Today I interview Ray Edwards. Ray is a Christian businessman – a copywriter by trade. There’s a lot of confusion today among the Christian community on the matters of having a business and the ethics of marketing.
I caught up with Ray to ask him some questions about these topics, as he’s a seasoned expert in the field. For those of you who are like me and give much of your income to the poor, you’ll want to learn how you can help others more by having a business of your own.
I hope you’ll read the interview and check out Ray’s resources.
Ray, you are a professional copywriter. Many of my blog readers are bloggers, authors, pastors and/or teachers in some capacity. What exactly is a copywriter and how can your services be of help to my readers?
Ray Edwards: Copywriting is persuasion in print. These days, “print” can mean ink on paper or more likely words on a screen.
The copywriter’s job is to tell a story that persuades the reader to take action. This skill is really about more than mere advertising and marketing. It’s about impacting human behavior.
One of the greatest copywriters to ever work in the advertising field was a man named Rosser Reeves. He’s best known for creating the USP, or Unique Selling Proposition – an idea taught in nearly every marketing course. Reeves created the tagline for M&M candies: “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
One day Reeves and a coworker were having lunch in Central Park. On their way back to Madison Avenue they passed a beggar, who was holding a sign and donation cup. The sign read: I am blind.
The beggar was mostly ignored by passersby.
Reeves turned to his colleague and said, “I bet I can change just a few words on that sign, and dramatically improve his results.”
Reeves explained to the blind man that he was one of the world’s greatest copywriters and he wanted to help. The blind man allowed Reeves to rewrite his sign.
Almost instantly, after rewriting the sign, Reeves and his colleague watched as people began to stop, look around, and then make donations.
What did Reeves write?
It is springtime. And I’m blind.
A tiny shift in words can make a powerful impact on how they are received.
You’ve written a book called Writing Riches. Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are readers going to benefit from reading your book?”
Ray Edwards: It’s really a cookbook of persuasion recipes. It should be useful to you if you want more people to open your emails, to visit your website, to engage with you in social media, and to buy your products and services.
The more astute reader of the book will quickly realize that these recipes are also useful for selling more than just products and services; they are equally as effective at selling ideas, position, and advocacy.
Tell us a bit about the experiences that shaped the insights in the book.
Ray Edwards: I’ve been writing ad copy in one form or another since I was 14 years old. I spent over 25 years in the radio broadcasting business. In the early 2000’s I began writing promotions for Internet entrepreneurs. When I realized that radio was in trouble as an industry, and the Internet was a brand-new frontier with exciting possibilities, I started my own online copywriting business.
In very short order, I began offering more comprehensive marketing advice. Over the last few years, we’ve been specializing in Internet product launches-a very interesting new phenomena. It’s possible to engineer large “cash flow events” online in a way that simply can’t be done through traditional media.
I had the very good fortune of connecting with great clients at the beginning of my business. I’ve worked with people like Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and many other well-known authors and speakers.
One day, when I realized I was booked up for months ahead of time and couldn’t take on a new client if I wanted to, I realized, “I should write a book.”
The book is for people who want to learn how to do this for themselves, or who can’t afford my fees, or can’t afford to wait for me to be available.
Tell us about the other services you offer.
Ray Edwards: I do a limited amount of one-on-one consulting, and these days I do very little copywriting for clients. I take on a limited number of private clients each year, and work very closely with them. I’m more interested these days in working with people in a partnership role, for fee plus percentage of business growth. If I have a vested interest in the growth of the business, that serves both me and the client.
For those who can’t afford or don’t qualify for my one-on-one help, we offer a group coaching program, and do frequent workshops and seminars.
Finally, for people just starting out, who are financially strapped, or just want to see what I’m all about, we have free resources available at our website.
Occasionally, someone will post a nasty comment on this blog saying that authors who sell books are doing something wrong. (Other authors get the same thing from time to time.) These people obviously aren’t aware that I don’t personally profit from my royalties (that money goes toward ministry expenses and helping the poor and needy). Nevertheless, there are still a few Christians out there who got it in their heads somehow that all Christian authors who allow a publisher to sell their books are doing something wrong. Can you speak to this?
Ray Edwards: I believe this is the result of a misunderstanding of Scripture.
The Bible itself says: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (3 John 1:2)
In what things does he say he wants us to prosper? “In all things.” Last time I checked, all things includes money. Frank, I love what you do, putting the money toward ministry expenses in helping the poor and needy.
I believe there’s a place for that. I also love what other Christian entrepreneurs do when they build wealth and businesses that prosper their employees, their vendors, their customers, clients, and yes-gasp!-themselves.
Now, there is a danger here. The danger is forgetting that money is not your treasure – God is. When you have that straight, money becomes a blessing to you and to everyone you serve.
Similar question to the above: You’re a Christian and a successful businessman. I’ve met a handful of Christians (I literally mean a handful, yet they do exist) who felt that a follower of Jesus who has a business, or does marketing, advertising, copywriting, etc. is doing something sinful. Can you address that?
Ray Edwards: I believe there are three great tricks Satan has played on the church, in an attempt to rob us of the power and authority Jesus granted us when he ascended into heaven. Satan’s oldest trick, of course, is deception. It’s really the only card he has left to play. He has attacked the church at three crucial points:
- The deception that says Grace is a doctrine, and not the gospel itself. This deception began very early, as Paul’s letter to the Galatians demonstrates.
- The deception that says the power of the Holy Spirit became limited once the New Testament canon was complete. I understand the desire to believe this, because it explains our powerlessness. The only problem with this doctrine is it isn’t in the Bible.
- The deception that says money is evil, and we should not get any of it. If you believe this, you have a real difficulty, because Jesus himself advised his followers to use unrighteous Mammon to win influence in the world.
We would all love it if the Bible told us exactly how much money we are allowed to have, how many square feet we could have in our house, and how much we were free to spend on a car.
But that would be the Law all over again. And Jesus has freed us from that.
Of course, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
I believe that is the point of the story of the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking what he must do to be saved.
Preachers love to tell us how Jesus instructed this man to sell everything he had, give to the poor, and come follow the Lord. The young ruler went away sad, because he had great possessions. Usually, the sermon ends with Jesus’s pointed statement about how it’s “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven.”
That makes for a neat sermon ending, but it’s not where the story ended. The disciples were puzzled by Jesus’s response, because their Hebrew culture taught them if they had God’s favor they would be rich. They even asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus tells them that no one who has given up everything to follow him will fail to be blessed. In fact, he tells them they will receive 100 times what they sacrificed in this lifetime.
It’s puzzling, at first, because on one hand Jesus seems to say money prevents us from getting into heaven; on the other hand he clearly says he’ll give us 100 times as much in this lifetime.
What’s the point he’s driving at?
I believe it’s simply this: it’s not about the money. It’s about the position of your heart as it relates to the money. If money is your ultimate treasure, then you’re serving the spiritual entity known as Mammon. If Jesus is your treasure, you’re safe to receive great wealth, to prosper with purpose.
Tell us the difference between manipulation and persuasion?
Ray Edwards: Manipulation results in you making a decision you will later regret. Persuasion results in you making a decision you will later celebrate.
What do you say to the person who writes you a nasty email charging you of “peddling books” when you’ve simply let your opt-in subscribed readers know that a new book is available?
Ray Edwards: This kind of response is indicative of a deeper belief. That belief is: being paid means your motives are bad.
Whether we’re talking about books, products, or services, the issue at stake is always the same: the state of your heart.
I passionately promote and sell books, products, and services. I do it because I feel I have real solutions to real problems experienced by real people. The guiding question for me is, “Does this serve God and the person to whom I’m selling?”
If I have a solution to a problem that causes another person pain, and I don’t offer the solution, I am robbing that person of relief. Perhaps relief that only I can provide.
The natural question is, why don’t you simply give away your books and your products and your services for free?
As with all questions surrounding money, it’s never as simple as it seems.
For some people, giving them a solution for free means they will not value it and therefore it will not help them.
For other people, when you give them one solution for free, they feel they are entitled to have all solutions for free. This also does not serve them.
But more central to my answer is this: I believe that capitalism was God’s idea, that it is clearly revealed in the Old Testament, and that it is indicative of principles that are inextricably built into Creation itself.
There are many lessons to be learned from studying God’s approach to business and commerce. My first advice to business consulting clients is that they read the book of Proverbs daily, and for the rest of their lives.
It’s biblical to give away bread to those who need it; it’s not biblical to give away your seed (your capital). Without the seed, there will be no bread next year.
One of the most startling scriptures about business is Proverbs 11:26: “The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.”
What else do you want my readers to know about your services?
Ray Edwards: My company is made up of a small band of remarkable people who are out to change the world through business. We feel that God has called us to a unique endeavor. We’re helping business owners and entrepreneurs bring the Kingdom of God to the marketplace.
We believe that business in and of itself is good and Godly. If that resonates with you, I invite you to get to know us. There is plenty of free material available at RayEdwards.com, and I do a free weekly online radio show which you can listen to at RayEdwardsPodcast.com.