A member on my copywriters forum (now my blog) started a thread on what makes my forum so popular. Everyone chimed in with some great answers, and I appreciate the feedback.
(The cool thing about it is, that very thread also reached an important milestone. It was the 10,000th one! Talk about a coincidence, eh?)
But then someone asked:
“Michel, can I ask how you initially got the word out about your forum?”
My answer revealed a bit more than what the member anticipated. Instead of talking about how my forum became so popular, I went on a tangent and explained the step-by-step process I used to book copywriting projects.
The answer was so well received that I decided to reprint it here.
Now, you may be wondering what promoting a forum (or a blog, for that matter) has to do with promoting my copywriting services. Keep reading because you'll soon understand why…
When I first started promoting my copywriting services, I did it primarily in three ways:
- Article marketing
- Viral marketing
- Email newsletter
My articles, initially written for my newsletters, were distributed to ezine editors, magazine publishers, article directories, and content websites. (This was way back before “blog” was even a word.)
Each article had a byline — the “about the author” section — at the end. It promoted my free book and email newsletter, which at the time was called “The Profit Pill.”
(For an example of my byline, just check out the end of this blog post.)
My free ebook also became a viral marketing tool because I allowed readers to freely distribute it (see strategy #2). I gave people permission to pass it around and offer it to their lists.
I still offer it today. It's a digitized version of my booklet, “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning,” which ostensibly promoted my copywriting services.
I initially wrote it to promote my services offline. I offered it to prospects via direct mail. But when I started marketing online, I digitized it and offered it as a gift for subscribing to my email newsletter (strategy #3).
As you can see, my newsletter, ebook, and articles all worked in tandem. Each one worked with, was based on, or followed with the other in some way.
Through each one, I offered a free quote for my copywriting services. So their job was to pre-sell my expertise, establish my brand, and, bottom line, get quote requests.
Now, getting a quote request may seem to have been the end-game, but I also had an elaborate backend. And this was where things started moving.
After a person asked for a quote, I would email an estimate. The day after, I would send them an email to remind them just in case the quote got filtered as spam.
My quotes were good for 30 days only. In fact, I used a standard quote reply template with variables allowing me to customize it for each individual. One of those variables included a date at the top, where it said: “Quote Guaranteed For 30 Days From [today's date].”
If they chose not to go ahead within those 30 days, I would tell them that they'd be forced to request a new quote. I would also suggest an opening (not a turnaround) they could lock in by providing me with a financial commitment — that is, a deposit.
As you can tell, these elements were used to reinforce the sense of scarcity.
More importantly, I wanted to filter out those who wish to sit on their quote requests for months (even years!), and still expect the same prices or turnarounds when they decided to go ahead — yes, it has happened. Many times.
After sending out their quote requests and the next-day reminders, 10 days later I would remind them that there were only 20 days left, and they should book their project quickly as available opening spots were shrinking.
I would also downsell where I would offer a critique consultation if they felt that writing or rewriting their existing copy was out of their budget. (Most of the time, the reason for not going ahead was sticker shock.)
That's why I got a ton of critiques, too, which I repurposed and gave my members to watch inside my membership site, The Copy Doctor. In other words, those critiques are truly from real, paying clients.
(Since it was a downsell — about 1/10th of the price of a full-on rewrite — the trade-off was that I could use their critiques for my own marketing, at my discretion. This was included as part of my agreement.)
Then, 20 days later, I would send them a final reminder telling them that their quote was about to expire. I would say something like, “Please let me know either way so I can close your file.”
(Saying that I was going to “close their file” wasn't a threat, but it was usually enough to prod them into making a deposit fast.)
Even though openings were available on a first-come, first-served basis, I would still suggest an opening in my quote request, and predicted when the copy would be done. For example, I would say, “I have an opening during the third week of next month, and it will take me 3-4 weeks to complete this project.”
I wouldn't guarantee a turnaround. Guaranteed turnarounds would incur a 50% rush charge, because I considered working with deadlines to be no different than working on rush jobs. (Indicating so in the quote request also increased the urgency.)
But by suggesting an opening, they knew that the longer they waited, the less likely that the spot would be available.
That is why I would add in my quote, “Even though your opening is not guaranteed (unless I get a financial commitment from you), by closing your file I can release the tentative spots, and publicly offer them to other paying clients.”
So there was no pressure (I wasn't trying to hassle them into giving me a deposit), which was very disarming. However, it reinforced the scarcity element and kept bringing it back to the top of their minds.
I would also say, “If you wait, you will lose your suggested spot, need to resubmit a new quote request, and fill out the quote form all over again. Plus, the next available opening may not be until several months down the road as they are filling up fast…”
(Either that or they would have to pay me 50% more.)
I would also indicate that a deposit would guarantee their spot and lock in their quote, and would remind them of the downsell with the lesser price for a critique rather than a full-on rewrite or copy from scratch.
The result? Either:
- They went ahead.
- They didn't respond.
- They told me to close their file.
If they didn't respond, I would send them a final email after the 30 days. (However, if they did tell me to close their file, I would send the same email right away.)
That email would offer them a free critique.
Obviously, that was the ultimate downsell. All they'd have to do is visit my blog or forum, and post their copy (or a link to it), and I would provide them with a brief critique there. Naturally, it would be posted in public for all to view.
This helped to accomplish a couple of things.
For one, those who decided not to go ahead finally did take the leap and hired me, because my critique, which was always brief and incomplete, persuaded them enough to finally hire me.
On the other hand, outsiders would come to my blog or forum, read my critiques, and hire me after reading some of the advice I gave others.
So my forum — and now my blog — wasn't just for discussions. It was also a great way to close deals, build relationships, and market my copywriting services at the same time.
The natural byproduct was that the webiste grew with prospects coming to the board looking for help, and other copywriters who joined as a way to hang their shingle and participate in the critiques, too.
It was also a perfect tool to scout for junior copywriters who I could hire to do basic stuff, such as gathering materials, conducting research, and writing first drafts. I still use it for that purpose to this day.
But in addition to marketing my services, my forum and blog was also a fantastic tool for me to create content. It was (and still is) a great way for me to get ideas for articles, or get feedback on my own copy.
In fact, some of the responses I posted in my forum (and other discussion boards on the Internet) eventually were converted into articles — first for my ezine and then as standalone articles. And when I published such an article, it would contain a link to my blog. Something like:
“A member [link] asked the following question…”
… Followed by my answer, which became a newsletter issue and subsequently an article for reprint.
Of course, my newsletter and my forum eventually became my blog. But many articles I write for my blog come from ideas I got from, or posts I made on, forums, discussion boards, and even comments I made on other people's blogs.
(This very blog post is an example of this in action!)
I often link to previous posts in my articles, which are still distributed to ezine editors and publishers by my publicist, Anne-Marie Baugh.
Anne-Marie has been working for me for years. She still does. She distributes my articles for me by submitting my blog posts and articles to thousands of ezine editors, magazines, article directories, blogs, and publishers on a monthly basis.
Nevertheless, all these strategies work together in some way. They're like the pieces of a clock that connect to one and other. And over the years and after doing this again and again, my forum simply took a life of its own. My blog is no different.
Now, do I recommend starting a discussion forum or a blog to promote your copywriting services? Not really.
But if you want some great ideas, advice, and step-by-step strategies for building a successful, multi-figure copywriting business fast, I highly recommend John “Angel” Anghelache and Ryan Healy's Copywriting Code.
I've worked with both of them, and I know for a fact that their stuff is topnotch. I know because I hired them based on the same marketing they teach! They offer a bunch of free videos. Go take a look at them now.