… or how to beat a control like an MMA fighter
whipping an opponent into submission.
Sometimes I write copy for big direct response companies. You know who I’m talking about…
Agora, Boardroom, Healthy Directions, et al. The big dogs of direct response.
Now, I would LOVE to tell you I’m on a first name basis with Bill Bonner. But the truth is, I’m not.
Never met the man. Probably never will.
BUT I do work with people who not only know the man, but report to him directly.
Now, I’m a copywriter. You may *THINK* my job is to write copy. However, when working with big companies, I pivot.
My job is to not only write copy but…
I have to make my Client look
not just good, but GREAT.
Nothing less will do.
Not only do I have to complete the project on time, not only do I have to make them money…
I have to beat the existing control by a significant margin.
Copy that beats controls gets noticed within the company. News spreads like wildfire.
It is truly the brass ring. Employees responsible for a hitting it out of the park get promoted, rewarded, etc. So let’s be clear:
To make your Client look like a hero to his or her boss, above all else YOU MUST BEAT THAT CONTROL like an MMA fighter in a title UFC fight.
So how do I do it?
Well, I’m not going to get into the entire strategy today, but I will share with you today where you can start.
To beat a control, you MUST pick the the right project.
You see, when the big companies come to me, they let ME pick the product or service. They send me a list of URLs for all their products or services and say…
“Go ahead Matt, pick your pleasure. 🙂 ”
Now I’m sure I’m not alone. I’ve talked with multiple copywriters and they tell me pretty much the same thing. (Although some copywriters are brought on for a specific project.)
Anyway, picking the right project is the first secret to beating a control. Being able to pick your opponent is an unfair advantage you must not squander.
Unfortunately, many copywriters do.
Some of the most learned copywriters out there will point to how the copywriting god, Gary Bencivenga picked his projects.
Gary reportedly “only picked controls he KNEW he could beat.”
That’s very admirable. And someday, I too hope to be that psychic, that all knowing.
Alas, I have no such ability yet. (But I’m working on it. 😉 )
Other copywriters will pick projects they can fall in love with, that they’re passionate about. Still other copywriters will pick projects that have the biggest market, or market share, or the most possibility of generating a lot of money.
None of these methods are wrong. But they’re not how I pick a project and a control to beat.
Because again, my job is to beat the control by a significant margin so I make my Client look like Ironman in an Avengers movie.
So how do *I* pick a control to
knock off its lofty perch?
I pick the weakest opponent. I pick the control with the lowest conversion rate.
I pick the dog. The runt of the litter. I pick the one other copywriters treat like an ebola victim, even though it’s the winner.
That’s my sweet spot.
I ask the Client to send me over not only the URLs of the products so I can see the existing controls VSLs, sales letters and websites, I ask for the corresponding lastest conversion rates of each.
(If they say they don’t have them or can’t get them, just know you’re flying blind.)
Next, I pick a product where the conversion rate sucks.
I don’t care what the product is. I don’t care how much money it currently makes. I’d be curious, but I don’t care who wrote the current control.
None of that matters to me.
I email my Client my choice, we ink the deal, a bit of money exchanges hands…
And it’s game on!
I am going to have my way with that control. I am going to “make it my bitch.”
Follow my lead, and I’ll show you how you can do this, too.
There are so many products just begging for a whuppin’, it boggles the the mind.
Seriously. And there are more coming onto the market every single day. Competition is fierce.
And I like it that way. It makes me a better copywriter. It separates the strong from the weak.
Now in order to follow the strategy I’m advocating, there are three simple prerequisites:
First, you must be extremely adept at doing what I call “fresh eye” research.
Many times, you won’t know the market and what makes it tick. That means you have to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Although other copywriters may disagree, having a fresh eye towards the market is an advantage. A plus. Other copywriters prefer to work in their comfort zone.
To do it my way, you better know how to assimilate a market, and do it quickly. As you may know, time is of the essence, and deadlines are usually short and firm. (I may be get to this is a future column.)
You must be willing to take on a product or market you may not be familiar with.
I agree, not being familiar with a product or market, may initially be intimidating.
All I can say to that is to…
This is WAR we’re talking about here. A battle. Survival of the fittest. If you think beating a control into submission is easy, you have another thing coming, my friend. Even if you’re familiar with the market, product or company.
If you underestimate your opponent for a moment, you’re going to tap out. You’re going take your piddly upfront fee, quickly develop amnesia about the project and scrounge around for your next gig. When you could have had a waiting list of projects begging for your attention from the Client, not to mention the royalties (which we’ll get to that in a moment.)
That’s right. If you don’t beat the control, chances of you being rehired are slim.
You must know your enemy. Every word of that control’s copy. You must know the octagon ring (i.e. the market) like the back of your hand. That’s the reason for Prerequisite #1.
You must be willing to take on a product you may not even particularly like
Again, SUCK IT UP.
I’ve done some crazy stuff, especially in men’s health, but also markets totally foreign to me like women’s beauty products. I’m a market agnostic. Morality aside, I don’t care who I write for, I don’t care what I write for, as long as it’s legal and ethical.
I want you to think about it this way:
Think about when you beating a controls kind of like a Richter Scale…
The Richter Scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake. The scale is logarithmic. Just a small difference of ONE represents an approximate THIRTY FOLD INCREASE in magnitude!
In other words, the bigger the increase in conversion? The more exponential the impact on your client’s success.
That’s how it really is in beating a control when your Client is involved.
You see, when you beat a control by 5 or 10%, that’s noteworthy, no doubt. But when you beat an existing, especially longstanding control, by 25%, 50%, 100% or more?
You can bet you can feel the rumble from your home office when word starts to spread.
My most recent “big company” win beat the existing control by a comfortable 30% against the house lists.
That, by the way, was right out of the gate. Unoptimized for design or traffic.
If you’re curious, it was for a high-end beauty creme.
(Yeah, that’s right. A guy writes a control for a women’s product. See? I walk my talk. This is a experience talking here.)
Here’s what I like best about beating controls…
Most freelance copywriters today I think live “paycheck to paycheck”, meaning they relish the large upfront fee and do not negotiate a royalty. In doing so, I believe they’re leaving money on the table.
Not me. No, sir.
I live for the royalties. (And of course, the bragging rights for beating the control.)
These are the things that additionally inspire me to give it my all and do my best work.
Here’s what’s great about beating a control. You don’t just get a percentage of the increase in revenue to the company.
You get a piece of the action on
EVERYTHING your copy sells…
The old control is retired. Your copy is king of the hill.
And the hopefully long train of royalty checks to your bank account begins.
(Of course, you also now have a target on your back. But that my friend, is a story for another day.)
So go ahead and let me know your thoughts below. How do you pick your projects? Am I wrong? Do I need to stand corrected? Let me know below.