The Life of a Successful Copywriter and Real-Deal Entrepreneur

persuasion

About 8 months ago, in October 2012, I stumbled across a relatively unknown niche in marketing, called copywriting and direct marketing. It was really a stroke of luck. I was reading an interview with Dane Maxwell and he said that everyone should learn about copywriting. He rattled off the names of some copywriters to learn from. So I chose a random copywriter — Gary Halbert — and found The Gary Halbert Letter. I spent many sleepless nights pouring over the letters.

Within 2 months of continuous learning, I sold over $10,000 worth of products with just two or three e-mails. (That will be a story for another day.) I became a true devotee to the art of copywriting — salesmanship in print.

As I kept digging deeper and deeper into copywriting and direct marketing, I came across Michael Winicki. He is an author, a copywriter, and a real-deal entrepreneur. This guy has been marketing and writing copy for almost 30 years. Since I did not personally know anyone that was a successful copywriter, I reached out to him, hoping to learn a bit more about his experience.

Maybe he can teach me (and you) a thing or two about selling in print.

Interview with Michael Winicki

1. When did you start marketing and copywriting? How did you get into the field?

I started doing marketing and advertising back in the late 1980’s. I was a refugee of the then shrinking oil & gas industry.
 
My father was a part-time television repairman and a full-time firefighter. He was thinking about retiring from the fire department and had an “entrepreneurial seizure,” which resulted in the starting of a consumer electronic store.
 
By default, I ended up being the marketing/advertising guy… which I knew zip about.
 
Gradually, I started learning bits & pieces about marketing, but the progress was slow. And the store wasn’t very profitable.
 
I became a Nightingale-Conant “junkie” and around 1995 bought a large Ted Nicholas collection found in N-C for about $150. One of the best investments I’ve ever made.
 
That drove me to find the works of other direct marketing “guru’s” like Gary Halbert and Dan Kennedy. But there were other influences also like Joe Sugarman, Eugene Swartz, and Denny Hatch.

2. Did you start out writing copy for other people or did you write copy for yourself?

I started out writing ads for the store, but by that point, we were losing sales to the big-box retailers and we were all losing interest in the retail store. I began doing outside consultant. I quickly found out how little most business owners knew about marketing, especially direct marketing. For many, their marketing began and ended with a business-card ad in their local newspaper or yellow pages. And direct mail? Forget about it! Everyone thought it was too costly and too much work! They would trip over dollars to pick up nickels. It was, and still is crazy. It hasn’t changed since the advent of the Internet. Offline marketing is still a business-card type ad for most businesses. Their mindset is focused on acquiring new customers as opposed to spending some of their time and resources staying in touch with their old ones.
 
In 1999, I went to work in the marketing department for a large catalog company. From there, I went to a mail order collectable stamp and coin company. Then around 2002, I started doing consulting again… working with a lot of small business owners, both new and established.

3. Can you tell us a bit more about your own business? Why did you decide to start your own business? How big of a role did your marketing skills come into a play?

Up to that point, I hadn’t done much with the Internet as far as trying to sell anything. Someone suggested dipping my toe into the dietary supplement market… I did and have been doing so ever since. I greatly enjoy Internet marketing but I realized that to achieve anything of scale, you still need to be able to harness the power of offline marketing like direct mail, newspaper/magazine advertising, radio and direct response TV.
 
Over the last few months, I’ve taken my experiences as both an entrepreneur and a consultant to over 2,000 businesses and have started offering business opportunities… Offline business opportunities, like business brokering and monogramming through offline channels. No envelope stuff or network marketing. None of that sort of thing.
 
Why business opportunities? Two reasons. I’m in tune with that market. I understand the person who wants to start a business but has no experience and is scared to death of losing their shirt.
 
Plus, at least in an offline environment, I can make the math work much better than doing supplements offline. I still do supplements, but primarily just online.
 
I’ve come to realize that the math dictates everything. It’s more important than copywriting in my opinion. If the math doesn’t work, i.e. you can’t acquire customers profitably between what you are doing front-end and back-end, then it doesn’t matter how great your copywriting is.

If the math doesn’t work … it doesn’t matter how great your copywriting is.

For example, if I do a mailing piece, and I do a good job copywriting it, and it brings in one sale for $49.95 in 1,000 pieces mailed, then it’s not going to matter who does the copywriting, I’m dealing with a loser. Say I bring in the best copywriter on the planet and he or she is able to beat my control by 100% or 500%… it still isn’t going to matter.

4. Among the different kinds of media, which one would you say is the best? Which one would someone totally new to this focus on?

I currently do internet marketing, newspaper marketing, magazine marketing, and direct mail.

Online, I love pay-per-click. I owe a great deal to my pay-per-click partners. SEO has broken my heart. Everyone is familiar with how that arena has changed over the past 12 months or so.
 
Offline, I like any tool that brings in leads that I can afford. Direct mail, newspaper, magazine, radio… Any of those may work, depending upon the math that’s involved.

5. What is the best way for a total novice to learn marketing and copywriting?

For someone new starting up, I would suggest starting with the guys I mentioned up above. It seems that on the net, everyone gravitates towards all the Internet marketing guru’s and forget all about the guys that were dominating direct marketing for decades. You can still learn a lot from guys like Eugene Swartz, Joe Sugarman, and Gary Halbert. The net isn’t the end all when it comes to marketing knowledge.

6. If you could live your life all over again, would you still choose to make money from marketing and copywriting? Why?

Yeah, if I had to do it all over again, marketing… especially direct marketing would be a big part. And you can include copywriting as part of that.

To me copywriting and marketing in general has greatly benefited me. I couldn’t see being able to accomplish any where near what I have without the tips, tools and techniques I’ve picked up over the years by the pro’s in the business… The Gary Halberts, the Dan Kennedys, the Ted Nicholas … (and many others).

7. Anything else you want to say to the readers?

If you want to learn more about selling through offline media, which I highly recommend, pick up a copy of my book, Killer Techniques to Succeed with Newspaper, Magazine and Yellow Page Advertising. I will show you that virtually any small business owner, no matter how inexperienced, can advertise 1,000% more effective than what they are currently doing.

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