How Colin Theriot Runs A Mid-6-figure Facebook Group Business And How To Get Started In Copywriting
I’m interviewing Colin Theriot, and he’s actually a retired copy writer, who used to do seven or eight figure launches for different clients. Now he runs the biggest mastermind for copy writers on Facebook, that I’m aware of, and it’s his fulltime business.
It’s probably one of the most active Facebook communities, which I’m aware of. It’s got him to the point where he teaches people how to start their own communities, and he teaches people how to write copy. This year, he is expected to make two hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand dollars from his Facebook group, which has fourteen thousand members.
Colin’s biggest tips for copy writers starting out, is to avoid mistakes, to keep in mind the mode people are in when they consume content on the internet. They are usually by themselves, on their own personal computer, or device. The mind-set he finds that it puts people in, is a one to one communication channel, because it’s them and their computer, and usually they’re just by themselves, and focused on it. Unlike a billboard, or a television show that they might be watching with the family.
When he’s creating something for online, he keeps it in mind when creating a sales letter. In his view, it should be written as though it’s coming from one person, and it’s written for one other person.
He uses the same approach with his email list: he doesn’t open with ‘hey guys.’ It should be written as though it’s to that one person reading it.
Another tip of Colin’s, is that a lot of people tend to get caught up, in copy writing being artistic or creative, in the way that writing a novel might be. It’s less about that, but about using a structure, and a format that you know has been successful elsewhere, and then you try to replicate that, with whatever it is that you’re selling.
In sales, the selling process is a lot more structured, and orderly: you can go through a checklist and worry about the creativity once you’ve gone through your checklist, and got all the big pieces of out of the way. For example, if you’re writing an offer, and you’re writing some kind of guarantee, usually your credit card processer will make you have some sort of money back guarantee window, that you have to offer.
Colin’s view, is if you’re required to do it, put it explicitly in your copy, and take advantage of the risk reversal affect it might have. A guarantee, is something that will improve the conversion rate on almost any copy, and you don’t have to be very creative to write a good guarantee. You just have to state it pretty plainly, and let people know they can get their money back if they want to.
That’s one thing to keep in mind: don’t think of it as this art form, or this craft that you have to spend years and years developing. He’s found that it’s really fast, and easy to learn if you jump in head first, and actually get some copy out there with traffic going to it, and actually learn what’s working and what’s not.
He’s found that this approach will serve you better, than studying all the time. He’s found that you’ve just got to get out there, write copy and see what works. If you’re involved in a specific niche, and you want to write copy for that space, he’s found that you’re probably already looking in that space to see what’s being launched, what kind of copy there is, and what are the good products, that people are promoting.
Colin’s view, is to look in your own niche, and find people who’re releasing products fairly frequently. Those people that need copy, can buy a lot of it. Then find spots in their business, whether it’s in their email sequence, whether it’s on their sales pages, or their videos, or upsells where you feel there’s something missing, that you could add, and do better.
Offer to do it for them, and if they try it, and it works then talk about payment. When first starting out, at first offer your services really cheap, and then mention that you’re looking for more work (it’s almost like a foot in the door).
You can use it to build up your career, by using other peoples’ traffic, and get your foot in the door. His advice if you have zero experience, is to not try and sell your services to clients, if you haven’t successfully sold anything. The trick to bypass that is to hone your skills, on your own sales material, for yourself, and at a point people, and clients are going to want to give you money for your services. You’re now at least good enough to sell, because you’ve convinced them to buy from you.
Colin would then take what you did for yourself, and then apply it to their business. Colin has two groups: the first with about fourteen thousand members, and the second, which is a jobs group with two thousand members.
Colin has managed to monetize the group through several ways: the first is the topic, he knows that people already spend money on copy writing, and spend money to learn and invest. He knows it’s a topic, which has money being spent on it, as part of it. He’s found that you need to start a topic, which people are going to spend money on somewhere.
Then once he’s started the group, he looks at it as a way to generate user generated content, which is what you want the group to be, and where a lot of people go wrong. You want the group to be a self-filling source, on that topic, because that’s what makes people get addicted to the group, and visit frequently.
The trick he uses to accomplish this, is to recruit people who post a lot about that topic, and give them a reason to post in your group, and that can be as simple as giving them really great feedback. Or you can invite them to your group, and mention that your audience loves this stuff, ask them if you can repost their stuff, but that you’d prefer they join the group, and they’ll get all these comments.
Colin drives comments, by commenting himself, then the audience pipes in, and that poster is then encouraged to come back to his group again, and post something in the same vein.
At some point, you will have enough people that comment frequently, post frequently, and the content of the group sort of runs itself, and then that part is taken care of. Then you don’t need to worry about the group, once it hits that tipping point.
Once Colin’s at that point, it’s like having an email list that’s self-warming, because they are sitting in the group all day, keeping themselves warm, on whatever topic it is. Then he’s found it very simple to offer products (he doesn’t do affiliate products), training products, which are related directly to the topic of the group. If they’re interested in what the group’s talking about, it’s pre desired as now something they’d buy anyway.
From that point, it’s not a hard sell, to sell copy writing to a group, and you could offer a sales letter template for example, and then link them to where they can buy it. It won’t feel like he’s launching products into their face: it seems like a very natural offer to make, one copy writer to another.
Versus the approach of I’m the guru at the top of the mountain, and here’s this product you need to buy, because I’m so smart. His products aren’t really in that vein, they are much more ‘here’s what I used in my career, and if you use this training, I’ll show you how to use it in your own business.’
The way Colin promotes products inside the group, is that the whole group is focused on driving these conversations that are happening in the group at that moment, so the kind of products Colin thinks will work best in that environment, are live trainings.
Whenever Colin wants to offer a new training, or he thinks that a certain product would be good to sell to the group, he creates it, by setting up a live webinar, and he gets people to pay to attend the live webinar, and they get the recording as well.
He structures the webinar, so it’s very tightly focused on a conversation that just happened in the group. For example there was a large conversation about how to write email sequences, which will cause promotions, but won’t cause promotional burnout, because the lists aren’t thinking that he’s sending them advertisements.
Colin created specific content and training, for that topic, and then invited people to attend live. Now he just packages up a recording, and sells it to new members as the group grows.
Over the course of the existence of the group, which has been a couple of years now, Colin has six or seven original trainings, that are just him, and then what he’s started doing is having guests come on, and teach them an aspect that he doesn’t know. He uses the same set up with this: where he invites people to attend the live training, where they can ask questions, and interact, and then he sells the recording afterwards.
That’s the bulk of his business model, for the group, and then there’s other things he’s done, like consulting packages. If you’re an expert, and you have this kind of group, that’s something people will buy off of you.
He’s also sold a monthly newsletter, which is basically an original from Colin, and a collection of links to good conversations in the cult, from times past that people may have missed, because they won’t remember them.
Colin also has his own mastermind, where he teaches people how to build their own groups, like he has. He’s really enjoyed trying out all these different monetization models, inside of what’s essentially a self-warming list.
There hasn’t been anything Colin has thought of, that he’d try to sell inside the group, that people haven’t been very positive and responsive to. He’s even sold T-shirts for members. Even merchandising is a possibility, if you have a cool identity, and people like being part of that community.
When Colin gets someone to come in, and do a speech, the way he picks them, is by them having a business component, that he wants to learn about himself. Then Colin knows he’ll ask good questions that his audience will get good information out of. It’s usually people that he knows and follows. There’s negotiation back and forth, but the main offer is that they split the training on the front end, and then the people who do the talks, are marketers who sell stuff on the back end as well, and they can make their offer on the back end, as long as the content they gave, was worth the price people paid to attend. It can’t be a pitch, it can have one at the end, but it has to be predominantly content.
They will keep all of the back end, and then Colin will keep all of the front end on the recordings, after they’ve split the initial launch (when it’s live training). Colin likes to keep the deal simple, and he wants the ability to sell the training for ever, to future members, as the group grows.
To make this convenient, he will keep the whole front end, and the guest can keep the whole back end. This way he’s basically advertising them forever, for free. Whatever the guest receives on their product they get to keep.
Several things that Colin implemented early on, to keep his group orderly and in line, was to deliberately keep it very low spam, very well behaved, very community orientated, where the members respect the place. There’s such a strong sense of community that sort they sort of self-police themselves.
What a lot of people do incorrectly, when trying to introduce rules, is they make a sticky post with all these complicated rules, to try and enforce a certain type of behaviour, or decorum into the group.
Colin feels if you open the group with a bunch of requirements, for how you have to behave once you come in, it will attract two kinds of people: the first being very strict, very rules orientated, who’ll tattle a lot, and it also attracts the kind of person, who will just take what they want from the group, and they will figure out a way around the wording of particular rules, to flaunt them.
However, like Colin has done, if you make it very vague, and let people know that they’re being monitored, and anything that they do which will take away from the spirit of the group will be dealt with. It forces people to behave themselves, and act like grownups. Treat people like grownups, and they tend to rise to that challenge.
He’s found that group won’t have a lot of nonsense to deal with, and when they violate it, they are dealt with swiftly, and usually publicly. If someone posts in his group something that’s unacceptable, like spam, depending on what it is, he might let them stay in the group, and engage them harshly.
He’ll call them out on why they are crapping on the group, and upsetting people. The reason he does it publicly, is it lets the community know they are being policed, and that there’s a Sheriff that actually cares about the quality of the group.
What happens when someone posts content in the group, that doesn’t belong there, the members are the ones who jump in, and run the violator out of the group, instead of Colin doing it. You want the group policed this way, because you don’t want things to live long in the group that don’t belong there. Otherwise people don’t realise those things don’t belong there.
If you run a group, and spam posts are a problem, and they linger around for days, people who’re members of the group will conclude that you allow that kind of thing. The perspective on the group, and what it’s supposed to be about changes, and they’ll start to devalue it, if that happens.
Instead, what Colin does, is create a culture in the group, which rapidly identifies attacks on the group. (Spammers, and outsiders posting stuff that doesn’t belong there).
The result of having a self-policing group, is that you won’t get people become disengaged, because they don’t feel like it’s a very high quality community.
His view is to be ruthless, and treat the group as if it’s a place you want to hang out in. You want the group to be a place people will visit. You’re the boss, and you’re in charge of that. You don’t want people to worry about the content, and the quality degrading.
Colin’s main way that he grew the group initially, was out of a Skype group he had, and the skype group was comprised of people that he had been networking with: colleagues, copy writers, or clients who bought copy from him. They all knew each other from networking events, or working with each other online, so he started off with a small community.
He started to spend more time on Facebook, and he moved the group over there, and he got a domain for it, which re directed people to the Facebook group, so it was easy to share with people (he called it colintheriot.com). From that point on, the networking he did, grew the network by word of mouth.
Then he got in the habit of mentioning it, if he was posting in other places. So if he was posting in someone else’s community online, and they asked a question that he had already posted on his website, he’d repost the link to his website, and mention he’d wrote about it online on his website. He didn’t bother to post a url, as the website was easily findable with a quick search of Google.
At a certain point, once enough members join on Facebook, they started promoting it for him: when you join a group on Facebook, on a desktop interface, in the right hand column it will sometimes show you how many members of the group you’re in, are a member of this other group. Because copy writing is a universal topic, so many other people were in marketing groups, that it was widely advertised that way.
Facebook’s incentive to get people, into other groups, is to get them to stay online for longer (they did a lot of advertising for him). What also helps when starting a group, is taking advantage of key words. Select the key words that are going to fit your business, because when you type in the key words, it will show you the users that are following that keyword, in some kind of way. If you tag the key words in a certain way, it will give you a bite out of an audience, and that’s how Facebook decides who to show those ads to, based on those interests (if you start your own group, don’t skip that part, because it will be a big benefit).
When Colin is looking for a copy writer, you not only want to have writing samples, but it also helps to have someone who is familiar with selling, in your particular niche. You don’t want that to be a deal breaker, because it’s possible someone who hasn’t written for your particular niche will do a very good job. What you want to look for, is to make sure they have written for a bunch of different niches if they haven’t written for yours, and that they’ve had success in all of them.
This will be an indication that they can change voices, and angles very well. It’s not a detriment: some copy writers, including Colin are very specialized. He specialized in business to business, and marketing software services that were being sold on the internet.
When he went freelance, he didn’t take on jobs that didn’t fit in his particular mould. He stayed very focused in his mould, but some copy writers with narrow experience, will say yes to every job that comes along, without realising it can be very different. If they’re not familiar with different modes of selling, make sure that they either have experience in your field, or diverse enough experience, which would indicate that even though they don’t have experience in your field, they’d still be able to match it.
The next one, would be making sure you have some kind of safety, to the point that if they don’t deliver, you aren’t out the entire cost of the copy. So when Colin was a copywriter, he would do half of his fee upfront to get started and then half on delivery, when he provided the agreed upon materials.
This let them know that he wasn’t going to get his full payment, if he didn’t deliver what he promised, and what was agreed up on. This is something you want to try and get out of writers you hire, and for writers it’s difficult, because for writers that are working and hungry, they’ll accept that, because they know they’re still going to get paid as they are going to do a good job.
Then for writers that are super well established, and elite, these people have the ability to demand full payment upfront. But it should immediately apparent, based upon their pedigree, and price, whether they are in that category or not.
If you are hiring someone off Odesk, make sure you have samples, and they are in your niche. Then make sure you are protected, and not throwing money away, if they don’t hold up on their end of the bargain. Once you find someone good, keep paying them well, and you can keep buying more of their time, and you’ll get more of their exclusivity.
If you find someone good, the last thing you want someone to be, is too busy to take your future products. Once you find someone that gets your business, and gets your customers, try and get as much work out of them as you can.
Depending on the state you live in (I’m in the United States), non-competes aren’t very enforceable, but he has been in a position where he was asked to sign a non-compete, and he refused. He sent over the signed contract, and deleted the non-compete out of the contract. He explained to them, that because he only works in a small field: “unless you’re going to pay me what would equate to my yearly salary, for however many years, I can’t agree to that, because you want ownership of exclusivity, and if you want that, then we can talk about it.” No one ever offers to pay five years of your salary so you enter a non-compete.
But when he explains it like this, people understand. From the business owner stand point, he can see why they’d want that, but then again, the idea is that person they’re trying to hire, wouldn’t ever have had those expertise if they’d signed an exclusivity contract, because the diversity, and doing different things for other people, will mean Colin offers better than the people they’ve employeed before.
He would not say it’s not beneficial to try and tie a copy writer down. A non-disclosure agreement, if you have some proprietary thing, that you don’t want them to leak to a competitor in some way, that kind of thing would be enforceable, and Colin completely understands why they’d want him to agree to that, before looking at a job.
What he’d recommend, for a copy writer, is if you’re uncomfortable with that, and you don’t want to deal with it (Colin is always wary of legal issues), anything he thought that might even have a hint of being a legal problem, he’d avoid it and go after something easier. If you only operate in a certain niche, and a potential employer wants you to sign a non-disclosure, and you feel like they’d come back and sue you, if you write for another competitor, because they claim that you are leaking their proprietary information, avoid it, and say you don’t want to sign a non-disclosure, so they don’t even show it to you. Then you don’t even have to worry about.
If you write on a high level, and you’re comfortable keeping people’s confidence, and you know you can, and you won’t get in trouble, then it’s ok to agree to one.
Colin’s found when someone uses templates for copy writing all the time, it can get generic, and take away from the quality of it, but it really does depend on the market, in Colin’s view.
When people use templates, there are a wide variety of them. Colin uses, and sells his own templates, but the way his templates are, they’re more conceptual templates, rather than strict wording , because he thinks it’s more the ideas and the flow of the of the story, that persuades customers, rather than very specific wording. If the templates someone’s using, are mad lib style, where they only change the product name, and the creator’s name, and very few variables, then you can fall into that kind of thing. If your template is over used in your particular market, customers might see it repeated, and it might give them a negative opinion of what you’re offering.
But if the person using that template, if no one in your market has seen that template, and it works, then it’s not the wrong solution. The reason Colin made his templates the way he did, was so that you don’t end up with a cookie cutter letter.
If your audience is familiar with the heroes journey story formula, which is a formula for writing fiction, and every Disney film ever written use that formula, every hero, every action story follows this formula, but they don’t feel like they are watching the same movie over and over (it’s the same pattern, but enough of the details are changed, so no one ever notices it’s a pattern), those kind of templates, are what he prefers.
Generally speaking, in terms of the order and checklist of things, you need to include an offer, if you want maximum or universal conversion. I can’t think of an offer, where not having a bonus, won’t increase conversions. I can’t think of an offer where you have multiple closes, where you ask for the sale multiple times, won’t increase conversions, up to a certain point.
There are certain things you can offer, where it doesn’t matter who it’s being made to, it can only help make the offer convert better. If you have an offer which doesn’t have any price justification, there’s no way adding good price justifications, won’t increase conversions. It can’t help but make it better, unless you somehow accidentally scare people away, but he’s never seen that happen.
With that said, Colin’s view is not to be wary of someone who uses templates; it’s been proven time after time to work.
Copy writing, is the only form of writing, where you can definitely say this piece is better than that piece, when you test. If you test it, and if it’s written with a template, it doesn’t matter, because it’s performed better.
If the whole point of running it, is to get the maximum amount of sales, it shouldn’t matter as much as the performance does.
I’ve seen companies with an audience, a tight community, and the audience is not used to getting sold to quite hard, from what I’ve seen, is that a copy writer would come in, and from the outside he’d have this impression, that all your community buys everything from you.
The copy writer would then use a hard sell copy on the audience, and they wouldn’t receive it well. In this situation, where you have a tight community: the kind where people feel like they belong, but it also belongs to them (they take ownership of that community mentally, and they care about it).
They get more value, than from just what the community is about it. They feel like they have friends there, and it’s a place they can go to, rather than just a place that has articles they can read. In Colin’s experience, once they cross that barrier, it becomes offensive to them, when you violate what they feel is the spirit of the community. It’s not been commercialized, and suddenly doing this, it will feel like a violation of what they expect.
So when Colin is teaching on this point, and their intent is to monetize it, add something to buy, the first day it’s open, and stick it in a pin post, so that you reserve the right to sell them things for ever, because it’s always been that way. You want to create this context.
When it’s an outsider, trying to push into the community, people can innately detect that, and you don’t want that. The trick with keeping a community engaged, but constantly buying things, is to offer them a solution, to their problems. No matter how you put a community together: if it’s an activity, if it’s something that people do, they’re going to have issues they need to discuss, and they are going to have questions they will bring to the community, to discuss.
When Colin offers them things to buy, if the things you’re offering solve these problems, then you almost don’t need any sales persuasion ever, because they are right there discussing the problem, and if in the corner, they see the solution to their problem that they were talking about, they will want it, and they will go buy it. Colin doesn’t have to sell it to them, because it was conveniently there, while they were talking about their issue.
What’s good about this, is it makes it a sort of passive selling environment, and all you have to do is pay attention to the problems people are talking about, and put a solution in their view, and they’ll notice it, and want to grab it.
Colin has also found, if you offer to put together a solution for them, and fit it together, and then go from there, it won’t feel like they are being sold to, it will feel like Colin is offering them a solution to their problem, because they were asking for it, and the trick with the community, for Colin to not make them feel like they will burn out, is to constantly tap into whatever problems they bring up, and constantly tap in to that. Then it feels to them, like he is doing them a favour, instead of ramming a product down their neck, that they hadn’t asked for.
Let them steer the content, you don’t have to try that hard. Put three people in a room, and within an hour they’ll complain about something. Put three strangers together in a room, and in the early part of the conversation they’ll be figuring each other out, but the second they figure out what they have in common, they’ll start complaining about mutual problems, and gripes they have in common. If you’re a good listener, you can make a lot of money, giving them solutions to the problems they complain about.
If you want to get in touch with Colin, go to his website: cultofcopy.com. He’s also working on a blog at that domain, but if you go there, that will point you in the right direction. You do have to request to join, and he adds people in batches, so if it takes a couple of days to join, it’s just because he hasn’t done it yet. He can get up to a hundred requests per day. He has to go through them, and see which ones are spam bots. It doesn’t take him long, but he only does it every few days. You can also search Colin’s name on Facebook, and get in touch with him that way, if you’re interested.
If you’re interested in getting hired as a copywriter, or hiring one, the cult of copy, has a spinoff group to hire copy writers. He has a specific group just for that, so if you don’t want to talk about copy writing all day, but just hire one, that would be the way to do it.
If you’re interested in copy writing, then definitely implement this, and if you have any questions, comment down below.