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3 Things To Do When Your Promo Copy Completely Bombs

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I confess. To a fault, I hate making mistakes.

I hate getting the wrong answer. I hate dropping the ball. Most of all, I hate looking like a fool.

Maybe you can sympathize.

Nobody likes to miss their mark.

In all kinds of endeavors - personally, professionally, socially - far too many of us, and
I'm including myself in that pool, spend too much
time avoiding failure. And inversely, too little
time chasing new opportunity.

Why is that?

A good friend recently recommended a book about just that subject, John Maxwell's "Falling Forward," which I'm now listening to on my iPod during the walk to and from work (oh how far we
've come).

I'll tell you more about it in today's essay.

And then, specifically, we'll look at how we might
apply some of the insights to failures -- and there
are always some, if you're working hard enough -- in your copywriting career.

Finally, I'll show you some steps you can take when
one of those 'copy-flops' comes along.

First, the background...


Like I said...

I'm as much a student on this topic as you.

While I've done some gutsy things in life, while I've
in large part carved out my own success, I know -- as you might know about yourself -- that there are way too many things I want to do that I've yet summoned up the nerve to tackle.

There are lots of reasons we find ourselves in this
kind of trap. It can vary depending from person to

For me, I blame it on two things:

First, selfishness and egotism. The overwhelming
obsession with what others will think of you when you screw up just ignores the context most of us live

Others are so occupied with their own lives, they
have neither the time nor interest to dwell on your
mistakes. Unless they're directly impacted, and even then, they'll get over it. So should you.

Says Maxwell, "getting over yourself" is one of the
key achievements for anyone who wants to learn how to turn blunders into success.

Second, I blame luck. I've personally had a lot of
it. From a good family and healthy genes, to good
friends, great teachers, and the luck of the draw on
mentors in business... I haven't faced all that much
real adversity. Things just always seem to go my way.

I succeed in spite of myself.

That's not bragging. And one never wishes for
hardship. It's just that the best way to harden clay
is with fire. Hardship teaches. Ease just makes us
comfortable. And that makes us less likely to take
important risks. And more likely to obsess
unproductively over mistakes.

If this kind of fear is so counter-productive, why do
so many seem hard-wired for it?

You could call it a survival mechanism.

But here's the thing...

Fear of failure not only makes you avoid risks you
should be taking. It can leave you paralyzed in the
wake of a mistake.

In every blunder, there's an opportunity to figure
out what went wrong... to find inspiration for doing
better the next time... or some combination of the

And yet, when we're paralyzed by fear of failure, we
miss those lessons. We obsess over our
embarrassment. Or worse, we rationalize away the
blunder and place the blame on someone or something else.

As a survival mechanism, this kind of reaction makes about as much sense as a golfer chewing off his leg to get out of a sand trap. That is, it's a reaction that's misdirected, often excessive, and in the long run more damaging than it is protective.

Says Maxwell, there is only one key difference
between those who lead an average life and those who lead a successful one. It's not how that person
manages to avoid failure... but how he or she
chooses to address failure when it happens.

And, as we said, it happens.

Here's where I'm personally applying this insight to
copywriting. Recently, I got two new promo packages into the mail and online. One was a smash hit. In two weeks, it generated over $700,000 in sales (not a typo).

The other, which I was sure was equally good, looks like it will end up doing just under $60,000 after three weeks.

In the circles I travel, that's a dud. So rather than
stew or let the flop hold me back as I work on the
next project, here's what I'm going to do...


1) Arrange A Copy Post-Mortem:

The beauty of direct response, online or off, is that
numbers don't lie. If what you've written works, you
know right away. If it's dead in the water, you know
that right away too.

So do what cops would do with a corpse -- ask for an autopsy. For instance, I've just sent the copy I
told you about to some of my marketing colleagues.

I respect their opinions. I'm hoping they'll be
willing to help me spot whatever mistakes I might
have made. Hindsight isn't always 20/20, but it's
better than nothing.

It doesn't have to be another pro who helps you do
the recovery review. It could also be a "cold
reader" - someone who knows nothing about the promo or the product at all. Preferably someone who fits the profile of your target market.

While they're looking over what you wrote and sent
out, this is a good time to pick up the control
package that WAS or still IS working. The one you
mailed against and failed to beat.

This time around, maybe you'll see something the
other copywriter did that you failed to do. In my
case, I'm wondering if the control copy beat mine
because it was more direct with its promise and more focused in its core idea.

2) Immediately Get Back On The Horse:

This analysis I've recommended is good when done right. But remember too, it's possible to sweep a dirt floor forever. At some point, you just have to let the flop go and move on to the next big thing.

Plunge right in. Even if it means just copying out
your new research or writing random notes. You'll
see that the faster and deeper you get into something else, the sooner the emotional blow of the flop becomes a memory. And that's important. Getting stuck on past blunders is a sure way to guarantee missed opportunities moving forward.

Call it the "Ted Williams Principle."

Ted Williams was considered one of the greatest
hitters in the history of ba seball. He hit 521
career home runs. And his lifetime batting average
was .344, great by any standard. And yet, that
average means he missed nearly 7 out of 10 times at bat.

Statistically, some of those strike outs had to
happen at key moments in key games. Had he slumped off to the dugout, steeped in embarrassment, he might never have gotten up to hit again.

Yet, he did. Williams played until age 42. On his
very last turn at bat, he hit a homerun.

3) Resolve Never To Stop Climbing:

One of the worst effects of success -- and greatest
benefits of a flop -- is that success creates
complacency, where failure shakes you awake and
alerts you to the need for change.

Life isn't a stroll, it's a climb. An evolution.
The same is true for a career. Sometimes, admittedly, we get stuck on plateaus. But ultimately, you have to keep moving up the wall.

The same is also true in copy.

You find a groove that works, a technique, a style.
And everything goes great for awhile. But suddenly
the market changes and you realize you've got to
change your technique, too. The moment a piece of
copy you've written completely flops may be that
moment for change.

That's when it's a good idea to break out the books
and learning resources and re-affirm or expand your foundation in the basics.

That's also when it's time to stop and take a good
hard look at what others are doing around you. What's working for them? What are they doing now that you're not?

I mentioned a mentor's book recommendation, John Maxwell's "Falling Forward." It's worth a read if
you haven't checked it out already.

I bought my copy in audio format at the Apple iTunes book store. You can also find it on Amazon here:
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Steve JacksonAuthor: Steve Jackson, Editor - Conversion Chronicles

Steve Jackson is the Editor of the Conversion Chronicles, a website conversion rate marketing newsletter dedicated to improving website conversion rates. In 2003 he co-founded Aboavista the first web analytics consultancy in Finland and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Satama Interactive. Satama Analytics unit is a web conversion and web analytics consultancy based in Finland with offices across northern europe. You can get a free copy of his e-book sent to you upon subscription to the Conversion Chronicles web site.