Came a “troll bait” question, but a good question all the same:
Ben, I might sound like an ape for asking this. But outside of selling to your own list, what kind of advertising have you done for companies?
You almost never reference your own experiences or projects that you’ve worked on. Outside of Email Players, Berserker Mail and your app.
It would be interesting to hear some past stuff you’ve worked on.
There are many answers to this.
1. I spent the first 9 years up in this business doing client work.
Including for some of the savviest clients imaginable who taught me quite a bit. Sometimes I talk about lessons from those days in my emails, and in a series of trainings I created I use as premiums. But mostly, they lend themselves better to paid content where those lessons and stories can be told in the correct context.
2. The most valuable lessons I have learned are from my own ventures.
Where my own money & time (not a client’s) are on the line.
Where my own brand/reputation/credibility (not my client’s) are on the line.
And where I am forced to be a helluva lot more cunning, inventive, creative, and ambitious than if I have a client handing me a pre-qualified list of customers, offer, brand I can sell with, as well as check I get to cash whether my marketing/copywriting works or not.
3. I don’t trust freelancers who only tell client war stories
For one, almost all of the ones I see exaggerate (some more than others) just how much their “copy” had to do with a client’s sales. Email Players subscriber Ryan Healy wrote an email about this not long ago that I think should be enshrined on a wall somewhere.
I don’t necessarily blame copywriters for doing this sort of thing.
It’s just part of the game they have to play.
My favorite is a guy I once saw bragging about how an email campaign brought in “$500,000!”
Could almost hear the guy roaring & pounding his chest like King Kong when he typed it:
But I can assure you his “emails” did not bring in that $500k.
I’m sure they helped make the sales.
But the client’s gigantic list no-doubt built over time and at a great expense/testing, the hot offer, solid marketplace positioning, the well-known brand, the impeccable reputation, the benefits customers got from their prior offer(s) that gave a lot of those $500k in buyers a good experience well before hand, therefore making them far more likely to buy that next offer… and probably a hundred other variables had more to do with that $500k than the emails — no matter how well written or persuasive they were.
Ed Mayer’s classic 40/40/20 rule hasn’t changed much, in my opinion.
(40% is list, 40% is offer, only 20% is the creative)
Although I suspect it’s more like 50/30/20 nowadays.
Doesn’t really matter though.
Either way, I just assume all copywriter claims are tastefully & ethically embellished. The smart ones do it anyway, but without lying. Being overly humble is no way to get clients or make any kind of significant impact on a market place.
So it’s a balancing act.
It’s also why I couldn’t tell you how many sales my emails and copy brought in for clients.
I only know what clients have told me and have to take their word for it.
Like, for example, when writing the sales letters for Email Players subscriber Captain Chris Pizzo’s self defense offers. When tested, mine won handily. And the ones that weren’t tested and he just ran my stuff (he was easily my all-time favorite client) he always said they made a bundle. In one case the first day they ran a sales letter I wrote he said he and the CEO he hired went home early since so many sales came in.
Was that because of my “copy”?
Some of it.
But the lion’s share of the credit went to him for all the above reasons.
I got to effectively “parasite” off his prior successes.
At the same time, I have a video testimonial from one of the owners (Tim Erway) of the old Magnetic Sponsoring business, where a single sales letter I wrote brought in millions in direct sales for them, and probably tens of millions in ongoing and repeat sales.
Those were exact words.
How many millions or tens of millions?
I have no blessed idea.
But, I can tell you right now, MOST of those sales were ultimately because of things I had nothing to do with — including a super motivated customer base of hyper buying home business buyers, curated traffic brought in by guys like the late Jim Yaghi, Mike Dillard’s personality and marketing savviness, the team they had, their army of affiliates (many who used to go out of their way to shake my hand and thank me when I spoke at seminars — since that sales letter helped make them so much money) and a whole host of other factors giving me a nice tail wind.
Same when I worked in the golf niche.
Or when I wrote the ad for Ken McCarthy’s copywriting course.
And just about any other client I worked with.
So at the end of the day it’s all relative.
Plus, it’s also based on the goals of the project.
When I launched my latest book Markauteur last month, I was shooting for 50 sales. It’s such an esoteric book I would have considered that a successful launch. More than enough to pay for the printing (hard cover is not cheap to print, especially with the current supply chain and inflation specter hovering over my business), cover & interior design costs (I invested quite a lot in that too…), and the hours of time I spent on it where I could have been selling other stuff.
So to me, fifty sales would have been a great “base.”
Especially since that book will now become an upsell for other offers.
And, also, because I will be selling it again, for years to come — making the overall sales from the launch a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. Not to mention the offers embedded in the book which also make me ongoing sales, and then those books have embedded offers that will make me more sales for many years to go, and on and on.
But, I didn’t get 50 sales.
I got 94 sales, plus a healthy number of upsells.
That came out to about $65k in gross (not net) sales.
That is almost double what I would consider “successful” for an offer like that.
As you can see, those numbers are FAR from exaggerated guru-numbers — with all their embellished rounding things up, counting sales that haven’t yet happened but they project will, not to mention needing their own army of affiliates, JV’s, and back-scratching favors called in, while also probably getting a tsunami of refunds, suffering horrible merchant account fallout, brand damage, and the list goes on.
If you think that doesn’t happen I have a fake vaks to sell you.
It’s a tale as old as the direct marketing industry itself.
Anyway, so certainly my modest launch was not millions or tens of millions. Thus, you won’t see me pounding my chest about it like $500k launch guy. Even though, unless he had some kind of royalty deal in place (in which case my hat would go off to him for making a cunning deal that totally favors him — all the glory, none of the fallout), my 94 sales launch was mostly likely dramatically more profitable to my business than his launch emails were to his if all he got was a one-time or retainer fee.
So again, it’s all relative.
4. I was recently asked on a podcast how much money my copy and emails have made.
I told him I had no earthly idea.
Especially because of the above reasons.
I said the only sales I can 100% claim credit for are what have gone through my own cart.
In my case, as of the time of that interview, it was about $9.3 million.
That’s everything that’s gone through my cart from 2009 – end of 2022.
Doesn’t count anything from the 7 years before that.
(When I only used PayPal or something).
That also does not include whatever part I had in the tens of millions in sales from my various client projects, my software ventures, (where I write all the ad copy — emails and ads), the several dozen affiliate campaigns I’ve done in the last 21 years, the licensing deal I have with AWAI on my Ten Minute Workday product, the partnership deals I’ve made where I wrote all the copy and got paid on percentages and/or with a flat fee, and the list goes on.
It’d be impossible to calculate it one way or the other.
So while every Tom, Dick & Harry copywriter is making wild claims about being a $900 million copywriter!” or whatever the numbers are these days, even though their part in that $900 mil is most likely a small, minuscule pittance… your humble servant and daily email horror host is merely a lowly $9.3 million copywriter that I can 100% say is all of my own doing — and not anyone else.
Sorry if that disappoints the goo-roo fanboys.
If it does, they really should go haunt those other guys.
I got nothing apparently of value to share…
All right, so that’s the answer to her question.
Yes, I do talk about client stuff mostly in my paid offers.
But the vast majority of insights, lessons, strategies have mostly come from running my own offers, to my own lists, at my own expense… and not safely doing it at a client’s expense and business’s pre-built and pre-grown infrastructure of offers, buyers, leads, marketplace positioning, and brand recognition.
Including the insight taught in Email Players each month.
More on that here: