If you want to be a successful copywriter, you've got to find a niche. Whether it be technical writing for a bio-med company, consumer marketing for an advertising firm, penning resume's or hammering out non-profit direct mail, there's plenty out there to choose from. More than plenty. Which makes it even more difficult for beginning copywriters to know where to turn or what to do.
I call it "The 500 Channels To Watch And Nothing's On" syndrome.
From viral video to old school DM, white papers to e-books, brochures to SEO specialists, web writing to ghostwriting, advertorials to press releases, blah blah blah to yada yada yada, the list goes on and on and on, encompassing an industry that rakes in, even amidst new ad cuts during a recession, hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Anheuser-Busch alone (I still can't will myself to call them InBev yet) spends $1.3 billion per year in marketing. $1.3B. A year. Just in marketing.
So with all that money out there and all those possibilities, where does one settle down and make a name for one's self?
Marketing "yodas" like Bob Bly and David Meerman Scott are two of marketing's top pros today. They make money in the ad world doing vastly different things. Bob Bly would rather sit at a desk, write copy and market himself from his office. Something which he does extremely well and makes a good deal of money doing. Scott, a surfer by the way, would rather go out on the road, doing seminars and conferences, to market himself and haul in his profit. He uses his books as a PR tool while Bly uses his books as a profit margin.
Both are intelligent men, extremely knowledgeable in their line of work and tout that to be heard, one needs to become an expert in some field somewhere. Though each of them follows different schools of thought on customer tracking and the cultivating of lucrative success, both men are enjoying lucrative success themselves.
So, to become a success, a copywriter needs to become an expert. That's great. On what? And that's the secret every copywriter must come to in their own way and in their own time. I love to write. Great. I get paid to write. Even better. What can I do to maximize my time, profits and energy. Become an expert. Oh... An expert on what? Well, you've gotta figure that one out on your own kid. Ahh...
I feel a niche blooming in my work. We naturally gravitate toward the things we enjoy doing and people who are likeminded. But it takes time. Lots and lots of time. Which leads us to the second key point to copywriting success: getting customers. How do you get heard in a world full of so many people shouting?
Indeed... how? A niche doesn't necessarily mean customers start banging down your door. And consistency in a client base is hard to come by when you're just beginning. There are so many things to consider, so many factors, and yet one can boil it down to two challenges which will secure profitability: a niche and a solid customer base.
I suspect finding a niche and securing a customer base is just like realizing that those characteristics are the two business qualities one needs to secure in order to have longevity and success it this business: it's probably simple, in that complicated sort of way.
The good folks over at MMAPayout.com have reported that Tom Atencio, Vice President of Affliction, has told Yahoo! that the number of pay-per-view buys for the company's very first fight promotion, Banned, last Saturday night would come in well over the projected 75,000 buy range. That's a hell of a first swing for the upstart fight club.
Dana White and the UFC put out a free card on Spike TV that same evening which drew 4.6M viewers. "The event was the highest rated program on television (cable or network) on Saturday in M18-34, M18-49, M25-34, and P18-34," reports MMAPayout. It was the third highest viewership for a fight card on Spike all time and, for weeks, cast a dark shadow of doubt over the Affliction card's possibilities for success.
However, numerous radio spots, and "prominent window displays" with the retailer, Buckle, which pushed Affliction merchandise, the Banned PPV and handed out literature on the fight card, may have vaulted Affliction into what is considered by Atencio and his gang a much better than average first effort.
Robert Joyner of MMAPayout also astutely points out that, "Affliction's mix of former PRIDE and UFC fighters may have struck a chord with this hardcore audience." Either way, the legitimacy of MMA as a growing sport full of marketing opportunities for large corporations who would love to get their mitts on the attention of 18-34 year-olds must be recognized now. The sport is not going away and these guys better take lessons from Harley-Davidson, Burger King and Bud Light (who have all bought into the UFC): get involved now while it's still cheap.
One hundred thousand buys is considered a failed PPV for the likes of the UFC. But, as the market diversifies into factional promotions it might behoove White and the Fertitta brothers to take swallow some pride and learn from Atencio. The Affliction VP says, "We know (fighters) want to be treated well and we're willing to work with them, but... the guys have to be willing to work with us and not simply look at us as a cash cow."
Great fight cards need great fighters and great fighters need great promotions. The UFC is going to have to share some of that green stuff with their stable of warriors if they want to stay on top. Affliction is going to have to take some losses and continue to put together interesting fights if they are going to ever be able to compete with the UFC.
Life's a ladder. Keep climbing, don't forget to look around and watch where you step. Oh, and happy employees are loyal employees. Keep it simple.
Actual copy of a letter sent to Chase Bank's Mortgage Division.
To Whom It May Concern (Which I Doubt Is Anybody Within Your Organization):
I find the behavior of Chase, its employees involved in the matter of loan [loan number removed] and the company's overall business practices pertaining to [address removed] of said loan to not only be deceitful, manipulative and subversive but highly unethical, misguiding and downright disgusting.
Mine is not a question of accountability as it pertains to my foreclosure. I got in over my head and have suffered the consequences. Mine is a question of integrity and character as it pertains to your organization. I have seen nothing to show me that Chase Bank possesses either.
I chose to pursue the "short sale" option provided by your company because I believed it was the right thing to do. I believed that, as it was a poor decision on my part that got me into this situation, I would do my best to get myself and my lender out of this unenviable matter with as little work as possible on the lender's part. However, as I have found out through this five month process, those kind of ideals, ideals that possess stature and conviction, mean nothing to Chase.
I made my position abundantly clear in a written letter at the very start of this pursuit (which your representative, "Crystal", acknowledged receiving) that I could not afford the closing costs should the home be sold. After more than a month of waiting, Crystal gave my Realtor word that Chase wanted us to proceed. In less than two weeks we found a buyer who submitted an offer. Then we waited for Chase's response. And waited. And waited.
A month and a half went by, I went further into foreclosure and Chase finally accepted the offer. A closing date was set for July 7, 2008. I was served with foreclosure papers two days later on June 14, 2008. If the house didn't sell, Chase would pursue a foreclosure judgment against me for the total sum of the house minus whatever they received at auction. If I didn't file an official paper with Chase's local attorney (i.e. spend money I don't have on a lawyer to check "yes" or "no" in certain boxes on one sheet of paper) by July 15, 2008, Chase would assume that "I accepted to be true" everything they were charging me with.
I figured, because of my understanding with Chase's commitment, that the house would be sold a week before the paperwork was due and did not file any paperwork with the attorney I don't have because I don't have any money.
But little did I know the devious tactics big, unfeeling, poorly attentive businesses like the deceitful swines at Chase Bank had up their sleeve. Your company stalled the deal over $6k in closing costs, which you acknowledged I could not pay from the beginning, and both "Crystal" and her supervisor ignored over 40 emails and phone calls in 5 days from myself, my Realtor and my closing attorney.
The buyer's contract expired, you lost a sale, my Realtor and my closing attorneys lost compensation for a contract in which they both lowered their rates but worked twice as hard for, and I lost my home and my ability to walk away from our contract with mutual satisfaction.
You are a den of misguided, heartless, malcontented thieves. Everyone of you, from the top down, should be ashamed of the way you treat people. You are without empathy or integrity. You are robbers of honor, class and dignity and the sooner your company ceases to exist the better off anyone subjected to debt owed to your company will be. You are sad, impotent, penurious feudal lords. You disgust me.
But I'm nobody and you don't care. I'm just a loan number and an address.
I believe your actions in this matter have perpetuated the mortgage crisis and credit crunch our entire nation is feeling. I believe you have not made it possible to do the right thing, just impossible. I believe you have taken what is a mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting personal situation and exacerbated it. I believe, in the end, your company will have spent more money than it gained in the matter of loan [loan number removed] and I believe I'm not the only one of your customers you have done this to.
However, for a fact, I know one thing to be true: Chase has lost a customer. And I will do everything in my power to convince others that purchasing anything from your company is an investment in impertinent business practices.
I may have nothing financially. But, as your behemoth monstrosity of a company tries to take my very last dime with cold and merciless claws I have something you sorely lack and cannot buy. Ever. I have integrity. What do you see when you look in the mirror anymore? Greed is simply an empty virtue to those lost souls who have forgotten, or never had the pleasure of knowing, the rewards of compassion and believe in that gingerly constructed paradigm that knows neither truth nor joy; that the wallet is the measure of a man.
Enjoy your new home at [address removed]. I hope your arrogant, pretentious and dastardly actions were worth it.
"I'm a great believer in making things as simple as possible. I've always contended that good communicators take something complicated and make it simple." - John C. Maxwell The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
What determines strength, character and courage? Hint: It's got absolutely nothing to do with how big your biceps are or how much ya bench.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an avid womanizer until polio racked his body at 39 years of age. The man, becoming wheelchair bound, eventually led the United States from despair to victory during its darkest hours since The Civil War. FDR's wife once remarked that Roosevelt's polio "Was a turning point... it gave him strength and courage he had not had before."
What makes some men (and women) go on when everybody else would quit? How do some people turn disaster and failure into stepping stones?
FDR was, for all intents and purposes, a playboy or a cheating bastard depending on your perspective before he was infected with polio. Suddenly, that lifestyle was stripped away from him. How many times did FDR have to look in the mirror and ask his God why him? How many times did he look in the mirror and feel like giving up? How bad were those bad days? What did it take for him to come to terms with his affliction and move on; move on to not only become President of the United States, but go where no American president has ever been before or since: to four terms in office?
Does the struggle forge character and integrity or does it just showcase it? How long are those long nights, how black those dark days, for those truly intrepid souls whom history has no choice but to remember?
As my country's foundation is battered by a recession, I find myself going through my own struggles with fear, self-doubt, worry and change. It feels like the world I made an effort to create around myself is crumbling around me- being stripped from me with unmerciful and embarrassing precision. And I look in the mirror often, asking myself who I am and what can be done. Some days I feel emasculated, beaten and tired. Some days I feel like quitting.
But then I scratch my stubble and smile. FDR's fifth cousin sums up my feelings on my matters at hand with the aptitude of a journeyman, the wisdom of a man educated by deed and the authority of a leader:
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
The man who quits, in the end, dies with that poor, empty decision it was his sole choice to leave behind: nothing.
For me, "nothing" is not an acceptable repayment for this gift of life. Keep it simple.
VF Corporation, "a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel" announced record second quarter results for 2008 a couple of days ago, says Transworld Business. Second quarter revenues were up 11% from 2007 to $1,677.5 million.
The apparel company, responsible for brands like The North Face(R), Vans(R), Eastpak(R), Reef(R) and more, says, "Our ability to deliver record revenues and earnings per share (EPS) in the face of of exceptionally challenging economic conditions clearly demonstrates the strength and resilience of VF's business model- which is based on powerful brands, excellent geographic and retail channel diversity and consistent execution."
Revenues rose 10% for the first half of 2008 to $3,523.8 million. EPS from continuing operations increased 8% to $2.27.
"Well managed companies with strong brands can perform well, even in difficult conditions," says Eric Wiseman, President and CEO of VFC. As a result, "We are raising are full year growth target for 2008 from 10% to 12%," with anticipated "revenues for 2008 of $7.9 billion, representing an increase of over 9%."
VF Corp spent $245 million on advertising and promotions. And that was way back in 2002. I couldn't find their ad budget from last year.
"Never guarantee conversion rates." That's one of the first things they teach you in advertising. Never predict what the ROI will be. You'll sound like a kook. A con-artist. A shyster. You'll be cast out of advertising Valhalla forever.
Advertising Agesays, "BzzAgent, a network of regular-Joe brand advocates, is making a big bet that word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing will outperform any other discipline when it comes to ringing registers and driving advocacy brands."
BzzAgent is "inviting any brand marketer and its agency partners to take part in a challenge... of competing campaigns. If BzzAgent does not top the competing agency by 20% across four metrics- brand awareness, consumer opinion, purchase intent and actual sales- the agency will refund the marketer the cost of its word-of-mouth campaign and its measurement costs."
Seems like a risky publicity stunt.
Dave Balter, founder and CEO of BzzAgent told Advertising Age, "Are we 100% sure we can outperform all other mediums by 20%? No, but we're pretty confident we can do something special here. It's time to put our money where our mouth is."
The "bet" requires a minimum investment of $300k in WOM media and "traditional media" in order for BzzAgent to recognize it. Insight Express, a third-party digital-marketing research firm, will be handling all measurement aspects to insure fair play. And that's where things get even more tricky. BzzAgent wants to prove that WOM "outperforms other disciplines and [that] the program increase[s] the number of marketers running word-of-mouth campaigns". The article does not say with which products in which markets.
"What we are really trying to accomplish," Balter says, "is to get word-of-mouth to be valued on a measurement basis for marketers." Which is something the industry has balked at for eons. If you put the power in the people's hands, how can you control the spin of the product?
Can WOM, in the Internet age, clear the market of poor product and foul play? It's hard to say. It probably depends on the product and the demographic. And what doesn't in advertising? But BzzAgent may be on to something. With "nearly 280 clients... It has seen six quarters of growth and 2007 was its strongest year to date."
Better ROI made 20% better by WOM? It better be a better quality product in an atmosphere conducive to "spreading the word". Lots of variables, little control on campaign. You gotta appreciate the balls of BzzAgent and their challenge to keep it simple.
Had a good weekend of surf on Hilton Head Island. (Which is extremely rare and amounts to pretty much crap surf anywhere else in the world. However, I think the Stones said it best when Mick told us, we can't always get what we want, but sometimes, we get what we need.)
Hip to rib high. Light onshore breeze (it's onshore 98% of the time on The Rock) and no drift on Sunday. Watched a good friend of mine catch his first few waves of his life. It's always nice to see that glow of understanding, that hook, wash over someone new. It's the "ah, now I get what those guys are talking about" epiphany. And it's something you have to earn. Thanks Bertha.
Ran into an old friend of mine on Friday. Big Tommy is now Medium Tommy and keeps a blog at under3minutes.com. Check him out, the dude's always got some new shenanigans going on. Keep it simple.
By Bob Bly: The Copywriter's Handbook Essential to grasping the concept of copywriting for a living. (****)
Seth Godin: Permission Marketing You still have to "interrupt" people to get permission, but solid info on maintaining and growing a customer base. (***)
Nick Usborne: net words I cannot stand writing in jargon laced "corporate speak". Nick tells people why it's bad and what you need to write for the web EFFECTIVELY. (***)
Patrick Hanlon: Primal Branding Insightful and thought provoking notes concerning a consistently misused, mishandled and misunderstood concept. (***)
Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Made To Stick Smart brothers, classic case studies and sound reasoning. The book just makes sense. (***)
Clotaire Rapaille: The Culture Code Culture certainly plays a role in what we want and how it should be sold to be successful. And Fortune 500 companies pay Rapaille very well to tell them how. Great insight on the perspective one needs to carry in today's global society. (***)
Seth Godin: The Big Moo Fun book. Short, poignant stories of success. Reminder that being remarkable and being perfect are vastly separate entities. (***)
Required Reading (As I See It)
Bruce Lee: Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee's Wisdom For Daily Living Simple. Profound. Striking. All from a man who died at 32. (****)
Ernest Hemingway: To Have And Have Not The guy's a master. This is my current favorite selection. (****)
Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird Two words: Atticus. Finch. (****)
Marcus Aurelius: Meditations How many times do you get to crawl inside the head of a Roman emperor? (***)
Stephen F. Kaufman: The Book of Five Rings Miyamoto Musashi was the baddest philosopher/samurai that ever lived. He served no master but himself. The Book of Five Rings is his definitive strategy on proper living. (****)
Jon Krakauer: Into The Wild I read this book before it was "cool". Great investigative reporting regarding one of life's most epic searches for "the truth". (****)
Neil Strauss: Motley Crue: the dirt Rampant destruction in the name of greed, lust and arrogance. You will feel dirty after reading this book. (***)
Don Miguel Ruiz: The Four Agreements Live life better. We all need to be reminded how. Some of us need to be shown. (***)
Dante: The Inferno The classic treatise on the damned. I could think of people who need to re-read this in today's world. (****)
David Rensin: All For A Few Perfect Waves A series of interviews, from the men and women who paved the first roads of modern surfing, concerning the enigmatic life and times of surfing's legendary genius and consummate asshole Miki Dora. I'm still not sure what to make of Da Cat. (***)