Your sales copy bombed — now what?
If it hasn’t happened to you yet — it will. I promise.
You spend weeks researching a project… coming up with a convincing sales argument… loading up your letter with proof elements — including stellar testimonials… and giving the prospect an offer he can’t refuse.
You work long days and nights with the designer to create a look that makes your copy POP. You’re thrilled with your results and you can’t wait for the client to mail the package.
The mail date finally arrives. You get samples in the mail. Package looks AWESOME! Now you wait 3 weeks or more to get the results.
In the meantime, you’re envisioning how you’re going to spend your royalty checks. New car? Dream vacation? Hey — maybe even pay off your mortgage!
Then you get that phone call (or email) with the words:
“Your package didn’t beat the control”. Or even worse…
“Your package bombed”. We haven’t seen responses this low in over 20 years!”
Now, the negative tape starts going off in your head:
“You suck.” You’re a fraud. Nobody will hire you EVER again. Get that Wal-Mart application and fill it out PRONTO. You can’t make it in this copywriting biz.”
I’m not making this stuff up. That’s how I still feel EVERY time my package fails. Fortunately I don’t experience it too often — but when I do — my day… week… sometimes month is ruined!
If you attended the 2015 AWAI Bootcamp — then you know about my famous — or infamous — “Jeremy” package…
Man, I loved, loved, LOVED that project. I had to fight tooth and nail to get the client to “see” my vision. It was a unique approach… extremely creative…and I just KNEW it was going to be a kick-butt winner!
Boy oh boy was I WRONG!
And to add insult to injury — I was WRONG in front of a live audience! Yep, I actually got the results of the mailing while I was giving my AWAI speech! Remember?
(If you want to see the Jeremy package I thought was great — but the market didn’t agree with me —
Talk about being BUMMED!
So, how do I pull myself out of my rut and get my butt back in the game?
Well, I learned a few valuable lessons through the past decades of working in this biz that helps
me — and I think it can help you too. So listen up…
#1: Get the facts! I’ve got an over-imaginative mind. If I hear “your package didn’t work” — I immediately assume it sucked to high heaven! When the reality is that I may have lost by a few percentage points.
So, don’t settle for generalities. Ask for specifics. Did the package lose by 10%.. 30%… or 50%? Did you have alternate covers? If so, how did they stack up? How many other packages were you competing against?
Getting these specifics can help you decide which way to go. If your package lost by a slim margin — then there’s a chance you could improve the results with a stronger headline.
Offer to write a new cover if the client is willing to retest — and don’t charge the client for any additional creative test! Your goal is to turn your package into a winner — so you need another shot in the mail. Nickel- and-diming your client at this point will put you out of the game!
Here’s a little insight from my years of working as a marketing director: If a package loses — the company doesn’t necessarily lose money. Here’s why:
Let’s say your package was 10% behind the control in response. So you’re not a winner — but you’re not a loser either. The client should be able to recoup his losses on the list rental side of his business. This is where he rents out his names to other mailers. This is a HUGE source of income for marketing companies. So, if your package brought in new names — the client is making money off those names on the list side of the business!
#2: Perform a “post-mortum” of your package. It may not be sorry copy — it could be you picked a bad theme. Sometimes clients give you a theme and direction they want to go with the package — but when the package idea doesn’t work — YOU failed! Not fair, but it’s a reality.
Sometimes you just picked a dud theme that didn’t resonate with your market. It happens. It sucks. Oh, well, you move on.
Here’s a suggestion if your client “assigns” you a theme or direction for your package: If you don’t buy into the theme — walk away from the project.
Remember, YOUR butt’s on the line to deliver. If you don’t think you can make it work — it’s better to pass on the assignment.
If you tell your client you’re not “feelin” the theme — then try to come up with an alternative idea to save the assignment.
I’ve said NO THANKS to an assigned theme several times — and I’ve been happy with my decision every time.
Sure, some times the client hires another writer and gives him that same theme — and it worked in the mail. But I didn’t believe in it, so I knew I wasn’t going to do my best job. I’m still glad I passed.
And also, clients really do appreciate honestly. They’ve got a lot of money invested in these promotional packages — and they want the best writer for the job. If it’s not you — then it shouldn’t be you!
#3: Remember: Clayton Makepeace sucks too! After I’ve had my little pity party about my package losing, I need to get my head back in the game. And the best way I do that is to think about my copywriting hero Clayton Makepeace. And then I say, “If a master copywriter like Clayton isn’t batting a thousand — why the heck do I think I’m immune to failure?
The point is EVERYBODY experiences defeat in the mail. And the way to become known as a STAR copywriter is to have FEWER failures than the other guys!
That’s how Clayton… Gary Bencivenga… Richard Armstrong…and other class A copywriters developed their stellar reputations. It’s not that they didn’t lose — they just had more SUCCESSES!
Here’s another little gem I want to pass on to you:
Clients are more willing to give you another shot at a project if they like you. We’re human. We’re drawn to people we like.
So if you treated the client with respect… acted like a professional… and did the best you could — most likely you’ll get another shot at beating or creating a new package soon!
So don’t give up!