Copywriter and Marketing Consultant, Eric Bakey, steps into the studio with Kira and Rob for the 92nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. We met Eric a few months ago and got to talking about his approach to his business. It’s different than a lot of other copywriters’, so we thought it would be interesting to talk about how he works with his clients. In this interview, we cover:
• how Eric went from the army to construction to writing a book to copywriting
• why he doesn’t call himself a copywriter (even though he writes copy)
• Eric’s onboarding process and the “found money” blueprint
• the “15 minutes -> hour -> day -> long term contract” roadmap
• how he connected with Dan Kennedy (and the results for his business)
• what you need to know about packaging your services like Eric
• how he uses sketches in his customer interactions
• what he does when clients buy the “found money” blueprint
• how to set up a retainer model so you don’t get burned
• why Eric treats his copy the same way an artist treats her work
• how he turned $80 of Facebook ads into $30,000 in sales
• Eric’s book recommendation for building a steady stream of sales
• why it’s important to create a list of your best 100 clients
• what Eric’s regular work day looks like
And if that weren’t enough, we asked Eric how he uses cartoons in his business and why there are so many opportunities for copywriters today. We also sneaked in a question about his favorite tattoo (he has quite a few to choose from). Ready to hear it? Visit iTunes, Stitcher or your favorite podcast app. Or scroll down and click the play button below, where you’ll also find lots of links and a full transcript.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
Strength from Within by Eric Bakey
Business Model Canvas
Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
93 Extraordinary Referral Systems by Jay Abraham
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
Intro: Content (for now)
The Copywriter Club Podcast is sponsored by Airstory, the writing platform for professional writers who want to get more done in half the time. Learn more at Airstory.co/club.
Kira: What if you could hang out with seriously talented copywriters and other experts, ask them about their successes and failures, their work processes and their habits, then steal an idea or two to inspire your own work? That’s what Rob and I do every week at The Copywriter Club Podcast.
Rob: You’re invited to join the club for episode 92 as we chat with author, copywriter, and combat vet, Eric Bakey, about his long and winding road to copywriting the “Found Money” Blueprint, cartooning, writing for his niche vet-preneurs, and which of his one or two tattoos is his favorite.
Kira: Welcome, Eric.
Rob: Welcome, Eric.
Eric: Thanks for having me.
Rob: Yeah, we’re thrilled.
Kira: Yeah, great to have you. So we met you through Brian Kurtz’s Titans Masterclass. We’re both excited to hear more about your story, which is a great place to start. How did you end up as a copywriter?
Eric: Well, I joined the Army after high school, and I learned how to blow stuff up and mop floors. Neither of them are very lucrative, so I had to start all over again into construction when I got out. I was sick of working and building someone else’s empire, so I decided to write a book as an escape from the corporate world. And then I learned that the publisher, after they make the initial push for your book, they do not care about whether you sell anymore. So I had to start writing copy if I wanted to sell any books, and you have to sell a lot of books if you want to make any money. That’s how I kind of how I got started in copywriting.
Rob: So tell us a little bit about your book. If that’s the doorway to get into copywriting, why did you decide to write it? What does it cover and when you started to promote it, what are some of the things that you learned in order to make that happen?
Eric: So I was following the typical internet marketing pyramid in that I was going to use the book as a front end to my online personal training business. So the book is called Strength From Within: The Anti-Meathead Approach To Fitness. You’ve got to own your keywords, so if you type in “Anti-Meathead,” it’s number one on Amazon and Google. And it was really to support my online personal training business. It’s the fastest way to get unbelievably strong without going to the gym. And it kind of dialed in my USP after writing the book and after being book-solid as a personal trainer. But I decided that I really like growing businesses more than I like growing biceps. So I transitioned to a copywriting business exclusively.
Kira: Wow, okay. So what does your business look like today? What do you spend your time on? What services do you offer?
Eric: When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a combat imagineer. And they go, “What does that mean?”
Kira: What does that …
Eric: And so I ask people, “Do you know how much you can spend in order to acquire your best customers?” And of course they don’t, typically. So then again, I create problems for people, and I’m an ethical troublemaker. And so I kind of just play with people a little bit, and they find out that … “Wow, I need somebody like you on my team.” So I get people … Mostly a direct marketing consultant for insider lingo, but most consultants are not really all that effective. So I decided to not call myself a copywriter or sell my widget, but to make something a league of my own. A little bit difficult.
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Kira: No, I like that. So why don’t you call yourself a copywriter? Because you’re definitely writing copy. So what’s the reasoning behind that?
Eric: I will write copy. I write a lot of copy. But often, the businesses are not ready for copy. They come to me for copy, but they’re not really ready for it. I have a whole four-module process before I ever even write copy for somebody that allows them to scale without spending a cent on advertising. Being a copywriter, I would love to get them to the point where they’re ready to write me a big, fat check for copywriting and royalties and all that, but we need to get them dialed into their most effective before they ever spend a cent on copywriting or advertising or anything like that. I hopefully build them up to a point where hiring me to write copy is a no-brainer.
Rob: Yeah, I’m really intrigued by how you work with your clients and your process for it. Would you be able to walk us through like what does a typical engagement with you look like? Where does the customer come from and how do you go through those four modules until you get to the point where you are either writing copy or you are doing some other kind of consulting with them where you’re earning real money?
Eric: So I definitely am earning real money on the rip. I wanted to figure out how to get paid for my research phase and how to make research sexy for the clients I work with because nobody really wants to do that, and it’s really what you need to do in order to write effective copy. So I’ll talk to anybody for 15 minutes, and I want to make the 15-minute call not a strategy session, so I called it a triage call where I help them stop hemorrhaging cash from whatever their marketing is doing. I mean, marketing is a matter of survival, and I’ve just kind of dialed in the words that I know people … That get their attention. And that’s copywriting, that’s sales scripting. So I will talk to anybody for 15 minutes. If they seem like a good fit, then I do my hour-long process, which is really they’re on the hook for an hour, but it’s a half a day of consulting. If they like my Found Money Blueprint, I don’t know whether that can help them or not, but I can deliver them a one-page strategic plan to find cash.
If they want my help to go get it, then they can hire me for a day. And then during the day, we outline the entire communications strategy, and sometimes that involves writing copy, and sometimes it doesn’t. And they have teams that want to write their copy, and I can chief some of their stuff, and we kind of go from there. If they want me after the day, they can put me on retainer or write copy. It’s kind of up to the client.
Rob: And are those the four modules, starting with the triage call and then stepping through? Or are the four modules you mentioned something different?
Eric: Yeah, it was 15 minutes will get you an hour. An hour will get you a day. A day will get you a month, and each one of those modules is a month. About after four to six months, then I can start writing copy for you.
Rob: Okay. Interesting. Yeah, so lots of questions about this, but I want to go back to your combat vet experience before we leave that altogether because obviously most people who serve in the armed forces, that becomes a really big part of them. I think that is a part of who you serve at least in some of your copywriting business. What did you take from your experience in the military that informs what you do today in your copywriting business?
Eric: So I was really afraid to look at my background and apply it to copywriting. It was until I got pushed by Jocko Willink … He actually wrote a book called Extreme Ownership. And he started doing these musters, and he called me out at one of these musters. He actually wrote the book describing the heroism of my specific unit.
Kira: Oh, wow.
Eric: And we all look up to the Navy Seals because that’s what you see on Hollywood, and they really are badass. The level of training, they’re the 1% of the 1% top tier. So whenever you go into a bar or hang out with guys or whatever, it’s like, “Yeah, I was in the military.” It always leads to some questions that I don’t really feel like answering. So I never really wanted to lead with it especially as I create this new identity as a copywriter. I never really wanted to lead with the military thing. But I got called out by Jocko because I swung a hammer and rode a bulldozer into combat. And they were talking about how badass we were because it took a lot of bravery for us to go out and do construction operations. I’ve built a bridge over the Euphrates River under rocket attack and done some pretty cool stuff, but I didn’t really ever want to talk about it. And he gave me the courage to be able to tell that story for people who maybe can’t or are not willing to. So I really had to be vulnerable with kind of the stuff I didn’t want to share or lead with.
Kira: Wow. Okay, so are you friends with Jocko?
Eric: I’m closer to Leif. He actually just moved to Boston, but they’re very busy. They’re running an echelon front, which is a Navy Seal-inspired leadership and management consulting business. I’m trying to get Leif to go to the range with me one of these days, and I’ve been running little meetup groups for veterans and veteran entrepreneurs. I’m sitting on the board of a non-profit now called Make A Vet Sweat. So we sponsor gym memberships for veterans of all ages with disabilities, but specifically to help them get off of PTSD prescriptions, all that kind of stuff.
Kira: All right. So what process did you have to work through to finally share and answer these questions and really put yourself out there, beyond just Jocko calling you out and feeling inspired, what did you have to do? Because so many copywriters have a hard time sharing their story, even though it might be dramatically different from your story.
Eric: Freud says you only have access to your true self through your friends and your enemies. I just started taking feedback from people who are like, “Wow, that’s a really cool story.” I didn’t ever want to do it. I still am hesitant about it, until I started actually putting pen to paper and actually leading with it and actually got a positive result. So really, it takes courage. That’s the first line of my sales letter. It doesn’t take money to make money, it takes courage to make money. So I just put it out there and got a positive result, and I said, “Maybe I should keep on doing that.” But I finally committed to it after I’d had a back and forth, started writing letters to Dan Kennedy. And he took a special interest in me and has been promoting me in his No BS Newsletter. He really just said, “There is a market for tough guys like you, and if you can kind of whip them into shape and lead them fearlessly, they’ll follow you.” And so I just started doing that, and he keeps on giving me positive reinforcement.
Eric: I think that’s the answer to anything, is positive reinforcement.
Kira: From Dan Kennedy.
Rob: Yeah, I was going to ask you a different question, but now I want to know. Did you send your letter to Dan Kennedy via fax or did you actually … How did you connect with him? Because everybody knows, or at least those who do know, Dan Kennedy is a very difficult person to get on the phone or communicate with.
Eric: He is a curmudgeon, and so am I. I have tactical empathy, but I’m really kind of the butt-kicker. That’s how I like to be motivated. Actually, that’s how I kind of got into cartooning. I drew a caricature of him and mailed him a letter with a character of him and some samples of my sales letters. I went to Renegade Millionaire and got some clients and just implemented the stuff that he was covering at Renegade Millionaire, and told him that this was what I did and it was awesome. So thank you very much for helping me and a client make a lot of money … And complete with a caricature of him. And guess what, he responded in turn with a four-paged letter where every single word on that page was mind-boggling.
Rob: I mean, there’s a really interesting lesson here, right, because you went after somebody who has this huge reputation in the industry as being a curmudgeon, hard to reach, but he’s sort of the guru. And because you did something different, the cartoon, some of your samples, whatever, you connected with him in a way that’s been meaningful for you. I like that it’s the kind of thing that is really difficult to do, but it’s totally doable if you’re willing to put yourself out there, like you said, with courage.
Kira: So I want to hear more about the triage and the one-hour. So all those phases, what are you doing during that time? Even during the triage, let’s start there, what does that look like when you’re in it?
Eric: So everybody is beyond busy. And I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I’m a salesman who learned how to write copy or whether it’s that I can empathize with the people who I’m on the phone with, I just give them confidence that I’m not going to waste their time. So everyone’s willing to talk to you to for 10 or 15 minutes. I get right then and there that I’m not messing around, and I really can help you if you want to be helped. If you’re stuck on stupid and you don’t resonate with what I’m telling you, then go find somebody else who’s going to tell you want you to hear. But I just have the ability to identify where there’s leakage and say, “I can help you stop the bleeding. I can help you get everything you can out of everything you’ve got, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.” I have a process that can help you do that, and I can just have a brief conversation them to say, “Hey, I really can help you and I want to help you because I really do care.”
Kira: Okay, so do you mind sharing how much you charge for the triage?
Eric: So the triage is absolutely free.
Kira: Okay. And you said 15 minutes.
Kira: All right, cool. And then what is the process that you walk them through to figure it out? Is it just more gut instinct where you know their problem based on what they’re telling you or what does that process look like?
Eric: When somebody schedules a 15-minute with me, I’ll do a little bit of background and pencil some ideas and kind of just start drawing a caricature of their business and have an idea of what they’re at. I always want to get them out of the mindset of whatever widget business they think they’re in, and then challenge them to play at a higher level. And if they’re not communicating that to their market and to their employees and to their past customers and all that, there’s a huge opportunity for us to go deep and play with that a little bit. And I can basically have them wanting more at the end of the 15-minute conversation. I’ll say, “Well, that’s 15 minutes. If you want to actually do anything for real, then schedule an hour call with me.” And it’s kind of devious, but I get them engaged very quickly and wanting more. And I think that’s the key to effective salesmanship.
Rob: And as you do that, are you asking specific questions or are you really just taking it as it comes, talking about whatever comes up? Do you go in with sort of a template of what that call is going to look like?
Eric: I do. I have a 15-minute triage call … I have it on an index card. I know how to get them involved because I’ve had enough of these calls where I know what sentences are working and how to script the sales messages. It’s definitely intentional.
Kira: So then if they want more, they can jump into the one-hour. How much does that cost them?
Eric: I know I do not have any fuzzy numbers, and that’s what’s key about any business. I know how much money I want to make per hour, per day, per minute. So if you want to make a million dollars a year, you need to divide the amount of hours you want to work by your total income. I want to make $500 an hour, and they get half a day of consulting. And because we’re doing half a day of consulting, I’m giving it to them at a reduced rate. So I want to make it $3,551 a day, and divide it by four, so I charge them $1,756.50 for that hour.
Kira: Wait, wait … Can you say that one more time. Wait, so how much do you charge them for that?
Eric: It’s $1,756.50.
Kira: That’s awesome. Okay, so then they’re working with you. So at that point you’re not saying, “Hey, we’re going to jump into copy.” Do they need to work through this process before you even talk about copy, or will you jump to copy if they’re ready?
Eric: I have not been able to go directly to copy at any point in the last three years I’ve been writing copy for clients. I’ve always had to do some kind of research phase. You need to understand where they are, where they’re trying to go, give me the vision. And a lot of times they don’t even have any idea. They don’t know what their uniqueness is. They have no USP. They don’t have any of the stuff that we need. And instead of just me creating it, they’ve been in the market for 10 or 15 … Well, however long they’ve been in business. Why should I have to guess at that?
So I have a process to dial in their USP very quickly, and I record the call, transcribe it, and I get them at concert pitch, talking about their product. I’ve got the first draft of my sales letter right there. So I’m selling my sawdust like a good entrepreneur should. The research phase is necessary, but nobody wants to pay for it. So how do I make this thing so unbelievably desirable that they’re willing to pay me $1,700 for it? That’s what I do.
Kira: Okay, just to break it down even more because a lot of copywriters want to charge for the day rate, the half-day rate, so what do they need to know about what works and what doesn’t work when you’re packaging your services this way?
Eric: Not selling a commodity. Copywriting is a commodity. You can go on Fiver and hire a copywriter. Anybody can open up Google Docs and hang a shingle on the wall saying they’re now a copywriter. Do not sell a commodity. Get out of the commodity business, and that’s exactly what I do for my clients. So don’t sell copy. Sell reduced cost per acquisition, sell increased lifetime values, sell the things that actually matter to a CEO of a business, and sit on the same side of the table as him. Don’t sit across from him and try to sell him your widget because nobody wants to be sold, but they all love to buy. They buy long before they ever pay. So I engineer the whole entire system so that I’m getting paid, and when I’m getting paid, I try to deliver 10 times the value. So when they’re making money just by being around me, it’s a virtuous cycle, and we’re all happy.
Kira: And then what’s the deliverable at the end of that half-day. Because it is really the research, how do they feel like they got something out of it when so many of us struggle to package our research?
Eric: So they have a recorded copy of the call, they’ve got a transcript of the call, and they have … I have a bunch of information products that I’m not really ready to go sell. So they get the version 1.0 of my information products. And I draw a business model canvas. There’s a book out there called Business Model Canvas. I show them what their USP actually looks like. It’s just very simple sketches that solve their sales and marketing problems. As a combat engineer, I was trying to build bridges, and now I bridge sales and marketing gaps with simple sketches and compelling copywriting. So I just kind of play off of my life experiences and package it in a unique way that makes it desirable for the business owner.
Rob: And at what point does the Found Money Blueprint start to play in here, and what does that cover? What do you do when somebody engages you for that?
Eric: I have them answer my typical copywriting questionnaire, give me some background, show me what is the offer we’re really trying to talk about. I’ve got basic, typical copywriting stuff. And then I’d secret shop their business and record myself while I’m doing it. I’ll pick the phone up and call and say … It makes it really easy when I get on the phone with the business owner. I’m like, “Do you realize that your front desk person never captured my information, didn’t try to sell me anything. All they’re trying to do is sell me widgets.” And I just kind of make them look at things.
I come with the gift of outside eyes, and I help them see the realities that there’s a lot of room for improvement in their business. Just like the online point of a website is capture lead information. The only point of the phone call is to capture lead information. Anytime someone walks into your store, you need to be capturing the lead information because only 3% of people are ever really ready to buy at any point in time, and so you can follow up with them. You’re leaving a massive amount of money on the table, and really sales is a service. So they’re doing the world injustice if they’re not seeking to serve them in the best way, and that’s typically in follow-up. So yeah, I make them look at it.
Rob: Yeah, I love that idea of secret shopping the client and really getting into their processes before they even have the opportunity to tell you what the processes are because you’re sort of almost ahead of them in the process. And then is there a presentation of that information to the client? What are the next steps in the blueprint?
Eric: Yeah, I give them that deliverable. I give them everything I did. So I send them four hours-worth of information. They’re only the hook for one, and they’ve got the first draft of a seven-figure promotion at the end of it. They can either take that information, that research, and go find the lowest bidder for copy … Ideas are worthless. Ideas really just get you frustrated. So I give them a whole bunch of ideas for stuff to do, and they can go try to hire somebody to go implement on this, but really you only get paid for done. And they can either take this information and go to someone else and try to get them to have the same kind of moxie and direction that I’ve presented them with, or they can just hire me to do it.
We do a whole day where we architect out the whole entire communication strategy, and then I have step one as dial in the USP, step two is articulate and integrate their USP into all of their communications. Step three is working their database and reactivating lost customers and dialing in the front, the first 30-day customer experience. And then the fourth step is joint venture alliances. So they can become a celebrity in their local community and scale the business without ever spending a cent on advertising. So that pretty much takes about four to six months to really get that all dialed in, but it’s a self-building process.
Kira: So when you’re working them on the Found Money Blueprint, you’re working with them for four to six months. Or is it that you’re handing them a blueprint and they need to execute, it will take four to six months to see the results?
Eric: So it’s all modulized, so at any point they could fire me. And I could fire them too. I’ve got clear deliverables for each step of the way. And if they don’t like the direction I’m going or I don’t like what they’re doing. If they can’t implement the stuff, we can slow down. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. So if they’re not ready to really do all of this at once, I can get to a certain point and stop and come back to them and pick things up where we left them off, instead of trying to demand massive payment upfront and hope this gamble on this promotion … We’ve got very clear and fixed timelines and deliverables, and it makes it really easy for them to get started, and then pause it or come back to it or buy more of my time.
Kira: And how do you get paid for the Found Money Blueprint? Is it more like a retainer or just broken into phases?
Eric: Yeah, for just the Found Money Blueprint, that’s just an hour-long call. It’s half a day of consulting, but they’re only the hook for an hour, and that’s paid upfront in full. If they don’t feel like they’ve got 10 times the amount value from our time together, then I’ll refund their money and donate $100 to their favorite charity. So it puts the onus on me. I take the risk because I want the money upfront, but so far, I have not yet had to do any charitable donations, although I’m not opposed to it.
Rob: It’s a great guarantee though. So how many clients are you working with at one time going through this process?
Eric: The max I’ll ever work with is five. I want to make sure that they get my undivided attention. And while I’m on … The longer process is basically being put on retainer, and I want to make sure that there’s time for an hour-long call once a week if they want it, and just want to make sure that I can deliver what I promise, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I never work with more than five. I really feel like the sweet spot is three, but every now and then I’ve got expensive tastes.
Kira: So for retainers, I feel like I haven’t worked with retainers. They scare me, but a lot of copywriters do. What would you suggest? How can copywriters set up a retainer model so that it benefits them and doesn’t end up really kind of killing their business?
Eric: Getting very clear outcomes. When I started with retainers, I said, “Well, I’ll give you 20 hours a month.” And then you’re trading dollars for hours, and as an entrepreneur … If you just want to be a copywriter, you’ll be a copywriter, charge whatever hourly rate you think you can get away with, and do that. That’s how I got started. But when you really want to shift to being a pre-eminent business of your own, entrepreneurial kind of business, then you need to figure out what makes you unique and how do you design the business so that your operating it at your highest and best use. So there’s clear deliverables, and it’s scalable because …
I’ll give you an example. I just got back from a consulting trip with a high end tennis facility out in Seattle. And now that I have this one in Seattle, now I’m going to go to all the tennis facilities in my local area because now I’ve created compelling copy and stuff that’s worked. I’ve got promotions that work in that zip code. So now my work is halfway done for me, so I’ll just go around to a whole bunch of tennis facilities around here. Who wants to buy this thing that I could still charge the same amount for, but it’s going to take me a quarter of the time to create for you. So I just go deep with the vertical.
Rob: Yeah, I want to explore that idea a little bit more, but before I ask a question about that, your delivering more than copy, it sounds like. It’s not just … Whatever you’re doing on the retainer, the deliverable isn’t just copy, but you’re doing more consulting, you’re doing idea generation, you’re doing all kinds of stuff. Is that right?
Rob: Okay. Cool. So now let’s talk about how you take that and roll it up into a vertical. Like you were saying you develop something for one client. How do you take that and you make it available to other potential clients without violating the information that the client has given you or that client relationship, making sure that all of that’s kosher, but that you can then generate additional revenue from the work that you’ve done in the past?
Eric: So salesmen get commissions, authors get royalties, and a copywriter worth his salt should be able to get anything he wants.
Rob: I like that quote. Let’s put it on the wall, right.
Eric: So what I do with a client in Seattle has very little to do with the local market in Austin here. So I am writing copy, and I expect to get royalties on that copy. So I retain intellectual property rights on all of my copy. I’m giving them an area exclusive in the Seattle area that has very little to nothing to do with what I do in Austin. And actually, the more I can help a business in Austin make money, the more I can go back to my client in Seattle and say, “Hey, this is working in Austin. Why don’t you try it there?” and vice versa. So it’s actually a benefit to my client that I do work in different areas of the country and basically license my intellectual property just like … An artist gets paid on his royalties, so why is what we’re doing any different?
Kira: Okay, can we go into weeds here because we hear a lot of questions from copywriters, especially new ones, about royalties and how do you even set that up with your clients. Is that something that you really have to earn by working as a copywriter for a couple years before you should even think about asking for royalties? What are some basics, just to point all of us in the right direction?
Eric: I want to make sure that I’m clear on what success looks like. Before I begin any project, it’s vision, goals, strategy, and tactics. And the tactics is the copywriting. So I need to understand the vision of what they’re trying to do. We need to set clear and tangible goals, timelines. And the strategy, there’s lots of different ways to skin a cat, as they say. And I want to make sure that if we’re going to say that the copy is going to make ten customers, and each customer is worth $10,000, I want to make sure that I’m getting a 5% royalty. So then I will take a 2.5% advance on those royalties as payment to get started, and then once we hit the ten sales of $10,000, we’ve made $100,000, then I want my $5,000. And then we can renegotiate.
So you have to set it up for success. Identify what you expect the copy to create for the client. Again, that’s why I’m not selling copy. I’m selling customer acquisition, I’m selling increased margin, I’m selling the fact that you don’t need to have ten salespeople selling this thing belly-to-belly. We can just replace half of your efforts with a really solid online marketing machine. And therefore, if you want my help to do that, I only want 5% of the gross sales. So I’ll take an advance on the royalty to get started. And if it doesn’t work, then I better make sure that I don’t spend all that advance because they should be entitled to receiving some of that future commission back. Because, I mean, I’m getting them to part with future money, which is kind of the best way to sell anything. Like I said, I get 2.5 up front from whatever we’ve decided that the copy is worth.
Rob: Interesting. Okay. So one of the push-backs we hear a lot when we start talking about royalties is that it’s really difficult to find clients who have the systems in place to measure the particular contribution that a copywriter makers. So they may have other business activities going on that’s bringing in revenue and they’re unable to figure out what’s the actual contribution that my copy might make or your copy might make. How do find clients that are able to overcome that or is there something in your system where you help them set that up so that they can measure your contribution?
Eric: That’s absolutely the case. You should only work with clients that you know you can get results for and that are easy to work with and are not spinning 75 different plates and then commoditize you. So I specifically work with business owners who are making between one and five million dollars a year. And I’ve been in business for years, and I know that I can get them clear and measurable results. And whether they need my team to built out some click funnels assets or any kind of stuff like that with Google Analytics or the digital infrastructure. We can do that, otherwise I can work with their sales and marketing team, and we tie the direct result from my copy into their sales, and we have very clear systems to measure it. Otherwise, I won’t write the copy for them.
That’s why I work with them in a very different way. You can’t just hire me to write copy because most of the time they can’t actually implement or measure anything, and that’s a frustrating thing for both the copywriter and for the client who’s paid a lot of money for the copy. So I engineer it so that it can’t fail, before I even begin to put pen to paper.
Kira: Okay, so for copywriters, they hear that and they’re like, “Cool. I want to work with companies that are making between a million and five million dollars. That sounds great, but I’m not just even close to being there. I just started.” Can you just back up a bit and just talk to them about how they can even get there as far as what you need to do in the early stages to gain traction and get clients and put yourself out there, because what you’ve done has worked. You’ve made it to this level, but so many copywriters struggle to even reach that level where they can be more particular about who they work with.
Eric: So when I started, I mean Facebook ads were really hot three years ago. And I guess you could still do that, but after spending a lot of time and money dealing with all that stuff, I’ve designed systems that you don’t need to spend any money on advertising. But when I start, I went to my local CrossFit gym and saw that there are only six people in there, and there was room for 25 or 30. I said to the owner, “Hey, it costs you the same whether you’re running this class for 6 or 30. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a full class in here every Monday, Wednesday, Friday?”
“Cool. Well give me $100 for Facebook ads, I’ll run them for this specific class, and when it’s full at the end of the week, then we’ll discuss what it takes to hire me to do this for more than your one class.” So we put $80 in the Facebook ads, and we made over $30,000 in fitness sales.
At that point I said, “Hey, I’m onto something.” And I just went to all the gyms that I liked … I just wanted to workout with my friends, so I just went to all the gyms in the area, offered them the same thing, and I had an ad set and copy that worked, and all I did was just repeat, and stop making it so complicated, and stop trying to reinvent the wheel. I mean, that’s copywriting. There are better copywriters out there than me. There’s no doubt there are people who are way more talented than me, but they get in their own way and over-complicate everything. Business owners want to make sales, they want customers, and they want to not have to stress out over hiring outside consultants and vendors. They don’t want what are you trying to sell them, but if you can get them into the dreamland of automated machines them making money while they sleep, and facilitate that, and actually deliver what you promise, you can charge whatever you want.
Rob: Yeah, what we’re talking about here is systems, right. I mean, you’ve gone beyond the typical systems that copywriters often think about, onboarding, off-boarding, research, and you’re actually systematizing the use of your copy after it’s been created, which I love this idea. And my brain’s kind of going crazy thinking how can I apply this in my own business with my copy clients, and how do I extend that to other people. Outside of the fitness realm, you’ve done this as well. Are there tricks for finding the next step? So once you’ve developed something that’s working is it simply a cold pitch to the next client or is there a better approach than that?
Eric: I have written out my dream 100 clients, and there’s a book called Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes, and I highly recommend any business owner get it. I outlined who are my ideal customers, what does a five-star prospect look like for me, and I only speak to them. I’ve planted the farm and I continue to work the farm. So far I’ve got three of my dream 100 clients already. Once I got the first one, it has made everything else so much easier in my life. So now I’m pretty much by referral, unless you want to go in through my typical sales funnel, but really it’s getting clear on what you want and not being boring. That’s the biggest secret. Don’t hide. I mean, I am kind of painfully introverted myself, but in order to be successful, I had to unlearn boring and go out into the world and make an offer.
So many people are afraid to make the offer and be shut down. And I’ve had to have a lot of conversations before I ever got any real traction with this. And it’s not as simple as just cold emailing people, but that’s how it started. I started with the cold email, trying to write auto-responders for people and trying to do all the things that we think are cool, and I was trying to sell copy, but nobody cares. Nobody cares until you show them what it really even means.
Kira: Okay, I just ordered the book. So thank you for the recommendation. It’ll be here tomorrow. Cool. I got distracted on Amazon. But my question is niche, like you’re going deep with your audience, right. You were talking about going into gyms, and then now we can talk about this more about you work with vets. Why is this so important for copywriters to really understand their audience and have that list of 100 dream clients? Why is niche-ing down important?
Eric: You already have a secret and a secret affinity with these people. The vet community is very tight. I’ve tried to push this rock up the hill so hard. I mean, I’m a pretty simple guy, and I’ve done things the hard way my entire life. And it wasn’t until I figure out, okay, what are my actual strengths? Who are the people who actually want to talk to me, and how can I use our secret language, use the secret cool kid handshake? How do I communicate with these people who already want to hear what I’m saying?
And again, Dan Kennedy’s a big mentor of mine. He calls it dog whistles. So how do you dog whistle to your people with only the language that you would know? So stop hiding from your background, embrace it, and figure out how you can leverage that to make more impact.
Rob: I want to go back to something we touched on at the very beginning of our interview with your book. You’ve recently done a collaboration with Laura Hanly, who has been on our podcast before, talking about how to write a book. And you talked about how do you basically grow your readership or the post-writing process for the book, and how you use that in your business. Will you tell us a little bit about the ideas you expressed in that seminar that you put together?
Eric: Sure. I mean, it really is the same kind of things that we’ve been talking about here. I firmly believe that you need to USP before you do anything else. And then you go and have conversations with people. Does it resonate with them? Then you figure out what is your customer actually worth to you? And if dialing into your lifetime value, your marginal net worth, getting everything you can out of everything you’ve got … Jay Abraham’s another one of my mentors. And if you can get just one person to refer for you, that doubles the lifetime value of your customer. So it allows you to spend a lot more in order to acquire them, and when you can do that, you can out-muscle Amazon. Amazon cannot spend all that much money to acquire you.
And creating an experience and creating a reason why the people should do business with you and showing up unlike anybody else can because you know what they’re worth because I really, genuinely care … But I also see a dollar sign on their forehead, and if I can show them a good experience, it doubles. And if I could show them a really good experience … And again, Jay Abraham’s got a product … 93 referral systems. So I’ve got 93 different ways to ask for a referral without sounding like a jackass. I can turn that one client into a lot of clients.
So just showing up and doing a good job is really not that hard. It’s really not that complicated. And I’d encourage everybody to look at their past and look for opportunities and people that they can reach out to because, like I said in the beginning of this conversation, it doesn’t take money to make money, it takes courage. And just showing other people how to get what they want is the biggest secret to sales. And finding out that there are people in your arms length, in your three foot world, that you can help them make a lot of money … Then you really don’t need to look very far.
Kira: All right. This is kind of a random question, but I’m curious. What does your typical day look like? What’s your routine for doing your best work?
Eric: I get up at 5:30 and begin with some hippy-dippy journaling, meditation stuff. Begin with a strength-training workout because I refuse to start my day with weakness. And then I get all worked up and frothed up, and I go and I wrote copy for three hours after I workout. And then I’m pretty much done for the day. And I’ll have some consulting calls. I really believe that you need to spend two hours on the phone growing your business every single day. So I start my phone calls in the afternoon. On Mondays, I got standup comedy. On Tuesdays, I go to two-step lessons because now that I’m down here in Texas, I want to be able to spin pretty girls around. So Tuesdays are two-step. Wednesday … I’ve got my activities that I force myself to get outside of my comfort zone. I continually push myself and read and draw cartoons. I’ve got a pretty rigid schedule that I force myself to have a life outside of copywriting.
Rob: Yeah. You mention cartooning, which we teased in the intro as well, and I’ve seen you take notes at meetings and it’s mostly cartoons, right? Tell us a little bit about that, why you cartoon as opposed to note-take, and how you’ve used those cartoons to make contacts and grow your business.
Eric: So I guess I’m kind of learning disabled. That’s probably why I didn’t go to college and just joined the Army. I would read a page in a book and forget every single thing I just read. So I had to figure out a way to get the knowledge nuggets into my brain and simplify the thing, so I would go back … Because the hardest thing to do is read a book for the second time, but it’s so necessary. So I read it, I take a visual sketch note. These things are in vogue right now, but I take the simplified … How I take the gray walls of boring text and turn it into something useful … And I just did it for myself and not for other people. The teacher’s like slapping your hand for doodling, but now I doodle for dollars. So the joke’s on them. It was just a self-serving kind of thing.
I’m in Sean D’Souza’s world, and he has a formal cartooning course. And I wanted to take my visual tools and this graphic facilitation, I guess you could call it, and turn it into more of a playful and thought-provoking … And how do you look at something from directions? And once you get it on paper, you can amplify it and play with it and cartoon it and caricature it. It’s been a thinking game since the very beginning. So Sean helped me dial in that ability to be more playful with my drawings. When I did that, they got more engaging. And now I take visual notes of these very expensive marketing seminars and programs and books and speeches that people are very interested in seeing what I’ve come up with. And now I do graphic facilitation while I’m in my Found Money Blueprint process and my consulting practice. And it’s a sales and marketing cartoon, so marketooning, if you will.
Kira: Very cool. So Sean D’Souza, we interviewed him. It’s episode 49 for anyone listening who wants to check that out. My final question for you is what’s the future of copywriting look like?
Eric: I think there is a tremendous opportunity in copywriting. I’m from Baltimore, and I’ve met with Joe Schriefer at Agora, and really I’m very, very tempted to go work for Agora. Ray Edwards actually talked me out of it. There is so much opportunity everywhere you look. There’s so much terrible marketing. There’s so much lack of regard for customer experience, that all you need to do is partner with a business and say, “Let me communicate with your customers after the first sale.” How often do you get love notes from your favorite place to go spend money? I mean, no restaurant has ever offered me an opportunity to get a free appetizer if I come back on their slowest day of the week. The gyms, they never try to get me to spend any more money on supplements or retail or let me know about what cool things are going on in my neighborhood. And that’s been a huge opportunity for me to throw Sweat and Socialize parties for my fitness facilities. And I just show up, I’m like anybody else, and I encourage everybody else.
There’s so much opportunity all around you if you stop focusing on just getting paid to write copy, and you just go and create value for the business owners and the clients that the patrons of these businesses … You can’t help but be paid for what you’re worth. I just see it as a huge opportunity to improve customer experience and improve the communications because people are so connected now, but we’ve never been so disconnected. There’s an opportunity to show up.
I’m like anybody else. I laugh when people are talking to me about messenger bots because your customer is not an idiot. I will never buy something from some Facebook messenger bot, especially anything that costs any real money. So I think it’s a huge opportunity to connect with people and take them on a customer journey that’s far beyond the first initial sale.
Rob: That’s such good advice. We should probably end there, but I’m going to ruin it by asking one more question, Eric. And that is have you ever thought about getting a tattoo?
Eric: I have too many. I have too many.
Rob: Tell us your favorite because, yeah, if anybody meets you, you’re pretty inked. It’s actually kind of a dramatic look. You look very tough as you walk around, obviously. You’re a strong guy. What’s your favorite tattoo, what’s the story?
Eric: They all have so many stories. I had full sleeves by the time I was 21.
Rob: Oh, wow.
Eric: They told me I would never get a job and that they were going to kick me out of the army and all this kind of stuff. Now, especially in Austin, everybody … I mean there’s people with tattoos on their faces here, which is kind of strange to me. But I don’t really have a favorite one. They all have a lot of meaning and a lot of stories behind them. And some of them are definitely better than other ones, both in the quality of the ink and the quality of the story. So I don’t really have a favorite. It’s a conversation starter when someone walks up to me and says, “Oh, I love your tattoos.”
I always say, “Well, yeah. I love them too. That’s why I got them.” And just playfully difficult with people just to draw them into the conversation. Now they’re fun conversation starters, but sorry, I can’t tell you which one’s my favorite. I can show you. You can pick out your favorite if you want.
Rob: Fair enough. Eric, if somebody wants to connect with you, learn more about you, maybe even learn more about your blueprint or your process, where would they find you online?
Eric: Yeah, it’s pretty simple, Ericbakey.com. E-R-I-C-B-A-K-E-Y.com. And I’ve got a special report on there called, “Return On Relationship.” It’s the results metrics that actually matter. It shows you how to figure out the lifetime value of your customer, how to improve it, and I also follow up with semi-daily direct marketing doodles, so you can kind of see what I’m doing as far as being playfully difficult with the business owners that I’ve worked with.
Rob: Very cool.
Kira: Awesome. Thank you so much, Eric, for your time and for being so open with us and sharing so much about your business.
Rob: Yeah, thank you.
Eric: Yeah, hopefully it was helpful. Thank you for having me.
Rob: You’ve been listening to The Copywriter Club Podcastwith Kira Hug and Rob Marsh. If you like what you’ve heard, you can help us spread the word by subscribing in iTunes and by leaving a review. For show notes, a full transcript, and links to our free Facebook community, visit thecopywriterclub.com.
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