Diapers, dull meals, and other insults

Issue #84—November 7, 2019

It's that conference time of year. Last week I was in St. Petersburg, Florida for Kevin Rogers' third annual Copy Chief Live.

Today I'm flying to Phoenix, Arizona for my first time attending Jeff Walker's LaunchCon.

Then I'll be in Scottsdale, Arizona for Brian Kurtz's Titans Master Class after that, which will include a full day of Jay Abraham-led "hot seats" and speakers like my amazing friend and A-list copywriter Carline Anglade-Cole and others. I'm really looking forward to it.

I've been promising to share some of my biggest takeaways from Copy Chief Live, so in this week's issue I'm going to give you the bullet "summaries". I may expand on some of these in future emails or issues.

And in "What's in Kim's Mailbox", I'm going to share with you an example of what NOT to do when it comes to insulting your prospect.

Having empathy for your prospect versus showing contempt seems like such a basic marketing principle--but some still stray from it.

Of course, in this "shock jock" era of copywriting it seems like anything goes as long as you grab eyeballs. But it doesn't necessarily translate into results.

In any case, I still gotta finish packing my suitcase, so let's get rolling with...

5 of my top takeaways from Copy Chief Live

(In no particular order...)

#1: Stephen King's chair: Many of us admire King's prolific writing. His book "On Writing" is one of my favorites and a must-read for any copywriter or other writer.

That's why I loved this example speaker Todd Herman gave when explaining "The Alter Ego Effect". Basically the alter ego effect is what all top performers do. They create identities for the "role" they're looking to play (i.e., Oscar-winning actress or best-selling author or top copywriter) so they can win on that "field".

A first step is to identify the role or field of play you're looking to shape your identity as. You can use artifacts to symbolize that field of play.

Apparently Stephen King uses this technique. King envisions his desk chair waiting for him to sit in it...with words and ideas bubbling up to be transmuted through him.

Obviously it works for him. Try that tactic next time you're facing "writer's block"!

#2: Give before asking: Speaker Jonny Vance, one of the geniuses behind Harmon Brothers' hilarious and wildly successful video ads, talked about how to use comedy to sell. Comedy can be risky, but it's surprisingly effective when done right and with the right products and markets.

One of the many benefits of comedy that make it successful is that it lets you give before asking. By giving prospects entertainment they see as "valuable" or enjoyable, you make them more likely to buy from you. In one example of an ad for a mattress company, customers actually said they bought because the ad was funny.

This "give before asking" strategy is part of what makes advertorial so effective...and even those long-form magalogs for newsletters and other publications (Second Opinion has one written by the great Parris Lampropoulus that's been going strong for years).

Back when I worked with the late Bob King at Phillips Publishing, he'd talk about how someone should be able to read one of our direct mail promos, and feel like they got some value from doing so...even if they didn't buy from it.

The brilliance behind this strategy is that it takes the long view. Maybe that particular offer wasn't right for the prospect at that point in time. But they'll be more likely to read your next magalog that arrives in their mailbox or click on your humorous video ad the next time it pops up. And that time they MIGHT be ready to buy from you.

#3: Murder your darlings: The great writer and professor, Roy Peter Clark, has a new book coming out with this title. It's a phrase I've heard before, and maybe you have also. But it's something we may need reminding of from time to time.

It happens to all of us writers: we "fall in love" with a sentence or paragraph in our copy. But it's superfluous and cries out for being cut. And yet it's so hard to do so.

Clark recommends asking this question about every part of your copy: "Is this essential to what I want to say? Or am I just showing off?" If it's the latter, murder that darling and delete it!

If you're still having trouble doing so, use Parris Lampropulous' strategy to guide you. Ask yourself, "Does this help my case or hurt it?"

If it helps, keep it. If it hurts or is neutral, get rid of it. The result will be tighter, harder-hitting, more engaging and effective copy.

#4: Write your excuse list: Speaker James Schramko, author and business mentor to top companies and achievers, offered up this simple technique for clearing away the "head trash" that's potentially holding you back.

Write down all the reasons why you can't ________.

Now rip it up.

As Schramko puts it, "It's all BS excuses." It's all in your head, so get rid of it.

He sums up the psychology behind this tactic this way: the only reason you do anything is to avoid pain (even pleasure is the avoidance of pain).

So get yourself a little uncomfortable if you want to achieve anything. (Once you're done reading this, get busy writing that list!)

#5: No one is more "you" than YOU: I mentioned in an earlier email this week how much I enjoyed Laura Belgray's kick-butt presentation on how to get paid for being you (and I think the feeling in the room was unanimous).

She shared some great insights during her presentation (which I won't give away---you'll want to see her next time she's speaking as this was the first time she did this talk). But Belgray also stuck around for a "fireside chat" on the day 3 Freelancers Only day, which I attended that morning.

During her chat with Kevin Rogers, she talked about her approach to writing emails to her list. It's based on this philosophy: "This is what I want to say."

Come from this place, and you'll attract people who like you...versus shape-shifting yourself to fit what you think they want. It's also a heck of a lot easier to just be YOU, isn't it?

Okay, let's take a look at this ad I mentioned earlier.

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

This "ad" is actually a Facebook post with a link to a sales page for a new book...

Now, if I was 22 years old, I might have thought it'd be okay to write that.

(News flash: I didn't. Even in my early 20s, I was marketing products to the "over 65 market" and knew better.)

This post, ostensibly coming from Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey on his "public figure" page, has  got all the negative stereotypes of "old people" in it.

Diapers. Closed-mindedness. Dull meals.

Oh, the horror.

This has got to be the worst example of ageism in advertising I've seen. And the thing is, I know Dave Asprey. I met him over 10 years ago when he was just a few years out from being an overweight, ultra-nerdy tech executive who went on to transform his body via intensely analyzed and tracked bio-hacking.

At least then he seemed like a great guy with a deep personal mission to help others. That's why I know there's no way this is his voice. Some junior social media writer had to put this bone-headed post together.

And instead of showing the positives...the painting of the picture of "what like can be like" (which doesn't come until the last line of the post), it puts forth this extremely negative picture that many prospects may find insulting.

I mean, seriously, you're saying here that most older people stopped learning at 22? Whoever wrote this has serious daddy or mommy issues and needs therapy asap. They definitely shouldn't be writing copy.

Empower and inspire your prospect into taking action. Don't try to use simply fear.

Oh, and try really hard not to show your contempt, either. I'm trying to decide if this was done on purpose to grab eyeballs and attention or if it was just an ignorant mistake. I suspect the latter.

And what a horrible bastardization of the great Dylan Thomas poem. Sheesh.

The interesting thing is, it did garner some positive comments (though they could have been put there by the social media writer, and negative ones deleted). If you look at these comments, you can actually see what SHOULD have been in the post:

That first comment that "Dave" responded to? Nails it.

I started out my career working for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Phillips Publishing in marketing--and in both jobs my main target market was the "senior" market (note: NEVER use the word "senior" in your copy).

Back then my fellow 20-something co-workers and I used to joke about putting Vaseline on our glasses and then trying to read something our graphic designer had designed, to see what it was like from their perspective.

The biggest and most valuable thing you can learn (or teach those who work for you) as a marketer or copywriter is empathy. (Hopefully they already have some!)

As David Ogilvy famously said, "The customer is not a moron. She's your wife."

Or mother. Or sister. Or grandfather.

Alright, that wraps up this week's issue. As always, you can find it and other past issues going back to the beginning of 2019 on my blog at this link.

And if you want read all of my past issues from 2018 in one big e-book, you can get it here. Be sure to use the exclusive Copy Insiders discount code CIHALF to save 50% at checkout.

You may not be hearing from me much the next week since I'll be busy conferencing, but when I have something to say and have the time to do so, I'll be in touch. And like Laura Belgray, it'll be me being me---and no one else.

Yours for smarter marketing,


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