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Copywriting Lessons From My First (tele) Marketing Job

By Author: Russell Foster
Total Articles: 39

I've often spoken about the power of direct mail. It has critically changed my life on several occasions. I've rarely shared this story but I think it is another great example of the power of direct mail to change lives.
A while back now, my first business had just folded. I was in need of a pay check at the time, so that I could draw breath and plan my next move.
I wrangled up a casual job telemarketing through a family friend. Good deal really. It was 15 hours a week over 3 days. I was making enough money to cover costs with plenty of spare time to ponder what next.
It wasn't long after this that I would go on to write copy for a living, but at this stage I didn't know it was called copywriting, I didn't know you could do it for a living so I didn't have the ambition to do so.
I was there to build a mailing list. That was my job. Find the people to go and sell the company's software to. So I did this for 5 hours a day. I called businesses get the name of the appropriate decision maker. Then when there was an hour to go I would to get the mailing organised and send it out.
After 2 weeks of this the sales team was so far behind on their follow up calls that I was on thin ice.
Nobody could quite believe my success rate on the phone.
After about a month I looked at the mailer being sent out. In a moment of arrogance I thought, yeah I could write a better letter than that.
So I gave it a go. It took me all of two hours. So I was paid like $60 for it.
We mailed about 100. Got three meetings. If memory serves they would make $500 per month from a sale at a minimum, plus consulting, plus ongoing training. So the guy who ran the business was pretty excited.
I think one of them went ahead.
Writing that one letter turned me into the writing guy. I was given everything that the company needed written. It turned into a full time job after about 8 weeks.
Shame the business didn't have a marketing culture, or a sales culture. It was run by coders. So there was no impetus to take advantage of this 'discovery.'
From my time there I can lift 3 lessons.
1) One Good Sales Letter Fixes Almost Everything
With the right list and the right sales letter you can fix almost any business problem. Being able to generate a whole lot of leads seamlessly is of vital importance.
2) No Campaign Can Be Effective Without Good Copy
If your copy doesn't covert, then it almost doesn't matter how elaborate the campaign is - it will at best underperform at worst be an elaborate waste of money.
3) Good is relative
While I had some copywriting training I was able to out perform a terrible letter. That made me the go to guy in this environment. I don't have a copy of it in my files which is disappointing, but I know there isn't much about it I did right. I don't think there was a single benefit in the letter - only features masked as benefits - fitting of the way a professional project manager would sell their own software.
None the less, it showed me the power of the written word and what difference it can make in your life.
That letter could have launched that business into orbit, with some more marketing smarts. It didn't happen. Oh well. Not that I had equity.
While doing that job I got serious about copywriting. I mastered the craft by studying at night and taking courses.
I will share this to demonstrate the gap in marketing knowledge out there. Recently, I was contacted by the owner of that business - they'd grown okay over the last 6 or so years, they'd just hired a consultant. The consultant said that he was impressed with the brochures I'd penned back in my early days, they were some of the best he'd ever seen.

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