Not fun to admit…

I have this recurring “tic” that holds me back at critical times. For example: Not too long after I started building up my first email newsletter and website, I was browsing Twitter and I started to see a lot of people talking about this guy named Wes. Turns out, Wes was also working on becoming […]

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Han Solo’s writing hack

George Lucas’s storytelling in the Star Wars saga is captivating. The dialog though, could be pretty atrocious. For my money, the “prequels” were by far the worst in this department. (If you want a chuckle, here are 50 Quotes from the Star Wars prequels, ranked in order of terribleness.) But the original movies have some […]

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No ideas

A pair of parallel client projects reminds me of a key factor in avoiding writer’s block. Both projects were similar—a dozen lead generation emails, plus some accompanying social media copy. The experience of actually writing each campaign couldn’t have been more different. The first campaign was downright painful to pull together. Every time I finished […]

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Too staccato

In response to my recent email formatting foray, a reader commented that he found my use of short paragraphs “too staccato.” Why do I do this? First off, I agree that my style is pretty staccato. Personally I like reading emails that are paced with a rat-a-tat-tat rhythm. Electronic devices are inherently distracting, and I […]

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How to turn scanners into readers

Last week I beat up on the idea of making your emails easy to scan by using formatting like section headers and bolding to make the main ideas stand out. Scannable emails encourage scanning. Instead you want to make your emails looking inviting to read, like the page of a good novel. Well, here’s a […]

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Well, that’s messed up

So in case you missed it, yesterday I tried a little test— I stuck a line of bolded text near the top of my email, and asked readers to write back with whether the formatting caused their eye to skip around while they were reading. I made a bit of a miscalculation that I think […]

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This was really weird

Yesterday I got an email from someone that I just started following. And I noticed something strange that this guy was doing with the formatting in his emails that made it much harder for me to focus on the content. I was going to write about this yesterday, but decided it might be a fluke. […]

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Fish ain’t bitin’

I have this one client that I’ve been working with for a few months now, and so far I haven’t been able to get any traction for him. He’s a consultant, and the particular service he offers is one that really all of his target organizations need. They’re not biting though. What to do? I’ve […]

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Slay them sacred cows

Recently the hosts of the Maze Marketing podcast invited me on their show. In the interview I tackled a bunch of email marketing tactics that don’t work the way most people think. Inactive subscribers: Should they stay or should they go? When to nurture and when to sell in your emails How […]

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Headhunters in the crosshairs

Last week I mentioned how I like to ask my copywriting clients about the enemies in their industry. I got a question from a subscriber who got the basic concept but was a little fuzzy on the implementation. After a little back and forth, I realized his confusion boiled down to: WHOSE enemies to write […]

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The RIGHT kind of attention

Yesterday’s email about AIDA and the perils of chasing attention first generated some good dialog. Lead generation maestro Ian Brodie shared a quote from “mad man” Bill Bernbach: Be provocative. But be sure your provocativeness stems from your product. You are not right if in your ad you stand a man on his head just […]

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Where AIDA goes awry

Right now I’m working on several outreach campaigns (aka “cold email”) with a client. This client creates highly targeted campaigns to generate leads with executives in B2B niches. To date they’ve had success with an email format that makes heavy use of some eye-catching personalization techniques to get the recipient’s attention. When I first saw […]

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Who’s the enemy?

In a few minutes I’ll be jumping on a call to with a client to talk about the “avatar” for their ideal client. One of the most productive questions that I like to ask is: Who are their enemies? This often sets my clients off into “rant mode.” The results are always entertaining, and I […]

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Grow plants, grow!

Rhubarb is a favorite around my house. My wife loves rhubarb pie in particular. So this year I bought a packet of seeds and started half a dozen rhubarb plants in little peat pots. The plants are outside now soaking up the sun. They’re still pretty tiny but growing fast. Rhubarb requires some patience, because […]

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Paper, Rock, Scissors

When you’re running an offer with a hard deadline, is it better to extend the “open cart” window so that your email subscribers have time to more time to fall under the persuasive spell of your launch content? Or should you go with a shorter deadline and send several emails a day (aka “Shock ‘n’ […]

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Longer vs. shorter?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to making a deadline-driven offer to your email list. One approach says: People need time to consume all the content you’re sending out. Setting a longer “open cart” window allows your subscribers time to get more value from the content, which generates more interest in your […]

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Handsaw massacre

The other day a massive thunderstorm blew through my neighborhood—wind gusts up to 70 mph and dime-sized hail. No major damage, but the storm did shear a massive branch off of one of the black cherry trees behind my house, sending it toppling into my backyard. Actually this “branch” is more like a mid-sized tree. […]

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Mash them hot buttons

One of my favorite types of stories to use in emails are “hot button” stories. When I’m interviewing a client, or a client’s customer, I’m always on the alert for topics that get their dander up. Example: I was interviewing a mortgage guy, and he went off on a rant about how real estate agents […]

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Deleted scenes

Just because the P.S. in your emails isn’t the Thor’s hammer of persuasion that some seem to think, doesn’t mean you should never include one. There are two ways that I regularly use a P.S.: For “deleted scenes.” An email really should be about ONE thing. Tell one story to make one point. Sometimes […]

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Guardians of the Inbox

Last weekend I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. (Yeah, I know—it’s been out for quite a while.) Thoroughly enjoyed it. One thing I’ve noticed about all of the Marvel movies is there’s almost always a “bonus scene” or two during the credits. Often these short clips are critical to the bigger arc of the […]

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Do more people read the P.S.?

Copywriting lore says that the P.S. gets the highest readership of any part of your message. If that’s true, then the P.S. is the best place to highlight a call to action. This is something I’ve experimented with. One time I tried a “clean” A/B test to see if moving the call to action into […]

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Brad proves me wrong?

My recent experiment with “early bird” pricing seems to show that it’s not a great fit for a product launch with a short sales window. Reader Brad Farris has a counter example: I have a client who offers live, in-person, courses. They have a much longer on-sale period (3 months). Adding an additional deadline significantly […]

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Is it done yet?

Ever see a pressure cooker? There’s a popular one now called the Instant Pot. In a pressure cooker, all of the seams seal up tight so that the steam is trapped. The air pressure builds up inside, and it raises the boiling point of water. A hunk of beef that would normally take 6 hours […]

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Early bird gets… the sale?

In the past I’ve been pretty skeptical of “early bird” offers. The goal with early bird offers is to create multiple deadlines—first as the price is going up, and again when the real deadline is looming. Now deadlines ARE one of the most powerful tools in marketing. However the idea that you could effectively use […]

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Early bird sales—yay or nay?

Q: What’s twice good as a deadline when it comes to getting people to take action? A: Why, two deadlines naturally! At least, that seems to be the theory behind offering “early bird” pricing. Now, the early bird thing makes a lot of sense for events. With an event, you start the promotions months ahead […]

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