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Direct Response Copywriter and Consultant: Interview with Donnie Bryant

Below is the transcript from the interview:

Mike Zipursky: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Consulting Success Interviews. On the line with me today is Donnie Bryant, a marketing consultant and direct response copywriter based in Chicago. Donnie, welcome.

Donnie Bryant: Hey, thanks Michael. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.

Mike Zipursky: Yeah, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start off with one of your claims to fame which is that one of your clients is Early to Rise, one of the largest information product companies with a blog read by hundreds of thousands of people. How did you get that gig?

Donnie Bryant: I think when I wrote for them there were 500,000 on the list so that’s not too shabby.

Mike Zipursky: Not at all.

Donnie Bryant: In fact, some of your audience will be familiar with the copywriter John Ford. He has a weekly newsletter, The Copywriter’s Round Table. He allows me to write guest articles every once in a while and I wrote one – I don’t know remember what it was about, even. This was, maybe, early last year. The editor of the Early to Rise newsletter saw it, really liked it and he asked John for my contact information so John shared and we connected. They hired me to write a series of ads to just the way it’s going in the newsletter, which resulted in some pretty impressive sales.

Mike Zipursky: That’s wonderful and that’s a great example of just how getting out there and having your work seen in other places can result to business.

Donnie Bryant: That has been one of the most – the opportunity to write for John Ford’s newsletter – has probably been the most profitable activity that I’ve done for my own self-promotion.

Mike Zipursky: Right. Okay, let’s leave that for now because I do want to come back to sharing and getting into your process of landing new consulting clients and how you’ve done that. Before we get there, let’s go back. I’d like to understand how you got started in this business. What was Donnie Bryant doing before you were direct response copywriter and then how did you get into the business of being a direct response copywriter?

Donnie Bryant: I had, just like so many people, kind of done all sorts of different menial jobs and, you know, working in retail or working in restaurants and things like these. At the time when I discovered copywriting – and that’s really what happened – I was working in a management position that required me to work something like 60 hours a week. In one week I did 80 hours. It turned out to be just a little bit more than I wanted to do. At that time I had three children and my wife, who I like to spend time with, you know, it’s difficult in Chicago …

Mike Zipursky: It’s a good thing to do.

Donnie Bryant: Oh, yeah, very important. In Chicago we have long commutes so I was out of the house 12 or 14 hours a day and then when I come home I’d be pretty tired.

I was looking for an opportunity – I keep using the word opportunity – I was looking for something to do where I could make money in a more advantageous way without spending so much time running around and being completely physically drained afterwards. It was something just like, playing around on Google. I always loved writing and some of my jobs that I had had were in sales and I always thought I was a good sales person. I sold fine jewelry, electronics and even intangible things – insurance and things like that.

It turned out, I providentially came across some article – I couldn’t even tell you who it was by – and it introduced me the idea of writing for money. I never thought of writing as anything else than if you write a book you can paid for it, like Stephen King probably makes tons of money. I never thought of putting sales and writing together. As I said, it happened providentially right at the right time of my life and it kind of started for me. That was about five years ago.

Mike Zipursky: Okay. When that hit you – when that lightning strike struck or thunder bolt or whatever you want to call it – when that hit you and you realized, “Okay, I want to learn a little bit more about this copywriting stuff, maybe this is a career that I can get into,” what were the first steps that you then did to start actually making it a career where you could earn money from it and get clients and projects and so on? What were the first couple of things that you did?

Donnie Bryant: I dived right into studying. I really didn’t have any money on hand, any extra cash to buy these expensive products, which are great for learning, if you have the right copy. I looked at the free stuff online. I got introduced to – not personally but – the content of John Carlton and I’ve read Gary Halbert, who you know that I love. I read the classics like Claude Hopkins and John H. Kennedy. I really did that really quickly. Every lunch hour I work. I would go to the library, which is directly across the street, and park myself in there and read everything I could in my hour break instead of eating, because I really wanted to do it.

Fortunately, for me – I guess I didn’t read anything about getting clients – but fortunately for me I just started looking, of all places, Craigslist. I don’t know, maybe I heard somebody say, “We can find people on Craigslist.” I got a pretty good client pretty early on who gave me as much work as I wanted. He had just a huge volume. He was kind of the middleman for a couple of big accounts. I had as much work as I wanted. It didn’t pay great but pure volume. I was able to make enough money where I was able to turn it into a career pretty quickly. I’d probably say six months after I discovered the idea.

Mike Zipursky: Your transition was from, obviously, immersing yourself in everything that you could, studying as much as you could, learning from as many people and the resources that were available to you, skipping lunch instead of feeding your stomach – you could feed your mind. Then you went to Craigslist and found an opportunity. It worked out and then from there, you were able to build up a bit of a portfolio.

Donnie Bryant: Right. More importantly than that, that’s exactly how it happened. I didn’t have a blog yet. I purchased a domain but didn’t know how to do anything with it, and I guess I didn’t have any cash. I couldn’t pay anybody to build a site for me. I used my email address, my professional-looking email address, and that was on Craigslist. That’s kind of how I got started.

It was just having that initial client. I had one really low-paying client before that. This was my second client, this guy was all the works that I could stand. First of all, the confidence of knowing that you can actually do this is not a [pipe dream 0:08:07] and starting to make some money or I could get away from working 80 hours a week to focus on snout standing. Not just reading on my lunch break but being able to study more, and at times that more conducive for my learning.

Mike Zipursky: How long did it take you from just trying to learn those skills, really digging into copywriting, and then landing that first client? What kind of time period was there between when you initially thought of [get a line 0:08:45] get into copywriting, start to learn and then actually had your first-paying client?

Donnie Bryant: The first-paying client was probably … like I said, I got a pretty low-paying client. It was probably within four months but then about six months was when I got the really good one. I started in the summer and it was right at the end of the year when I got the great client. It’s interesting that he sent me an email today. I haven’t spoken with him in a couple of years and out of the blue he sent me a proposal.

Mike Zipursky: It’s funny how those things work. I want to give people as good of an idea as we can, a clear picture as to really the reality. You often hear people talking about what they achieved. You don’t really get a clear picture into the process that went into it and actually what they were doing and how long did it take them to get their first client and all that kind of … I want to connect the dots from you starting off to getting those first clients. I know you were saying four to six months but how about, were there just two emails that you sent out through Craigslist and right away you got the business or where you pounding Craigslist with daily emails in order to win those first two clients?

Donnie Bryant: I maybe made it sound simpler than it was. I sent a lot of emails. I spent a lot of time searching for a client, getting ignored and rejected quite frequently. Of course, when you’re first starting out with no portfolio, no references, no name recognition, I would have to take the lowest-paying job I could find. People can find better people than no-name Donnie anywhere.

Yes, I sent hundreds probably of emails and started calling around. I remember even going to ClickBank and looking for products that had low-gravity scores and trying to send emails to them. None of those ever turned into clients. They say, “Oh, your copy isn’t working. Maybe I could help.” I ended up making a few colleagues that way but no clients. So, yeah, it was a considerable amount of prospecting through Craigslist.

Mike Zipursky: Thanks for sharing that. My question wasn’t really put out that well but I just wanted people to listen to this to see that oftentimes you hear about, like if you read in any magazines or newspapers, articles about successful entrepreneurs or people in business, you get a picture where they started and now they’re a success but we don’t really paint the details in between of how much rejection was there, the tough times and all that. I appreciate your sharing that it wasn’t just a couple of emails and actually you landed those clients, so people listening might think, “Well, I’ve been doing this for eight months and I really haven’t seen much traction yet. What’s going on?”

There’s a lot going on there. You stuck through there, which is the key and so that’s what I would encourage people to do too. If you’re feeling that you’re stuck, obviously, don’t give up and just keep adjusting. There are lots of things that they can do with mentors and studying and all that kind of stuff.

That was my tangent. Let’s get back to this. Let me ask you. During this whole process, now you’ve obviously reached a level of success that looking back, probably feels really amazing. What was the biggest challenge that you faced as you were building your consulting business to get to the point where it is today?

Donnie Bryant: I went through a lot, one of them being just having the grit to keep sending out emails and keep reaching out to people.

Mike Zipursky: Was this even after those first two clients?

Donnie Bryant: Yeah. I got this one client. He gave me work but if I wanted to get somebody else I still was kind of a no-name. My portfolio was limited to one industry. It wasn’t an industry that I loved but I like I said, it’s got, “Hey, you take it or leave it.” So I did. I took it.

I still had plenty of – and I still do. I don’t prospect as much as I used to. I get a lot of requests coming in but sending out, if I said, “Hey, I want to make a proposal for this gig,” most people still reject me, or they don’t like what I charge, one or the other. Yes, it was an ongoing struggle. Now, like I said, it’s a little bit better once you have a portfolio, once you have people … if somebody said, “Well, why should I hire you?” I say, “Why don’t you call Early to Rise and ask what I did for them,” or, “Why don’t you call such and such and check it out, look at my portfolio.” It changes things a little bit.

Still, it’s just like sales in any industry, I think. Most of the time you’re getting rejected. If you’re the one chasing after clients, you’re going to get rejected more often than you’re going to get selected. That was one I’m having the grit to do that.

Another one, and it’s related to something that you’re very familiar with, is trying to come up with a unique value proposition. I’ve switched several times, which may be not the best idea but just getting down [inaudible 0:14:26], finding out about yourself what it is that’s special about me that would make somebody else want to hire me over the next guy, especially when I charge more then the next guy did. I don’t charge as much as everybody but I charge more than probably, you know, a lot of the people out there.

There are so many copywriters that are coming in to the game now, now that’s it’s kind of a popular career path, at least in that space a lot of people are coming in. In the stage that I was where you say, “Okay, I’ll write a sales letter for fifty bucks,” which now I would probably hang up the phone on. I’d be a little more polite than that but I can’t spend my time doing that.

You have to have something unique and something that’s tangible to the person who you want to work with and that was another hurdle. It took me a lot of time, even though I would say, “Oh, I know this,” but looking at myself was always hard to see something that was unique.

Mike Zipursky: Donnie, let’s explore that for a second because I think a lot of people listening to this will be intrigued and want to learn more about the exact situation you were in or even now, you face sometimes where – around pricing – in that you’re turned down. When we were talking before, you were mentioning the people who are looking for the cheapest solution out there.

I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about the kind of experience that you’ve had where you were talking with a prospective client and then the price comes up and you’re not the cheapest option out there. How do you deal with that, what’s your philosophy around that and what is the approach that you found that works best for you?
Donnie Bryant: A lot of times it depends on who you’re speaking with. A lot of the times, I have people, they’ll send me an email or give me a phone call. When they ask in the first two minutes of the conversation how much I charge, I kind of know what ahead is. They’re looking for something inexpensive, because usually they think of copywriting as an expense that they have to pay, like, “Okay, this is something that I,” you know, just like if you were going to build a store, “I have to spend money to build the building and get the equipment,” whatever, rather than thinking of, “It is an investment.”

Really, if you get good copy, it’s going to pay for itself several times over, maybe hundreds of times over, depending on how good it is and how good the product is. If you get bad copy, it is an expense because you just paid somebody to do something that doesn’t perform. So if they’re so price-conscious that nothing matters but price, I really don’t worry about it. It gets a little bit irritating because I spend time on the phone and almost always I give people – they ask questions and I can’t help myself but try to be helpful. Maybe I’ll tell them an idea or two, especially in emails. In emails I do it a lot. I try not to worry about that because those are not going to be the kind of clients that I want anyway.

Other than that, you kind of give them an idea of the results that they can expect. If you’re willing to invest, it’s just like anything else. If you’re willing to invest in something that has a high-potential return, then that potential return is the picture you have to paint for them. Depending on what the product is and what the industry is, if I feel like I can deliver good results – I know not everything is something that I’m going to be good at, and I don’t want to waste everybody’s time on that either. If I can’t perform for you, I shouldn’t be taking your money and I don’t want to risk my name. I don’t want to put myself out there in a way that makes an unhappy client, makes me look like a chump. I’d rather not do that.

Mike Zipursky: Right.

Donnie Bryant: All of those things. If I can paint them a picture of the results that they can expect, and some of those things are … I had one very good client, and really she taught me a lesson. She said, “The best thing from me hiring you is that I’ve been struggling with this thing for months, and just to be able to know that it’s going to get done well and I don’t have to have it on my plate anymore, the peace of mind is worth whatever I pay you.”

That’s a part of the picture that you paint. You’re going to have peace of mind. You’re going to have extra time to focus on what you do best. Everybody has strengths and if you’re focusing on your strengths, then you’re going to get better results, and you hire somebody like me who’s got a strength in an area that you are not strong in.

Mike Zipursky: So part of your sales conversation or the conversation you have with prospective clients around a project and pricing, these are the kinds of things that you would introduce into the conversation of making them think obviously that this isn’t an expense. This is an investment and then clarifying that but as well that they can, by bringing you on to do this, that frees them up to focus on other aspects of their business and things that they may even be putting off, it’s really going to allow them to take action and move those things forward.

Donnie Bryant: Absolutely, or even, like in my situation, not spending time with my wife and my kids, rather than banging your head over this, you know, send it over to somebody. It doesn’t have to be me necessarily, and if it’s something else like writing your html code, I can’t do that, but you give that to somebody else and you spend time with your family because that’s what matters. At the end of the day, you may go, “Oh, I didn’t get my code done.” You might be a little upset about that but when you go home and your wife and your kids are sleeping and you missed the whole day with them, you’d be really, you know, the time is precious, so that’s part of it.

That’s part of the conversation we’ll get into in a minute, but that’s a benefit that you have to present. It’s cost. The cost is a secondary thing to me and it should be secondary to the client as well.

Mike Zipursky: Okay. That’s great information. We will get into a little discussion on benefits here because I know you want to share a little something with everyone listening to this. Before we do, you talked about before how the opportunity through John Ford and writing some articles on his blog has kind of turned into clients and has been a good source of business of the work you did through Early to Rise, and that while you’re still doing some prospecting these days a lot of your businesses are just coming kind of inbound requests to you. You don’t have to spend as much time as you used to doing that, which is something that all people, all consultants or copywriters can get to enjoy once they’ve built their business and their reputation up to a certain level of success.

Can you talk a little bit more about how you did that? Right now, what are your forms of marketing? What have you found over the years to be really effective? What kind of systems or actions did you take and looking back what are you taking right now that are really working and that you would suggest to other people that they should consider as well?

Donnie Bryant: That’s a great question. The guest posting thing or the guest writing thing, as I said, has been incredibly productive for me and a lot of people that you and I both know can attest to the transformative effect that you get from borrowing somebody else’s audience, borrowing somebody else’s credibility, borrowing somebody else’s likability by getting in front of, you know, writing on their blog, their newsletter, or printed magazine if you can, or radio, these sorts of things. I’ve been on the radio doing interviews like this one and writing for John Ford. I actually write guest posts on like six blogs.

Mike Zipursky: Currently?

Donnie Bryant: Right.

Mike Zipursky: Is that on an ongoing basis or is it one

Donnie Bryant: It’s periodically. Actually, that’s not true. I had one, it was five now. There’s one I just told I didn’t have time to do it for the return I was getting, so five. That’s why you can always have a different sort of audience looking at your content and thinking about you. It’s being intelligent about that too. I’ve written plenty of guest articles for blogs that nobody looks at so it doesn’t do anybody any good except for the person who owns the blog didn’t have to write this week, and maybe a little bit of link views back to my domain. Doing guest content has been really, really effective for me.

I think the other thing is like networking. I try not to tell people, “Social media is the way to go.” It’s usually not the best way to spend your time. I’ve gotten a surprising amount of – I’ve made a lot of connections that way.

Mike Zipursky: You mean through online networking or in personal events?

Donnie Bryant: Yes, some social networking like Twitter or Google Plus. LinkedIn has been the most profitable one. Not the most spectacular or fun but it’s professional and if you use it properly that’s a whole other conversation, I guess. If you use it properly you can make great connections and get clients and get referrals from people who will send you clients, all kinds of things like that. Those have been really effective for me. Then just building relationships with people who can refer their colleagues or whoever to you. Clients will say, “Oh, you have to talk to my colleague over here.” That’s been pretty effective as well.

Mike Zipursky: You know, one thing that really stands out about you, Donnie, that I’ve noticed since I’ve known you is that your approach of networking and just creating and imagining your online presence through different social networks – whether it’s LinkedIn or Google Plus or Twitter or whatever it might be – you’re very genuine and you’re not just out there promoting what you’re doing. You’re cultivating conversations. You’re adding value and commenting on different things. That approach is pretty rare. I can understand why you’re seeing those kinds of results.

Donnie Bryant: I appreciate that.

Mike Zipursky: You have something going off there.

Donnie Bryant: That was an alarm. I apologize.

Mike Zipursky: No problem.

Donnie Bryant: I appreciate that. I won’t talk about alarm but I really believe … my philosophy in business but also in life is that nothing is really about me. I really like to be generous with acknowledgment, encouragement and building other people up, and I believe that it comes back to me. Even if it doesn’t, the right thing to do is for me to promote other people that I have respect. You’re such a great writer, for example. It will be criminal for me to not share that with the people that are in my network. It doesn’t hurt me at all to share that around. I think people respond to that well. They say, “Okay, that guy’s not so obsessed with himself, so busy trying to promote what he’s doing.”

That kind of vibe makes people, you know, you’re a selfish person. Even if you’re not – okay, selfish is maybe a strong word. Your self-interest can be too loud sometimes for people to really hear what you’re saying.

Mike Zipursky: Right, or you can appear to be too – and I think I’m probably guilty of that at times as well, but it’s just great to see, again, I can see why that approach is working for you.

Looking at the time here, I want to make sure I get a few more things during this call. Actually, I have a couple of questions that came in from people before this call. Let’s just go over those quickly.

One is from Robert and Robert wants to know, how important is specialization for a copywriter? Shouldn’t a copywriter be able to write for any industry or client, or should they really specialize in one industry and be known as a copywriter in manufacturing or technology or so on? What are your thoughts on that, Donnie?

Donnie Bryant: There are obviously two schools of thought on that and you’d be surprised some of the big names that will be on both sides, and I’ve done both. Like I said, when you first start out you have to be a generalist, unless you’re coming out of an industry where you have so much specialization that you could just go right into being a copywriter in this niche, like Perry Marshall, who’s not a copywriter per se, but he was an engineer. When he decided to be a marketer, it would have been really simple for him to say, “Hey, I know everything about this field and I can just go and do that.”

I wasn’t like that. I had to take, from the dating niche and from a tech niche and from internet marketing and from self-help. I did all those things, but I can tell you from personal experience, specialization, I guess I’ll be arguing against Chris Marlowe. I think Chris Marlowe said you should be a generalist. Being a specialist allows you to get name recognition that you can’t get as a journalist. You just can’t. It’s like if I say Barry Bonds to you, you’d probably think of two things – steroids and hitting home runs. What position does he play? You may not know that. What team does he play for? You may not know that. But you know that he used steroids and you know that he hits home runs and breaks records, because he’s really good at one thing. The examples could go on but you get name recognition. You just get really good. You already know what the themes are in that space. You know what other people are doing, if it’s working or not working. I think specialization really is the way to go.

Generalization is like you spread yourself so thin in every way. You have to know everything. On the next project, you have to learn something new, learn new language and learn new audiences. Whereas when you’re specializing, you get to be really intimate with those people. You really get to know what drives them, what fears they have, what things that they hate, what enemies that you can use, “Let’s team up on this bad guy,” how effective that is. But it’s harder as a journalist, so I would say specialization is definitely the way to go.

Mike Zipursky: Okay, that’s a really good response. The other question here, I think actually you’ve covered, and it came in from Sasha. It’s asking about how much experience in copywriting is necessary or do you need to become a freelance copywriter? I think your example at the beginning probably explained that pretty well.

Donnie Bryant: I think like anything, the more experience you have, the better. Copywriting is, on advertising, salesmanship in print. If you can write a sentence that communicates to the other person why did she do something, then you can be a copywriter. Most of the stuff that you read – you can probably attest to this as well – most of the stuff that you read is not that good. If you can tweak a few things in the way that you communicate, you’ll be better than 50% of the people out there.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a whole lot of experience. Don’t wait five years to get experience. Put your toes out in the water now and learn as much as you can. I’d say you could start as soon as you can.

Mike Zipursky: That’s great. Donnie, I almost feel like we could just end off the call with that because that’s such a powerful message that you just shared. But do you still have a couple more minutes?

Donnie Bryant: I do.

Mike Zipursky: Okay, because I want to get into the action bite. Today’s action bite is going to be Donnie. You’re going to be with generous with us here and share your thoughts about features versus benefits and how to think about it. Let me just pass it over to you and maybe you can just explain why the difference between features and benefits is so important. For everybody who’s listening to this – I’ve heard and read about how it’s important to talk about benefits but I think a lot of you don’t even know the difference in features and benefits even though they may think that they do. Just tell us about that.

Donnie Bryant: I think that maybe most people know intellectually but they have a struggle experientially trying to communicate benefits instead of features especially when you’re really close to your product or service. Let’s say, my wife loves makeup. She loves makeup. She has a hundred different colors of eye shadow and things like that.

Mike Zipursky: Now I know why you were working 80 hours a week.

Donnie Bryant: She has to stay pretty, I guess, and she does that well. When she goes to the store, do you think she’s going in there to buy the highest quality – what’s an ingredient in makeup – glycol or paraben. Oh, darling. Sorry.

Mike Zipursky: These are all people calling Donnie saying, “Donnie, we need your help with copywriting services.

Donnie Bryant: One of them I think was. Of course, she’s not going in there to get the finest this or that. She’s going in there because she wants to look pretty or she wants to accentuate her beauty. The feature could say, “Oh, we have the nicest such and such.” The benefit is, “You’re going to feel more feminine. You’re going to look more beautiful. You’re going to attract more men,” or whatever. The things that pertain to the product itself are the features. You could say, “My car is made out of 100% stainless steel.” That would be a heavy car. To say that is the feature. If you say, “My car will never rust, never break down if you get into an accident.” The other guy’s going to be the guy crushing, not you. Those are benefits. The benefits pertain to the user.

If you think about your product – and it’s so easy. If I say, “I’m a copywriter. I have an amazing grasp of the English language and I have a degree in English and in Communications,” – nobody cares. It’s like, “Fine, but what can you do for me?” When you start to tell them what you can do for them, then that’s when you get to the benefit. So, “I’m a copywriter. I help people see why their lives will be better from working with me. I help you sell more products. I help you spend more time with your family because you don’t have to worry about your marketing. I help you make sure your marketing is an investment that pays dividends rather than expense that drains money out of your pocket.”

It’s an important [evidence 0:34:16] from me saying, “I’m really good with big words,” and me saying, “When you hire me, you’re going to sleep well at night and you’re going to have a little more money in your bank account than when you started,” hopefully more than a little bit.

I think the simplest way to say it, the definition, to me, of a feature is something that relates to the product and a benefit is something that relates to how the purchaser or the consumer relates to the product when they use it – the transformation that happens in their wives because they have it. If you have to make somebody’s life better, you should sit down and quit bothering. If you’re not communicating how their lives are better, you’re just communicating how great your thing is to you, then you’re missing it. I think that’s where a lot of people go wrong. That’s the advice I give more than anything else, is that you’re talking about yourself too much. Again, it’s not about me but it’s not about you either. It’s about your audience.

Mike Zipursky: Right. Donnie, let me ask you, for everyone listening to this and saying, “Okay, that makes sense. I get what you’re saying and I need to focus more on benefits.” What should they do – right after listening to our call together, should they go look at our website or their business card? What should they do? Let’s say they figured out where to go look that they can start to check this, how do they actually take the current, maybe features, that they have on their website copy or on a brochure? How do they actually take that and turn those into benefits? Is there a step-by-step process? How do you usually approach that?

Donnie Bryant: Thank you for asking me that question because I can go off on big rants that never go anywhere. Take my business card, for example. This isn’t necessarily the best business card in the world but I thought it was catchy. The front of the card doesn’t even have my name on it. It doesn’t have my position on it. It says, “Would you like to sell more of your product?” Check yes or no. You start the conversation with, “Oh, I would like to sell more of my product.” Then you start thinking about, “How do I do this?”

The benefit comes right at the front, selling more products. It is implied that – I guess it’s a subtle implication – that I can actually do that for you, but rather than talking about me, I’m talking about you and trying to entice you to think about things that you want to think about and relate those things to me.

Mike Zipursky: Let me just jump in there for a second, Donnie, because I’m kind of losing part of what you’re saying here. What you’re suggesting, if I understand this correctly, is that people can go to their business card, their website or a white paper, really, any of their marketing or communication materials that their ideal clients would see. They should read through those, take a look at them and if they’re talking about something that’s a feature then they should think about how does that feature impact the lives of the ideal client.

In your case, you’re talking about, for copywriting that, yes, you have all that – even at this level of experience, okay, that’s great, you have the experience, that might be a feature. Then what you would do is take that sentence about your level of experience as a copywriter, and make sure that you also or in place of that sentence, talk about maybe what that experience will allow the prospective client to achieve. Because of your experience, you can generate more sales or improve your conversion rate or whatever it might be. Is that the kind of thing that you’re getting at?

Donnie Bryant: Yes. I think when you look at your website … I’m wondering if Perry Marshall has this tool. I’ve seen it some place, but you can check your copy and compare how many times you say “I” or “we” versus “you”. If your copy is focused on you then you’re probably speaking more in terms of features than benefits. Even if you’re kind of focused on the benefits that a person gets but you’re still focused on yourself, I think you’re still missing it.

The ratio should be something like 2:1. You should talk about the other person about twice as frequently as you talk about yourself. You want them to be thinking about themselves. Really, they think about themselves, anyway, but they want to see what they’re getting out of it and if you’re talking about yourself they have to interpret. Don’t make them do the work. You want them to see right upfront. Be as emotional as possible to say, “Oh, I’m getting this, I’m getting this, I’m going to get this. This is how my life is going to look afterwards.”

Mike Zipursky: You’re talking about two things, right? One is looking at the “I” versus “you” and making sure that you’re talking about the reader, using “you” a lot more than “I” or “we.” The second part of it is when you see that you have a lot of features on your page or things that could be considered to be features, try and think about what those features actually mean in the lives of your ideal client to create benefits around them, so that it becomes much more emotional and meaningful and that it resonates with the ideal client.

Donnie Bryant: Right. That’s probably the intelligent way to say what I’ve been trying to say. Like I said, you have a list of features and that’s good, but translate what the thing is to how it looks in the consumer’s life. What do you get out of it, and then you say, “Oh, well, you’re going to feel happy because I have this and that makes you happy,” rather than saying, “I have this, and I have that and I have that.”

Mike Zipursky: It’s such a simple concept yet I think, making people know that they need to do it, but it just gets kind of glazed over so many times but it can have profound impact, can’t it?

Donnie Bryant: It really can. Like I said, this is something that almost everybody who I talk to, maybe they’re doing okay but everybody could do better. I’m not saying I’m perfect either. Probably if somebody else reads my copy they could say, “Well, I just found a few things where he could have been a little more benefit-focused instead of feature-focused.”

It’s a mindset that you have to have. Think about the other person rather than thinking about how great your stuff is, and I know you have a great product. You’re happy about it. You love it. You spent two years developing it or whatever it is, or a lifetime developing your skill so you want to kind of talk about the things that you have, but nobody cares about you just because of who you are. They care about you because of what they’re going to get out of the experience working with you.

Mike Zipursky: All right, Donnie. That’s great advice. Thank you so much for sharing that.

Donnie Bryant: The pleasure has been mine. I didn’t mean to go over but I sometimes ramble, so thank you.

Mike Zipursky: No, that’s all great. I really do appreciate it.

Donnie Bryant: Yes, I appreciate it as well. Thank you so much, Michael.


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10 thoughts on “Direct Response Copywriter and Consultant: Interview with Donnie Bryant

  1. Chris says:

    Great interview and such great content!

  2. Regina says:

    Donnie’s story is helpful for me to hear. He put in so much time to perfecting his craft it makes sense that he has now success.

    • Thanks for the comment, Regina.

      I still spend time improving my knowledge and skill constantly. I don’t feel that there’s another option. I owe it to my clients and those who look to me for insight to be as capable as possible.

      There’s also my sense of “calling.” I feel like this is a big part of my purpose in life. I can’t afford NOT to fully develop my gifts!

  3. Michael Shreeve says:

    Found this through twitter…

    Very glad that I did! Excellent interview.

  4. Ricky Britton says:

    As an aspiring direct response copywriter and business consultant I’m glad I found your website and this fantastic interview. My main take way was the importance of studying the craft, getting yourself out there by networking and being persistent on your goals. Thanks Micheal, Donnie is an inspiration.

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