FREE REPORT: "7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"

Your Critical Reading List for 2016

The new year has arrived…and with it comes the usual batch of “information-packed” articles.

If you’re like me, your email inbox — and social media feed — is littered with stories telling you what you “Must Do in 2016” or what you “Need to Avoid in 2016.”

But here’s the thing: For those of us in the marketing world, chances are we already KNOW what we should be reading.

And while the classics — including Scientific Advertising, Oglivy on Advertising, etc — are always worth reading…there’s another reading list that is even more critical.

Instead of searching for the latest, greatest self-help book — or the next “red-hot” business book — there’s a much better way you can spend your time reading.

And, as I said…you already know this.

As a marketer, your most important “reading list” is one that’s constantly evolving. 

It’s absolutely critical that you are reading the advertisements, e-mails and promotions that are being sent by your competitors.

And you must do this virtually every day.

In fact, your e-mail inbox is the greatest information source available to you — and it’s available at no charge, every single day.

By investing as little as 30 minutes per day, you can give yourself a tremendous education in what’s working now in your market.  And this is an education that has immediate practical benefits.

As a copywriter, I spend as much as an hour each day reading the email promotions sent by both the large and small players in the industries I work. 

But it’s more than just quickly reading a few promotions…or skimming a few headlines.

It’s important to keep track — at least informally — of what people are mailing.

Are you seeing the same headlines and subject lines over and over again?  What types of leads are you seeing repeated most often?

Beyond just headlines, leads and subject lines…take a close look at how your competitors are structuring their offers.  Pay attention to the order pages they’re using…and see if you spot any trends or great ideas worth using for yourself.

And as I said…it’s not always about what the “big players” are mailing.  It’s important to stay on top of what some of the smaller companies are mailing as well.  Which ideas have you seen most often?  And…when you see an idea mailed frequently by a smaller company — and then “borrowed” by a larger one — you know that’s a home run.

Those of us in the copywriting world know that just reading these promotions is only the beginning.

One technique that has been recommended by a number of top marketers is for copywriters to physically write out — in longhand — winning controls.  By forcing yourself to “hand-write” a winning promotion, you’ll learn the promotion in a way you couldn’t by simply reading it — or even re-typing it. 

Personally, I “hand-write” winning promotions only a handful of times per year.

What I find even more valuable is to identify a handful of successful promotions and spend a day “breaking them down” and analyzing what makes them tick on as many levels as possible.

If I’m preparing to write a new financial promotion — on, say, a new tech stock — I’ll search through my email inbox and swipe file for 3 to 6 tech stock promotions that I know have been successful.

I’ll shut down my email for the day — and totally disconnect myself from the phone and social media so I can focus all of my attention on examining the promotions. 

In some cases, it’s not possible to see (from the outside) what the key to success may have been.  It could have been a strong list…or some powerful editorial content that led up to the campaign.

But in the large majority of cases, it’s possible to spot several great ideas that are well executed in any winning promotion.  I like to write these down on index cards…writing as many of these ideas down as possible so I can then refer back to them as I’m constructing my own promotion.

Many “new” copywriters look at the business as one where the goal is to simply mimic someone else’s successful promotion.  But to put together your own blockbuster marketing campaign — as a marketer, publisher or copywriter — you need to understand the critical elements that are working for others…and then figure out how you can successfully apply those elements to your own big ideas. 

Spending a few minutes a day doing that — and staying on top of what your competitors are mailing — is far more worthwhile than staying up-to-date with the “hottest” business books for the new year.

Jody Madron is a results-oriented copywriter with more than 20 years of breakthrough marketing experience.  To learn how Jody can deliver results-boosting copy — ahead of your deadline — visit

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"7 Mistakes to Avoid in Hiring a Copywriter"