How to Identify a Competent Direct Response Copywriter

Had an interesting email from a fellow over the weekend who was beginning a search to find a direct response copywriter.

His observation: Many of the direct response copywriter sites he visited were pretty compelling. I’d never given this much thought.

His question: How could he figure out who to choose?

This really got me thinking. My feeling has always been, “you can’t “look” like everyone else online. eg. hey look at our stuff, buy it. blah blah blah.”

And yet, to this fellow, that’s exactly what we, as direct response copywriters, were doing – for a different reason, of course.

Here’s what I told him:

Most people searching for a good copywriter rely on the usual questions like…

“Do you have any samples?”

“What are your rates?”

“Can you show me your testimonials?”

“How do you handle billing?”

“What kind of turnaround can I expect on a project?”

All these are good questions. And any copywriter worth his/her salt will have ready responses in place.

But here are a few the average writer ISN’T expecting which will allow you to see who’s equipped to add value to your business:

1.  Do you have a solid grounding in the principles of direct-response copywriting as taught by Dan Kennedy? He is the Big Daddy. That’s THE name you want your copywriter to spit out when asking about who he/she looks to for an understanding of the core principles of Direct Response Marketing.

2.  Do you have a clear plan for increasing your copywriting knowledge and continuing your education in the craft? If you ever have a copywriter tell you “I got the sales copy thing down pat” – RUN the other way. No real pro would make that claim. No problem with a copywriter tooting his/her own horn but standing still? NOT an option.

Ten years ago, who would have envisioned that Facebook and Twitter would be the forces they have become? No one was crafting video sales letters for web sites either.

Continuous education in this gig isn’t a luxury – it’s an imperative.

Note: Some of the pretenders will be startin’ to squirm at this point :) Let’s mush on…

3.  What do you do to make sure you have access to the LATEST trends in see what the highest paid copywriters today are using to generate huge numbers for their customers? What you want to hear here is that the person you’re asking is taking part in some kind of ONGOING PROGRAM for copywriting professionals – a program that includes lots of real world examples coupled with an objective discussion of what worked, what didn’t and what was learned.

4.  Do you have a solid grasp not only of copy but of how copy fits into an overall marketing campaign? Copywriting does not equal marketing. Conversely, marketing does not equal copywriting. Both are entirely separate and distinct but intimately related.

Marketing involves everything a business does to set the stage for the sale. Copywriting “closes” the deal. All of this to say, the copy operates within the framework of a carefully thought through Marketing Campaign.

5.  Who do you rely on for feedback on your copy? Do you have someone you can trust to give you clear, useful criticism? I’m putting this question in here KNOWING it’s where I’m weakest. (Pretty solid on the other six I’ve identified but…) Friends and family ARE NOT good sources for feedback. They can pick out typos here and there but for the most part will give you a “that was very good.”

You really need a fellow copywriter to act as an editor. I have a few in my stable I can turn to at times but often rely on thorough research and careful attention to detail and, of course, experience.

6.  Do you have a reliable system in place for capturing information from your clients? A pro will have a system in place so he/she can produce the exact copy a client needs. Many of my clients are surprised by what I do to make sure things are on point. Random client phone calls DO NOT a system make.

7.  Do you have any kind of checklist to make sure you don’t send out copy before it’s ready? Think airline pilot. The plane doesn’t get pushed away from the gate until the pilot runs through a checklist. Same deal with copy.

Sometimes, a copywriter will be working on copy so intently, something gets missed in the draft stage. Could be a lack of urgency in the offer. The headline might not offer a quantifiable benefit or bold promise. Maybe the guarantee isn’t as simple and easy to grasp as it could be.

A checklist ensures things don’t slip through the cracks.

So there you have it. Some guidelines for digging deeper into a direct response copywriter’s ability to deliver copy that gets successful results.

You’ve probably thought of some of these questions yourself. Hopefully I’ve given you a few you can use to help with your search.

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