Confessions Of A Copywriting MADMAN

I have a confession to make.
I once wrote sales copy I knew was going to fail for a client.
Why would I do such a thing?
Because I had spent several weeks on a project to create a package for my client that followed a process proven to generate billions of dollars in direct response sales.
Given the client’s high price point, we were looking to generate a minimum of $40 million to $170 million in initial new sales from successfully penetrating the client’s market.
This doesn’t take into consideration backend sales, up sales, or ongoing repeat sales for additional products or support services.
The client had a unique product offering and this quite likely was going to become the most successful single direct mail sales package of my entire 33 year history of writing sales copy.
So I dedicated a tremendous amount of my time to the project.
* I conducted a series of interviews with the owner of the company to uncover the history of the company, its founders, its products, their target market, the market’s consciousness of the company and awareness for its products
* I studied the client’s proposed offers and offers from their competitors
* I interviewed past clients and customers and sales staff
* I researched industry trend data and multiple trade association reports
* And I conducted dozens of hours of research I can’t disclose without violating my non-disclosure agreement
From this research I drafted what I strongly believe would have been a winning sales package for the client: primary sales letter mailer, cover letter, testimonial sheets, order form, lift notes. The works.
I worked many days right into the next morning, to the point of excluding family activities as well as turning away other projects to focus on this one.
I wanted the project to be a huge success. But there was a problem.
Do You Make These Mistakes In Advertising?
Instead of agreeing to go ahead with finalizing and testing the sales piece the client said, ‘no, here is what I want you to write…’ and then began to dictate a sales letter to me.
It was all baseless fluff. The kind of hype you’d expect a used car sales person to make up on the spot. No proof whatsoever. Was actually bordering on fraud.
You’re Fired!
My dilemma at that point was either to fire the client and refund his money, or write what he wanted, so I could get paid.
Well, my decision to keep or fire the client wasn’t an easy decision to make. I was going into my seventh week with this project. Most days were 16 hours long. A couple were 24 hours long. Obviously too much was invested into this client to just walk away.
The amount of research required was extreme because the client had neither conducted nor provided me with any formal, concrete market research of their own. This is despite having claimed such existed prior to us initiating their project.
No matter. Uncovering hidden details other copywriters overlook or never search for in the first place is what I do. The care-free, easy going lifestyle of a copywriter working from warm, white sand beaches while sipping drinks from fancy umbrella straws doesn’t work for me.
I work because I enjoy what I do.
Shooting For The Moon
So to keep from firing the client and refunding my fee after all those weeks of effort, I sold him ‘the moon’.
What does that mean?
If you’ve ever watched the TV series Madmen, on AMC, you might recognize where I got that phrase.
There was an episode where the main character, Don Draper, was told by Mr. Hilton to create a Hilton Hotel campaign that included the moon. Instead, Draper created a winning campaign that excluded Hilton’s pet idea.
No moon.
Hilton was not happy. Livid might be a more accurate description of Hilton’s reaction.
Well, instead of forcing my idea on my client, as the fictional Draper did to his client, I sold my client ‘the moon’. In other words, my client got what he wanted and insisted on.
But I made certain to tell the client that the campaign I had originally created for him was a winning campaign worthy of testing. He rejected the idea and instead insisted on his pet idea.
So he got it. His ego stroking. But of course I cleaned up his idea. I wrote with honesty and integrity where my client dictated fluff.
Happy As A Pig In Mud
How’d my client respond when he saw the copy?
“Andre, I have a great feeling about this letter, and your idea about the [for privacy reasons this portion of comment excluded] sounds great. I know your time is valuable and I will be sure to take care of you once this mailing turns into a success.”
So yeah, he was happy to receive his pet idea.

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