Giving Your Copywriter Good Ammo
You want to beat your current control package. You hire a copywriter to take a crack at coming up with a stronger effort. Great, right? Sure, if you help the copywriter help you by providing the details that make the difference between a so-so mailing and a control beater.
What are these details? A few copywriters outline the basic information they prefer to know before starting a direct mail project.
The Starting Point
The starting place for copywriters may differ slightly, but eventually all roads lead to the same spot... which is the audience.
Freelance copywriter Pat Friesen asks for the campaign objective, i.e., sales, lead generation, traffic generation to get a general sense of the project. But she also needs to know about the audience "in order to select the most powerful format and promote the offer effectively."
Mark E. Johnson, also a freelance copywriter, likes to give the product he's going to be selling a once-over before moving on to extensive questions about the audience, such as:
* Who is the audience, and why have they been selected for this offer?
* What type of offers and formats have they responded to in the past?
* Have they bought similar or competing products recently?
* Have they paid this much for a mail-order product before?
* Was this product created with these particular customers in mind?
Answers to these questions help Johnson get inside the mind of the prospect. But he doesn't stop there. He also finds it important to understand the audience's relationship with the client.
For example, Johnson won't write to a multi-buyer from a house list in the same way he would address a new name from a cold mail list. Questions like "what other products has the client recently offered to the same names" and "is there a particular letter signer or other personality that the audience identifies with" provide a copywriter with strategic direction.
Mal Decker, president of Malcolm Decker Associates, a direct mail consultancy and creative services agency, points out that if a copywriter doesn't have your marketing, creative, and copy strategies, then there's "no objective basis on which to judge the copy when it's delivered." So his first step is to either procure these standards or help his client develop them.
In general, copywriters agree that seeing the lists that have performed best for the offer in the past allow them to visualize the prospecthelping them write one-to-one .
What's the best source of information on the product being sold? The product itself, says Decker. In addition, he finds the product manager's spec sheet, previous controls , user testimonials and white mail effective in providing a clear picture of the product.
"Most frequently, manufacturers or product developers are in love with the many features of their product or service," says Friesen. "They are very proud of them. As a direct response writer, I need to know about the benefits. And I need to know which ones are most important to different targeted audiences. All benefits do not necessarily have the same appeal or importance to different audiences."
Johnson looks for the biggest benefit by asking clients to identify the "particular human need the product was created to fill."
Of course, the type of offer being usedsoft, hard, trial, lead generationrequires copywriters to know a little bit about the client's ability to handle leads and how well previous mailings have performed at different stages in the customer contact program.
Decker says: "I get every package, with results, and every bit of hard data the client will give me so I can work from a solid foundation."
Besides the essential product, offer and audience information, you might be holding a few golden nuggets that a copywriter can use to good advantage.
For example, Johnson asks his clients for testimonials. He explains, "One good testimonial can carry a promotion to enormous heights. One of the most successful campaigns I ever created was based entirely on testimonials."
He also requests the test results of other media sources via which the product has been sold, because "an offer that worked in one source may work very well in another."
Why Samples of Previous Controls and Failed Tests are Essential
* "I'm looking for the big benefits that are making the product sell, as well as for elements that might be missing from the work of the previous creative team. Maybe I can add a premium or a guarantee or a sticker that's not in the control. Maybe there's an important benefit buried deep in the control copy that could suggest a breakthrough new copy platform." Mark Johnson
* "Previous controls were once winners. I study the way they developed their captions, eyebrows, leads, subheads, closes and P.S.'s. Because we usually do complete packages, I also study the design elements, color, dynamics, use of type, etc. Then I do the same thing with the losers until I find the weaknesses that appear to account for their failure, and I avoid them." Mal Decker
Copywriters Need to Know...
1. Product/service benefits
2. Targeted audience(s)
3. Decision-makers and decision-influencers
6. Differentiating advantages and obstacles
7. Objections to responding
8. What kind of mail the audience receives
9. Names of customers to interview, etc.