From The Golden Thread Mailbag …
When You Can Do Better

Hello Pat,

I truly enjoy your newsletter. It’s like having someone much wiser whisper great secrets over my shoulder. Thanks for that.

I do have a question. On page 14 of the AWAI accelerated program, there is an example of two copywriters submitting letters to a company. They would be Mutt and Jeff, of course. The company sends both letters out, and one is a winner. Naturally, it is Jeff’s. Hard to be a success if your name is Mutt. Seriously, poor old Mutt was banished into “nowheresville,” and Jeff became the well-paid hero.

My question is, will Mutt’s name always be Mudd? Will he never be considered by that company again? If he learned more and became more experienced, would he still never be able to submit a letter to them?

And if he is not defeated by this dismal failure and rises above it … how should he approach that company? Do companies keep a list of the Mutts and Mudds of the copywriting world?


Hi Cauleen,

Mutt’s name wouldn’t necessarily be Mudd. It’s a mistake to think that just because his letter didn’t pull as well as the new control he would be “banished” … or that there would be some kind of ill will toward him. Especially if he had gone about landing the assignment the way AWAI recommends.

I am, of course, talking about the idea that you should be trying to land clients, NOT just assignments.

A client relationship is much more substantial than any single assignment. And writing one less-than-stellar promotion isn’t going to get you tossed into “nowheresville.” Not to mention that there are literally thousands of other potential clients out there that you can continue to impress as you build your skill and your portfolio.

Mutt can certainly approach the client again … assuming, of course, he’s figured out – with the client’s help – why his letter didn’t pull as well as Jeff’s.

Dear Pat,

I have completed the AWAI basic program, and am working on the vitamin piece.

I receive direct-mail pieces frequently. Recently, I received one that was just awful. I know I could write a better package for the company. Do you have any suggestions about how to get their business?

I am new to copywriting, and haven’t any credentials with which to entice them.

L. Brooks

Hi L.

Great question! I’m glad you are asking it. Handled incorrectly, this type of situation – which can be a little tricky – could ruin your chances with a potential client. But not to worry. The correct path is simple.

If the copy is really that bad, there is a chance the company is not very familiar with direct response and that someone from the company (who is not a professional copywriter) wrote the letter. This person may very well be the one you would need to talk to about writing for them … so you don’t want to make the mistake of telling them how spectacularly terrible their letter is.

In fact, you don’t want to start giving them any unsolicited advice at all. They don’t know who you are, and it will almost always be unwelcome.

Start off as you would when trying to land any other client. And if you really can write something better than what they sent you … do it. When you get the person who hires copywriters on the phone, simply ask if you can send it to her.

If you put yourself in the client’s position, you’ll know exactly what to say.

That’s it for this week. Thanks to one and all. Keep those emails coming!


The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: December 4, 2006

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