• Email Copywriting
  • The nicest story email you ever did see

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    Emails from retailers are almost always a snooze. All they do is announce sales.

    So I almost fell out of my chair when I recently received this one from L.L. Bean. It tells the story of one of L.L. Bean’s employees (a copywriter, of course) who has a tiny house in Maine.

    It is chock full of photos, too.

    And there is no catch. No sales announcement within it or at the end.

    I hope they will send more emails like these and that it isn’t just a one-off.

    I also hope it goes without saying that whether you are a large retailer or solo entrepreneur, you should send emails like these too.

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  • Books
  • Why boredom is the cure for boring email copy

     

    It sounds counter-intuitive, but if your email copy and stories are boring, and you have a lack of ideas, it means it’s time for you to seek out boredom.

    To come up with ideas I always have to step away from the computer and disengage my mind by going for a walk, running an errand, taking a shower, sweeping the floor, or some other task that doesn’t require much in the way of thought. In doing so I come home full of things to write about.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this Albert Einstein quote:

    Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

    Of course I’d love to think that if Einstein was alive today he would instead say social media diverts the mind too much, not reading. I love books and often feel restless if I go too long without reading. I have made a decision, however, to read fewer books and reread my favorite books. To ensure that I read fewer books I am trying an experiment where I don’t read any library books and instead buy the books I want to read. Then I will either resell them or put them in a local Free Little Library if I don’t want to keep the book. This forces me to be more deliberate in what I read and retain more of what I read. It also makes it easier for me to seek out boredom if I don’t have a huge stack of books by my bed.

    Cal Newport advocates taking a break from focus rather than from distraction. This means you have scheduled blocks of offline and online time.He also is an advocate of batching (doing deep work in scheduled blocks of time). I highly recommend you read the chapter called Embrace Boredom in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

    Remember, when all else fails, get bored.

     

     

     

     

  • Email Copywriting
  • How to write email copy if you aren’t creative

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    A reader asks:

    Amid all of you experts in email marketing, how do you think I can differentiate myself as I’m not really that creative as a writer ūüôā …my experience is more in finance/accounting and enjoy using software such as Excel…any thoughts would be appreciated thanks

    It’s a trap all of us who write copy fall into from time to time: “But I’m not creative!”

    If you like using Excel, that is actually an advantage. I like to use Excel too and enjoy the challenge of using well-designed charts to tell a story in as few words as possible. Excel is also a way to keep track of email topic ideas and map out a series of emails.

    You can use those analytic skills to set you apart from other email marketers. Here are my recommendations:

    Use the computer as little as possible to write your copy. It’s when you are in front of a screen that “I’m not creative!” kicks in all too often.

    Instead, go for walks. Record your thoughts with the voice memo on your smartphone as you get ideas.

    Indulge in people-watching and people-listening as much as possible. Sit in a coffee shop or on a park bench and simply watch and listen. What are people talking about? What are they doing? Write down these observations. These are seeds that you will turn into emails.

    Then, when you are at your computer to write emails, you are basically just taking dictation as you go through your notes and write down the words from your voice memos. By all means, use Excel to organize these thoughts and topics. Go ahead and even write the email drafts in Excel if you want to.

    It boils down to this: do the brainstorming and coming up with ideas when you are away from the computer and the left-brained organizing and structuring of the emails when in front of the computer.

    Writing email copy is a craft and as an analytic person you already have the skills to approach it as a craft, so you are more ahead of the game than you think.

  • Books
  • The comic strip approach to email copywriting

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    Creating comic strips resembles email copywriting in certain ways. If you write email copy you can learn a lot from your favorite cartoonists.

    For starters, like a cartoonist, you must create on a daily basis and work under deadline pressure if you write for clients.

    Sometimes a comic strip is a single gag and other times there is a running story line for several strips. With email copy it’s best to mix it up in this way too (although usually without gags, alas).

    Therefore I’m always drawn to interviews with and articles about cartoonists.

    I recently discovered a 37 page interview with Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin & Hobbes, in the book Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue. You can probably find it at your local library.

    It’s one of the only interviews with Watterson, who is something of a recluse. He ended the strip 20 years ago yet it endures in popularity even though he doesn’t do a thing to promote it. I read it in one sitting and savored every word.

    Here is something he said in the interview that resonates:

    Richard Thompson…said he likes to work with small things he notices¬†and his example was “gravel in the street.” That might be a little¬†too¬†small, but I agree with him. Daily minutiae are not actually trivial. It’s a wonderful thing to draw your attention to tiny little moments and small episodes. There can be something simple, grounded, and true when you observe those generally unnoticed small things. I tend to like that scale. Whenever I go to a computer-animated movie, I think, “Oh, please, not another quest.” You know, must we always journey to discover ourselves, find home, and save Christmas?

    I love the unpretentiousness of cartoons. If you sat down and wrote a two hundred page book called¬†My Big Thoughts on Life, no one would read it. But if you stick those same thoughts in a comic strip and wrap them in a little joke that takes five seconds to read, now you’re talking to millions. Any writer would kill for that kind of audience. What a gift.

    Indeed. Those daily details and small episodes are critical components of email copy. The “journey story,” not so much, that is for the about page or sales page. The “gravel in the street” components of the journey story are appropriate for the email copy, however.

    My current favorite comic strip is Bloom County, which Berkeley Breathed resurrected on Facebook in 2015. Without the deadline pressure of a newspaper his creativity is free to flourish once again. He publishes 3-4 strips per week and it’s well worth following his Facebook page for these gems.

    Scott Adams of Dilbert is my other favorite. I’ve listened to his podcast interview with Tim Ferriss a couple of times and it’s one I know I’ll continue to revisit. He gives writing tips and explains his philosophy of humor, among many other things.

    I also like Frazz and Pearls Before Swine. Even Garfield can get a smile out of me sometimes even though that strip isn’t as good as it was back in the 1980s. Garfield Minus Garfield is more fun.

    If you read comics, what are your favorites?
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    If you don’t like Calvin & Hobbes, then you won’t care for lesson #18 in my A Year of Email Copywriting Course. And lesson 12 will be especially soporific because I analyze the storytelling structure of comics and apply it to copywriting. Oh well. Can’t please everybody.

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