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Secrets of Writing Ad Copy That SELLS

The American Writers and Artists Institute And Internet Marketing Authority Daniel Levis Interview Veteran Direct Marketing Consultant and Award-Winning Copywriter


Copyright 2005 by The Profit Center LLC 15430 Endeavour Drive Jupiter, FL 33478 1-800-827-0940 1-561-515-8532 First Printing: November, 2005 All rights reserved. To claim a FREE subscription to The Profit Centers weekly E-newsletter, THE TOTAL PACKAGE, point your browser to: www.MakepeaceTotalPackage.Com

The American Writers and Artists Institute Interviews Direct Marketing Consultant and Copywriter

Clayton Makepeace

Secrets of Writing Advertising Copy that Sells

The Profit Center LLC 15430 Endeavour Drive Jupiter, FL 33478 Toll Free: 1-800-827-0940


For regular issues of THE TOTAL PACKAGE eLetter, I have often interviewed top copywriters and marketing pros like Gary Bencivenga, Arthur Johnson, Parris Lampropoulos, Carline Anglade-Cole and others. But in this book, the tables are turned: I allowed myself to be put on the spot by the American Writers and Artists Institute (AWAI) for their outstanding work in Secrets Of Writing for the Financial Markets and by Daniel Levis for his great book, Masters of Copywriting. If youre serious about mastering the art and science of writing direct response ads for the Internet, direct mail, print or even television or radio I strongly recommend that you get your hands on these two outstanding volumes immediately. First, point your browser to and get your copy of AWAIs Secrets of Writing for the Financial Markets. Then, surf to and claim your copy of Daniel Levis Masters of Copywriting. I think youll find these two interviews about my approach to writing powerful ad copy helpful. So Happy reading! Clayton Makepeace



The American Writers and Artists Institute Interviews Clayton Makepeace

AWAI: Why don't we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself; your background. Clayton Makepeace: My father was a Methodist minister. He never made more than $500 a month in his life. We didn't know we were poor, but we were. Dirt poor. In tenth grade, I found that the one thing that interested me most was writing. My teachers seemed to be amazed at my compositions, and submitted them for publication in the city's anthology for high school students. Unfortunately, my mom and dad separated when I was in tenth grade, and I had to drop out of high school in order to help support my mom. My first real job was for $1.60 an hour, running a folding machine on the graveyard shift for a letter shop owned by a national political organization based in Oklahoma. While the folding machine chugged away through the night, I passed the time reading the organization's fundraising letters. After a while, I became convinced that I could create far more powerful promotions than the company's highly paid "experts" were producing. So I talked the owner into letting me try my hand at writing a fundraising appeal for him. To my surprise, he let me do it - and sure enough, when my appeal letter mailed, it pulled better than the ones he was using at the time.


At the ripe old age of 16, I had become an amateur - read that as "unpaid" -direct mail copywriter. Of course, it didn't even occur to me that copywriting could earn me a decent living at the time. So when the organization launched its national weekly television program, I talked them into moving me into the Television Division. By the time I was 20, I was writing, producing and directing their nationally syndicated television show. I had an annual budget of about $12 million and generated tens of thousands of new leads and donors for the organization. In 1972, a California organization offered me the princely sum of $8,000 per year to run their television department for them - producing, writing, and directing their quarterly television specials. But I resigned promptly when I discovered that the principals were skimming donations for their personal use. Then in '73 and '74, a recession hit the television and film industry. And although I was still able to pick up some freelance production work, it wasn't enough to support my family. Then, in 1975, I found a "Copywriter Wanted" ad for a small direct mail list brokerage in LA that was starting a creative division. I figured it was worth a shot: After all - I had written some direct mail for fundraising and LOT a lot of scripts for television commercials: How hard could this be? At the job interview, the owner asked me to write an "audition" package for him - a fund-raising letter, response device and envelope teaser copy. When they read my copy a few days later, they hired me on the spot - for $12,000 a year. Within a couple of years, I was able to build the agency's creative billing up to $1 million dollars a year. But when I asked him to pay me the bonus he had promised for reaching the $1 million mark, he not only refused; he fired me on the spot! So, with no money in the bank, and no other obvious choices, I became a freelance copywriter- and in my first month, I netted $15,000: $3,000 more than my annual salary at the agency! A few months after leaving the agency, someone showed me a direct mail package that Research Publication was using to sell subscriptions to its Daily News Digest newsletter. Daily News Digest was a semi-monthly collection of political and economic stories and comInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE

mentary, edited by Phoenix radio personality Johnny Johnson. Johnny was one of the true pioneers of our industry. At the time, Johnny - along with Bill Bonner at Agora, Howard Ruff at the Ruff Times, Bob Kephart at what is now KCI, Martin Weiss at Weiss Research, and Tom Phillips, at Phillips Publishing - were literally inventing the investment newsletter industry that we know today. After reading Johnny's promotion for Daily News Digest, I called him up, introduced myself and told him that his sales letter sucked -BIG time! I told him that I could quadruple his response. But Johnny said that money was too tight and he couldn't afford to pay me: So, I offered him a deal he couldn't refuse: "If I don't beat the living daylights out of your control, pay me nothing, I said. "If I do, you owe me $800." Long story short: As I predicted, my package did quadruple Johnny's response, and I spent the next several years creating successful promotions exclusively for his stable of investment newsletters. Next came my big break. By 1982, I was earning $1,200 per promotion package and around $100,000 per year. That's when a fellow from Minnesota asked if I would write a direct mail package promoting his brand new financial newsletter called "The Money Advocate." I did; and within about 18 months my sales copy had generated 120,000 paying subscribers. After a few months of writing for The Money Advocate, I asked my client if he would let me take a whack at the promotions he was sending to his active subscribers. He had been sending monthly promotions to his actives to sell them on investing in rare coins, and was generating about $360,000 in sales per month. The client accepted my offer, and when the dust had settled, my rare coin promotion had multiplied his usual monthly sales - by a factor of ten! As you can imagine, the client was thrilled with the results and in a panic to retain me exclusively to create rare coin promotions for his file. I demanded a $250,000 annual retainer, plus a $40,000 signing bonus, plus a whopping 5% of sales revenues. He accepted, and within a year, we were selling $16 million worth of rare coins per month. After a while, a friend called to say that my client was cheating his customers - delivering low-quality rare coins at premiumquality prices. I resigned instantly and structured an exclusive marInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


keting arrangement with Jim Blanchard of Blanchard and Company the second largest rare coin dealer in America. Over the next four years or so, I was able to quadruple Jim's revenues to more than $115 million per year. Then, in late 1988, Jim sold the company to a subsidiary of General Electric for tens of millions of dollars. I ended my relationship with the firm and returned to freelance copywriting, creating newsletter subscription and book promotions for Phillips Publishing, Boardroom, Rodale Press, and many other financial and health publishers. In 1991, Phillips Publishing called to ask if I would help them launch a new alternative health newsletter, Dr. Julian Whitaker's Health & Healing. I agreed, and over the next three years, my promotions were mailed to 90 million prospects, and generated more than two million paying subscribers. As a result of this success, I was retained exclusively by Phillips to provide marketing consultation and to write for Health & Healing as well as the company's new health and investment newsletters - including letters for Dr. Christiane Northrup, Elaine Garzarelli, the Dolans and many others. Finally, in 1998, I ended my exclusive with Phillips Publishing to take on a new challenge at Weiss Research. Since then, I have provided marketing and management consulting services and created promotions that quadrupled the number of paying subscribers to Dr. Martin D. Weiss' Safe Money Report, Undiscovered Stocks, Stocks on the Move and other investment newsletters. I also help Weiss create new products for sale to active subscribers and have created sales campaigns that generated up to $5 million in revenues in as little as six weeks. AWAI: Now it sounds like you had a fairly unorthodox transition into this industry. Do you think it's still possible for somebody who hasn't gone through college, but is a very talented writer. . . is it possible for somebody in that situation still to break into this industry and what advice would you give them? MAKEPEACE: Sure! The secret to becoming a great copywriter has nothing to do with what kind of sheepskin you have hanging on the wall.


I'm a high school dropout. I got a GED diploma and about a year and a half of college taking very general courses... certainly nothing on marketing or advertising. But in more than three decades as a professional copywriter, not a single client has ever even asked about my educational background. What we do is about the numbers. You write a package. It gets printed. And within two weeks, you know if you're a hero or a putz. If your packages win, no one is going to say, "Well, we know this guy has written all these winning packages, but we're not going to hire him because he doesn't have a degree." If your copy performs, your dance card will be filled regardless of whether you're a man or a woman... old or young ... fat or thin... gay or straight... white, black, brown, or chartreuse, for that matter. I've mentored quite a few beginners over the years - and as far as I know, not a single one of them had a formal education in copywriting or marketing. Brien Lundins copywriting skills have made him a millionaire, and president and CEO of the New Orleans Investment conferences. Carline Anglade-Cole was a marketing director at Phillips Publishing when I began helping her refine her copy skills. Today, Carline is one of the top direct response pros in the alternative health newsletter industry. I also mentored Paris Lampropoulos, Kent Komae, Robert Hutchinson and Brad Petersen early in their careers. All of them are million-dollar copywriters today. So when you ask if a "talented writer" can still break into this business, and my answer is "Sure!" But that's only half an answer, because in the end, what we do isn't about writing. Yes, you have to have the basics. You have to have an adequate vocabulary or at least know how to use a thesaurus. You have to know how to construct a coherent sentence. But if you want think about yourself primarily as a "writer," you're probably in the wrong business. To make it as a direct response copywriter, you must be - first and foremost - a salesman. Not a single great copywriter I've ever met thought of him- or herself as a "writer who sells." Instead, they saw themselves as "salespeople in print. Its a crucial distinction. As I said, I've mentored many copywriters over the years, and I just named the ones I'm proudest of. What I


failed to tell you is that when it comes to training copywriters, I've had far more failures than successes. And one of the most important lessons those failures taught me is this: Great writers often make lousy direct response copywriters. Why? Because the writing gets in the way of the sale. Financial publishers aren't looking for great literature. Nobody ever intentionally rolled out three million losing packages just because they were enchanted by the prose! Give me a successful life insurance rep or a used car salesman or any other kind of salesperson who has been in the trenches and excelled - and if he or she can also construct even a semi-decent sentence on paper, I'll turn him into a multi-millionaire copywriter. A great salesman doesn't give a damn about split infinitives or dangling participles. He has no aspirations to write the Great American Novel. To him, Shakespeare is just another brand of fishing tackle. Whether by heredity or by training, great salesmen are masters of seduction: They select their prospects with care... seize their attention ... instantly put them at ease are attentive - attuned to what the customer is thinking and feeling at every moment...deftly stroke the right emotional erogenous zones with the appropriate intensity and at the right timescultivate a rising sense of urgency... and then compellingly close the sale in a way that leaves the customer blissfully satisfied and eager to repeat the experience. So instead of thinking of yourself as a writer, see yourself as a master salesperson who just happens to work with the written word. Everything you do needs to be about selling. Your headline must sell the reader on reading your deck. Your deck needs to sell the reader on reading your first sentence. And the first sentence - and every sentence thereafter -- needs to sell the reader on reading the next paragraph. Put simply, the greatest copywriters are the greatest persuaders: Our mission is to help prospects see things from our perspective. And it's an art; not a science. AWAI: Then what is the role of education and training for beginning copywriters?



MAKEPEACE: The first thing a writer needs to be able to do is to differentiate between strong copy and weak copy. You have to make that judgment minute by minute - hundreds of times a day -as you conceptualize your promotion piece, as you write, and as you edit what you write. It sounds simple, I know; but you'd be surprised how few copywriters - or their marketing manager clients, for that matter - really know the difference. That's where training comes in- especially early in your career. Direct response copywriting dates back more than 100 years - to the old Montgomery Ward catalogs of the late 1800s. Since then, millions of direct response catalog blurbs, post cards, sales letters, selfmailers, print ads, e-mails, TV spots and radio commercials have been produced. Each of them has elicited some level of measurable response. Many were duds. More were just so-so. A memorable few were dynamite. The point is, because direct response copy generates a measurable response, we know what has worked in the past. And over the years, much of that knowledge has been condensed into sets of "rules" - guideposts for copywriters. Master those rules. Internalize them; make them a part of your DNA. They represent lessons that others have spent billions of dollars to learn. But understand that the one constant in our business is change. Markets mature. Prospects become more sophisticated. Techniques that kick butt in a bull market will likely doom you to failure in a bear market, and vice-versa. What worked a year ago, five years ago, rarely works as well today. As the S.E.C. likes to remind us, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." More than that: Understand that rules are no substitute for personal experience. As you mature as a copywriter, allow what you learn from your own successes and failures to override these rules. If you blindly follow the rules every other copywriter is following, your packages will sound like every other package out there. Creatively breaking the rules that your competitors follow - and doing it in a way that boosts response - is what separates the mediocre copywriter from the pro. AWAI: I'm going to jump back to the financial industry. When you write for the financial industry, can you give us your basic approach to a package?


MAKEPEACE: First and foremost, it's essential that you understand your prospects' fears and desires at the deepest possible level. The legendary Bob King - the marketing genius who presided over Phillips Publishing during its period of most explosive growth - referred to these fears and desires as the prospect's "resident emotions." In the case of investment copywriting, resident emotions are the feelings that a majority of prospects already have about their finances: The fears that wake them up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat-or the waking dreams that have them so excited that they find it difficult to go to sleep in the first place. When you can put your finger on what your prospects' most powerful resident emotions are now, you're half-way there. You can plant a touchstone in your headline and deck structure that immediately gets the prospect on your side, and a mantra that returns to that touchstone throughout the sales letter. They can say, "This guy has the solution to something I've been losing sleep over." Or, "This guy can get me something that I want desperately." The financial newsletter industry and the alternative health newsletter industry - both of which have generated billions or dollars in sales over the years -- were both born of the same basic resident emotion: A healthy distrust of the establishment. Back in the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter was telling the American people that we should lower our expectations for the future. The experts were telling us that the world was about to run out of oil. Economists knew that Washington's rampant printing of U.S. dollars was killing the value of the dollar and yet the government was feigning ignorance as to what was causing inflation. At one point President Carter chastised his chief economic advisor for even using the word "inflation" in public. So in his next speech, the advisor announced, "I've been asked not to use the 'I' word. So in this speech, I'm going to use the word 'piano' instead. And let me tell you: The current piano is one heck of a big problem!" To the average investor, it felt like the inmates had seized control of the asylum. The value of their money was vanishing before their very eyes, and yet Washington was in denial. As a result, millions of investors lost faith in the government's ability to create a profitable investment environment. They realized that, if they were to have any hope of surviving inflation let alone becoming financially


independent or enjoying a comfortable retirement-- they would have to rebel against the establishment and take control of their own finances. To do that, they needed a guide to them tell them what Washington and Wall Street wouldn't. That's when the pioneers of this industry -- Howard Ruff, Harry Schultz, Harry Brown, Bob Kephart, Tom Phillips, Martin Weiss and Bill Bonner - stepped up to the plate. They said, You're right to distrust Washington and their puppets in the mainstream financial media. If you wait around for them to make you rich, it will never happen! You've got to do it yourself, and I want to help." Their message was in perfect synch with investors' primary resident emotion at the time. And as a result, we sold millions of subscriptions to their investment newsletters. Years later - in 1991 - many Americans had developed similar feelings about the medical industry. Marcus Welby - the caring family doctor -had been replaced by cold, uncaring, greedy medical corporations. Doctors were doling out drugs with horrendous side - effects. One drug, Tambacor, killed 100,000 Americans before it could be withdrawn from the market - more than were killed in the entire Vietnam War. Meanwhile, the medical industry was stubbornly ignoring breakthrough studies suggesting that simple lifestyle changes and good nutrition could often do what drugs couldn't. As a result, millions of Americans were becoming increasingly distrustful of the medical establishment. They were thinking, "My health is too important to trust to strangers. I think they're taking advantage of me to get to my money. I think they'd be willing to poison me with toxic drugs, cut anything off of me, or even cut a hole right through me just to get at my wallet! I've got to get my own solution. And I need a dependable guide." It was in this environment that a vice president at Phillips introduced me to Dr. Julian Whitaker at his offices in Irvine, California. At the time, Dr. Whitaker had written a couple of relatively obscure paperback books about reversing heart disease and a few columns for the local paper in which he railed against the medical establishment for its refusal to even evaluate promising alternate ways of treating America's #1 killer. After talking to the doctor for an hour or so, I returned to my


hotel room, laid out what I believed would be an ideal newsletter for folks who were fed up with the establishment and ready to take control of their own health. Then, sitting by the hotel pool, I wrote a direct mail package to launch that newsletter. At the time, nobody had successfully promoted an alternative health newsletter in America. The only successful letters in the field were mainstream letters, published by Harvard, Berkley, Tufts and the Mayo Clinic. And none of them asked for cash with the order. All of them were "bill-me" offers, and all of them were cheap - just $19 or $29 per year. Now here I was, writing a promotion for a new newsletter... from a virtually unknown doctor. .. that was in the unproven alternative health field ... that cost 33% more than letters published by some of America's most respected medical institutions AND that required the customer to pay up-front When I submitted the copy, there was so little enthusiasm for it at Phillips that almost no one bothered to even look at it. The VP and I proceeded to push it through graphics, printing and mailing with only minor alterations to my first draft. A few days later, my phone rang. Orders were pouring in. Phillips' telemarketers were swamped: Customers were cooling their heels on "hold" for fifteen, even twenty minutes just to place their orders. The mailroom was stacked to the ceiling with Business Reply Envelopes, each one stuffed with money. When the dust had settled, my launch package for Health & Healing had generated an eye-popping, unheard-of 4% response. That was more than EIGHT TIMES the response levels Phillips had ever seen on its mainstream health letters! Soon, we were rolling out with 3 million... 5 million... up to six million pieces per month. No matter what list we tested - health names, investment names, catalog buyers, book buyers, even expires that were so old we had to clean the lists before using them - everything worked! In the next three years, we sold more than two million subscriptions to Health & Healing at an average unit of sale of about $57 more than $100 million in all!



But even that was just the beginning. Those subscribers enabled Phillips to build a vitamin business, which, I understand, now generates hundreds of millions of dollars in sales each year. And Health & Healing created an entire industry, as Phillips' competitors launched health newsletters and vitamin companies of their own. That's the kind of magic that can happen when your copy connects with your prospects' resident emotions! AWAI: Do you have any rituals that you use for generating ideas for hitting those nerves? MAKEPEACE: My first mental step is kind of a Zen thing: BE THE PROSPECT. The single most important thing that any investment copywriter can do is open a brokerage account and put a significant amount of money into it - money it would hurt you to lose. Then, go through the bewildering experience of researching the stocks you're going to invest that money in. Then, put that money into the best stocks you can find. All of it. Suddenly, you'll begin experiencing the daily news and the daily ups and downs of the stock market in a distinctly personal, tangible way. You're thrilled by every advance, crushed be every decline, and disappointed when your stocks go nowhere. And you'll experience the agony of reluctantly selling a losing stock and turning a paper loss into a real loss. For more clues that reveal how your prospects are feeling, expose yourself to the same media input that they're getting. They're getting their perception of the markets- and therefore, the emotions they have about them - from CNBC, CNNfn and Fox News. They're reading the Wall Street Journal, Investor's Business Daily, Barron's and the business section of the New York Times. Connecting with these news stories also helps in another way. It tends to make your packages more topical - more connected with the day's news. And that can be a powerful advantage. Imagine your prospect, sitting there with a package you wrote about making money in a rising-interest-rate environment. Meanwhile on TV, they're announcing the latest hike in the Fed Funds Rate hike. In effect, you're


putting the financial media to work for you! Another way to get a good read on your prospect's resident emotions is to go to sites like,, and some of the other polling sites online. The answers to the political, economic and investment questions they're getting right now can give you great insight into what investors are feeling. I also recommend that my clients poll their own subscribers and even send polls to rented investor lists - especially when they're struggling to get a new control. From time to time, the newsletter industry hits hard times - usually when investors are preoccupied with other things, and response just drops by thirty or forty percent. Promotions that were generating 100% return on investment suddenly begin coming in at 70% or even 60% of cost - even on "A" lists. It happened during the OJ Simpson trial. It happened when Reagan was first elected, and later on, when he was shot. It happened when Princess Diana was killed. And it happened in the build up to the Gulf War, both of them. Usually, these slumps in response only last a few weeks. But in 2004, it began happening in March, with bad news corning out of Iraq, and continues now, as terror threats increase in the run-up to the presidential elections. Those are the times that try copywriters' souls. Your only defense at a time like this is to clearly understand how your prospects are feeling. Figure out why they're not reading their mail. And polling is a powerful way to do that. AWAI: That's very good advice and it's advice I hadn't heard before. On to my next question, in the financial industry, is there a typical prospect and if there is, how would you describe them? MAKEPEACE: First, you're talking to guys: Predominantly, to older, white Republican guys. Last time I looked, our average prospect was around 65 years old. But that doesn't mean he has the same psychographic profile as a 65-year-old did when. I started writing. Today's 65-year-olds were teenagers in the 1950s ... 20 - somethings in the 1960s ... and 30 - somethings in the 1970s. And today, they're far more hip, sophisticated and involved than their parents were at the same age.


Many of them are active or retired small business owners with substantial net worth. At the Money Show -- which derives its attendees primarily from investment newsletter subscription lists -- the average attendee has a net worth of around a million dollars. But that's not necessarily liquid, investible wealth. They tend to have a big chunk of their net worth tied up in the family home, and possibly, in a business as well. So the average prospect may only have $100,000 to $200,000 to actually invest, and many of your prospects have substantially less. Another key to understanding our prospects is that they are not merely casual readers who are content with the variety of views that are soft-pedaled by anonymous reporters in the big investment websites and magazines. They're looking for emphatic, confident leadership: A more personal relationship with an investment advisor who has a strongly held world-view and investment philosophy that's in synch with their own, and who offers clear, unhedged advice. AWAI: Is there a particular tone or voice that reaches that market best? MAKEPEACE: The tone of voice that you use and also the format of the package you design should always connect with the emotion you're trying to convey. The investment publishing industry uses two kinds of packages: 1) Fear packages that connect with something the prospect is already fearful of and that offer a solution, and 2) Greed packages that connect with something that the prospect wants and offers to give it to him. I do nearly all of the promotions for Weiss Research, the publisher of Safe Money Report. A couple of years ago, Dr. Weiss was the first to discover accounting irregularities at major corporations. He simply crunched the numbers and discovered hundreds of companies where stated earnings didn't add up with the revenues and costs. Now, put yourself into your prospect's shoes: You're an investor, trying to buy value stocks - shares with favorable price/earnings ratios -- and you suddenly discover that the companies behind your stocks are lying to you about half of that ratio - their earnings! These guys are swindling you. They're telling you they have


earnings way up here, but really they're way down there... In short, they tricked you into buying stocks that were ridiculously overpriced. Even worse: You know that when the companies behind your stocks are eventually forced to restate their earnings, share prices are going to tumble and you're going to get your head handed to you. Now I ask you: What is the appropriate emotional response to that piece of news? Any investor worth his salt would be livid! Incensed! Outraged! Any other reaction would seem oddly detached and out of place. So the tone of our package was outrage. But evoking emotion alone isn't enough to make a sale. You also have to offer an outlet to the prospect - a way to directly address, and in this case, salve his outrage. So we also offered the solution: A free report entitled The Weiss Corporate Earnings Blacklist that allowed investors to make sure none of the companies behind their stocks were likely to be cooking the books. Sometimes a little bit of humor also works. A few months ago, we found a bunch of billionaire corporate executives who had been out on tour, essentially telling investors, "Buy my company's stock!" Meanwhile they were dumping hundreds of millions of dollars of their own companies shares! My idea was to run pictures of these crooks Bill Gates and others - above a headline that read, "Two-faced, Lying S.O.B.s!" In the investment newsletter industry, packages with a passive or scholarly tone almost always fail. And for a simple reason: Intellect alone doesn't sell. Emotion does. You can use an intellectual argument to trigger an emotion, but if you go in on a purely intellectual basis and you have this cold, stilted, tone, you're not going to trigger the emotions necessary to make a sale. Look. There is always something your prospect feels he needs much more than the newsletter you're trying to sell him. Maybe he's in dire need of a new house, a new car or a new suit of clothes. Maybe it's a bigger contribution to his own IRA. Or maybe it's a vacation, a romantic night out with his wife to help their marriage, or a gift for the kids or grandkids. As a copywriter, your job is to convince the prospect that buying your newsletter is the single best thing he could do with his money now. You can do that negatively - by convincing him that without you, he faces the specter of massive losses. Or, you can do it positively, by


convincing him that his small investment in your newsletter will help him realize his dreams of a richer life now, a more secure future and a more comfortable, more exciting retirement. Both approaches conjure powerful emotions - and those compelling emotions are what it takes to make the sale. AWAI: In your opinion, what's the most important part of a financial promotion? You may have just stated it it needs to be alive with emotion. Are there any other elements critical to its success? MAKEPEACE: I think anyone who has done any testing at all would agree that the headline and deck copy and the first few paragraphs of the main sales copy have a greater impact on response than any other part of a sales promotion. On countless occasions, I've taken a package that was pulling at, say, 120% of cost, tested new headline and deck copy and pushed response up to 150% or 170% of cost. That's why every time one of my packages mail, I include anywhere from two to four new headlines to test along with the control. Second, there's the offer. I generally like to test pricing at least once every 12 to 18 months. If you have the time, testing premiums particularly the fast-response and/or phone-in bonus is also a great way to boost response. Also -- never forget that your return on investment in the mail is composed of not one, but two vital elements: 1) Your response rate the percentage of your prospects who actually buy, and 2) Your average unit of sale -the percentage of your prospects who opt for a twoyear or even a three-year offer. After I've tested everything I can think of to boost response, I like to look at the higher-dollar offer and test things - pricing, premium line-up, etc. - to add a few extra dollars to each sale. Third, I like to test formats. Time after time, I've found that a package that's doing "just OK" as a bookalog will suddenly come to life as a tabloid. And almost invariably, I find that changing the format of a dying control gives it new life. When I get my way, I like to test new formats on the very first roll-out of a new control. If it's a 24-page report- style self-mailer, I spin off a 6X9 component package


version. ... a bookalog ... a tabloid ... or sometimes, even a scaled down #10 First Class version. Finally, although I never test this, credibility is right up here as one of the most important parts of each package. Everyone we mail to sees hundreds of newsletter promotions per year from scores of advisors. It's important to position your advisor as not only being a credible voice in this sea of self -serving hype, but also head and shoulders above the carnival barkers out there. So, beginning right on the front cover, I make a huge effort to include credibility elements track record statements, testimonials, etc. throughout the piece. AWAI: How do you go about developing credibility in your packages? MAKEPEACE: I like to do it in a number of ways. Right on page one, I like to list the accurate forecasts or the profitable investments that we've already nailed on the wall. You can tell somebody that the man who predicted the Tech Wreck of 2000 now predicts -fill in the blank -- you've got some credibility right off the bat. I like to also weave that into the early copy and expand on it with actual examples of either accurate economic or market forecasts or very profitable investment recommendations. The more specific the better: Give them the date of the buy, the date of the sell, and the profit amount. Another, more subtle way to add credibility is by including a spot within the piece where the advisor can show some humility and really connect with the prospect. I write very high-energy packages. But I also like to create "islands of calm" in the package where the advisor connects to the reader on a personal level. Maybe he admits a minor mistake he made in the past... talks a little bit about his background... his family... his feelings about current events... how he got started. Do it right, and the reader comes away feeling like your editor is his friend. "He wouldn't be lying to me about this, "says your prospect, "He's a good guy." A third way to add credibility is to add specificity to your arguments in the text. Most investment newsletter promotions begin by


discussing current dangers and opportunities. The more specific you can be, the more data you can provide to dimensionalize the opportunity or danger, the more credible it will be to the reader. Beginning copywriters often make the mistake of making flat statements without any backup. They're just assuming that the prospect will just accept what they say at face value and start nodding his head. But if they don't, you can lose the sale. You can't make these flat statements and then walk away from them. You lose traction when you do that. Another credibility booster is to include testimonials and endorsements throughout the copy - both in the running text and prominently featured in sidebars. These fall into four categories: First, there are testimonials from subscribers who testify about how much money your editor has made him or saved him. My advice to clients is to actively pursue testimonials from subscribers. Every time the newsletter closes out a winning trade, mail a testimonial request to your database. I've found that offering a prize or a series of prizes for the best testimonials produces the best results. Second, there's the detailed narrative, told by your editor, of how he spotted a major profit opportunity for investors. Weaker than a testimonial, but because of its specificity, still very effective. Third, there's the media mention that reads like an endorsement. I'm fortunate to be working with Dr. Martin Weiss, who has been praised in many articles by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Forbes, and just about every other financial ' publication you can name. In every promotion, I excerpt these positive comments for use in sidebars. Fourth, there's the implied endorsement. The very fact that your editor has appeared on CNBC or quoted in The Wall Street Journal implies that he must be credible. Dig for these nuggets and use them aggressively. I urge my clients to place a high value on public relations. The goal is to get your client quoted in the media, and to get him in front of the cameras as often as possible. You get two benefits. You can use these appearances and mentions as credibility in your mail packages, of course. Plus, the fact that your prospect has seen your editor in the papers or on TV further paves the way for you. The money you


spend doing this pays dividends in greater response, revenues and profits. I also think the way you write the guarantee is crucial to the credibility of your offer. Guarantees are much more than just "risk relief." If it is written compellingly, the guarantee proves that the editor is absolutely convinced that the prospect will be delighted with his service. To drive this home, I like to put a dollar amount in the guarantee: "If within 12 months, I haven't earned you or saved you at least $5000 -- 50 TIMES the price of your subscription - just let me know. I'll rush you a full refund and everything I've sent you in the meantime is free!" The prospect comes away thinking, "Wow, this guy really believes in what he's telling me. It must be incredible stuff." AWAI: What kind of resources do you use as you as you write a package? MAKEPEACE: I rely heavily on my clients to provide research that backs up the editor's views. Ultimately I'm writing in the voice of the guru. The copy must accurately represent his views. And his views are based on data that he is using. I ask to see that data. A lot of writers will get a general topic and do their own research and kind of run off in that direction. I like to challenge my clients, when they tell me it's an absolute lock that interest rates are going to rise, I challenge them, and I get them into a debate on it. And it's wonderful because they'll start trying to sell you on their view of the world. Essentially, they're starting the copywriting process for you! Dan Rosenthal is a legend in our business. He loves to let his clients write their own headlines. He just gets them talking, and within minutes not only has he reaped salient copy points, he's identified at least one or two headline possibilities. To augment information provided by the client, I also use the Internet very heavily. I get news stories, data, charts and other valuable material to add credibility to my theme. I have a brokerage account at Fidelity Online and they make detailed stock reports available free of charge. Those reports are a great way to get all the fundamentals on a company in a quick 5 or 6 page report.


One of the standbys of our industry is the "Sexy Stock" package - a package in which you introduce a company with an incredibly exciting story behind it. Maybe it's a cure for cancer, or the best drug since penicillin, or a fuel cell company about to hit the big time. When I latch onto a stock like that, I simply open my browser, log onto and download all the analysts' reports on the stock. Using those reports, I'm able to tell a prospect that the company has no debt, that the valuation of the company is 50% lower than the valuation of the average S&P stock, and find many other ways to dimensionalize what a great company this really is. And of course, the New York Times is absolutely essential. I subscribe online. First thing every morning, I spend an hour or two reading all of the latest business news. A lot of good ideas for new packages come out of The New York Times. It's really a rich resource. And of course, I also scan all the other business news sites. Fox News' Neil Cavuto, CNNfn, and so forth. AWAI: What's the most important lesson you've learned from writing in the financial industry? MAKEPEACE: I've learned that the most crucial moment in the writing process has nothing to do with writing. It has to do with establishing what you're going to write about. And that involves building a bridge between what your prospects want and how your product meshes with those pre-perceived needs. If you get that right, the rest is child's play. But if you get it horribly wrong, all the effort you put into your copy will be wasted. Ironically, the editor and/or the marketing manager who hired you can be the biggest obstacles to doing this. Most newsletter gurus tend to focus on what they have to sell - not on what the market wants to buy. And most publishers are more attuned to the whims of their editors than they are to the resident emotions that are dominant in the marketplace. Be prepared to fight ferociously for the ideas you believe in. If you lose the fight, be prepared to politely walk away from the assignment. There's nothing more miserable than having to sweat bullets writing copy on a theme you feel is doomed to fail.


At times, your clients may hate you for standing your ground. But ultimately, your value to a publisher is based on your success rate. Each package you write costs the publisher somewhere around $100,000 just to test. If half of your packages become controls, your average control costs the publisher $200,000 up-front, plus any ongoing royalties. If one-fourth of your packages hit the big-time, you're up to $400,000 for a single control. Naturally, publishers look for writers who give them controls at the lowest possible cost. So if you accept package themes you don't believe in and end up giving the publisher a series of duds, you'll find it more and more difficult to get assignments from that publisher. Even worse: This is a small, incestuous industry. Publishers meet every year to compare notes on copywriters. And they e-mail and phone each other constantly. Get a rep for losing packages and you're sunk. AWAI: Now you've been in the financial industry for quite a long time, and I imagine you've seen many changes. What's the most important change that you've seen? MAKEPEACE: Well, some of the changes are cyclical. It's like wearing a 20-year-old tie: You know that sooner or later, if itll come back in style again. Take forecast packages, for example: Packages in which the guru presents 7, or 14 or 21 predictions for the economy and the investment markets for the next 12, 18 or 24 months. They were really hot in the early 80s, but they fell out of vogue. But within the last six months, I've seen a whole raft of forecast packages out there, and my intelligence tells me some of them are working again. Then, there's the political angle. In the old days, most investment newsletter promotions had a strong political component to them. Editors were either conservative Republicans or hair-on-fire Libertarians and infused a great deal of political rhetoric into their promotions. They were more than just stock-pickers. They were crusaders for a more honest monetary system, more honest markets. They moralized about rising federal deficits and the debasing of the


U.S. dollar. Today, we've lost a lot of that. Today's gurus lack that moral compass and the advocacy that it spurs them to. Although politics are inextricably linked to economics, you'd be hard-pressed to find these kinds of packages today. The biggest recent change has been the moronic profit claims I'm seeing on many packages today. In the old days, investment promotions tended to lead with the guru's world view, on an opportunity in a particular investment area like gold, foreign stocks or zero - coupon bonds, or on the superiority of a specific investment approach. Today, most of the packages I see begin with truly outrageous profit promises: "Turn $10,000 into $1.5 million in 12 months or less!" And unfortunately, these packages seem to be working to some degree. I hate to admit it, but I may be somewhat responsible for triggering this trend. Over the past few years, one of my clients recommended investments that actually jumped as much as 860% in just a few months. The gains were documented inside out, upside down and backwards. Heck he even has subscribers' brokerage statements as proof that these kinds of gains were actually realized! So naturally, my packages shouted those victories from the rooftops, and we mailed tens of millions of those packages between 2000 and 2003. Now, however, many advisors are mailing packages containing misleading and patently false profit claims. Mark my words: The regulators are watching. And if this trend doesn't end soon - if this industry doesn't regulate itself -- there will be regulatory hell to pay. Another troubling trend: Several advisors are making deals with the devil - soliciting funds from publicly traded companies in return for touting their stocks in direct mail promotions for their newsletters. On the surface, these packages appear to be objective analyses of these stocks. It's only when you read the fine print that you discover that the advisor is anything but objective: He has been bought and paid for by the company he's promoting. That stinks. Package formats have also changed radically since I began. Back in the 1970s, newsletters were sold in #10 packages with an eightpage sales letter. Then along came Howard Ruff with a two-color, mini self-mailer that started the copy right on page one. That was a real breakthrough. Later, in 1983 or '84, Ted Kikoler and I started doing magalogs -- four-color 16-page self-mailers -- to sell attendance to the New Orleans Investment Conference. And within a year or so, we started seeing magalogs pop up all over the place as financial


newsletter promotions. Today, all of us are searching for the next great breakthrough in mail package design. In the meantime, many publishers have returned to their roots: Simple, two color, shorter-copy packages --like Agora does for Taipan and some of their other newsletters. Design is basic - almost primitive - and that makes their packages look more topical. They feel more urgent because they don't look like you spent six months designing them. Plus, they're cheaper to design and to print. AWAI: You mentioned several different formats that you can use for a financial promotion. How does your approach differ depending on the format you're using? MAKEPEACE: Essentially, my formats are driven by the nature of my message. If my message is topical- based on fast-breaking, current news events - I default to simple- looking packages: Twocolor special report format pieces, #10 component packages, and sometimes a 6 X 9. These kinds of packages send a clear message, "This stuff is HOT!" On the other hand, if the package theme is more evergreen, not keying off of short-term news events, I prefer packages that appear to have intrinsic value: Magalogs and bookalogs, for example. A magalog looks like a magazine and may even display a newsstand price on the page one masthead -- $4.95 or something like that. Bookalogs - typically 5x8 booklets containing 48 to 64 pages plus cover -- also appear to have value. These formats work because prospects find it more difficult to throw away something that appears to have value. If someone sends you a $5 bill or a book or magazine that looks like it's worth five bucks -- you don't cavalierly toss it in the trash. I created the very first magalogs for Boardroom and Weiss Research - and they boosted response rates appreciably. Much of this increase came from the fact that our doubling date - the date at which half of your response is typically received - jumped from the traditional 14 days to 18 or even 21 days. So more prospects were hanging on to these pieces and eventually ordering the product. Another factor in choosing my format has to do with the length of the sales copy. If you're mailing primarily to "A" lists and have a


simple message, you can sometimes get away with a cheap and dirty #10 component package. But if you're looking to elicit a response from less responsive rented files, long copy is still king. To sell colder prospects, you need space for credibility boosters to present the premiums in the most compelling way possible to fully develop your selling arguments and overcome objections. In these cases, tabloids, and 24-page and 32-page magalogs and special report formats work great. So do bookalogs. They let me break long copy into bite-sized chapters: Chapter I -- Why rising interest rates are inevitable. Chapter 2 -- Stocks that will be hurt the worst by rising interest rates. Chapter 3 -- How to find stocks that double or triple when interest rates rise - your premium sell. And then in chapter 4, you're actually getting into your offer. Making sure you have plenty of room to sell the heck out of your premiums is absolutely crucial. One of the major innovations that Gary Bencivenga introduced to the industry was his insistence that premiums - not the product itself - are the strongest selling tool in any investment newsletter promotion. His logic was faultless: When you're selling a financial newsletter, you can't tell your prospect precisely what's going to be in the newsletter next month -let alone during the 12 or 24 months of their subscription. And so early on, Gary introduced the idea of creating a free special report containing specific, tangible, useable advice and information, and writing the package around it. That was a huge leap forward for our entire industry. AWAI: You've mentioned a few times in our interview the importance of the graphic artist and the design of a package. How much do you interact with the graphic artist on a project? MAKEPEACE: I insist on controlling the entire graphics process. I supervise the designer through three, four or more graphics drafts and when I'm pleased with the layout, I show it to the client. I then filter any comments the client may have and pass along only the ones I agree with to the designer. There's just too much at stake to leave this to chance - or to people who don't understand the finer points of graphic design. The design of your package has only two purposes: 1) To grab the prosInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


pect's attention, and 2) To present the copy in a way that makes it easy to read. No graphics school teaches this. That's why so many ads are beautiful, artsy-fartsy and completely unreadable. Graphic artists go to school for years to learn how to make things look pretty. They love white space and 9-point sans serif type and fully justified columns and graphic images that are meaningless but that take up space and make the page look nice. All those things are deadly enemies of successful direct mail copy. I have two or three designers who understand this. They've created hundreds of sales promotions for me over the years, and have been a big part of my success. Also, I insist that my designer actually reads my copy before he begins laying it out. If I even suspect that he hasn't read this thing, he's going to get a phone call from me. AWAI: What do you think is the most important attribute that a copywriter can have that will help them succeed? MAKEPEACE: First, you have to be a self-starter. When you first begin with a new package, the amount of work ahead of you can be quite daunting. It's very easy to put it off for a day, then another day, and so on. Even the best copywriters fall prey to the siren song of procrastination. That's why so many of them take three to six months to produce a first draft. Part of that is because they have other packages in the pipeline, but I'm convinced that a lot of it also has to do with the fact that there's so much to think about when you start writing a new package, it's easier to just to put it off. Well, there's something to be said for sleeping on it. But you'll have plenty of time for that after you begin writing. My best ideas come to me when I'm writing - whether I feel like it or not. It takes discipline to do that. It's not always easy to do. But if you plan to write more than three or four long-copy packages per year, it's essential to get started. Here's another thing: You have to have thick skin. Like a rhino. You fought for a package theme you believe in. You spent countInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


less hours reading everything the guru has ever written. You spent hundreds more hours writing, re-writing and editing your copy tweaking, massaging, sweating blood over every jot and tittle. Then you hand it in - and the client, who has spent exactly 30 minutes reading your draft zero time writing copy himself and who hired you because you're the pro wants you to make just a few minor changes" in your copy. After more than three decades in this business, it's still all I can do to resist reaching through the phone and strangling the bearer of the bad news. But that's just my first reaction. I keep my mouth shut, take a moment to cool down, and then think carefully about the critique. Maybe he is just a preening middle manager who has never invested a dime never subscribed to an investment newsletter ... never even bought anything through the mail ... and couldn't identify great copy if you held a gun to his head. Or, maybe he's right - at least on some level. Either way, you have to have the composure and the selfconfidence to take an objective, non-defensive new look at your copy and objectively decide whether to accept the critique or fight like hell. Thick skin comes in handy at other times, too. Like when you win all your battles, get your way at every step - and your package bombs. I've had a copywriter call me in tears after a package failed to become a control. When I answered the phone, the writer just uttered two tearful words to me: "I suck!" It's dangerous to allow your failures or your successes define you. You have to understand that failures occur for a multitude of reasons, many of them out of your control. You also have to understand that some of the projects you have the most faith in will ultimately fail. And when that happens, you must find the fortitude to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn what you can from the failure, and then find the positive mental attitude you'll need to move on to the next project. When it comes to qualities you need in order to produce winning copy, the answers are very different. You need to be a voracious reader before you can be an effective writer. You need to be personally connected to, interested in, and excited about the subject at


hand. You need to have a visceral understanding of your prospect's greatest fears and desires. You need to love doing research, and finding little nuggets that others have missed. You need the knack for keeping things simple, and making even complex subjects easy to grasp. You need the capacity to focus and maintain clarity of vision as you move through the copy. You need strong organizational skills in order to move through your arguments in a way the casual reader can easily follow. You need a comprehensive working knowledge of how the economy and the investment markets work, and a mastery of the technical terms and jargon that let you speak to your prospect on their level. You need the creative capacity to make even the most boring data a thrill to read about -- and to turn negatives into positives and to overcome the prospect's unstated objections in a compelling way. You need to love debate for the sheer sport of it - and for the fun of winning with cogent arguments. You need a healthy ego that forces you to do your dead level best whether or not anybody else notices. You need to be sensitive to that sinking feeling that hits you when reading weak copy - and little tingle inside that tells you when your copy is spot-on. And you need a nose for the jugular - the instinct that tells you the one thing that needs to be said in order to persuade your prospect to do your bidding. AWAI: What advice would you give to a copywriter who wants to break into the financial market? MAKEPEACE: Read... Get on lots of mailing lists. If you know a publisher or someone who works for a publisher, get on their lists. You'll start getting a lot of direct mail as the list is rented to other publishers. Read everything you get. Take notes of the techniques that have the greatest impact for you. Especially take notice of promotions you think you can improve on. Then, write. Write, write, write! If you dont have a client, pick one and write a kick- butt package for him. When youre done, show your package to the publisher. If youre good, hell probably mail it and pay you a fat royalty. If youre not, youll learn valuable lessons from the experience.


I don't know a lot of publishers who would turn down a writer who walked in the door and said, "Look, I can kick the living daylights our what you're mailing right now, and if I don't do it, don't pay me." But if you think you can do it, get him to agree to the highest royalty rate possible, right up-front. My $50-per-thousand royalty rate only seems high. Fifty bucks a thousand is less than one-tenth of the cost of printing and mailing a typical promotion package. Your royalty is nothing to a publisher unless you beat his control- and even then, the extra money your control-beater gives him dwarfs what he'll pay you. There are other ways to break in, of course. You can run ads in vendor directories published by the DMA and NEP A. You can haunt the halls of investment shows and publisher's conferences and button-hole every publisher who crosses your path. It's easy to spot them; they all have badges. You can call a copywriter's agent and convince him to represent you. You can write a package promoting your work and Federal Express it to every financial newsletter publisher in the Oxbridge Directory, then follow up by phone. Remember: You're a selling machine. And the most important thing you'll ever sell is yourself. So hop to it! AWAI: What do you think a copywriter should know before entering the financial industry? MAKEPEACE: Million-dollar paydays don't magically happen just because you've decided to become a freelance copywriter. It took me more than 20 years to break the $1 million-a-year barrier, and another five or six years before I broke through $2 million in annual income. But that doesn't mean you can't get to $100,000, $200,000 or even $300,000 per year in a reasonable amount of time. Carline Anglade-Cole springs to mind. Carline is a wonderful human being and she's got more energy than any two-year-old I ever saw. She knew some people in the industry and in her first year as a freelancer, she made six figures. Her second year she made more. In the last couple of years, her copywriting income has been enough to pay cash for her daughter's college tuition, pay cash for a new Corvette for her husband, pay cash for a fancy in-ground swimming pool,


travel the world, and buy a brand-new house for her mom. So stick with it. If you like the idea of making a ton of money at home in your underwear, you couldn't have chosen a better profession. AWAI: Do you have any books or television shows that you recommend to students who want to specialize in financial copy? MAKEPEACE: Early on, I read "The Theory of Money and Credit" by Ludwig von Mises -- an introduction to Austrian economics that really helps you understand the big picture: How the economy works. "The Incredible Bread Machine" is also a great expose on how taxes impact consumer demand and the earnings of companies you'll be writing about. For insights into investment strategies, read anything by Peter Lynch or Warren Buffet-- the greatest investor of all time. Get familiar with the terms. You'll want to speak to your prospects in a vernacular they're familiar with and you'll have to be using some stock market terminology and economic terminology. Who knows? Someday, you might need to know what "capacity utilization" means and why over 86% is considered to be the flashpoint for inflation. On the writing side, read anything you can get your hands on by Gene Schwartz, Rosser Reeves, and Bob Stone. Although they were not exclusively financial newsletter marketers, a lot of what they have to say has application in our industry. As far as television is concerned, I try to watch Kudlow& Kramer nightly on CNBC. And FOX has a bunch of great programs Forbes on Fox Bulls & Bears and Cashin In, for example. Two of my favorites are Neil Cavuto's nightly "Your World" and Saturday's "Cavuto On Business." For schedule times, just check AWAI: Thank you for your time today, Clayton. MAKEPEACE: My pleasure.



This interview was conducted by AWAI for its outstanding book, Secrets of Writing for the Financial Markets. If youre serious about sharpening your ad copy, point your browser to NOW! Clayton Makepeace





Daniel Levis Interviews Clayton Makepeace

They call him the "Master Closer In Print" for his innate ability to transfer the craft of the super salesman to the printed word, multiplying its power a million-fold. For 33 years Clayton Makepeace has written multi-million-dollar controls for Boardroom, Phillips, Rodale, Weiss Research, and many other top direct marketing firms. Those fortunate enough to forge business relationships with Clayton have seen their marketing strategies fortified and their sales copy strengthened to the tune of well over a billion dollars throughout the span of his brilliant career. Daniel Levis: Im continually fascinated by the amazing variety in the backgrounds of people who find themselves writing copy for a living. In many cases, necessity has been the mother of invention, and I think it was Gary Halbert who summed it up best when he said something to the effect of, I look at teaching people to write copy as saving their financial lives. Because if you dont knuckle down and get this, do you know whats going to happen? Youre going to have to work for a living, and its going to KILL you! Leave it to Gary to put it so eloquently. So tell me the story of those early days, what were you doing before you began, what events lead up to your indoctrination into the world of copywriting? Clayton Makepeace: In 1974, I was working as a freelance film cameraman, doing TV commercials, industrial films and TV programs in Hollywood. A major recession struck, and work was impossible to find. So I began looking for another line of work.


I spotted an ad in the paper, run by a small direct response agency that was looking for a copywriter. I figured Id written lots of copy for TV, so I applied. The owner of the agency asked me to audition by writing an eight-page fundraising letter for a mythological charity. I wrote the copy in an afternoon, and showed it to the agencys owner the next morning and he hired me on the spot. I had the books about the art of writing ad copy by people like Rosser Reeves, John Caples and others. I went home and devoured the books over a period of a week or two and reported for work ready to go. Only one problem: The agency didnt have any creative clients. So, I wound up just working as a mailing list broker. Then, one day, the owner offered me a nice bonus if I could build a million dollar creative agency in his company over the months ahead. I accepted the challenge and went to work banging on doors to find creative assignments from local businesses in the L.A. area. At the end of about a year, we had a million dollars in billings and my boss refused to pay the bonus, so I promptly quit, took my clients with me, and have been on my own ever since. Since those early days in the 70s, most of what Ive learned about copywriting has come either from trial and error or from studying controls that my competitors have created. I have been spanked by the best, and Ive beaten the best on occasion, and each one of those experiences has been extremely instructive for me. Its a clich, but my losers have taught me more than my winners. The contrast between the two, and being able to sit down and look at something that you wrote that bombed -- and compare it with something for the same or similar product that was a wild success -is the best way that I know to internalize principles that will make each succeeding package stronger. I also want to make the point that my early indoctrination into direct response marketing was not exclusively as a copywriter, although that was the purpose for which I was hired. I found myself researching the mailing lists that were best qualified to receive an offer for clients products, creating mail plans for those clients, and then


looking at their results to see how I could use selects or different kinds of lists to improve their response. So in my first days as a direct response copywriter, I didnt write copy at all. I became a kind of marketing manager for my clients. I even got involved in printing, and letter shop work, and personalization, and mail modes, and postage requirements. I had to do breakeven analysis and create response tracking reports for many of these clients because in some cases it was their first outing in direct response. So I got a solid, practical, working understanding of what our clients go through in order to test and plan their mailings, and what the financial criteria and performance criteria are for selecting controls. So it was a very well - rounded beginning. A lot of the copywriters I talk to today have no grasp of what happens to their copy once it leaves their hands. Too many dont even ask the question, What are you trying to achieve with this package? When was the last time you called a client up and said, Look, are you trying to break the most customers possible, or are you trying to produce a profit? Its the single most crucial question on every project we do, and the answer will differ from client to client. Even on a customer acquisition piece that youre writing for outside use, sometimes youll find that the customer has no intention of breaking even on the package. His intention is to make a profit on each new customer he generates. As a copywriter, you do not want that client! Once, after I had written a series of packages for Danny Levinas at Georgetown Press, Danny came to visit me in Florida. As we were talking, he said something that absolutely stunned me. I dont want to be very big, he said. I dont want the headaches that go along with that. Im not looking to be aggressive in the mail. Well, since my income comes from royalties, that was the worst possible thing he could say to me. That was end of our relationship. I had no interest in writing for him again. What he was saying was, You can write the best copy thats ever been written for any product and Im not going mail maximum quantities because I dont want to be big. Im not aggressive. I dont want to take the risk.


So knowing what the client is trying to achieve with a package hes assigning to you is absolutely critical, and understanding which clients are going to give you the opportunity for maximum royalties and which arent is critical. If a client says my goal is to make a 20% profit on every new name that comes in, hes going to mail fewer pieces than a customer who says Im willing to lose 20% on every new name that comes in. And that directly affects how big the sparkles are that you can buy for your spouse in the year ahead. So getting a grasp of the nuts and bolts of direct marketing will make you a lot more money in the years to come. Daniel Levis: One of the things I think a lot of people misunderstand about copywriting is the amount of research that goes into it, versus how much of it is actually putting pen to paper, so to speak. Suppose you had just accepted an assignment to write a sales letter for something you knew very little about. Lets say some sort of new vegetarian diet, for the sake of example. Can you describe the research process? How do you go about becoming knowledgeable in a hurry, before writing a lick of copy? What are your methods, in detail? Clayton Makepeace: Ive been doing this for 33 years now, and had a lot of time to think about the process. I figure I dont get paid to do research, I get paid to write. There are other people who are better researchers then I am, and every minute I spend researching is a minute Im not spending working on the persuasiveness and credibility of the elements of the text. So in most cases I insist that my clients provide the research that I need. Its a win-win for them as well, because theyd rather have me working on major parts of the copy, themes, offers, and so forth, than slugging through a bunch of books, or spending hours online. Some clients dont have research departments available to them. In those cases I prefer to hire a researcher to do the bulk of


the work for me. I begin by actually selecting the theme that Im going to be writing on, creating a copy platform, thinking my way through the package, and creating a research request. Then, I send my research request to one of several researchers Ive used over the years and they go to work for me. In a week to 13 days, I have a fairly complete research kit, all in digital format so I can copy and paste out of it into an outline document. This saves me a couple of weeks on every project. In some cases, the researcher may be a junior copywriter, in others, it might be somebody who normally creates premiums for my clients for a living, and I use them for the research function. Daniel Levis: One of the most important things Ive found in coming up with a successful sales letter or advertisement is the hook. Some kind of a big idea that dramatizes the item Im selling. Obviously I want to attract attention, and draw readers into the body of the piece, and inspire peoples imagination. Can you tell me some of the techniques youve developed over the years for mining those golden nuggets? I mean, what are some of the thought processes youve found to be most effective in uncovering the hook? It would be wonderful if you could cite some specific examples as well. Clayton Makepeace: When Im looking for a hook or a lead of a package, I go one of three ways: Possibility #1: If Im writing about a very straightforward product that delivers a benefit that is both powerful and unique, my copy is likely to lead with that benefit. This makes the promotion piece look like just what it is: A promotion piece. Theres a downside to that, of course, because in todays world, my average prospect is getting more than 600 advertising impressions every day. By leading with the benefit of the product, I quite often run the risk of having my promotion being outed as a promotion, and therefore, not being read. So if Im going to go with a straight benefit lead, I look for ways -- both with copy and with graphics -- to make it appear to be a value-added special report of some kind. Possibility #2: The second way in is to think about how my prospects feeling right now about the problem that my product


solves, or the fear that it assuages. This feeling is quite often referred to as the prospects resident emotion, or dominant emotion. Especially in the investment area, for example also the health area you can quite often get greater readership on the front end by addressing the problem or the desire that the prospect holds most dearly at the given moment, and not even looking at the product benefits upfront. Possibility #3: The third way in is a topical lead. Especially if Im doing something for the Internet thats going to be delivered very quickly or a first-class direct mail piece, Ill quite often use a news story thats been on the front of Time, Newsweek, or the Wall Street Journal. If its at the top of the news, its on the top of my prospects mind. And if hes thinking about it, he has feelings of either fear or desire about it. I believe that emotion sells products, logic alone doesnt. So when you find a topic thats really hot, its pretty much a slam-dunk that the prospect has strong emotions about it. In the financial area, for example, the major trends have to do with things like rising interest rates, accelerating inflation, rising commodity prices, the possible bursting of the real estate bubble, and those kinds of things. Every one of my prospects has an opinion and a strong feeling about those things, and is concerned about how they might affect him adversely and what kinds of investment opportunities are there. So the topical lead is also a good way in. Daniel Levis: Before putting pen to paper, most copywriters spend some time outlining what they are going to say, and how they are going to say it. How do you organize your thoughts? Do you have a specific method, maybe even a set of templates youve put together over the years to fast track the development of the right outline for a given piece? Please describe the various essential building blocks that go into an outline, and some of the most important processes and constructs you use to develop them. Clayton Makepeace: I dont work from a fixed outline, however. For a course Im working on now, Im putting together some exInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


cellent outlines for short, medium, and long copy that have been very successful for me over the years. Its just a general guide for young guns. If youre cramped for space, turn each benefit into a bullet. If youre somewhere in-between, lead with your strongest benefits as subheads with explanatory copy and bullet the rest. -Make the offer: Repeat your headlined benefit, allude to the others, present your offer, and justify your price. -Relieve risk, add credibility: Add your guarantee and point out that, since the prospects delight is a sure thing, he has nothing to lose. -Sum up: Repeat your main headline benefit, the strongest secondary benefits, justify your price again, remind them of the guarantee and ask for the sale. -Show your prospect how easy accepting this offer is: Just complete and return the enclosed order form or dial TOLL FREE 1-800-000-0000. -Close with a final reminder of your main headline benefit, what a steal it is, and a mention of the guarantee: I also like to create word pictures of how the prospect will feel with the benefits my product offers and without. There are consequences to declining this offer! -Sweeten the pot: I like using my P.S. to catch my prospect off-guard. Just when he/she thinks This is a pretty good deal, I like to add just one more thing to push this from a good deal into an absolute, deadlock-cinch no-brainer. The best way to do this is by adding something to the offer: Usually an extra discount or a free gift for responding right away. -Add an urgency element: In a P.P.S., I like to give a final reason why the prospect should respond right now. This reason could be an extra bonus, or merely a rationale like The Feds going to raise interest rates on May 15 whether youre ready to profit or not! Please let me hear from you NOW! Daniel Levis: I look at copywriting as a transfer of energy & passion. Personally, I need to get psyched up before anything worthInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


while seems to bubble up to the surface. And its challenging sometimes. If Im locked away in front of my computer for days trying to pump out a bunch of stuff in order to meet a deadline or whatever, sometimes its difficult to find that spark. This is especially true for me when I try to rewrite something. How do you deal with this? What methods do you use to stay stoked and fresh? Clayton Makepeace: The answer is that its difficult sometimes. Especially if youre writing for an information product, and the copy and the product are uninspiring, or complex, or technical, and its a nice day outside and I can hear my Harley calling to me. The hardest thing in the world is to lock myself in the office and go through reams and reams of unbelievably boring material. I just had that experience with a particular client, and as a result, it took me several weeks longer than normal to create his promotion. But I find that creativity is energy, and vice versa. Therefore, during the week my lifestyle habits are very important. Im 53 years old. Ive been doing this for a long time, and I find that my diet, getting exercise, and getting some fresh air and sunshine every day is essential in maintaining the energy levels needed to do this work. Another thing that I find very helpful is that I usually rise at 4 AM, and I work until I find my attention span dwindling. Then at that point, I set the work aside and I move on to something else. Another technique is based on a finding I heard early in my career, which was that each of us has two aptitudes, a creative aptitude and an accounting aptitude. Some of us are nearly 100% creative, and some of us are nearly 100% accounting. A lot of us have both aptitudes, and when weve been using our accounting aptitude for days reading, researching, doing those kinds of things -- quite often we hit a wall. When that happens, its often because your accounting aptitude is depleted for that period of time, but the creative side of you is dying for an outlet. So, quite often when I hit the wall on these kinds of dry, dull, boring research tasks, I set the work aside, open a new document, close my eyes, and just start thinking about themes, headlines, subheads, side bars, proof elements ... the more creative side of the task.


This can add hours of additional work to a day, in which Id otherwise have given up and gone fishing at 2 or 3 oclock in the afternoon. One more thing: Theres something that I learned when I first learned to ride a bicycle when I was a kid, and thats when youre riding along on a curb, if you look at the curb, youre gonna hit it. If you look ahead where you wanna go, thats where youre gonna go and youll avoid hitting the curb. Thinking about deadlines is the worst thing you can do. I know our clients hate to hear this, but to me, a deadline is just an indication of how late the work is going to be - or how much earlier than he expects its going to be, but I cant allow it to drive me. I cant allow it to push me into decisions that are going to hurt the copy and hurt the promotion. Jim Rutz once told me something Ill always remember: The heartbreak of a blown deadline is soon forgotten in the warm glow of a hot new control. Absolutely true. Think about deadlines, and youre going to find that your copy suffers. Focus on writing the best copy you can and deadlines may suffer sometimes, other times they wont, but youll get a lot more winners. Daniel Levis: I dont know if there is any definitive answer to this question, but it is certainly a very important, and fundamental question I hope you can comment on. Based on your experience and testing, when does it make sense to use a two-step or even multiple step process, versus a single step go for the jugular approach in your advertising? When does it make good business sense to try and generate expressions of interest, by offering some kind of a free report or something (in order to gain a lead you can then follow up on), versus driving for the sale? And are there any circumstances where you feel it makes sense to do both with the same piece of copy? Clayton Makepeace: There are two parts to this answer. The first parts a marketing answer; the second part is a creative answer. They have to work together. The marketing answer is: A two-step program makes sense when you have a product with a high enough margin to justify the


cost of multiple steps, or when you have a medium thats so low a cost that the number of steps dont matter. From the creative side, I use multiple-step programs in two ways: Way #1: When I have a huge but not well-defined mailing list, or email list, or other media, I use a first step to call out my customers from that huge market place, and the second step to sell them. Way #2: When I have very inexpensive media and a captive audience. A couple of years ago, for example, I had a new product for an investment advisory that sold for $1,000 a year. My client had 150,000 customers on his email file. I decided to make the introduction of the new product a Gala Event. I cleared the decks of all promotions to those house file names for 30 days, actually 45 days, and then I created weekly, then daily promotions for the file on the new product. I began with a print insert in the clients newsletter announcing the product, followed with a daily email blast, each of which led to a landing page with long copy, selling the product. The following week, we had a First-Class mailing of a special report format piece, promoting the product and followed it with a new volley of email blasts. The next week, we did a #10 personalized letter to the entire file, wondering why the customer hadnt ordered, followed by email blasts. And so on, for five full weeks. The campaign generated $5 million in sales in a little over five weeks. Daniel Levis: I think you would agree with me when I say the voice you use in a given piece of copy is critically important, and it should resonate with the market your sales letter or ad is targeted toward as closely as possible. For example, if you are selling to car racing enthusiasts, the more you use track - side language in your sales copy, the higher your rapport and therefore conversion. So in some ways, you are like an actor getting into character. What methods do you use to get into character quickly and effectively?


Clayton Makepeace: I dont worry too much about getting into character in the early drafts of the piece. After Ive done my research, and Ive dropped it in to the proper places in my outline, I smooth it out into one cohesive whole, a sales letter, running text article, whatever. At that point, because the research itself contains the jargon that my prospects are comfortable in a particular venue, Im in pretty good shape. Then, I just look for opportunities to work key phrases and words into headlines, subheads, and to punch it up in copy. At the same time, most of the things I do are related to health and investment subjects and the jargon can be quite technical. If you go out with a package full of ten-dollar medical terms or highly technical investment or economic jargon, youre going to have your head handed to you. Its important to have a balance to make sure that the copy is understandable by the average guy on the street, but at the same time demonstrates your expertise through the selective use of jargon. Daniel Levis: Youve just finished writing out a first draft on a piece of copy. Now its time to edit. But heres the problem. Youre too close to the copy. Are there any techniques you use to step out of yourself, and look at that piece of copy objectively, with fresh eyes, when it comes time to edit? Clayton Makepeace: After Ive written a first draft, I show it to my wife. She has a background in marketing, and yet hasnt been deeply immersed for over a decade, so her insights on the copy are quite often very helpful to me. Also, I like to show copy to anybody who will read it, whether theyre a qualified prospect for the product or not, and just listen to what they have to say. Their impressions are important at the second-draft stage of the copy. Probably the worst person to look at copy after the first draft is somebody who thinks they know something about copywriting, because theyre not going to be looking at it with fresh eyes either. Theyre going to be looking at it with all of the little rules and other



prejudices that copywriters have. I try to show the copy to people who are uninvolved in the direct response industry. The question that I really have in my mind when Im showing them the copy is, Are they going to ask me where they can get this product as a result of reading this copy? If they dont ask that question, if they dont say, WOW! I really want one! Then I know I havent done my job, and I question them to find out what the reservations were and try to figure out what I could have done better to push them over the line. So in essence, when I show a first draft to somebody, Im looking to make a sale. Daniel Levis: Will you tell me the story of your wildest advertising success, and explain why you feel that particular campaign was so effective? Clayton Makepeace: Some years back, I had been writing promotion packages for a publisher who had just started a new newsletter called The Money Advocate. Wed been quite successful with the new subscriber acquisition packages wed been mailing. The newsletter was only a few months old and we were up to 30,000 subscribers. After a new subscriber came in, the client would send them a promotion to sell them some rare coins. As I looked at these promotions, I felt that they were really weak, and asked the client if I could try my hand at writing the next months promotion for him -- no charge. I just wanted 5% of the revenues. He agreed, and I wrote the promotion. Until that time, my client was averaging about $360,000 a month in sales to his subscriber file. My promotion pulled in $3.6 million in the next 30 days, or 10 times what he had been doing. So naturally, he retained me to do all of his in-house promotions. By the end of the year, we were doing $16 million a month in sales to our subscribers -- a 4,400% increase in revenues in twelve months. What I did to produce that increase was very simple: The client had been selling rare coins to customers on the basis of their investInterviews With CLAYTON MAKEPEACE


ment potential only. So his copy talked about how rare the coin was, how many other investors wanted to own one, how similar coins had gone up in value in the past. To me, that copy was dry and uninspired. But when I looked at the coins he was selling, I saw something completely different. I saw history. When I first held one of those old Morgan Silver Dollars in my hand, the first thoughts that went through my mind were about where the coin had been. What if this coin could talk? What stories would it tell? I started thinking about what was going on in the United States in the mid-1800s, when the silver in the coins was mined and when the coins themselves were minted. I conjured up images of the Wild West the unsettled frontier and Indian fighters casinos, and honky tonks, and bar girls. I wondered if Wyatt Earp had one in his pocket at the gunfight at the OK Corral. At the end of this emotional, colorful, romantic copy, I included one little box that discussed the rarity, the demand factor, and the investment potential of the coin. Now, instead of appealing to remote greed the possibility that someday youll make money on this - or appealing to the customers intellect, suddenly I was talking to his heart. And nine times out of ten, its the heart that makes the purchase decision. I remember telling my client at the time that the key is that the profit potential for the coin is the excuse the customer gives his wife for buying it. The reason he buys it is because its cool. Ive had many successes like that over my 33-year career. After leaving that client I quadrupled sales for another coin client in twelve months. After that, I went on to writing packages that generated 2 million new subscribers for a single newsletter at Philips Publishing International. Next, I went on to quadruple a company in West Palm Beach that published investment advice and research, and Im currently doing it again with a vitamin company that is now selling slightly less than $20 million worth of product a year. I predict that within a year well be doing well over $100,000,000.



Each time I do several things. But it all boils down to helping them market their product with procedures that will get them bigger mailings, more often, and then combining that with powerful sales copy that gives them bigger winners, more often. The combined effect is explosive growth and explosive profits. Daniel Levis: Its been said selling is transference of enthusiasm, and I believe thats true. Some would call this hype. Whatever you want to call it, its a valuable tool, but only so far as the promise responsible for generating that enthusiasm is credible and believable. What are some of the subtle techniques you employ to maximize the believability of the promises you are conveying in your copy? Clayton Makepeace: I call these believability factors credibility elements, and I have them very carefully woven into everything I do. I tend to go for the jugular when it comes to headlines, and if an investment product is generating 1,000% profits Im going to say so. I dont care if its believable or not in my first and second drafts. What I care about is how well I can document it, and how credible I can make it using other elements in the text. If an investment advisor comes to you and says, I made a 1,000% profit for my clients last year, youre going to call him a liar. But if the promotion piece is in the voice of my clients customer, and if he talks about how skeptical he was up front and how his wife thought he was crazy for even trying this how he felt when his investment began taking off how his skepticism slowly subsided how he saw the numbers in his brokerage account soaring how it felt to walk into a bank and cash a brokerage check for $1 million and how it felt to use that money in ways that made his life richer it is believable. There are many ways to boost credibility. Testimonials can be used creatively to remove all doubt. I like to take testimonials and tear them apart; turn them into narratives. Even call the person who gave the testimonial and interview them to get more details.



I also like to use testimonials as headlines. I recently created a promotion in which I had two headline tests. The first one was a straight benefit sale. The second was a testimonial headline, written by a customer who said, Heart surgery may be obsolete! The testimonial headline out - pulled my benefit-oriented headline by more than 50%. I also like to put my clients PR departments or agents to work for me. I want to see my clients on television. I want them to write books. I want them to submit articles to notable magazines to websites with big names and to the Wall Street Journal, Barrons, Forbes and Fortune. I want clients who are advocates for health products to be published in the New England Journal Of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Then, I have a sidebar where I actually have pictures of publications that have featured my client and pictures of my client on Nightline or on 60 minutes, or on some other notable television program; Neil Cavuto or on CNN. Guarantees can also be great credibility devices. A lot of copywriters think of the guarantee as a risk reliever, pure and simple. Theyll simply say something akin to, If you dont like it, well send you your money back. But a guarantee can be much more than that. A guarantee can be proof that youre absolutely convinced that your customer is going to love this product. Theres no percentage in buying something just so you can get your money back. There is a percentage in buying something that the seller believes Im going to love so much and is going to make my life so great that Ill never exercise the guarantee. I also look for third party research that supports every one of my clients claims. Its not enough just to say, Research shows that vitamin D does this, this, and this. Im looking for Harvard University to give my client a tacit endorsement by saying, Vitamin D deficiency will kill you. If you have ample vitamin D in your system, youll never have a heart attack.



For investment and financial products, the advisors track record is a central credibility device. A lot of copywriters just default by putting up a table showing the stock they bought when they bought it, how much money they made, and how long they were in the investment. Thats the lazy copywriters way to poverty. I like to turn each trade into a narrative: Talk about how the advisor found the stock and why he liked it. Then, I tell the story about how he begged his subscribers to buy it reminded them repeatedly told them it was gonna take off. Then I show how it took off how much money they made how quickly they made it and when they closed out the trade. Then, I like to humanize it by showing what some of his subscribers did with the money they made. Another way to lend credibility: In pre-heads for promotions for financial products, I like to have a pre-head that says, From John Smith, the only advisor in America who earned 10% for every 1% rise in interest rates, or some other wonderful thing that this advisor has done. Finally, after Ive finished the copy and I have all my credibility devices in place, I print it out, sit down, and read the entire thing, even with the huge headline promise on the front, and I try to sense whether or not the headline promise is now believable because of the credibility elements Ive added. If not, then I may soften it some. Daniel Levis: In your opinion, what are the three most powerful human motives to work on in your copy, and why? And how do you go about getting into the head of a specific type of buyer, so you know which buttons to push for maximum response? Clayton Makepeace: Instead of thinking about motives, you should be thinking about emotions. Motives are intellectual in nature. My motive is to make money. Emotions are the overlay for the motive. Theyre what gives motives legs and generate action. In my mind, all actionable human emotions fall into one of two categories:



1. Fear of a possible future event. Fear can range in intensity from concern to worry to terror to outright panic. The higher up the scale the prospects fear goes, the more effective it is as a motivator. 2. Lust. Lust can also range in intensity from a wish to a want to greed to a craving to an obsession. And again the stronger the lust , the more it will motivate him. Daniel Levis: In your experience, all things being equal, where are the best places (i.e. headline, lead, offer, guarantee etc.) to begin split testing alternative insertions in a piece of copy, generally speaking? Clayton Makepeace: No contest. The two parts of your copy that give you the greatest opportunity for a bump in response are 1. Attention-getters and readership converters your headline, deck and opening copy. Ive seen headline tests produce 50% lifts and even more. 2. Offers your price, premium, guarantee. Ive often seen an offer test give a 20% to 30% lift. Of the two, I spend far more time testing headlines and opening copy. And Im looking for more than a lift. Im looking for headlines that I can rotate month to month so as to reduce the attrition in response that occurs when youre mailing the same package to the same people, month after month. Having three or four covers for self-mailers or envelope teaser structures for component packages can make the rest of your copy last months, even years longer. Daniel Levis: One of the biggest things marketers struggle with is differentiation. What creative ideas would you offer someone trying to build a Unique Selling Proposition for a very mundane product or service that doesnt really offer anything unique? Clayton Makepeace: If you dont have something thats absolutely unique about your product, there are two things you can do: You can go to your client and say, Hey look, I can sell ten times more of this product if you make this one change to it. In some cases, especially in the information industry, youll find the client ex-



cited about your suggestion and they may actually implement it. Problem solved. The other way to do it is to advertise a benefit of your product that competing products just dont advertise. Example: In the early 1900s, the great Claude Hopkins was charged with the task of creating an advertising campaign for Schlitz beer. But try as he might, he couldnt find one thing about Schlitz that made it unique. Hopkins solution: He toured the brewery and took copious notes. Then he wrote about pains that they took to produce their beer. He talked about how they used the purest water, the best quality hops, how they took more time with their beer to make it perfect. By advertising these things things none of his competitors had advertised Hopkins convinced his prospects that Schlitz was the only beer made this way. Daniel Levis: What advice do you have for new market entrants? How can someone with little or no track record enter a market with a new product or service and profitably compete with entrenched players? Clayton Makepeace: Work for free. About a quarter-century ago -- back in 1980 -- I went out on my own for the first time. I had no name, no clients and about $90 in the bank. One day, I happened to see a particularly weak promotion piece being mailed by a small newsletter publisher. So, I called the publisher from a phone booth and said, Mr. Johnson? My name is Clayton Makepeace, and frankly, your sales copy sucks. When he stopped laughing, I explained: I write direct response sales copy, and I just saw the promotion for your newsletter, Daily News Digest. Im so sure I can double your response, Im willing to write a promotion for free. Heres the catch, I said. If I beat your control, you pay me $1,000. If not, itll cost you zilch. At the time, copywriters were getting about $800 for a promotion package -- no royalties. So my $1,000 demand was a bit high.


But what did he have to lose? If I beat his control, hed make money. If I didnt, he didnt have to pay me a dime. Well, I did beat the pants off his control, and it was the beginning of a very long and very profitable relationship. That one client supported my family for four or five years. And my successes with him gave me a name in the industry. If youve got your chops and find someone you can really do a good job for -- beat whatever hes mailing now -- offer to work for free, and give yourself a nice huge perk if you beat the control. Youll end up not only with a nice chunk of change, but youll also probably end up with a client thatll be with you for years and youll be able to establish your name in the business with by working for him. Another way to do it is by simple networking at industry conferences. Im not talking about going in and stalking the halls for anybody who looks like a client. What Im talking about is meeting senior copywriters. I quite often take on more work than I can handle, and I do it intentionally. Over the years Ive built up a crew of younger copywriters I mentored, and every one of them has since become quite successful. Its a win-win for everyone. I was able to put out more packages per year than I would have otherwise, and so I made more money. The young guns got great experience and made money. The client gets all the packages he needs. Daniel Levis: OK, closing question, thinking back over your career to date, what was the single biggest income boosting Aha!!! Moment ... the one idea, technique, or revelation that made the biggest difference in your results from that point forward? Clayton Makepeace: I love this question, because Im on a crusade and heres why ... The freelance copywriting model that everybodys following is just plain nuts. Its the worst possible arrangement for clients, and its the worst possible arrangement for copywriters. A copywriter whos doing freelance work has a new client and a new product every month. That means a new learning curve, a new


set of research, and having to learn how to work with a new set of people every month for the rest of your life. Every minute copywriters spend doing those things is time that youre not getting paid for. Working on a freelance basis costs copywriters money. For the business owner or marketing exec who uses copywriters, its just as bad. There are never enough copywriters. Every time he gets a new copywriter on board and sees their first draft copy he has the same crits, because the copywriter doesnt understand his compliance guidelines his experience in the mail the specific products testing history. And because of the arms length arrangement because he knows the writer will be working for his competitor next -- the client really cant share that kind of proprietary information with the writer. So the client goes through copywriter after copywriter after copywriter and then calls someone like me, who can only take on a limited number of jobs per year, to complain that all the new copywriters suck. Well the new copywriters dont suck. The new copywriters are new copywriters. They havent had the long experience with each of these clients that more seasoned writers have. Ive been writing for Phillips Publishing International since 1990. I know the people personally. The president, his top group publishers and marketing people came to my wedding. They send me pictures of their kids. I know exactly what they like, what they dont like, what theyll tolerate, what they wont, and because of our friendly relationship, I can cajole them, push them into testing things that they would never do for a writer they dont know as well. So my crusade is to junk the freelance model, and convince our clients to try something new. Each of the four biggest successes Ive had in my career, at Security Rare Coin, Blanchard & Company, Phillips Publishing, and Weiss Research happened while I was exclusive with each company. I spent no time each month beating the bushes for new clients. I spent no time learning about the client, his products or his market. I spent little if any time doing research because I asked these companies to research my copy for me. I was free to spend my time doing


the one thing that made them the most money: Writing sales copy -not Googling everything that moved. Each time, I was able to produce many more packages per year than I could when I had the learning curve to contend with. Each time my win ratio skyrocketed. Between 1998 and 2003, I didnt have a single bomb for Weiss Research. Every single one of my new packages beat my old controls. At a time when other financial publishers were only able to mail 300,000 promo pieces every six weeks, Weiss was mailing 3 million. While other financial newsletters were shrinking, Weiss quadrupled its subscriber base. And while its competitors profits were declining, Weiss profits nearly tripled. Thats the kind of magic that only happens when you deepen the relationship between copywriters and their clients. And theres another little piece of magic: The copywriters income soars. You get bigger winners, more often. Your royalties skyrocket. Relationships like that earn me millions a year. To me, the freelance model is patently insane: Were all doing the same thing over and over again and expecting better results. When clients learn a new way to work with copywriters, in which they get the copywriters best, then theyre going to explode in size, but until then, theyre going to continue being starved of copy, and theyre going to continue having these miserable win rates on new controls. So thank you for giving me a soapbox to stand on. This was fun. I hope we do it again. Thanks.

This interview was done for an excellent volume entitled Masters of Copywriting by Daniel Levis. To get your copy, just surf to



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