Basketball coach gives me a PHD in copywriting

LaunchParty_TrustWriting a 100 word story gave me the chance to meet coach Bo Ryan last September. Bo is a revered figure around these here parts in Wisconsin.

He took the Badgers all the way to the NCAA championship game last March.

My dad, an avid Badgers fan, died suddenly last March hours after watching the Badgers beat Oregon on their way to the championship round.

Meeting Bo was important to me because it was a way to honor my dad’s memory.

Even though this was a brief meeting, I prepared in earnest and read Bo’s biography the week before meeting him.

I researched online.

I took notes.

I practiced pronouncing the name of Bo’s favorite author, David Maraniss.

I found out the day I was to meet Bo was the same day Maraniss’s new book about Detroit was to be released.

I learned how Bo is a master persuader. He excels at recruiting kids by meeting them where they are at and getting to know them as people.

In his book he talked about his PHD.

It’s his favorite acronym and stands for Poor, Hungry, Driven.

He says it’s a mindset all old school coaches who worked their way up from the bottom talk about and maintain, even during NCAA championship games.

Finally the moment arrived when I met Bo.

As we shook hands he said, “We’ve met before haven’t we? Didn’t you attend one of my basketball camps in Platteville?”

I didn’t expect that and felt flattered and honored by the question.

Bo thinks I’m a former basketball player!

Unfortunately I had to tell him I did not attend one of his legendary camps back in the day.

I loved playing basketball as a kid but a junior high coach ruined it for me.

Bo wanted to know where I was from and we exchanged pleasantries for a bit.

Then I asked my question.

“Did you know David Maranis’s new book about Detroit comes out today?”

Now it was his turn to be surprised.

He did not know that was the book release date and said he would go out later that day and buy the book.

He went on to tell me a great story about his friendships with the authors James Patterson and David Maranis.

There are many lessons I took away from this meeting with Bo:

Keep the focus on your customer and ask them very specific questions.

Build a rapport with them and meet them where they are at (email is the best way to do this of course).

Have a PHD mindset at all times.

It also set me to thinking about the role coaching plays in my own career.

Copywriting and coaching are two activities I perform regularly, but separately.

Now I am finally combining the two.

Go here to get the details.

Hope to literally talk to you soon.
P.S. Here is the 100 word story I wrote that gave me the chance to meet Bo: “My dad, a devoted Badgers fan, passed away suddenly on March 23, less than 12 hours after he watched the Badgers beat Oregon in the NCAA tournament. In our grief we gathered around the TV for the other games, as a way of honoring his memory. It was bittersweet to watch the Badgers make the championship game without him; we couldn’t help but wonder if he somehow had a hand in it. If dad was still alive he would get a kick out of knowing I met Bo Ryan. I simply want to shake Bo’s hand and say “Thank you.”

Filed under: CoachingEmail Copywriting

Clouds in your copy, clouds in your copy


There probably isn’t enough negativity in your business.

For starters:

When is the last time you looked up at the clouds?

I mean stopped and really looked at them.

Maybe it was the last time there was a storm in your area.

We alll look at the clouds then to gather information about the storm.

The last time I really thought about clouds was during the lunar eclipse last month.

I hoped clouds wouldn’t block the view.

I was only thinking about how clouds get in the way.

Even though the sight of clouds in a nightime sky is a very cool thing.

Anyway, philosopher Byung-Chul recently wrote about how we constantly follow the incessant command to achieve.

When every experience must be exceptional, even a lunar eclipse.




Creation fatigue.

These are the norm.

He even goes so far to say, ““Depression is the sickness of a society that suffers from excessive positivity.”

This is why a not-to-do list is even more important than a To Do list.

It gives you negative space in your business.

Sending email can quickly eat up most of your negative space.

Especially if you send email to multiple lists or are an affiliate marketer.

Which is why I have 427 pre-written emails for sale.

Your email copy itself needs negative space too.

I’ll have more on that next time.

And, hey, it’s Sunday.

Time for some of the “profound idleness” Byung-Chui prescribes.

Step outside.

Spend a couple minutes giving the clouds your full attention.

Not to get information, but to get inspiration.

They will remind you to stop and not-to-do.

Maybe you will be lucky enough to see cirrus clouds.

Those are the wispy ones that move 200-300 mph hour but, to us on the ground, appear to be moving gracefully.

Filed under: Email Copywriting

Got your copywriting ears on?

star trek


One of the fun parts of my free range childhood, in addition to the neighborhood tackle football games with no pads, treehouse, and banana seat bikes, was walkie talkies.

One of the neighbor boys had Star Trek walke talkies. I admired those the way kids today get excited for the latest iPhone.

My walkie talkies were much more boring looking, but they fascinated me anyway.

I liked the morse code cheat sheet printed on it.

It was fun talking to friends on them while playing outside.

But the most exciting times were when I came across truckers having a conversation and I joined in by lowering my voice and pretending to be a trucker myself.

No doubt they could tell I was just a kid (and fortunately the truckers never said anything inappropriate!).

Talking to them in their lingo is what made it so fun:

“Breaker 1-9.”

“Roger that.”

“Got your ears on?”

“10-4 Good Buddy”

“What’s your 20?”

Those walkie talkie days are long over, but those principles still apply today as a copywriter.

Building a rapport with your customers, and talking to them in their lingo, even when you aren’t part of that market yourself, is what creates repeat customers.

However, if you are a copywriter, or an affiliate marketer, it can be a challenge to constantly come up with a steady stream of email copy in multiple niches.

Sometiimes you need some backup.

Maybe you need to devote a period of time to other aspects of your business, yet you don’t want to slack off on sending emails.

Fortunately I have over a year’s worth of pre-written emails, which will give you a lever to pull during those times.

427 of them, to be exact, in a variety of niches.

It’s a great big convoy of email.

Over and out.





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Filed under: Email Copywriting

Business (and life) lessons from sheep pig Babe


“Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be
ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.”

Here is a tip the next time you find yourself reaching for yet an other business book to read.

When it comes to developing skills in managing, leadership, coaching… and being an overall better
human being… watch the movie Babe instead.

Babe is a pig who finds success doing the work of a sheep dog.

Not only that, sheep dog work is the domain of alpha sheep dogs, who herd the sheep by nipping at them
and dominating them, whereas Babe is kind and gentle.

Yet Babe ends up performing even better than the sheep dogs.


He befriends the sheep dog Fly in her moment of need and gains a friend and ally who trusts him even when
others doubt him.

Babe doesn’t remain in a silo (or, in his case, a pig pen). Even though he was told to never leave the
boundaries of the farm yard, one day he senses distress in the sheep pasture. His core value is be useful and
protect his team, rather than keep his head down, so he races off to the pasture. He is not defined by a
job description. In this act of disobedience he ends up staving off a huge loss for the farm.

He has the courage to use his own strengths; rather than yell and bite he kindly asks the sheep to do what needs to be done. In business speak, he sees KPIs as a result, not as something to manage to.

Furthermore, he never talks down to the sheep even though the sheep dogs told him sheep are
stupid. He speaks eloquently to the sheep. For example: “Beautifully done. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you all. Now for one last favor. If the three ladies with collars would kindly walk out of the ring I would be very much obliged.”

Babe doesn’t whine. Even during a period of great self-doubt, when he loses trust in the the top leadership of the farm. Because of the seeds sown through his previous hard work, and the development of his extended network (including the alpha sheep dogs), his colleagues comes through for him just when Babe thinks he needs to give up.

Are the alpha dogs all bad?

Not at all. The alpha dog Rex, who spends a portion of the movie marinating in resentment over Babe’s
success, ends up removing a significant barrier for Babe, so Babe can learn the password of a
different group of sheep and communicate with them.

Rex exemplifies the very best of what managers do: remove barriers so that their employees can grow
as people and move forward with their tasks.

Babe advances to a higher level, Rex’s confidence in his own leadership is restored, the farm is a fully functioning unit again. Let’s not forget the farmer, the CEO of the farm; he is the visionary who, even though farm expenses exceed income, trusted his instinct regarding letting Babe work as a sheep pig.

As the farmer says to Babe after his big accomplishment, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”


Filed under: Business

Grit will help you start your own business


Remember those comic book ads from back in the day? I’m pretty sure the Grit ad in the Richie Rich comic books I loved to read was the first ad I ever saw that seized my imagination and made me want to start my own business.

I never succumbed to the temptation to sell Grit, however. Although I did once indulge in a purchase of X-ray specs. The conversion rate of those comic book ads was probably high.

Anyway that Grit memory was the first thing that popped into my mind when I listened to the NPR Ted Radio podcast about how grit is the key to success.

What is grit? According to psychology professor Angela Lee Duckworth:

Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Duckworth’s research shows that grit is a better indicator of success than IQ and family background.

How to foster grit in our kids and ourselves? Knowing that the ability to learn is not fixed and can change with your effort.

NPR podcast about grit

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Filed under: Business

Have your copywriting cake and eat it too (or, risk a little and make a lot)


I’ve been reading Tony Robbins’ book MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.

Tucked inside these 650 pages is a story about Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airways.

He knew he could out-market anyone, even his major competitor British Airways.

But rather than focus on hitting a homerun, he instead hedged his downside.

He negotiated a brilliant deal: he purchased five airplanes with the arrangement that he could give back the planes if his business did not work out.

As Tony says:

Not unlike the business world, the investment world will tell you, directly or more subtly, that if you want to win big, you’ve got to take some serious risk. Or more frighteningly, if you ever want financial freedom, you have to risk your freedom to get there.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If there is one common denominator of successful insiders, it’s that they don’t speculate with their hard-earned savings, they strategize. Remember Warren Buffett’s top two rules of investing? Rule 1: don’t lose money! Rule 2: see rule 1.

…billionaire insiders look for opportunities that provide asymmetrick risk/reward. This is a fancy way of saying that the reward is drastically disproportionate to the risk.

Risk a little, make a lot

Having been in the entrepreneur world for almost ten years, I have observed that too many folks fail to hedge their downside and risk too much and make nothing.

One of the ways this happens is paying a fortune for sales copy, or copywriting program, when one doesn’t have a viable offer or product.

And about the cake…

To have your copywriting cake and eat it too – and risk a little to make a lot from your copy – see my Copywriter’s Notebook: Email copywriting tips for getting more clicks.

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Filed under: BusinessEmail Copywriting

30-20-10 Productivity


Cross-training isn’t just for sports and exercise. Whenever I learn a new skill I look to see how it can apply to other areas of my life.

This summer I read a New York Times article about a 12 minute 30-20-10 interval training workout that I’ve been using ever since.

The way it works is for the for 30 seconds you exercise at a moderate pace.

Then for the next 20 seconds you exercise at a faster pace.

For the final 10 seconds you go as fast as you can. You repeat this until minute five, when you go very slow, or stop completely, for two minutes.

Then you resume the intervals at the seven minute mark and continue until you reach 12 minutes, when the workout is over.

This is an effective interval training exercise because the intense interval is only 10 seconds. Studies show that people who replace two of their running workouts with this one each week stick with it longer and shave time off their average 5K time.

There is also no possibility for getting bored because you have to constantly pay attention to the time. It keeps the brain busy.

I find that this approach works well for work too.

At the beginning of the work day, set aside the first 30 minutes to warm up. Catch up on emails, check Twitter, drink coffee, read the latest posts on your favorite blogs, get loosened up, all without feeling guilty. You are priming the pump.

For the next 20 minutes you focus and shut out most distractions. For the final 10 minutes you go all out to finish the task.

These time intervals are rough approximations but you get the drift. This also works for when you have blocks of time set aside to work on a project. If you think you have to immediately begin with intensity, or work at a constant pace, you’ll end up becoming more distracted.

Sometimes, especially near lunch time, I find it hard to shift gears after an interval of time when I’m in a slower warm up mode. So instead of picking up the pace with my work task, I walk away from my desk and do a 12 minute 30-20-10 walk/run on the treadmill. That invigorates me enough to come back and work with great focus.



New York Times article about the workout.

Photo credit: Matt Gibson





Filed under: Productivity

Is your copy ready for some football?

Aug 23, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; The Seattle Seahawks line up for a play during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Seattle won 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports


How is your favorite team doing so far this year?

Around here the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers are off to a great start.

Especially seeing how the Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday night.

I gotta admit though, even though I officially hate the Seahawks because they beat the Packers in the  NFC Championship game this year (not to mention the Fail Mail a few years ago- ugh), I like coach Pete Carroll’s coaching style and philosophy.

And how it can easily be applied to copywriting and business.

Carroll was fired in 1999 as Patriots head coach and spent the next decade agonizing every day about what he’d do differently if he ever was a head coach again.

He worked at the college level during this time and jotted do-over notes every day, for ten years, until he got another head coach opportunity with the Seahawks five years ago.

For starters, he isn’t all about smash mouth, old-school football.

He shoots hoops with the players and brings in different guests to give the players alternate points of view.

He dislikes cursing and doesn’t berate players; he maintained a “supportive and nurturing” atmosphere after their Super Bowl loss this year.

Yoga and meditation are a mandatory part of the mix, which the players enjoy.

Think he’s too soft and New Age-y? During his first day at the helm he turned off the AC during practice to see which players would start whining.  Dislike of whining is the second of his three decrees: 1. Protect the team; 2. No whining, no complaining, no excuses; 3. Be early. He got rid of a star player who refused to change his regular seat at team meetings.

Carroll says: “I feel badly for those people who measure success by one point in time. But if it’s a process and journey and life engagement, you have a choice to be successful in the arc of growing.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman, one of my favorite players (go online and watch one one his press conferences if you’ve never heard one) says:

“It’s simple here: Be yourself, play hard, and you’ll be fine. Not a lot of coaches are willing to take that risk, because it’s a risk to let your players be that open, be that free.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson (a former Badger) says:  “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”

So there you have it.

Don’t measure your success by one product launch, one sales letter, one accomplishment at a time.

Be yourself. Be different. Play hard.

Protect your team. Don’t whine. Show up early.

And get yourself more clicks… and sales… while you’re at it.

Photo: Jeff Hanisch – USA Today Sports

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Filed under: Email Copywriting

“Feel the Bern” in your marketing


Yep, it’s campaign season again.

I know. Nothing but hot air so much of the time. It’s always interesting, though, when a marketing insight manages to float to the top of all the hot air.

Regardless of what you may think of the man, you gotta admit that the way Bernie Sanders is drawing crowds these days is intriguing.

After all, he’s 73-years-old, doesn’t seem to care about his appearance, and isn’t all hope and change-y in his message.

Yet Millennials love the guy.

And while Trump is busy hogging all the hot air, and Hillary is having to yap about her email scandal, Bernie is drawing bigger crowds than both of them.

So what’s up?

And, more importantly, what impact can it have on your business?

Here’s a clue:

He seems to go through the motions of reaching for the emotional connection that other candidates try to seize…

But the people don’t come to hear Mr. Sanders’s story. They come for his analysis of what’s gone wrong.

Mr. Sanders is clearly a different sort of political animal. If the tradition is to campaign in poetry and govern in prose, Mr. Sanders does both with a long list of bullet points written on a yellow legal pad he looks at when he speaks.

This reminds me of that marketing truism: “Don’t tell me about your weedkiller. Tell me about my crabgrass!”

Yes, it’s important to use stories in your marketing. But the story should be about your customer’s problems and not all about you.

Now, go forth and “Feel the Bern” in your marketing.


Quote source: NYT

Filed under: Stories/Storytelling

Good work requires taking the path of visibility


“The path to good work is the path of making our selves visible…

How many times have we kept a hope or dream in abeyance because even thinking about the possibilities of failure were too much to contemplate? If we failed at that central, precious thing that we have always had in reserve for an alternative life, then who would we be? Would there be any one we like left at all? Far better then, not to risk at all, to choose something smaller, to undertake some logistical task we don’t mind getting wrong, something we could recover from, something where we are, in effect, still invisible, to ourselves and to the world. Better to choose a world where things don’t matter. Better not to appear fully on life’s radar screen.

But in taking the path of visibility we arrange for a different kind of disappearance – into the work, the task, the audience, the one who will receive what we have conceived, the life that opens up …making ourselves visible allows us to be found and even invited in by the world we both fear and desire….”

Photo: Freddie Phillips
Quote: David Whyte

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Filed under: Business

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