Working in the world of direct response is great.


Because it’s cold, hard and emotionless.

Wait. That doesn’t sound good.

But it is. Trust me.

Of course, we copywriters spend the majority of our time desperately trying to inject emotion into our writing and into our readers…

But in the true light of day, the market is truly cold and emotionless. It doesn’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t care about the work you’ve put in. It doesn’t care about the sacrifices you’ve made.

No. When presented with your copy, the market either says:


Or it says no.

When it says yes… hurrah! Uncork the champagne. It’s party time and you’re well within your rights to parade down Shaftesbury Avenue with a smile on your face and a click in your heels.

(Exactly what I did after my first copy breakthrough 10 years ago.)

But when the market says no.

Oh dear.

Darkness. Despair. Depression.

Everything goes to shit and you wonder why you bother.

You turn on your closest ally – the work itself. You look at it and wonder how it turned out so bad.

Why did you let me down? Why are you so ugly? Why so flawed? You’re an embarrassment to me – get out!

But you soon realise you’re shouting at a direct response sales letter you actually wrote. And like a bad parent who blames its child for being hungry, you’re actually shouting at yourself.

A good writer should remember quickly that the failure is all theirs.

But here’s the thing…

It’s silly to scold yourself for too long. A good copywriter – and I would go as far to say a wise copywriter – can often get as much from their failures as they can from their successes.

Sure, when the market turns around and kicks you in the face, take a moment to drown your sorrows. Enjoy that old fashioned in the dingy local bar and wave your hand at the barman as you lament the fact your audience doesn’t understand the deep subtleties of your work.

But after that one drink…

Cease your wallowing and snap out of that crap.

There’s work to be done!

Hey! If you enjoy reading these emails, you’ll enjoy this…

I’ve put together a simple to follow guide that outlines more than twenty ways to boost the conversion of your current copy. I guarantee these will help improve your sales letter – or your money back.

You can get hold of a copy here.


Post Mortem

This is going to sound weird, but listen up…

When you send out a piece of copy and it doesn’t work:

Be thankful.

Seriously. A flop is something brilliant.


Because it has the potential to transform your future success as a copywriter.

You see, when you look beyond the failure, you realise that you have something black and white on your hands.

Before you send a piece of copy out into the market all you have is theory and conjecture. Once it’s gone, you have a genuinely measured response.

You know something in that copy definitely does not work.

That might be hard to stomach, but it can be incredibly useful.

You just need to localise the problem…

So, we know that sales are low. That’s a given. But before you dismiss your sales letter out of hand, you need to check there’s not a weak link in the chain.

First, you need to check how many people have seen the letter. You should be able to check how many people have clicked through to the sales letter from the emails or adverts directing them there.

If you’re working for a client who can’t tell you this, stop working for them. They’re a crap marketer and shouldn’t be sending copy out at all – it’s bound to fail.

But assuming you can get this data, if the amount of people seeing the message is too low, then don’t give up yet.

It might be that the messages directing people to the sales letter are wrong. Remember, you need to get people to the sales letter in the right mood. In this instance, you should work on the lift notes and adverts being used so you can get more people seeing your letter.

Now, if people are seeing your sales letter, the next thing to check is whether people are clicking through to the order form.

If the clicks here are high, it shows people are engaging with the idea but something in the order form is stopping them from buying.

If that is the case, it’s usually price.

So, mix it up…

Offer a two-part payment. Offer a quarterly payment. Or just reduce the price if you’ve tried everything else.

Of course, it isn’t always price and there are other order form changes you can make. But let’s be honest – it’s probably the price.

Here’s an interesting test, though…

If the clicks to the order form are low, then we know the sales letter itself is the problem. People aren’t engaging with the idea enough to go through to the order form.

Now, you can overthink things at this stage but it’s most often one of three things…

1. People just aren’t interested in the idea.

2. It’s the wrong time for the idea.

3. People don’t understand the idea.

In the first two instances, there’s not a lot you can do.

If people aren’t interested in the idea, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to tweak something that is fundamentally broken. You need to accept that a bad idea got through your radar and see it as a learning exercise to be more disciplined before you write up an idea.

(You can read my CIA secret article for some advice on that front.)

If it’s not the right time for an idea, again, you can’t change the market or try to convince it the time is right… so don’t bother. Put your copy to the side and make a note to revisit it if you see the market sentiment changing.

In the third instance, where people don’t understand the idea, you can try a new headline and lead that overtly and explicitly expresses the idea.

If you see any increase in conversion here, then you have a clue that it is a case of people not getting it, and you can now spend some more time rewriting your idea so people do.

However, if you test a more explicit headline and you see no change…

The idea is dead.

But before you reach for the shredder, there’s something else you should do to squeeze even more use out of your failed copy…

Salvage mode

A lot is written about how small tweaks to the backend of a sales letter can change it dramatically i.e. a red ‘buy’ button vs. a green ‘buy’ button.

But generally small tests like these only improve response on something that already has some legs.

A long copy sales letter that isn’t working because it’s a bad idea isn’t going to suddenly work if you change a minor technical detail after page 6.

As I say, the idea is the problem. And the first pages of your promo are for the shredder.

But the remainder of your sales letter might still have some life in it that you can reclaim and reuse in your next version.

For example, all of the offer work you’ve put together could still work with a new idea and potentially all your proof could still be reusable too, when it’s framed to support a more engaging idea.

So, don’t just dump the whole sales letter – keep all that second half stuff on file to test again in the future. It’ll save you a ton of time.

The moral of the story?

A flop can be a real shitter, but in this game, no matter how good you are, they’re inevitable.

So, instead of letting them get you down, use your failures to help you become an even better copywriter.


P.S. I’ve put together a simple to follow guide that outlines my own training methods as well as detailing more than twenty ways to boost the conversion of your current copy.

Filled with specific writing tasks I’ve used to train successful copywriters, I guarantee this will help improve your copywriting – or your money back.

You can get hold of a copy here.

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