7 Easy Ways to Get More From WritersNovember 16, 2010
What’s the single best way to make sure you get what
you want out of the writers you’ll hire?
I’ll give you not just one but seven easy ways to guarantee a quality result, in today’s issue.
And by the way, don’t skip this if you’re the writer instead of the client… because this list could make your job infinitely easier too, simply by showing you what to ask for from anybody who hires you.
But before we jump in…
What to Know Even Before You Pick Up The Phone
First and foremost, one of the BIG reasons some businesses don’t get what they want from copywriters… is because they’re not exactly sure what it is they hope to get, right from the start.
Sure I do, you say.
I want sales.
Isn’t that pretty simple?
Yes. But be careful.
Because you can boost sales in a number of ways. Some ways are true to your product, some are not.
And a sale that’s followed by a slew of cancellations or refunds is no sale at all.
What’s more, there’s often another subconscious motivator that gets in the way of even the best marketer’s intentions.
And that is, of course, your ego.
How so? If your ego is inflated by selling more of a quality product your customers want, that’s good.
But too often, that’s now how it plays out.
Take, for instance, the jillions blown by “brand” advertisers on things like Superbowl ads.
Are those funny but pointless spots really about selling more product? Or are they more likely self-congratulatory spots set out to appeal to an advertisers sense of importance?
Ads like those let advertisers feel great about themselves, their businesses, and their brand.
They are the echelon of “hip,” the pinnacle of product entries in a pulchritude contest, the bountiful beauty in which those advertisers will bask like buffalo in a basin of… okay, I’m running out of ‘b’ words… but the point is, so-called advertising often does very little to get sales, despite all intentions to the contrary.
Ego that forces a message that offers no substance or promise to your target market is, in a word, a waste.
And finally, you need to be aware that even if you ARE sensibly focused on boosting your bottom line, there are different KINDS of sales you’ll want to make. And different strategies that precede those sales.
For instance, if you’re out to sell a high volume of a low-priced item… to a whole new set of names… that demands one kind of copy. If you’re looking to convert current customers for more sales, that’s something else (almost) entirely.
If you want to raise the price on something you’ve sold before, that’s something else. And if you’re looking to sell something high-end to previously low-end buyers, that’s something different yet again.
“Soft offer” pitches work uniquely… as do time-limited pricing offers… product launches… and even those pitches that create a whole new product category altogether.
Then… you’ve got the pitches that need to combine one or more of the marketing strategies above. And we haven’t even talked about your cost restrictions, list selections, and the rest.
You see what I’m getting at.
Bottom line, and this is important for you to soak up before I take you anywhere else: The MAIN thing you can do to better guarantee you’ll get what you want from the copywriters you hire is to figure out exactly WHAT it is you want to happen, first.
The better you know your strategy in advance, the better you can prep the copywriter before you bring him or her into the equation.
That understood, what comes next?
Now we get into the meat…
Seven Ways To Make Your Writer Write Better
In my experience, on both sides of the copy contract, here are seven easy ways to get more from your writers.
And again, writers, you read these too. Because it can’t hurt to know how good clients think, can it?
Here we go…
1) CHERRY-PICK YOUR WRITER
Let’s face it. Each copywriter, especially a good one, has his niche.
Some work with one kind of product well. Some with others. Some are great at telling stories. Others can work wonders with a track record.
If you’ve been in business any amount of time, you’ll start to know which writers have which talents. And you’ll match them carefully to your products.
Copywriters, there’s a lesson here for us too: Know your strengths and capitalize on them.
Make sure you accept the projects that fit with your talents. Unless you’re up to the challenge, avoid the projects that don’t.
2) HEAP ON THE RESEARCH
The better informed the copywriter, the better — usually — the copy he’ll crank out.
So if you’ve got the material, flaunt it.
You might resent, as I’ve seen some marketers do, the idea of doing footwork for someone you’ve hired to do just that.
But the fact is, even great copywriters will work even better if you arm with material to start the job.
Copywriters, there’s a lesson here too, albeit an obvious one: Writer’s block, fluff-laden copy, empty leads and offers and headlines… they all go away when you throw relevant specificity into your sales pieces.
Insist on asking for as much background material as you can get your hands on, at the very start of the assignment.
3) TALK IT OUT, AT LEAST TWICE
Talk to your copywriter at least twice — in detail — about what you’re hoping for in the first draft.
Talk once at the very start of the assignment and then ask to talk again, just to make sure the writer is on the right track.
And this, with enough lead time to make any changes before he or she turns in the first draft.
Copywriters: Realize that, as much as it’s essential to work alone and to protect undeveloped ideas, it’s also astounding what clarity you can get from a simple half-hour phone call.
If you wait for it to happen, it’s a distraction when it comes. But if you pursue the conversation, you might actually help the marketer clarify in his own mind exactly what he’s looking for.
4) PROVIDE A POINT MAN
I can tell you from personal experience, there’s nothing worse — when you’re working on selling someone’s sales copy — to have to hunt down someone, anyone, who will answer your emails to help you gather the things you need to complete the task.
Give your copywriter a gift up front — a handshake and introduction to a trusted person on the inside who will take calls and emails and attend to them promptly, as if completing the sales copy actually meant something to the organization doing the hiring.
And copywriters, don’t leave the scene of a first meeting without the name of this person.
Any client who can’t provide one, avoid working with more than once. They don’t take their marketing seriously.
5) LEARN HOW TO GIVE FEEDBACK
Patton’s quote at the start of today’s issue notwithstanding, sometimes you’re going to need a lot more in the way of first-draft feedback than, “doesn’t quite work” or “needs more” scribbled in the margins.
When I review copy, I famously almost double the original document length with my suggestions and comments. Nothing gets left to interpretation. Tell them more rather than less.
When something works, tell them that — absolutely. And when it doesn’t, tell them that too.
But tell them why.
If the writer is worth his salt, he’ll have a much better idea of how to make things right.
Copywriters, you need to push for this kind of feedback too. You’re not out to bait for praise or battle critiques. The whole process of review is to delve deeper into what your client wants — needs — from you to get the job done.
6) COME CLEAN ON DEADLINES
It might feel like courtesy to give your creative team lots of breathing room.
But, really, you’re much better off coming clean about your deadlines right up front.
Tell them what you need and when.
Some especially busy copywriters might have to turn you down. But if the time is available to work within those parameters, the pros will appreciate your clarity and efficiency.
Copywriters, this of course applies to us too.
Half of us are in this business because we like the freedom of setting our own schedules.
But to make that work, you have to… well… set them. That means making sure you know up front what’s being asked of you.
Insist on establishing this early in the game.
7) CUT THE FAIREST DEAL
The best businessmen I know don’t mess around trying to gain an upper hand. Nor do they give away the store.
They focus instead on the middle ground, making sure both sides benefit when a strategy pans out.
Between client and copywriter, that often means a royalty on sales. The better a piece performs, the more you both make.
Sure, some of the best copywriters do flat-fee only. But those fees are high… along with the quality of the copy they’ve earned a reputation for producing.
Copywriters, heed this: You’ll generally do your best work if your biggest payoff is performance-based.
Client or copywriter, I hope all that came in handy!