needed to repeat “The Big 7” as part of my introduction as well…the universal traits that make the great ones great…that are not obvious unless you go deep within them.

And without exploring these 7 traits, I couldn’t (and can’t) really tell them if a copywriter is good–or appropriate–for them.

You won’t know it when you meet them without exploring “The Big 7″…or whatever method you invent to ensure that choosing a copywriter is more than a guessing game.

In the P.S. and P.P.S. today I will share a little of what today’s presentation focused on beyond my greatest hits…and I will also let you know about a virtual event where you can find—with proper vetting—a “good copywriter.”

Unlike pornography where “you know it when you see it,” the same cannot be said about world class copywriters.

You have to know the questions to ask and what to look for…and over my 40+ years in direct response marketing, I’ve identified seven (7) characteristics that have been present in EVERY great writer I have ever worked with…in spades.

Another interesting thing I learned after assembling this list:

These seven attributes were also part of the makeup of the best marketers I’ve worked with over the years too.

In either case, copywriter or marketer, it was about more than just talent.

I learned in a journalism class in high school, “showing” rather than “telling” is always more powerful…and the best copywriters and marketers “show” when it’s apparent that they live (and own) their copy and/or product/service.

Here are “The Big 7”, revised from a previous post and enhanced from my presentation today:

1. Hunger

This is tied to “outworking everyone without showing anyone else up.”

That includes working more hours to hone your craft, and it also includes showing your dedication to your occupation, whether in copywriting or marketing.

I’m a believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-Hour Rule”, which posits that the key to achieving mastery in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of approximately 10,000 hours.

Another element of hunger: When you experience success, the first thing you do after a (very) short celebration is “beat the control.”

2. Insatiable curiosity

Nothing replaces curiosity when it comes to being a great copywriter or marketer.

Gene Schwartz showed this with “the power of reading”; Arthur Johnson showed this with “the power of specialization”; Parris Lampropoulos showed this with “the power of immersion;” Gary Bencivenga showed it with “the power of humility (and proof elements)”; Jim Rutz showed it with the “power of whimsy.” Mel Martin showed it with “the power of fascinations.”

And in each case above, I mentioned only one area where these top gun copywriters show their intense curiosity…that is, each is multidimensional with their curiosity…to write the most effective copy by studying human behavior from every angle imaginable.

3. Feedback loops

Who do you hang out with and why?

How do you stay accountable (and not just responsible) to your craft?

The communities you align with to become excellent at anything may be the most important career decision you will ever make…and there is not one copywriter or marketer I know who “goes it alone.”

Being an apprentice to mentors who can show you the way and then surrounding yourself with peers with equal or more talent than yourself is the key.

One of the greats, David Deutsch, is a perfect example of this: When I met him, he was an apprentice to the one and only Jim Rutz; and now he has become one of the top coaches for up-and-coming copywriters–and a colleague of other writers who are his equals so they can continuously compare notes…and copy.

He never stops improving.

And feedback loops include finding peers at your level or above to bounce your copy or ideas off of…and joining mastermind groups or creating accountability groups to get you further faster.

4. Passion

If you start with writing and/or working with a purpose rather than simply for money, you are on the right track.

Maybe you need to pay the rent by working in an area that you are not completely passionate about and that’s OK…but consider using those same writing and marketing skills to pursue a passion in parallel or as a replacement on a regular basis.

If you have to call it “work,” why not create magic in something you are passionate about if at all possible?

The best copywriters usually begin writing within a passion of theirs…get amazingly good at it…and then branch out from there.

Or they just become the world’s best in their passion…when life may move to a different level of fulfillment.

The visual I use when I talk about passion is an upside-down funnel…narrow to wide…and staying narrow is OK (maybe even better) if you can own the niche and not just work inside of it.

5. Understand and apply direct marketing principles

When I spoke about this to the copywriters, the feedback I got was that it all seemed so “intimidating”- talking about concepts like “RFM” (Recency, Frequency, Monetary) and “LTV “(lifetime value of a customer).

The last thing I want to do is intimidate anyone…I only want to give them an unfair advantage over other copywriters competing for the same assignment—turning them into Swiss Army Knives from one dimensional writers.

The same is true when I speak to marketers, especially those in super competitive categories and industries.

Every marketer who reads, studies and absorbs the eternal truths of direct marketing and can apply them to any medium in any situation is also creating an unfair advantage for themselves.

6. Humility

I despise arrogance and hubris…which I hope you will call me out on if you feel it coming from me (which some of you have).

I know I use “I” way too much in these posts, in the spirit of teaching from my experiences, not to brag.

Whether you see it all the time or not, I strive for humility and I love humanity…and as a writer OR marketer, I believe this is a good place to originate…and I can safely say that it has served me well when I stay true to this.

Confidence in your message and how you choose to teach it is not arrogance if expressed properly and conveyed powerfully…I think I know the difference when I see it…although everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I talked about the lesson in grace and humility I learned from Gary Bencivenga and Greg Renker after the epic event, The Titans of Direct Response which was one of the most powerful things that happened to me as a result of the event, (which had nothing to do with direct response marketing).

I wrote about that in detail here.

7. Pride

Having a writing or marketing portfolio is always important…but I purposely put this last so you could see that there were many other attributes we all should strive for (and look for) before showing all of our previous winners.

Clearly the more you write (as a copywriter) or the more you test (as a marketer), the more lessons you will learn on the field of play–and the larger your “portfolio” will be whether it’s full of copywriting controls or successful marketing campaigns.

Simply put, recognizing in others…and creating in yourself…the attributes of hunger, curiosity, getting honest feedback, passion, accumulating direct marketing knowledge…all with a huge dose of humility and pride, come way before your resume, samples, portfolio or C.V.

That’s an excellent formula for becoming a world class copywriter or marketer.



P.S. The angle I took for my AWAI presentation, Why copy is the least important element of any promotion…until it’s not, was to focus on two aspects of “The Big 7.”

Specifically, where your insatiable curiosity intersects with your knowledge of key direct marketing fundamentals…while adding in a healthy dose of your gut instinct.

It seemed to go over well despite delivering the speech on Zoom to a screen with only my PowerPoint on it…and not being able to see my audience (they could have all been asleep for all I knew)!

But I will imagine that they were all enthralled. 🙂

I spoke about the four ways a copywriter becomes a “list guy” and that these tasks are not optional:

  1. Find a list guy or gal and learn everything from him or her.
  2. Explore all resources to define your market including adapting rules of thumb AND using as many outside tools at your disposal (feel free to use the Internet). Do the deep research.
  3. Add your gut instinct and experiences (which are always welcome) to your transformation.
  4. Sprinkle in some Gene Schwartz to stimulate your gut instinct, enhance those experiences, and add on to all of your deep research for true breakthrough advertising.

If AWAI ever gives me a copy of the presentation, I promise to share it with you. I would really like to know what you think of it.

I still won’t be able to see you when you are watching it…but I know you will give me candid feedback. 🙂

P.P.S. Speaking of AWAI…and finding good copywriters…

As part of the second week of the Bootcamp I spoke at, they are hosting what they are calling “Marketer Spotlight Roundtables,” helping the companies I work with (and the ones you all work with too) to find new copywriters.

Go here for all the details.

Whether you’re looking for a new copywriter to work with or an experienced pro with a proven track record, they can introduce you to your next “go-to writer”:

  • Direct-response experts, content specialists, social media experts, web copy specialists, B2B experts — they’ll all be in attendance.
  • Need full-time or part-time in-house copywriters? This is the place to find them.

This event will be the largest gathering of freelance copywriters anywhere with a huge variety of experience and expertise in all types of media and niche industries.

It’s free to participate…and the folks at AWAI are wonderful to work with. It’s taking place October 20th through the 22nd.

Just go here for all of the details and to sign up.

And don’t forget to ask probing questions based on “The Big 7.” 🙂

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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