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Marketing for Copywriters: How to Get Great Clients

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Are you a bulldog copywriter? Byron quizzes copywriter coach Chris Marlow on what copywriters need to know to attract clients. In the interview, she says that writing is only half what freelancers need to know to be successful. The other half is marketing. Hear the rest of her advice she has for writers by tuning into this podcast.

 Bryon:                                                  Welcome back everyone Bryon here with Chris Marlow, Chris welcome.

Chris:                                                    Thank you. Glad to be here.

Bryon:                                                   So fun to be able to talk with you today. I must tell everyone on the line and you included I am completely exhausted. I’m just back from Content Marketing World. I caught a plane this morning at 6.30 in the morning and I was at the airport earlier obviously to catch the plane but what a great show Content Marketing World. Were you there Chris?

Chris:                                                    No, I wasn’t-

Bryon:                                                   Probably not.

Chris:                                                    But I was aware that it’s going on because of course I’m connected with a lot of copywriters and they will let me know that they are there. Do you think it’s a very worthwhile event to attend?

Bryon:                                                   I think so. It’s the Mac daddy of content marketing conferences that’s for sure. We of course have our own conference here at WriterAccess going on our third year called Content Marketing Conference as well but it’s much more of a boutique conference with 350 attendees versus Content Marketing World which is about 3500. This was I believe their ninth year, either their eighth or ninth year of the show. They are a bit ahead of us but some fabulous speakers, it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues and speakers. We had about 40 speakers at our conference last year and many of them were speaking at Content Marketing World as well. We were just happy to be there.

More importantly back to you and your fabulous eBook, Marketing for Copywriters, How to get great clients. That’s a problem for many of the copywriters listening in and writers listening in. You have a colorful background of 30+ years as an award winning marketer and from what I’ve gathered you’re really doing a lot of coaching and advice. What is it that has brought you to wanting to teach and train copywriters because trust me that is a tough job I’m sure?

Chris:                                                    Well, it’s quite funny I have a colleague; John Fin has being very well known in the direct marketing world for a long, long time. He is the world’s only real copywriters agent and he works with the high [0:02:40 inaudible] with Agora and really, really big mailers and companies that do millions in the mail. His son Kevin Fin also is an agent. I used to hang around with them over in Redondo Beach quite a bit and work with them. I wanted to be with the in crowd. John isn’t with us anymore; Kevin continues to do that work. While I was there I noticed that they had hired a coach to come in and get their business going at a higher level. It was amazing to me what I was observing. The whole entire business just went into overdrive, and I thought, “You know why shouldn’t I do this for copywriters?” Because they were no coaches for copywriters, that was in 2003, yes, 2003.

I came home and I start putting out a newsletter and my list grew rapidly and of course it was the earlier part of the internet as well and a lot of people were trying things and doing things. I just really went to the top as the copywriters coach and I quickly created a marketing system for copy writers, Marlow marketing method for copywriters which is a six month course. Takes them through everything that they need to do in order to present themselves to the higher quality clients in the market place so that they can work as copywriters, earning the kind of income that they hear they should be making, but many are not because they don’t have a marketing education. I decided that I’m going to teach copywriters marketing. That was my problem when I was starting out as a copywriter and it kept me down for about five years working with the low quality clients, not making very much money, not understanding why I’m I always hearing I can make money and I’m not making any.

Well, when I went to work for an agency for eight years I did the same thing over and over again, didn’t really matter whether it was a small company down the street or Disney or Dell or Intuit or any of the big guys. The formula was always the same. When I went freelance at eight years later I thought well I’m just going to do what I’ve being doing for all these companies all these years. I put together my formula to go out and get my own new clients and as a freelancer and I was up $5000 dollars inside of three months.

                                                                The formula works for any business. We tend not to think of ourselves as business because we are individuals and truth we are B2B marketers. We are businesses even if we are just one person marketing to other businesses. Copywriters need to learn what marketing is. That’s the other half of being successful in the world of copywriting.  Copywriting is only half of what you need to know. You really need to know marketing as well not only for your own business but to do a better job for the clients that you work for.

Bryon:                                                   You talk of course about some fundamentals, empathy being one of them and as you say that the big lesson in your eBook is freelance consultants need to understand the target audience and the pain of the target audience and how to solve it. Can you talk about how you actually discover pain? It’s an odd question I know but how do you go about discovering the pain of a prospect customer, for say a new client that you are bringing on?

Chris:                                                    Well, you know really it’s the same thing as working, do get copywriting jobs for any other business. You’re going to be looking at what is the main motivator? How can I get this person to buy something? Maybe it has to do with fear or greed or curiosity or salvation. In the world of business, the people who go to work, the businesses themselves are in business to solve a pain for somebody, whether it’s a consumer or whether it’s a business person. The only reason any business exists is to solve a problem for somebody else. The people that are working inside that business as they go to work every day, that’s what they are doing. They are solving the problems of business over and over again.

If we zero in on okay well let’s forget everybody else in the company and just think about our marketer, what’s his or her pain. What’s at stake for them? We know that people who don’t do their jobs well get fired so there is a fear there, right there. We know that people who have a marketing problem that they can’t solve are in a certain level of pain. There is really not a lot of happy stuff going on inside of a business. The one thing that you can tap into is ego because one thing that all people in business who are working in an employed situation is they want recognition. They want maybe even adoration. They want to be the hero.  There are a few emotional motivators that you can work with when you are targeting marketing directors. I’m talking a little bit higher here. I’m not talking just business owners.

I try to get the copywriters that I work with to move their thinking into a higher arena in business working with companies that maybe have 30 employees up to maybe 200 employees is a good range. Forget the little guys. They have a whole set of different problems and they are not good prospects. Mostly they don’t have any money and you don’t want to deal with that. You want to deal with people who have a budget but their pain is different. Their pain is I have marketing problem to solve. I need more ROI. I need for our numbers to get better. I need a successful product launch. I need to be able to give a good report to our investors. There is a lot of pressure on that marketing director.

What the copywriter needs to do is think of the different things that are going on in the mind of that marketing director that are things that a copywriter can help with. Since I come from the world of direct response  copywriting I’m very focused on ROI, leads, sales, engagement or anything that we can do to get closer to an actual outcome, a desired outcome, even if it’s awareness. It’s easy enough to track that these days.

 Now that I know that I have something that will solve a pain for my marketing director or whatever title is similar, I need to think about how do I present that to that marketing director so that he understands or she understands that I am someone that could be very important to their work and who could make them look really good.  

Bryon:                                                   The book focuses a lot on client acquisition shall we say. What do you think the secret really is there with acquiring new customers? Well, I guess first engaging them. Let’s talk about that first. How do you as a professional copywriter or even as somebody now targeting copywriters to buy your books and receive educational services from you, how are you engaging them with free content? Have you built a methodology by which you attract customers?

Chris:                                                    I do two things. Of course I coach copy writers but I also work with clients, and I’m very specific about how I work with clients. I like to target them using direct mail. I like to pick out who I want to go to. I prequalify them. They are the kind of clients that I want to work with and then send them a letter. Of course the letter, the content of what the letter is all about is whether they respond to me or not but I’ve been doing this for 30 years so I have a pretty good idea of what they want hear.

Bryon:                                                   Got it.

Chris:                                                    That’s what I do. I tell them what they want to hear and what they want to hear is what I have to offer them too. We make a match that way and I follow up on the telephone.

Bryon:                                                   Let’s talk about that for a second. These letters, you’re calling them that you’re sending to customers obviously they are mailed and they are probably not emailed or are they emailed? That’s my first question.

Chris:                                                    You can email, that is a strategy and it can work but I happen to like mail because it …

Bryon:                                                   Snail mail.

Chris:                                                    Right.

Bryon:                                                   Got it.

Chris:                                                    It allows me to show my skill.

Bryon:                                                   Yeah, fair enough. Are you targeting this letter specifically to the customer and their products and services and the value preposition you bring at the table or is this more of a stock, let’s just call it general email that you lightly apply to their industry?

Chris:                                                    Well, are we talking email or direct mail?

Bryon:                                                   Direct mail.

Chris:                                                    The direct mail I am very specific about who I go to. I want them to be a niche market. I want them to match to me somehow and that’s the thing that’s relevant. It used to be that you could be a generalist back in the days but now with the internet it … When the internet came along it forced us all … Everybody can find what they want specifically. Keywords, that pretty much forced copywriters into niching. It’s sort of like going to the doctor everybody wants a specialist so why not. I make sure I match to a particular target market and I may go in and change my website if I decide I want to change something a little bit and go after a certain group of people. Make the change on my website and go after them.

Bryon:                                                   When you are working with clients in their campaigns are you optimizing for readers, are you optimizing for the search engines or are you optimizing both? How has  copywriting for you changed in the last three to five years which of course in dog years is more like 50 years and that’s what it feels like for anybody to spend in this turbulent web business for a long time? Tell us about that, optimizing for readers versus optimizing for the search engines. Are you doing both? Tell me about your strategy there.

Chris:                                                    Well, I am a direct response copywriter and I always have been. I feel that when content came along it became a bit of a problem for me. I like content. I value content. I use content in my own marketing but when I go after clients I don’t necessarily go after content marketing. I like to work with people who want direct mail pieces, landing pages and any other kind of post cards, sales letters, videos, anything that is going to bring in actual income either leads or income. I really don’t personally myself seek out work that has to do with blog posts or social media.

I do optimize everything that I do online and I teach my coaching students that we really absolutely, positively must pay attention to SEO because that is one of the, according to my research and I do a lot of research for my copywriters, very recent research is that SEO remains one of the most important things that you can do online because you want to be found and it really does work. SEO is something that we put some time and effort into on a regular basis for our own marketing. I can’t personally speak to how I would do SEO with my clients when I tend to stay away from content.

Bryon:                                                   Got it. Tell me just a little bit about an example of the most successful direct mail campaign that you have ever seen and reverse engineer some of the characteristics of that campaign.

Chris:                                                    Oh, you’ll enjoy this story. Intuit came to me about, I don’t know, seven, six, seven years ago and they said, “We are going to pit you against The Control and three other copywriters and we are going to see who wins in the concepting phase. My thought was when I looked at package and I realized the real problem with their direct mail package was simply that it was old and people have seen it a lot. I thought, “Well you know the other copywriters who are up against me I’ll bet you anything they are going to go for the creative side of it. I’m going to do something different. I’m going to analyze what made this work in the first place. Figure that out and then I’m going to make my changes.”

I also did something that I’m sure they probably did not do. Since we were targeting IT people I called up a local IT guy and I said, “Look, I want to shadow you at work. I want to see what your life is like. I want to get to know you not just look at a creative brief and work off the demographics.” I went with him for half a day and then at lunch I took him out to lunch, and I spread out my whole direct mail campaign. He said, “Well, I love it and it’s great but there is something wrong with it.” I said, “What?” He says, “I’m not the guy with the money.” I found a fundamental problem that had being going on with Intuit’s campaigns probably since day one. I put an extra [loop note 0:16:49] into that package for the IT guy to give to his customers or his boss. That package won the over the control and all of my competition and then they told me that that package … They rolled out the same concept to the rest of their packages and that not only did the first mailing make 540,000 but they rolled it out many times and they just lost count of the millions that it’s earned them.

Bryon:                                                   That was an observation of a flaw in what everyone thought was the right messaging to be sending out to I guess the same target audience or sampling. That’s often hard to discover something like that without doing some of the research that you did. Can’t you test in a variety of ways, the roots of direct marketing are all about testing right? That’s what exactly this group did but your test had to think about it completely differently. Like maybe these aren’t even the decision makers.  Tell us about testing and how you test and even if it is you testing against yourself. How do you develop test? How do you find assumptions that might be false and develop campaigns and strategies around testing?

Chris:                                                    Well, I ask the client do we have the budget to test. From the very outset I’ll know whether we’ll be testing some element of the work that I’m doing which might be concepting or it might be an offer, might be even headlines. Right at the outset I go to the client and ask them if we are going to be doing any formal tests. What my secret is is what I call bulldog copywriting. That is that if you don’t have enough information you don’t really feel that you’re connected to that audience and I didn’t feel connected to an IT person. They felt very distant to me and that’s why I decided I’m going to get on the phone, I’m going to find somebody , and I’m going to get attached to the hip. I’m going to feel like I really know the person I’m writing to.

Many times in my copywriting career when I’ve had my biggest successes is because I’ve done that. I’ve gone out, I’ve talked to people. I had a very challenging marketing problem with a new startup that wanted to go to a new market place which meant that I had nothing to work with. They didn’t even know the prospect. I said, “Give me the names of some of the people on the mailing list that we are going to go to.” I called them up and I said, “I’m a copy writer and we are going to be mailing to you and I don’t know what to say.” They love it and they get all flustered because geez they are getting called by this creature called a copy writer asking their opinion.

From those conversations I’ve actually come up with, in this particular case an offer that I would have never come up with in my entire life. They told me what they wanted. I went back to the client we created it and that campaign went for, I don’t know, like 10 years.

Bryon:                                                   Do you think it’s literally the secret source talking with one or two? Is that really that the head count of the people that you are actually speaking to?

Chris:                                                    Well, I asked for 10 names but I didn’t need to call all of them.

Bryon:                                                   Speak with all of them. Okay, how many did you call?

Chris:                                                    I think probably 3 or 4.

Bryon:                                                    To get to one person?

Chris:                                                    No, to talk to all of them.

Bryon:                                                   Talk to all of them. Oh, I see it, okay.

Chris:                                                    But to get something from somebody that [0:20:27 crosstalk]

Bryon:                                                   Yeah, they had substance.

Chris:                                                    Oh my God that’s it.

Bryon:                                                   That aha moment.

Chris:                                                    Right.

Bryon:                                                   Where did the bulldog come from, your bulldog copywriting technique?

Chris:                                                    It’s just my own phraseology when I’m teaching my coaching students. I have a copywriting course and I also have a marketing course. What I want to teach them because so many new copywriters are timid and for a lot of reasons. All of us we are insecure when we are starting out something new.

Bryon:                                                   Of course.

Chris:                                                    I want to let them know that you can be garden variety or you can be bulldog. Bulldog copywriters dig deeper when they need to. They get deeper into the psychology. They look harder. They don’t just read off the creative brief and call it a day.

Bryon:                                                   Fascinating. What would you say to writers out there listening in to this? They may want to transition into the copywriting practice. What’s the best way to do that?

Chris:                                                    Well, I believe that you need to again have marketing and that’s where I see an awful a lot of struggle in copywriting world. They took the copywriting course and now they are perplexed because they don’t really know how to get clients. If you understood business to business marketing then you would understand it’s just simply a process and you’ll put your website together the way that you should. You’ll target your market. You’ll figure out who it is that you match with. You’ll put together marketing that you can send them. You’ll email them. You’ll be in places where they are and you’ll put together an integrated marketing plan so that you know what you are doing every single day and you are not sitting there fretting and having your family members saying this is never going to work.

Bryon:                                                   Fascinating. Do you think the courses can valuable for copy writers? Is it a good stepwards in? Let’s say you had some marketing in your background which most of the writers for example in our platform have, certainly a high if not at least a comprehensive of level of marketing. You mentioned something else in your book that I thought was interesting which is having a little bit of a sales background even a small background can also really help. You agree with that?

Chris:                                                    Well, yeah, in two ways actually…

Bryon:                                                   I can’t imagine you being a sales person by the way. I’ll say that from wonderful, slightly more timid voice, a pattern that I’m listening to. I can’t imagine you pushing a sports jersey on me at a sports show to buy.

Chris:                                                    Well, Bryon you’re exactly right I was never any good. I tried a lot of things. I sold makeup at fancy north streams. I sold perfume. I sold one set of Cutco knives door to door back when door to door was safe enough to do that.

Bryon:                                                   Nice.

Chris:                                                    No, I was never any good but I was good at writing and I could take the precepts, the salesmanship and put it on paper and became very good as a direct response copy writer. Now the ironic thing about that is that copywriting turned me into a good sales person. What’s important for copywriters to know who are listening to this is that I’m really talking about how to present yourself to the client. What they like to hear. Men and women who work in marketing love to hear that you have sales in your background because copywriting is just salesmanship on paper. They love to hear that you’re a problem solver and not just an order taker because you can help them. Do more for them by coming to them with ideas and solutions. They love anybody who has entrepreneurship in their background because marketing is really built on entrepreneurship.

Bryon:                                                   Sure.

Chris:                                                    Educational psychology is also highly desirable because as copywriters, that’s one of the jobs that we have that nobody else has. We are supposed to know the target markets so well that we know the words. I’d love to share with you how important that is. When I started to… I wanted to coach copywriters I put an ad out. I thought what do copywriters want, I should know because I am one. They want money. The headline was something along the lines, become a well-paid copywriter. Didn’t do well and I was shocked. So I sat down and I thought okay, I’m a copywriter I’ve got to figure this one out. After I thought about it for a while I realized they don’t want money they want clients because clients bring the money. When I changed that one word it created a whole business for me.

Bryon:                                                    Fascinating. It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. I just want to thank you for being on the show. I have two final questions for you. Who would you like to get a hold of you and how can they get a hold of you?

Chris:                                                    Well, let me see. I’m really not someone who follows people to tell you the truth.

Bryon:                                                   Writers in our pool of talent. Do you like hearing from writers and their pain points and their problems? Are we still teaching some classes?

Chris:                                                    Yeah, from a coaching perspective I have the marketing solution. It’s been around since 2003. I’m very proud of it. I continually update it. It’s getting some updating right now with things that are going on in the market place that are kind of invisible to copywriters but can help them get clients, better clients faster. People who are  copywriters, who are serious about going higher in their copywriting career and are willing to invest the time and the money to make it happen. To get in touch with me they can simply email me at chris@chrismarlow.com. C-H-R-I-S @chrismarlow, M-A-R-L-O-W.com or the can go to my website at chrismarlow.com and I also have another site which is the membership site. It’s loaded with everything I’ve ever created. All the courses a copywriter would need. No bright, shiny objects. I think there is way too much of that going on in the copywriting world. Very focused on just getting you the results and that at the copywriterscoach.com

Bryon:                                                   Terrific. Well, Chris thanks again for being with us today. Appreciate it.

Chris:                                                    All right Bryon. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it to.

                                                          Bryon:   Indeed. Thanks for listening in everybody. We’ll see you next                                                           week.