Success Story:
AWAI Member Peter F. Takes Us Up on Our Copy Challenge and Lands a Test Mailing – Learn How You Can Too

While attending our bootcamp last September, copywriting student Peter F. decided to try to beat our “Can You Write a Letter Like This?” control. After working with master copywriters Bob Bly and Don Mahoney as his mentors, he came up with a sales letter that is so good … we're going to test it.

Recently, we asked Peter to tell us what he has learned from this very exciting experience.

TGT: Peter, tell us something about yourself. What's your background?

PF: I've been a stand-up comic for over 20 years. I've also been writing television and film scripts for the last 11 years. Most recently, German sitcoms. I write them in English and they are then translated into German. And, yes, they do laugh in Germany. (Or so I am told.)

TGT: What motivated you to make a change?

PF: I really wanted to take control of my destiny, become extremely competent in the craft – and actually be in demand at something I enjoy doing. When I got the "Can You Write a Letter Like This?" mailing, I thought, "I can do this! It's writing. It's a different structure from what I'm used to, but the learning curve should be easy for me." So I enrolled in the program.

Then, knowing that success in life partly depends on working directly with the right people, I decided to go to last September's bootcamp. I wanted to meet the "Men Behind the Words" – Michael, Don, Paul, etc.

TGT: At the bootcamp, you decided to write copy to challenge our current control. Tell us about it.

PF: Katie presented the challenge to all the attendees. I decided that I wanted to do it – right there and then. I spoke with Bob Bly and he suggested that I submit a copy platform with lead and possible headlines first.

On the plane ride back to New York, I thought of the approach I would take – and the next day, I got crackin' on it. I basically followed what I had been taught at the bootcamp.

The original control is a few years old, and times have changed. It was written before the dot-com meltdown. Before 9/11. Everybody back then was making money, had jobs. So the letter that I was going to write – and, hopefully, the one that will become a control – had to have a different point of view. I focused on fear, greed, pride, patriotism, vanity. Everything that I put in the letter came from my own experience. I knew my target audience … because it was me.

In scriptwriting they always say: "Write what you know.” Well, on this assignment … I did.

TGT: Once we read your first draft, we paired you with Bob Bly who mentored you through the rest of the promotion. What was it like to work with him?

PF: Bob is a combination minimalist and surgeon. He dissects what you write and he gives you exactly what you need to improve upon your copy. Nothing more, nothing less. You read his edits and go: “Aha … now I get it … that makes sense.”

Here was a man that I really respected. I had read his book, heard him speak at the bootcamp – and now he was personally coaching me! After he read my first draft, he wrote at the end of the copy “First rate job!” You can imagine how good that made me feel.

TGT: Since your promotion is based on how Don Mahoney became a master copywriter with the help of Michael Masterson, you had the opportunity to work directly with Don too, didn't you?

PF: Yes. I was really fortunate. Because Don's comments added details about his personal life to the letter that I knew nothing about. I remember chuckling to myself, “Who better to mentor me than the man whose voice I am using in the letter?”

TGT: What would you say has been the biggest benefit to you from this whole experience?

PF: That you learn by doing. Writing the sales letter, being mentored … you see what works and what doesn't. You see what the client is going for. And when a master copywriter like Don changes something … you can see why he did it.

In The Next Golden Thread Online: Success Stories continue as we interview Krista Jones, another AWAI student whose copy we'll be testing. Krista explains how Michael Masterson's personal mentoring showed her how to perfect her copy instead of just telling her how to do it.

You're encouraged to participate in our copy challenge too. Send in a headline and lead that you think can beat the current control. If we agree, we'll work with you like we've worked with Peter and Krista.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: February 25, 2002

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