• Email Copywriting
  • The Stephen King approach to writing email stories



    The dumbest reading decision I ever made was the time I read Stephen King’s Cujo novel.

    I was living in a rental house with four other ladies during my junior year of college. One weekend all of them were away, which normally never happened.

    For some reason that’s the time I chose to read my first Stephen King novel.

    I scared myself half to death reading about that crazy dog Cujo. All these years later I still remember that dog attacking people trapped inside a locked car.

    I couldn’t sleep because reading Cujo made me afraid of my own normally safe surroundings.

    Every little noise was a potential thief – or Cujo – trying to get into my house.

    Yet I couldn’t stop reading and finished the whole thing that weekend. I did have to pull the damsel in reading distress routine and sheepishly ask my future husband to come over and sleep on our ugly flower print couch so that I could get some sleep.

    Such is the power of a great story. It pulls you in even even if you don’t want it to. This is why stories are an important part of email copywriting.

    In Stephen King’s book On Writing he talks about how stories create themselves and it’s a writer’s job to let them grow. He doesn’t believe in plotting.

    He describes a one sentence question you should ponder before writing a story.

    If you don’t have this one sentence then you won’t have a story at all.

    This applies perfectly to copywriting, because I couldn’t help but notice this is the same formula used for a certain type of copy headline. In uncovering this nugget about your product or service’s story, it will expand into headlines, bullets, and email stories. These three elements all feed off each other.

    I go into detail about this in week 11 of my A Year of Email Copywriting course.

    When you sign up I can get the first 11 weeks to you right away if you ask, so you won’t have to wait. Just let me know.

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  • 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

  • Stories/Storytelling
  • “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

  • Stories/Storytelling
  • Breaking Bad in your marketing

    I have yet to watch an episode of Breaking Bad, largely because I heard it was violent, so I was too squeamish about it.

    I changed my tune after reading a profile of the actor Bryan Cranston in the New Yorker. For the first several years he didn’t have any significant roles. Then he started to shift his approach to auditions:

    It incrementally came to me that when I audition I’m not trying to get a job, but to give them something, my acting. The victory is not ”Did I beat that other guy out?’ but ‘Did I present that character as believable as I could?’ That was the turning point.

    This is applicable to marketing, of course. And I have an anecdote from my own experience to illustrate this.

    A day or two after I read the Bryan Cranston profile a prospective client contacted me. He was referred to me by a client of mine. What helped convince him to hire me was a comment I left on John Carlton’s blog more than three years ago that he had recently stumbled across.

    My comment is #73 out of more than 100. It’s a story about when I took three of my daughters in for a blood draw and, let’s face it, it’s out of place on a blog that is mostly testosterone-laden. I knew that but didn’t care and posted the story anyway, never once thinking it would promote my copywriting services or anything. Yet three plus years later a prospective client read it and said it was by far the most interesting story in the thread, and he hired me.

    Go figure. But that’s what happens when you focus on giving instead of getting.