This is part 2 of my interview with John Forde of The Copywriter’s Roundtable…
RYAN: Do you think there are too many courses on copywriting, direct marketing and Internet marketing on the market today?
JOHN: Ha… well, maybe. But isn’t that a little like asking if there are too many English classes in high school or pizza shops in Manhattan? If there’s a market for the output, there’s a market. And in this like any other biz, if what’s offered is worth the price, it will stick around. And if not, well… we’ve seen plenty of copy course offerings come and go.
I look at your question in a few ways.
First, that the general principles of selling are essential to so many things that I believe everybody could get a lot of benefit in a lot of ways from understanding how to persuade. And not just for business applications. It changes the way you tell and understand stories, communicate in relationships, and more. They’re worth learning and reinforcing in as many ways as you can.
That said, sure, there are some teachers out there that know this stuff cold and teach it well. There are others out there that no less than they pretend to know and aren’t so great at teaching what little they’ve mastered. A great litmus test is finding out how actively the marketer or copywriter is involved in plying their trade in businesses besides those that offer copy instruction.
You wouldn’t trust a swim coach who’s never gotten in the pool. I recommend you only get copy instruction from the copywriters who have actively — or still actively — work to sell products and shape live businesses with their skills, in a variety of fields.
Fortunately, there are a lot of great instructors out there today. I don’t want to start plugging them in this spot because I don’t want to slight the ones I’ve missed, but also fortunately, most of them use the smart Internet marketing model of letting you start your relationship with them free, via an e-letter and other ways to sample what they do.
Before you commit to any of them, read the free offerings and get on the forums. You’ll find the same handful of great resources mentioned over and over again.
RYAN: What are your thoughts on some of the backlash against “Internet Marketing gurus” you’re starting to see online?
JOHN: See above, really. I think it’s like anything. A field that’s successful attracts the good and the bad alike. And eventually, it matures to the level where the market starts working to filter out the quality offerings. Every product has a fan and a detractor. But the good ones tend to tip the scales toward positive reviews and the bad ones tip it the other way. It’s perfectly natural, in my opinion.
RYAN: It seems like I’m getting less offers in the mail. Is this a trend you are also seeing? Is direct mail dying?
JOHN: On the one hand, it’s hard to say “dying” — there are still billions of dollars made in the direct mail industry. Even personally, I still collect a substantial chunk of income from printed pieces in the mail. But no question, we’re all getting more innovative about the ways we’re selling online and we’re reaching more people online than ever. Likewise, printing costs have soared and so have postal rates. That’s a major hurdle for print-only mailers.
What doesn’t change, though, is that people need a way to communicate and they want to satisfy the same needs that the best products have always addressed. Everyone needs to build retirement income, feel healthy, look better, earn respect, outfit their lives, and so on. You see this proven out by the fact that we’ve had none of the forecasted problems moving print mail messages to promotions online. The same headlines and copy techniques apply, whether in ink on pulp or digital blips on a screen. What I believe — or hope — is that the online opportunities will continue to grow. And we’ll continue to come up with new ways to reach that market.
Tune into part 3 of this interview tomorrow…