Rock and roll copywriter Pete Michaels joins Rob and Kira in The Copywriter Club Podcast studio to talk about his personal journey into direct response writing. He shares his thoughts about:
• how to conduct “deep dive” surveys and asking the MSIQ
• how he learned from mentors early in his writing career (and who his mentors are)
• adding consulting to his copywriting business (and how he packages it)
• the “Snap Shot” he stole from Stephen King
Plus Pete mentions the book that convinced him that he didn’t have time for Facebook. But you’ll have to listen to learn what it is. There’s a ton of good advice packed into this episode. So click the play button below, check out the transcript, or download it to your mobile device and get it in your ear buds now.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:Vin Montello
Ask Method Book
Stephen King’s It
Stephen King’s On Writing
Rock and Roll Copy
One Good Idea (Rob’s newsletter)
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
Rob: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes, and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Kira and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Kira: You’re invited to join the club for episode 29 as we chat with direct response copywriter Pete Michaels about his journey to becoming a copywriter, conducting deep dive surveys, adding consulting to a writer’s tool kit and what he calls snapshot copy.
Rob: Hey Kira and Pete.
Kira: Hey Rob. Hey Pete. How’s it going?
Pete: Hey, great. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Kira: Yeah, well thanks. Thanks for joining us and I think Pete a good place to start is your road into copywriting because I feel like you’re kind of behind the scenes. You’re not on Facebook so we don’t get to see you in the club, but you’re doing these really cool things that we’re going to dive into today. So let’s start with how you got into copywriting.
Pete: Yeah, it’s a weird road. I wouldn’t even call it a road. If it was on Google Maps, if you could trace it, it’ll look like your drunkest uncle weaving around all over the place. It was a strange road into copywriting and I didn’t really get into it until I guess reasonably late. In my 30’s. Before, like immediately prior to that I was working in marketing for arts organizations and non-profits here in London where I’ve lived for a while.
I’ve always written. I’ve never had a problem writing. I’ve always loved writing since I was a kid, but I think for a while I was always looking for a way to make that a craft, you know. Find a craft that could involve writing and actually, you know, giving something. Doing something of value that you could actually do rather than, you know, when you’re a kid everybody dreams of being a writer of some kind, and you’re not quite sure what that’s going to involve. I kind of almost stumbled into copywriting through a friend of mine who’s a very good direct response copywriter who was doing it a few years before me and I was kind of looking for a new change in career. Another one.
I used to do photography. I used to do a lot of music photography, and events photography, and a little bit of kind of like local news and stuff like that. I was kind of combining that with a part time job working in marketing with this kind of arts organization. Yeah, I was looking for a new way to involve writing in my day-to-day and to work with people.
Obviously I kind of started to learn a little about how that might work with involving copywriting through, you know, working in a marketing environment. Then kind of got talking to this, you know, this direct response copywriter who I had known for a long time. Since before he was a direct response copywriter. He joined the dots for me and explained what it would involve and how he got into it and we shared a mentor for a while when he kind of encouraged me to get into it.
It kind of took me a while to figure out that this would be something that I would want to do full time, you know? I was doing it part time with my day job which was like three or four days a week. You know, eventually I kind of grew to love it after gaining experience and working with clients and actually seeing the impact that copywriters can have on somebody’s business.
It took me a while to figure out that this was my thing. You know, that this was the one thing that I wanted to do. You know, when that came to me, slowly and then suddenly I guess as it does to a lot of people, I just kind of knew it was for me, and took the plunge, and went full time freelancing which has been just over two years now.
Rob: That’s a great story, Pete, and I would love to sort of micro-focus on the moment that you went from, “Hey, I want to be a copywriter,” to finding your first client. What did you do to bridge that small gap?
Pete: Well, the first couple of clients came to me kind of ghost writing really. Working with a couple of other copywriters who, you know, as part of either this kind of mentoring deal or somebody who trusted me enough for me to help out with them and, you know, get my hands dirty that way if you like. Do some writing. Some direct response for people with email campaigns, sales letters. So there was a couple there.
You know, that was how I got my initial experience. Then I just was encouraged to set up a website. My mentor started putting my name out there and just said, “You know, if there are people out there who are willing to talk a chance on a rookie copywriter, these would be maybe marketers who have just kind of started out themselves who are aiming to launch their first product or, you know, they didn’t have the budget to hire a seasoned pro.
You know, this is how I know a lot of people get started and how I would recommend the beginner copywriters get started would be to follow a mentorship program and get somebody who is going to get leads and is going to get inquiries to be able to help you out with those kind of things. Just be upfront about it and say, “I’m a beginner, but I know enough to help a client and to be able to get them to where they want to go,” and just work with people who are looking to take a chance and, you know, maybe don’t have the full budget for the person that referred you the work.
I took a couple of gigs like that and they went really well. These were back in kind of click bank days when there were various different rules that aren’t in place right now so you could get away with writing slightly blinder copy than you would do these days, right? If you can, you know get somebody who has an offer, and has a market, and that they know what they want to do.
They figured out the traffic part of it. They need some sales copy and not too much of the strategy. You know, that was how I got into it and those first few jobs went really well and, you know, referrals came from there really and if you have a website then at least it’s somewhere for people to just go and, you know, the clients can refer their friends and other people. You know, you start small really.
Kira: Pete, so to dig into the mentoring piece a bit more, can you give some examples of, you know, how you found your mentors and who they were or who they are today? What copywriters should look for. I know a lot of newer copywriters in our club are seeking mentors and they don’t know where to start.
Pete: If somebody’s looking for a mentor and they know that they want to do that, then I guess that they understand that they need help and they need guidance, but if they’re not sure who they want, then look for somebody who has a personality that you can get along with. You know, it’s one thing to be a great copywriter and to be able to talk about, you know, what makes great copy and to be able to do it for their own clients, but somebody who can teach and has, you know, the kind of patience and personality that you would want from somebody to work closely with you.
You know, look for somebody who does work in the kind of areas that you want to work in. You know, my first mentor was a guy called Vin Martello who is a really cool, really good, successful direct response writer. He was mentoring my friend who kind of dragged me into this copywriting thing. We got along really well. We had very different personalities. He was an outgoing experienced copywriter with huge confidence. No lack of opinions and I was was just a complete wet behind the ears rookie looking to learn.
He just kicked my ass into shape. You know, it was really good. A really good learning experience. He gave me a lot of confidence in, you know, my own ability and being able to kind of work with clients. As somebody to start with, I think the key really is to just make sure that you can get along with somebody and that they understand the work or that they understand the niches that you want to work in.
You asked who else I worked with. I worked with Joanna Weeb. Did a really kind of good in-depth course with her a couple of years ago. I know she’s somebody that you guys know very well. Obviously Joanna’s got a heck of a lot of experience as well. She’s a great teacher. She’d already done quite a bit of it before I think doing the certification that I took. She was obviously teaching through video, but I think also in person as well. She’d been doing a lot of mentoring and speaking, but up to that point she’s done a whole lot since so obviously she, you know, somebody like that is a great example.
Kevin Rogers recently. I did a course with him and a handful of other people towards the end of last year. Which was something that I’d been looking to do for a while because Kevin’s somebody who’s voice I like, you know, he teaches copy very well. You can talk about copy with him and it feels like something that’s interesting, and exciting, and fun. You know, he’s kind of been around the block. He knows a few of the older direct response guys.
You know, John Carlton. Obviously he’s a personal friend of someone else that I admired and I’ve followed John Carlton’s work for a while and I know he does a lot of teaching as well. There’s a guy called Jason Liecster who I haven’ actually done any work with him, but he’s somebody who’s been in my life in a daily email for a few years now. You know, everybody has a whole bunch of email lists that they’re on.
Jason’s is one that I would recommend to anybody really. Not just copywriters, but also freelancers in any kind of industry where you work with clients a lot and you want to understand better how to manage that relationship, how to manage expectations. I think his website is The Art of Clients.com. So he writes about all kinds of things around, you know, the client work/life balance. Those would be some good places to start looking up those kind of people and seeing what they do.
Rob: I think a lot of writers get started in the industry and they feel it out for themselves. You know, they’re trying to do it on their own and figure it all out. By choosing a few mentors, they don’t even need to know that you’re following them, but by following their work, studying what they do, reading what they write, you can give yourself a real step up I think in experience and in improving your skill set and abilities.
Pete: Yeah, and it’s just figuring out whose voice is right for you as well. See, eventually when you come to doing your own project, you’re going to be doing it all yourself and you can’t pretend to be someone else. You know, you can’t pretend to be them. It’s just, you know, he teaches a lot of good stuff and he practices what he preaches, but it works for his market and it works because it’s him. I think, you know, you just need to kind of trust yourself at some point to be able to, you know, to take what you’ve learned and implement it yourself. Put your own kind of spin on it.
Rob: Exactly. So Pete, I want to fast forward to some of the work that you’re doing today. You have written a lot on your website in the email that you share with people on your list about surveys, and research, and you know, how you do some of the stuff. Can you walk us through some of your processes for doing research?
Pete: The research process that I was using has been working pretty well for the few years that I’ve been doing copywriting. I’ve kind of always looked for different elements that I can pick and choose from other writers’ teachings. So, you know, I have a kind of a questionnaire and I have a research process for discussing things with clients that I’ve added to over the years and I’ve kind of taken questions out and put them in as I’ve discovered different theories and people who are demonstrating things that are working.
Then really in this last few months I’ve taken Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method masterclass course that came out I guess it was kind of summer of last year. Summer of ‘16. A big part of that was, you know, not just the kind of sales funnel approach, but also the research process that he advocates and that he outlines there. The deep dive survey which is something that if it can work for your clients, your clients as in you a copywriter, it can work for them if they’re consultants, you know.
If they’re providing services or if they’re providing products. It seems like a really smart, a really intuitive way of getting responses from their customers and their kind of ideal prospects that you might not expect. It’s a good way of validating things that maybe your client already thinks that they already know about their audience. I kind of studied this part of the process. I added it to my website as something that I was, you know, offering and found that I was having discussions with clients and prospects who were coming to me who had heard about it or that they liked the way that I was describing it.
There was actually quite a lot of interest from an early stage. Which was really cool for me. It was kind of interesting as well. You know, I don’t have a huge audience. I don’t have a huge profile in the industry, but there were enough people who were asking me about it who wanted to get involved in running a deep dive survey, you know, for their own purposes that I was able to implement the training pretty fast, you know?
It’s one of those occasions when it feels like, you know, you’ve just kind of learned something and you’ve paid money to learn it, and you’ve gone through this whole course, and you really want to implement the stuff and what you need is a client to be able to let you do that, right as a copy writer. It’s great even though if you have enough of an audience that you can test out your theories on your own audience and, you know, maybe if you have products and stuff like that then you can use those yourself, but in my instance I didn’t really have that.
So I kind of worked with a couple of clients initially running deep dive surveys to the type of people that they wanted to target and responses were really good. It’s basically a way of building a more accurate customer avatar and being able to get copy messaging from, you know, the people that kind of best match your best prospects. Being able to swipe that copy and being able to create messaging. I mean, you guys know that copywriters, we’re all about swiping messaging from the mouths of our customers, right? Sometimes it’s just smarter to go to the horse’s mouth rather than just sit there trying to create something out of nothing.
I’m sure, you know, nobody really sits there trying to create something out of nothing. Just putting the kind of creative side down for a second and looking at the data and the feedback that you’re getting from people who actually are in a particular market. Who are using words and phrases that come naturally to them because they’re responding to a question that they’ve been asked about their problems or about, you know, how it felt when they solved their problems. Those kind of things.
Also some, you know, getting some data insights as well about the type of people who are providing these responses so that you get, you know, your client can get to know their market a lot better and actually provide effective messaging for their next launch or for their ongoing promotions so that they can actually understand a little bit better the type of people who are buying from them and what they want.
Kira: What is the difference between a deep dive survey and then a regular survey? I am sitting here listening and I run surveys with my clients or they run surveys and we collaborate on them. I feel like they’re pretty solid, but it sounds like there might be a better way to run the survey. Maybe they’re questions I’m not asking that I should be asking. So what have you extracted from the Ask Method that has almost like upped your survey game that we can all integrate into our survey process?
Pete: Yeah, sure. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of overlap, right? There’s a lot of best practice that you can do with surveys. The thing with the deep dive surveys, it follows a very structured kind of format. The idea is to get 10 questions. Maybe 10 question maximum. So this isn’t going to be the furthest-reaching survey that you might want to ask of a customer. It’s going to be different to the type of survey that you as a copywriter would ask of your client because you would ask them more questions about that.
You would get them to go more in depth, but in order to get, you know, a decent response you can’t really ask somebody 10 open-ended questions, right? You can only really ask them maybe two or three open-ended questions. By open-ended I mean something where they have to type in their own answer. They can’t just select multiple choice. So it’s going to be a mix of multiple choice and open-ended responses.
You know, if somebody’s filling out a survey that they don’t actually have to do or maybe they’re opting in to pick up a lead magnet, which is free. You know, they kind of want it, but they’re busy as well, right? So it’s about keeping it brief. It’s about keeping it concise. The type of questions that you’re asking are a mix of simple questions, you know, to kind of get them into the flow of the survey.
The key question really is what they call the SMIQ. So this is the single most important question and it tends to revolve around trying to find out what’s the single most important thing or outcome that a customer or a prospect might want when they’re dealing with a particular problem? So you’re going to word it differently for every client that you deal with and every market. It’s going to be worded differently, but the kind of unifying theory behind it is that you want to get a prospect or a customer to explain in their own words, you know, without too much prompting from you and, you know, without too much hinting or framing, you can give them some examples.
You don’t want them to just like use that example and just kind of switch it around and to change a couple of words around and just repeat back to you what you suggested. It’s about trying to find the descriptions from themselves that are emotional and which suggest that somebody is really struggling with a problem or somebody who really really wants to move to the next level of something that they’re going through.
You just want them to express how that feels. You want them to give you a clear idea of the type of hurdle that it is that they want to overcome so that when you kind of get your survey results in, you can start to see patterns. You can start to see a number of people who were saying, you know, “This particular problem is my main problem.” So that you can kind of plot various different segments really in your market. So there’s going to be people who, you know, their particular problem is going to be based around … I don’t know, time. Time to be able to do something.
There’s going to be people who have a problem with budgeting for something. There’s going to be people who have a problem with, you know, dealing with the mindset. All of these different problems that people have that a product might solve, they’re going to require different messaging to, you know, overcome those objections and your eventual sales message. So it’s about trying to find the things that people care about the most and how they describe them.
This key question. This big kind of open-ended question that you ask, that’s the only one of those that you really ask in the survey. The other questions that you can follow on, you can ask a handful more of open-ended questions where you can get people to, you know, maybe tell you different places that they hang out. The kind of blogs that they read. The kind of things that they’ve tried in the past perhaps. That’s always a good one to ask. Things that they’ve tried in the past to overcome this particular problem.
You don’t want to ask them a second lengthy question because it just reduces response. So the idea is to get, you know, most of your emotional language from that one key question. For copywriters working with clients on this is that you get to work through iterations of that question. You get to figure out the best way to ask it. The best way that’s going to, you know, provoke responses.
When you see them come in, it’s really great to see people go into such detail. It’s not as good as an interview, right? There are times when you can’t interview 500 prospects about something. So it’s kind of the next best thing. It’s like getting emotional language and also a sense of what are the main problems that your market is dealing with?
Rob: Pete, I’m sort of familiar with Ryan’s process. I have read The Ask Method book. When you ask the most important question, that’s not the first question you ask, right? There’s a warmup or something that you do. Second question would be, “Give us some examples.” Let’s say I am opening a gelato shop. Give us some examples of the questions that you would ask to find out about my customers.
Pete: The thing with the opening question is that they can be the first or the second question. You can warm people up with a very easy first question if you want to. You know, you can maybe ask them their gender or ask them, you know, something that basically provides an A or B. You know, like a yes or no answer. Then the second question can be the SMIQ. You can if you want also open with the SMIQ.
A good example for when you want to do that is when you’re sending out the survey in an email. You don’t want to ask all of the questions in an email because that’s just going to look like a long off-putting email. You just want to embed the link to the survey in the email. So you just kind of ask your first question in the body of the email and you link to the survey itself. Then of course people are going to want to, you know, they’re expecting to see your question first.
I mean, I’ve been through Ryan’s book and the training as well and I think I’ve seen various different examples where they’ve used the SMIQ first or second. So I don’t think there’s a huge yes or no as to whether it has to be first or second. So for your example, like a gelato shop, there’s a new shop maybe that they want to ask. They want to find out about, you know, what people have used before. You’re talking about like examples of the SMIQ or examples of questions that you might want to ask throughout the survey?
Rob: Let’s say both. You know, I want to know about my customers. Maybe I want to know what flavors I should be offering. I can think of some, you know, data points that might be really interesting as say a shop owner. So, you know, what would you suggest as that copywriter consultant?
Pete: It’s not the world’s biggest problem niche, right?
Rob: It’s not exactly a pain category. It’s definitely a vitamin category.
Kira: It could be painful if you really need your gelato. I have been in that situation.
Kira: It’s painful.
Pete: So, I mean, from that point of view you could ask something that wasn’t about pain but you could ask something about what’s the thing that you care about most? Is it going somewhere that’s, you know, independent? Does that matter to you and if so, why? You’re going to get people who are going to respond about the thing that helps them to decide which kind of gelato are they going to buy or maybe they’re not going to buy a gelato at all. They want to go and buy something completely different, you know?
I guess you could ask a question about, you know, “On a hot day when you’re considering buying gelato on the street, what’s the thing that matters to you most? Is it about speed of service? Is it about the quality that you’ve read about maybe? Is it about, you know, maybe what your friends have said about it? It’s a tricky one. It’s a tricky one to ask actually. I’m trying to figure out the question behind the question.
Rob: Maybe I should change it to something, a problem that’s maybe more painful. So, you know, maybe it’s a blister cure, or you know, something like that.
Pete: With a paint point, it’s more about, “What’s the one single thing that you want to overcome?” The one biggest problem that you want to overcome. You’re going to ask that and give them maybe a couple of examples in the explainer part of the question beneath it just to give them a head start. Like for the blister thing.
Kira: Oh, I can see for the blister where a great example would be to ask them what have they tried before like you said. To understand where they are and what they’ve tried. What’s failed them so that you know how to position this new solution as the solution. I feel like that would be helpful information to have.
Pete: Those kind of questions they’re things that you can use in a survey a little bit further down. You can ask them. You know, it’s helpful to know what people have tried before so that you can understand why they might not want to try those things again. Like, you know, if there’s a competing product out there, you can ask a question a little bit further down the line and say, “What have you tried before?” and the subsequent question after that, you know, “What was the problem with that solution?” So, “What let you down? How did you feel about that?” Those are good questions to ask as well.
Kira: So once you have all the data, how do you sort it? I know when we worked together on a project previously I was so impressed with he way that you organized the information which was something that took it a step further and something I had not done yet. How do you find the patterns? How do you prioritize the information?
Pete: The goal of this really is that you want to try and focus on the people who are most responsive. So the people that give you, you know, the most in-depth answers to that kind of single most important question. The people who appear to be, you know, your target market basically. The people who aren’t just casually thinking about this problem. The people who actually really really want to get something so that it’ll get something done. You can shoot for say the top 20%. I think Ryan’s method it focuses on the top 20%. If you have, say less than I think around 500 responses, then you can stretch it out to include a top 40%. So that you’re focusing on really the length of those responses and you can use another multiplier as well.
Something for instance like one of the last questions that you might ask would be, you know, “If I was to follow up with you, would you be prepared to discuss this in person or on the phone or by email?” So the people that basically are putting their hand up and saying, “Yeah, I’m into this. I could have a discussion about this. That’s another signifier that there’s somebody that wants to open up about this and they would be a good match for your top prospects, so you can use that as a multiplier to resort that top 20%.
So your top 20% might not always be the people with the longest answers. You know, depending on that multiplier. If you’re getting a lot of responses. If you’re looking at, you know, 500 plus responses, then it’s an effective way of going through the survey answers without having to pay attention to every single word and every single one. Sometimes clients don’t have that kind of team or as a copywriter you may not have that kind of time.
It’s recommended to go through all of them, but you’re always going to get, you know, a handful of answers where people aren’t engaged with the questions so much. People who just kind of skip through the survey and perhaps if not all of the questions are required questions, that they’ll just kind of skip through a few. It just means that you don’t have to spend too much time combing through those responses.
Rob: It feels to me like when we’re talking about creating these kinds of questionnaires and surveys, you’re doing more than copywriting here. You’re actually consulting with the client about their product and maybe even getting deeper into the kinds of services that they offer, additional product offerings. The entire marketing funnel. You’re almost up-leveling yourself from copywriter to consultant. Tell us a little bit about how you’ve started to move your business that way and why you’ve done that.
Pete: Yeah, it’s funny. I mean, I guess it’s like a lot of crafts and a lot of trades that, you know, once you start doing something, you kind of discover deeper levels to it and you realize that, you know, copywriting isn’t just about sitting down writing copy. It’s about understanding marketing at a deeper level. It’s about helping clients figure out what might be their next step for them and what’s most suitable. That’s certainly something that you can do with surveys as well. One of the earliest ones that I’ve worked on was somebody who was really looking to validate an idea that they had where they were thinking of putting together a course or a program for a particular type of engineering group that they’ve come from.
They wanted to figure out whether or not people were having the same problems that they were having, the same interests that he had, and what kind of response he could expect if he was to start a new business and put this kind of content out there. Again that’s another good kind of outcome from a survey is it gives you ideas for content that you can use to promote your product as well. So it’s not just about sales messaging. It’s about content and the type of articles that people might want to read. You can actually get some pretty good headline ideas and some good article ideas from the survey responses that you’d get.
So I think yeah, from a consulting point of view, it’s all about questions really, isn’t it? Clients come to you and they know that they want copy, but they often have a whole bunch of questions around that as well which they’re wanting to know about what types of people are going to respond to their messaging, what types of messaging is going to respond differently with different people, and where there might be possibility for new products in there. Maybe crossovers with different markets and different partners that they might work with.
So there’s all kinds of questions that clients ask copywriters to help them with and I think that going into consulting was something that it just kind of becomes a natural next step after you’ve done a certain amount of copywriting. Sometimes clients will want to speak to you during the process or after the process about new things and there’s always going to be new copy that comes up right? Sometimes it’s not just a question of saying, “Okay, well we need this sales letter. We need a certain number of emails, and then, you know, after that, that’s it. We don’t need anything else.”
A lot of the time, people just need somebody else to be able to help them on an ongoing basis. I think it kind of comes out of that. If you work with somebody and you get along with them and, you know, you’re getting results and they don’t want to hire you on kind of a project by project basis. They want to be able to rely on you for input, and feedback, and ideas, and maybe strategy for their next set of copy that they’re producing. Their next launch that they might have. That’s when they start to talk to you about consulting.
Kira: How are you packaging the consulting right now? Especially this survey portion which could be included or might not be included is that you’re just like selling the survey. $500 or however much you’re charging. If you can share the amount, that would be great. People can work with you purely on the survey and then you give them some strategy and then they run off. I’m personally interested in packaging it now on my website and I’m not quite sure how I want to do it.
Pete: I always try and see it as part of a great whole, right? I mean, anybody that wants me to do a survey is going to have an end result. Once they get their responses back, they’re going to want to either amend the messaging that they’re already using or if they’re looking to start a new campaign or launch a new product then there’s going to be something that they want to do after to that point. So what I try and do is price the survey as something that’s affordable. Say like, you know, at the moment my survey is $750. Probably I want to be able to increase that and maybe add on some extra services there, but I want to price it affordably.
I mean, initially the idea was to be able to get experience doing these things and, you know, to make it affordable so that I could do an handful of them and get better at it and start to, you know, understand the process itself. People are always going to want to be able to start somewhere. You know, get insights from their customers and that makes doing the actual copywriting and the actual sales creation … It makes it a lot easier for us, right? Like you mentioned, I mean, you probably already use surveys of a particular type already. When those come in, that forms a huge part of your initial research anyway.
So this was really just, you know, a kind of more effective version of something that I was doing already with my existing clients and my existing research process. It made sense to package it as a way of kind of getting people who not be ready to go for a full sales package but who could get a sense of what it would be like to work with you and actually get something out of it. Actually get some value from understanding their audience better. So I have it. It’s like a standalone prioritized service on my site that people can get in touch with me and ask me questions about when I’ve done a little marketing of it and, you know, I have a landing page for it that I get leads through.
Then we just sit down and discuss whether it might be suitable for them. Some of those leads go on to become full sales customers and some of them, you know, they just want to kind of validate an idea and I guess there’s probably been a handful I’ve worked with who have so far either come and worked with me, booked in work for the future or we’ve already done like a full sales file after it. So it’s a good kind of lead-in product really or a lead-in service.
I think for copywriters to offer something like that is a really good idea. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a deep dive survey, but I’ve seen a lot of writers offering various different … under $1,000 let’s say really kind of services that are like kind of an entry level service that people can get some value from and see you demonstrate what you can do and then there’s going to be a certain amount of those who are going to convert into full blown project leads after that.
Rob: So it sounds like this isn’t just a matter of semantics where you’re taking copy, consulting, or working directly with a client with their copy and just calling yourself a consultant. You’re actually adding on real other services like site reviews, or funnel planning, or possibly even product planning. Is that right?
Pete: Yeah. I mean, I would say that any copywriter who’s looking to do consulting and have a productized version of that initially. I mean, there’s two ways that you can do it, right? You can offer your time at like a daily rate and say… you know, Dan Kennedy would be the ultimate example of that and say, you know, “Here’s what it’ll cost to talk to me for an hour, or a day, or a half a day.” The client who’s playing at that level knows that if they just spend an hour in his company or an hour picking his brain about something, they’re going to get incredible value there, but it’s not always easy for a newer copywriter to be able to do that, and just price it at a daily rate, and just be vague about what you might be giving.
So a productized service is a good way of framing something and making it clear what the expectations are and what the deliverables are going to be. It’s consulting because it’s not just copywriting. So if you were to put on your site, you know, how much it costs for you to do like an email sequence or a landing page, or something like that. You know, you’re still essentially providing just copywriting services there, but if you can figure out a way of providing something which goes beyond just the writing and it involves advice and, you know, a sit-down strategy session as well, then you can consult in a way that suits you really.
Figure out what it is that you’re good at and figure out what it is that clients most compliment you on or what they say has been most valuable to them and just build a small service around that. It doesn’t have to be a survey. It doesn’t have to be a research part. It can be something else. Just figure out what it is that works for you.
Kira: Yeah, and so many of us are already doing the consulting portion and the research portion and adding that extra value, but maybe we’re not positioning it well enough in our marketing materials or upfront so we’re not really charging for it. I think I’m just noting that I should charge for it because I’m already doing it and I should really speak to that when I initially jump on calls with clients because it’s part of the process.
Pete: To me seemed like a pretty good kind of group for self-development. Everybody’s always reading. Everybody’s learning different processes. All this disgusting stuff. I think copywriters are pretty open to creating new services and things like that.
Kira: Yes. So I just want to shift gears before we wrap this conversation and ask you about snapshot copy, which I read about in your article on Copy Chief. A wonderful article about one of my favorite movies, IT by Stephen King. So can you just paint the picture of what is snapshot copy? Why is it important and how can we all start using it in our client work so we can improve our conversion rates and do all of that great stuff.
Pete: You like the TV movie?
Kira: I love that movie! I love it!
Rob: Kira’s a bit of a horror fan.
Kira: There are lots of horror fans in our club, which by the way, we don’t have to get into it now Pete but you’re not in the Facebook club and we’ve got to get you in there. That’s not related to this question.
Pete: I saw that thing. I saw that IT version as a kid as well and I kind of went back to it after reading the book last summer. It took me pretty much the whole summer to read the book.
Kira: Wait, did you read the book before? Oh, you did watch the movie as a kid, yeah.
Pete: Yeah, I saw the movie when I was like 13 and a whole bunch of us were kind of renting Stephen King movie adaptations during the summer, most of which are kind of terrible. Including I think the second half of the TV version of IT, but it has a lot going on in there. It has a lot to recommend it. It’s good fun. Yeah, I read the book last summer. I’d always wanted to. It’s just, you know, getting around to … Getting around to picking it up. As I was going through it, as a reader, as a writer as well, you start to notice things in fiction right that you might be able to apply to copywriting.
Something that I noticed from Stephen King, who isn’t somebody that I read a lot about. I’ve read his book On Writing. I know a lot of copywriters love that book, but I’m not a huge Stephen King fan, but spending time with IT last year I realized it was certain things that he was doing and certain ways he just keeps you in there, right? It’s just such a page-turner, which is just as well because there’s like 1,376 of the damn things to turn, but he’s just such a great page turning writer. He keeps you in there with kind of like emotional cues. It’s not just all about the horror, okay? It’s not just about, you know, descriptions of terrible things happening to people, which that works great in fiction, but not so well in copywriting.
It’s just about descriptions of specific things. So, you know, descriptions of if you’re experiencing a problem and you overcome it, what does that feel like? What do things look like when you kind of overcame that? You know, what was the weather like that day? Who was around you when you had this breakthrough? You know, did your heart start racing? Were you sweating? Was it a feeling of relief or was it a feeling of absolute elation? We can all I guess as copywriters and marketers, we can kind of figure out that a lot of the important moments to sell a product based around fear or desire, right? To go beyond that, it would just be a case of, you know, how can you describe how that felt in a unique way?
Again this is, you know, this is something that you can pull from survey responses and something you can do when you’re gathering testimonials. Ask people to say specifically in their own words, you know, like, “Where were you? How did it feel?” Actually just be able to, you know, even if they use specific street names, or their partner’s name, or their coworker’s name, there’s something that helps it become a story even though those details might not be actually 100% relevant to to everyone else who ever has the same problem and has the same, you know, overcomes it.
It helps the reader kind of place themselves there. It’s like the equivalent of using a documentary to show something rather than a stock photo, you know? The idea is to take the reader to the next level of emotional engagement because, you know, if you’re going to convert somebody to a sale, you have to make a connection with them first, right? So it’s about, you know, adding emotional cues in there somewhere so that people can feel something rather than just read it and understand it.
I think Stephen King does that really well in his books with the specific descriptions of when it’s a character walking down a street he’ll name the street, you know? He’ll tell you what the foliage looks like. He’ll tell you what the trees look like on either side of the street. You know, he’ll talk about the dust rising up off the pavement when you’re walking down it. You know, it’s not just like a kid just walking down the street and there’s something else happened to them. It’s just small moments like that.
They don’t need to be earth-shattering. Not everything has to be a description of, you know, the best time. The most incredible breakthrough. It can be a small moment, but I think that if you just can figure out one or two moments to enter in like a paragraph of sales copy that just makes that experience seem like a unique experience rather than a generic experience. That’s the key to writing something and, you know, the idea of snapshot copy came out of the idea of seeing that moment just kind of caught in time like a Polaroid. So actually you can visually see it in your head rather than just understand what the writer is trying to tell you.
Kira: I love that. Before we wrap, Pete, I have to ask you the most important question. Why are you not on Facebook and when will you join our Facebook community?
Pete: That’s funny. I will join the Facebook community the moment that … I am actually on Facebook. I just don’t … Yeah, I use Facebook in the way that most marketers use it.
Pete: I’ve had to create ads and, you know, Facebook ads are not a huge part of what I do. I usually work with other partners who handle that kind of thing, but I’ve popped into Facebook on occasion to, you know, kind of understand the advertising process better. As a kind of social media tool, it’s never been my favorite. I have used it once. I haven’t used it in a long long time and I kind of took off my original profile from there, but I’ve still got another one so that I could look and basically understand the advertising process a little bit better. I’m a big fan of there’s a book called Essentialism. It’s by a guy called Greg McEwan. Do you know that one?
Rob: Yes, it’s fantastic.
Pete: It’s great. It’s one of those books that people are always saying books that they read two or three times. That would be one of mine. That’s something I think I read twice in the first year that I had it. It just kind of helped me streamline my process, figure out what was important to me, and the way that I work. I could devise a way of working that is actually made me happy and was effective, and brought results. There were just certain things that I just didn’t need. I’ve still never been able to answer the question, “Why do I need to be on Facebook?”
Kira: Because The Copywriter’s Club is there.
Rob: We’re going to have to cut this out of the interview if you’re encouraging any of our members to leave Facebook.
Kira: Everybody leave Facebook now.
Pete: Well, this is a thing. It’s always one of those thought questions to answer because if somebody asks you the question and they’re already on Facebook, it’s kind of like it’s basically how to do it without arguing for them to take the same action. Everyone’s on Facebook. That’s great. I hope everyone gets something out of it. I’ve never been a huge social media guy. I’m on Twitter.
I’ve made some good connections on Twitter, but also for just kind of marketing news and almost as an extended version of being on somebody’s email list, you know? When somebody has a good blog post that comes out, I’d probably find the same blog posts that way. The same as those people following through Facebook.
I’ve never really felt like I’m missing out on anything, but I understand that The Copywriter’s Club sounds like a great place to be and I would absolutely not have the claim for anybody to ditch Facebook and come to the same conclusion as me. My decision to leave Facebook was long before The Copywriter’s Club showed up.
Rob: If it had been there, maybe you wouldn’t have left in the first place.
Kira: That’s true. You would have felt at home.
Rob: So we won’t find you Facebook, Pete, but what is your Twitter handle and where else can we find you online?
Pete: Yeah, so my website is Rock and Roll Copy.com and my Twitter is @rockandrollcopy.
Rob: You have a mailing list that I have been a part of for quite a while.
Rob: I would encourage people to join because you share some pretty good insights about human behavior, and psychology, and tactics that you use in your writing and so anybody can join your list there.
Pete: Yeah. I try and keep it interesting. I try and blog a couple of times a month. I think I’ve been keeping up for about two or three years now. I was reading your mission statement on that, Rob. You’ve been posting like once a week for the last few years.
Kira: He’s hardcore.
Pete: Which is incredible. Yes.
Kira: He’s very hardcore.
Rob: It’s Wednesday night. My email is supposed to go out tomorrow and I start sweating at about noon on Wednesday and I don’t have anything to send yet.
Pete: Yeah. I think it’s just a case of getting it to the point where, you know, where you still enjoy writing every piece and it doesn’t just become like a deadline filler. You want to be able to enjoy something.
Kira: Do you enjoy writing every piece, Rob?
Rob: I do, actually.
Rob: It’s really one way I think to kernelize what I’m thinking and I don’t talk about copy in my newsletter. It’s not, you know, how to write better headlines, or anything about the freelance life. It really is about marketing, ideas, neuropsychology, human behavior. So and maybe that’s why I’ve been attracted to what you write, Pete.
Pete: I’m actually signed up for yours as well, Rob just recently so I’ll be looking out for that. I’ll definitely be looking for writings about neuropsychology and that kind of stuff. That sounds really interesting. Yeah, you’re right. Sometimes it’s, you know, there are so many areas around copy that you can talk about without having to repeat, you know, the same kind of headline information and all those things that we start off blogging about and then we realize, “Oh, shit. Someone else has done this so much better.”
Rob: A thousand other people have done it.
Pete: Yeah, exactly.
Rob: It was a great interview. We really appreciate it.
Kira: Yeah, thank you.
Rob: We really appreciate you taking the time.
Pete: Thanks, guys. It’s been great to be here.
Rob: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcast with Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. Music for the show is a clip from Gravity by Whitest Boy Alive, available in iTunes. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, and full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.