Not long ago, I read something a well-known copywriter had put on his sales page for his mentoring group that rankled me a bit.
It wasn’t so much that I felt personally attacked–since it was so clearly wrong and inaccurate if in fact it was directed at me (and other long-time top copywriters I know who also mentor copywriters.)
It was probably because it summed up one of the biggest issues I’ve seen with the kind of thinking that I’ve seen far too often in certain copywriting circles.
It comes across as deep disrespect, in an attempt to somehow elevate oneself.
A truly confident person respects others, knows there is always more they can learn, and possesses a quiet confidence in their abilities and accomplishments–rather than constantly shouting about them from the rooftops.
So what was it on that sales page that conveyed this misguided thinking?
It was something along the lines of how you don’t want to learn copywriting from someone who hasn’t been “great” in over 10 years… because, you know, everything is SO different when it comes to copywriting today!
It’s funny, I’ve been in this game for 25+ years as a freelance copywriter, and 13+ years before that as a marketer for major 9-figure companies with massive marketing budgets, and launched and ran a subsidiary for one of them that I grew to the equivalent of $40 million in sales in the first 3 years.
So I’ve seen a lot of transitions from a purely direct mail world to a mainly online world (though from the stacks of direct mail promos landing in my mailbox, direct mail is still alive and kicking) to now the emergence of AI technology.
Countless times, I’ve seen things called one thing in online digital marketing, heralded as some new “ninja” tactic, only to find out it was the same thing we “old-timers” (and the people I considered old-timers back then) had been doing for years, only calling it something else.
Direct response principles are direct response principles–online or AI or print.
What I’ve seen dished up and “sold” for the past few decades (it’s not just the “lam-bros” doing it) is the idea that there are easy shortcuts and formulaic approaches to writing sales copy–and that’s all you need to know… leaving out the idea of actually understanding the strategy behind it.
This diminishes the value of copywriters and what good ones bring to the table. I’m working closely with a major company right now, and everything I’ve done the past 30+ years of my career is coming together… and giving me a huge edge in what I’m able to provide the client. Not just copy, but high-level strategy and experience.
This is what you, as a copywriter or marketer, need to aspire to as well.
It’s not about simply being able to crank out as much “good enough/me, too” copy as you can as fast as possible, using AI or formulas or other tools…
It’s about really understanding HOW great copy is made. And how to use it to give yourself or your client a giant competitive edge.
Because this is what separates the 6- and barely 7-figure businesses from the 8, 9, and beyond behemoths that I’ve worked with throughout my career.
And if you want to do more than simply copy-and-paste AI prompts, and actually play the role of a “prompt engineer” to streamline your idea generation and produce a working draft of copy (that you will still want to fine-tune to perfection)…
You HAVE to know what to ask AI to do for you… and understand what that ultimate “perfection” in copy is.
Because remember, copy is a BIG differentiator in highly-competitive niches. “Good enough” copy will only get you so far. The real growth comes from GREAT.
If you’re a good copywriter who really understands the strategy behind copy, then you’ve got a significant advantage.
And whether you understand it or not, what you should focus significantly more time on is studying successful promos… even if they were written years or decades ago.
Look at the ones that had to really earn their keep, back when it was expensive to do marketing thanks to printing and postage costs.
The ones that had to go up against fierce competition against legends in head-to-head tests in order to become the control.
Yes, some of these legends are still writing or chiefing copy actively, for 8 and 9-figure companies who are beating their competition hands down… because they’re smart enough to invest in GREAT copy, not just “good enough” copy.
(Some of those “washed-up” legends will be at this can’t-miss event here, including yours truly. Get your ticket from my link and I’ll take you out for pizza plus you can get one of my 3 main copywriting courses worth up to $1,497.)
So here’s my advice: aspire for MORE.
Aspire to achieve greatness at writing sales copy. Aspire to do the work. Aspire to learn everything you can from those who’ve come before you.
It WILL pay off.
It’s probably the one approach in these changing and seemingly uncertain times that’s got the most guaranteed ROI in exchange for your time and effort.
You don’t want to just be a cog in the machine. You want to OWN the machine.
And one of the best ways to get there is to study the greats of the past.
You know, the ones who haven’t “done anything” in 10+ years.
If you haven’t read everything you can that Gary Bencivenga wrote years ago in his “Bencivenga Bullets”… or that the late Clayton Makepeace put out as part of his “Total Package” (both of which you may be able to find online with some stealthy Googling)…
If you haven’t read Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising… a book written over 100 years ago that each time I re-read I get new, applicable insights from (you can find a free PDF online if you look for it)…
And if you’re not studying a successful promo–either a current-day one you KNOW is killing it, or one written years or decades ago that reigned as a successful control–every single day, and figuring out why it worked–and one thing you could try that might make it even stronger (that’s where that strategy comes in…)
Well, you’ve barely started your copywriting education, in my book.
And while you should learn from those who can teach you about using AI tools or who are having success in any type of marketing and copywriting you want to learn more about, remember this…
Just like Al Gore, they didn’t “invent the Internet”.
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. My new forthcoming book, Client Badassery Secrets–an updated and revised edition of my former e-book, is already started to get some buzz. I’m super excited to get this baby off to typesetting next week, and it’ll be a REAL book and available to get into your hot little hands within the next month or so.
I can’t wait to see the impact it’s going to have on anyone who works as freelancer or even in-house… and it will be worthy reading for clients as well. So stay tuned!