Direct Response Copywriting – Expert Interview with Eric Finnigan (Part 3 of 3)

FunnelProfit’s Founder and CEO Lawrence Klamecki interviews expert Direct Response Copywriter Eric Finnigan.  In Part 3 Eric discusses the four key buying stages every prospect goes through, and how to craft effective direct response copy tailored to move them down the buying journey.  Lawrence and Eric discuss how to find good copywriters for your business, and how to budget for an investment in direct response copywriting services.

Stages of the Buying Cycle — What Direct Response Copy Works When?

Lawrence:  You and I have talked in the past about the psychology of people in different buying stages and the type of content that you want to give them.  For example, you mentioned earlier about telling them stories. 

Eric: Yeah.  

Lawrence: My understanding is that there’s an early stage in the buying cycle where people respond to stories. 

Eric: Yes, that’s correct.

Lawrence: Could you describe in a really high level way those buying stages, what those need awareness stages are, and how different types of content is appropriate for them?  

Eric: Definitely, definitely. Really high level, there’s a thing called awareness levels where someone is in different stages of awareness either about your product or even their problem that your product solves. Anyone in your market that you could possibly talk to fits into one of these levels of awareness. Depending on where they are in this awareness stage, they respond to different types of content, different types of messages.

By response I mean they get more interested in taking the next step with you. So if you want people to come closer to you, you want people to start engaging with you as a company or you want people to start buying more from you, it’s really essential to reach them where they’re at on the awareness stage.

So I’m going to go through quickly through a few of these different awareness stages and talk about what generally works.  These are things that I found to be very true in my experience in working with clients over the last four years now.

Ready To Buy Stage

So the first one is where they are the most aware, where they’re aware that they have a problem, they’re aware that there’s a solution to their problem, they’re aware of what different solutions are, they’re aware of you as a company, they’re aware of your product and how it solves the problem. So they’re just very aware of what’s going on.

To convert them into a customer, all you would need to do is give them a good reason to buy right now, and that’s usually what happens with a catalog.  This is what grocery stores do with their circulars. You’re walking in the store, you’re ready to buy a product, you’re already convinced that this grocery store is the place to buy your groceries and you’re met with really good deals on products and it works and they sell out.  

Lawrence: This is the stage where you would give them a coupon or something?

Eric: Give them a coupon, give them a discount, give them $100 cash back or $100 in extra products.

Lawrence: A bonus of some sort, right?  

Eric: Or give them a bonus, yeah, for the next 30 days or for the next week or whatever it is.   

Lawrence: Speaking in terms of a consumer type of offer.

Eric: Right. So that’s one and that’s generally easy. It’s actually where you’ll be the most productive with highest conversions because people already trust you, they’re ready to buy your product, they just need a good reason to buy. So your job is to come up with that really good reason.   

Lawrence: But that person is a needle on a haystack, right?  

Eric: Yeah. There’s a pie chart of different awareness levels. The people on the ready to buy stage are generally like 2 or 3% of the list, very low, very low. And you don’t want to always target the people that are most ready to buy because you’re leaving out 97% of everyone else. And among those 97% are probably around 50 or 60% that will eventually become buyers at some point of your product or service.

Product Aware Stage

So before that, is something called “product aware”. They’re aware that they have a problem, they’re aware that there’s a solution to the problem, and they’ve actually started researching products. And they generally know what’s out there and generally know what the price is. So they might be aware of you but they’re not really convinced with anything else yet. So for them, what you need to do is make a pretty big promise, a promise of solving their problem, for instance.  

Lawrence: Could you give me an example of that?

Eric: Yeah.  Give me a problem that one of your customers might have.  

Lawrence: They want new potential buyers to speak with for a business to business offering. Let’s say, software or consulting services. The problem is they they want that to be a good conversation, not a tire kicker.   

Eric: Got it. So their problem is not enough good conversations.  

Lawrence: Correct.

Eric: Okay. So I would say the big promise there would be double the amount of sales conversations for your sales people in a month or your money back, or two or three times, you know, something like that.  You’re acknowledging their problem which is not enough conversations, giving them a promise to solve the problem which is you’re going to double the amount of conversations that your sales people have in a specific amount of time.  

Lawrence: Or let’s say they already have enough conversation but they just want better quality ones.  

Eric: Right. Okay. So maybe that’s something like double your sales conversion rates in 60 or 90 days, whatever it is.   

Lawrence: It sounds like it takes them from doubt to either trust or willingness to take the risk.   

Eric: Yeah, yeah. So the goal here is, like I said, to describe the problem in a way that resonates for your buyer. Meaning, it’s described accurately, with enough specificity that they start to get intrigued by your solution. If low conversion rate is my problem, if I’m having 50 conversations in a month and only 5 of them are converting to a customers, yeah, I’ve got a 10% conversion rate. And if I get double the conversion rate, that solves my problem right there. So just the promise of being able to solve their problem is what brings them closer to you and more receptive to a conversation. Is that making sense?  

Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely.  So… let’s run through the other two stages.  

Solution Aware Stage

Eric: So the next one up from “product aware” is called “solution aware”. And that’s where your prospect knows there’s a problem, she knows that there’s a solution to the problem but that’s about it. They haven’t gone out and researched, they haven’t researched brands, they don’t really know that you’re out there as a company. They don’t know how much you charge or anything like that. And for those kind of people…

Lawrence: We would describe that as having low buying urgency.

Eric: That’s right.  

Lawrence: Having some sort of pain or some sort of need or some sort of desire but it’s either not proximate in time or the pain level is not high enough to create a lot of urgency.  

Eric: Right, exactly. So your job at that point is to make the problem seem really important, if you think it is. You don’t want to be overblowing their problem. But if you think it’s a problem based on your expert opinion, then you want to, as a service to your customer, really make it clear to them that here’s what’s going to happen if you don’t address this problem.   

Lawrence: Like a classic B2B situation… you have people who are doing something inefficiently and that’s costing you a lot of money in overtime but you’re just living with it, right?

Eric: Right.  

Lawrence: You just haven’t gotten to it because you got a million things going on. And for somebody like in your early example where you might be selling travel services, this is somebody that likes to travel, has done a lot of traveling in the past, likes to go to different countries but maybe isn’t aware or maybe just hasn’t gotten the bug to go to Mount Fuji.   

Eric: Yeah or they want to travel and they’ve heard of these things called “super special fares”… these last minute deals that come up. But they don’t really know how to get them, they don’t really know how to use it, they don’t really know anything else. They just know that some people get airfare on planes across the world for like 50 bucks. They’ve heard of this but they don’t know how to do it or how to get that.

So yeah, your goal with these people that are aware they have a problem but aren’t aware or aren’t trying to actively solve it yet is to say, “hey, if you have this problem, then here’s the solution”. And it’s like a B2B thing where if they’re having too many sales conversations with people who aren’t ready to buy, then here’s how to only talk with people who are ready to buy. Here’s how to target only ready-to-buy prospects, something like that.

And then, we want to start working on is “enlarging the problem” so they actually see how much pain it’s causing them. And the other thing is you want to make the solution seem relatively easy to implement.  Don’t make it like they have to go off to some monastery and meditate for 10 years to get to some higher level of enlightenment. All they have to do really is hit buy on this order form, get your product, and boom, problem solved.  

Lawrence: So you describe the problem that they’re having, agitate the problem and then you present them with an apparent, easy solution?

Eric: That’s right, yeah.  So do you have this problem? Here’s what it’s costing you, here’s how to solve it, and here’s an easy way to do it. If you want me to solve it for you, buy this book, or call me, something like that.   

Problem Aware Stage

Lawrence: Interesting. And then, the fourth stage?

Eric: The fourth stage is “problem aware”. Problem aware people know that they have a problem but that’s really it. They don’t know what solutions are out there.  Either they are really skeptical that solutions exist, or that the solutions are effective. So this is where it kind of gets into the higher skill level. These are the harder people to convert. So what we’re going to do is start revealing. One way to do it is talk about secrets, secrets in the market that no one else really knows, only the experts in the market know about, and here I’m going to let you know the secret. Does that make sense?  

Lawrence: Yeah. This is what I call the Jesus Christ stage. By that I mean it’s engraved in our psychology, in our DNA to respond to stories.  

Eric: That’s right. Yeah.  

Lawrence: And you can tell them a story that places them or allows them to place themselves into the story as one of the characters having a similar problem, or need, or desire, or dream. 

Eric: Yeah. So one way to do this is going back to the company that wants qualified sales calls, you would say something like… what industry is the company in?  

Lawrence: It’s a strategic consulting.  

Eric: I want something more specific. So let’s say a pool cleaner.  

Lawrence: Okay.

Eric: Proper direct response copy for this stage would say something like “a pool cleaner in Tulsa, Oklahoma got two times as many qualified sales leads based on this 10,000-year old networking tactic” or something like that.

Lawrence: Something kind of crazy, something that stretches the believability, but it sounds intriguing enough where they are like, “oh I want to find out what that means”.  Those are like the little boxes at the bottom of or or major media outlet websites. And you click through and it’s like an advertorial…?

Eric: Yeah. I always get targeted with one that says “Boulder startup is disrupting this $635 billion automobile insurance industry”.   

Lawrence: I get the same one for my city.  

Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So these are sounding like “is this even ethical to be doing this?” You know, I see some people doing that and these are sort of the extreme examples but there are ways to do it that are, I would say, more professional sounding, more ethical. It just takes a little bit more thinking.

Lawrence: If we go back to the Jesus Christ example, it’s like “feed your family for a lifetime with this secret about catching fish”.  

Eric: Yeah. “Man learns to feed his entire family for life with this one secret about catching fish”, something like that.  

Finding and Working with a Direct Response Copywriter

Lawrence: So, last question.  As a direct response copywriter, do you have any advice for people running companies or responsible for marketing their companies, for finding and working with the right copywriter?  

Eric: Yes, yes. A couple of things.  

The first thing I’ll say is if you’re looking for a copywriter or someone to help with crafting marketing messages you’re already winning at some level because there are so many business owners out there that will try and write it themselves and they aren’t wired to think like their customers are. They’re wired to think of their solution. So the biggest value I provide to my clients is just being able to step outside of their box that they built over the course of their business. So good job, you’re doing the right thing already.

The second thing is you have a couple of different options when you try and find copywriters. Let’s say there are two or three main ones. The first one is there’s a few websites out there where copywriters hang out and look for job ads. So you can post a job ad for a copywriter and depending on the job board, depending your job posting, you’ll get somewhere between 10 and 150 people applying to be a copywriter for you. That takes awhile to do, the quality is really all over the map. I’ve hired a couple of copywriters that way and they’ve really been all over the map. Those have not generally been the best. But it’s quick and it’s usually pretty cheap.

Another way to do it is to talk to your friends in business, maybe in the same industry or maybe just similar size businesses and see who they use for their copy.  Then get an introduction to their copywriter to see if they can take on any more work. The problem with good copywriters is that most of them are pretty busy or very expensive. So that’s another way to do it. That’s generally what I prefer and what I recommend to find copywriters, and it’s the way I’ve actually found 99% of my clients and 100% of the good clients that I’ve gotten.  

Budgeting for Direct Response Copywriting Services

Lawrence: For the type of direct response copywriting project that you shared before with a funnel involving Facebook ads all the way through to landing pages, sign up, and a paid offering. What would a business owner or marketing manager expect to invest to get that level of expertise?  What would you have to budget for this?

Eric: Good question. The financial budget is not important for many people but there’s also the time you have to invest in creating a really good marketing asset. Rarely do people do “Hail Mary” type projects — redo their whole marketing — and it works.  

I think the way to approach it is just like an experiment. I’m looking for incremental improvements over time and I want to try out new things to get there.

So I’d say the first thing is to invest with the long-term in mind.  The life of a successful business is about improving the way they communicate their products and communicate with their audience. So you always want to be improving that. It may take a month, two months, may take two years for larger scale projects. With the funnel that I talked about with for the travel deal site, we had everything up and running and had a few test runs done in about three months.

The budget for this is all over the map. The best copywriters will be in the five-figure range. If you get the top tier, the A list, you can actually spend over 100 grand to write a single sales page and they’ll take a portion of revenue. It’s like hanging out with a rockstar sales person — you’re going to have to pay them a salary, they’re going to take a commission because it’s essentially what they’re doing, they’re selling your products to a bunch of people.

At the low end, you can find people to do work for almost nothing. You can find people to write an email for 50 bucks or 25 bucks and you’ll get what you pay for. Generally, those people are new or they’re not good, they don’t have a lot of results to point to.

But if you can find a copywriter with results, you can find one with references, ideally someone that’s someone you know in your network. That’s an invaluable resource that can grow your business for the long-term. So that is worth something and you should expect to share the value that’s created.  My clients are generally in the four to five figure range over time and I think for good copywriters I’m actually at the low end.

Lawrence: Well, thank you for your insights and your entertaining stories. This has provided a lot of value.

Eric: Glad this went well.  

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