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Symbiosis and the Simple Secret of Authenticity

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Every year around this time, I go to a copywriting summit at a chateau in "Deep France."

Deep France - La France Profonde - is a region where cows outnumber people... geese go direct from yard to paté platter... and, at night, crickets staff the local symphony.

This is a place where tractors were rare until the 1960s. Where 'absolute deadlines' are still a negotiation. And, if you don't warn the conductor, the train might roll past your stop.

Not exactly the place you'd expect 37 marketers,
publishers, editors, product managers, web-techs and other jetlagged executives to convene for an "Internet Summit."

But convene we did.

In fact, we managed to have one of the most productive of these events we've ever organized.

(This was our eighth, with most of the others focusing only on copywriting).

As usual, I'm about share with you some of the

Two insights in fact. Both are more all-encompassing than they are specific. But I think you'll find them useful indeed...


In the direct mail world...

We write the copy. Someone else takes care of the rest. That's what usually happens, anyway.

Even though 'the rest' includes quite a bit... from list
rentals to paper purchasing to lining up mail dates and print shops to hustling production to their deadlines...

When you write for print, you can elect to be more or less involved in the rest of the process. But there are plenty of successful writers who just send their text in a Word file and retreat to the bar.

Online, something has changed.

Getting e-mail names to mail to, for instance, is much more tricky. It's all too easy to get the wrong names, bombard them with stuff, and get accused (rightly) of spamming.

Delivery of your copy, online, has also changed.

For one thing, it's faster. And more malleable. Right up to broadcast date. So you can make tweaks minutes before it goes out to the public. Something you could never do with a stack of print promos waiting on skids at the post office.

It's also, typically, more frequent.

The online market has a much more voracious appetite for content. So you have to be ready with fresh ideas at a much faster pace.

Online, copywriting can be much more targeted. More "niche" driven. Almost as though you're writing direct to the individual rather than one broad market.

Copywriters can no longer afford not knowing EXACTLY where the names they're mailing to came from... who they are... what they look like... what they believe.

And all this has created a much, much greater demand for 'symbiosis' between technological folk and the 'creatives' who used to do nothing but produce content.

As the real, utilitarian Internet market evolves (as
opposed to the dotcom blunderbuss market of the late 1990s)...

Truly technical tricks and the legions of web geeks that develop them are now proving there's as much art as there is science to finding qualified, cash-paying customers.

Likewise, copywriters and marketers are finding they have to be more scientific and technically minded than ever before.

It's a gap in skills that's closing rapidly.

It's in the sparks that bridge the gap where we'll find the next great marketing innovation.

But while we wait for it to close, it's abundantly clear we can't underestimate the need for direct, clear, and uncluttered communication between the writing and creative teams that drive online marketing.


Just as the world of online marketing seems to be getting more savvy and technical...

One of the most valuable insights about how to succeed on the Web, may be one of the oldest success principles there is.

"To chain the wheel of chance," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "one must work and acquire."

In other words, if you want to make it in life - in
anything - you can't fake your way through the details. The secret of selling, especially via e-mail, is the same.

E-mail is an especially personal medium.

It lets you leap over barriers even print direct mail can't cross. It gives you more frequent access to the consumer. And it lets you test your approaches over and over again.

However, there's a caveat to e-mail.

All this more personal contact means more personalized scrutiny. Customer expectations are high in print, but possibly higher online.

Your character as a marketer, as a writer, as a person gets tested online - and in e-mail marketing - over and over. And at a much deeper level.

Fortunately, there's a way to beat these character tests time after time. How so? Very simple...

Be authentic.

Simple but true.

The true expert will sound more brilliant than the one who bluffs his way from the pages of 'how-to' books...

The truly great product is leagues easier to sell than the mediocre product subjected to even a tidal wave of marketing spin...

The biggest and best ideas sound truly "big" and "best" when they're better than any other similar idea around...

I know, I know.

This is hardly a 'shortcut to success' insight. Quite the opposite. It's more like, "Take the long way, it's
shorter" instead.

The more you actually are what you purport to be, the easier your e-mail marketing efforts will be as well. Them's the facts, plain and sweet.

Were there more insights at the conference?

Why, absolutely!

In fact, I'm going to deliver several of them again at a seminar in Germany in September... again later this fall in Bucharest... and again in Del Ray Beach in Florida. The first two sessions are private. The third is sold out. So you, dear reader, will have to wait for future issues of the CR to unfold. Until then, stay out of the sun!
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John FordeAuthor: John Forde, Editor - The CopyWriters Round Table

John Forde is editor of the Copywriter's Roundtable, a published writer, and has been a direct mail copywriter since 1992. John currently works from an office in Paris. You can sign up for his free weekly e-letter, the Copywriter's Roundtable, at