Train Your Copywriting Staff Properly

Companies routinely invest in their sales staff, sending them to sales-oriented courses such as Dale Carnegie. But what do they do for their copywriters?

Because they’re desk-bound, copywriters often get short shrift when it comes to company-sponsored education and training. Even when they attend the occasional industry conference, they’re limited to what’s on the menu. A copywriter who has been at it for five years isn’t going to get much out of a Copywriting 101 breakout session.

It takes continued experience, education and effort to achieve a level of copywriting skill that ramps up ROI. Smart marketers are hiring veteran freelance copywriters to teach staff industry-specific copywriting, strategy, offer development, format and more at a master’s level – where “copywriter ROI” can be realized most quickly.

Consider the fact that there are many reasons to use expert-level training for your copywriters. Let’s look at some of them:

Expanded point of view. Staff copywriters experience everything from one vantage point (the company’s point of view) while freelancers work with many companies and have a wider frame of reference. Because of this isolation, the staff copywriter often will gravitate toward safe-but-sure formats and offers based on “what’s worked for us in the past.”

An experienced teacher can share a broader, more accurate viewpoint that not only educates, but builds the copywriter’s confidence in what’s possible. The copywriter learns what else has worked, and what else is working now, in his or her particular field via the teacher, or “coach.” The “insider info” that an experienced copywriter can share is a powerful catalyst to growth and learning in the dedicated staff copywriter.

Stronger ideas. For some campaigns, coming up with big ideas or concepts is key to the promotion’s success. Yet for all its importance, there are few, if any, mainstream resources on how to do that. Because of this, many copywriters are insecure about their ability to come up with a big idea and consider this the most stressful part of their job.

The huge chasm between junior-level and master-level concepting has less to do with creativity than with experience. Experienced copywriters who are successful at creating strong, hard-hitting concepts see creativity as only part of the process and look for sources other than their own head for clues to ideas. Student copywriters can learn much about creating winning concepts from those who have moved past the position of “how creative is my concept” to “how powerful is my concept.”

Smarter ROI. Children rarely appreciate the value of a dollar until they pay their first rent check. In much the same way, the staff copywriter can be shielded from the realities of cost. But freelance copywriters often compete on metrics. If one freelance copywriter writes a beautiful package that does well, but another writes a package that isn’t as “pretty” but costs less, and it also does well, then the winning copywriter is the one who brings in the better ROI.

Expert copywriters know where to spend money and where to save. They know what techniques likely will bring a better response, how to spec a package for lowest production costs and what tests are sensible.

The master-level copywriter seeks every possible way to increase response and decrease costs, even if it means interviewing prospects for feedback on camera-ready comps. Coaching a staff copywriter on copywriting metrics is practically unheard of, but long overdue, and can yield obvious ROI in terms of savings.

Better copywriting skills. As with any staff position, getting the work done is priority No. 1 while becoming better at copywriting is generally not on the corporate syllabus. Yet the singular act of creating a more powerful headline can increase response as much as 1,000 percent! Tests and studies conducted since the advent of direct marketing have proven that headlines alone can make or break an ad or campaign.

The fact that no one is born a copywriter proves that becoming masterful at the art of headline writing is a matter of instruction, study and practice. A staff copywriter can benefit immensely from instruction from a master who is willing to share his or her tools, techniques, resources and semi-scientific methods for crafting the most powerful headlines, teasers, fascinations, subheads, titles, call-outs, quotes and other key copy conventions. The creative manager who understands the potential of great copy will understand how training in this area will contribute to corporate ROI.

“Copy chiefing.” If the company and the staff copywriter agree, the copywriter’s coach can review an entire mail package or other promotion before it launches. In freelancing (and in many ad agencies) this is called “copy chiefing.”

In the upper echelons of high-stakes copywriting, where copywriters are paid more like sales representatives, on a percentage basis, it’s common for the key writer to hire as many as five copy chiefs to go over his or her work. At this level, ego must be checked at the door because it can affect response and, therefore, the copywriter’s income.

Here, even the pros recognize that two, three or even five heads are better than one. Having a seasoned copywriter who is an expert in your industry look over an apprentice’s work offers the dual advantage of teaching the student while improving the product’s chance for success at an affordable rate.

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