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What’s Wrong With Copywriting?

I've been studying copywriting and writing for clients for over 20 years. In that time, I've seen some bad things I want to share with you...and I've evolved in my point of view about the subject. You should see that evolution in thinking, too. It'll save you a lot of frustration and probably some money.

The Main Thing Wrong With Copywriting

The main problem with copywriting is caused by two factors: the buyer and the seller. You ought to laugh because those are the key factors that cause problems in all poorly-accomplished sales, but I'm deadly serious here. Both parties come into the arrangement with utter misunderstandings of what's going to happen.

The buyer (usually a business owner or marketing manager) believes they are getting a magic bullet that will "get me more customers."

The seller (the writer) believes they are hot stuff and will "get you more customers."

That's where I was, from my start in 1995 through some time in 2012.

And I wasn't wrong. Not exactly. I mean, my copy is a heck of a lot better than what's typically on somebody's sales page or in their letter. So its performance is sure to be superior.

pieces of flair office space bare minimum what's wrong with copywriting

"What do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum?" Office Space, 1999: Fair Use

So Where's The Problem?

Just one problem: Traffic.

See, copy is about Conversion. That's the second piece of the money equation. And without Traffic, ie. eyeballs sent to view the conversion tool, the copy doesn't have much of a chance of accomplishing anything.

In the early days I would take on a job because somebody asked, I liked the topic, and they waved money in my direction. This is where most writers are at and what the market is used to.

On the buying side, the business owners and marketing managers are accustomed to this arrangement. "I need to get more customers," they say to themselves, and hire a writer. But they miss the fact that a good, steady, pre-qualified traffic source needs to be hooked up to that shiny new conversion tool...or there's no chance of success. And the writer, happy to be paid for their work, doesn't ask.

What Does This Misunderstanding Lead To?

This state of mutual mystification leads to what I call the "Throw The Copy Over The Wall And Run" approach to copywriting.

The buyer, believing copywriting is a commodity service, makes a low investment in the new conversion tool.

The seller, despite supposedly being an expert on positioning and persuasion, doesn't know what else to do when selling their services and accepts.

Can you read between the lines here and get a feel for the level of commitment to the project from both sides?

The buyer is expecting a magic return on a low investment: they're playing the lottery.

The seller has no motivation to stick around and work that project into something powerful: sure, they'll put their best effort into the draft they submit, but why should they continue to work on a project they haven't been paid much for?

Thus the writer does a little Q&A, some research, cranks out the copy in the fastest possible time, and throws it over the wall to the buyer.

"So long! Good luck!" comes their over-the-shoulder call as they run away in search of the next client.

And why shouldn't they?

What Needs To Change With Copywriting

The buyer hasn't made much of a commitment. As a result, neither has the seller. (I'm reminded of the quote from Office Space: "What do you think of a person who only does the bare minimum?" This applies to both parties.)

This right here is what's wrong with copywriting. Lack of commitment to a specific, measurable outcome.

I was conducting an audio interview of a fellow writer who was doing better than I was—he was getting into better business arrangements than I was, and works in niches I don't touch, too; maybe I should learn from that heh heh—some years back when I heard him say something that confirmed a concept that I'd understood for awhile but hadn't clearly articulated:

The buyer must demonstrate commitment to solving the problem and getting to a specific outcome.

In doing so, a good writer will recognize this commitment, and match it with their own effort.

In plain terms, what I already knew was that the first effort of a writer is likely to either fail or not be the best achievable result. That if the writer could stick around for just one, two, or three more iterations of the copy, the performance could be increased dramatically.

But What's Really Happening With Copywriting?

But what was happening? In reality, you know what has been going on. The buyer tries to hire for the lowest possible price; the seller, having little commitment, gives their best effort within the short period they can afford to give the project their attention, then moves on.

Over the wall and run.

Both get ONE chance to get it right.

And, if you've been reading carefully, you'll have noticed neither understands the nature of the money equation. That you need both Traffic AND Conversion to make it work. Writing alone doesn't accomplish anything.

The buyer believes that new copy alone will do the job.

The seller has tunnel vision and the cocksure belief that their copy is a moneymaker.

But where is the traffic?

Whether You're Hiring or Writing, Start Asking This Question

This is why my first question to prospective clients is: "Do you have a solid pre-qualified traffic source ready to go?"

If the answer is "Uh, I haven't thought about that..." or "My Facebook ads guy will figure that out," or "I'll be hiring a launch manager and they'll do that," it's an instant No from me.

I will not risk my reputation on an unproven idea.

I will not risk my reputation on a project without a good traffic source.

I will not risk my reputation on a client who can't afford traffic.

These issues appear frequently. Too frequently.

The business owner gets frustrated. I'm sure they go hire some low-priced writer after I tell them No, and are happy with the copy they get. After all, it's like having a template writer redo your resume: you get that "new car smell" for awhile. But not long after, when you don't have any traffic and nobody sees the thing, you discover it isn't worth very much.

The Dumb Arrangement That Makes Buyers and Writers Mad At Each Other

Buyers will get mad at writers at this point. And the writers may respond by getting mad back at them. But the outcome of the copy is not the writer's doing. Both bear responsibility for getting into a dumb arrangement: frankly, the copy didn't get enough views to determine whether it's any good or not.

What buyers and sellers need to do in the world of copywriting is to commit to a longer term relationship. Longer than the first draft the writer throws over the wall.

I have seen so many newbies over the years set up a funnel, put all the pieces in place, and then be shocked when something doesn't work.
The funnel breaks at every turn! The ads don't convert and you have to fix them. Then the opt-in page doesn't work well and you have to fix that. Then the email sequence doesn't persuade the readers to visit the sales page. You have to fix those. Then the sales page doesn't turn visitors into buyers...and you have to fix that.

The funnel falls down at every stage. Success requires both the buyer and the seller to stick around: for the business owner and the writer to commit to an outcome. Agree at the start what the statistics will be for a successful result, and commit getting there. This means the buyer has to invest in the seller so that the seller can invest in the iterative work.

The Change That Needs To Be Made In Copywriting

The writer can no longer throw the copy over the wall and run. They have to stick around. And the owner has to make it worth their while.

As a writer, this is the very reason you must get out of the scrape-and-chase mode. If you're always on the hunt for the next low budget client because you have to survive, you can never make this kind of commitment (buyers, are you paying attention?).

Up front fees are not the only solution. Royalties or a percentage of gross are other options—but, business owners, the writer has to TRUST YOU. Work on that.

This is what's wrong with copywriting. A basic misunderstanding of the nature of the work, what outcome will result, and what is required to succeed.

Needed and typically missing: a pre-qualified traffic source with sufficient quantity to reach the revenue goal.

Needed and typically missing: commitment by both sides to adjustment of the process until the goal is reached.

Let's get rid of the "Throw the copy over the wall and run" approach and fix what's wrong with copywriting. Please. Writers, will you commit to ensuring both factors above that have been missing are present in projects going forward? Those hiring writers, will you commit to the straightforward changes to hiring and making use of copywriters so that we can all work together on making the money you desire?

>> Jason Kanigan is a business strategist and copywriter. Book a call with Jason to discuss your project. <<

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What Is a Funnel?

what is a funnelWhat is a funnel?

In sales and marketing terminology, a funnel is a series of steps to filter and bring your many prospects to becoming a few qualified buyers. That's it, at the funnel's most basic level.

We can add upsells, downsells, cross sells and other elements to our funnel, but let's start with the basics.

I explain the three components of a sales and marketing funnel in this video:

Jason Kanigan Explains: What Is a Funnel?

 

So we see that a funnel contains three basic pieces. And if any one is missing, that funnel is 'broken.'

The Three Parts of a Funnel

Each of the three components of an effective funnel do a specific job.

First you need a Lead Generation System for bringing in traffic. Hopefully this traffic is at least somewhat pre-qualified; the more qualified, the better. But also, the more pre-qualified, the more expensive that traffic will be.

We are looking for larger numbers here. Prospects entering the funnel here will have to be filtered down to smaller numbers.

Second, a Qualification System is necessary. This component will filter leads from being unqualified prospects to those who are a fit for the offer.

Note that you are losing people as they progress through the funnel. This is normal and desirable! It is perfectly acceptable to have people who are not a fit for your offer to be gently and politely shunted aside by your funnel.

Third is a Closing System.

Written or VSL copy, graphics, layout and design...all these combine to comprise the Closing system.

Can you see how if all you're relying on is this piece of the puzzle, you are making life difficult for yourself?

Copy on a sales or landing page will qualify somewhat. But if you are getting a ton of traffic but only a handful of conversions, odds are your funnel is broken and you are doing a poor job of qualifying.

Can you see how by asking "What is a funnel?" and breaking the process up into each of these components, we can isolate them and see which one is working or needs improvement?

I frequently say, "Your traffic source is as or even more important than the sales copy."

Can you guess why, now?

That is part of the Lead Generation component. And if that part has been ignored, the quality of leads is likely to be low. Earning conversions off low quality traffic is tough work.

Final Thought On What Is a Funnel

Instead of throwing traffic from blind ad swaps or solo ads at your sales page and depending entirely on the Closing System to do all the work, build backwards from the revenue you want to generate.

You need so many sales to make the money you want to make over a period of time.

So, estimating at first but gradually building confidence in your estimates from real performance data, how many prospects do you think have to make it through the Qualification System?

And going back up the funnel, generating that larger number of qualified prospects waiting to be closed, how many leads do you think you need to enter the funnel's Lead Generation System at the top?

Leads >>> Prospects >>> Buyers.

We could estimate, for example--and this is an example, and likely not representative of what you will experience--you want 10 buyers this month at $297.

So that's the bottom of your funnel: 10 Buyers.

Moving up from there, we estimate a 2% conversion is what can be expected at this early stage in the funnel optimization process. We don't know how good our copy is yet. So 10/2% = 500 qualified Prospects.

Remember this is the path from qualified Prospect to proven Buyer we're talking about here, not the entire funnel. We could throw traffic at a Closing System and be very pleased with 1-2% conversion. But that's not talking apples to apples here.

Now we can go up to the top of the funnel. Those 500 Prospects...to get them, we initially estimate 1 in 10 entering the funnel will qualify for the offer.

So what have we learned?

We need 5000 Leads to enter the funnel.

If during the month we don't get 5000 leads to enter the funnel, and have sufficient time for them to pass through the process, we know we won't reach our revenue target. This tells us how much traffic to buy or direct.

By splitting traffic and qualification into two components, we can see a) how good our traffic source is, and b) whether our Qualification System works the way we think it should.

If you get through the month and you put 5000 Leads into the funnel, but only 300 Prospects made it to the qualified middle...you know that's where the problem is.

Keep in mind that these ratios are for THIS traffic source and THIS offer. Change variables and you'll change the expectations.

If you have any questions of your own about "What is a funnel?" please ask them below.

>> To get Jason's help with your funnel creation or optimization, click here. <<

1

Owner Looking for Commission Sales Rep

owner looking for commission sales rep

owner looking for commission sales repOwner Looking for Commission Sales Rep: Where do I find one? This is a common question I see from "Doer" business owners.

If you see yourself as the Creative of your one-person organization, it can be a challenge to also view yourself as the sales team.

Then your mind starts wondering, "What if..." and you begin collecting the magical checks delivered by a business development genie.

Yes, you find yourself so busy doing the fulfillment work that you daydream what a commission sales rep would do for you.

This is a mistake.

Three barriers stand in your way.

You're Misjudging Your Time

First, you are making a serious misjudgment of your own time.

If you truly cannot spare any time for sales & marketing activities--the lifeblood of your business--then you do not have any time for additional fulfillment. Meaning you can't really take on more projects.

Hiring a salesperson to bring you more work you don't actually have time to do is one of the many recipes for business disaster.

Most Creatives aren't great analytical project managers in the first place; otherwise, they likely wouldn't be creative. Piling more work on top will lead to missed deadlines, upset clients, and worn-out talent.

Finding Good Commission Sales Reps Today Is Next To Impossible

Second, it won't be easy to find someone to work on commission. Truly able commission-based salespeople know they are a) in demand, and b) capable of setting their own price.

So why should they work for you? They're going to go to where making sales is like shooting fish in a barrel. Not where they have to struggle to survive.

I have set up commission-based sales agencies for consulting firms.

Prior to 2011 it wasn't too difficult to find people willing to give it a try...but these were mostly unskilled phone sales reps, and not the experts you're looking for.

Since that time, though, even firms I have hired who supposedly specialize in finding commission sales candidates were unable to fill the bill.

You're Looking In the Wrong Direction

Third, you cannot afford a salesperson yet.

If you can't afford a salary, and I'm talking 9-12 months' salary while your first inside salesperson "figures it out", you're not ready to have someone in that role.

Hire inside first, where you can keep an eye on them, and have them transition to outside and higher pay later. Most business owners get this completely bass-ackwards and it never turns out well that way.

What An Owner Looking for Commission Sales Rep Truly Needs

In my experience & opinion, if you're in this position you should not be looking for a salesperson at this time.

What you need is an automated funnel that brings you opportunities. And for that you will need focused, paid traffic.

YOU ARE THE SALES TEAM.

Accept it. Embrace it.

No one will ever care about your business as much as you do, and now is not the time to risk everything on an unproven salesperson with zero stake in your success.

The idea that a magic salesperson will, like the genie, serve you up wins, is compelling. But it is not reality.

So What Should A Solo Owner Looking for Commission Sales Rep Do?

Build yourself the solid foundation of a lead generating and qualifying funnel, so you only talk to a steady stream of people who are ready to buy.

That's how to use your time and resources effectively to bring you more business at this stage in your company's development.

>> Questions, Comments, Experiences in transitioning from a solo business owner to having your first effective sales rep? Write us a note below to share! And remember to Subscribe to receive future blog entries.

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