Why some “professional” marketing flops while “amateurs” can get better results

August 14, 2022

One of the most profound lessons I learned about online marketing was fairly soon after I launched my web design business in 2004.

A client came to me wanting his website redesigned. He was in the debt consolidation industry and had a website that looked like it had been designed by a teenager. The business owner had written the sales copy himself. (I suspect he failed English at school, judging by mis-placed apostrophes etc., but he’d done his best.)

When he told me the amount of money he was spending on Google Adwords (a five-figure sum each month) and the amount of profit he was making from the site, I was astonished.

It was an “amateur” website if ever there was one. And yet this guy was making money from it hand over fist.

I thought, if he’s making this much money from such a “rubbish” website, imagine how he’s going to do after I build him a slick, new, professional one. Well, we got the new site online and his revenue remained roughly the same. Up and down a bit. But no significant increase.

I’ve often pondered on this lesson. And I’m convinced the main reason for this guy’s success was due to the fact that he wrote the sales copy himself. He wrote in a way that empathised with the target market he was trying to reach – in this case, people in debt who needed help fast. The sales copy didn’t look slick and professional, and for that very reason it seemed to create trust in the target audience.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many “professional” copywriters who have charged an arm and a leg for sales copy that has ultimately flopped.

In fact, when I have read their copy, I could predict beforehand that it would bomb – and I felt sorry for the client who was paying for it.

When it comes down to it, copywriting is not about tricks and techniques. It’s about empathising with your target audience, getting inside their mind and understanding how they are feeling – and then telling them how the product or service you are selling can help them. In clear, plain language.

That’s why many professional copywriters miss the boat. They are good at writing, and have a clever way with words – but if it doesn’t resonate with the target audience, it’s going to going to come across as fake and salesy – and it’s going to flop.

I’ve always favoured a simple, direct, conversational style of copywriting that engages the reader – as if you were sitting down chatting with them over a coffee. If you can write like that, your target audience will read it and respond. While “professional” copy, no matter how slick and well written, will bomb if it doesn’t really resonate with the reader.

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