TCC Podcast #131: What Copywriters Need to Know About Design with Lori Haller | The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #131: What Copywriters Need to Know About Design with Lori Haller

Direct response designer, Lori Haller, talks all about design and how copywriters can work more effectively with designers in the 131st episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Lori was also one of the speakers at our recent copywriting event in Brooklyn, TCCIRL (videos available soon). Kira and Rob asked Lori about her processes, how she built her design agency, and all of the following:
•  how she got started as a designer
•  where her first jobs came from—and how she chose direct response as her niche
•  how branding design differs from direct response
•  her 3-step read-through process before she designs anything
•  how copywriters can improve their working relationships with designers
•  what separates the best copywriters from the rest
•  how she landed the big name clients she works with
•  how copywriters can learn basic design principles
•  how she makes sure she has the ideas an attitude she needs to do her best work
•  her advice to anyone growing a team
•  where she sees copywriting going in the future
•  what she does to keep learning and growing

If you’ve ever wanted to get more out of your relationship with your designer, this is a good one to add to your podcast play list. To hear it, click the play button below. Or if you like reading more than listening, scroll down for a full transcript.

 

Most of the people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Jim Rutz
Gary Bencivenga
Doug D’anna
David Deutsch
Clayton Makepeace
Carline Cole
Envisioning Information by Edward Tufte
Latrice Eiseman
Bonus link to an interview of Lori by John Carlton
Lori’s list of design references
3 Step Copy Review and Checklist
Lori’s website
Kira’s website
Rob’s website
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Intro: Content (for now)
Outro: Gravity

 

Full Transcript:

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 131 as we chat with direct response Art Director Lori Haller about working with copywriters, the relationship that design and copy share and why they need each other, why she chose direct response as her niche, and how knowing design basics will make you a better copywriter.

Welcome, Lori.

Rob:   Hey Lori.

Lori:   Hey guys. How’s it going?

Kira:   It’s great.

Rob:   So good.

Kira:   Yeah. Great to have you here, especially to have a designer in the house. Let’s kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a designer?

Lori:   I knew at an early age that I was in love with visualness, design, fonts. And so I went to training program for a couple years in high school where you had to be picked, it was like some type of tie in with the community college. Then I went to many years of a variety of trainings and college, at different colleges and sites in order to gain access to typography, communications, marketing, design, all that jazz. Then I went right from there into top agencies in Washington, DC. I tried to follow some of the lead art directors of that time and train under their wings for several years. The whole time I wanted my own agency at some point. And finally, about 20, 21 years ago, I decided to leave being a full-time employee and jumping in and starting my own agency. I had already … I don’t know, we might have talked about this Kira, but I’d already done nighttime work and weekend work on the side, all the whole while that I was employed, ramping up for hopefully one day building my client list and being able to go full-time just having my own agency. So luckily, it worked out.

Rob:   Yeah, and it has worked out. When you were just starting to do the side projects, where did those projects come from? Was it relationships that you had in the agencies that you’re working with? Or did it come some other way? And then how did you develop that into a standalone business?

Lori:   Both. People in the agencies, maybe they’d have a little freelance side job, I picked that up. I’d meet people, and they would need something done. The nice thing was I got the training under the wings of all those high-end art directors learning, watching. They were so kind to help me learn all those years, and then be able to bring those skills into my own agency.

Kira:   So Lori, when did you realize that you wanted to specialize in direct response?

Lori:   This was a big awakening for me. So at first as you know, in just regular agency work, you are designing for design’s sake, doing gorgeous designs, type fonts, and stuff like that. But then I guess once they started feeding me campaigns that would get a result, and they would come in and say, ‘The thing that you designed won.’ Or, ‘We got 5,000 more attendees this year than last year Lori.’ And stuff like that. I loved hearing that, and that’s when the bug bit me hard I’m sure.

Rob:   It’s interesting because I think a lot of designers gravitate to the make everything beautiful, and the branding type work, and shy away from the direct response stuff because it has this reputation for being ugly, or kitschy, or whatever. And maybe that’s true, although I get a sense that direct response doesn’t always have to be ugly. There’s all kinds of things that you can do. Talk to us a little bit about the differences between typical branding, beautiful design, and what maybe gets defined as direct response.

Lori:   On the typical design, you’re designing more so for design’s sake. You’re making it beautiful, you’re still making it speak to a particular audience, I feel. But I think since that’s the way my brain works in the direct response, is I love that deep down dive of research, getting to know who you’re speaking to, knowing who your prospect is, and then designing just for them. Making that copy and the design speak directly to who you’re speaking to in that audience. And that was a lot more difficult, it took a lot more work. Behavioral Science comes in, strategies, processes, of course the fonts, the look, the color, the photos and visuals. So I think I like that bigger challenge, and then the end result, if that all makes sense.

Kira:   Yeah.

Rob:   Oh yeah.

Kira:   When you figured out that you wanted to be an expert in the direct response space, how did you make a name for yourself and build a reputation early on?

Lori:   Let’s see, I think it probably started happening a lot at KCI Communications, they were financial based publications. And so we would do the direct mail campaigns, and then we would get the results back. They started pairing me with people like Jim Rutz, Gary Bencivenga, Doug D’anna, and Dick Sanders. Then a couple times it happened where the controls were such huge wins, and they would tell me in a meeting or whatever, and just realizing that I had the opportunity to really help that company grow, gain access to more subscribers, or whatever our goal was. Once I saw that … like one time, Dick Sanders and I did a campaign. It was eight and a half by 11 magalogue for Roger Conrad’s Utility forecaster, and it ended up being the biggest winner in the 18 year history of that particular publication.

That really excited me, seeing that I had the possibility and growth potential to help the company that I was working with. So that really made a mark and then after that, people started hearing about that. I started getting into health, and beauty, and bringing all those winners with me. I guess that’s how it happened.

Rob:   What does that interaction look like? When you’re working with a copywriter, at what point do you come into a project? I imagine that there’s some back and forth where you’re making suggestions to the copywriter and ways they can improve the flow of things, but what would a typical project look like if one of us was working with you directly?

Lori:   Typically, the client will either contact me or the writer. Sometimes they ask me what writer would I’d like, sometimes they hire the writer and then ask the writer who would they like to design it? But first thing’s first, I get my hands on the copy. I do what I call the Lori Haller three step copy read, and that is reading the copy in three specific ways and I’ll do it really quickly here with you. That is reading the copy just to read it so that I can get an idea of what the main story is, the idea, the concept. I also understand the offer, and how they’re trying to sell the product. And within this copy read, I read it out loud so I can hear it. As you know, copywriters will work on things for two or three months, they’ve seen it for so long, they can’t see a crazy sentence if it was the last thing in their life to do. So, me reading it out loud, me reading it very many times over and over again. So I step into the shoes of the audience.

I can find red flags where maybe a sentence, or a section, or the offer just isn’t making sense. When I get in the shoes of the reader, I can see the words that are just too difficult, the words that will throw me off, the words that will stop me so I don’t want to read any longer. In that first read, I’m circling things, I make a print out. I don’t just read it on my computer monitor. I will report back to the copywriter, ‘Hey, I found these areas that aren’t making sense to me, it looks like the offer’s kind of weak.’ And we go back and forth. It’s a trust thing as you can imagine, but they trust me, and I trust them. Then the second time, I jump into the shoes of the audience, and I read it with their eyes, their heart, their mind, and how does it make them feel?

So again, I will circle areas that feel cold, areas that are great, they feel hot, they’re very connected, and I will talk to the writer about that. And then lastly on the third step phase, I read it with the eyes of a marketer, and I look at the marketing sense. Does the story and the offer align with the price? All kinds of things like that, like there’s the title of the three free reports. Do those titles make sense and tie in what’s going on? So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m just another little vehicle, or helpful tool for the copywriter, the client, the marketing team, to become the reader. It’s almost like they’ve written it, and I’m reading it as the reader, and this will help us stop any situations and problems before I start designing it.

Kira:   Lori, can you talk more about the cold and hot areas? What do you want the copywriters to do with that? When you go back to the copywriter, what are you saying to them about those areas of copy?

Lori:   That’s a good question. I will say things like … I’ll circle paragraph and say, ‘This just isn’t making sense to me at all. I’m not understanding how you’re explaining this particular …’ let’s pretend it’s a financial publication that we’re trying to sell. ‘I’m not understanding exactly what you’re trying to tell the reader here.’ Or, ‘It’s not making sense.’ Or, ‘It’s too high of a level. Let’s see, let’s talk about this.’ Because the biggest red flag is, if I can’t understand it, I can’t properly design it to try to feed it properly to that reader. I feel like it’s a really helpful benefit and tool to the writer, and I’ve never had a writer come back and say something like, ‘Please don’t tell me these helpful things that’s going to make my copy resonate.’ Because what we have to do is … and especially these days is, we only have a few seconds to make them read that headline, that eyebrow, that subhead, the part of the story at the beginning.

If I can’t win their trust through the copy and the design working hand in hand, then they’re not going to read the rest of it. And if they don’t read the rest of it, they’re not going to be able to click yes, or send in their money or whatever. That’s our common goal in the end, it’s really that copywriter and designer getting so tightly intertwined that you just work back and forth. On the same note, they’re looking at my design when I present it and saying stuff like, ‘I think this needs a burst here, we really need to remind them that this is your free report. Hey, maybe we can make this bigger. This is too big, it’s drawing too much attention to this.’ So it’s that trust, and the more you have that relationship, that commitment, that trust together, that’s where you have the biggest possibilities of a win.

Kira:   I wonder what else copywriters can do to have a better working relationship, and a better end result with that designer on a project? What else can we do?

Lori:   I think that they need to allow themselves to look and see as many things as they can that are out there in the industry; the online print in magazines, what are the fonts that are being used a lot? Obviously, the copywriter doesn’t have to become a designer. But as you know, these days, visualness is just so huge. It has changed in the last 10, even 5 years greater and greater as you know, people are wanting a video, they want something fancy, they want to be entertained. So just a copywriter being on the cusp of what’s working for all other industries, and just get an idea. You don’t want your things to look old, and stodgy, and dated and like old data. You want it to look fresh, and new, and like, ‘Hey, you got to read this now you.’ Or, ‘You got to understand either this beauty product or this new hip pain ointment.’ or whatever it is that you’re selling.

I think just really making sure you go watch movies, you see what’s out there. What are people talking about on Instagram, Facebook? Just really being on the top of our humans out there totally.

Rob:   Lori, one of the things that I have done … because I oftentimes will work with designers who don’t have a lot of direct response experience, one of the things I’ll do is build a wireframe to help guide them with the way that I want to see the copy flow, or the way that I picture things coming together. I’ve never intended that necessarily to be a final document, but I found that helpful. I’m guessing that at your level, you probably don’t see a lot of wireframes because the copywriters would trust you to put together the page, the way that it really flows in the back and forth that you do. But for those of us that are providing wireframes or other instructions to designers who maybe don’t have that experience, what kinds of things can we add that would make that really helpful for a designer that now needs to assemble a page that’s actually going to turn the words into something that works?

Lori:   Well actually, what you’re doing is exactly what we need. If any designer tells you that they don’t want to see any of your ideas, or none of this is helpful you should run immediately because like Clayton Makepeace will write into his copy just these amazing notes, so will Carline, David Deutsch, Parris Lampropoulos, Gary Bencivenga. The more you can write things like, ‘Lori, this is the eyebrow. I want it small, but I need to see that they can understand this is a timely date at the top by January 17. You need to take charge of this.’ Or whatever. So they will write notes like that, they will write notes like, ‘These testimonials really need to stand out. I put all 30 of them here, but sprinkle them around. Hey, the bottle should not come until page 10, we don’t want them to see the product yet. Make this bonus larger. Make … Here’s a photo. Here’s two charts, see if you can …’ like that. It’s that back and forth, that’s where the juiciness happens definitely. So I love what you’re doing Rob, I’ll work with you any second.

Rob:   Nice. I like it.

Kira:   I think it’s all our dream to work with Lori at some point. if we can work with you, we’ve won-

Rob:   It’s true.

Kira:   … the game. I would love to hear from you about other mistakes you see quite often that copywriters making their copy that you end up correcting, and you just … maybe you can just set us all straight right now by sharing some of these mistakes.

Lori:   I mentioned the titles of the reports aligning with the concept, that’s big. Making sure your math is right with the client for the costs. Like if I’m doing a health supplement, we use a lot of proven processes, strategies, and procedures here. In that respect, we have quality control checklist sheets made up so that we can be on the point with everything we do. So one of the things in the checklist out of many is, checking the math. Although I’m not a mathematician, and I didn’t come up with the prices, we will just make sure that when they say 50% off or whatever, we will just double check that things are adding up. And if something doesn’t seem right, we will just bring it to the attention of the writer and obviously the client.

Lori:   Well recently I’ll just tell you, my team who’s been trained in this manner, they brought up on three Slim Jim’s that we were doing for a health client some serious math errors and just said, ‘We don’t know what the processes are here, but we do want to bring it to your attention.’ And lo and behold, all the math was wrong. I mean, can you imagine-

Rob:   Wow.

Lori:   … if they would have printed 50,000 or 100,000. But so, I guess just be on point with all of your data, make sure the charts … if you’re talking in the copy about a chart, and this stock can bring you 20% increase or whatever, just making sure that that information is on point, making sure you provide charts. One of the biggest mistakes is just saying, ‘I need a chart here that says this or that.’ Well having a chart idea, or graph, or legal documentation in compliance, that’s really critical as well. But just staying on point with making sure the words make sense to the reader and aren’t on too high of a level. That’s critical as well. Is that helpful?

Kira:   Yeah, that’s really helpful. Thank you.

Rob:   Yeah, I think it’s really helpful. So Lori, you mentioned copywriters, like David, and Clayton, and Carline, people that we all know by their first names because they have a place on the A-list.

Lori:   Right.

Rob:   Is there something as an outsider as you work with them, are there things that they have in common that really set them apart from everybody who’s not on A-list?

Lori:   Yeah, let’s see; they know their stuff as far as research. The research that you do, and the study, and the deep digging and finding things out, that’s really where it seems to shine. They know what they’re talking about, they know everything there is to know about either the supplement, or the stock trade, or the beauty ointment, or whatever the ingredients are. And so they come to the table with that. They’ve also reread, and read the copy again and again and again, and their story is strong. I think that’s what sets them apart, a unique idea. They’ve looked back at what’s won, and also what’s not won in the past.

And also just their excitement. Being a part of the team, and going back and forth, and that trust factor, that really does ring true with all of these people that you hear their name all the time. Easy to work with, also easy to work with on time, good rapport with the client, good back and forth, professionalism. All of these things really give them those gold stars, I think.

Kira:   I would love to hear more about how you’ve landed some really big name clients on your website. I know you mentioned Forbes, Hyatt Hotels, Kay Jewelers, National Geographic, some really big names. Can you just talk a little bit about what you did to gain those big clients?

Lori:   Well, for Hyatt Hotels, Kay Jewelers, and Black Starr & Frost, they were at the agencies I worked at, so I’m suspecting I got to work with them, and then I had had my samples in my experience, and then I got to put that on my website or my portfolio or, show that to people. Then once folks were seeing that level, then that was probably driving more people on that level to come visit me instead of just the cleaners down the street, or the … you know, like that. So Forbes reached out to me, maybe through a copywriter. Once you start doing good solid work, you’re reliable and you’re dependable. Then even those little jobs, that person goes to another job, then they get a bigger job, then they take you somewhere else.

So you always have to make sure that you’re very professional, you do things on time, you have a good report, you build relationships. It’s like any relationship. I think that’s how National Geographic was. I believe somebody that worked at KCI as a Marketing Product Director, they got a job at National Geographic, they got in a pickle. They said, ‘Do you know any designers? This woman reached out to me.’ And then I nailed that account. And then once I wrote that account name on my website, then other people see that. Does that make sense? It just grows from there.

Kira:   Yeah, it seems like the biggest challenge is just getting that first big name client on your roster, and doing a great job and then it becomes easier to get the other ones.

Lori:   Yeah, but don’t forget what I said. I still take pretty much as many jobs as I can that comes my way because don’t forget those five people that meet you at that medium size or smaller size place, they’re going to want bigger job. So then they’re going to get a bigger job somewhere, they’re going to remember you and how you touched their lives and made their life easy, and you were kind, you were on time. I think that matters. You got to remember the big picture, so don’t burn any bridges. Don’t ever be late. Just conduct yourself with high level expert, Loriness at all times. That’s what I say.

Rob:   We should tattoo that on our arms.

Lori:   Yeah. You’ve got to get your Loriness out, you know what I mean?

Rob:   Lori, I want to go back, I was asking about wireframes, and the kinds of things that copywriters can do to help designers. If a copywriter doesn’t know much about design, but wants to maybe explore at least basic design foundational skills, or at least knowledge. Are there resources that copywriters can go to that would really help them learn the basics? Or is it something that’s self-taught and you just have to have your hands in it all the time?

Lori:   Well, there’s a variety of books. I mean, I’m reading constantly. There’s three or four books by Edward Tufte T-U-F-T-E. And actually I got myself a ticket last year to one of his onsite one day events in New York, and I got to be there and learn from him. But it’s Edward Tufte, and it’s like principles of designs. I could share with you guys a list of like 10 or 15 things people can look at as far as books, there’s color books, books on the feeling behind colors by this one woman … I’m sure I’m going to mince her name, but it’s like Latrice Eiseman or something like that. There’s a variety of books that I read constantly that I’ll give you a list for. And if you can look at those books, read those books and understand them, that’s helpful.

But also looking at everything that comes in your mail, and making yourself your own swipe file and seeing … even just play this little game with yourself like, ‘Did this get my attention on my stack of mail?’ Like, if you’re talking about mail and print. ‘Why did it get my attention? Was it the color? Why? Was the headline easy to read?’ Or, ‘Why do I hate this and not want to open it? Is it because there’s 20 words and a headline, and all of them were in all caps? Was it a lot of reversed out type? Was the print hard to read?’ So you can play around with that and just ask yourself, ‘Does this resonate to me? Does it not? Why not? How could it have been better?’ Just constantly doing that, maybe spending 15, 20 minutes every day fooling around with something like that. That would really give you an edge and knowledge so that when you see something, and maybe it’s your first project, you can actually ask yourself like, ‘Did I want to read the headline? After I read the headline, where did I go next?

Was it easy for me to turn the page and go to page 24 and see the reply form, or did I get stuck? Or was I so bored, I didn’t even want to pick up the phone? Or if it was an online campaign? Did they engage me enough? And why? And how?’ So just those little things constantly. Once you start doing it, it will drive yourself and everyone around you crazy, because no one here wants to watch a commercial, or look at anything with me, or a movie because the whole time I’m like, ‘Oh, my God look at that pan.’ You know? Is that helpful?

Rob:   Yeah, it’s definitely helpful. I think I would also suggest that maybe one place that people could go to start learning that is you’ve got a portfolio page on your own website, it’s got some fantastic examples of landing pages, and I think the magalogues, and the different kinds of things that at least in the direct response world are pretty typical and see what you’ve done that has worked for them. So that may just be a starting place.

Lori:   Yeah, and I will say that I don’t on purpose have a lot on my site. Some people will say sometimes, ask me like, ‘Why don’t you have all the 8 millions of things that you do?’ And obviously the first reason is that is because everybody could just go there and steal all my ideas, it’s so easy. But the other thing is legally, I signed a lot of NDA and legal contracts so I can’t show a lot of what I do. And I won’t obviously. But I think it’s also just good professionalism not to just put everything you do out there, that’s the property of the client, that’s confidential. It’s near and dear to them, they paid a lot of money and time for it. So I do take that into consideration. But take a look at as much as you can, and let me know how I can help too guys, if there’s a time when you just want me to splash maybe a winner up, and we just cut it apart. Or maybe I show you my first two drafts and we say like, ‘Look at how ugly it is here.’ And then look how it transpired.

Sometimes just watching how something starts with just copy, and then seeing … it doesn’t get to look like that magically in one day, it’s an evolution back and forth. So that might be a fun little thing to do at some point.

Kira:   Let’s feed off the last question. I wonder how you stay creative, and high energy, and anytime I see you or talk to you, you’re just so … you have just such a great vibe. So what do you do in your day to day, or at a high level to make sure that you are creative and engaged?

Lori:   Well, first of all, I love what I do, this is my passion. As I tell my sons as they’re growing older and they’re looking for what they want to do with their life, that whether it’s copy, or design, or whatever it is that you really must pick something that … like when I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to wake up and get down to my studio, and get going. I don’t feel like I’ve ever worked a day in my life because this is all exactly what I want to do. So there’s that. Although it might be hard, obviously, it’s very difficult to do this and stay on constantly and try to get these winners all the time. There’s so much pressure in that. But if you love what you do, then it feels so enjoyable just to know that that’s what your day is full of. But I am very careful, there will be days of endless hours and then you must take a break and get proper rest. Eat right, exercise, meditate. I love yoga, running. We’ve talked about that Kira, right?

Whatever works for you to fill yourself back up again, fill your cup back up again. You can’t let yourself get worn out because people demand that I am awake, and alert, and on point, and thinking at a high level constantly. You must know yourself and know what your limits are. I think that’s probably one of my biggest strategies and strengths is being able to say, ‘No, we can’t do that for three more weeks. We’d love to work with you, and we don’t want to pass it up.’ So I don’t overextend myself, and I strive to take great care of making sure that I’m always awake, not flustered, well rested. There’s a couple copywriters that I enjoy working with … Yeah, I guess I can say this, but I’ll just be honest. I probably wouldn’t work with them anymore. Every time I approach them, it’s some crazy story. ‘I’m so busy. Oh my gosh, I haven’t had time.’ And then you email them and they’re like, ‘I’m at a doctor’s appointment. I don’t know.’ And so to me, I’m like, ‘You’re not giving me my best of what I need, you are letting your whole life drive that.’

There’s no way that that person can be thinking in working on the level I demand for my clients, and it’s not fair. I try to position myself so although they see my email come over at 1:00 AM because we have a tight timeline not because of my doing, but that they also see that I’m like, ‘You know what? We’re going to need a little more time.’ Or, ‘This can’t be accomplished properly.’ And like that. So you have to be very honest, you have to be very careful with how you show yourself. Just like you said about me, every time you see me, you feel like I’m full of energy, and zest, and I’m excited. I would suggest that you don’t have to be as high energy as me, but you don’t want to be like, Captain bring down and so tired all the time. I hope that makes sense. I mean, have you noticed that in people? Like who wants to work with that? No one wants to have that person on their team?

Rob:   For sure. Yeah. I mean, I love the title Captain bring down because we all know Captain bring down or have worked with him in the past. So it’s-

Lori:   Yeah, I run from that. So again love these couple of people, but can’t do it. Not willing to do it.

Rob:   Lori, how do you organize your day then so that you are at the top of your game when you have to show up for an assignment?

Lori:   Well, rest is big, eating right, supplements, being careful with your time, and being able to say no I suppose. Try to get to the gym, or running, or just taking time for myself. Kira and I were just talking during the holidays I know my clients take some time off, so I took a couple weeks and just did absolutely nothing but relaxing, regrouping, getting myself in the right zone. I think it shows. I can tell when I’m overtired, those ideas don’t just come bing, bing, bing. And when I’m at the top of my game, and I’ve properly cared for myself mentally, physically, definitely it just flows. I think finding your own flow, and what’s best for you is mandatory, and probably the best thing that you can do for your professional existence.

Kira:   Yeah, it’s good to just have a reminder and hear from you as someone who’s had so much success that even though self-care can be kind of cliché in the business world because everyone’s talking about it, but it actually does make a difference, and it does pay off in the long run.

Lori:   Definitely. I never want to be known as that person that just does everything, and is always everywhere. I just want to be known as, here’s this stable place that we can come and get qualified winning ideas in a professional manner every single time.

Kira:   Can you talk about your business today and what it looks like? We haven’t really talked about that. What you’ve grown over, I think you said 22 years. What does that actually look like today as far as the structure and team size?

Lori:   When I was working with these agencies, one of the things I promised myself is that I would never have the 10 people sitting there waiting for a job, and the people that maybe once they got the project put on their desk with the timeline were like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ Or whatever. So, I decided I don’t want anybody sitting here with me that I have to keep busy, I don’t want to fix coffeemaker for them. This is just my own choice, so it’s just me here at my studio. Then over the last 20 some odd years, I’ve grown, trained, and hold a stable of a variety of level of talents. That’s either designers, production people that do edits, photographers, models, agencies. Whatever it is that you need, copywriters, video people, editors that I can call upon and bring them in because as you know, every job isn’t the Oprah job. Sometimes you have it medium, sometimes you have the small.

So I bring the best of the best of the best for the project, the skill and talent level, the budget, and the timeline. And then we look at that whole big picture, the optimum of what they could afford, and the talent and skill level. That’s how I roll the team together. So on the outside, I also have a business partner, Tom Berky, and we’ve been together successfully for a little over eight years. He has a whole stable of full-time people that I’ve worked with over the last eight years training them with all the quality control checklist, the proven processes, the strategy, how I do design, and all that because obviously I can’t do all this on my own or I would kill myself.

He is also just a guru of design, expert, great online. He has a whole stable of full-time online folks that we’ve trained together, so having this huge movable bendable team to fit the needs of each project, schedule, and budget. That’s where the sweet spot has been for me. I took a little different twist in the road and came up with my own recipe, but seems to be working well. This is what works for me.

Kira:   Yeah, well a lot of copywriters are growing their team and bringing on subcontractors to their projects. I’ve done that as well, and sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. What advice would you give to copywriters that are growing a team of subcontractors as far as what’s worked for you, what hasn’t worked for you?

Lori:   Those quality control checklists that I talked about … and I can share mine with you if I haven’t already, those help. People that are working with you must follow these exact procedures like; before you send me, for example, the first draft and I’ve already done a sketch and explained what I needed. You must read the copy three times, do some research we discussed, do a spell check … I’m just giving you a little example. And then send it to me. But you can’t just do it and send it to me without having done all those things. So seeing what your processes would be, and your quality, control checklist, or whatever. Setting things up so they’re standardized, and everybody follows them again, and again, and again, then that is really mandatory, I think.

Rob:   Lori, where do you see the opportunities in copywriting? And I guess also design in the future?

Lori:   Well, I think you’re going to see a lot of direct mail. We’re seeing tons of direct mail right now. So if you could understand direct email packages, writing them like magalogues, Slim Jims, number 10s, six by nines, newsletter, issue log looks, brochures, all kinds of things. But you know online is particularly hot, but people have become bored with that. And only that they’re going back to more old-fashioned ways of wanting a copy of the newsletter in their hand, wanting their report, wanting that real book. Yep. They’re going to download it immediately once they sign up, but they want those juicy things again, and they’re realizing getting back to basics is good. So being able to write for direct mail is good, obviously online, doing both. We do a lot of that where we test a funnel or campaign like sales page online, then we also roll it into a direct mail campaign, and we do it the opposite way. We write for direct mail then we flow it online. I’m doing that starting tomorrow for a client.

Rob:   Are you seeing this across the board? This move from online to also incorporating offline again, is that across the board or is it mostly concentrated in a few industries?

Lori:   Yeah, I’m seeing it everywhere. And you heard it here first, you better get ready.

Rob:   Copywriter Club exclusive Yeah.

Lori:   That is something that you can really ramp up for … you have to know how to do it, like what has to be on that front cover, what has to be in the sidebars, what goes on page five, what doesn’t? Where does the bio go? There’s 8,000 things you need to know. But definitely, I would say start looking at things and be ready for that.

Kira:   Lori, can you talk about your training programs, which I know we’ve chatted about in the past, especially because I’m personally interested, and I’ve talked to a couple other copywriters who want to create training programs for teams and go into organizations. So how did you get into that? And what does that look like in your business?

Lori:   I think it’s probably just been through clients that I’ve worked with and how I am to work with, they noticed I guess, my knowledge level and so therefore, say, they have five designers in house. Nobody’s giving this training in college or anywhere else, all the things that I’m so lucky to know from these 20-something years of experience. So they noticed that, and then I guess one team asked me to come in, or go online, or go on the phone, or whatever and start working with their designers, their designers and copywriters, marketing teams. Just going through a process, going through a project together, and they learn as we work together. Then I guess other people started hearing about it. I go into large companies and I’ll work with their whole company, I’ll work with the writers, the marketers, the designers, the coders. I go internationally and train people, I train people on Zoom or Skype, I go on calls.

So you could do something like that, where you start offering training, or you could just add to your fee and they could choose to bring on other people to all the calls and stuff, and listen while you explain things because people want to learn these days. Like I said a lot of the people I train right out of college, and they did learn to design and do coding, or maybe a little copywriting, or a little bit of marketing, but nobody is training them because not many people know this stuff. Like why that sidebar has to be chopped into two pages, why you can’t put this on a right-hand page of the spread, why the offer form now has to be on page 27 instead of 21, or something. They want to learn this stuff, and it seems like people are sponges these days and you watch them grow. People that I’ve worked with for six months, I actually had tears in my eyes this summer. The people from Singapore that I’ve been working with, it was that Helen Keller moment.

I will never forget, I had to take a break off the call for a second to pull myself together but all of them on the call were saying, ‘Lori this headlines too hard to read. Lori, this isn’t the right color. Look, I can’t see that. I would put this photo there instead.’ And they were catching on. They were catching on in such a big way, so I know now that when they go back and design for their team that hired me, they do know how to make these right decisions. It’s really a beautiful thing to give something back to somebody else and watch them grow, then help obviously further grow their company.

Kira:   Before we wrap, can you just talk to us about what’s coming up for you over the next few months, especially if there’s anything relevant for copywriters or anything they can jump into? I know you are speaking at our event in March, and we’re really excited about that.

Lori:   Oh, yeah, I can’t wait. I already have my outfit picked out.

Kira:   Wow, you’re good. I still need to do that. So what else are you working on over the next few months?

Lori:   I’m going to Expo West for the first time in California. I’m meeting each Ijan Ijan One of my clients from Singapore, and we’re going to be checking out all of the millions of health products that are there on display and exhibitors, looking at the logos, looking at how they formulate their ingredients. Look at the wording, the brochures, the colors, the design, how they’re packaged. Are they in metal? Are they twist off? So I’m going to go crazy for like a week out there actually right before I come to speak at your event in Williamsburg Brooklyn area. And so things like that. Try to get yourself in, I’m only buying like a one-day ticket, I’m going to go hard, and look at all this stuff. So anything like that that you can go to. I also pay to be a part of a lot of masterminds, where several people as you know come to these masterminds, I think I’ve seen you at a couple Kira. I learn from them, I meet new copywriters, I meet new designers, we share ideas. I think that sharing.

Being a part of as many groups, different types of groups that you can is really helpful, and being open. Even though I’ve done this for a million years, you will never see me say, ‘Oh, I already know everything,’ every second of every day, I’m sucking things up. ‘Can I learn this? Can I read this book tomorrow? Can I download that article?’ So I think masterminds are helpful. Obviously, don’t get involved in too many things so you’ll wear yourself out you can’t actually work. But learning, and growing, and always being open to others in their expert views and ideas, that’s really critical to me.

Rob:   Such great advice. Lori, we can’t wait to see you in March. But until then, if somebody wants to connect with you, where would they go?

Lori:   You can go to www.lorihaller.com And right there on my little website, there’s a contact page and you can shoot me an email. You could also email at Lori, L-O-R-I @Lorihaller H-A-L-L-E-R .com and I’ll get back to you. I’d love to hear from people, anything I can do for the two of you also to give you samples, or I’ll release these quality control checklists and a couple other goodies you can post on your site. But anything that I can do to help you, that’s probably the other thing about me, and like you guys, it matters. I just feel so grateful for all the people that have always reached in and helped me, they gave me a chance when I was the new girl on the block. I am always wanting to do as much as I can to give any little nugget, or book, or tip to somebody that could help them reach their dreams because I just feel so excited to be able to get up every day and do what I love doing.

Rob:   That’s super generous of you. Thank you.

Kira:   All right, thank you so much Lori.

Lori:   Thank you so much for inviting me. I had a blast, and I cannot wait to see you guys in March.

Rob:   Awesome. Thanks.

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 on iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com. We’ll see you next episode.

Rob:   This podcast is sponsored by The Copywriter Underground.

Kira:   It’s our new membership designed for you to help you attract more clients and hit 10K a month consistently.

Rob:   For more information or to sign up go to thecopywriterunderground.com.

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 131 as we chat with direct response Art Director Lori Haller about working with copywriters, the relationship that design and copy share and why they need each other, why she chose direct response as her niche, and how knowing design basics will make you a better copywriter.

Welcome Lori.

Rob:   Hey Lori.

Lori:   Hey guys. How’s it going?

Kira:   It’s great.

Rob:   So good.

Kira:   Yeah. Great to have you here, especially to have a designer in the house. Let’s kick this off with your story. How did you end up as a designer?

Lori:   I knew at an early age that I was in love with visualness, design, fonts. And so I went to training program for a couple years in high school where you had to be picked, it was like some type of tie in with the community college. Then I went to many years of a variety of trainings and college, at different colleges and sites in order to gain access to typography, communications, marketing, design, all that jazz. Then I went right from there into top agencies in Washington, DC. I tried to follow some of the lead art directors of that time and train under their wings for several years. The whole time I wanted my own agency at some point. And finally, about 20, 21 years ago, I decided to leave being a full-time employee and jumping in and starting my own agency. I had already … I don’t know, we might have talked about this Kira, but I’d already done nighttime work and weekend work on the side, all the whole while that I was employed, ramping up for hopefully one day building my client list and being able to go full-time just having my own agency. So luckily, it worked out.

Rob:   Yeah, and it has worked out. When you were just starting to do the side projects, where did those projects come from? Was it relationships that you had in the agencies that you’re working with? Or did it come some other way? And then how did you develop that into a standalone business?

Lori:   Both. People in the agencies, maybe they’d have a little freelance side job, I picked that up. I’d meet people, and they would need something done. The nice thing was I got the training under the wings of all those high-end art directors learning, watching. They were so kind to help me learn all those years, and then be able to bring those skills into my own agency.

Kira:   So Lori, when did you realize that you wanted to specialize in direct response?

Lori:   This was a big awakening for me. So at first as you know, in just regular agency work, you are designing for design’s sake, doing gorgeous designs, type fonts, and stuff like that. But then I guess once they started feeding me campaigns that would get a result, and they would come in and say, ‘The thing that you designed won.’ Or, ‘We got 5,000 more attendees this year than last year Lori.’ And stuff like that. I loved hearing that, and that’s when the bug bit me hard I’m sure.

Rob:   It’s interesting because I think a lot of designers gravitate to the make everything beautiful, and the branding type work, and shy away from the direct response stuff because it has this reputation for being ugly, or kitschy, or whatever. And maybe that’s true, although I get a sense that direct response doesn’t always have to be ugly. There’s all kinds of things that you can do. Talk to us a little bit about the differences between typical branding, beautiful design, and what maybe gets defined as direct response.

Lori:   On the typical design, you’re designing more so for design’s sake. You’re making it beautiful, you’re still making it speak to a particular audience, I feel. But I think since that’s the way my brain works in the direct response, is I love that deep down dive of research, getting to know who you’re speaking to, knowing who your prospect is, and then designing just for them. Making that copy and the design speak directly to who you’re speaking to in that audience. And that was a lot more difficult, it took a lot more work. Behavioral Science comes in, strategies, processes, of course the fonts, the look, the color, the photos and visuals. So I think I like that bigger challenge, and then the end result, if that all makes sense.

Kira:   Yeah.

Rob:   Oh yeah.

Kira:   When you figured out that you wanted to be an expert in the direct response space, how did you make a name for yourself and build a reputation early on?

Lori:   Let’s see, I think it probably started happening a lot at KCI Communications, they were financial based publications. And so we would do the direct mail campaigns, and then we would get the results back. They started pairing me with people like Jim Rutz, Gary Bencivenga, Doug D’anna, and Dick Sanders. Then a couple times it happened where the controls were such huge wins, and they would tell me in a meeting or whatever, and just realizing that I had the opportunity to really help that company grow, gain access to more subscribers, or whatever our goal was. Once I saw that … like one time, Dick Sanders and I did a campaign. It was eight and a half by 11 magalogue for Roger Conrad’s Utility forecaster, and it ended up being the biggest winner in the 18 year history of that particular publication.

That really excited me, seeing that I had the possibility and growth potential to help the company that I was working with. So that really made a mark and then after that, people started hearing about that. I started getting into health, and beauty, and bringing all those winners with me. I guess that’s how it happened.

Rob:   What does that interaction look like? When you’re working with a copywriter, at what point do you come into a project? I imagine that there’s some back and forth where you’re making suggestions to the copywriter and ways they can improve the flow of things, but what would a typical project look like if one of us was working with you directly?

Lori:   Typically, the client will either contact me or the writer. Sometimes they ask me what writer would I’d like, sometimes they hire the writer and then ask the writer who would they like to design it? But first thing’s first, I get my hands on the copy. I do what I call the Lori Haller three step copy read, and that is reading the copy in three specific ways and I’ll do it really quickly here with you. That is reading the copy just to read it so that I can get an idea of what the main story is, the idea, the concept. I also understand the offer, and how they’re trying to sell the product. And within this copy read, I read it out loud so I can hear it. As you know, copywriters will work on things for two or three months, they’ve seen it for so long, they can’t see a crazy sentence if it was the last thing in their life to do. So, me reading it out loud, me reading it very many times over and over again. So I step into the shoes of the audience.

I can find red flags where maybe a sentence, or a section, or the offer just isn’t making sense. When I get in the shoes of the reader, I can see the words that are just too difficult, the words that will throw me off, the words that will stop me so I don’t want to read any longer. In that first read, I’m circling things, I make a print out. I don’t just read it on my computer monitor. I will report back to the copywriter, ‘Hey, I found these areas that aren’t making sense to me, it looks like the offer’s kind of weak.’ And we go back and forth. It’s a trust thing as you can imagine, but they trust me, and I trust them. Then the second time, I jump into the shoes of the audience, and I read it with their eyes, their heart, their mind, and how does it make them feel?

So again, I will circle areas that feel cold, areas that are great, they feel hot, they’re very connected, and I will talk to the writer about that. And then lastly on the third step phase, I read it with the eyes of a marketer, and I look at the marketing sense. Does the story and the offer align with the price? All kinds of things like that, like there’s the title of the three free reports. Do those titles make sense and tie in what’s going on? So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m just another little vehicle, or helpful tool for the copywriter, the client, the marketing team, to become the reader. It’s almost like they’ve written it, and I’m reading it as the reader, and this will help us stop any situations and problems before I start designing it.

Kira:   Lori, can you talk more about the cold and hot areas? What do you want the copywriters to do with that? When you go back to the copywriter, what are you saying to them about those areas of copy?

Lori:   That’s a good question. I will say things like … I’ll circle paragraph and say, ‘This just isn’t making sense to me at all. I’m not understanding how you’re explaining this particular …’ let’s pretend it’s a financial publication that we’re trying to sell. ‘I’m not understanding exactly what you’re trying to tell the reader here.’ Or, ‘It’s not making sense.’ Or, ‘It’s too high of a level. Let’s see, let’s talk about this.’ Because the biggest red flag is, if I can’t understand it, I can’t properly design it to try to feed it properly to that reader. I feel like it’s a really helpful benefit and tool to the writer, and I’ve never had a writer come back and say something like, ‘Please don’t tell me these helpful things that’s going to make my copy resonate.’ Because what we have to do is … and especially these days is, we only have a few seconds to make them read that headline, that eyebrow, that subhead, the part of the story at the beginning.

If I can’t win their trust through the copy and the design working hand in hand, then they’re not going to read the rest of it. And if they don’t read the rest of it, they’re not going to be able to click yes, or send in their money or whatever. That’s our common goal in the end, it’s really that copywriter and designer getting so tightly intertwined that you just work back and forth. On the same note, they’re looking at my design when I present it and saying stuff like, ‘I think this needs a burst here, we really need to remind them that this is your free report. Hey, maybe we can make this bigger. This is too big, it’s drawing too much attention to this.’ So it’s that trust, and the more you have that relationship, that commitment, that trust together, that’s where you have the biggest possibilities of a win.

Kira:   I wonder what else copywriters can do to have a better working relationship, and a better end result with that designer on a project? What else can we do?

Lori:   I think that they need to allow themselves to look and see as many things as they can that are out there in the industry; the online print in magazines, what are the fonts that are being used a lot? Obviously, the copywriter doesn’t have to become a designer. But as you know, these days, visualness is just so huge. It has changed in the last 10, even 5 years greater and greater as you know, people are wanting a video, they want something fancy, they want to be entertained. So just a copywriter being on the cusp of what’s working for all other industries, and just get an idea. You don’t want your things to look old, and stodgy, and dated and like old data. You want it to look fresh, and new, and like, ‘Hey, you got to read this now you.’ Or, ‘You got to understand either this beauty product or this new hip pain ointment.’ or whatever it is that you’re selling.

I think just really making sure you go watch movies, you see what’s out there. What are people talking about on Instagram, Facebook? Just really being on the top of our humans out there totally.

Rob:   Lori, one of the things that I have done … because I oftentimes will work with designers who don’t have a lot of direct response experience, one of the things I’ll do is build a wireframe to help guide them with the way that I want to see the copy flow, or the way that I picture things coming together. I’ve never intended that necessarily to be a final document, but I found that helpful. I’m guessing that at your level, you probably don’t see a lot of wireframes because the copywriters would trust you to put together the page, the way that it really flows in the back and forth that you do. But for those of us that are providing wireframes or other instructions to designers who maybe don’t have that experience, what kinds of things can we add that would make that really helpful for a designer that now needs to assemble a page that’s actually going to turn the words into something that works?

Lori:   Well actually, what you’re doing is exactly what we need. If any designer tells you that they don’t want to see any of your ideas, or none of this is helpful you should run immediately because like Clayton Makepeace will write into his copy just these amazing notes, so will Carline, David Deutsch, Parris Lampropoulos, Gary Bencivenga. The more you can write things like, ‘Lori, this is the eyebrow. I want it small, but I need to see that they can understand this is a timely date at the top by January 17. You need to take charge of this.’ Or whatever. So they will write notes like that, they will write notes like, ‘These testimonials really need to stand out. I put all 30 of them here, but sprinkle them around. Hey, the bottle should not come until page 10, we don’t want them to see the product yet. Make this bonus larger. Make … Here’s a photo. Here’s two charts, see if you can …’ like that. It’s that back and forth, that’s where the juiciness happens definitely. So I love what you’re doing Rob, I’ll work with you any second.

Rob:   Nice. I like it.

Kira:   I think it’s all our dream to work with Lori at some point. if we can work with you, we’ve won-

Rob:   It’s true.

Kira:   … the game. I would love to hear from you about other mistakes you see quite often that copywriters making their copy that you end up correcting, and you just … maybe you can just set us all straight right now by sharing some of these mistakes.

Lori:   I mentioned the titles of the reports aligning with the concept, that’s big. Making sure your math is right with the client for the costs. Like if I’m doing a health supplement, we use a lot of proven processes, strategies, and procedures here. In that respect, we have quality control checklist sheets made up so that we can be on the point with everything we do. So one of the things in the checklist out of many is, checking the math. Although I’m not a mathematician, and I didn’t come up with the prices, we will just make sure that when they say 50% off or whatever, we will just double check that things are adding up. And if something doesn’t seem right, we will just bring it to the attention of the writer and obviously the client.

Lori:   Well recently I’ll just tell you, my team who’s been trained in this manner, they brought up on three Slim Jim’s that we were doing for a health client some serious math errors and just said, ‘We don’t know what the processes are here, but we do want to bring it to your attention.’ And lo and behold, all the math was wrong. I mean, can you imagine-

Rob:   Wow.

Lori:   … if they would have printed 50,000 or 100,000. But so, I guess just be on point with all of your data, make sure the charts … if you’re talking in the copy about a chart, and this stock can bring you 20% increase or whatever, just making sure that that information is on point, making sure you provide charts. One of the biggest mistakes is just saying, ‘I need a chart here that says this or that.’ Well having a chart idea, or graph, or legal documentation in compliance, that’s really critical as well. But just staying on point with making sure the words make sense to the reader and aren’t on too high of a level. That’s critical as well. Is that helpful?

Kira:   Yeah, that’s really helpful. Thank you.

Rob:   Yeah, I think it’s really helpful. So Lori, you mentioned copywriters, like David, and Clayton, and Carline, people that we all know by their first names because they have a place on the A-list.

Lori:   Right.

Rob:   Is there something as an outsider as you work with them, are there things that they have in common that really set them apart from everybody who’s not on A-list?

Lori:   Yeah, let’s see; they know their stuff as far as research. The research that you do, and the study, and the deep digging and finding things out, that’s really where it seems to shine. They know what they’re talking about, they know everything there is to know about either the supplement, or the stock trade, or the beauty ointment, or whatever the ingredients are. And so they come to the table with that. They’ve also reread, and read the copy again and again and again, and their story is strong. I think that’s what sets them apart, a unique idea. They’ve looked back at what’s won, and also what’s not won in the past.

And also just their excitement. Being a part of the team, and going back and forth, and that trust factor, that really does ring true with all of these people that you hear their name all the time. Easy to work with, also easy to work with on time, good rapport with the client, good back and forth, professionalism. All of these things really give them those gold stars, I think.

Kira:   I would love to hear more about how you’ve landed some really big name clients on your website. I know you mentioned Forbes, Hyatt Hotels, Kay Jewelers, National Geographic, some really big names. Can you just talk a little bit about what you did to gain those big clients?

Lori:   Well, for Hyatt Hotels, Kay Jewelers, and Black Starr & Frost, they were at the agencies I worked at, so I’m suspecting I got to work with them, and then I had had my samples in my experience, and then I got to put that on my website or my portfolio or, show that to people. Then once folks were seeing that level, then that was probably driving more people on that level to come visit me instead of just the cleaners down the street, or the … you know, like that. So Forbes reached out to me, maybe through a copywriter. Once you start doing good solid work, you’re reliable and you’re dependable. Then even those little jobs, that person goes to another job, then they get a bigger job, then they take you somewhere else.

So you always have to make sure that you’re very professional, you do things on time, you have a good report, you build relationships. It’s like any relationship. I think that’s how National Geographic was. I believe somebody that worked at KCI as a Marketing Product Director, they got a job at National Geographic, they got in a pickle. They said, ‘Do you know any designers? This woman reached out to me.’ And then I nailed that account. And then once I wrote that account name on my website, then other people see that. Does that make sense? It just grows from there.

Kira:   Yeah, it seems like the biggest challenge is just getting that first big name client on your roster, and doing a great job and then it becomes easier to get the other ones.

Lori:   Yeah, but don’t forget what I said. I still take pretty much as many jobs as I can that comes my way because don’t forget those five people that meet you at that medium size or smaller size place, they’re going to want bigger jobs. So then they’re going to get a bigger job somewhere, they’re going to remember you and how you touched their lives and made their life easy, and you were kind, you were on time. I think that matters. You got to remember the big picture, so don’t burn any bridges. Don’t ever be late. Just conduct yourself with high-level expert, Loriness at all times. That’s what I say.

Rob:   We should tattoo that on our arms.

Lori:   Yeah. You’ve got to get your Loriness out, you know what I mean?

Rob:   Lori, I want to go back, I was asking about wireframes, and the kinds of things that copywriters can do to help designers. If a copywriter doesn’t know much about design, but wants to maybe explore at least basic design foundational skills, or at least knowledge. Are there resources that copywriters can go to that would really help them learn the basics? Or is it something that’s self-taught and you just have to have your hands in it all the time?

Lori:   Well, there’s a variety of books. I mean, I’m reading constantly. There’s three or four books by Edward Tufte T-U-F-T-E. And actually I got myself a ticket last year to one of his onsite one day events in New York, and I got to be there and learn from him. But it’s Edward Tufte, and it’s like principles of designs. I could share with you guys a list of like 10 or 15 things people can look at as far as books, there’s color books, books on the feeling behind colors by this one woman … I’m sure I’m going to mince her name, but it’s like Latrice Eiseman or something like that. There’s a variety of books that I read constantly that I’ll give you a list for. And if you can look at those books, read those books and understand them, that’s helpful.

But also looking at everything that comes in your mail, and making yourself your own swipe file and seeing … even just play this little game with yourself like, ‘Did this get my attention on my stack of mail?’ Like, if you’re talking about mail and print. ‘Why did it get my attention? Was it the color? Why? Was the headline easy to read?’ Or, ‘Why do I hate this and not want to open it? Is it because there’s 20 words and a headline, and all of them were in all caps? Was it a lot of reversed out type? Was the print hard to read?’ So you can play around with that and just ask yourself, ‘Does this resonate to me? Does it not? Why not? How could it have been better?’ Just constantly doing that, maybe spending 15, 20 minutes every day fooling around with something like that. That would really give you an edge and knowledge so that when you see something, and maybe it’s your first project, you can actually ask yourself like, ‘Did I want to read the headline? After I read the headline, where did I go next?

Was it easy for me to turn the page and go to page 24 and see the reply form, or did I get stuck? Or was I so bored, I didn’t even want to pick up the phone? Or if it was an online campaign? Did they engage me enough? And why? And how?’ So just those little things constantly. Once you start doing it, it will drive yourself and everyone around you crazy, because no one here wants to watch a commercial, or look at anything with me, or a movie because the whole time I’m like, ‘Oh, my God look at that pan.’ You know? Is that helpful?

Rob:   Yeah, it’s definitely helpful. I think I would also suggest that maybe one place that people could go to start learning that is you’ve got a portfolio page on your own website, it’s got some fantastic examples of landing pages, and I think the magalogues, and the different kinds of things that at least in the direct response world are pretty typical and see what you’ve done that has worked for them. So that may just be a starting place.

Lori:   Yeah, and I will say that I don’t on purpose have a lot on my site. Some people will say sometimes, ask me like, ‘Why don’t you have all the 8 millions of things that you do?’ And obviously the first reason is that is because everybody could just go there and steal all my ideas, it’s so easy. But the other thing is legally, I signed a lot of NDA and legal contracts so I can’t show a lot of what I do. And I won’t obviously. But I think it’s also just good professionalism not to just put everything you do out there, that’s the property of the client, that’s confidential. It’s near and dear to them, they paid a lot of money and time for it. So I do take that into consideration. But take a look at as much as you can, and let me know how I can help too guys, if there’s a time when you just want me to splash maybe a winner up, and we just cut it apart. Or maybe I show you my first two drafts and we say like, ‘Look at how ugly it is here.’ And then look how it transpired.

Sometimes just watching how something starts with just copy, and then seeing … it doesn’t get to look like that magically in one day, it’s an evolution back and forth. So that might be a fun little thing to do at some point.

Kira:   Let’s feed off the last question. I wonder how you stay creative, and high energy, and anytime I see you or talk to you, you’re just so … you have just such a great vibe. So what do you do in your day to day, or at a high level to make sure that you are creative and engaged?

Lori:   Well, first of all, I love what I do, this is my passion. As I tell my sons as they’re growing older and they’re looking for what they want to do with their life, that whether it’s copy, or design, or whatever it is that you really must pick something that … like when I wake up in the morning, I can’t wait to wake up and get down to my studio, and get going. I don’t feel like I’ve ever worked a day in my life because this is all exactly what I want to do. So there’s that. Although it might be hard, obviously, it’s very difficult to do this and stay on constantly and try to get these winners all the time. There’s so much pressure in that. But if you love what you do, then it feels so enjoyable just to know that that’s what your day is full of. But I am very careful, there will be days of endless hours and then you must take a break and get proper rest. Eat right, exercise, meditate. I love yoga, running. We’ve talked about that Kira, right?

Whatever works for you to fill yourself back up again, fill your cup back up again. You can’t let yourself get worn out because people demand that I am awake, and alert, and on point, and thinking at a high level constantly. You must know yourself and know what your limits are. I think that’s probably one of my biggest strategies and strengths is being able to say, ‘No, we can’t do that for three more weeks. We’d love to work with you, and we don’t want to pass it up.’ So I don’t overextend myself, and I strive to take great care of making sure that I’m always awake, not flustered, well rested. There’s a couple copywriters that I enjoy working with … Yeah, I guess I can say this, but I’ll just be honest. I probably wouldn’t work with them anymore. Every time I approach them, it’s some crazy story. ‘I’m so busy. Oh my gosh, I haven’t had time.’ And then you email them and they’re like, ‘I’m at a doctor’s appointment. I don’t know.’ And so to me, I’m like, ‘You’re not giving me my best of what I need, you are letting your whole life drive that.’

There’s no way that that person can be thinking in working on the level I demand for my clients, and it’s not fair. I try to position myself so although they see my email come over at 1:00 AM because we have a tight timeline not because of my doing, but that they also see that I’m like, ‘You know what? We’re going to need a little more time.’ Or, ‘This can’t be accomplished properly.’ And like that. So you have to be very honest, you have to be very careful with how you show yourself. Just like you said about me, every time you see me, you feel like I’m full of energy, and zest, and I’m excited. I would suggest that you don’t have to be as high energy as me, but you don’t want to be like, Captain bring down and so tired all the time. I hope that makes sense. I mean, have you noticed that in people? Like who wants to work with that? No one wants to have that person on their team?

Rob:   For sure. Yeah. I mean, I love the title Captain bring down because we all know Captain bring down or have worked with him in the past. So it’s-

Lori:   Yeah, I run from that. So again love these couple of people, but can’t do it. Not willing to do it.

Rob:   Lori, how do you organize your day then so that you are at the top of your game when you have to show up for an assignment?

Lori:   Well, rest is big, eating right, supplements, being careful with your time, and being able to say no I suppose. Try to get to the gym, or running, or just taking time for myself. Kira and I were just talking during the holidays I know my clients take some time off, so I took a couple weeks and just did absolutely nothing but relaxing, regrouping, getting myself in the right zone. I think it shows. I can tell when I’m overtired, those ideas don’t just come bing, bing, bing. And when I’m at the top of my game, and I’ve properly cared for myself mentally, physically, definitely it just flows. I think finding your own flow, and what’s best for you is mandatory, and probably the best thing that you can do for your professional existence.

Kira:   Yeah, it’s good to just have a reminder and hear from you as someone who’s had so much success that even though self-care can be kind of cliché in the business world because everyone’s talking about it, but it actually does make a difference, and it does pay off in the long run.

Lori:   Definitely. I never want to be known as that person that just does everything, and is always everywhere. I just want to be known as, here’s this stable place that we can come and get qualified winning ideas in a professional manner every single time.

Kira:   Can you talk about your business today and what it looks like? We haven’t really talked about that. What you’ve grown over, I think you said 22 years. What does that actually look like today as far as the structure and team size?

Lori:   When I was working with these agencies, one of the things I promised myself is that I would never have the 10 people sitting there waiting for a job, and the people that maybe once they got the project put on their desk with the timeline were like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ Or whatever. So, I decided I don’t want anybody sitting here with me that I have to keep busy, I don’t want to fix coffeemaker for them. This is just my own choice, so it’s just me here at my studio. Then over the last 20 some odd years, I’ve grown, trained, and hold a stable of a variety of level of talents. That’s either designers, production people that do edits, photographers, models, agencies. Whatever it is that you need, copywriters, video people, editors that I can call upon and bring them in because as you know, every job isn’t the Oprah job. Sometimes you have it medium, sometimes you have the small.

So I bring the best of the best of the best for the project, the skill and talent level, the budget, and the timeline. And then we look at that whole big picture, the optimum of what they could afford, and the talent and skill level. That’s how I roll the team together. So on the outside, I also have a business partner, Tom Berky, and we’ve been together successfully for a little over eight years. He has a whole stable of full-time people that I’ve worked with over the last eight years training them with all the quality control checklist, the proven processes, the strategy, how I do design, and all that because obviously I can’t do all this on my own or I would kill myself.

He is also just a guru of design, expert, great online. He has a whole stable of full-time online folks that we’ve trained together, so having this huge movable bendable team to fit the needs of each project, schedule, and budget. That’s where the sweet spot has been for me. I took a little different twist in the road and came up with my own recipe, but seems to be working well. This is what works for me.

Kira:   Yeah, well a lot of copywriters are growing their team and bringing on subcontractors to their projects. I’ve done that as well, and sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. What advice would you give to copywriters that are growing a team of subcontractors as far as what’s worked for you, what hasn’t worked for you?

Lori:   Those quality control checklists that I talked about … and I can share mine with you if I haven’t already, those help. People that are working with you must follow these exact procedures like; before you send me, for example, the first draft and I’ve already done a sketch and explained what I needed. You must read the copy three times, do some research we discussed, do a spell check … I’m just giving you a little example. And then send it to me. But you can’t just do it and send it to me without having done all those things. So seeing what your processes would be, and your quality, control checklist, or whatever. Setting things up so they’re standardized, and everybody follows them again, and again, and again, then that is really mandatory, I think.

Rob:   Lori, where do you see the opportunities in copywriting? And I guess also design in the future?

Lori:   Well, I think you’re going to see a lot of direct mail. We’re seeing tons of direct mail right now. So if you could understand direct email packages, writing them like magalogues, Slim Jims, number 10s, six by nines, newsletter, issue log looks, brochures, all kinds of things. But you know online is particularly hot, but people have become bored with that. And only that they’re going back to more old-fashioned ways of wanting a copy of the newsletter in their hand, wanting their report, wanting that real book. Yep. They’re going to download it immediately once they sign up, but they want those juicy things again, and they’re realizing getting back to basics is good. So being able to write for direct mail is good, obviously online, doing both. We do a lot of that where we test a funnel or campaign like sales page online, then we also roll it into a direct mail campaign, and we do it the opposite way. We write for direct mail then we flow it online. I’m doing that starting tomorrow for a client.

Rob:   Are you seeing this across the board? This move from online to also incorporating offline again, is that across the board or is it mostly concentrated in a few industries?

Lori:   Yeah, I’m seeing it everywhere. And you heard it here first, you better get ready.

Rob:   Copywriter Club exclusive Yeah.

Lori:   That is something that you can really ramp up for … you have to know how to do it, like what has to be on that front cover, what has to be in the sidebars, what goes on page five, what doesn’t? Where does the bio go? There’s 8,000 things you need to know. But definitely, I would say start looking at things and be ready for that.

Kira:   Lori, can you talk about your training programs, which I know we’ve chatted about in the past, especially because I’m personally interested, and I’ve talked to a couple other copywriters who want to create training programs for teams and go into organizations. So how did you get into that? And what does that look like in your business?

Lori:   I think it’s probably just been through clients that I’ve worked with and how I am to work with, they noticed I guess, my knowledge level and so therefore, say, they have five designers in house. Nobody’s giving this training in college or anywhere else, all the things that I’m so lucky to know from these 20-something years of experience. So they noticed that, and then I guess one team asked me to come in, or go online, or go on the phone, or whatever and start working with their designers, their designers and copywriters, marketing teams. Just going through a process, going through a project together, and they learn as we work together. Then I guess other people started hearing about it. I go into large companies and I’ll work with their whole company, I’ll work with the writers, the marketers, the designers, the coders. I go internationally and train people, I train people on Zoom or Skype, I go on calls.

So you could do something like that, where you start offering training, or you could just add to your fee and they could choose to bring on other people to all the calls and stuff, and listen while you explain things because people want to learn these days. Like I said a lot of the people I train right out of college, and they did learn to design and do coding, or maybe a little copywriting, or a little bit of marketing, but nobody is training them because not many people know this stuff. Like why that sidebar has to be chopped into two pages, why you can’t put this on a right-hand page of the spread, why the offer form now has to be on page 27 instead of 21, or something. They want to learn this stuff, and it seems like people are sponges these days and you watch them grow. People that I’ve worked with for six months, I actually had tears in my eyes this summer. The people from Singapore that I’ve been working with, it was that Helen Keller moment.

I will never forget, I had to take a break off the call for a second to pull myself together but all of them on the call were saying, ‘Lori this headlines too hard to read. Lori, this isn’t the right color. Look, I can’t see that. I would put this photo there instead.’ And they were catching on. They were catching on in such a big way, so I know now that when they go back and design for their team that hired me, they do know how to make these right decisions. It’s really a beautiful thing to give something back to somebody else and watch them grow, then help obviously further grow their company.

Kira:   Before we wrap, can you just talk to us about what’s coming up for you over the next few months, especially if there’s anything relevant for copywriters or anything they can jump into? I know you are speaking at our event in March, and we’re really excited about that.

Lori:   Oh, yeah, I can’t wait. I already have my outfit picked out.

Kira:   Wow, you’re good. I still need to do that. So what else are you working on over the next few months?

Lori:   I’m going to Expo West for the first time in California. I’m meeting each Ijan Ijan One of my clients from Singapore, and we’re going to be checking out all of the millions of health products that are there on display and exhibitors, looking at the logos, looking at how they formulate their ingredients. Look at the wording, the brochures, the colors, the design, how they’re packaged. Are they in metal? Are they twist off? So I’m going to go crazy for like a week out there actually right before I come to speak at your event in Williamsburg Brooklyn area. And so things like that. Try to get yourself in, I’m only buying like a one-day ticket, I’m going to go hard, and look at all this stuff. So anything like that that you can go to. I also pay to be a part of a lot of masterminds, where several people as you know come to these masterminds, I think I’ve seen you at a couple Kira. I learn from them, I meet new copywriters, I meet new designers, we share ideas. I think that sharing.

Being a part of as many groups, different types of groups that you can is really helpful, and being open. Even though I’ve done this for a million years, you will never see me say, ‘Oh, I already know everything,’ every second of every day, I’m sucking things up. ‘Can I learn this? Can I read this book tomorrow? Can I download that article?’ So I think masterminds are helpful. Obviously, don’t get involved in too many things so you’ll wear yourself out you can’t actually work. But learning, and growing, and always being open to others in their expert views and ideas, that’s really critical to me.

Rob:   Such great advice. Lori, we can’t wait to see you in March. But until then, if somebody wants to connect with you, where would they go?

Lori:   You can go to www.lorihaller.com And right there on my little website, there’s a contact page and you can shoot me an email. You could also email at Lori, L-O-R-I @Lorihaller H-A-L-L-E-R .com and I’ll get back to you. I’d love to hear from people, anything I can do for the two of you also to give you samples, or I’ll release these quality control checklists and a couple other goodies you can post on your site. But anything that I can do to help you, that’s probably the other thing about me, and like you guys, it matters. I just feel so grateful for all the people that have always reached in and helped me, they gave me a chance when I was the new girl on the block. I am always wanting to do as much as I can to give any little nugget, or book, or tip to somebody that could help them reach their dreams because I just feel so excited to be able to get up every day and do what I love doing.

Rob:   That’s super generous of you. Thank you.

Kira:   All right, thank you so much Lori.

Lori:   Thank you so much for inviting me. I had a blast, and I cannot wait to see you guys in March.

Rob:   Awesome. Thanks.

 

 

 

Like what you've seen so far?

There's plenty more where that came from. Sign up for The Copywriter Club email newsletter today and we'll send you the unpublished Doberman Dan interview (plus several other awesome resources) in addition to regular updates about what's going on in the club.The only way to get these resources is to drop your email in the box and hit "gimme!".

If you don't like us, unsubscribe at any time. We're nice like that. Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Comment

WHAT’S YOUR COPYWRITING SUPERPOWER???

Discover your copywriter strengths then use them to land more baller
clients and strategically position yourself at the tippy top of the industry.

take the quiz