After spending the last week at Titans Mastermind with some of the best copywriters I know (including John Carlton, Mark Ford, David Deutsch, Marcella Allison, Caleb O’Dowd, Lori Haller, Jon Benson, Traian Sava, various folks from Agora), I am more convinced than ever that being a great copywriter is not just reserved for those who have it listed at the top of their resumes.
While the folks I mentioned have super powers most of us can only dream to have one day, for the rest of us to simply throw our arms up and to say, “I am not a copywriter” or “I wish I knew how to write,” is just not acceptable anymore.
I talked briefly last week about how I have spent my entire career calling myself a “copywriter wannabe” and it wasn’t until I got called out on such a lame statement by many of you that I got off my butt and realized that I didn’t need to go to the “copywriting store” to create great copy and that I could go shopping in my head much more than I ever imagined.
More on getting called out in a minute.
But I had clues years ago which were all reinforced this past week…and here’s the deep dark secret:
In addition to researching and reading everything about the subjects they write about, the best copywriters get their best ideas from the minds of their clients when they interview them.
The copywriters have talent we need to tap into however the actual knowledge gap between the best copywriters in the world and you is not as wide as you think.
One of the sessions at the recent Titans Mastermind was a discussion led by my great friend and copywriting giant, David Deutsch.
He made a distinction between “copywriting” and “copythinking” (and I will now lobby for “copythinking” to become a real word).
David challenged everyone in the group…not just those who write for their livelihood…to do a lot more thinking, introspection and research before putting pen to paper and before hiring a copywriter.
It’s what the great copywriters do…why shouldn’t we all do the same before we write anything?
I know now that I have spent way too much time lamenting that if I could have figured out how to write killer promotions like Gary Bencivenga or Gene Schwartz, life would have been a lot easier.
Thinking about being one of those guys seemed pretty cool (but unreachable).
And it’s not just because it could lead to making a boatload of money.
The impact that “A list copywriters” can make in the world by moving millions of people to action is both inspiring and fascinating to me…always was and always will be.
And being able to write like those guys seemed very far away from my skill set.
Maybe I had “copywriter envy” and that is what led to calling myself a “wannabe.”
However when I thought about it some more, I realized it wasn’t envy since I am eternally grateful for the relationships I’ve had with the most impactful writers in direct response throughout my career and how much I have learned from them. They have all been generous mentors. There was no envy. It was something else.
And that brings me to the subscriber who “called me out” after one of my outbursts about my lack of copywriting prowess:
“This has been bugging me, Brian. And it’s probably bugging a few others on this list who are quietly wondering the same thing every time I read your e-mails and you say you are not a copywriter.”
He went on:
“Your weekly blog is full of DR copy style arguments and writing patterns so I assume you must have studied copywriting at some point and maybe you just prefer to call yourself a copywriter wannabe for, well…marketing reasons? Am I way off here? What’s the deal?”
My initial concern was that this reader was angry with me (along with many others)…thinking I had other motives by saying “I am not a copywriter”…and that my primary motivation was to eventually turn my list into an affiliate cash machine by manipulating my readers using all sorts of “Ninja tricks” (hate that term) with my writing.
Trust me…I’m not that good.
That didn’t happen nor is it ever happening…although many in my online family buy books and other materials I create.
Selling educational programs are a natural extension of my writing…that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
I made the mistake of thinking that I can’t be a copywriter in the traditional sense since my writing is not about selling…it’s first and foremost about relationship building.
So maybe that’s why I became a “reluctant copywriter?”
It’s still hard to compare myself with anyone who writes copy that moves people to action…but thanks to you, I have come to the conclusion that what I do IS copywriting…I do move people to action…and what all of you do with every email, card, note, sales letter you write is copywriting too.
Since so many of you write to me regularly, I see it first hand in those emails.
I can tell that you have read and studied the best copy from the world’s best copywriters over your careers which has clearly taught you a thing or two.
And from what I can tell, most of you feel pretty awesome when you are able to sell something after building a deeper relationship with your respective tribes and unlike me, you have gotten over yourselves much faster than I was able to…but thank you so much for making me see the light on this.
Now it just keeps getting reinforced more and more every day.
Where I ended up after I got “exposed” by you (and this is what I shared with you at the time):
“If I was given an assignment today to write a promotion soup to nuts, in any medium, I would fall flat on my face. Guaranteed.”
However, there is no embarrassment in not being considered a world class copywriter while still eagerly sharing of ourselves and telling our stories.
The fact that you or I may not be able to write a 12 page promotion, a 20 minute video sales letter or a half hour infomercial script doesn’t mean we can’t be competent writers, communicators, storytellers, and speakers.
And the tip that kept coming up time and again during this last Titans Mastermind with so many copywriters in the room was that everyone can “speak” a 12 page promotion, a 20 minute video sales letter or a half hour infomercial script by simply getting interviewed about your passion by one of these magical writers.
When the finished product is as much your words as theirs but written with a special pen by someone with that extra super power, who is the real copywriter in this relationship?
I can safely say it is not one person.
I often talk about the example of when I painfully tried to write the original promotion for the “Titans of Direct Response” event in 2014, an event I had been dreaming about doing forever and thinking that no one else besides me could write about it.
At the event itself, when talking from the stage about the promotion that was responsible for getting the attendees into their seats, I embarrassingly told the audience that after 10 hours of writing the promotion for the event, only creating a measly 6 pages of copy in those 10 hours, I realized I was in over my head.
How it got done was taking my best thinking (i.e. those 6 pages) to an outside copywriter.
My heart and soul was still in the final copy despite all the improvements the copywriter made for me.
I wasn’t a failed copywriter simply because I asked for help.
And if any of you think you can’t write effectively about something you care about deeply, I encourage you to think again.
Many of you know the story of the original promotion written by Gene Schwartz that launched Boardroom Reports, the brainchild of my mentor Marty Edelston.
When everyone hailed Gene for a blockbuster launch package, he was quick to say that the “copy” was what was in Marty’s head for decades, Boardroombeing his lifelong passion project…and all Gene did was get the words out of him and “added a little of his own flair.”
If you are like me, I bet some of the most compelling copy in your in box every day does NOT come from a seasoned copywriter but rather from passionate entrepreneurs who know how to write and communicate about their mission better than anyone in the world.
Deep “copythinking” becomes expert copywriting.
And while those entrepreneurs might not be able to write a promotion for someone else, they are most often the masters in their own niche.
Some still need some help like I did; while others are doing just fine on their own, thank you.
My advice to all of you is to look within as you think about copy platforms to sell your products and services…and if it’s also connected to your life’s mission, you just may be the best copywriter you can hire.
However, getting it proofed, honed, tightened (by someone else who is a seasoned copywriter or someone who also knows a lot about your niche) might still be in order. I’d recommend that as well.
I’ve used this quote in previous speeches I’ve given:
“I’m not a salesman”
-From the last salesman who visited my office or called me on the phone
I’m sure you will agree that we are all salesmen and saleswomen in every aspect of our lives (i.e. not just in a business sense).
“Selling” my wife on the idea that spending countless hours calling balls and strikes behind the plate at little league and high school baseball games is a noble thing to do and even makes me a better husband, is way tougher than selling subscriptions and books to millions of consumers.
Simply put, embrace the fact that we are all salesmen/saleswomen…AND we are all copywriters as well.
Talking with Titan Ken McCarthy about this subject, we came to the conclusion that every negotiation, conversation or interaction starts and ends with building an argument…just like writing a sales letter.
That’s how the puzzle gets solved.
Another subscriber wrote to me some years ago telling me his inspiring journey of going from architect to direct response copywriter.
We exchanged some ideas on how his career in architecture prepared him beautifully to be a copywriter…and frankly, we could have had the same conversation if he had been a dentist, a teacher, a lawyer…anything…as long as there was expertise and passion present.
We also agreed that inspiration and inflections can come from any direction; and it is imperative to provide value in everything we do.
Who better to write about that value (or at least speak about it, record it and get someone else to get YOUR words on paper) than you?
Your friendly fellow copywriter,
P.S. Still hoping to see you at “The Copywriting Club” on February 15-17 in New York City.
Being one of the few speakers who does not have “Copywriter” at the top of my resume, I will go deeper at the event on today’s topic about why we are all our best copywriters…and also what copywriters need to do to get the most out of their passionate clients.
My ethical bribes are still available if you come as a result of this P.S.…I will give you the full audio of the two day “Titans of Direct Response” event from 2014 (on a disc) plus a copy of my book The Advertising Solution.
Plus…when you attend you will receive a complimentary copy of the Gene Schwartz lost classic, The Brilliance Breakthrough: How To Talk And Write So That People Will Never Forget You (a $195 value).
P.P.S. I receive nothing in return for writing the compelling P.S. copy above to sell you a ticket…except that if you are there, I can meet you in person and then give you lots of free stuff.
How’s that for compelling copy from this copywriter?