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Letting a time sucking someone go

I recently began negotiations with a potential client.

He was an agency and his website looked pretty good. He knew of Hopkins, Caples, AWAI, etc. I wasn’t going to have to educate him on direct marketing. Big plus.

From looking at his current landing page, I could tell he needed some real copywriting help. It was the one I mentioned in the last post. It was not only full of bunny trails to get lost in but it was actually confusing. I couldn’t tell what the offer was supposed to be.

I recalled Joe Vitale’s post on his Red Flag Theory . I was familiar with the concept about following your gut instincts and waiting for the inner peace before settling on major decisions. Joe’s post explains it well so I recommend you check it out.

I had a few red flags going into this deal. First off, he stated that one thing he liked about my bio was that I had military experience and so I probably knew how to obey directions. Follow directions? Yeah, sure. Obey? Hmm. I’m not sure how that applies to contracting work since I’m a civilian.

Red flag.

The way he described the project was confusing. It was to market to newspapers and offer syndicated video content. I couldn’t figure out how the project would make any money for anyone. I was assured that once I looked at the landing page, it would make more sense. It didn’t.

Red flag.

After spending close to an hour on the phone reviewing the project, I broached the subject of compensation since he hadn’t mentioned it. He balked at even talking about it and said I needed to prove my value first. If I did a good job, he’d pay me well and keep the projects coming.

The words sounded reasonable. I recalled that as a real estate agent, I always discussed money with people before we did anything – even with close friends. And then I was listening to some seminars on marketing consulting and realized that I could really get burned if we glossed over discussing money.

Red flag.

I’ve found that if I’m really being dense and it’s really important – God, the Universe, Ultimate Creative Intelligence or whoever – helps me out. I wasn’t exactly ignoring those red flags but I hadn’t taken positive action accordingly.

I was scheduled to speak to this guy after I’d done some research and sent him some more question. Mostly those questions were about what exactly the client could expect to get, how money was going to be made, and some other revenue sources I was beginning they intended to capitalize on but not tell the newspapers about unless asked. I needed to get some answers.

He called me late in the afternoon and said he needed to go get something to eat. I said fine and waited for his callback. We’d agreed to 30 minutes. When 90 minutes passed, I thought maybe I was supposed to have been the one to call him back. I left a message in his voicemail. I didn’t hear from him.

It turned out he came down with food poisoning. During the time he was out, I couldn’t ignore the red flags any longer so I really dug in and googled all the angles I could think of. I ended up finding a few other websites that he was responsible for and they didn’t look good. A couple looked like they were meant to misdirect folks into thinking they were getting something of value when he was instead list building.

The crown jewel was when I found a copywriter who’d worked with him previously. I submitted the form on her website and got a call from her. She verified that she’d worked with him for 7 months and never gotten paid. He’d strung her along with promises of more projects. And it wasn’t only a little work. She’d basically built her portfolio with all the work and some weeks spent up to 30 hours for him.

I was grateful for the call and for my fellow copywriter in general. Let’s all look out for each other. Don’t let someone take advantage of you.

Needless to say, I sent a short email to this guy saying that I’d done some research on him and that if he wanted me to continue to work with him, he needed to pay half of whatever we agreed on up front.

He did exactly as I predicted. He said I’d negotiated myself out of a deal and called me an amateur. That’s fine. At least I saved myself a lot of heartache for nothing.

Green Flag.

Next time, I’ll pay attention to those flags sooner.

Mixing Up Tactics and Strategy

This weekend I’m giving a short talk on "Big Picture Marketing and Irresistible Offers." It’s for my local business networking group. We meet twice a month, introduce ourselves, listen to someone talk, and talk shop.

Generally, the speaker will talk about the services they provide. The longer I go, the more I find that most people can’t tell you what copywriting is. They think I work for an attorney doing copyrights .

Rather than talk about the intricacies of a sales letter, NLP or statistical analysis, I’m going to hit the big picture. Most people have some understanding of the purpose of marketing and advertising.

Too often though, they mix up marketing as a strategy with a certain tactic of advertising. They may think that because they put a classified ad in the paper or phone book, they’ve tried advertising and it doesn’t work.

If you look at the big picture, here is a good outline you’ll find in Chet Meisner’s The Complete Guide to Direct Marketing .

  1. Company Objectives
  2. Marketing Objectives
  3. Marketing Goals
  4. Strategic Promotional Strategies
  5. Methodologies and Approaches
  6. Media

When someone "tries" advertising, what they’re really trying is a media. They’ve probably skipped steps 1-4 and have only a fuzzy notion of 5 which is about what you want to accomplish through a certain strategy.

Advertising, PR, Sales and Direct Marketing are what the 4th step is about. You can be trying any of those strategies in print. What you’d like to accomplish in that print media is the 5th step. That could be lead generation, getting orders or subscribers, branding, etc.

I specialize in direct marketing. More to the point, it’s direct response. That means when I write for a company, we’ll be expecting a percentage of prospects to take some course of action the client wants. It’s been called salesmanship in print.

That’s significantly different from someone who "tried" advertising and has convinced himself it doesn’t work.