A-Lister. B-Lister. D-Lister. Whatever. Direct Response Copywriting Email Archive November 2017 2

November 2017 2

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

A-Lister. B-Lister. Whatever.

Plus Some Extremely Salient Advice from Gary Bencivenga. And Why I Gleefully Fired Two Clients in Two Weeks.

Even if you’re a freshly-minted copywriter, I’m confident you’ve heard of the pecking order of A-Lister and B-Lister, and so on. I’ve heard certain copywriters called, “A-Plus-Lister” which means, I have to deduce, they are just a bit better than A-Listers.

A well-known direct marketing expert has called me an A-Lister, which I suppose is a good sign. Another copywriter I know very well calls himself an A-Lister on his website. That’s because others in the marketing world have called him thus.

The system applies to other disciplines, even celebrity life. So and so used to be an “A List celebrity” but is now “D List.” I suppose I could look up the genesis of the idea but I have better things to do ... like take my skis to the ski shop for a tune up. Perhaps you’ll investigate and let me know what you discover.

Anyway, I don’t care for this whole A-Lister palaver. I care about reaching my financial goals so I’m not a burden on family/society when I’m old and in the way. I care about clients who care so deeply about direct marketing that they have a copy of Breakthrough Advertising on the top of their commode. And yes, I have a client who keeps a copy of Breakthrough Advertising on the top of their commode. I care about becoming a stronger copywriter who can generate more revenue for my clients. I care DEEPLY about the success of my clients.

And here’s something you need to know about A-List direct response copywriters. Most of them don’t write copy anymore. They teach and critique.

My ego wants to be called an A-Lister, I guess, but ego satisfaction is short-lived at best. I want to generate a lot of money for my clients so they send a small portion of the revenue my way and keep hiring me.

As I mentioned in the last email, I’m going to discuss Gary Bencivenga’s copy in future emails, but before going there, there’s a piece of Gary Bencivenga advice that’s especially valuable and salient to me every day …


Let’s flip this around.


If a company has a list of people who love bananas, and everything banana, and they ask me to write copy selling light bulbs to the banana list, I’ve got a problem.

But when they ask me to write copy to that list selling … get this … BANANAS and related banana products … then I’m going to look like a rock-star who is so brilliant I can’t even be classified as an A-Plus-Plus-Plus-Lister.

I had a potential client contact me the other day. He was in the banking business. He wanted a direct mail piece, a post card, plus a long landing page. He had a poor list plus asked if I could get paid when he got some business in the door. The gestation period for people in this business is about 8 months. He balked at the quote and wanted a discount. Plus he wanted everything written in 24 hours. So I fired him before the project could even start.

Another client has an awesome list. The company just asked me to write a promotion for some sunglasses. “Nothing exotic or fun there,” you might justifiably say. But wait a minute. These sunglasses let you listen to music and TAKE PHONE CALLS through the frames! Really! The people on the list will go bonkers for these sunglasses … based on what they have bought before.

Which client do I want to work with?

Let’s remember something about the so-called A-Listers from a decade or so ago … including Gary Bencivenga. They wrote for companies with … Huge and responsive lists, hand curated Excellent products A proven copy formula Top-quality complementary resources like graphics and printing A proven offer and price structure So it’s no wonder their copy worked.

I’m not disparaging these copywriters in any way. I admire Gary Bencivenga more than any other copywriter.

But the lesson here … avoid clients who are not serious direct marketers.

The other client I fired? This company sells a building product/service. My contact would tell me he loved the copy one day, then send me a scathing email the next telling me I’m the worst copywriter ever. He ignored my direct marketing advice, even though he said he liked my feedback/push back.

It was a big piece of business but, even with the fee, I couldn’t take the lunacy. So I issued forth the red card and moved on.

Some clients will, unknowingly, say what Steve Jobs (allegedly) told a copywriter, “keep writing … when I see what I want … I’ll let you know.” That’s fine when there’s an unlimited budget but that’s a marketing challenge I would take on if the client was paying me a whopping fee with no timetable.

Life’s a lot easier when you work with companies that give you the opportunity to sell great products and services … with promotions sent to a list that’s hungry for what the company sells.

In fact, maybe that’s the difference between the A-Lister and the “others.” The A-Lister works with the great companies while the “others” take on marketing challenges.

I think I just discovered something there.

It’s amazing how brilliant I can be when I write about sunglasses THAT TAKE PHONE CALLS and PLAY MUSIC, priced aggressively, and sent to a list of about 2 million strong potential buyers who will go BONKERS for this product.

Funny how that works.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter