It’s basically an hour where the guest fields questions about copy.
It was pretty intense with chatter flying all over the shop, but it was also a lot of fun.
In case you didn’t get to catch the event live, or wanted to review my answers all in one place, I thought it would be a good idea to publish them here.
1. Tell us a bit more about yourself, and how your career has unfolded to reach this pinnacle, sitting in the ProCopywriters hot seat. (Also, is Pablo with you?)
A1a. First off, Pablo is with me. In fact, he’s pretty much running this whole thing while I make a cup of tea. See for yourself:
A1b. As for me, jeez. ‘Pinnacle’ sounds like it’s all down here from here. Which is probably true. Short answer on my career: I was an accountant. That sucked. So I learnt to write. Discovered copywriting by accident. Seemed to be good at it.
A1c. I worked in London for a decade before moving back up north and going freelance this year, when I also got a book deal to publish The Art of the Click. Now I write copy and content for UK, US and Australia, for companies big and small and speak as often as I can.
2. For those who aren’t totally clear, what exactly is direct-response copywriting?
A2a. It’s copy that invites a direct response. Someone must do something as an immediate reaction to the copy. It could be a sale, but it could be a click, a like, a retweet. In that respect, even this tweet is direct-response copy.
A2b. Crucially, it’s not just ‘long copy’. Yes it can be a sales letter. A piece of content. But it could be a couple of lines in a PPC advert. It just needs to illicit a direct response.
Special All Good Copy Pre-Order Offer expires this Sunday (30th September) at Midnight
Remember, if you pre-order The Art of the Click BEFORE midnight on Sunday 30th September – that’s THIS Sunday…
You’ll receive a free download of my Swipe File Starter Pack, which contains three long-copy sales letters I’ve written with my notes on pointing out key elements and takeaways you can use in your own copy.
All you need to do is pre-order The Art of the Click and email a screenshot or attachment of your order confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org
You’ve got until MIDNIGHT on Sunday, so don’t delay:
3. Is direct-response copywriting relevant to copywriters who are focused on, say, digital copywriting?
A3a. Totally. Yes. 100%. It does annoy me a bit and is kind of what the book is all about – but in the digital age, pretty much EVERY piece of copy or content is ultimately direct-response. But people don’t think like that.
A3b. Pablo just asked if anyone’s watched Killing Eve. He said he enjoyed it and thinks the Phoebe Bridge-Waller is a good writer.
A3c. Sorry, Pablo gets distracted. Where was I – yes, direct-response copywriting is more relevant than ever. People are missing a trick by not learning more about it. Cue my book.
4. For many copywriters, direct response = the long-form sales letter. Would they be right to view it as an out-dated concept in the digital age?
A4a. Aye. This is a big problem with the phrase. Not sure where it went wrong. Ogilvy was a big supporter of DR. His agency these days less so. But sadly, people do just associate it with long-form. But that’s utterly wrong.
A4b. Also it’s wrong to think long-form is out-dated in the digital world. I’ve written letters that run to 10,000 words and have made millions online and still do. More companies should use them – it’s just people don’t know how to write them.
A4c. Also, there’s a huge misconception that people don’t read these days and attention spans are dead. This is a myth created by lazy agency bosses who’ve run out of ideas. People only notice copy is long when it’s bad. When it’s good, you can keep people for hours.
5. Tell us more about the measurable aspect of direct response. How granular do you go? And are we going to get an ‘I heart spreadsheets’ confession from you?
A5a. I dislike spreadsheets immensely. Numbers too. And quit accounting partly due to that. But measurability is a huge advantage of DR. It means you know what works and what doesn’t. That’s good.
A5b. But it’s bad if you’ve got a gig in branding. It shouldn’t be a problem, but I’ve noticed a lot of people who dislike ‘data’ also happen to rely on a lack of accountability for their ideas.
A5c. Still, for me I like to keep it as simple as possible. I’ll look for conversion rates and click-throughs. But avoid getting too granular – unless the copy isn’t working, then I’lll dig deep in the data to find clues.
6. Which copywriters or books have influenced you and why?
A6a. I’ve had a few mentors and influencers in my copywriting career who won’t be too familiar to most people. Dave Fedash, Mark Ford, Darren Hughes, John Forde, James Woodburn. They’ve all helped me a lot and some are interviewed in my book, The Art of the Click.
A6b. I’ve also learned a lot from the writing of David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, Gary Halbert, Dan Ariely, Malcolm Gladwell, Dan and Chip Heath, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Auster, Bret Easton Ellis and Woody Allen’s short stories.
A6c. I struggle with a lot of modern writing on copy as it’s so flowery and philosophising, plain wrong or just pointless. I do like Dave Trott. And there’s some good, practical stuff shared by some English copywriters I know.
7. What are your top tips for applying the fundamentals of ‘old school’ direct-response copywriting to modern advertising/marketing methods?
A7a. Read more long copy. Real long copy. Not what D&AD says is long copy. I’m talking 50 pages sales letters. Dirty long copy. It’s like a secret stash of pure insight into persuasion. They’re a great source of useful techniques.
A7b. Research more than you write. And once you’ve written anything, edit the crap out of it.
A7c. Don’t write a word until you have a clear understanding of your idea and what you’re trying to say.
8. What are your copywriting pet hates?
A8a. When people say anything longer than three lines is ‘long copy’ – even if it’s just four lines. Equally when there’s a page of copy and people proclaim ‘long copy’ isn’t dead. I guess I get annoyed industry people ignore proper long stuff.
A8b. People who don’t write copy but slag off other people’s copy. Even if it’s crap, I don’t think you criticise if you haven’t got skin in the game.
A8c. Using the word ‘unique’ to describe something. Dog turds are unique, but it doesn’t mean they’re good. Describe what makes something unique.
A8d. Pablo says his turds are unique.
9. Now that your book is completed, what’s next for Mr All Good Copy?
A9a. In the first instance, it’s all about promoting the book. People can buy it here, which would be lovely.
A9b. But aside from that, I have a fair few speaking engagements and will be trying to do more talks around the country so I can speak to people. I like doing that.
A9c. Next month I’m hoping to launch a brand new official All Good Copy podcast. I’ve got a few episodes in the bag, which are great. I’ve just got to finish the jingles and get it all together. That should be fun.
A9d. And then it’s the next book. I’ve got a few ideas staggering around my head like a drunken philosopher, but not settled on the theme just yet. I’ve got a strong inkling what it will be though.
A9e. Pablo says my next priority is his walk and nothing matters more than that.
10. Finally (and many will form value judgements on your response to this question) – what’s your favourite biscuit?
A10a. A tough question. I’m a glutton who works from home each day, so the list is endless. But first to mind: I love ginger nuts. I love a fig roll (biscuit?). And I’m a big fan of gold bars.
A10b. Frankly, though. There’s not a biscuit I can think of that I wouldn’t eat if it was an emergency.
A10c. Oh wait…those Leibniz biscuits. They’re really good too. Is that how you spell it? Do I have enough followers to get a biscuit sponsor yet?
And there we have it. My thanks to everyone at ProCopywriters for inviting me to be a guest and especially to Helen Bridal who organised it all.
If you don’t already follow me on Twitter, but would like to read more stuff like this – you can find me at @allgoodcopy
P.S. If you have any questions about copywriting at any time, just drop me a line at the usual email and I’ll cover whatever issue you might have in a future piece.
P.P.S. Remember, you’ve got until Sunday to claim a free copy of my Swipe File Starter Pack. Go to Amazon and pre-order The Art of the Click here – then forward me your order confirmation.