January 2018 2
From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.
Should You Specialize?
The Surprising Answer and ... Are These the World's Highest Paid Copywriters?
Here’s a question that vexes a lot of copywriters, from the totally nascent to the mega-experienced (even).
"Should I specialize?"
You’ll hear a lot of different answers.
Some people say, “look at the medical and legal professions … the highest paid lawyers and doctors are the specialists.”
And that’s mostly true. In copywriting, there are just as many options and more decisions. Most of the people who signed up for my list are interested in direct response copywriting and I’ll get to specializing in this field in a minute.
But who says you have to be a direct response copywriter? Maybe you should venture into the world of branding copywriting.
“HERESY!” you scream … but let me explain.
A company, which shall remain nameless but with which I’m extremely familiar, decided, at the “C” suite level, it needed a new slogan and company statement ... or whatever it’s called.
So this company hired a branding company. In fact, they hired this one.
Here’s the copy you see on the agency's home page.
We believe smart communications have an impact on the world. We empower foundations to shape a better future, help nonprofits get the attention they deserve, and enable consumers to make better choices.
We Grow the Good
It gets better ...
"We’re passionate about design that informs, clarifies, persuades, and communicates the possibilities of working together for positive change. When bringing on new clients and new employees, Vermilion places a premium on meaningful relationships, curiosity, and crafting remarkable, effective work that nurtures community karma."
Their copywriter is "a writer of words and lover of dessert" according to the website.
When I read copy like that, I want to vomit.
What does "grow the good" mean? Can the copywriter motivate readers to pull a credit card out of their wallet? Or does she just love chocolate cake?
BUT … the client company gleefully paid this “communications” company well into six figures to create a new slogan.
The slogan has exactly four words. Two of them are 'love' and 'unity.'
Run the numbers and that’s over $25,000 per word and I don’t know a copywriter on the planet who gets paid like that.
There’s no accountability and no connection between revenue and copy. And that’s exactly how the client wants it. And that’s exactly how the agency wants it. It's only direct marketers and direct response copywriters who are brave enough to want to see the results of their work.
In the creation of the new slogan, there were brainstorming sessions with flip charts, I'm sure, plus pleasant lunches, and a lot of self-congratulation. The agency, I’m certain, will enter the work into a competition judged by others in the communication/branding space. And suddenly it's an "award-winning" campaign. An orgy of back slapping will then commence.
There will be no talk of ROI, testing, and refining the creative to maximize revenue. Plus who can argue with love and unity?
But here’s the bottom line: a company run by a lot of experienced business people, many with MBAs, paid another company for precisely FOUR words of copy, even though the copy is essentially meaningless twaddle.
Yes ... people who are a TON more experienced in business saw it fit to write a whopping check for meaningless twaddle. Who am I to argue?
Maybe I’m in the wrong part of copywriting.
There are lots of ways to get paid, often handsomely, to write copy, without the pressure and accountability that comes with direct response copywriting. • B2B • Corporate • Branding • Speeches • Technical I could come up with a long list … so could you. And there's nothing wrong with any of this. I know plenty of successful copywriters who avoid direct response and despise this approach to marketing.
But if you’re committed to direct response copy, like me, should you specialize?
Here’s my answer.
No. I don’t know any super-successful copywriter who works in just one niche. I know some who focus on two, like health and financial. I focus on four areas but I’m happy to venture outside these areas when I like the client … and they like me.
I often work in a highly-defined niche. Bob Bly told the assembled copywriters at the last AWAI conference that I’m #1 in this niche. I really only work for one client in this niche and this client generally requests I avoid other clients in this space ... and with good reason: they don’t want me working for competitors.
So I work in other niches and I like the variety.
Clients are more interested in whether you can convert than your level of expertise in a given niche.
In the next email, I'll write about why the "which niche?" question is essentially the wrong question.
Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter