Marketing Campaign Flopped: Is The Copywriter Responsible?

Got a question from a business owner I'll call “Ted”:

I hired a pretty well known – and highly paid – copywriter to put together a campaign for me and the campaign was a complete flop. When I say complete flop, I mean a test of a series of 2 postcards sent to a list of 500 yielded not one single visitor to the website.

My question is… should I expect the copywriter to continue working on the campaign to get it working better? He has made no such offer.

I have a two-part answer here.

The first part of my answer is:

It depends on your original agreement with the copywriter.

When I got into freelancing I learned pretty quick that I had to come to an agreement with the client about what we'd do if the campaign doesn't work.

From the client's perspective, you're risking a lot of money on the campaign, and you want to make sure that your investment pays off.

From the copywriter's point of view, you don't want to get sucked into an endless revise-and-test cycle.

I would usually agree to do 1-2 revisions if the client was disappointed with the results.

The reason for the revision limit is the second part of my answer…

As a freelance copywriter, you don't have a lot of control over the campaign as a whole.

There are a lot of things the client can do that drastically change the outcome—for better or worse.

Example: I had a client hire me to write some emails for a high-end product launch.

We talked about his list beforehand, and I based my email sequence on what he told me. Shortly before the launch I realized that everyone on his list had already seen the same basic offer that my emails were making—and turned it down.

That drastically changed the results I could produce, because he'd already skimmed the cream off his list, and all I had to work with was the dregs.

Ultimately he made a nice profit, but neither of us were satisfied with the results.

In this case, it sounds like the campaign was a HUGE miss.

To not even generate a single web visitor from a 2-postcard campaign—something's definitely way off here.

The first thing to check is that the tracking and analytics are working properly. I've seen really lousy postcard campaigns that still generated a little web traffic.

Assuming that the tracking is fine, the next thing to look at is the list used for the mailing.

Are the postcards going to people who can and will take action based on the offer?

And did they actually get delivered?

Then I'd look at the offer. Was it enticing enough?

If not, this is something a good copywriter should have brought to your attention.

Those two factors—the list and the offer—are going to account for the majority of your response.

A good copywriter should be asking lots of questions about both, and waving the red flag if anything seems “off.”

If he didn't, continuing to work with him probably won't change the outcome.