August 2018 1
From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.
Different Paths. Same Results.
Quite a few writers and marketers have joined the list of people who receive these emails. Welcome!
Dan Kennedy says, and I’m paraphrasing quite a bit, “if you want to be successful, follow someone who has been successful and find out how they became great … then do what they did.”
If you want to be a lawyer, a doctor, or a dentist, then the career path is fairly predictable. It’s sort of the same with a corporate career.
However, take a look at the careers of productive, and even famous, copywriters and you’ll find a panoply of paths.
Bob Bly started in a corporate marketing department and went freelance fairly early in his career.
Eric Betuel, who wrote several powerful controls for Boardroom, went door-to-door selling encyclopedias before discovering direct marketing and direct response copywriting. And he was selling door-to-door in his teens to support his family. He HAD to make sales.
One of my mentors, Andrew Wood, was sitting around in his empty Karate studio in southern California when he went to the library and read Ogilvy on Advertising. He then built a karate school empire before turning to golf marketing and copywriting.
David Ogilvy did just about everything before starting his agency. He was a researcher, cook, farmer, and door-to-door salesman, selling AGA stoves. To learn to write advertising copy, he took what was then called a "correspondence course." He found his first clients through a direct mail campaign.
Gary Bencivenga spent several years working in Madison Avenue advertising agencies, working under greats like John Caples, before heading toward a direct marketing agency. Then he went out on his own.
John Caples went directly into the advertising world after a stint in the Navy.
Kim Schwalm started in the marketing side of direct marketing before moving to direct response copywriting. So she worked with a number of top copywriters before becoming a copywriter herself.
I started my career as a copywriter in the advertising department of a department store chain and I’ve always written copy. But I’ve taken detours into corporate communications, magazine publishing, books, publishing sales, ski instruction, and waiting tables.
Fortunately, I discovered direct marketing and direct response copywriting in 2002 and went full-time with only direct response copywriting in 2010. And it’s been a great 8 years.
In my career, I’ve published something like 10,000 pages of magazine content and this background has helped me tremendously. You can discover a TON about direct response copywriting by studying the world’s top newspapers and magazines and how they grab your attention and then keep you reading.
My first clients were mostly advertising agencies and direct marketing agencies. They had a ton of work for me. The pay wasn’t stratospheric but it was enough and I got some super-valuable things: training, mentoring, feedback based on metrics, experience, and samples for my portfolio.
Before getting into direct response copywriting all the time, my career was mostly peripatetic. All those experiences helped me move into copy fairly easily. But I know several people who have arrived at copywriting from crazily different backgrounds … sales … engineering … academia … nursing … Wall Street … the corporate world.
John Caples was the exception because he was so productive, so quickly, so early in his career … his mid-20s. But I believe you have to have been out there in the real world for a long time before you can really understand human nature … but not from an academic standpoint.
Copywriting is about selling but it’s more about understanding what really makes people tick and what they really want in life.
Everyone must study the work and thoughts of the hyper-successful copywriters. You should know who they are. But also study how they learned and how they became super-successful. They also failed a lot. You’ll get a blueprint for success from the big names in our business.
Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter