Updated: Mar 14, 2018
One fitness program marketer reached out to me with this question:
"I have heard several top level 'A' level copywriters say that there is no way for even a top-level copywriter to hit it out of the park every time. In fact Doberman Dan, who claims to have been at that top level when doing client work, says that there is only a 30% success rate, so we need to be ready to drop what we are doing and take a different approach quickly.
A larger company can afford to hire 3 top notch writers or perhaps 2 top dogs and a newer potential talent and then keep the one that is working best. Or I guess that term is the control.
But how can a small company afford to pull on multiple C-level writers that are learning on the job? Otherwise it feels like you are rolling the dice hiring one. What am I missing here?"
I agree with everything Doberman Dan says--usually. In fact, I agree with all of the above, except for one small quibble...that "30% success rate" he says top-level copywriters get on average.
I'd say a top-level writer will get a new control 60-80% of the time--but I say that with a few caveats...
...like how fatigued or poorly-performing the current control is. If it's pretty
bad off, it's easy to beat...if it's still going strong, it's much harder.
...like whether the promotion is for a new launch. Then it's an unproven product...and the reason the copy didn't work may have nothing to do with the copy.
...or like whether it's for a promotion that's entering a new, untested market...vs. a product that's been successfully promoted to an existing market.
I could go on, but you see my point. This is why when on the rare occasion a client asks me if I can "guarantee results", I try not to laugh, puke, or tear my hair out, and simply tell them NO.
(Note: this is one of the client "red flags" to look out for...best you not work with these kind at all.)
So is it all a "roll of the dice", including choosing which copywriter to hire, as my fitness marketer friend asks above?
To some degree it is. But it's a carefully calculated risk.
There's a risk in testing any new creative approach. Sometimes it's a huge winner, sometimes it's a bomb. Same with any new product or market test. All good business people know this.
Same with hiring a copywriter. I'd assume if you're a client, you'd be doing a lot more than just "rolling the dice". You'd be asking to see samples of the copywriter's work, asking them how their promotions performed, etc.
Just like you might "roll the dice" when interviewing someone for a job opening. If they seem bright and eager and show some chops, you'd take a chance on them.
Or you could pay more and hire someone who's already established a reputation as a proven copywriter. But you'd have to remember that even that may not result in a winner.
I'm curious what your perspective and experience is on this, whether you're a copywriter or on the client side.