An Interview With AWAI Member Jim Turner
AWAI “Wall of Famer” Jim Turner shares some tips for finding success as a financial copywriter and gives copywriters who are interested in the financial niche some good news.
CI: How did you get interested in financial copywriting?
JT: Quite frankly, it was where I got my first real opportunity to do professional copywriting. I always thought my niche would be in health, because I had a real interest there. But when I came across a financial spec assignment posted on the Founder’s Circle website, I jumped at the opportunity, and my submittal was accepted – leading to two years’ worth of continuous work.
CI: What are some of the strategies you’ve used to land financial clients?
JT: I’ve gotten clients primarily from three different angles: the annual AWAI Bootcamp (a virtual goldmine), referrals through my network, and responding to spec assignments. I call those my “zero resistance” marketing strategy, because there’s no need to mail out letters or emails to folks who are too busy to deal with you, there’s no cold calling involved, and it doesn’t cost you one penny.
CI: What are the most important things a copywriter can do to prepare to write for the financial industry?
JT: First, you need to become very familiar with the product or service being marketed and the prospects who buy them. Those two go hand-in-hand. And since you’re typically writing in the voice of the editor, it helps a great deal to know that person fairly well. I was fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of the clients I wrote for and had a chance to spend time socially with the editor. This helped me immensely when it came to writing with the proper tone and emotional level.
Last, but not least, you need to be willing to spend the time required to research the subject behind which you’re writing about. I don’t feel comfortable writing about a topic until I become a mini-expert in that area. Since it’s so easy to conduct research online, many times I’ll have 60-70 pages of research material to support a 16- to 20-page promo.
CI: Things change fast in the financial industry – how does that affect the way you write?
JT: What it does is force you to specialize in a sub-niche as opposed to writing on anything and everything that comes your way. I got very comfortable writing in the technology and energy sub-niches (which could have something to do with the fact that I have an engineering background).
It also forces you to focus on writing either front-end or back-end promos, which are two entirely different styles and approaches. I tend to like front-end because they’re written in more of an advertorial style.
This specialization allows you to be able to respond quickly to the demands of the client … and from a skill point-of-view, every assignment is not a learning experience.
CI: Does financial copywriting demand a different approach than writing for other industries? If yes, how so?
JT: I tend to think so. I’m going to go as far as to say it’s a tougher audience to influence. Why? Because you’re not only trying to overcome the reader’s individual resistance to buying, but there’s also the influence of what’s going on in the financial markets.
CI: You’ve written some promotions that have done very well and made a lot of money. How do you know when you have a winner?
JT: I can’t honestly say that it’s possible to know ahead of time that you’ve got a winner. You really don’t know until the sales results are tallied. Many times when working with the client, we review current promos that are raking in the cash. And there are many times when I’m blown away by what’s working. The only thing you can do is make sure you have all the elements of a great direct-response letter included in your promo. It all begins with a killer headline and lead.
CI: What advice would you give to members interested in financial copywriting?
JT: I would advise them to get well grounded in the principles of direct-response copywriting. They should pay extreme attention to the “Architecture of Romance” model that Michael Masterson uses in the program. I have my own hand-drawn diagram version of Michael’s model that I use quite often.
I would also tell them that there are numerous opportunities in financial copywriting because: (1) the demand is there, and; (2) not many copywriters want to try tackling it, because it is very challenging.
[Editorial Note: You can learn more about Jim Turner on AWAI’s Wall of Fame.]
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