Direct Response Copywriter on Failure

Ouch ... that's an ugly word. FAILURE.

Everyone faces failure at some stage. It’s part of professional life. In direct marketing and direct response, failure is very much part of daily life: it’s not an occasional event.

A promotion might convert at 4%. That’s a 96% failure rate. I have written copy that’s completely and totally failed to beat a control. That’s part of this gig. But 4% conversion can be great.

If the client is smart and is serious about being successful, they let me keep pounding away until I find the copy that works. Sometimes the copy beats the control right away. Sometimes it takes several weeks. That’s part of being a direct response copywriter.

In the world of branding advertising, nobody really knows whether a campaign works or not. That’s because it’s all about image. But in direct response, we measure everything, and, many times, the numbers are not pretty.

So we go back to work. We learn from what didn’t work. Notice how I didn’t say, “mistake.” No … in direct response, failure isn’t a mistake. It’s part of the fabric of what we do. As a direct response copywriter, I relish failure. I discover what’s not working … so I can try something else. That’s part of testing.

In the last several years, I have attended several direct marketing and direct response copywriting conferences. I have spent some time with some of the biggest names in direct response. Yes – they’ve had some epic wins but they also told me about their failures. Their failures outnumber their successes.

I hear a lot about people who have been successful. Their common trait? Failure. The second common trait? Persistence.

I’ve had some bad experiences with clients who ask me to write a piece, don’t really test it, then kick me to the curb. They only gave me one chance and I failed -- even though they liked the copy. They gave up on me after one effort. That’s their decision.

Others have allowed me to fail repeatedly. These clients who want me to fail are making VAST AMOUNTS of money. They get it.

Just sayin’.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I write direct response copy for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.