The great horned owl of email marketing


I thought of the great horned owl when I saw a guy complaining online about how his unsubscribes have increased even though he has made more sales.

Unsubscribes are like the number on the scale – people get so fixated on that one number.

Anyway, I thought of the great horned owls because I only hear their distinctive hoots in January and February.

Those are the times I most need to hear them too because it’s the middle of winter and there is nothing else about nature that is exciting to me at that time of year. Two years ago, when we had bitter cold temps for days and weeks on end, the great horned owls were very vocal and active and I was grateful for their presence.

Last week I finally heard the great horned owl for the fist time this winter. I woke up at midnight because of his hoots and I was overjoyed to hear them.

Then I heard it again in the early morning a couple days later.

There are probably plenty of people who don’t care to hear owls hooting (i.e unsubscribes) or who don’t even notice the hoots (I pity this people). The crows hate owls. I heard a flock of them cawing like mad last week, which was an indication to me that an owl was nearby.

There are also plenty of email copywriters and marketers that would be appalled that the only time the owl makes herself heard is two months out of the year, so the owl isn’t a good example to use.

But the reason the owl has a lesson for us is that her voice is distinctive (the female owl is larger than the male and hoots just as much as the male).

No matter how long you’ve gone without hearing it, you recognize it.

The lessons:

Even if you’ve neglected your list, you can wake it up again if you have a recognizable voice.

Having a distinct voice is what sets you apart in the email marketing world.

Everyone says “content is king” but that’s only true if you have a great voice that sets you apart from the crowd.

With the owl, it’s not just his content that is king, but he is king. He attracts haters (crows) and gets countless unsubscribes, but he is king of whatever forest or yard he sets talons in.

He always gets a ton of sales (just look at all the pellets he coughs up wherever he roosts) so he doesn’t give a hoot about unsubscribes. Owls always sit calmly when crows caw at them.

In my A Year of Email Copywriting course, one of the topics I cover is how to wake up a dead list. There is also a lesson on how to add personality to your emails, which is one of the best ways to find your voice:

You’ll get one email a week from me for 52 weeks.

You’re able to email back and forth with me as well and gave input on topics you want covered. Hope to see you there.


Photo: Vicki DeLoach

Filed under: Email Marketing

Are you as smart as a crow in your email marketing?


Have you walked past or heard any crows recently and noticed all the email marketing tips they gave you?

If not, no worries. I’ll fill you in.

Crows are the smartest birds, with some researchers saying they have the intelligence of a seven-year-old child. They are the only non-primates to make and use tools.

Lots of people get excited about rare birds, but overlook the wonders of the common crow, so I make a point to notice and interact with the crows when they are in my yard.

We have this routine with peanuts: they caw, I toss out the peanuts while talking to them.

Then they caw and caw until all their friends come.

Then, and only then, do they fly to the ground and eat all the peanuts.

Except the last two months I haven’t hear a peep from them.

Early yesterday morning a crow on the very top of a distant tree cawed at me. He was far enough away that I wouldn’t have noticed him otherwise.

I said hello but was in a hurry and didn’t have time to go get peanuts.

That one exchange was enough for him to “warm up his list,” so to speak, because now crows were on my mind again.

This morning, first thing I heard after waking up, was a crow.

I was still very tired but I grabbed some peanuts and tossed them in the backyard and front yard while the crow watched carefully.

But then I noticed something.

The crow dropped down to a very low branch and stared and stared at the backyard peanuts.

He really wanted them but went off to the front yard peanuts instead.

It was hard for him to walk on the snow but he managed to snag a couple of peanuts and fly off to a branch to crack them open.

I looked at the backyard snow and could see a layer of ice on it.

The crow surmised he couldn’t walk on it.

Oops! My bad.

So I put out more peanuts in an area where crows could walk and instantly he flew away to get his friends.

Some lessons:

Build a rapport with one customer and you’ll attract many more.

Crows never forget a human face. If you do right by a crow, they don’t forget you, even if you haven’t thrown peanuts out for them for a while.

Haven’t emailed your list every day, weekly, or even monthly for a while?

The customers you have a rapport with haven’t forgotten you.

If they can’t use what you offer them, you can use their feedback to ensure they get what have to offer, by changing the price, or offering something else, etc.

There’s a lot of blather out there about how to get more sales from your list, without considering it’s a two way street.

In other words, it’s not just about your list’s response rates. How do you respond to your list?

It’s worth thinking about.

Also, so far in my A Year of Email Copywriting course, two of the lessons were written based on customer request.

There’s plenty of back and forth because the lessons are sent once a week by email.

No noisy Facebook groups or membership sites or webinars.

There’s as much, or as little, one-on-one as you’d like.

Check it out. You won’t have to walk on icy snow to get there.



Photo: Sam Carpenter


Filed under: Email Marketing

The side effects of the post-binge watching blues




This column originally appeared in The Herald-Independent on January 21, 2016.

I hope someday they make the Post-Binge Watching Blues an official diagnosis.

I get an acute case of this every winter, when I do most of my binge watching, because it’s too cold to do anything else. The letdown after finishing a binge, with nothing on the immediate horizon to watch, leaves me bereft and disoriented.

I haven’t seen anything yet that describes the side effects of binge-watching each show, so I’ll get the conversation started by listing them for a few of the shows I’ve binged:

“House, M.D.”?—?Side effects are the fear of suddenly having a violent seizure or coughing up blood, because you’ve seen that happen in each of the 150-plus episodes. You diagnose every ailment of your family members and friends as sarcoidosis. At work, you have an overwhelming urge to bounce a tennis ball against the wall while thinking and interrupt brainstorming sessions with withering sarcastic remarks. Tendency to say “everybody lies” as often as possible.

“House of Cards”?—?This was my gateway show that introduced me to binge watching. You always remember your first, and it remains my favorite. I can hardly wait for the next season on March 4. Side effects: silently crying inside because you don’t have Claire’s cheekbones or wardrobe and compensating for this by buying Oxford shirts like hers. Tendency to say, “You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment,” at every opportunity.

“Monk”?—?It’s a tradition in my house to do mini-binges on a season or two of this every summer. We’ve seen every episode multiple times. The garbage strike episode with Alice Cooper is our favorite. Side effects: the urge to touch every fence and lamppost when walking outdoors. Saying “You’ll thank me later,” “Here’s what happened” and “He’s the guy,” at every opportunity. Regularly stirring up “Who is better, Natalie or Sharona?” debates during car trips. Frequent attempts to imitate Monk’s maniacal laugh in the garbage strike episode.

One could also do a cocktail approach to binge-watching. For example, one episode of season 1 “House,” followed by a chaser of two “Monks” from season three, then a shot of “Breaking Bad” to really get the party started. Well, I could go on, but I just found a new show to binge-watch. Whew.

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Filed under: Humor Columns

Gym offers an exercise in community


This Humor Me column appeared originally in the Herald-Independent on January 14, 2016. Why do I also write humor columns? This explains it.

A recent article said some people turn to CrossFit gyms the way others seek out church because of the supportive community.

I found that amusing, because, for me, the presence of other people at the gym is the worst part about going to the gym.

My greatest achievements at the gym aren’t those times I managed to jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes straight without stopping (or dying). They are the two times in five years I managed to have the entire gym all to myself. One of these was during a snowstorm a few years ago. The other time was at 10 a.m. this past Mother’s Day.

The next best thing to an empty gym is when I get a treadmill that has an empty treadmill on either side of me, creating the illusion of privacy. Unfortunately I’m not always so lucky.

The way I endure treadmill claustrophobia is to occasionally glance at my neighbor’s treadmill screen and see their stats. What are those new large treadmill screens for if not for snooping? It’s a lot more interesting than looking at my own stats and makes the time go faster.

Speaking of church, it’s a good thing there isn’t a “Don’t covet thy neighbor’s stats” commandment at my gym, because my neighbor’s speed is usually 10 mph or more, whereas I’m barely galumphing along. They aren’t hanging on to the treadmill handles for dear life like me, so I often don’t get to see their pulse, but when I do, it’s usually only 120. A peek at their timer shows they have been on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes without any signs of fatigue. To ward off despair, I mentally review my justifications about my poor running performance, and before I know it, my workout is over.

Things get trickier when I step off the treadmill and venture over to the section with the kettlebells and weights. In this area, it’s harder to have privacy. Occasionally, someone will even smile at me, which always makes me wonder what exercise I did that looked foolish.

We almost never talk to each other, yet these are people that see me at my worst, contorting and exerting, and wearing attire I wouldn’t wear in public. A few times, I’ve noticed after leaving that my yoga pants were inside out the entire time, and no one laughed at me or said anything. On second thought, if this is what community is, I’ll take it.


Photo: Farhad sh

Filed under: Humor Columns

An email copy vending machine


short story vending machine

Your email copy could take a lesson from France, which has vending machines that dispense short stories.

You can choose a story that takes one, three, or five minutes to read. There are 600 to choose from and they are free of charge.

Pretty cool, huh?

There’s something special about print that stands out in a way a website of 600 short stories couldn’t match.

Along those same lines your email copy can stand out in a way social media posts can’t.

The best way is through stories.

The Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats says the basic structure of a fairy tale story is like a Mad Lib that you fill in with your own elements: “Once upon a time, there was ________. Every day, ______. One day, ________. Because of that, _________. Because of that, __________. Until finally, _________.”

Most stories basically fit into that type of formula. The above formula would work great with a testimonial story.

And speaking of stories, your business should have a Hero’s Journey story.

And your emails should regularly have micro stories.

I go into detail about how to write these stories during the first month of my A Year of Email Copywriting course.

You’ll get one email a week, every Sunday, with lessons you can apply to your email copywriting right away.


P.S. And speaking of print, I recently started writing humor columns again for my local newspaper. Here’s my latest one,, in which I make fun of my introverted approach to fitness.

Filed under: Email Copywriting

Putting the WHOAman in email copy


“He wants you to make it more ballsy,” his team would sometimes say about my sales copy drafts.

There I was a female copywriter in the testosterone world of Internet Marketing.

Furthermore, this big name client was the complete opposite of me in personality, background, and everything else.

What was I thinking?

How could I be ballsy enough for this environment?

It seems like such a disadvantage to be a woman (or WHOAman, as Mr Subtle used to call us female copywriters back in the day of Michel Fortin’s Copywriting Board) in a testosterone world.

Or was it?

I was on retainer for this client for almost a year, churning out over 100 emails and a few sales pages.

It was where I cut my teeth as an email copywriter and learned how to tell micro stories – the everyday stories that are told in a single email that build rapport with customers and lead to more sales.

As it turned out, his team never asked for my email drafts to be more ballsy, only my sales letters.

It was clear that the email storytelling, in his direct, assertive voice, but including details only my WHOAmanly intuitive eye would think to include, worked as it was. No other copywriter wrote this much email copy for him.

He tacked a bonus onto one of the retainer payments because an email I wrote about a roller coaster ride made him so much money.

Telling stories is the best way, and perhaps the only way, to add personality to your email copy.

Stories are also the only way you can send emails daily, or on a regular basis, without wearing out your list and getting a ton of opt-outs.

Copy that has hype and reads like it was written like a used car salesman might work for a sales page.

But in the emails you have to talk like a real person, demonstrate you understand your customer’s fears and wants, and even show your weaknesses sometimes.

So how do you write stories day in and day out for your own business?

If you’re an email copywriter who writes for clients, how do you tell first person stories in the client’s voice and sound authentic?

I’m so glad you asked.

Week five of my A Year of Email Copywriting goes into great detail about this.

I also show you the roller coaster email, plus three other emails I’ve written for clients over the years, in demonstrating to you how to write stories.

Week four is all about the Hero’s Journey story that every entrepreneur must have and how as a copywriter you uncover this story if you or your client don’t already have one.

If you sign up for A Year of Email Copywriting, and want me to send you weeks four and five right away, just email me and I’ll be happy to do that.

Filed under: Email Copywriting

How to use the Star Wars approach to storytelling in your email copy


Star Wars. Yawn.

Way back when the first movie was in theaters our class took a field trip to see the movie, but I was underwhelmed.

In college I sat through marathon viewings of however many Star Wars movies were available at that time (I was probably trying to impress the guys), but I still wasn’t impressed

I haven’t attempted to watch a Star Wars movie since and lately have happily been binge-watching House M.D. on Netflix instead while others are going off to the theaters to watch the latest movie.

Star Wars has one big thing going for it, however. As soon as I learned it I saw instantly how it applies to developing the storytelling skills necessary for writing email copy.

George Lucas was a friend and student of  writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell.

Lucas followed Campbell’s stages of the Hero’s Journey when writing Star Wars, which is why that story endures and endures.

In thinking back over the clients I’ve had over the years, the most successful are those that have had these types of stories and used them in their marketing.

It was never difficult to write email copy for them, because I could always use elements of their story in the emails when necessary.

Some entrepreneurs don’t have a story they want to share even if you try and browbeat it out of them and have no interest in stories. These are clients to run away from.

The worst are entrepreneurs who insist they want stories in their emails, but it quickly becomes clear they request this only because they think it’s the latest fad. Oddly, these folks won’t pony up any details you can use for a story, so you either have to write fiction, or run away. I recommend the latter.

Fortunately there are many sane entrepreneurs out there who recognize they need a copywriter’s help to draw out their story. In week three of A Year of Email Copywriting I give you the template to use to create a story for a business based on Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

It’s a 17 steps process that gives you a story from which you will be able to write many emails that build rapport with customers and get more sales.

Photo: JD Hancock

Filed under: Email CopywritingStories/Storytelling

Trump’s email copywriting malpractice


Imagine having an email list of thousands of true fans and not sending them any email.

That is the huge mistake Donald Trump has been making in Iowa. One strategist called this “malpractice.”

As a result Trump hasn’t reached key benchmarks in his campaign and lags behind other candidates in readiness for the primaries.

This lack of email might end up hurting him more than his controversial statements.

What’s interesting is that this email oversight was mentioned on the front page of the New York Times. It made mention of other old school techniques of door to door visits and phone calls. The article made no mention of Trumps’ Facebook fan page, Twitter, or other social media.

It’s yet more proof that email marketing is as important as ever.

And there’s no reason you have to neglect your list.

You could write the emails yourself. My Copywriter’s Notebook on Kindle and A Year of Email Copywriting will give you tips and a good headstart.

If you’re in the weight loss and fitness niche, my 12 Days of Christmas sale on 12 pre-written emails will give you emails you can send without having to write any copy.

If you are Donald Trump, or are ignoring your list like him, and need an email copywriter, contact me

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Filed under: Email CopywritingEmail Marketing

Email copy that will make you lose weight

9. weight-loss

There is nothing like being on leprosy medication to make one rethink one’s diet.

A couple of months ago I accidentally ate some gluten and got hammered with a terrible, painful, blistering rash.

It was NOT leprosy but the main medicine to treat it is one of the meds used to treat leprosy.

Unfortunately my face was one of the areas afflicted with it. My cheeks were fire engine red, which made me look constantly embarrassed, which technically I was.

It also made it look like I had just come from a workout, which technically I had, given that the Prednisone I was also on made me constantly move about.

Anyway, diet and health has always been my favorite topic to research and write copy about, but that experience made me research healthy diets all the more.

And I now have 12 brand new pre-written emails about fitness and weight loss.

If you already sell in the fitness or weight loss niche, these will help you get a headstart on your New Year’s resolutions promotion.

If you don’t sell in this niche, then, hey, just buy ’em and read ’em and maybe lose some weight in the process.

I was going to offer these as a 12 Days of Christmas sale. But since I’m way ahead of my deadline, I’ll start offering them now, the 12 days before Christmas.


And, yes, this is a sign that in January 2016 my Money Making Email store will be chock full of new pre-written emails. Thanks for asking. These 12 emails are just the beginning.



Photo: TipsTimesAdmin

Filed under: Uncategorized

A copywriter’s “third ear”


This week on Facebook I came across yet another long list of must-read copywriting books.

It’s a great list, and I’m pleased to see Herschell Gordon Lewis on it. He’s one of my favorites.

There’s one huge oversight though: on this four page list there is only one book written by a woman.

To not even list Bernice Fitz-Gibbon’s book, the copywriter David Oglivy said is the best retail copywriter of the 20th century? I mean c’mon.

Also, I don’t see enough lists for copywriters of books NOT about copywriting that make you a better copywriter.

The whole reason to become an entrepreneur is to become a better person.

A skill that improves your copywriting skills and your life is the sweet spot.

One of my favorite books like this is Win Your Case by Gerry Spence.

Half the book is about how to use storytelling in a courtroom, or at work, in the boardroom, or in any situation where you need to make your case about something.

The other half is about how to listen and prepare yourself for telling a story.

In this section he talks about how to hear with your “third ear.” He also calls it “nonhearing.”

He gives a listening exercise that every copywritier – and anyone who wants to improve in their relationships – should do regularly.

I talk more about that exercise, and other tips from this book, inside A Year of Copywriting.

It’s a weekly email that will give you practical exercises to do to improve your copywriting.

We will also rap about more books that will improve your copywriting that aren’t specifically about copywriting

There will also be discussion of Bernice’s book too, of course (so there).

Unlike most copywriting courses, this isn’t one-way communication – you can interact with me by email. No noisy forum or FB group.

Click here to sign up.



Photo: Anne Elliott

Filed under: BooksEmail Copywriting

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