Some of the things you will read in this post have been covered or previously touched upon. But, I have decided to dedicate a whole post to explaining this in detail because this is the process of copy engineering that we go through at eLaunchers. This process can serve as a baseline to deviate from and integrate into your standard operating procedure. Here are the five main parts of the process:
- Before you even have a copywriter
- Now you’ve hired someone
- Copy beautification
- Copy finalization
- Deployment, testing, and tweaking
The first step is the pre-copy step. Before you even start interviewing copywriters, data intelligence and list research must happen first. You need to determine what you want to sell, who you want to sell it to, how large the market cap is, and what percentage of that market you seek. Sometimes a battle is not worth fighting because there are too few prospects with the problem that you intend to solve with your product/service or the market is too competitive/crowded and you do not have means to outspend or outperform your competition. So before you even build your product, there must be a market for it.
Data Intelligence and Market Research MUST EXIST. Have a data scientist do detailed demographic and psychographic list segmentation from compiled, subscription, and purchased lists. You want to have a detailed data model done. Do not skip this step because if you do, you will have to resort to guessing on a variety of subsequent decisions that are critical to your overall mission.
The next part of data intelligence is forensic data analysis and transaction modelling. Now this may be a sad part of the process for you because you will mourn the data loss you were unaware you had and possibly find out that critical data you had from the past three months was just put into the shredder. It is important to know where the data is, not matter how painful the process.
Russell and I once had a conversation about what I like to call “known data issues.” Russell told me it was weird to call it that but I said, “wait, let me explain what I mean.” I explained to Russell that it was essentially a systemic data leak in your ecosystem. When you can find and plug the hole of the leak, opportunities will emerge that are considered easy pickings. These can be so powerful that they can potentially fund your 36-month growth plan. Russell agreed that it made sense.
Look in your world and determine if you have a “known data issue.” Any data scientist can help you identify pockets of data loss that once found, opportunities will emerge from like fish from the sea.
The data scientist knows where to strike and the copywriter knows how to strike. Think about the rest of marketing as your gun, the data scientist as the scope of your gun, and copy as your bullet. If you were in a warzone, which one could you live without? NONE of them, you need all three components to be successful. Together, they make one complete machine.
Money makes loud announcement before its arrival and after its departure. There are always data trails. Data is what I like to call digital gold. Dreams are made of data. So, if you want to capture your dreams, capture your data.
While I was serving in the Indian Air Force, they taught us that the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. In a much less dramatic way, that applies to marketing too. Do your research and study your data. That is like your training before you are deployed to a war zone.
The foundation of copy is the market-message-media triangle. A copywriter focuses on message but relies on you articulating your market so DO YOUR RESEARCH FIRST. Then you can get into who to sell to and when to sell. Think about who would buy from you and why they would buy.
The Pareto principle says that 20% of your customers will buy the next higher level priced product as long as it is available, has a demonstrated value, and it is not outrageously overpriced. If you sell something for $400, then 20% of them will buy a $800 version of it. 20% of that group will buy a $1600 version of the product, and so on. You can sell to those 20% with ITTT (if this, then that) logic, which is not too hard to build.
ELaunchers became a digital marketer certified partner in 2015 and it was one of the best investment I have made. Ryan Deiss taught me about something that I consider absolutely crucial information to know: customer value optimization (CVO).
If you go to http://www.digitalmarketer.com/customer-value-optimization/, you can read in-depth about the CVO process. You can even schedule a free call with me and I will go over the value journey canvas and seven steps of customer value optimization. I will even give you a workbook so you can work on your own CVO process. Digital Marketer teaches a class that will help you to become a customer value optimization specialist (if you are interested in the certification, visit: http://www.digitalmarketer.com/lp/cvo) where you can learn how to do this yourself. I love this program so much that I also train my staff with Ryan’s videos. It is a very powerful system and I do this for every client that I take on.
Going through the seven steps of CVO will undoubtedly prepare you to have a very meaningful conversation with your copywriter. It will teach you how to articulate the desired transformation of potential customers.
One day, at a Q&A during a GKIC superconference, I asked Dave Dee how to price an info product. He said that price of an info product is determined by the perceived value of the product. That was a very key piece of information to learn. You need to determine who buys your product, why they buy your product, what is occurring in their life, what benefits they receive when they buy, etc. That is what Ryan Deiss calls the ‘before and after grid.’ It is so important because it helps you to articulate the transformation in your mind, as well as to your copywriter.
Without the understanding as to why the client buys what they buy, then the copywriter does not have the most foundational piece of information that he/she will need. The transformation is the core for the writer because that magical transformation, if they buy your product, is what the copywriter is trying to sell to the prospect.
The last thing you need to do before you hire the copywriter is gather all the research that the copywriter will need, including: a list of competitors, marketing material you have used in the past, detailed explains of past success and failure, suggestions you think may work, other information systems you are entitled to use, and so on. This is all in preparation for your interview with potential copywriters.
So now you have gone through the process and you have finally hired a copywriter. The first thing they will do is give you an intake sheet. You will look at it and think, didn’t I just do all of this with data intelligence and the CVO process, why can't the writer just start writing? No, they can't. The copywriter needs to see the same questions from a different vantage point. If you compare the copywriter’s intake sheet to the data scientist’s intake sheet, you will find two different sets of information answering the same questions. The copywriter needs a variety of vantage points in order to produce the product that you want. TAKE YOUR TIME when completing it.
The next step is the copy call and you will again think “why you are repeating all the information again”. But like I mentioned before, every step where you can provide more information to the copywriter, you should. This is important. You will be surprised to discover what you have been holding back at the copy call. Do not skip it. That is call is one of the most important pieces of raw material that the copywriter has access too.
Now the copy chief needs to put together a copy brief. The copy brief is essentially a compilation of business ideas and sales arguments as to why someone should buy from you. You, as the client, need to be awake and participating in the copywriting process so contribute ideas to the writers and let them decide what to use. I promise that you will never give them anything that will be ridiculed or called unimportant or trivial or dumb. Just share everything that comes to mind.
After ALL of that, you will get the first draft. The first draft is VERY rough and you may say, “hey, they spelled my name wrong.” It is okay. You may not even have the means to appreciate what you are looking at. Draft one is more of a ceremonial event than anything else. It is your opportunity to reject it if the copy is not in the direction you want it to be. It's your chance for a do-over, if you want one.
Prior to the arrival of the copy, the design and engineering orders are sent. The graphics layouts are built, the engineers create their setups, the campaigns are built, the landing pages are created, and everything is in place waiting on copy to arrive so the teams can resume their work. Once the copy chief reads draft one and makes sure it includes everything discussed, it is time for copy beautification. If he/she is satisfied and the client is also satisfied, it goes concurrently to both the graphics team for beautification and the engineering team for coding. The work in tandem to create the final product.
Now the beautified copy is ready for content finalization. The copywriter makes sure that the design and engineering teams kept the message intact. The principal writer and copy chief read the copy from their vantage point and determine its accuracy. Keep in mind that it is not their job to make sure that the doctor’s name is right or the address is accurate, that comes later. That is the role of the graphics team and ultimately what the clients in-house reader is checking.
Before the client gives the final sign off for the copy, they need to look at the logistical and material accuracy. They should check names, locations, hours, etc. This is important because only the client is responsible for the accuracy of the content, compliance with the ethics boards, and has the responsibility of following all the advertising laws.
If you promise 50% off on all deals, you MUST honor it. There might be laws (like truth in advertising) that can govern your behavior. You must make sure you agree with everything copywriter wrote. Have your copy reviewed for accuracy, appropriateness and compliance.
The next step would be deployment but before you do that, if you want to send the copy to a master copywriter for a copy critique, to get a second opinion. They will let you know if you are the right track to deploy or if you should hold off. Trust me, your writer will not be offended. It just like getting a second opinion from a doctor to see if there is another diagnosis.
If all goes well with the second opinion, then comes deployment. It is a somewhat scary and daunting word. You have done all this work and now comes the moment of truth. You start to post your Facebook ads. You print and send the newsletters. You start the email campaigns. And you start the telemarketing calls.
Once you do all of that, you need to look at the data and determine if it is working or not working. You should have constant conversation with the writer's, data scientist’s, and deployment team to see what is not working and based off of that, keep tweaking. This role is crucial and the copywriter will either ask for royalties or a retainer to play that role. That is okay. The tweaking and perfecting your process is an essential part of making sure that the copy is going to be successful for you and your company.
Test your copy with different lists, different subsets of lists, various groups. Remember what they taught you in school about accurate samples during experiments. Make sure that your sample is not too big or not too small. Make sure that your results will be statistically significant. Make sure you are not testing five variables at a time as well. There is no golden rule for this but find what works best for you. Let your data scientist help you determine what and how you will run your tests.
Now if you find that you are generating leads but the leads are not converting, then your lead magnet is too attractive. We had an issue like that once at eLaunchers. At the ICON conference in Phoenix, we paid to have a water station at our booth. Now Phoenix is very dry and visitors do not realize how hot and dry it is. So we would have a bunch of people who JUST come for the water. They would leave their information, take the water, and leave. When we went to call, we would first have to ask “did you just come for the water?” Our deal was too sweet and it was giving us leads who would never buy. Don’t make your copy look like water for dehydrated people in a desert, it will not convert.
So what do you do if the copy fails? You know that the copy is a failure if it does not get you the desired results that you and your team decided was the goal before the copy was even commissioned. The writer will not be offended if you say this isn’t working. In fact, they will want to tweak and edit it to get you the results you wanted. Just be prepared to pay for additional work.
Remember that copy is an art. The copywriter cannot assure you that their work will be successful 100% of the time. They also cannot insure that they will be perfectly on schedule. If they are a few days behind, it is okay. Writing is a creative process and delay is likely to happen. If the project is delayed, it is most likely because they need more time to give you everything you asked for. Do not get angry if the copy doesn’t work the first time. Failure is possible, it happens a lot in marketing but you have to keep testing and testing until you find what works. Once you find what works, just grab it and run with it.
Now sometimes the copy is just truly terrible. So when is it time to part ways with a copywriter? In my experience, you may fire a copywriter and find a new one if the copywriter is not capturing your voice. If your voice is like Fred Flintstone and your copywriter is making you sound like Bugs Bunny, they are obviously missing something. Not that there is anything wrong with Bugs Bunny but if they cannot portray your image in the way you want, the relationship won’t work.
Another possibility for wanting to fire them is if they are too needy or too power-hungry. If they are detrimental to you and your team, they should not work for you. Make sure that you are not in a toxic relationship. You want a nice, healthy relationship with your copywriter. If they have bad behavior and they give your project manager a heart attack, they need to go.