SUBJECT LINE:  What To Do About Cheap Haircuts!


When I was first learning about marketing… I was told a simple story about a hairdressing salon.

The salon was in a small town. It had no competition and was charging a healthy price for their services (around $30 for a trim). The local people were happy and the salon owner was happy.

Then one day… everything changed!

A new salon came into town and turned everything upside down.

To get business, they immediately offered cheaper prices… so you know what the locals did, don’t you?

Of course… they went to the new salon. It was cheap and it was new.

The old salon dropped their prices to try and compete. And the fickle locals returned.

The price war raged on and was starting to get out of hand (it got down to $5 a haircut! Ridiculous). The owner of the old salon finally had the good sense to call in a clever marketer to help them.

The marketer looked at the situation carefully and told them to go back to their original price. He then wrote 4 words on the chalk board out the front of the store.

Those 4 words turned everything around and the clients returned in their droves.

What were those 4 words?

Great question! And I’ll tell you in a second, because this kind of thing doesn’t only happen in hairdressing.

A week ago, I had an impromptu “job interview” for an up and coming business in the personal development space. They have big plans for their company and they need great quality copy to help them get their message out to their market.

The interview went well and I made it to the next level. I got to speak to the CEO. We got along well and it became very clear I was exactly who they needed to help them with their mission. I had written every type of copy they needed and could help them design their marketing funnel.

I was asked for samples of my work (which I sent) and in return I was sent what their latest copywriter had done for them. The CEO liked the copy a lot and he was happily telling me it only cost him $700 for the sales letter. He asked me to look at it for him. (I think he wanted me to compare myself to this copy and adjust the fee I had quoted him.)

When I opened the document, the first thing I noticed was the headline, but not in a good way. I tried reading it several times… it didn’t make sense. I even read it out loud… but it still didn’t make sense.

So I moved on to the deck copy (the copy below the headline), and there was more of the same.

I kept reading into the body copy where it finally improved and started to make sense. But, that is way too late to be making any sense.

Yes, it’s true I read beyond the headline… but only because I was critiquing it, not because I was interested or curious. If I were a regular person, I would have seen the headline and bounced straight off the page. The funny thing is, I am exactly their target market.

I sent my critique to the CEO and said although it looks like he got himself a bargain, the cheap copy will cost him a fortune in lost sales, especially when he starts paying for traffic. And would probably need to be redone by a copywriter, like me, in the future.

He was mortified.

Long story short…

I’m not sure we’ll be working together.

All I can say is… “what looks like a great deal… is not always so great after all.”

It’s exactly like those $5 haircuts.

Which leads me to…

Knowledge Nugget #30: Know Your Value… And Don’t Discount!

It would have been so easy for me to undercut the other copywriter’s price… but why would I do that?

When I read the copy, it was easy to see that they had swiped another company’s successful letter, the headline was confusing and the letter lacked any trace of a Big Idea. The bar had not been set incredibly high!

In fact, don’t worry about us not being on the same “playing field”… we weren’t even on the same “continent.”

So, why would I drop my fee to $700?

Besides… there was another problem that I didn’t tell the CEO, but when a copywriter swipes other company’s copy… it shouldn’t be from the same industry!

Because… a) it’s tacky and wrong and… b) it makes his company look like a “Me Too” wanna-be marketer! (Not a great start to world domination if you ask me!)

You never want to be a “me too” business.

And this is what the old hairdressing salon was in danger of becoming until the clever marketer wrote these 4 words on their chalkboard. …

“We Fix $5 Haircuts!”

 What a genius! It’s so simple yet so many businesses forget their value. They get stuck in a price war and they end up with PTSD (Price To Sell Discounting).

I’ve been fortunate to be mentored by Trevor “Toecracker” Crook and Harlan Kilstein who drummed into me how valuable my skills and knowledge are. Without them I would have been tempted to play the “my price is lower than theirs” game… and in that game the copywriters never win, and the clients only think they win.

I was thinking of putting a banner on my website… “I Fix Cheap Copy!” but, not everyone would get it.  And besides, I really don’t like re-writing weak copy. I prefer to write it correctly the first time!

Our society is conditioned to price shop and to be proud of getting a bargain… but sometimes those “savings” end up costing us more in the not too distant future.

Like the company who approached me to write for them, like countless companies in the past who expect me to compete on price… and end up telling me I’m too dear (I use American Writer’s and Artists Inc’s pricing guidelines to quote, so I know I’m in the right ball park!)

It’s easy to get cheap copy from hundreds of sites… but it’s hard to find a copywriter who knows your industry as well as you do (sometimes better), has the skills and track record. And when you do find them… you’re going to have to pay them handsomely.

As someone said to me recently, great copywriters aren’t cheap and cheap copywriters aren’t great. I tend to agree.

I know we all have to start somewhere, but it’s our choice on whether we stay there or not. I’m aiming at becoming great at copywriting… not at discounting my value.

So here’s a question for you…

“Do You Do $5 Haircuts… Or Do You Fix Them?

Until next week… be safe, take care and be awesome!


Pauline xxx

Pauline Longdon
a.k.a. “The Copy Alchemist”

   When I was in the Army they used to say the only difference between a bad haircut and a good haircut is… a week! Now I know better, I don’t agree. You’d need more than a weeks worth of hair growth to fix a messed up $5 haircut. 

P.P.S.   When it comes to copy… time doesn’t make bad copy better. Nothing does… not even a “re-write” (I don’t believe there is such a thing as a quick or simple re-write. Most badly written copy lacks a hook and/or big idea. You can’t just whack it in afterwards… it would be like trying to put an over looked egg into a finished pavlova!) Do it right the first time and you’ll only have to pay once! 

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