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December 12, 2007


Greg Thompson

I've found its often best to go for "good enough" and make sure the project has a pulse and THEN gradually improve it until its "perfect" by taking prospect phone calls while testing new bits and pieces. You get the money right away and then over time it morphs into a dominating control.

Carolyn Permentier

Hi Ryan,

By far ... the latter!

It really doesn't matter a tinker's diddly what I think, what my client thinks or what anyone else thinks for that matter ...

it only matters what the readers respond to.

And I also think that IF a client believes in 'his/her' ability to write copy, why not do it themselves, instead of paying a professional copywriter to do it?

It's simple, really, isn't it?

Hire someone who knows what they're doing (as good as anyone can know).

Then, let them write it. Push it out there, test results, tweak one element at a time, measure again, etc.

Then, at some point assume a 'control' and run with it ... until conversions fall off ...

then start the process all over again.

Fire those nit-picky clients, who think they know it all because they'll blame you (or me)if the results weren't good.

And, of course, it'll be their fault; not yours!

But, that's just my opinion. :)


John Holzmann

Good post, Ryan!

And, for the sake of full disclosure, so everyone else knows who I am . . . I was Ryan's boss and marketing/copywriting mentor prior to his decision to launch out on his own. Moreover, I will confess that I have had to repent of nitpickiness on occasion. For example (Ryan was still working with me at the time): I was "undone" that, in large letters at the top of over 30 pages in our catalog, someone had contracted the word continued (as in, "29 Reasons NOT to purchase Sonlight Curriculum, [continued]") . . . --They had contracted it as cont'. And this for an educational catalog!

How embarrassing!

But, as Ryan has noted, I needed to come back down to earth. Our general manager pointed out that, at the juncture in our production process where I discovered the typo, it would have cost us $1,000 per page to fix the error, and, more or less mirroring Ryan's words, he asked, "Is that misspelling really going to impact conversion to the tune of $32,000?"

I had to admit it would not.

"How many people do you think will even notice the error?"

Probably not many.

So we let it go. Embarrassing as it seemed to me.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I would like to note the second half of Ryan's question. He asked, "[I]s a single word buried on page 14 in the middle of a paragraph going to affect conversion or how prospects feel about you and your product or service?"

A single word probably won't. But if enough words show up to completely alter a company's brand "feel," one could run into some real problems.

To use an illustration: suppose one of John Carlton's golf clients suddenly decided to use another writer, someone who was highly competent as a copywriter, but who, despite being well-familiar with the nutraceutical and supplements industries, had never played nor had any familiarity with golf.

So the new writer produces a letter that the company owner doesn't appreciate.

"What's wrong with it?" the writer asks.

And the company owner complains about various words. "They're just not right!"

"But they're good enough," says the writer.

Are they?

Or suppose (as has been the case with our company), . . . suppose a company through the years has created a feeling of intimacy and one-on-one connectedness to its customers. Now, suddenly, it hires a new copywriter who speaks in the second-person plural and adopts a carnival barker's tone.

Instead of (what customers had recognized as the owner's voice in the past), an understated, almost whispered, very personal, very friendly, intimate invitation--


I want to tell you about something I just discovered . . .

--the new writer launches right in:


The world's greatest . . . !!!

. . . I think it is incumbent upon the client--and the client has a right--to protest and seek emendations.


I guess a couple of summary points:

1) We--clients and copywriters--need to strike a balance between "perfection" and "good enough"; and,

2) Clients and copywriters need to recognize if and when a client has a unique audience for whom a copywriter's normal tone won't work. . . .

My thoughts.

Thanks, Ryan!

Good, thought-provoking post as always!

Ryan Healy

@Greg - Good approach. Some letters/products never gain traction like we expect them to. Better to find out sooner than later.

@Carolyn - Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

@John - I always appreciate your ability to bring balance to a conversation. :-)

Like you said, sometimes a company develops a strong voice. If that voice has proven itself over time, then the copywriter needs to adopt that voice. He cannot change it.

If he did, it would be like selling New Coke to loyal Coke drinkers... a costly (and unnecessary) blunder.

Forum for writers

I considrer your blog post interesting and quoated it at the forum for writers here:
Hope I'm not braking any copyright laws:)


John, to your second point (2), as a freelancer, without knowing a big company environment, I would still expect, when thinking of hiring new copywriter, that the old guy will talk to the new one.

The job - of course - requires it from new copywriter to get used to the company customs. But if it didnt happend, I would blame the second part (company) as well. The new copywriter needs material, the stuff which was made in recent years to look at and which find important and useful - to talk with people who were on his position before.

tower defense

Sometimes a company develops a strong voice. If that voice has proven itself over time, then the copywriter needs to adopt that voice. He cannot change it.


man freelance writing is difficult when your client demand are to high that is why we need to create a lot of content so once does like your first you'll always have a back up for their discriminating taste

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