How do you get your reader to trust you—without it feeling like just another marketing tactic?
You open up (<< see what I did there?)
about the eight-inch vertical scar that bisects your lower abdomen, how it got there, and what it reminds you to do, every time you remember that it’s there. **true story**
You make dorky jokes
like the one above, and then take great pains to make sure nobody misses that dorky joke you just made. **guilty!**
You talk about your lifelong best friend
who taught you how to drink tequila and once filled every keyhole at your high school with welder’s putty, who was reckless and sensitive and infuriatingly stubborn but always made you laugh—until one day he went too far and you stopped talking to him for a year… and then he died. **yep :(**
You turn your brand
into a megaphone for equality, instead of hiding behind a misguided sense of ‘professionalism’ and/or a reluctance to ‘get political.’ **waves frantically**
In other words, you stop thinking like a marketer—and start getting real.
The current landscape of Internet Marketing (and by extension, most copywriting strategy) is steeped in formulaic sales funnels, agenda-driven “content marketing,” and manipulative selling tactics.
These systems have been passed down through generations of digital marketers (so in Internet time, that’s what, like ten years?) and they’re largely accepted as the “best practices” around.
And I’m putting them all on blast.
When conversion rates and ROI’s are more important than the human on the other end of the screen, and “giving value” is a just another tactic to compel your reader to DO something, your writing becomes compromised.
It doesn’t do what you want it to do, because your readers can tell you have an agenda.
They stop trusting you, and if they don’t trust you, they’ll NEVER invest in you.
But! When your own talent, expertise, and/or signature service are on offer, or you’re working to upend some stodgy status quo, your brand has a longer, deeper, and far more necessary “know-like-trust” cycle than a product-centric business, or, say, Justin’s Peanut Butter.
(I live for upending the status quo. And those little dark chocolate peanut butter cups.)
That’s because what you’re asking is a lot higher-stakes than the grand they’ll spend on a mattress they can send back if they choose to, or the realization that they like their old peanut butter better.
🔥You’re asking them to show you how utterly crap they are at managing their money, and all the shame and ugly frustration that goes with it. (Lynne Somerman, financial coach).
🔥You’re asking them to honor their heritage, love their bodies, and embrace differences—all by choosing your leggings over somebody else’s. (CultureFit Clothing)
🔥You’re asking them to hitch their wagon to your groundbreaking method for treating chronic and severe pain—even though your industry is full of intimidating barriers and blustery detractors. (Chuck Duff, founder of Coaching the Body)
🔥You’re asking them to drop $4,000, take two weeks off work, and travel to a remote country with 14 strangers—OR, pay a monthly fee for access to insider travel tips they may or may not be able to Google for free. (Travel Noire / Compass™.)
Building this kind of trust is a loooong game—and the faster and crazier the Internet gets, the longer it’s going to get.
But there’s an even bigger ask on the table, and it’s the very first transaction you’ll have with every single reader who joins your list…
Time. Attention. Giving a shit. Their freaking contact info.
Right off the bat you need to establish that you respect, value, and honor these gifts (because they *ARE* gifts). That you’re not going to squander them on some warmed-over content they can find somewhere—anywhere—else.
Readers need to trust that you won’t waste their time, or constantly ask-ask-ask them to do things. (Including—but not limited to—asking them to click through to your blog rather than including the whole post in your email.)
When you treat your reader like a number, and every interaction is driven by a desire to monetize her, and every communication is just one more tactic to move her further down your funnel…
She can tell.
And just like that, your words will have lost all their power.
She won’t unsubscribe, or send you a displeased email about it, or unfollow you on Instagram.
She’ll just stop caring. Not with a bang but a whimper.
The trick to all of this, of course, is knowing all! that! stuff! and STILL managing to create content that feels fresh and real and vulnerable, and not at all like you’re incepting their psyche to *make* them trust you.
a talented storyteller who
understands the principles of effective copy but
doesn’t believe in manipulating people and
knows that email marketing is a long game (engagement metrics > dollar signs)
who expertly weaves these ideas together in
every piece of copy she writes while
utterly nailing your voice
You gotta know the rules to break the rules.
When I was an angsty 16-year-old (cue the Doc Martens and thrift store corduroys), I used to get stoned and say things like this…
Saying you ‘don’t like’ Picasso is like saying you ‘hate’ the Beatles. You don’t have to LIKE the art to appreciate its importance.
(In case you missed the subtext there, not liking Picasso and/or The Beatles meant you were really stupid.)
Of course, I was young and opinionated (and stoned) and I thought saying stuff like that made me seem interesting and cool.
Then I went to art school, and attended a massive Picasso exhibit at the Boston MFA.
Instead of all the rearranged, Cubist boobs I was expecting, the first few galleries held nothing but simple, true-to-life pencil drawings.
Classical nudes with smooth, porcelain muscles and deep, liquidy shadows. Delicate eyebrows and stray wisps of hair. The rough folds of a heavy tunic, disappearing into thick, creamy paper.
They were so beautiful, it made my heart hurt. I never wanted to look at anything else, ever again.
“Picasso was classically trained,” my professor said. “He studied the very same methods we’re working on now.”
Professors. Always with the teachable moments.
YES, I'M ABOUT TO COMPARE MYSELF TO PICASSO.
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When I started wrangling words for money, I soaked up every “tried and true” copywriting method, template, and best practice I could get my hands on.
I read my Seth Godin. I know my Ash Ambirge (hey girl heyyy!). I’ve done my best to wrestle a PLF template into something that sounds remotely human; I’ve gleefully ignored Gary Vaynerchuk for years. (Seriously. STOP YELLING AT ME, DUDE.)
But here’s the thing about copywriting formulas. When we all follow the same rules, everything on the Internet ends up sounding the same—stilted, shouty, fake, tone-deaf.
(Not to mention, boring as hell.)
When we stop talking about real human things, we lose our connection to real humans.
And if you don’t give a shit about the writing itself, you can’t deliver emails that are worth your readers’ time. You’ll just ANNOY them, like everyone else in their overcrowded inbox.
Well. I do give a shit about the writing…
And I’ve just entered my Rose Period.
Some professional things…
My first two writing gigs were back to back full-time jobs, at two very different startups.
Both positions gave me access to all the courses and trainings and Internet marketing methods a fledgling copywriter could ask for.
I also got to touch every single piece of copy that could ever exist in an online business—website copy! Facebook ads! exit pops! sales letters! webinar scripts!
And so. many. freaking. emails.
I started freelancing on the side in 2015, and after some paternalistic, sexist employers fired me in 2016 (I think we all saw that one coming, no?) I went full-time and never looked back.
(Now *I* get to fire people. Especially: paternalistic sexists.)
My first big client was Zim Ugochukwu, founder of Travel Noire, and the work she and I did together was basically the prototype for Cult of Personality™.
You can read more about how my process works over here.
Some personal things…
In a secret “other life,” I worked in the service industry for ten years, then spent another ten in the fitness industry. I attended a nutrition school—which I now suspect is an actual cult—and started a health coaching business which I absolutely hated.
Fun fact—that “failed” business is how I realized I was really a writer all along.
I’ve been boycotting social media until I can figure out a way to be present without participating in the Zuckerverse.
*See also* That grey area between taking a stand! and being a contrarian asshole for no reason? Basically where I live 24/7.
Damon Lindelof is one of my favorite writers, because a) he nerds out on Stephen King AND Twin Peaks, just like me! b) his Instagram is pretty funny, and c) The Leftovers.
More than once, I’ve slipped an über nerdy (but completely spot-on) Lord of The Rings reference into a client’s copy, and they made me take it out. Booo.
I really enjoy…
😏Sitting at my favorite coffee shop and watching people get confused about which bathroom to go into.
😏When little kids accidentally draw penises and/or pieces of poo without knowing it. (“It’s a carrot!”)