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🎅Santa's Mailbag: Headlines, champagne, and my younger self


Well, what a busy weekend for Santa! After busily sending out three "Clayton-palooza" emails packed with copywriting "gold" on Friday (if you missed them, I'll have them up on my blog soon at www.kimschwalm.com/blog), it was time to finally get ready for Christmas. Here at Schwalm Haus, we've really slacked off our "usual" holiday decorating zeal. My husband skipped putting up the blue outdoor lights outlining the Victorian-style roof line of our house, much to our neighbors' disappointment. All we've got outdoors are a few nice wreaths. We haven't bothered bringing down our bins of holiday decorations from the attic or putting up a tree, either. But I did put up the tiniest, pre-decorated, artificial "tree" you've ever seen to place all the gifts which I laboriously wrapped all day yesterday under. And I picked up a handful of 50% off holiday decor to put around inside, too. So Santa's feeling especially cheery! (It also helps that a special gift Santa picked out for herself arrived over the weekend...to be opened on New Year's Eve when we finally kick this crazy year to the curb! The box is a definite keeper...)

As I wind down the next few days before Christmas Eve, let me dig deep into my mailbag and see what burning questions I come up with for today's issue.. Here we go...this one's from Devorah Hager, a conversion copywriter at Sapphire Copy...

Hey Kim, Big fan of your content!! I'd love to hear what your fav headlines are. Do you ever use swipes or formulas to come up with headlines? Any cheats? Thanks for brightening my inbox:)

Thank you, Devora, for your questions and feedback!

My favorite headlines? Personally, I'm quite fond of ones I've written that ended up producing some of my biggest winners (and royalty checks). Here are just a few... There's this one for my CircO2 control for Advanced Bionutritionals (it's been used for the past 3-4 years running...)

Confirmed by MIT Scientists:

Nitric oxide levels jump 200% higher in just 20 minutes when you do this

Boosts your energy… sharpens memory… increases stamina...enhances sexual performance…and drops blood pressure. Confirmed in studies — yet most doctors don’t even know about it!

Then there's this one, which ran as the control for many of the 8+ years this memory supplement promotion reigned as the control (I used it as inspiration for a brand new unrelated promo I just wrote...)

3 hidden memory-destroying triggers no one told you about

If your memory is not what it used to be, you may have one or more of these 3 factors. Here’s the latest scientific research on how to undo the damage, and get your memory back in as little as 30 days.

I have several other personal favorites of headlines I've written...like this one I wrote for a skin care product (adjacent to an old Coppertone ad...you can see it here)...

They lied!

They said those hours in the sun would make us look younger. But now we’ve got wrinkles, brown spots, and other sun damage. Here’s what you can do about it.

That last example is a good segue to some of my favorite headlines that legendary copywriters I've always admired and had the chance to learn from have written. Like Gary Bencivenga's famous financial promotion with the headline "Lies! Lies! Lies!"

I was actually able to find it out on the internet...this was the front cover of a highly-successful magalog for Phillips Publishing's "Forecasts & Strategies" newsletter...

I remember seeing this framed on the wall in one of the hallways--a sort of "Hall of Fame" for Phillips' most successful promotions, and being inspired by it. Believe it or not, I found a more recent promotion from 2007 using the SAME headline 17 years later (now that's longevity!)

Then there's the famous Jim Rutz headline for a health newsletter promotion for "Alternatives" (which was also published by Phillips Publishing)...sadly, I can't find my own personal file copy, so I had to grab this front cover elsewhere and can't abide by the fact that someone wrote "Jim Rutz" on the front of it...

I could go on and on...and slip into an endless headline "rabbit hole" here. You can't go wrong studying any promo or headline written by Bencivenga or Rutz. But many of my favorite headlines have been written by other great copywriters like Parris Lampropoulus, David Deutsch, the late Clayton Makepeace, and Carline Anglade-Cole. So be sure to look at those as well.

Now for the other part of your question, Devora...do I use any swipes, formulas, or any "cheats". I do maintain a "swipe file" of promos I've seen that appear to be controls, though not as much as I used to.

Whenever I would sit down to write a new promo, especially for a niche I hadn't written for before--like say, a memory or a joint supplement when I was starting out, I'd pull out all the relevant swipes and samples I'd pulled together and study them to see what I thought was working...what kinds of words or phrases they were using...and then use some of that as inspiration for generating my own copy ideas.

Notice I didn't say I'd "swipe" them...because you want to avoid sounding like everything else out there. And you also can't ethically just swipe the exact copy and then turn it into your client. It'd be wrong and they'd likely notice anyway.

But every good copywriter I know looks to other successful copy for inspiring new ideas, keeping up with what's working, and for continuing to get better at their craft.

As far as any "formulas", I recommend using a checklist to make sure your headline is covering the bases and doing its job: calling out the right prospect and getting your copy read by them.

Here's the one included in "The Ultimate A-List Copywriter's Promo Checklist" you got when you signed up to be a Copy Insider (it's from checklist #3: The Ultimate Strength of Promo Checklist):

The Headline and Deck [ ] Does the headline attract attention and compel the prospect to read on? [ ] Does it make a promise, or offer a benefit? [ ] Does it promise a speed of result, if you’re able to promise one? [ ] Does it contain a unique mechanism and/or contain exciting news? [ ] Does it offer proof or sound believable? [ ] Does the headline avoid combining too many different ideas, keeping to just 1 or 2?

Okay, that should give you some good guidance and inspiration for writing your next killer headline. Now Santa needs to sign off and tackle her never-ending work and pre-holiday "to do" list. Hope you have a wonderful holiday week! Yours for smarter marketing, Kim P.S. Oh wait...there one more question sitting here at the bottom of my mail bag that I have to get to. It's from Brian Czekanski...a direct response copywriter who just graduated from my 2020 Fast Track to A-List copy mentoring program. Brian wrote to ask the following: "If you were going to write an email to the younger version of you when you first started out as a freelance copywriter, what would you tell her?" It's funny Brian asks, since a few years back my friend (and top copywriter) Marcella Allison asked me and 64 other female copywriters, marketers, and entrepreneurs to each write a letter to our younger self. She then published a book called "Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before" along with Laura Gale. And just recently it's won a few prestigious awards for one of the top business books of the year! It's worthwhile reading for any woman...or man...who's starting out as a copywriter, or already much further along on their journey. You can grab a copy of it here. The bottom line from my letter to my younger self? My message would be this: That it's okay to fail before you succeed...in fact, it can be a good thing. So stay strong. Stay resilient. Keep learning. And always, always believe in yourself! The last point is critical...and I'll be writing more about this at some point. That's because self-doubt as well as self-limiting beliefs do more to hold ourselves back than anything else. Add to that the cacophony of negative messages we often get from society as well as friends and loved ones--especially if we're breaking "the mold" or stereotypes or expectations, and it can make you lose faith if you don't--first and foremost--believe in yourself. So yes, Brian, that would still be the message I'd write to my younger self who was just starting out in copywriting. Have that "thick skin" ready so it can be an armor against all the plague of negativity and self-doubt you'll likely face, don't treat failure like it's fatal, and learn how to LEARN from it instead and let it make you stronger. (Oh...and don't forget to believe in Santa, too!) Okay, that's probably it until Christmas! Santa is signing off...sending jolly good cheer your way!


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