Why do excellent copywriters lose split tests to absolute newbies?

Lately, I’ve been doing something unique: I have been training non-copywriters to write copies. And then, I have been chiefing them alongside teams of traditionally trained copywriters. What I’ve noticed is this:

  • The non-copywriters are producing copies faster.
  • The non-copywriters are producing better big ideas.
  • The non-copywriters are about 1/4th to 1/5th the price of even entry copywriters.

So, obviously, I’ve been paying attention to “WHY” this is happening. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Copywriters do not respect the outline.

In my opinion, the outline is the “holy grail” of persuasive writing. Not only because an outline forces you to clarify your persuasive argument (a step most copywriters skip over) but because about half of the delays copywriting teams run into can be solved in the outline stage.

Rewriting sections? Faster in outline. The section feels boring? Fix it in the outline. Need more proof? Bigger benefit? Different bonus? Each edit saves a day when done in outline as opposed to a draft.

The writers I work with who are writers by trade understand and respect the outline. The copywriters I work with need to be taught to outline, in most cases. And this is typically a 2-3 week process.

Copywriters do not allow themselves to be creative. 

When I used to think “copywriter”, I used to think of someone who got REALLY big ideas:

  • The End of America…
  • Read This or Die…
  • Head On: Apply Directly to the Forehead…

But my experience working with copywriters is that most copywriters (including myself) play it safe: If you ask them for five or ten big ideas, you get the five or ten big ideas they think up.

Furthermore, those ideas are typically close to each other. As David Deutsch once warned against, “Those are basically the same idea.”

I think this is two-fold: First, copywriters aren’t traditionally taught brainstorming techniques. So they iterate, as opposed to inventing, new ideas. (As Jay Abraham likes to say, “convergent v. divergent thinking.”)

Second, copywriters are scared of failing control. They tend to be fairly risk-averse individuals (oddly enough). Even the copywriters I work with who are bold in their own self-promotion come timid, to the page.

For example, I typically run into about a two-day delay when I ask a copywriter to just make something up. It is hard for people to grasp that we can just fill in a proof point or a claim, later on.

Meanwhile, the traditional writers I work with have creative brainstorming tools.

And they don’t give a shit about conversion. So they come up with a wide breadth of interesting ideas.

As an example, I have about four open letters, right now. Half with traditional copywriters. Half copywriters, trained to write copy.

All four have gone through brainstorming exercises. The copywriters are now writing ALL of the ideas they developed, during brainstorming.

The traditional writers each have four to five big ideas we can come back to, in the future, without further brainstorming. Small thing? Maybe. But that means 8 to 10 days saved, over the course of the next four months.

Copywriting is still writing, and there is still a craft to it. 

As a grammatically poor writer, I will own up to our faults:

Copywriters are, by and large, not good writers.

Case in point: I have two finished novels circulating.

All rejections, across the board. But the reality is that copywriting is still writing, at the end of the day. And a great copywriter needs to be obsessed with language and its effects on people. (Over and above their own take-home pay.)

From my observations, these are the three biggest reasons why I plan to stock all my future writing rooms with non-copywriters.

But there is a caveat:

Training a non-writer to become a strong copywriter requires a lot of time, patience, and a profound understanding of copywriting.

I know there are good copy courses out there, but you will quickly find they do nothing to help a traditional writer learn to copywrite.

These are simply people who come from a completely different background.

Additionally, training a non-copywriter requires an addiction to process. I’ve found that non-copywriters respond best to frankly micro-managing levels of control on their first few drafts. And they need to go through a detailed process multiple times before they grasp how it works.

So I would recommend you think of your writing room like a garden: Constant water, sunlight, and weeding are needed. But fruitful returns, in the long run.

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