What to Do When the Client Says “Change This”


Bob Bly

After 37 years as a professional copywriter, I have concluded that revisions to your copy drafts requested by clients fall into one of four categories as follows:

  • First: About 50% of copy revision requests won't make a difference one way or the other.

    By that I mean they don't affect the effectiveness of the copy or its ability to generate clicks, conversions, or orders one iota. They are immaterial.

    But the client wants them. They make the client happy. And the client is paying. So you should make them cheerfully.

    The only discussion necessary is for clarification or to ask a question if you don't understand something in the comment.

  • Second: About 25% of the copy revision requests actually make the copy stronger.

    These either (a) correct a factual mistake about the product you made, (b) suggest a change based on the client's superior knowledge of her prospects, or (c) are based on prior test results you are not aware of.

  • Third: About 20% of revision requests are comments that, in your opinion as the copywriter, make the copy weaker — but are not so horrific that they would significantly affect response in any way.

    When I get these requests, I politely explain to the client why I think the change is not beneficial and can hurt the promotion.

    If after that they disagree with me and still want to make the edit, I do not argue. I acquiesce pleasantly.

  • Fourth: About 5% of the copy edits clients ask me to make ARE in fact — again, in my opinion as a professional copywriter — going to render the promotion so much less effective that they will significantly reduce response and kill sales.

    Again, not only do I politely explain this to the client as in #3 above, but if the client still insists on the change, I push back a little more. In effect, I argue my case — strongly but not endlessly or obnoxiously or offensively (I hope).

    Then, if the client does not change his mind, I reluctantly make the change in a way that satisfies him while, if possible, minimizes the damage.

    But when I submit the revised copy, I do state in my cover email that I think the change is a serious error that could reduce or even kill response to the piece.

    I save a copy of this email so if someone in the client organization comes back to me and says, "The copy didn't work," I can show him that in fact I said it would not.

    I hate “cover your ass” (CYA) because it doesn't make anyone happy, but I feel a fiduciary responsibility to give all my clients the best copy possible, and this shows I attempted to fulfill it.

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Average: 4.0
Published: September 16, 2016

14 Responses to “What to Do When the Client Says “Change This””

  1. Yes Will, I can go along with Bob's findings and although your client would like to think he/she has the last word, you know that you have to let them know in the nicest possible way, that things may not turn out the way they expect, if they don't pay attention to the expert. Never easy, but it has to be done for your peace of mind (and to cover yourself).Thanks for sharing.

    Guest (John)

  2. Bob's approach to making corrections or revisions is refreshing, but a little scary. As a writer, I desire permission to take new avenues to better my relationship with my client, as well as for honing my skill. Thanks for the go-ahead!

    dinahbk

  3. Well, crud. I read this on my phone and when I tried to rate it, my finger slipped and I gave you a 3. I meant to give you a 5-star endorsement!

    Thank you for this! I write for an agency that has me interview clients and prep marketing pieces, and t. The clients have to approve the text before we send it for publication.

    Thank you for suggesting a solution that will not only advise the client, but also protect the agency from any backlash.

    Much appreciated!

    Billie

  4. I love this approach. The client wins (gets what they need/want), the communication around the piece is clear (both win), the client-writer relationship is preserved (both win), and the writer gets paid (important win).

    AshalaT

  5. Bob is amazing and I, 100% agree with how he handles copy changes....

    Great post.

    Guest (BRAD Lloyd)

  6. I completely agree with Mr. Bly! I have had the type of client he describes in #5 - and there is no changing their mind. I also live by the c.y.a. motto. I used to work for the Government and you have to do it. There is always someone that will come back and question your reasoning. Keeping physical proof makes the situation easier to manage. (P.S. his books are outstanding!)

    Rachel-gardenglows

  7. Excellent

    Guest (Joseph Keane)

  8. Great article and advice. Exhibits excellent customer service and consideration and even stronger professionalism for you level of work.

    Guest (Tom)

  9. Bob (and Will):

    Great advice, which is much appreciated. Clearly, client dialog on changes and satisfaction is something every copywriter needs to be prepared to navigate. This guidance really helped me "set my compass". Thanks much,

    ML

    Guest (Marc Leek)

  10. I agree with him wholeheartedly. Everything he said makes sense. And he is being so diplomatic with the client.

    Guest (Diana Schraedel)

  11. as a budding copywriter these tips from Bob Bly via Will Newman's letter I find very helpful

    ARAMUS

  12. Some excellent points about making changes to keep your client happy. Where they don’t make a difference either way, or makes it stronger I agree that they should be made just to please the client - after all he is paying.

    In the example (a) about making the copy stronger, the newsletter states :

    “correct a factual mistake about the product you made”

    Shouldn’t that read ‘correct a factual mistake you made about the product’ . The two sentences have different meanings. (just saying).

    Guest (Beryl)

  13. Very informative article, Thank you.

    Gypsy

  14. Always glad to receive articles on client relationships. Thanks!

    Guest (Sam)


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