Susanna's Online Magazine

Award-winning journalist and freelance copywriter, Susanna K. Hutcheson, presents news, thoughts and ideas on the world of business, marketing, copywriting and much more.


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Wednesday, August 14th

Creating Value In Your Copywriting Business


There are lots of ways to lose money and time in the copywriting business. Rather than address them all, let's concentrate on just one area for now.

You probably have a portfolio of writing samples somewhere on your website. If you've been in business long enough, you probably have a large portfolio that represents just a portion of what you've done. I know I do.

Why do we have a portfolio? To show prospective clients, of course. To showcase our work. To allow prospective clients to see what sort of work we do. Without this tool, our business suffers.

So what happens with that tool when a prospective client pops a non-disclosure agreement before us and says something like this: "We don't want this to be used in your marketing." Well, first, we should carefully read the NDA. Clients may opt to put something nasty in there like we agree not to work for anyone else in their field. Sorry bud. Ain't gonna' happen.

Use your own NDA if he insists on you signing one. If he won't agree to that, send him to some other poor copywriter. That's part one.

Part Two is how to deal with the client (and they are in the minority) who wants what you do for him or her kept private and not reprinted in your marketing. Doesn't want you to tell anyone you wrote it? In other words, wants it ghostwritten. Well, you charge them a 100% surcharge if you're smart. They should pay you extra. Why? Because you have no way of proving you wrote the copy. You retain no rights at all. You can't use it in your marketing tool arsenal. So, that client should pay more than the client who has no problem with letting you use his or her copy as a sample of your work.

Your copywriting business is about a whole lot more than just writing. You have to deal with rights of the copy you write and sell. Copyright law says the creator owns the creation. When I own something, I'm very careful about the part I sell. Each part represents a part of me and each part has a price.

My favorite clients are lawyers. They listen to my offer. If they like it, they accept it. They don't try to deal me down or give me grief. We're both professionals who sell our services. They don't need a contract. They know that a trail of email is a legal document. I know that too. I've never had a problem with one of my attorney clients. And most have referred other lawyers to me.

People who understand these things work within the system and there are no problems. But many entrepreneurs are inexperienced and afraid. And, they like to attempt to prove their negotiating abilities by getting you to give them concessions. Don't do it. Live by your terms.

It's YOUR business. Do it your way and sell not just writing but rights. When you lose something because you've accepted a client, that client should pay for your loss.
Susanna on 08.14.13 @ 06:13 PM CDT [link]


Monday, March 4th

A Surefire Way To Get More Business and Be Seen As the Go-To Person


When I was just starting out in business, and in life too I guess, I accidentally found an incredible way to become recognized as an authority in your field and the go-to person. Because of my background and training, I was a pretty good writer and fairly easily got published. Most of what I wrote was for national sales magazines. So, I was published along side the most famous names in selling, like Elmer Wheeler.

This established me as an authority in selling. Now, I know you don't care about my ancient history. But this has to do with you. Because by becoming published, you will stand above the crowd and push out your competition.

In some fields it's fairly easy to get published. In others, not so much. I have a number of colleagues who have written and self-published books or are lucky enough to have been published by an actual publisher. That doesn't make them any better than those in the same field who are not published. But, it makes them SEEM better and more qualified.

You can be published in magazines or some other format. It doesn't have to be a published book. As long as people see your name in a credible publication and see that you provide useful information that is of value to them, they'll want to do business with you.

And it's always better to have people come to you and want your services than for you to have to go after them.

Getting published is a marketing method that works wonders. Your motive in getting published may not be to get clients or customers. Mine certainly wasn't. I just wanted to write and make a few dollars. And believe me, it was a very few in those days.

So my advice to you is to get published. Write about what you know about and what's important to you. If you can't write well enough to do a professional job, hire a professional writer. But however you do it, do it. It's the surefire way to get more business and be seen as the go-to person.


Susanna on 03.04.13 @ 11:29 PM CDT [link]


Friday, March 1st

How To Sell Anything To Anyone Every Time


Everyone sells something. Those of us in business sell a service or product. As the late president of IBM, Thomas Watson Sr. said, "Nothing happens until a sale is made." I'd be surprised if he was the first person to say that but he's credited with it nonetheless. And, it's true.

But how do you sell?

I've found there are two very important elements to good, effective selling. One is what to do. The other is what not to do.

WHAT TO DO TO MAKE A SALE

Do listen to me, the prospect. Hear what I'm telling you about my needs. If you really just shut up and listen, you'll hear how to sell me. You'll hear what will make me buy. Don't tell me your car has a big engine and will go 200 MPH when I'll telling you I want a safe car. Damn --- just shut up and listen!!

Most people want to talk. They do not want to listen. And yet it is in listening, in hearing the other person, that we garner the key to dealing with that person. It's so simple.

Once the great copywriter, Gene Schwartz, wrote a great ad. Like many of his ads he wrote it in a few minutes but made the client wait a couple weeks for it so the client would think he had really put a lot of time on writing the ad.

How did he do it? He simply listened carefully to what the client wanted to say. The point he wanted to get across. He made copious notes. Then, he just wrote down what the client had told him. Of course, he wrote it in the Schwartz winning style. But basically he just regurgitated what the client told him but put it in a professional style.

The key was that Gene Schwartz listened. The client loved the ad because it was really his own thinking and clients think their thinking is superior to anyone else. I guess we all do. And finally because Schwartz gave it his magic, it was a successful ad that made money for the client.

So to make a sale --- LISTEN.

WHAT NOT TO DO TO MAKE A SALE

Don't be pushy. Think about the last time a salesperson turned you off or you decided not to buy because of a salesperson or businessperson. I'll bet it was because that person hounded you to buy or to upgrade. Large corporations do it daily. ATT is one of the worst offenders.

Pushing for a sale makes the prospect mad. It makes them think you're desperate. And no one wants to deal with a desperate person or company. Cablevision pushed me so hard in a phone conversation I had with them that I hung up on them. They were just over the top!

Selling is tough work. But we tend to make it harder than it needs to be. And copywriters are, above all else, salespeople. Their clients are salespeople. So knowing the keys to making sales is critical to your success.
Susanna on 03.01.13 @ 08:06 PM CDT [link]


Saturday, November 3rd

Radio Commercials Pack a Powerful Punch for the Smart Marketer


I love writing radio commercials more than any other type of copy. I'd like to do it full time like I once did. Why? Well, to be honest, it's fun when you know how. And I do. And also because people who sell on radio and have top-drawer commercials can really pull in the business. Radio listeners buy.

Nearly six in ten internet radio listeners (58%) recall having seen or heard a web radio ad in the last 30 days, up 12% from last year. Of those who remembered an ad, 44% responded to it in some way, up 10% from a year ago.

The findings are from newly released results of a TargetSpot-commissioned study by Parks Associates of 1,000 adult U.S. internet radio listeners in broadband households in January.

While the most common ad response was visiting the advertiser’s website (20%), responses went beyond the click to include searching online for more information about the advertised product or service (17%) or becoming a fan or clicking "like" (12%).

More people listen to radio every day. Radio is handy. It's always available. And, unlike cable, it's free. You can listen to radio on almost any device. Here's the deal: If you're not advertising on this exciting medium, you're losing business to those who are.

Contact me today and see if I have an opening to write your radio commercials. Remember, a good copywriter matters when it comes to your radio commercials. And, I've been writing them for decades. I know, that's a blatant commercial. But then, this is my blog.
Susanna on 11.03.12 @ 06:57 PM CDT [link]


Saturday, October 13th

Real Estate Agent Outsells Everyone Else By Using Radio Advertising


Local real estate agent, Mike Grbic, is a guy who doesn't worry about the bad economy. In fact, he's put what I'm guessing to be a lot of money into radio advertising. Moreover, he voices his own spots. I generally tell clients to never voice their own spots. But, there are exceptions.

I think Grbic does a fantastic job. He gives his pitch and then, in some spots, says, "I'm not bragging. I'm asking for a job . . ." --- this is a hell of a good pitch. And he runs his ads throughout the day, at prime times. The ads must be working because he's the real estate agent you automatically think about if you're looking for a home or selling one. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Grbic's firm is in the top 50 realtors in The Wall Street Journal's Top Real Estate Team list. Now, I want to add, Grbic is not one of my clients. But I admire the way he takes charge and brings in the business in the toughest economic times in memory --- especially for the housing industry.

He does it like the successful businesses in The Great Depression --- by spending money on advertising.

Shouldn't you be doing the same?

You can listen to some of Grbic's commercials here.

Listen to some of my successful commercials here.
Susanna on 10.13.12 @ 07:37 PM CDT [link]


Thursday, May 10th

When They're Looking for Cheap Copywriting, Make Sure They Don't Stop at Your Site.


Do you get a lot of requests for copywriting quotes? If so, do most of the people asking for quotes expect to pay a paltry sum for a ton of work? I’m willing to bet my next meal that’s the case. It was with me until I got sick and tired of it.

Let’s face facts. A good many folks think copywriters have no right to earn decent money. Little matter that we work hard and study long hours for years, decades. Little matter that it’s our words that make them money.

I’ve had people want a microsite (long online sales letter) and, oh, how they’d go on about exactly how they wanted it. Of course, they only were willing to pay a few hundred dollars. Pocket money. This for a project worth from $3,500 to $20,000 or more!

Does that happen to you?

Here’s what you do. Up to a certain figure, you’re actually losing money on any project. Makes no difference what the project is. Find a figure that makes a job worth doing --- to you. Your figure may not be the same as mine. I’ve seen them for $10,000, $5,000, $3,000, $2,000, $1,000 and other figures. Get your figure and put it on your quote request form. Put it in type people will read. And, put it in your emails to them.

When you do that, you’ll get a lot less inquiries. BUT, the inquiries you do get will be worth your time. You won’t be running after bad business. Let the beginners and low ballers have the low pay, no pay crowd. They can go to the bid sites.

If you want really good business, good-paying business, this is the way you have to do it. Set a minimum project fee and stick to it.

All you’ll lose are people who would be a waste of your time. And, you’ll get the type of business you want, people who want first class service, great copywriting and who can afford it.

Susanna on 05.10.12 @ 02:34 AM CDT [link]


Friday, April 20th

How To Write Radio Commercials That Really Stink


I write many radio commercials and have for decades. Most of them are what we call straight reads or dry reads. That simply means they’re written to be read in a very straight forward manner, no music and no dialogue, no trying to be funny or particularly entertaining. The wonderful thing about these radio spots is that they sell my client’s products and services exceptionally well.

There are a few clients who want a "funny" script and others who would like to hear their product or service advertised in a dialogue or conversation.

Let’s first look at the funny script. Fact is, what’s funny to me may offend someone else. Or, it just might not be at all funny to them. People respond differently to humor. So, it safer and smarter to avoid it in a radio ad. It’s OK to try it out if you have the money to invest in trial and error.

There are a few very good humorous scripts. But, not many. Most just sound like noise. And nothing is worse than someone trying to be funny. Funny, to be really funny, should be spontaneous.

Now to the dialogue script.

The dialogue script is when two people are discussing the client’s product or service. Most such spots stink. Really bad. They sound amateurish and artificial. No one spends sixty seconds talking about a business and wonderful offers and telling aunt Mary the phone number three times.

Now, for a successful dialogue script you’ll write a script that has nothing to do with the product or service, a script that’s pure entertainment. People will listen. Then, at the end, tack on how that relates to the product. Very few scripts today do that, however. It’s not easy to write that sort of script. That’s why I charge a good deal more for it. Few people can write one. But, it’s the only type of dialogue script that works. All others just suck.

How about a music bed in your script. Music is ok. But it adds nothing to the sales message. I use music rarely and only when I feel it will enhance the script. Radio people try too hard to be too creative. In the process, they create commercials that stink.

Finally, if you want to make your radio commercial really suck, have the client read it! Yuck. Naturally he or she thinks she can do a great job of it. They think their voice is as good as a professional announcer’s. When I hear the local plumber read his script I start laughing at his Kansas twang and his way of talking like a goon bird. Whoever let him read that script did him no favor other than build up his ego a bit.

By the way, I too have a Kansas twang. So, I can laugh. You can’t.

Have your commercial read by a pro. Every time. Let the professionals help you sell your product or services. Do-it-yourself just doesn’t work in business.

Radio commercials are a great supplement to your advertising plan. They shouldn’t be the whole plan in most cases. But they’ll get business for you if they’re well written and professionally delivered. And, of course, if you don’t try to be cute or outlandish with your spots. Leave that to the television writers who write the weekly comedy shows. Of course, they won’t let Joe the plumber read their words either.


Susanna on 04.20.12 @ 05:32 PM CDT [link]


Tuesday, July 5th

Why Copywriters Shouldn't Provide Rewrites or Revisions


The famous Super Bowl ad that opened doors for Apple, Inc. aired January 22, 1984. It's now considered a masterpiece of advertising. The ad introduced the Macintosh computer to the world. The suits at Apple hated the ad and didn't want to run it.

Fortunately, they were overruled by Steve Jobs, Bill Campbell, Steve Wozniak, and Lee Clow, the creative director at Chiat/Day, who created the commercial. That commercial became one of the most popular TV spots in history.

What does that tell us?

Simply put, it tells us that the client is seldom right. At least when it comes to judging sales copy. So why do almost all copywriters allow clients to have one, two, three or even more revisions? Why will some even do a complete rewrite. How stupid!

Copywriting great, the late Gary Halbert, never allowed clients to have revisions. He told them to use it the way he wrote it or forget it. He was the expert. Not them.

I do not give revisions and never a rewrite. I will correct factual errors. That's it.

When you allow clients to mess with your copy, you're allowing them to ruin their sales campaign that you've so carefully crafted.

When you turn over sales copy to your clients, if you're a good copywriter, you've done the very best you can. You've taken the information they've given you and that you've researched and you've created sales copy that's compelling, has all the hot buttons and should sell their stuff.

When you do that, to change a single thing is taking a knife to a Rembrandt.

Your job as a copywriter is to sell stuff for your client. Now, great copy alone won't do that. Your client has to do his or her part. He must have a viable product. His business must be working well on all cylinders.

But, it's your copy that's going to make him and his product or service look good. It's going to be the 24/7/365 salesperson that brings home the bacon.

So, don't let him mess with it and don't you mess with it. If it's good enough to turn over to the client in the first place, it's damn sure good enough to go to work for him.

Susanna on 07.05.11 @ 07:56 PM CDT [link]


Sunday, April 3rd

Being Fit Is Not Only Smart But Can Help You To Be a Better Writer.


Most writers spend hours sitting at the computer. When not at the computer, we're sitting in a chair with a pad in our hands writing headlines, notes and thoughts, ideas. Before you know it, our butts have spread and our bellies are bulging. Why? We don't exercise. We become sedentary and out of shape.

Well, it doesn't take a genius or a medical degree to know that leads to poor health and poor health leads to a major loss of energy which leads to loss of income.

So, what's the solution? Exercise. If it weren't for exercise, I'd be winded half the time, fat as a Missouri heifer and very poor.

When I sit, I make it a habit to get up every twenty minutes and stretch. I may even do a few isometric exercises such as the wall sit. You'd be surprised how quickly that builds up your quads and gives you endurance. Just 90 seconds and you know you've done something.

Then, at least three times a week, I do my Bodylastics muscle-building workouts. They're a powerful way to get in a great workout that doesn't take much time. Moreover, it's fun. If you just hit the major muscle groups, you've done yourself a world of good.

People begin to lose muscle in their twenties. As we age, the loss increases. We can regain all that muscle. But, we have to exercise. And, the good news is, it doesn't take a lot of exercise.

I also do some Qigong for relaxation and stress relief. But, it also builds muscle and strength as does power yoga and isometric exercises. One of the best exercises known to the human race is the simple push-up. Yet most people are lucky if they can do just one! Push-ups work the pecs, the back and arms, legs --- pretty much everything including the core.

Now, you may ask, what's this got to do with copywriting or writing. Well, a lot. Writers, like everyone else, need to stay in shape if they expect to be able to function at their peak. An out-of-shape person simply can't function at the same level as someone who is fit and strong.

My advice to you is to do whatever you can to begin to move. Get up often and move around. Do a few exercises. Plan a weekly schedule of workouts. Short workouts are great. I highly recommend you look into the Bodylastics system.

Scientific studies show that one set of muscle-building exercises is as good as three. And you can get a great workout in ten to twelve minutes.

Americans tend to go overboard with everything. We exercise either not enough or too long. An hour on the treadmill is stupid and dangerous. The human body is not made to run for forty minutes or an hour. We run, if at all, in spurts, in emergencies. On the other hand, we lift all the time.

We lift groceries, babies, furniture. We even need strong muscles to get out of a chair. So before you get in your chair and can't get up again, start moving. Get in shape. When you do, you'll find you have more energy and you'll be writing better stuff.

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Susanna on 04.03.11 @ 03:41 PM CDT [link]


Tuesday, March 29th

Online Marketers Listening To Their Customers and Cutting Out Shipping Charges


I always figure shipping into the total cost of any online purchase. I'm sure you do too. Fact is, the shipping cost can make an online purchase a less-than-attractive offer in many cases.

I've noticed more and more online marketers offering free shipping. Some give you free shipping after you've spent a certain amount. For example, Vitacost offers
free shipping after you've spent $49 --- not hard to do. They claim the offer is for a limited time only.

Another company, GoFit Fitness, is currently offering free shipping. They have great customer service and they ship quickly. That's the kind of company you like to do business with.

And now, according to Direct Marketing News, LL Bean is offering free shipping.

"LL Bean introduced free standard shipping without a minimum purchase amount to all US and Canadian addresses on March 25.

The multichannel retailer will also increase Visa cardmember benefits by doubling rewards on purchases made with LL Bean Visa cards. Program members will earn 1% everywhere Visa is accepted when they use the LL Bean Visa and 3% on LL Bean purchases, in addition to other member benefits such as free
monogramming and free return shipping, the company said in a statement."

The article says, "Larry Larry Joseloff, VP of content at Shop.org, said he expects free shipping to become an industry norm in the next five years."

"Free shipping is the most popular promotion in digital," he said. "It's becoming a customer expectation."

I think this shows that marketers are listening to their customers. And that's a good thing. Of course, I expect they'll make up any loss on shipping by increasing prices. Someone has to pay for the shipping and it always falls on the customer's shoulders.

Certainly we want marketers to make money. We don't want them losing money to satisfy greedy customers.

If you're a marketer, you no doubt want to make a profit. Otherwise, you wouldn't be selling things. But, like these businesses, you need to listen to the customer and make an effort to give your customers what they want. You can make up any loss on the back end or in some other way.

Shipping costs are a major factor in online sales. It reminds me of how Charles Atlas became rich. He sold his famous course printed on paper in a simple envelop. His cost was negligible.

Another marketer sold heavy dumbbells and barbells through the mail. You can guess who made the most money and had an easier go of it. If you said "Atlas", you were right.

Great marketers have to keep thinking of new ways to make a profit and, at the same time, please the customer. What great ideas do you have for your business?

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Susanna on 03.29.11 @ 05:23 AM CDT [link]


Thursday, March 24th

The Death of Print and the Rise of Really Bad Writing


Having grown up in a newspaper family, I am saddened by the slow demise of not only newspapers but all print publications. Magazines are slowing fading as well.

According to Publisher's Weekly, more ebooks were sold in the U.S. than either hardcover or paperback books!

E-book sales jumped 115.8% to $69.6 million, while sales of mass market paperbacks fell 30.9% to $39 million. Hardcover books only sold $49.1 million for the month. The New York Times now has an ebook best seller list.

Now, I own a Kindle and I love it. I can carry around a ton of books and newspapers and personal documents. I can read them literally anytime, anywhere and the reading is surprisingly enjoyable for the most part.

Of course, in reading my fitness books I sometimes have issues with photos and there are times I much prefer the "real" paper book. I still prowl around my favorite local used book store, Book-a-holic, so I can exchange words with Jean and the crew and see what's available to read.

But I get my news early in the morning on my Kindle. No worrying about my damn neighbor stealing my Wall Street Journal anymore. No more worry about the carrier never being able to hit my porch. The news and my Starbucks freshly brewed coffee awaits my pleasure every morning and I love it.

I started writing professionally when I was just out of childhood. I sold my first article in 1967. I earned the princely sum of a penny per word and sold all rights. The former is all part of paying your dues to get a start. The latter is just plain dumb.

In those days, writing and getting published was real work. Not so today. Almost anyone can knock out a book and publish it themselves. Put it up on Amazon and bing, bang --- they're an author.

Now, let the record show, I'm glad everyone has an equal chance to become a published writer. I'm happy that those who otherwise could not let their talent shine can now do so without the burdens and hardships of years gone by.

It's the other side of the coin that I do not like.

I don't really miss the hard ol' days. But, being able to instantly publish, unfortunately, throws a good deal of garbage in our in-boxes and mail shoots and into our brains. Lots of trash out there and not enough really good literature or writing or thoughts.

For that, I'm awfully sorry.

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Susanna on 03.24.11 @ 10:17 PM CDT [link]


Saturday, February 26th

What Makes a Really Great Business?


Have you ever wondered why some businesses seem to go from no-name nothings to giants while others just sort of wither away?

Well, there's a reason for that. More than one reason really.

I'd like to submit that great marketing can save almost any company or business unless the business is really a piece of crap.

For example, Amazon is a great company. When it started, it made no profit. The analysts wondered how it could ever survive. But survive it did. And it prospered. Now it's running off most of its competitors.

Amazon has great marketing. But it also has a great business model. One of the secrets of its success is the way it personalizes the buying experience for each visitor. It remembers what you like and caters to those likes.

Amazon also has exceptional customer service. Contrast that to Hewlett Packard that has horrible customer service. I'd rather have a root canal than call Hewlett Packard customer service.

But the HP marketing is not shabby. So, in a way, the marketing is the tape that holds the company together. The products are not that great in the opinion of a large number of customers.

Other great online company's are Vitacost, Drugstore.com, Running Warehouse, Roadrunner Sports and Monster.com to name a few. These businesses, like Amazon, personalize the customer experience and they have great marketing.

They all capture names and send out frequent email. They offer special deals to people who have bought from them in the past or who buy frequently.

I get these welcome emails from Shoebuy.com, Finishline, Petscriptions, Microsoft and many more. I also get requests to review products from Sears and other companies I've bought from online. Some of them also send me surveys to garner my opinion of my buying experience with them. I even got one from AT&T if you can believe that.

My point? All great businesses, large and small, know how to market their products and services. But, they also provide above average customer service, fast and dependable shipping and high quality products. Many offer free shipping when you buy enough in one order.

One of my favorites is runningwarehouse.com. They give you free shipping both ways and, to top that off, they give you free two-day shipping! It doesn't get much better than that. I don't think they market themselves enough because I don't think enough people know how great the company is. It's every bit as good as Zappos, which is also a fantastic, successful online business.

The bottom line: It's all about marketing and customer service. When both are working on all cylinders, you've got a successful business. Oh, you need one more thing, good products and/or services.


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Susanna on 02.26.11 @ 04:28 AM CDT [link]


Tuesday, February 22nd

Why You Should Charge an Initial Consultation Fee


Like almost all copywriters, I gladly provide prospective clients with a free quote. I spend very little time getting a quote together. After 40-plus years in this business, I know what to charge for whatever a client needs and I provide. But when someone wants me to talk with them on the telephone, I draw the line. Here's what I mean.

If you've been in the copywriting business a long time, you already know what time-killers people are. Most of the people who call you on the telephone and talk with you personally are mere tire-kickers. They're looking for someone to provide great copy and lots of it very cheaply. Now, I don't mean all callers are that way. I'm saying that my experience tells me 90% are.

To test my theory, I broke my rule before the holidays last year. A man who owns a plumbing company called and I let him through. Oh, he sounded sincere and he seemed like a really promising prospect. He kept me on the telephone slightly over one hour. And, it was my dinner time at that.

OK. My test began. Did he become a client? No. My fee was too high for him. I had wasted my valuable time and a number of emails and provided free advice --- all for naught. Test over. Back to reality.

You can avoid this problem completely. If you're a good copywriter, your time and skill is all you have. You must value both. Moreover, other people must value it.

I charge an initial consultation fee and put a definite time limit of 45 minutes on the phone call. I try and make things very clear to the prospective client so there's no misunderstanding. I put it in writing. A simple email will do. Since people really don't listen, if it's not in writing, they'll deny you said something that can later come up to haunt you.

You can apply the initial consultation fee to the project if they hire you that day. Otherwise, it won't apply. And always, any fee should be non-refundable. Now, you can certainly handle it any way you choose. But this is my suggestion.

I used to have people call me on the phone and talk forever. Stupid me for taking the calls in the first place. They would dig information out of me and go to a cheaper copywriter with my ideas! So believe me when I tell you, I'm not making these suggestions arbitrarily or from some book. I'm making them from the hell some people have put me through in my business life.

Your time is better spent on paying clients, playing with the dog, petting the cat, going to garage sales or whatever turns you on and whatever you need to do or want to do. Talking to strangers on the phone about "their" problems and not getting paid for it is not my idea of being smart and certainly it's not having a good time.

Do yourself a favor --- ALWAYS GET PAID!

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Susanna on 02.22.11 @ 07:21 PM CDT [link]


Monday, January 24th

Customer Service Can Make or Break a Business.


I remember when AT&T and all the baby bells were the only game in town. If you had telephone service, you bought it through a bell or you simply went without. And customer service? Forgetaboutit! They could be as lousy to you as they wanted because they knew you had no options.

Well sir, times have changed.

I have two accounts at Bank of America. I'd like to add more money and do more with the accounts. But, I can't get anyone on the telephone. And when I actually walk into the nearby branch, I'm lucky if anyone will acknowledge my presence. I'm closing the accounts.

I took my business to the bank who has looked after my money for some twenty years and was treated like a queen. Moreover, I got a lovely card from the bank after opening another account. The card was handwritten by the woman who helped me. She thanked me for my loyalty to the bank.

No business is good enough or important enough to ignore customer service. And you shouldn't think your service or your business can get away with shabby customer or client service either.

We copywriters tend to be asses much of the time. And the better we are at what we do, the more of an ass we tend to be. Perhaps we should look at ourselves a bit and ask if perhaps some manners and polish might be in order.

It's true no one can replace me. Or you. No one has my background and education and skill. Nor yours. But clients and prospective clients all too often judge us on appearances and not on what we can do for them, despite the fact we asses to the nines. Perhaps that's bad judgment on their part. But, it's human nature.

Think about it. A bit of niceness can't hurt and it might even land you a client who prefers niceness to the results you can get for them.

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Susanna on 01.24.11 @ 08:19 PM CDT [link]


Sunday, December 19th

On Reviewing Books, Authors, Copywriters and Thin Skin


I review books on Amazon. Last I looked I was number 145 or something like that. So I get a lot of requests to review books. I also get lots of unsolicited books shipped to me.

Authors feel terribly attached to their books. They feel their book is incredibly important and that I should pay as much attention to it as they do. I understand that. When I was a very young writer I too got attached to my written words. Now I'm totally divorced from them.

If you send me a book to be reviewed, please be aware of the following:

1. I respect you and understand how important your book is to you. But to me, it's one of a gazillion books that I see or have read or will read or may never read. I do not share your personal attachment or importance to the book.

2. I may or may not choose to read and review it for many reasons. I'm not obligated to do so. You're not paying me.

3. Don't email me to "follow up" with me. Don't ask me if I read the book and filed a review. Again, you did not pay me. I owe you no explanations.

4. If I review your book and you are unhappy about my opinion of it, don't call or write me to defend your book. Don't complain to me. I wrote what I felt. It's my opinion. It's no more and no less. I do not owe you good publicity.

I understand how writers feel about their writing, their books. I know the book represents a good deal of their time and to them it's terribly important. I also know they hope to make money from the book and they want good publicity. But they need to understand they may have to pay for it. It's not a freebie.

As a reviewer, it's not my job to give authors free publicity. I write a review based on my opinion --- just like all other people who review books on Amazon or elsewhere. The review is based on my opinion of the book and it's not written for the benefit of the author. My obligation is to the reader, not the author or publisher.

But, alas, reviewing books when you're ranked fairly high on Amazon can get you lots of heat from angry authors.

To wit . . .

You'd think copywriters would be pretty thick skinned.
But in truth, I've run across a lot of pretty damn thin skinned copywriters. At least when it comes to the books they write.

Now, I think it's smart for a copywriter (or any businessperson) to write books. It's damn good advertising for them. It makes them appear to be more expert than those who haven't penned a book, self-published or otherwise. The average Joe is impressed and willing to pay him more money for his services. Damn smart business to be sure.

When I review a book written by a copywriter, you should hear the bad names I'm called amongst the group if I dare to write a review that is less than glowing about my colleague's creation.

There's an unwritten tacit code, in my profession as in all professions, that you lie if you must but you always write good reviews about books written by others in your profession.

But I frankly don't crave approval. It's not one of my needs. My own approval is all I seek.

Last summer, a copywriter I won't name, said he would send me his latest book to review. He was all cuddly and nice. He even tweeted how great I was and how much he enjoyed talking with me on the telephone.

But, alas, he then talked to another copywriter, a pal of his, whose book received a bad review by me a very long time ago. Authors have long memories when it comes to book reviews of their sacred texts. Well, it scared the hell out of the copywriter with the new book and he didn't send it as he had promised. He didn't want his baby in my hands. I may have loved it and given it a great review. Who knows.

Then there were the two copywriters, one well-known and one I'd never heard of, who asked me to delete my reviews of their books. Can you believe that? How totally unprofessional to ask a reviewer to change or delete a review. If an author wants a great review guaranteed, he needs to consider paying people to write them. Lots of authors do. Disclaimer: I've never accepted such a payment. But you can do a search online and find people you can pay to write book reviews for you.

The above guys are good copywriters. Well, the guy I'd never heard of I can't really attest to. If I had liked their books, they would have gotten a good review. I've written a ton of good reviews for copywriting books. Some are just great. It's just that these particular books were less than stellar in my opinion.

And that's the key --- "in my opinion" --- and that's all it is. It isn't a review that comes down off a mountain and written in stone by some god. It's simply the opinion of one human being about one book.

I've found this thin skin to be an affliction of many authors. And I understand it. I've been a published writer since 1967. Good gawd, you should have seen the pile of rejection slips I garnered when I was a young magazine writer. But I never took them personally nor did they upset me. I knew I was good. I simply didn't hit them with the right stuff at the right time. No big deal. You move on.

Authors need to accept criticism the way it's intended. It's not about them personally. It's simply about one book they wrote and a review written by one person out of millions.

Granville Hicks of The New York Times wrote a nasty review about Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged, when it was published in 1957. Critics hated the book. Rand was ticked off at Hicks and would not speak to him the rest of her life. But that great book is still on and off the best seller list to this day! So if a writer is good, they're foolish to let one review upset them.

If you would like to read my book reviews, here's the rss feed link.

And then . . .

There was the brain surgeon who told the copywriter, "I always thought when I quit brain surgery I'd like to try copywriting."

The copywriter smiled and replied, "I know what you mean. I always thought when I retire from copywriting I'd like to try brain surgery."


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Susanna on 12.19.10 @ 04:56 PM CDT [link]


Friday, December 17th

A Smart Copywriter Doesn't Try Too Hard To Please the Client.


It's understandable that most copywriters want to please their clients. They want to write sales copy that the client will love and for which the copywriter will be highly complimented. It's good for the ego. The trouble with placing such high importance on pleasing the client, however, is that the client usually doesn't know best in these matters. He doesn't have the foggiest idea of what good sales copy is. He isn't aware of the hot button words and persuasive tricks you've used that will likely get him a high conversion rate. All he knows is that he either does or does not like what you've written.

Most copywriters, in their effort to please the client, will write and rewrite until his good copy becomes commonplace. It becomes a carbon copy of the client's thinking. It's often even his own words fed back to him. It becomes the client's words and not the words of a professional sales writer. The result? No sales or poor sales. And, of course, the copywriter gets blames. Either way, the copywriter gets blamed. The only time he isn't credited with the result is if the client gets lots of sales by using the copy. Then the client takes full credit.

The good copywriter writes to get results. He doesn't write to win awards from his peers for how cool and entertaining his copy is. He doesn't write to get hugged by the client.

One of the most famous ads ever written was the Apple Computer ad for the Super Bowl in 1984. When the commercial was produced in 1983, it cost over $6 million -- the most expensive TV spot ever produced up to that time.
 
When the finished commercial was shown to Apple's board of directors, they hated it. They wanted to cancel the media buy. Chiat Day, Apple's ad agency, paid for four focus groups out of their own pocket to prove to the client it was a great spot. Guess what? All four of the groups hated it too. Chiat Day convinced Apple to run the spot against their better judgement. The rest is history. It turned out to be one of the most successful, most famous ads in the world. It gave Apple a great start and it made them lots of money.

I never guarantee to please my clients. Fact is, I tell them upfront they may not like their copy. But they hire me because I'm an expert at what I do. You may not like the treatment the doctor gives you. But if it makes you well, you're glad you followed his advice. You may think your lawyer has a horrible personality and you hate the fact he's fat and smokes cigars. But if he wins your case, you really don't care how disgusting he is. All you want is a win.

We're professionals at what we do. At least a large percentage of us are. I know there are a lot of beginning copywriters out there who have no idea what they're doing. I'm talking here to the pros.

Don't let clients talk you into changing copy that you know to be good. Don't guarantee to please them. If you do, you lose and your client loses. And that's not what professional copywriting is all about.



Susanna on 12.17.10 @ 09:54 PM CDT [link]


Friday, June 4th

Why Prospective Copywriting Clients Won't Provide Their Budgets


Almost all copywriters ask for a prospective client's budget on our quote forms or in our initial conversations. This has always been done and when business people really understood the way things worked, it was no trouble getting that vital information.

But today, almost all prospective clients either leave this blank or give the very lowest figures in your list. Why do they use this self-defeating tactic?

People --- all people --- know to the penny what they can or will spend on their copywriting project. They absolutely know. But when you ask them, they'll talk around it or simply say, "I don't really know." In other words, they'll lie or avoid. Very few will be honest. (Tells you a lot about taking them on as a client.)

What they're really saying is that they believe if they give their true budget, you as the copywriter will set your fees to grab every nickle. We know that's stupid and untrue, of course. In most cases, these people don't have enough money to even afford our services so we're not going to accept their projects anyway. We'd like to know that in advance. Right?

By asking for their budget, we're trying to determine, among other things, what they can or cannot afford. If they can't afford our fees, we need to know now. So do they!

If their budget is within our range but low, we may be able to give them a limited service plan and still provide them with value. If they have a really professional-level budget, we can offer them our best value --- the best plan we have.

That's it. It's simple. And that's why we ask for a budget.

But, the prospective clients will either lie about it or wiggle out of giving it. So we have to play the little game and it wastes their time and ours.

People need to grow up and know what makes business work. It would make life easier and more profitable for us all.

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Susanna on 06.04.10 @ 05:37 PM CDT [link]


Wednesday, May 26th

Copywriting Secrets You Should Know




Brought to you by Chris Marlow

for the first time and probably never again...










In 48 Golden Minutes


Copywriters’ Agent Extraordinaire

Kevin Finn Discloses His Closely Held Secrets That Only a Select Few Superstar Copywriters Have Been Privy to Know… Until Now



After years of keeping ever so quiet, Kevin Finn speaks out…and lifts the veil of mystery from the world of super high paying jobs.


He reveals for the first time his Perfect Match System – a highly specialized method that brings together a select group of top copywriters with some of the biggest mailers in the world.


In this rare interview, Kevin generously opens his vault of secrets about how to qualify for top copywriting jobs and how he generates mind-boggling fees and royalties for his clients.









And if this isn’t enough…
































Kevin has been extremely generous in releasing for your personal use, his formerly proprietary formulas for selecting copywriters, reviewing copy and persuading companies about the benefits of including royalties in the fee package. These documents and their insights can move your career ahead at lightning speed!



Confidential - Copywriter Data Sheet – giving you a look at the qualifications Kevin expects of copywriters he selects to represent as clients...
Direct Mail Package Review – the checklist Kevin and his heavy hitters use to make sure they smash the control...



Business Client Advantages of Royalties Letter — the “secret weapon” letter for convincing new business clients that is it’s in their best interest to pay royalties...



Disclaimer - Kevin adds this very important Disclaimer language, to protect you on every job. (And these days the authorities are more often holding copywriters responsible for claims they make! You need this disclaimer copy!)



Getting your hands these priceless documents, each an incredible, stand-alone value on its own, is well worth your very reasonable investment. In fact, think of what you're missing each time you prepare a job without the core business documents used by Kevin's superstar writers!


Click here for more information.









Susanna on 05.26.10 @ 08:45 PM CDT [link]


Monday, May 24th

Direct Mail Preferred Over Email - Ignore It At Your Peril


In his column in Target Marketing (5/2010, p. 42), Denny Hatch said that a large percentage of the population — 18 to 34 year olds and 62-plus — prefer direct mail to email.

I find that interesting because so many people seem to think email is the only way to go. They don't even consider direct mail. That's a major mistake. There's simply no better way to hit the target than with a good direct mail offer.

People are quick to delete email. Moreover, spam filters trap even wanted email and the intended recipient never sees the message. Email has been so abused that people simply don't respond well to it anymore.

But direct mail is the big dog of advertising. It will be king for a long time. People enjoy sitting down to an enticing sales letter in their home or office. They will read it when they're in the mood and have the time to linger over the message. Oh, they won't read it if it's not an offer that interest them, of course. But if you've sent it to a good list and had an effective sales message written, one with a dynamic offer, they'll likely be interested. And, they'll likely respond.

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Susanna on 05.24.10 @ 02:45 PM CDT [link]


Monday, March 29th

It's Time For People To Pay For What They Get.


Online readers of The Times Online will be charged ÂŁ2 a week to read that publication and The Sunday Times on the web from June, News International announced today.

Both titles will launch new websites in early May, separating their digital presence for the first time and replacing the existing combined site, Times Online.

I'm glad publications are beginning to understand their value and start charging the freebie-seeking public for what they get. Publications give great value to readers. In fact, many sites provide tons of free information they should begin charging for. People have been getting a free ride on the Internet for far too long. I for one am glad to see it end. Moreover, people value what they pay for much more than what they get free.
Susanna on 03.29.10 @ 01:45 AM CDT [link]


Monday, January 4th

When Great Businesses Lose Their Edge


As an avid weight lifter and bodybuilding fan, I like and appreciate good quality gym clothes and related supplies. Oh, I know that's odd for a woman of a certain age. But hey, let's not get personal.

I used to order lots of things from goldsgear.com. I always liked the old Gold's Gym. My bodybuilding buddies loved it. In the Golden Age it was king.

Well sir, the stuff I got was high quality. Great stuff. Well- made. It cost a bit more. But I didn't mind paying the price because it was high quality and just felt good on the skin. The material was always the best you could buy and the stitching fabulous.

Then one day I got my order. Opened it up. What a mess! At first sight I saw shabby workmanship. Second Rate lettering. This was gawd-awful stuff. My old friend had let me down.

I returned the stuff and never ordered from Gold's Gear again. And, about a year later, they were out of business.

What had happened? A great business lost its edge.

Another business I used to love was Starbucks. Now, as a disclaimer, I must tell you I still buy two pounds of Italian Roast beans from Starbucks every week or so. But it's not the same. Here's why.

When I first went to a Starbucks, my coffee came in the neatest little glass cup. You know, the kind you can see through. And the taste --- oh my what a full, rich flavor! I was sold on Starbucks that instant.

I was buying not just a coffee but an experience. I was buying something unique and it was well worth the extra money.

But alas, Starbucks changed. No more little class cups. Now it's paper cups like everyone else. I hate paper cups. I even use china cups at home.

Moreover, the coffee quality is not consistent and often it's downright putrid.

Starbucks lost its edge.

Now added to my list of disappointments is the great Amazon.com. The great marketer. The king of the hill with the marketing that used to make me thrill.

They used to ship books in sturdy boxes. You never got a roughed-up book from Amazon. You got fast service and caring quality --- every time.

Moreover, their Web site was tops. Always easy to browse and order. Never a problem.

Fast forward to 2010. Amazon throws a hardback book in a padded envelope and ships it off to you. Sometimes the book is not even great quality but sort of second rate, maybe even scuffed up a bit. The packaging now is downright shabby.

To make matters worse, when I'm looking for a book on Amazon, this stupid Web site of theirs will, out of nowhere, send me to another page in an effort to sell me something. Damn! It did that once just as I was about to click the buy button. Then I forgot the name of the book I was about to buy and ended up buying nothing.

Now, I ask you, is that smart for Amazon to do that? No. Amazon has lost its edge.

Will I continue to buy from Amazon? Sure. But I find I buy less from them now and more from Abes and Alibris and even my local Barnes and Noble.

Great businesses get different types of starts. Some start off a bit rough but then pick up the pace and leapfrog to the front. Others start at the front. Yet others get there after many tries and failures.

Some businesses get better. But all too often, great businesses let their guard down. They stop doing what made them great. They lose their edge.

Once a business loses its edge, it begins a decline. It starts to become just like every other business in its category. It becomes just a commodity.

Never take your customers or clients for granted. Never stop giving the very best service in your category. Always give more than anyone else. If you ever stop doing that, you'll lose your edge and the business that loses its edge eventually loses business. Some even go out of business.

It's really sad when great businesses lose their edge.

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Susanna on 01.04.10 @ 04:12 PM CDT [link]


Friday, September 11th

How To Stop Unqualified Tire-Kickers From Filling Out Your Copywriting Quote Request Form


One of the most aggravating things about providing a copywriting quote is giving a quote to a totally unqualified person. By unqualified I mean someone who can't afford a copywriter or doesn't understand the value of one or is simply killing time by taking valuable time from other people.

Look at it this way: It takes as much time to work up a quote for a worthless name as it does to a name that has real value to you. So, why waste that valuable time?

You can virtually eliminate this problem by doing a few simple things. First, make it known in your quote form that you have some specific rules of the road. For example, I don't take payments. I get all my fee upfront. Of course, that's more common today than when I started online. But it's smart to put that in your quote form page. By the way, if you don't get your entire fee upfront, you may never get it. So consider doing so.

The main thing you should do to keep the tire-kickers at bay is to put a minimum fee or even your price range on the page that contains your form. You don't need to list all your fees. Simply have a reasonable minimum. Why? You'd be surprised at the lame brains who think they can hire a seasoned copywriter for fifty bucks! Do you really want those bums knocking on your door and wasting your time? I don't.

You need to put some qualifiers in the text that goes before the form. Qualify those prospects. Discard the tire-kickers and time-wasters. You'll get fewer requests for quotes but they'll be more qualified. And you really don't want any other kind.

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Susanna on 09.11.09 @ 04:20 PM CDT [link]


Thursday, July 30th

What To Do When the Prospective Client Says They Can't Afford Your Copywriting Fees.


Perhaps the most common objection we copywriters hear is, "I can't afford your fees." In fact, that's the most common objection to just about any purchase.

In truth, people hate the thought of paying a copywriter. I'm not sure why. Few people have the training or ability to sell through the use of words on screen or in print. And, in reality, the success or failure of a business depends first on having a good product or service, next on providing quality service and finally on the sales message.

The copywriter can't control the two former must-haves but they can control the latter.

The first thing you should do is to give your prospective clients two or three options. Don't give them more. People get confused and when that happens, they make NO decisions at all.

I have done that in buying a TV. There are far too many kinds of televisions and too many features and benefits that I simply haven't decided what to buy yet.

OK. So to the heart of this post. What do you say when the prospective client says he can't afford your fees?

NEVER LOWER YOUR FEES! Let a deal go before you lower your fees. You can offer to do less work for less fee. But don't lower your fees. You know what your service is worth.

Here's what you do. Ask the person, "What do you expect to make from this mailing (or Web site or whatever he wants written.)?" Of course, he always hopes to earn a fortune. So he gives you a figure.

You then say, "OK. So let me understand this. You want to earn $1 million from this copy but you don't want to pay me $10,000 to make that happen. Is that right?

From there, he sees how ridiculous his objection is. He sees the outgo vs the income side by side and the $10,000 doesn't look so big.

Always show the prospective client the value he'll receive in return for his investment. Copywriting fees should not be negotiable. I know some copywriters do negotiate. But that's a mistake.

For every nickle you take off the table for the client, you must take an equal amount of your services off the table. You're not in business to lose money and you can't do a good job for your clients when you're not paid what you're worth.

Try this next time you hear the client complain about your high fees.

It will work most of the time with most worthwhile clients.
Susanna on 07.30.09 @ 06:51 PM CDT [link]


Sunday, May 24th

10 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Copywriting Clients From Scamming You.


Michel Fortin, copywriter, said that a client for whom he did some copywriting for seven months ago (last year) asked for a refund yesterday. He said that If he couldn't get a refund, he would charge back the fee on his credit card. The reason he gave for wanting a refund was that he "needed the money." Plain and simple.

Clients are beginning to try to rough us up. So, as I see it, we're going to have to fight back. I'm no longer going to accept credit cards, for example. I've also tightened up my contract.

I'm finding clients want to pay you a few nickels and work you to death. These same people would probably never think of behaving this way if it were not for their fears and insecurities.

In my practice, I've only had one client stop payment on a check. That check is posted on this site. When you search on his name, it's the first thing the searcher sees. I assume this may cost the person some business. This is the price we pay when we defraud someone.

I've had one client hit me with a chargeback. I took care of him by similar methods. Yet another client had to be prosecuted. Beyond these few clients, I've had no problem with the many people I've written sales copy for or consulted with.

Recently I had a client who paid me a very small fee ask me to write more for him. He claimed he wasn't happy with what I wrote for him. I gave him what I contracted to give him. But he wanted to keep me working for a small fee. I said I would not. He said he would do a chargeback. If he does, I'll either press charges or make his name public. Work once done cannot be undone. You can return a book to Amazon. You can't return work that a copywriter performs, that a doctor performs, that a lawyer performs. These are professionals who perform professional services. They do not give refunds or guarantees. Period.

But clients are getting nasty because they're scared and insecure. Bad Client Behavior Is On the Rise says Advertising Age in a post today. All of us in our business are feeling it.

Here are my suggestions as to how we copywriters should handle this growing problem.

1. Always charge your full fee in full, upfront. No exceptions.
2. Always use a legally binding agreement.
3. Do not accept credit cards except from businesses you absolutely know you can trust.
4. Accept company checks, money orders, certified, cashiers checks and wired funds only.
5. Do not accept personal checks.
6. Do not begin any work until any check clears. Service other clients first.
7. Never use Paypal. They do not fight for your rights.
8. Use Amazon Payments in the few instances you must take a credit card.
9. Watch for red flags.
10. Do a background check on all prospective clients.

None of us has lived through anything like this before. Your clients are scared and insecure. The young ones are mortified. They've only known good times, prosperity.

My grandmother and mother lived through The Great Depression. They told me that to them it didn't seem so bad because everyone was going through the same thing. My family made it through the horrible economic tumble by being industrious. My material grandpa worked for the Santa Fe Railroad. My paternal grandpa owned a shoe repair shop. Since people repaired their shoes rather than buy new ones, he did well.

But I still recall how The Great Depression left a terrible scar on my grandparents and my parents. How they felt about banks and money and work changed their lives. They lived in constant fear. Today, that's the new norm again.

People know that if they don't have professional sales copy they'll not survive. So, many are beginning to scam us. They're especially trying to scam those of us who have been around longer and have good reputations and a lot of experience. Why? We can do them the most good and get them the best results.

I'm changing the way I operate my copywriting service. I'm offering prospects two or three options, including the single draft option. That's the option where the client agrees to accept the copy with no changes or revisions or other work. They accept the first draft. I don't recommend this option. But, it's all some clients can afford. You might consider that in your practice.

While we must have compassion for our clients, we must not let them scam us. Now is the time to put protective measures in place to keep from losing the money that you work so hard for.

If you want to comment on this post or provide your own suggestions, follow me on Twitter.




Susanna on 05.24.09 @ 07:08 PM CDT [link]


Monday, May 18th

How To Conduct a Successful Interview


I was scared out of my boots the first time I interviewed the governor of the state. I was a young journalist. I wanted the story. I wanted the interview. But journalism school had ill prepared me for this interview. Well, the interview went well. Oh, yes . . . I thought I had tape in the recorder and didn't. But all journalists do that at least once in their career and I was no exception. A gun without a bullet is just part of the dues one must pay.

Since then, I've interviewed many governors, senators, city and county officials, actors and others who consider themselves important beings far removed from the mere mortal. What I've learned may help you if part of your job description is the interview.

I listen to numerous interviews on podcasts. I watch interviews on the Internet. Most are just gawd-awful. Interviewing is a skill and few people have it. Let's talk about what to do and not to do in the interview. These do's and don't's are for you whether you interview for print, air or video.

1. Never be in awe of your interviewee.
2. Never be intimidated by anyone. They're just a human like you.
3. Don't try to be the star.
4. Don't run your mouth.
5. Know the questions you'll ask in advance.
6. Ask questions your audience would ask if they had the chance.
7. If it's a video, make sure the camera is on your interviewee's face as well as yours.
8. Make sure the sound is good. Use the right type of mic.
9. Always make your guest comfortable.
10. The interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation.

The first thing I do is tell my guest that I'll begin recording shortly but let's just chat for a bit. I get her chatting and forgetting about the interview. Then, quietly I begin recording without saying a word. She may not even know the interview has started. She's at ease. We just talk. Give and take.

"I read a lot of self-help books in my spare time," I tell her. "What do you like to read or do in your spare time?" And she starts talking about her interests. We begin to see the person she is in her private world. You should offer a bit of personal information about yourself and get her to open up, give her opinions.

Remember, people love to talk about themselves above anything else. But, they'll be guarded in an interview. They'll want to present their best selves. Your job is to let your audience see them as they really are.

Just talk to them as you would a friend. But don't be ga ga over them. Don't gush no matter who they are. You're equals.

In law school I learned how to ask questions that people had to answer. I won't try and teach that to you at this time. But, as an interviewer, you need to learn how to construct your questions in a way that will get the true answers. Don't ask questions that will get a simple "yes" or "no" more than you have to.

The key to a good interview is to first have all the technical issues worked out. The sound, the video, all that should be working as it should. Then, prepare for the interview. Know your guest. Know what he's done. Know about his personal life. Know it all. Then, ask questions that show you care.

Oprah and Ellen are two of the greatest interviewers. Notice how they are open about themselves with their guests and yet how they pull their guests out with their warmth and compassion. Watch these two in interviews and you'll soon see how a good interview is conducted.

Bombing in an interview is not a good thing. You'll never have a chance to undo a bad interview.






Susanna on 05.18.09 @ 09:59 PM CDT [link]


Tuesday, April 7th

How Newspapers Can Be Profitable Again


Having come from a family who owned and published small town newspapers and having published my own, I understand the newspaper business well. Newspapers depend on advertising for survival. Today, newspapers are not getting enough advertising to survive. Thus, they're dying.

We can quickly get news almost as it happens. We do not need the newspapers to tell us what the president is doing or isn't doing. We know almost instantly when something of any sort happens anywhere in the world. And those of us without Internet access or text messages get our news from the 24-hour television news stations. Print newspapers are irrelevant for this sort of news. Advertisers know this so they take their ad dollars where they'll do the most good.

So how can newspapers show a profit again? How can they survive. To me, the answer is incredibly simple. Print local news only.

What most people in every community want to know and don't get on the Internet or on television is who did what in their town. Who died? The obits are one of the most popular sections of the newspaper. What is local government doing to make our lives miserable and steal our tax dollars? We want to know.

We want to know about Hoi Polloi of the town. We want to see pictures of the man on the street. We want his opinions and ideas. We want to see OUR PEOPLE. We want pictures of people. Local people. We want local sports, local events, local ads --- everything about us. We're all narcissistic and we want to see US.

But the self-important newspapers try to be the grand news channel of the past. It can't be. Those days are gone. I'm sorry as I can be about it but it's true. Those days are gone. Newspapers do not rule anymore. Editors and reporters are drudges and quite useless. That is unless they can give us totally local news.

If they were to do that, they could get more subscribers and more advertising revenue. If they do not, they will gradually die and be forced to give their news away on the Internet.

It's not rocket science. Newspapers can be profitable again.


Susanna on 04.07.09 @ 07:33 PM CDT [link]


Friday, February 27th

What Copywriting Clients Want and What You Should Give Them.


It's hard to please many copywriting clients. You may be the greatest copywriter alive. But you'll get your share of dissatisfied clients. Or, if you offer refunds (a very bad practice), you'll get lots of them as people will use you and then ask for their money back. Don't offer refunds. Doctors don't. Lawyers don't. You shouldn't. That is for products and non-professionals.

But, I digress.

Why are some clients dissatisfied? The reason, in most cases, is simple. They expect you to regurgitate their thinking and write their thoughts and ideas --- not yours. Of course, they won't tell you that. They may not even know that's what they want. But, it is.

I'll give you an example. A client wanted a print ad. I interviewed him for about an hour and recorded the conversation, as is my practice. In going over the interview, I captured the whole ad in his own words. I wrote the ad and he loved it. Why? Not because of my writing but rather because he heard his own beloved voice in the ad. He heard his precious thoughts and ideas in his ears and through his eyes.

The ad didn't pull too well so he asked me to write another one. This time I wrote it using my own thinking and style and it pulled extremely well.

Having said that, many times the client will give you extremely valuable information in the interview. It can be incorporated in the advertising. But, not always. The client is in love with his own thoughts, his own ideas. What many want is for you to write his thoughts and ideas. It's your job to determine if that's in his own best interest or not. If you decide it's not and use your own judgment, he probably will not like your copy. But, if he's smart enough to use it, he'll be grateful.

Taking this a bit further, clients want great copy and wonderful service. Trouble is, they don't want to pay for it. For example, you can get slogans written from $395 for a package to $2000 a package to $20,000 or more. What makes the difference in price? Usually it's the amount of time and work the copywriter puts into the job of creating the slogan.

My preference when creating a slogan is to interview a number of my client's customers. That will generally give me the USP (unique selling proposition) and lots of other valuable information. But, in reality, that's expensive. It takes lots of my time. Lots fo work. And the fee would be around $15,000 to $20,000. Clients won't or can't pay that.

So I offer a package. I work from the information they send me. It's hard to come up with a really terrific slogan that way. That means some dissatisfied clients. Clients simply do not understand how much work is involved in "real" copywriting. And, frankly, most of us can't afford to do that sort of copywriting because clients will not pay for it.

The executives of Nike didn't especially like the "Just Do It" slogan when they first heard it. But Dan Wieden, of Wieden and Kennedy Advertising Agency believed they had a winner. Of course, he was right and the Nike executives were wrong.

The bottom line is this: You'll not please all of your clients. Many will be totally unhappy with you. Don't let them get you down or make you feel as if you're not good at your craft. If they don't even try your copy, they have absolutely no way to know if it's good or not. Their judgment is not the final word on the value of your copy. You should always write to make sales --- not to please your clients.

Famous copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, said that he missed the mark many times with his writing. No one hits the ball out of the park every time. But, if you're a good copywriter, your value is not diminished by one or two or a dozen unhappy clients. Nor is it diminished by some ads that don't work. There are many reasons ads don't work. Not all of it has to do with copy.

Forget the dissatisfied clients. Give clients what they're willing to pay for. That's all you can be expected to do.




Susanna on 02.27.09 @ 06:54 PM CDT [link]


Thursday, February 12th

It's Time To Re-Think Your Marketing Strategy.


Two years ago you could do well with clients who didn't have the large budgets and great products of more mature clients. Not so today. In this economy you must re-think your marketing strategy. Moreover, you must re-think the type of client you want to market to.

Clients who could afford your service a year or two ago can no longer do so in many cases. So, unless you're willing to lower your fees, you need to market for more substantial clients. Lowering your fees is seldom a good idea. The only time you should lower your fees is to offer less service. Since that won't make you look good long-term, I suggest you don't do that.

Sit down sometime this week and think about your business. Where are you. How is your income? How does it stack up against one or two years ago? Then, consider how to reposition yourself and market yourself to a new class of client.

Fact is, most everyone is experiencing a severe slowdown. But there are smart folks out there who know they must have their own marketing strategy evaluated and start doing something major very quickly or they'll go out of business. That's where you come in.

While I only accept two clients and no more, there are others out there who can. Perhaps you can. Offer your best clients a strategy. Different copywriters charge different fees for a strategy. Some do a complete marketing plan. Others a more simple strategy. Either way, help your clients determine how they should change their marketing during this bad time.

Seriously reconsider where you are and where your clients are. It's time for you, and them, to re-think that all-important marketing strategy. If you don't, if they don't, times will get much worse very quickly.



Susanna on 02.12.09 @ 05:02 PM CDT [link]


Monday, February 9th

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Susanna on 02.09.09 @ 01:48 PM CDT [link]


Sunday, February 1st

David Ogilvy, One of the Greatest Copywriters - His Story


The new book about David Ogilvy, The King of Madison Avenue is one of the best biographies I've ever read. It also tells about great copywriting and what sets it apart of most copywriting.

While the author knew and had a deep respect for David Ogilvy, he provides us with what I believe to be a very honest biography of the man. You will meet the real David Ogilvy. You'll see all of his great strengths but you'll also see his weaknesses and his less than appealing side.

Ogilvy learned much of his copywriting skills from his mentor and later brother-in-law, Rosser Reeves. He also took a good deal of value from the great Claude Hopkins. He was a listener. He asked everyone lots of questions.

When he was writing copy for an ad or when he had a new account, he dug deeply and discovered just what really made that product different. Then he wrote some of the greatest sales copy ever written.

For example, the people at Dove soap wanted to sell it on the basis that it was neutral --- neither acid nor alkaline. Ogilvy knew that wouldn't sell Dove. He was, after all, a salesman.

So he probed. He found out how Dove was made. And, oh yes, it had cold cream in it. That was it! "DOVE IS ONE-QUARTER CLEANSING CREAM-IT CREAMS YOUR SKIN WHILE YOU WASH."

That's what people pay a "great" copywriter for. That's why copywriters are not cheap and if they are cheap, they're not this good. Ogilvy found the one thing that would sell the product and it did sell. Dove sales, for example, took off.

I found this book extremely well-written. It's exciting and informative. The author gives us a balanced look at Ogilvy, from his beginnings through his great career.

I've found that great copywriting is a skill few people have. But, that's OK. Most clients won't pay for it anyway. I reserve my very best work for clients who can afford to pay me what I'm worth.

Should you try to be a great copywriter like Ogilvy? Should you dig for the real, single-most unique selling proposition that will really sell your client's product. Of course. But don't waste that sort of work on the low paying clients you'll likely get on the Internet. Reserve it for high-paying clients who understand and appreciate that sort of copywriting and advertising.

On the Internet you'll find people who go so far as to think they can write their own copy. They have absolutely no idea what real copywriting is. And, you can't educate them. Save your energy.

I advise you to work for a great agency if you can. If not, find just a very few really terrific, well-paying clients. Then you can afford to be great. Otherwise, just be good enough.


Susanna on 02.01.09 @ 04:53 PM CDT [link]




Susanna K. Hutcheson

Susanna K. Hutcheson is a well-known, prolific writer and copywriter. She started her career in 1967 and has been a reporter on numerous newspapers, a feature writer on major magazines and trade publications and editor and owner of several weekly newspapers. She is executive copy director of Power Communications. She is also a press card-carrying award-winning journalist.



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