Issue #55—February 8, 2019
I've just started reading a book called Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins.
It's not the kind of book I usually pick out to read. I'm more a fan of "lose yourself" escapism fiction versus non-fiction books.
But I recently saw the author interviewed and knew I wanted to learn more from him, based on his amazing accomplishments.
David Goggins is the only man in history to successfully complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, an Army Ranger, and an Air Force Tactical Air Controller.
He's set records in numerous endurance events and has competed in more than 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons (I'm not sure what that is but it sounds super painful).
He's even held the Guinness World Record for completing 4,030 pull-ups in 17 hours. (I'm going to try for one next time I hit the gym!)
Yet David had an extraordinarily rough childhood, almost failed out of high school, and barely made it into the Air Force, after which he completely bombed out. He ended up stuck in a job killing cockroaches and rats in fast food restaurants and getting so out of shape he weighed more than 300 pounds.
But once he set his mind on becoming a SEAL---which he found out about by chance while watching TV--- David become determined and unstoppable. Still, it wasn't a straight shot to reaching his goal...there was MORE failure, MORE picking himself back up, and MORE nonstop adjustments he needed to make to change and reshape his mental attitude.
Where I found myself coming up short
I was personally drawn to reading this book in part because I have many things on my list I want to accomplish...stuff I want to "get to"...and I was tired of the excuses I was making for myself.
Excuses are nothing but lies you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. If you're not getting everything you want out of your copywriting career or business right now, or pursuing any other goal you have for yourself, I hate to say it but...it's on you.
If you're not constantly trying to get better at what you do -- whether it's reading the classic books, tackling courses and training programs, and seeking out mentoring opportunities -- that's on you. And if you're not putting yourself out into situations where you can meet high-quality clients -- that's on you, too.
Some of the copywriters I've chosen to mentor -- and some of you out there who have written me -- maintain a highly disciplined approach to getting better at their craft. For example, they start their work day each day by reading, or even writing out by hand, a successful promotion.
Ben Settle---who became one of the most successful email copywriters years ago out of nowhere---swears by reading the same book, course, or program not just once...not just twice...but 10 times each.
It's that kind of work ethic---the same one you'll see if you decide to read David Goggins' book---that will get you far in anything you pursue. But that's not all...
What really determines your success in anything
So much that happens in our lives---and in our copywriting careers---actually happens in that gray space inside our brains.
How do you get to the point that you DON'T let the inevitable ups and downs and dry spells and client nightmares and other inherent aspects of what we do bring you down and leave you feeling defeated?
It's from falling and getting back up over and over again---just like David Goggins did. I know I've written about the topic of resilience before. In my presentation at last year's TCC IRL, I shared how 3 of my biggest initial flops turned out to be major successes...in part because I picked myself back up again after each major failure and figured out what I could learn from it.
(I've also shared some of these "backstories" in the emails I sent you last week...all of which--along with all my past Copy Insiders issues going back to the beginning of this year--are now available on my website blog. You can find them here.)
Now, I know it's easy to get discouraged sometimes. I've spoken with two copywriters within the past week who've had client nightmare scenarios pop up through no wrong-doing of their own. These situations can be difficult to deal with, and they can tear apart your self-confidence and sense of competence and self-worth...but only if you let them.
So remember this....What's the opposite of discourage? Courage. It's what people like David Goggins have in spades.
Advice from Dale Carnegie: Get busy and fear will vanish!
Nearly 25 years ago, while I was a marketer at Phillips Publishing, I was very fortunate to be sent to a Dale Carnegie training program for managers and business owners. I still have the course workbook from that multi-week program on my bookshelf, and I pulled it out this morning.
There are many lessons tied to copywriting from it that I'd like to share with you in coming issues. But let's leave with this one, on the topic of courage (which, by the way, the entire program opened with...)
"Begin this instant to think of yourself as a person of courage, because as you think, so you will be....Having courage does not depend on what is happening outside you. It depends entirely on what is happening inside you."
The opening pages of this program also offered up this advice--and I'm convinced based on my own experience (and that of all the top copywriters I know in this business) it hits the nail on the head:
"If you want to develop courage, do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it until you get a record of successful experiences behind you. That is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear."
So let's get busy getting rid of our fears...banishing our excuses...and building up our courage! That's what I'm focusing on these days, and I hope you will, too.
On another note, I promised last week that I'd be including a new edition of "What's in Kim's Mailbox" in this week's issue. I didn't get any submissions of promos that you wanted my take on...but please send them on if you have any so I can look at them for upcoming issues. In the meantime, let's take a look at a direct mail promo I got in the mail a week or so ago...
What's in Kim's Mailbox?
Millions of people around the world have trouble sleeping at night, especially as they get older. I usually have no problem getting shut-eye, but when I do, I reach for the nearest sleep supplement on my nightstand (I've written copy for a few of them over the years).
I didn't write the copy for this Healthy Directions promo I got in the mail, but let's take a look at what we can learn from it. Here's the front cover of this 7 1/2 x 10 1/2" (slightly shrunken magalog sized) self-mailer:
As you can see, the front cover looks very much like a journal article or newsletter cover. It looks valuable, not like a sales piece. "Harvard" in the pre-head bestows instant credibility. The graphic provides immediate proof of the claims made about melatonin.
And it focuses initially on melatonin because that's talking to the prospect where he or she is. It's the most popular and best-known sleep supplement by far. But unlike some successful copy approaches, it's not tearing melatonin down or bashing it.
That's because the supplement it's selling, called "Sleep Answer" (great name), contains melatonin. But it contains it in a special form with a unique way of releasing it into the body for greater effectiveness.
So instead of saying "melatonin doesn't work" (which it could say, in a way, since it doesn't work if not taken in this form or with this special release mechanism), it instead sets up the problem of ordinary melatonin not working as well as it should...which the promo says is due, in part to it only lasting 4 hours in your blood (not enough to get you through the night!)
It's a great positioning angle and provides a little-known and entirely logical and believable justification for buying the product. I think it does a great job of explaining the product's USP (unique selling proposition) in a way that's easy for the average Joe to understand...without getting too science-y.
I especially love how it demonstrates the product and focuses on its unique mechanism (an essential strategy these days in order to differentiate supplement products in a crowded market) on page 7, after the product has been introduced:
Not only does this copy explain simply and clearly the entire USP behind the product, it consistently does so by tying back to the benefit or main promise: deep, peaceful sleep.
The product is the hero here, with the capsule photo graphic beautifully done. In fact, the capsule graphic and the box photo are some of the only 4-color photos throughout the promotion. All of the other people photos, shown on each spread, are in black and white.
Not only does this continue the charade of not looking like a sales piece, it lends a peaceful tone to the design look vs. a jarring one of competing colors and images. It also makes you pre-experience the calming benefits of the product before you even buy it. Brilliantly done!
That's it for this week's issue of Copy Insiders. Hope you enjoyed reading it. Please don't forget to forward on any promotions you're getting so I can expand my focus in upcoming issues. And keep your chin up, stay strong, and remember: "Nolite te bastards carborundorum"!
Yours for smarter marketing,
P.S. If you haven't already made plans to go, let's hang out at this year's TCC IRL in Brooklyn next month. They've got a whole new page right here with all the details if you want to check it out!