• Email Copywriting
  • Is there a formula for creating a personal bond with subscribers?


    What’s the first thing that comes to mind when people think about you?

    It’s worth thinking about, because that’s how you’ll define your personal brand.

    If you make a list of things your friends, family, co-workers, etc. have said to you, there will be one or two that stand out.

    You know, things like “you crack me up,” “you’re such a nerd,” and “I can always count on you.”

    When you write your email copy, you should do so in the voice of your personal brand. This will be the secret sauce of your emails.

    Next question:

    When you hang out with a friend do you follow a formula for how you interact with your friend?

    I didn’t think so.

    That’s why the idea of a formula for creating a personal bond with your subscribers via email can be cringe-inducing.

    That’s because in real life the way we interact with people is done reflexively without thinking about it. If I’m going to a casual restaurant for a burger, I know instinctively not to wear an evening gown. If it’s a birthday celebration, I know it’s inappropriate for me to talk about something depressing. And so on.

    When it comes to email,  however, it doesn’t come naturally at first. People make very basic mistakes. So it helps to have a formula.

    Week 9 of my A Year of Email Copywriting course gives a formula, which you can use as a checklist before writing an email, to make sure you aren’t making an embarrassing mistake.  Moreover, it provides the framework for creating a personal bond with subscribers.

    You will receive 52 weekly lessons. After you sign up, I can send you the first nine weeks right away if you want me to, just send me an email and let me know.

    You can also email me anytime during the 52 weeks with questions and I’ll be happy to help you out.

    Looking forward to having you on board.



    Photo: Stefano Principato

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  • Email Marketing
  • 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

  • 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


  • Email Copywriting
  • 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

  • Email Marketing
  • Beware of the popularity trap

    It turns out Martha Stewart is an inspiration for a lot of the tattooed 20-something hipster crowd who are entrepreneurs. Who knew?

    Apparently she has street cred among them because of the time she served in prison. It adds some edge to the Suzy Homemaker image that would normally be a put off.

    Traffic to her website among the 18-34 set has skyrocketed and this age group frequently hosts Meet Ups about crafting the Martha way and blog about her books and some even have tattoos of her. Everything an online marketer would want, right?

    Yet even though she is popular, her company is in financial trouble.

    As the analyst in the article puts it, “Who cares if she’s popular if you can’t monetize it?”

    Somewhat ironically, Oprah’s popularity has dropped since she left her TV talk show and she’s trying to boost her popularity by seeking a younger audience for her magazine, which currently only attracts older readers.  But such a tactic hasn’t worked for Martha.

    It’s easy for non-celebrity types to fall into the popularity trap too in this social media age, but beware and remember: who cares if you’re popular if you can’t monetize it?

  • Email Copywriting
  • Is there a quarterback controversy in your business?

    I am NOT a San Francisco 49ers fan (I’m a Packers fan, even though they are losing big to the Giants as I type this) but I couldn’t help reading about this past week’s brouhaha over their back up quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

    Their starter, Alex Smith, has played almost perfectly this year yet Kaepernick started for the second week in a row and the 49ers won both games.

    Since last Sunday he’s been given a nickname (“Kap”), generated a lot of chatter on sports talk radio and social media, and his jerseys are flying off shelves.

    But why, considering Smith was having the best season of his career?

    Apparently one big reason is because Kap played with swagger and excitement, which got the fans fired up in ways Smith’s workmanlike style fails to do.

    I guess it’s not enough to play well and look almost perfect on paper. The intangibles are important as well.

    Plus, Kap has an interesting story: he was 6’5″ and 170 pounds in high school and more suited for baseball. He was a star pitcher with a ton of offers to play professional baseball yet chose to pursue football even though he was only offered one football scholarship.

    49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh caught a lot of heat for deciding to start Kap again this week, yet there are two lessons here:

    Just because you’re doing well doesn’t mean your customers (i.e. fans) are going to stick with you no matter what.  Insecurity is your best security.

    And as a business owner (i.e. coach), are you always going to stick with what’s working no matter what, because you put so much time in developing it and because most people think you should?  Or do you take the risk and try something new that could be even better?

    P. S.  Because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and whatnot, I’ll go ahead and add a deal of my own:

    Order one series of 7 emails and I’ll include a second series at no charge.  I can only offer this to one client before the holidays – MAYBE two, if you’re flexible about the time frame.  Email me at anitaashland@gmail.com. The offer expires after Christmas. It’s good for both repeat and new clients.
  • Email Copywriting
  • Bring on the information overload

    Do you ever hold back on sending out email for fear of information overload?

    Then I recommend this article in The Atlantic, (which reminded me I need to reread the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen).

    If you are feeling overwhelmed, or don’t want to give your customers information overload, then consider this:

    Information overload is not the issue. If it were, you’d walk into the library and die. As soon as you connected to the Web, you’d just explode.

    In fact, the most information-rich place in the world is the most relaxing: it’s called nature. It has more varied horizons, more detail, more input of all sorts. As a matter of fact, if you want to go crazy, get rid of all your information: it’s called sensory depravation.

    The thing about nature is, it’s information rich, but the meaningful things in nature are relatively few—berries, bears and snakes, thunderstorms, maybe poison oak. There are only a few things in nature that force me to change behavior or make a decision. The problem with e-mail is that it’s not just information; it’s the need for potential action. It’s the berries and snakes and bears, but they’re embedded, and you don’t know what’s in each one.

    Not only that, but e-mail has a trait that fits the core of addictive behavior, which is random positive reinforcement.

    What’s that?

    So you get an e-mail from your mom, or you get an e-mail from your boss—they contain snakes or berries or bears, but they’re not self-evident until you look. Now, some part of you, subliminally, is constantly going, That could be meaningful, that could be meaningful, that could change what I’m doing, that might be something I don’t want to decide about … You multiply that by the hundreds, if not thousands, of items sitting there.

    All those things you’re not deciding about wear you down, and decision-making functions just like a muscle. If you’ve had half a day of a lot of decisions to make, you don’t have much willpower left the rest of the day. So then we walk around with what I call the GSA of life—the Gnawing Sense of Anxiety that something out there might be more important than what you’re currently doing.

    They key with email marketing and copywriting is to make your berries, bears and snakes, thunderstorms, and poison oak self-evident and decisive so that your customers don’t have to wonder if your email is important or relevant.  Either they delete it or click on the link in it. That way you aren’t adding to their Gnawing Sense of Anxiety.

  • Email Copywriting
  • The E. F. Hutton approach to marketing

    Remember the E.F. Hutton commercials in the 1970s and 80s?

    If you’re a young whippersnapper and don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a video of one of the commercials.

    The tagline of each commercial was, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

    I thought of this when I read online somewhere a description of billionaire Mark Cuban as the E. F. Hutton of the business world.

    I’ve subscribed to his blog for some time and he rarely posts.  But when he does I am sure to read it because he always has something interesting and substantive to say.

    Sure, one could say he doesn’t have to post a lot because he’s successful. But a lot of entrepreneurs who have made it big often just end up using guest bloggers or let their blog die completely. They aren’t E. F. Huttons.

    Anyway, a lot of people think it’s important to be active on social media and hammer their lists constantly and all that.  But how many people actually listen?

    I’ve been a copywriter for five years now and more and more I’ve come to realize that the E. F. Hutton approach to marketing is the way to go.

  • Email Copywriting
  • An email copywriting lesson from Netflix

    Copywriters put a lot of effort into subject lines, but there’s a field that’s even more important… the from field.

    Get that wrong and your subject line and email won’t get read at all.

    Let’s take this email I got from the Netflix CEO today as an example:

    Like most people, I quickly glance at the from column in my inbox first.

    I noticed “Reed Hastings, Co-Founder” and didn’t know who the heck that was. I almost trashed it but gave it a second chance because of the subject line.

    It turns out Reed Hastings is the CEO of Netflix. Who knew? I didn’t, even though I’ve been a customer for several years. I probably don’t know the names of the CEOs of any of the companies I pay bills to every month.

    The from field should have read, “Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO & Co-Founder.” Then “Reed Hastings, Netflix” would have appeared in the from field of my inbox and I would have opened it without almost accidentally deleting it.

    If you’re a copywriter, always ask a client what they intend to put in the from field and advise them accordingly. It might seem like a trivial detail but it’s not.

    By the way, I like the rest of the Netflix email. I always admire it when someone has the courage to open an email with “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.” Plus, I’m a happy instant streaming customer, and hate messing with DVDs, so I’m not in a snit over their new biz model.

  • Email Copywriting
  • How a rescued cockatiel can rescue your sales

    So I recently found myself standing at a busy intersection, whistling like a mad woman.

    I drew WTF looks from drivers but I didn’t care.

    There was a cockatiel in a tree and I was determined to rescue it.

    I knew I had my work cut out for me, however, because I was a stranger to the bird and didn’t know his name.

    Cockatiels are friendly birds but won’t fly to the shoulder of just anyone.

    He was cheeping the way cockatiels cheep when they are anxious or calling out to a cockatiel buddy.

    I imitated that cheep as best as I could and made eye contact with him. He calmed down.

    He wasn’t budging, though, so I walked to the other side of the tree and started whistling songs cockatiels usually know: the wolf whistle, the Adams Family and Andy Griffith theme songs.

    He kept staring at me and gradually felt safe enough to fly to a lower branch.

    I wanted to close the deal, however, especially when the waiter at a nearby Mexican restaurant… the guy who made me aware of the cockatiel’s presence in the first place… said sadly, “If you don’t rescue him, he’ll die, won’t he.”



    Plus, cockatiels are nomadic creatures when in the wild, so I knew I had to close the deal now or never.

    This anxiety was making it hard for me to continue to whistle, so I switched tactics and started saying words a cockatiel might know:

    “Food.” “Water.” “Step up.” “Pretty bird.”

    I used a sing song-y voice in a higher register than my normal speaking voice because cockatiels like higher pitches.

    Those words really got his attention and he kept dropping down to lower branches one at a time until he was on the lowest branch.

    Suddenly there was a flurry of feathers but I remained still.

    He landed on my head.

    I ever so carefully walked to my car and slid into the front seat.

    He insisted on remaining on my shoulder so I let him stay there during the drive home so as to maintain my bond of trust with him.

    Sometimes he hopped onto my head, which probably drew more WTF looks from drivers, but I didn’t care.

    The moment I put him into the bird cage at home (we have a small aviary of parakeets and cockatiels at home) he wagged his tail from side to side vigorously, the way cockatiels do when they are happy.

    Then he ate and drank for 30 minutes straight.

    Which brings us to the “La-Di-Frickin’-Da, what does this have to do with my business” part of the post.

    First, there isn’t any one thing that closes the deal when selling to a customer.

    Sure, I could conclude that my using words like “food” were what closed the deal, and that I should just launch straight into that if I ever happen upon a cockatiel in the wild again.

    Just like some marketers think their fancy-pants sales page is what closes the deal and they fixate on that and neglect their email list.

    But it was a large sales funnel, so to speak, beginning with his previous owner, who, based on what I now know of his temperament, clearly had a loving bond with this bird, enabling him to give me the time of day in the first place.

    She probably cried and kicked herself for days afterwards when he escaped during a half second of inattention, but her care for him the years beforehand played a huge role in my being able to save him.

    The other parts of the funnel:

    I spoke/whistled in his language.

    I very clearly communicated I had something he desperately needed – food.

    I focused completely on him and drew upon the very specific knowledge I have about cockatiels so I could build trust. I didn’t focus on myself at all.

    I didn’t rush or push for the sale.


    Marketing really is for the birds. 😉

    Talk soon.

    P. S.  Bottom line: send out a variety of emails to your list. Use a combination of stories and how-to info to gradually build trust.

    Eventually one of those emails will finally hit the right hot button and snag the sale, thanks to the funnel that came before it.

    It’s a tough thing to do on your own, however, so have a copywriter do it for you.