10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy

10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy

We all have THAT friend.

The one who effortlessly charms new pals the moment they meet her.

Who cracks jokes that make everyone laugh. Who makes you feel like you’re part of a secret club just for knowing her.

She’s radiant, game for anything, and also happens to be a great cook and did we mention she’s not only super-organized, but DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS?

You know the one.

It can be tempting to resent that friend.

To think, “I’ll never come off that way. She’s just got something I don’t.”

And it can be tempting to think the same thing about your marketing copy. You’ve probably had at least one day where you slammed your laptop closed, huffed like the Big Bad Wolf, and said,

“F#$% it. I can’t write engaging, funny, warm copy. It just doesn’t come naturally to me.”

Why would you even WANT to write funny?

Maybe you want your writing to be funnier because you know that humor is a shortcut to the Holy Grail of marketing: trust.

Maybe you’re just trying to mix it up a little bit, because you’re tired of sounding like every other ho-hum copywriter or content creator out there.

But the idea of being funnier is hard for people who don’t feel a constant need for validation like they’re naturally funny.

And “be funny” is not an actionable piece of advice.

Luckily, even if you’re as uptight as Anna Wintour in a whalebone corset, you can still come off as fun, warm, and personable in your copy.

You just need a little guidance. Sentence-level hacks.

And that, my sweet friends, is what I’m here to give you.

How to fake being funny on paper

Here’s a little secret that I’ve only shared with my cats: You can write like you normally do, and then go back and edit in humor and personality.

*record scratch* Wiggity wiggity whaaat? YES. IT IS POSSIBLE.

Small, sentence-level changes to your writing can add up to a totally new voice. Then you can take full advantage of humor’s effects on your audience.

Here’s how this will go: I’ll show you 10 sentence-level punchup techniques I personally use, explain WHY I use them, and tell you WHEN it’s appropriate (and not) to use each technique in your copy.

Two caveats before we dive in:

Know your audience. Don’t go whole-hog with humor and then discover your market is actually comprised of 100% tired, angry high-school principals.

Prepare to chill out. These techniques require a little laxity with syntax, punctuation, all that good nerdy stuff. So this approach probably won’t appeal to strict grammarians. (But honestly, I used to BE a grammarian — and then I loosened up. I feel better now.) 😉

Punchup #1: Write words in ALL CAPS

You wouldn’t deliver a speech in a flat monotone at a steady volume, right? You’d find a dynamic range between soft and loud, high-pitched and low.

You can do the same by working caps into your writing here and there.

On most of the internet, writing in all caps indicates yelling or emphasis.

So anywhere you’re feeling ferocious in your copy, write a couple of those words in caps! DO IT! TRY IT AT LEAST ONCE!

See what I did there?Tip: Anywhere you decide to use all caps, use them judiciously. I like to avoid capitalizing whole sentences, and stick to a few key words.

Like I did with this subject line in an email to my list, which got a 66.2% open rate:

email subject line

I am fairly screamy, yes.

Best place to use CAPS: Emails (both subject lines and body copy), personal social media, anywhere that feels like a one-on-one connection.

Worst place to use CAPS: New client proposals (YMMV). Also SMS or MMS marketing messages — since those are usually already too close to feeling spammy and invasive.

Punchup #2: Punctuate “incorrectly” or include a typo (pick one)

Yes, this copywriter is telling you to intentionally make “mistakes”.

Because mistakes are inextricably woven into the way people communicate, they help you appear more human, and thus more trustworthy.

In certain contexts, they also help you appear like you just dashed off your latest marketing message, then sashayed away into the sunset — instead of what actually happened (AKA you hunched over that marketing message way ahead of time. Wrote it. Revised it. Scheduled it).

One of my personal favorite ways to punctuate “incorrectly”? Asterisks.

Via this post I wrote

Plus, language is fluid. Keeping current with how the youth are currently punctuating helps you look more like a culturally knowledgeable, likeable Young than a stodgy, irritable Old.

Here’s Mark Littlewood of Business of Software flaunting his hipness in an intentionally misspelled subject line:

email subject line

 

Now, I don’t advocate intentional typos more than once every EXTREMELY blue moon, because you have to demonstrate competence, too.

One study found that typos in email body copy amplified the perceived emotion of that body copy — so angry emails came across as angrier, and happy emails came across as even more joyful.

However, the same study also found that while typos make you seem authentic (duh), they also decrease the perception of your intelligence (double duh).

And while I’ve personally had success with lowercased (AKA “incorrect”) subject lines, and Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers and Airstory has experimented with them, Boomerang notes that emails with a lowercase subject line receive 13% fewer responses.

So consider whether you’re looking for responses or opens, and tread carefully.

Best place to punctuate incorrectly: Tweets, blog posts, and emails

Worst place to punctuate incorrectly: One-on-one emails and when you need to make a sale

Best place to try a small typo: Email subject line (It might actually boost your open rates)

Worst place to try a small typo: Everywhere else.

Punchup #3: Contract words and throw in some abbrevs 😉

Contractions and abbreviations work on the same principle as mistakes, above.

Contractions show that you speak informally, while abbreviations signal to your audience that you just can’t wait to get to the point.

Both position you as a casual person. And both subtly show that you feel comfortable treating readers as friends.

Here’s ConversionXL’s Alex Birkett titling a blog with an abbreviated swearword (BS):

abbreviated swearword (BS)

Best place to use contractions: Everywhere. It’s 2019.

Worst place to use contractions: Your mom.

Best place to use abbreviations: With any word that is commonly abbreviated and whose abbreviation is widely recognized, ex. “Favorite” to “Fave” or “You” to “U”. Social media is particularly suited to abbreviations.

Worst place to use abbreviations: New client proposals, and on any word your audience won’t recognize in its abbreviated form.

Punchup #4: Chop up your sentences

Ah, sentence fragments. The bane of every grammar teacher’s existence.

(I just fragmented the sentence above. To show you what I mean. Which you totally get, right?)

Cutting sentences down so they start with words like “And,” “Because,” “But” and “Which” may not be grammatically correct, but it’s the way we talk.

It imitates the cadence of casual conversation.

sentence fragments

Headspace knows how to chat.

Plus, it’s WAY easier to parse short sentences than those with tons of dependent clauses.

Give each sentence one job. Or half of one. 😉

Best place to start sentences in the middle: Try this in emails and landing pages. Anywhere you need a conversational tone without sacrificing clarity.

Worst place to start sentences in the middle: More formally written copy and content, like white papers.

Punchup #5: Ask + answer questions

Asking questions and then immediately answering them in your copy helps you accomplish two goals:

  1. It helps keep you from overlooking anything your reader might be wondering about
  2. It creates a conversational flow and helps you draw more attention where you need it

For example, have you noticed that I’ve been using this technique throughout this post? Yes. Yes you have.

NOTA BENE: This technique isn’t the same as asking a rhetorical question, where the answer is already assumed or known, and not usually expected.

ask questions

Image via GoodLandingPages.com.

Best place to ask + answer your own questions: Landing pages.

Why? Because when you write this way, it’s much easier to get into your prospect’s head and mirror the same flow of questions they’re feeling. You’ll end up with a more persuasive page.

Worst place to ask + answer your own questions: There’s no real “worst” place for this. But don’t get too caught up in it. Why? Because it starts to get annoying. What do I mean? Exactly.

Punchup #6: Choose comic book words

One of the easiest ways to take copy from “fine” to “fantastic” is through specific word choice. Lots of writers know that.

So it follows that the way to take copy from “fantastic” to “fantastically funny” is to choose funny or outlandish words. I like to call ‘em “comic book words”.

Words for fighting moves are excellent replacements for boring verbs in your calls to action (like “submit,” “subscribe,” etc).

For example:

“Send my ebook now” could become “Dropkick that ebook into my inbox”

Some comic book words are onomatopoeia (words that spell out noises), like “splat” or “meow”. These work well to stimulate the reader’s imagination when sprinkled in throughout, usually formatted in italics.

Here are a few of my favorite comic book words and onomatopoeia (sorry they’re so violent):

  • Dropkick
  • Bam
  • Punch
  • Kaboom
  • Splat
  • Shazaam

Best place to choose comic book words: Anywhere you need to illustrate a sensation, or you want to make a visceral connection. Also, whenever you want a stickier call-to-action verb.

Worst place to choose comic book words: Anywhere you run the risk of obscuring your own meaning or distracting from your point.

Punchup #7: Throw in puns and portmanteaux

Now, this right here is the type of humor that most people have in mind when they say “I’m not funny.”

The truth is that anyone can come up with puns.

And anyone can come up with portmanteaux — you know, the thing where you squish two words into one, like “bran” and “banana” into “branana,” which sounds like a horrible new protein bar.

It’s a mental muscle, and it gets stronger with exercise.

puns and portmanteaux

This is masterful. Shared by @exclaimeditor on Twitter.

Want to get started working out your pun muscles? Next time you think of a dad joke, MAKE IT. Out loud. Then revel in the groans.

Best place to make a pun: Emails, un-promoted social media posts. Basically anywhere you’re not gunning for a conversion.

Worst place to make a pun: I’ll let you know when I find it. (But really: CTA copy. Don’t sacrifice clarity for a joke.)

Punchup #8: Give asides in parentheticals, italics, or quote marks

Writing an aside is the equivalent of actors breaking the fourth wall in a movie or TV show.

You can crack a joke, spell out what you’re thinking or what the reader is thinking, or hold imaginary debates.

Kira Hug and Rob Marsh pretend to know what readers are thinking re: fingers in this subhead from their Copywriter Accelerator sales page:

number one copywriter

And Cate Martel does something similar in this email from The Hill, using parentheticals to address reader objections (or pretend reader objections):

parentheticals to address reader objections

Asides immediately make your writing more lively. They can also make the reader feel like they’re in on a secret.

Best place to include asides: Try this in content pieces and emails. But, as with most of these tips, beware including too many. You’ll frustrate readers who just want you to get to the point. (I’ve been there.)

Worst place to include asides: Calls to action.

Punchup #9: Trail off with ellipses

Would you believe…

That trailing off with an ellipsis (or as some people call them, “tri-periods”) adds drama and anticipation to your copy?

Playing with punctuation allows you to dictate where your reader will pause, so you can create an intentional cadence.

Crosshead ellipsis example

Crosshead ellipsis example via GoodLandingPages.com.

Also, lines ending in ellipses are often shorter, which makes them a breath of fresh air for a visually fatigued reader.

Best place to trail off with an ellipsis: Email subject lines (hello, curiosity gap!). Email body copy, whenever a shorter line would push your reader to keep going. Landing pages, when you’re agitating a problem.

Worst place to trail off with an ellipsis: Marriage proposals.

Punchup #10: “Misspeak” using strikethrough

This is one of my favorite techniques, and you’ve probably definitely already noticed it in this post.

I like strikethrough because it harks to actual writing — like, in a notebook with a pen. (FYI, a pen is a hollow tube filled with dark liquid that you use to make marks.)

It’s a fun way to make a joke in just a couple of words without distracting the reader.

Also, not every reader will notice struck-through copy — so it’s a subtle reward for those who are paying attention.

Best place to use strikethrough: Anywhere you want to make a joke, but don’t want to spend more than a couple words on it.

Worst place to use strikethrough: UVPs, headlines, and anywhere else clarity is paramount.

BONUS Punchup #11: Include emoji and GIFs

I saved the best for last!

Along with breaking up copy to save readers from visual fatigue, GIFs can take your jokes to a new place. They help illustrate concepts succinctly — and obviously, they’re entertaining!

Sometimes, GIFs can even inspire the perfect frame for an entire piece of content or copy, like when I discovered there were enough Matrix GIFs to illustrate a 2500-word piece on evoking emotion in ecommerce copy.

Best place to use GIFs: EVERYWHERE. (Really: content pieces, emails, social media. And specifically in content pieces when you know it’s time for an image, but there’s no graphic or photo that can help illustrate the point you’re making.)

Worst place to use GIFs: I… I do not know. They are perfect.

See these techniques in action

Wanna see how I apply these tips? Let’s do it live.

Here’s a paragraph I swiped from an email I got the other day.

Example 1 original copy

Stop charging by the hour.

Here’s why:

If you’re charging hourly prices for the work you’re doing for clients, you’re putting a cap on your earnings, you’re doing your clients a disservice, and you’re building the wrong kind of career.

When you bill hourly, you are putting yourself in a position where you are incentivized to take as long as possible to deliver the results that your client is trying to buy.

After all, why would you spend any time or energy trying to figure out how you could fulfill this contract in half the time, thereby cutting your pay in half?

So it’s not so much that you will intentionally ignore ways to optimize the process, but that you won’t be harnessing your mind in that direction.

Now, this copy is solid. It makes sense. But it’s a snoozefest, personality-wise.

To punch it up, I’d pick and choose from the techniques above, and…tada:

Example 1 revised copy

HOLD UP. Stop charging by the hour.

Just stop. Right now.

Why?

If you’re charging hourly prices for the work you’re doing for clients, you’re putting a cap on your earnings (and not the cute kind of cap, like a baby would wear to a ballgame).

You’re doing your clients a disservice, and you’re building the wrong kind of career. Sorry to break the bad news there, guy.

When you bill hourly, you put yourself in a position where taking as long as possible to deliver results = rewarding yourself for inefficiency with a big fat cookie, I mean paycheck.

Which means you probs won’t spend any time or energy trying to figure out how you could fulfill this contract in half the time. Since that would slash your pay in half.

So you won’t intentionally IGNORE ways to optimize the process, but you def won’t be focusing on getting harder, better, faster, stronger.

Punchup techniques I used

  • All caps
  • Asides (italics and parentheticals)
  • Abbreviations
  • Asking and answering questions

Want another example? Here’s part of a landing page I punched up for leadPops.

Example 2 original copy

I can’t count how many clients I’ve worked with who are paying all kinds of money to generate leads…

Only to have those leads “fall through the cracks” because it’s such a headache to transfer the leads into the LO’s email newsletter software for consistent, regular follow-up.

In fact, many mortgage companies could grow their current business by 75-100% or more just by plugging this one leak.

Sprinkle with magic sauce, aaaannnnd 3, 2, 1…

Example 2 revised copy

What kind of cash would you let slip through the couch cushions?

Pennies? Dimes?

How about quarters?

How about $100 bills?

Crisp Benjamins, just slipping down into No-Man’s Land, because you’ll never remember to check under there…

If you’re paying tons of money to generate leads…

Only to watch ‘em fall through the cracks because it’s such a headache to transfer their information into your email software…

You might as well be emptying your pockets into the couch, my friend.

Many mortgage companies could grow their current business by 75-100% or more just by plugging this one leak.

Punchup techniques I used

  • Asking and answering questions
  • Asides (italics)
  • Abbreviations
  • GIFs

Use this knowledge wisely, padawan

All right. Now you know all most of my secrets.

You’re poised to become the friend everyone talks about…

So one last thing: Don’t go crazy with these tips.

Pick the techniques that feel easiest or within reach for you. Then try them in a low-pressure situation (like an unpromoted social media post, non-sales-related email to your list, or best yet: in a post on your own blog).

Then sit back and see what happens! In my experience, people will perk up and take notice.

And whether they like your new style or not, they’ll tell you what they think — which is better than crickets any day.

4 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Trying to Convert with Funny Copy

4 funny copy mistakes

You know when someone tells a joke, and they’re super excited about it, and you’re waiting for the punchline…

And then the punchline comes, and that poor lil joke falls flat on its face?

r2d2 fallsWomp.

Maybe that’s happened to you. It’s DEFINITELY happened me. More than once.

*cue silent, awkward foot shuffling *

The same thing can happen when you’re trying to write funny copy.

And along with your joke falling flat, you don’t get your point across…

And with that failed punchline and missed point go all hope of convincing or converting your readers.

If your joke is REALLY bad, your readers might not even like you anymore. 🙁

luke nooooAnd as we know, being liked is the only reason to continue existing.

Now, I can’t tell you what jokes will have your readers rolling on the floor like those stupid jingle-ball cat toys I inexplicably have forty of.

What I CAN do is tell you about 4 common mistakes I see in so-called “funny copy”. These faux pas suck the air out of a joke faster than the vacuum of space deflates our puny human lungs.

^^ Observe! An in-the-wild example of a joke that didn’t quiiiite get there.

Mistake #1: Forcing the joke

If a joke takes an entire extra sentence, a series of hyphens, or a personal phone call to explain, it’s just not obvious enough.

Forcing a joke creates an agonizingly awkward experience. And that experience makes the rest of your copy less effective.

Unclear, obtuse, and poorly phrased jokes add to your readers’ cognitive load. Their brains literally have to burn more sugar just to try to understand you.

That’s brain-sugar they’re NOT using to think about how convincing your offer is.

luke and yodaMmm, sugar.

One quick and easy way to simplify a joke? End your sentence on or near the funniest word.

For example, take this dumb bit I used to perform:

I like to replace the words “kid,” “child,” and “baby” with “possum” because it just sounds so much better when other women talk down to me. “Everything is different once you have a possum, Lianna.” “I didn’t know what love was until I met my possum.” “I needed reconstructive surgery after giving birth to my possum.”

Possum is a hilarious word. And it’s the main reason that bit got laughs. ‘Cause let’s be real, it’s not my finest work.

Mistake #2: Too many jokes

Look, I’m a firm believer that the more puns, the better. Punning is my favorite pastime.

In fact, I was crowned the Pun Champun of New Orleans at the first International House of Puncakes competition in 2017. (It’s not actually international, but who could miss the chance for that name?)

lianna pun competition

You were expecting another Star Wars GIF, weren’t you?

I make a punishing number of puns — so many puns, some people find it punbelievable!

BUT. I also try to kill my darlings when I’m writing copy…

Because, just like forcing the joke (Mistake #1), including too many jokes can distract readers from the real point of your copy.

And that’s a losing proposition.

⚠️ TORTURED ANALOGY WARNING ⚠️

Y’all see “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”? Sure, it was good, but it had like 25 different openings.

In my incredibly humble but also completely accurate and inarguable opinion, “The Last Jedi” would have been a lot stronger if there had been just one or two different establishing scenes. Instead of the seventeen opening scenes that just made it feel like the movie was constantly starting over like Groundhog Day.

darth maul

Yeah, I said it. COME AT ME, NERDS

There isn’t really a hard-and-fast rule for how many jokes you should make in a piece of copy, but in case you need one, I made it for you:

AIM FOR NO MORE THAN ONE JOKE EVERY FOUR SENTENCES.

This should keep us all sane and on track.

Also, obviously this rule doesn’t apply to me. Because I said so. *stamps foot*

Mistake #3: Failing to voice-match

One of the most common issues brands and writers make when they’re starting to experiment with humor? Failing to match their voice with the brand’s existing voice.

OR, a brand goes full-bore with customer-facing humor from the start… but they forget to update the default copy in their email service platform or CMS.

So you get this maniacal mix of fun, punchy, branded copy — and boring-ass transactional emails.

For example, here’s what happens when you subscribe to McSweeney’s, which you’d think would have side-splittingly great copy even in its default emails:

mcsweeney's meh

You would be wrong.

Dang! So disappointing.

Attention to detail is always important when it comes to copy, but it’s extra crucial when you’re aiming to be funny.

Mistake #4: Jokes in the wrong spot

Rhythm is one of the basic principles of comedy. Whether you’re watching standup, improv, sketch, or your spaghetti-stained Uncle Joe reminiscing about his youth, you’re subconsciously expecting some sort of rhythm and resolution.

When you make a joke at the wrong spot in your copy, you destroy the rhythm. You pull readers away from your point.

Including a joke at the wrong spot can even feel frustrating or irritating, much like including too many jokes.

it's a trap

If this all feels overwhelming, you could just hire me

So where are the RIGHT spots for a joke in your copy?

Anywhere you’re introducing anxiety or doubt — Because humor breaks tension and builds trust. I especially like a little bit of humor in “click trigger” copy under a CTA button

Anywhere you’ve got a long list of boring or “standard” items — Add delight here with a funny line item and reward readers who are paying attention

Anywhere your reader runs the risk of getting bored — Long, technical copy? Make a parenthetical aside every now and then

Anywhere you’re talking about yourself and your brand — Show readers and customers that you’re confident enough to be self-deprecating. It’s paradoxically endearing

In your image captions — Everybody reads the captions. Everybody. Even you

 

These are all extra-safe options, because the object of your joke is never the reader.

(Wanna make fun of your reader? SO DO I. PLEASE STEP INTO MY OFFICE)

Anyway, I figured a post about everything you’re doing wrong would be a great way to make you like me more.

Did it work?

2018 Year in Review: Eating Crow, Making Bank, + Spending Big

2018 Year in Review

2018 blew chunks. There, I said it.

On a personal level, 2018 was the hardest year of my life.

I looked some of my deepest flaws in the face and asked myself what I was going to do to be a better person. I lost some of my most important relationships due to those flaws. I ate a LOT of crow (which, for a pescetarian, sucks especially hard).

can i get an alcohol?

January through March this year, basically.

But weirdly, at the same time that my emotional life was completely unraveling, my professional life was picking up steam.

I was regularly being invited to speak at events. I was consistently bringing in 10k a month. I introduced a day rate offering and realized how awesome it was to go HAM on client projects all day.

I felt like I was living a double life: cheerful, fun and funny consultant on calls and in person, and complete and total mess whenever I was offstage and off-camera.

My biggest accomplishment of 2018: I kept going.

Historically, I’m the first to belittle or overlook my own accomplishments, but you know what? That one matters.

I just finished writing a bunch of cards to the friends who helped me get through in 2018, especially the first few months. I try to practice gratitude on a regular basis, but holy shit was this year good practice. I leaned SO HARD on my friends this year, and they held me up.

Thanks, y’all.

MY FRANDS

My mom, me, and 3 of my ride-or-die buds: Julia, John, and Michael.

Now for the rest of the year:

I created & honed the best talk I’ve ever given

I’ve never had more fun than when putting together the talk I gave all year: How to Be Funny (Even If You’re Not): Comedy-Inspired Copywriting Tips.

It’s a three-part romp through the psychology of humor and how jokes work in the brain; how to refine your style of humor and give your customers what they want; and line-level writing tweaks anyone can make to create funnier, warmer, more personable copy.

I worked with whip-smart speaking coach Lanie Presswood to structure and practice my talk before giving it for the first time at MicroConf in Vegas, which ruled.

lianna patch at microconfDressed like Peter Pan, cursing like Captain Hook on stage at MicroConf

… and I spoke at ~8 events

This year, I spoke at 6 conferences and a couple of other events, including:

It’s not as much speaking as some of the real Gs do, but dear God it felt like a lot.

Here’s a photo of the insane live sketchnotes of my Blue Ribbon talk, which the Smart Marketer team commissioned and sent to each of the speakers. I was FLOORED. What an incredible gift. These live on my office wall now.

I loved it all, and it continues to blow my mind that people want lil ol’ me to teach them about marketing.

Want me to speak at your event in 2019? Let’s do it.

I’ve got 6 events on the books already and I won’t be doing more than 10 because I want to survive 2019, so let’s talk about your event sooner rather than later.

I grossed six figures at Punchline Copy

Oh good, it’s the part of the post where we talk about money! This should make us both very uncomfortable.

Technically, I hit the six-figure mark for the first time in 2017 with income from both Punchline Copy and SNAP Copy, which I co-run with James E. Turner.

This year, I sailed comfortably past six figures gross revenue from Punchline alone. That felt pretty cool.

In July, I invoiced nearly $19,000. I was also busy AF.

But before you go getting jealous…

I also SPENT tens of thousands on expenses

This was the year of saying “Fuck it, why not invest in myself?”

My biggest expenses were business coaching, an invite-only Baby Bathwater event in Croatia, and membership to the Baby Bathwater group itself.

I feel like I lucked out last year when I started working with my business coach, Charlie Gilkey. There are a lot of bullshit coaches out there, and Charlie is categorically not one of them.

After working with Charlie for more than a year, I’ve baked his fee into my monthly business expenses. He’s got this blend of big-picture strategic oversight and daily, down-and-dirty execution techniques that make it impossible to not hit at least SOME of your goals (and believe me, I tried).

As for the hefty investments in Baby Bathwater — a terrifyingly intimidating group of people far smarter and more accomplished than me — I’m still completely swamped by impostor syndrome like, every single second of every day.

So I wanted to invest in being around the kind of people who AREN’T like that (or who at least hide it better. I am the queen of showing my own ass in posts like this).

Enter Baby Bathwater, where everyone is amazing but no one acts like a dickhead. At least in public. Well, except for me.

Oh, another thing I super fucked up this year money-wise:

I totally spaced on my 2017 taxes after filing an extension. So I got socked with a $14k tax bill in October, right when I was buying my house.

Did I mention I bought a house?

I bought a house

I’m that person who’s been up her own butt for six or seven years about buying vacant land and building a tiny house on wheels.

You know the type. We rail against mortgages and home debt and the housing-industrial complex (which is not a thing). We never shut up about our #tinyhousedreams.

Consider this my official notice: I’m shutting up.

I bought a regular-ass house in New Orleans in October. It happened super fast and I’m still trying to figure out why, honestly.

But I’m pretty pleased about it, if only ‘cause I can knock holes in the walls and no one can say anything about it.

Here’s my house. Yes, it’s adorable.

View this post on Instagram

mine (give or take 30 years)

A post shared by lianna (@punchlinecopy) on

I figured out who I want to be like… and who I definitely don’t

Part of this year’s tremendous[ly painful] personal growth involved taking a good look at the people I admire, and identifying the qualities I want to develop in myself.

I also met some of my heroes (you’re not supposed to do that, remember?). I was disappointed to discover that they’re fallible human people who are actually kind of assholes.

For example: earlier this year, a copywriter who shall not be named — whom I had long admired — happily took $500 for a half-hour-long phone call about one of my service sales pages.

This person had not read the extensive intake form they asked me to fill out. Their feedback on the page was repetitive and unhelpful. The call ended at minute 29, when they said, “Gotta run, my next call is here!”

And afterward, I never heard from them again — not even a “Hey, did you get value from our chat?”

Lesson learned: I never want to make a client feel like that.

so lame

Now for three people I DO want to be like:

Ezra Firestone, whose Blue Ribbon Ecommerce Mastermind event I spoke at in August.

Ezra is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable marketers out there, and he’s incredibly down-to-earth and genuinely funny.

He gives fantastic talks, is constantly sharing useful ideas on Instagram, and for some reason, he’s also really good at Ping-Pong? Jesus, Ezra, stop making the rest of us look bad.

Andy Crestodina, whose ContentJam event I spoke at in October.

Andy is one of those people everyone loves, and for good reason. Not only is he one of the best content marketers on the planet — who actually practices what he teaches — he’s SO NICE.

UNBEARABLY NICE. SUSPICIOUSLY NICE.

And I know calling someone “nice” sounds kind of lame, but trust me: Andy is the kind of nice where you’re like, “I need to rethink the way I treat people because I wanna be just like you.”

andy crestodina and lianna patchAndy and me at the ContentJam speaker party. Believe it or not, this picture was his idea.

Val Geisler, who continues to crush it in the email marketing space, and with whom I created Black Friday Bullseye (productized ecommerce email consulting).

I’m lucky to call Val my pal — between her wealth of knowledge on all things email marketing and her get-it-done work ethic, she’s one of my biz role models. She’s the real deal. And I’m determined to co-tackle an email marketing client project with her this year.

val geisler and nadya khoja

Here’s Val with the normally very grumpy Nadya Khoja in Vegas at MicroConf.

I could keep writing this list, starting by adding everyone in my mastermind group (shout out to the original Copywriter Mastermind, brought together by Copywriter O.G. Joanna Wiebe).

But I’ll keep it to 3, since as we know, 3 is the stickiest number.

Assorted other shit I’m proud of this year

  • I got back into doing standup
  • I read more books
  • I established a journaling habit.
  • I switched gyms (which was hard) and kept doing CrossFit (which is hard)

What I’ll be doing in 2019

Chiefly: More speaking, including putting together new talks and giving more private workshops.

Here’s a photo from a daylong deep dive I did in August with the fantastic team at oVertone Haircare:

I’ll also be experimenting with a January paid-ads sprint to sell more of one of my favorite services, The Uppercut. People love that shit, and I love doing them. So why not send some quality traffic to the sales page and see what happens?

Anddddd… I’m determined to finish and launch my humor copywriting course. It’s been an albatross around my neck. One of those cases where you’re so invested in making sure the thing is perfect and great and good that you’re too afraid to actually build the thing.

I’m gonna build the thing in 2019.

If you wanna come along for the ride, drop your email address here and I’ll tell you when it launches:

You've already subscribed to Just The Tips, you sly dog! Why not follow me on Twitter instead?

Happy New Year to you and yours, and remember: Time is a construct, the new year is not particularly significant, and you can decide to change your life whenever you goddamn well feel like it.

Love,
Lianna

How to Use Incongruity to Keep Your Customers Interested

Incongruity-Resolution Theory

HELLO! Boy howdy, your face is fantastic.

Today we’re gonna be talking more about how that big ol’ brain of yours processes humor.

(This is Part 2 in an extremely slow-going but worth-the-wait series entitled Why Your Brand’s Gotta Be Funny. Read Part 1 here.)

Specifically: today we’ll look at how the brain processes “incongruity,” and what a teensy moment of disconnect has to do with making you snort-laugh.

This is my all-time favorite “Wait, what??” GIF. You will see it in all of my slide decks.

First: What’s incongruity?

Incongruity is a mismatch between what we see or understand to be true and what we (consciously or unconsciously) expected.

We realize that something doesn’t match up. We struggle to understand why. And then we experience a sudden, shocking shift in perspective as our brains adjust to the new reality.

That’s the moment where funny happens — where we “solve the problem” and “get the joke”.

There are a few different incongruity theories and approaches (the rabbit hole goes pretty deep) and at least a dozen full books! To get into all of the various theories here would require me to be a heartless supercomputer, which *beep boop* I am definitely not.

For now, let’s focus on incongruity-resolution.

These theories suggest that humor arises as a result of that problem-solving process. So how does the problem-solving process actually work?

I love this Incongruity-Resolution Model by Jerry Suls (1972), adapted by Rod A. Martin:

Jerry Suls Incongruity-Resolution Model, adapted by Martin

As you can see, our brains predict the outcome of a story or setup.

If we’re right, we’re not surprised, and we don’t laugh.

If our predictions are wrong, we’re surprised. We examine the story or setup for a “rule” that would allow the incongruity to make sense.

If we don’t find that rule, we’re confused. But when we do find the rule, we “get” the joke and laugh!

This double-entendre one-liner is a great example of having to think for a second to find the “rule” or interpretation that makes the joke funny:

“Remains to be seen if glass coffins become popular.”

(where I found this)

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE TIME!

Imagine taking a sip of a delicious, creamy red smoothie.

Your mouth and brain are expecting strawberry. So it’s pretty jarring when your tongue registers “OH SHIT, THIS IS KETCHUP.”


Womp womp.

Now, that experience might not be ha-ha funny (at least not to you, or not at the time) but it’s a perfect illustration of how it feels to expect one thing and get something different.

Tons of standup comedy is built on laying expectations, and then flipping or changing the joke’s resolution to something the audience doesn’t expect.

For example, consider this joke from Emo Phillips:

“I learned about sex the hard way — from books!”

One of my favorite, most meta examples of incongruity-resolution is from the brilliant Dan Gilbert. While explaining the brain’s tendency to always be “nexting” (predicting the future), Gilbert tosses out this perfect sentence:

“As long as your brain’s guess about the next word turns out to be right, you cruise along happily, left to right, left to right, turning black squiggles into ideas, scenes, characters, and concepts, blissfully unaware that your nexting brain is predicting the future of the sentence at a fantastic rate. It is only when your brain predicts badly that you suddenly feel avocado.”

Reader, I cackled.

Incongruity by itself isn’t necessarily funny

It’s important to remember that while incongruity is a vital ingredient of humor most of the time, incongruity by itself isn’t automatically funny.

If you were walking on the sidewalk and you got hit by a car, that’d be incongruous. But I bet you wouldn’t think it was funny! This example borrowed from Rod A. Martin’s The Psychology of Humor, a textbook with which I am straight obsessed.

Why did the monkey fall from the tree? Because it was dead.

(where I found this)

Where to use incongruity in your marketing

Like other approaches to humor, incongruity can fit neatly into lots of different spots in your marketing strategy.

But one place it’s super-effective? The top of the funnel, where you need to snag attention FAST.

Spot #1: Use incongruity at the top of your funnel to get attention

PPC ads, videos, and email opt-in popups are all fair game for grabbing someone’s attention, making them say “Wait, what?” and then flipping the script on them.

Here’s an opt-in I screenshotted from Paris fashion designer (and Punchline subscriber!) Striiiipes. This opt-in is hidden behind a tiny footer link that says “Don’t click here”:

via Striiipes

This introduces incongruity. Why wouldn’t you want me to click around your site??

When you do click that little link, you’re treated to the resolution:

via striiipes

I LOVE IT.

One of my favorite parts of my own top-of-funnel setup is a lil ol’ page on PunchlineCopy.com called “Secret Cat”.

Users click a link in one of my first few onboarding emails to tell me more about themselves — and as a reward, they’re whisked straight to a page featuring a photo of my ridiculous cat lying upside-down.

sg upside down

This is not the same photo. He’s just usually upside-down.

Presumably, Secret Cat is not what my readers were expecting. But the experience of “finding” him is generally beloved.

(Or so I assume. 😬 Hey, people stay on the list.)

Viral video ads tend to use an incongruous or unbelievable setup as a hook to keep viewers watching, and then flip the script on their expectation.

Harmon Brothers is especially great at this. Just watch the opening of this Poo-Pourri spot, which they made:

You see a perfectly groomed, fancily dressed, beautiful woman (with a British accent — which is automatically more authoritative to American ears). Then you hear her declare, “You would not believe the motherlode I just dropped.”

That prooooobably wasn’t what you were expecting.

And you probably snickered a little bit. Boom: incongruity accomplished. You’ll keep watching. (This is just one of tons of successful, viral ads Harmon Brothers has created along the same lines.)

I’d include an example of a PPC ad that uses incongruity, but I haven’t seen one because PPC ad copy is UNIVERSALLY SO FUCKING BORING.

Spot #2: Use incongruity throughout retention, too

The better you get to know your customers, and the better they get to know you, the more opportunities you’ll have to surprise them.

Also, getting to know your people is just good marketing practice. You make more relevant offers, they feel like you’re actually helpful, everybody wins!

/gingerly steps off soapbox to avoid spraining my ankle… again

One place to avoid incongruity? Pricing & transactions

While incongruity-based humor can be totally innocuous, you still don’t want to introduce potential confusion or distraction anywhere you need a reader to trust you.

Also, and hopefully this doesn’t really need to be said, but don’t intentionally set your readers up with an expectation and then disappoint them.

E.g. if you send an email that says something like, “What’s hot, starts with the letter S, and ends with the letters A-L-E?” Your readers will expect a sale.

So for the love of Blob, don’t then link them to a picture of bread with the caption “StALE TOAST!”

oh god

^^^ This was the worst example I’ve ever written. But you get it.

Be aware when your audience’s predictions become expectations, and try to exceed those expectations.

What are your favorite incongruity-resolution jokes or marketing moments? Hit me with ‘em in the comments!

“What does laughter mean? The greatest of thinkers, from Aristotle downwards, have tackled this little problem which has a knack of baffling every effort, of slipping away and escaping only to bob up again, a pert challenge flung at philosophical speculation.”

 – Henri Bergson, 1911

How to Write Funnier Copy with the Rule of 3

How to Write Funnier Copy with the Rule of 3

The Rule of 3 (also called the “triple”) is a copywriting and comedy commandment.

Think about it.

Everything is just punchier, more memorable, and more enticing in threes — whether you’re creating a bullet-point list, ordering scoops at the ice cream shop, or juggling multiple lovers… none of whom know about the others’ existence. 😬

mesmerizing, isn't it?

This GIF is only tangentially related to that last thing, but honestly, how could I not use it

Schoolhouse Rock even did a song about the rule of 3, which is, like, Jesus, so incredibly creepy:


(Scroll down for an even creepier video on the rule of three. Oh my god, who rubber-stamps this stuff??)

So why does the rule of 3 have such power over us?

Psychological secrets behind the rule of 3

Secret #1: We like things with a beginning, middle, and end

Recently, I saw a newbie try his hand at a local standup comedy open mic.

He grabbed the microphone and started telling a story about his roommate walking in on him while he was masturbating.

Aaaand… that was the end of the story.

Highly dissatisfying. (Probably for everyone involved.)

lame

Actual video of the audience reaction

Why? Because this turdburger didn’t tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end! He left off the end and expected the audience to laugh anyway.

But no one was ready to laugh, because we were still waiting for the story to end (and for this dude to get offstage).

There’s a reason that plays often have three acts… a reason that the trilogy is a popular book and film format…

And that shitty, three-word, period-punctuated headlines like “Cutting-Edge. Superior. Amazing” still appear all over the Internet.

Also in the real world:

Hat tip to Digiday

Secret #2: Three is the minimum number required to create a pattern or “streak”

Remember 10th grade geometry, when your teacher pointed out that it takes a minimum of two points to create a line?

Well, it takes a minimum of three things to create a discernible pattern. That’s why, given a brain-teaser like “Find the 4th number in the sequence: 3, 6, 9, ___,” we can figure out the next number.

Having just “3, 6” wouldn’t tell us what to do next.

Interestingly, one study found that “the third repeat event in a sequence is pivotal to the subjective belief that a streak is occurring.”

Put another way, you need to see your boyfriend do the dishes at least three times before you believe he might actually be worth keeping around.

buuuurn

Lol, gender roles, amirite

Secret #3 (ooooh!): A series of 3 offers a concrete “middle” choice

We also like things in threes because offering three items can help anchor the “middle” choice as the best or most popular. This is a useful pricing tactic, and one you’ll see all over SaaS and other service-provider websites.

Secret #4: Three has a naturally satisfying cadence

Listen to any NPR broadcaster read a series of three items. Their voice will lift or lower on the second one.

It’s just a natural inclination to indicate the difference between one, two, and three.

How to use the rule of 3 in funny copy

In general, if you’re writing copy with a series of three, save the funny word or phrase for the last item in the series. That ensures it’ll have the maximum punch.

What’s funny?

Usually it’s something surprising or shocking. Or something that’s the opposite of what you were led to expect (this is called a reversal).

“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”

– Jon Stewart

You can also “heighten” throughout a series.

I could do an entire post on heightening (and I probably will… soon).

sooon

My next blog is just over that ice floe

But for now, think of heightening as moving in a clear direction. You can start small and make something bigger and more bombastic, or the opposite — start “normally” and get ridiculously small or insignificant.

You might go from “safety pin” to “knife” to “harpoon cannon”.

Or you might go the opposite direction, from “President of the Galactic Republic” to “2-term Congressperson” to “night janitor at the local high school”.

It’s the relationship between these items that’s funny, not any single item on its own (though I did titter a little when I came up with “harpoon cannon” just now, ‘cause it sounds good. More on funny words and sounds later… ).

I like how improviser Will Hines defines heightening as “hit[ting] a comedic idea several times in a way that obviously gets more absurd as you go.”

(Side note: buy Will’s book, How to Be the Greatest Improviser on Earth. It rules.)

Where should you use the rule of 3?

Aim to lighten the mood with humor in any of these spots in your copy:

Series of examples  — Item 1, Item 2, Unexpected/Absurd Item 3

 

ComparisonsWriting this post is like having my teeth pulled, only I’m both the dentist and the victim.

 

Exaggerations This chair is so old, it probably has grandchildren. It probably uses an AARP discount card. It’s so old, it needs its own goddamn chair to sit down and take a load off.

In intros or lead-ins You know, like I did with this post

 

Remember that 3 is the minimum number required to form a pattern. You don’t have to stop at three.

If you want to hammer home the humor and venture into absurdity, you can continue adding to the pattern, like SNL does in this sketch:

The basketball players in the background are what’s funny in this sketch. They get called out by the director three times, and then we see a series of quick cuts where the background players get more and more ridiculous.

(And did you notice the reversal at the end of the sketch?)

Quick caveat here: if you add more to your series of three items, make sure you don’t let your joke outstay its welcome.

PS. The world’s creepiest video on the rule of 3

Told you I’d give it to you.

How do you usually use the Rule of 3?

Take It From the Experts: HBO’s “Talking Funny”

Takeaways from HBO's Talking Funny

Talking Funny is a 49-minute HBO special featuring Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. sitting around and talking about comedy.

They chat about the moments they first felt like real comedians and what they like and dislike about each other’s work.

Also, they do impressions of each other, which rules.

And while I’d have loved to see *literally any* female or nonbinary comic included, the video is absolutely worth a watch for comedy nerds!

NOTE: Yep, Louis C.K. was part of this discussion. This was filmed before we all knew he was/is a big ol’ creep.

SECOND NOTE: There’s a part of the discussion that includes the N-word around minute 16. The discussion moves to curse words in general at minute 17.

So what can you learn from 4 masters of the comedic craft?

Here are my takeaways. Yours might be different, but that’s why this is my blog + not yours

Different comedians build their acts in different ways — While C.K. and Chris Rock both write a new hourlong act every year, Seinfeld tosses 10-20% of his act each year and replaces it with new jokes

 

Wanna get better? Build on the best material you have — Louis C.K. regularly makes himself use his former closing bit as a new opening bit, “just to fuck myself”

 

Jerry Seinfeld sure likes to talk over people (though we knew this from Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)

 

You can have a great joke, but if you don’t set it up right, it won’t hit because the audience doesn’t understand the premise. Context is everything.

 

To Ricky Gervais, truly great comedy isn’t about being funny, because some things are always funny (ex. personifying animals). It’s about “going out and doing something no one else can do.”

 

In that same vein, jokes that depend purely on profanity aren’t good enough

 

Chris Rock’s take on racist jokes: “Talk about what [people] do, not what they are

 

Have you watched this special? It’s been on my list forever.

Interested to know what you got from it! Leave a comment and let me know. I promise I’ll actually check the draft comments this time. ????

(Side note: I feel like Seinfeld wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror and growls, “You’re Jerry Fucking Seinfeld, you glorious bastard.”)

Why Your Brand’s Gotta Be Funny

Why Your Brand's Gotta Be Funny

(Pssst, I’m hoping to turn this into a series of posts about the psychology and functions of humor! Let me know in the comments what other topics you want me to cover.)

LET’S GET REAL NERDY FOR A SECOND.

Why should businesses use humor in their marketing?

Well… let’s look at what the research says.

it's a stampede!

cue everyone leaving

Psychologist Michael Apter suggests that there are two social contexts, or states, that humans switch between:

The telic, or goal-oriented state — AKA when we’re focused on gettin sh** done

And the paratelic, or play-oriented state — AKA when we’re goofing off and making jokes

We switch between these modes all the time throughout the day. (Just think of the last meeting you went to, when someone cracked a joke. Everybody laughed… and then y’all all went back to work.)

Now, these moments might just seem like quick breaks, but this kind of playtime actually serves some super-important social, emotional, and cognitive functions.

For example, research has shown that humor is linked to overall improvements in outlook and attitude. It’s a coping mechanism when times are tough. And it helps people bond together as a group.

All of this seems pretty self-evident from, um, being a human in the world, right?

But for some reason, the idea of being funny just FLIES OUT of most people’s brains when they’re putting their marketing campaigns together.

Which is crazy, because marketing is all about forming a real connection with your customers. So why would you just leave one of your best tools in your arsenal?

Humor helps you…

 Build genuine relationships with your readers or users — you know, like the relationships you have in real life (if you don’t, well, that’s a different issue)

Address potential objections in a lighthearted way, and paint a realistic picture of what people COULD be doing instead

dealforma screenshot

This benefits copy I wrote for DealForma helps readers better picture their life with clean data

Save face in awkward situations — like when you need to ‘fess up to a mistake, or roll out sensitive new pricing or plan updates

Alleviate anxiety in key moments — for instance, when your user might be worried about whether they need to provide a credit card for a free trial

bluetick.io CTA

Fun little click-trigger copy I wrote for Bluetick.io (check it out. It rules)

AND a whole lot more.

Now, there’s obviously way more to all of this — in fact, there are multiple books about the psychology and function of humor in the brain.

I’m barely scratching the surface here… but scratching sure does feel good.

happy lil sloth scratching

Live video from the Punchline office.

Wanna learn more about how humor works in the brain, and how you can leverage it to improve your marketing?

I’m building a course! Sign up below to hear when I launch it:

Blue Ribbon Ecommerce Mastermind

blue ribbon ecommerce mastermind denver

Hey you! Look at your face. It’s a great one. I’m glad it’s reading this blog.

Soooo. Earlier this month, I had the wild honor of speaking at the Blue  Ribbon Ecommerce Mastermind in Denver!

What’s Blue Ribbon?

The Blue Ribbon Ecommerce Mastermind, run by Smart Marketer, is a group of the most successful ecommerce business owners in the world, plus a sprinkling of tip-top agency owners and marketers.

And they’re somehow ALL shockingly talented Ping-Pong players. Like, shocking.

I mostly drank and watched.

Blue Ribbon members sell their own original products (like Panda Planner and Groove Rings), cool shit they discovered in China, auto parts, supplements, you name it.

If it’s genuinely valuable to customers, if there’s a niche for it, someone at Blue Ribbon is probably selling it or about to sell it. They’re prescient AF like that.

Ezra Firestone is the marketing genius and ecommerce biz owner behind Blue Ribbon. * insert beardy man-bun emoji *

He kicked off the 2-day meeting with a rundown of the biggest challenges facing online store owners.

Ezra’s kickoff session was followed by talks from luminary geniuses like Brett Curry, Drew Sanocki, Moiz Ali, Todd Kriney, Molly Pittman, and more.

patrick eckstein, william painter

Please enjoy this totally gratuitous photo of me and William Painter co-founder Patrick Eckstein, wearing WP’s killer shades.

Oh, I spoke too!

I was super-honored to share my talk on humor in marketing (which boils down to why, how, and where in your marketing funnel it pays to be funny).

Check out the killer live sketchnotes the Smart Marketer team was kind enough to arrange for all the speakers — and then send to us after the event!

blue ribbon ecommerce mastermind sketchnotes

Featuring two extremely hairy Vanna Whites!

A couple of book recs for the road

Here are the two books I added to my list after speakers recommended them:

Baby Bathwater Island Recap

Baby Bathwater Island Recap

If you follow me on Instagram (which you don’t, because you have better things to do), you might know that I was in Croatia earlier this month.

More specifically, I was on a private island named Obonjan for an event called Baby Bathwater Island.

The best way I can describe this event is “Boozy Entrepreneur Sleepaway Camp”.

It was exactly as awesome as it sounds.

literally MADE for instagramming

The whole place was infinitely ‘grammable.

My fellow attendees? A group of 150 people whose personal and professional accomplishments make me want to crawl into a dark hole and binge Lucky Charms until I puke.

You name it, they were there: hugely successful ecommerce store owners, agency founders, inventors, philosophers, influencers… all the cool titles you get to choose from if you hang out on the Internet these days.

INCREDIBLY, not only did I get to hang out with these goshdang luminaries, I also got to deliver my all-time favorite talk: How to Be Funny (Even If You’re Not): Comedy-Inspired Copywriting Tips.

How to Be Funny: Improv Inspired Copywriting Tips

(Did I eat shit on the gravel pathway down to my talk 3 minutes before delivering it, you ask?

Yes, yes I did. It was less “slapstick” and more “Fuuuuuuuhhhhhh I’m glad no one saw that. Oh look, I’m bleeding”)

Anyway.

Spending 5 days at Baby Bathwater, listening to talks on things like “hedonic engineering” (by Jamie Wheal), microdosing (by Jack Allocca), crowdfunding (by Roy Morejon), and hanging out with some of the most incredible people I’ve ever met gave me a new perspective on work… and life.

I wish there were a non-cheesy way to say that, but there isn’t.

And that’s coming from me, a noted skeptic who figured hey, this event might well be a huge waste of cash.

I left inspired to work harder, give myself permission to be awesome, and focus on doing more of what I love.

So how did the magic happen?

Well, the setting (a breathtaking private island in the middle of the Adriatic Sea) didn’t hurt.

NBD just fuckin paradise u kno

   Oh fucking stop it already, sailboat.

And neither did the included wine and cocktails (which, as a native New Orleanian, really made me feel at home. Also drunk.)

But honestly, because BBW is a “no-pitch” zone, the pressure was off — and that’s where I shine.

Ask me to give you the hard sell on what I do, and I can… but it’s not my favorite conversation to have.

HOWEVER. Sit me next to someone I admire, and let me make food puns and nerd out about the psychology and marketing applications of humor… and I will be there ALL. NIGHT.

Here’s what I took away:

I’m raising my rates. Starting with my day rate, which will be going up by 1K for new clients starting September 1. (Want to snag me at my current rate? Book your day now.)

I want to be around these people more. People who don’t cut themselves off from a new idea because it seems hard or even impossible. People who say “Hey, cool, let’s do that thing,” and then DO IT.

I’m finally making a course. One thing I heard over and over (especially from folks who were too hungover to come to my 10am talk, or who rightly wanted to see my new pal Tom Breeze’s excellent YouTube ads talk at the same time) was: “Do you have a course? I’d buy it!”

Up until this year, I’ve felt that it wasn’t time for me to build a course yet — that there was more for me to learn, and hone, and who was I to be teaching a course anyway?

And yeah, there’s still more for me to learn… but there’s also a LOT that I want to share.

There are people who I can’t work with one-on-one, whether it’s because of money or time constraints or the fact that they’ve been dead for 80 years (shoutout to my dawg, Claude Hopkins).

A course is the best way to share what I love, what I’m just so deeply into and excited about — humor in marketing — with more people who are interested.

So keep your eyes peeled, because it’s coming.

And if I have my way (which I will, cause like, it’s my course)… it’s gonna be fun as hell, y’all.

Sign up to hear when I launch the course:

You've already subscribed to Just The Tips, you sly dog! Why not follow me on Twitter instead?

GDPR Emails: The Good, The Bad + the Come On Now, Y’all

GDPR Email Marketing, Ranked

Oh hey there!

Just in case you’re one of the 12 people who doesn’t have an email address, you may have missed a Big Thing in the world of online marketing recently.

The European Union passed some laws about how businesses can communicate with their customers and subscribers and use their data.

TL;DR: it’s called GDPR, and it made people freak the f*** out about their email lists.

oprah cat freakout

Any excuse to use this GIF, honestly.

(A non-marketer friend of mine, when I told him about this, said: “Is THAT why I’ve been getting all those ‘We updated our privacy policy’ emails?” What a sweet, sweet baby.)

Funnily enough, you might not have even needed to send a compliance email, if your regular list includes an “unsubscribe button”:

Anyhoo, my inbox was just as inundated with panicked GDPR emails as yours was…

But unlike you, I am a BIG OL’ EMAIL NERD.

So today I’m holding an impromptu awards ceremony for the email copywriters at these companies. Some of whom are doing really honestly fabulous work! And others… others who might not exist.

We’ll start with the BAD, move to the GOOD, and end with the “Come On Now, Y’all”. ????

Because who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned ribbing?

(As always, click the images to open the full-size screenshot in a new tab!)

THE BAD

The Bad includes literally every email that looked like this:indiegogo gdpr, gdpr emails, email marketing

HARDCORE SNORE. Sorry, Indiegogo. Not picking on you for any particular reason.

You could play Cliche Bingo with the phrases in these emails.

Mark one X per square every time you see the following phrases:

– “We care about your privacy”
– “Your privacy is important to us”
– “Our commitment to your privacy hasn’t changed”
– “There is no action required on your part”
– “We know you place your trust in us, and we don’t take it lightly”
– Subject line: “We’ve updated our privacy policy” OMG REALLY? YOU AND THE REST OF THE WORLD

Special shoutout to Against Malaria, to whom I donated once and promptly unsubscribed one million years ago. They sent me the same email everyone else got:

against malaria gdpr email

WHO ARE YOU???

Guys. GUYS. Why did you not segment your list to make sure that you were sending a version to unsubscribers that said something like,

“Hey, you haven’t heard from us in a while, but here’s why.” <– ???!!!

Even some of the other folks in this category managed that.

(OK, sorry for ragging on a nonprofit that probably doesn’t have the resources to know stuff like this. If you want, you can donate to them here.)

THE GOOD

This is the part where I give medals, because YES, TERRENCE, EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE A COMPETITION.

Airstory

airstory gdpr email

What’s good here:

This was the only GDPR email to use a literary/nonfiction quote, and I’m here for it. Airstory uses Arndt’s words to remind people what their software actually does — helps people write — then segues into the boring stuff.

They acknowledge that people aren’t going to read their policy, and tell them what’ll happen anyway. Loving the honesty.

Sumo

sumo gdpr email

What’s good here:

“Because we don’t want to bore you, we’re going to make this fun.”

AND they’re giving away a swag bundle! Is that legal? Who cares, they did it. Look at Sumo go.

BidSketch

bidsketch gdpr email

What’s good here:

It’s personal, short, AND includes a CTA that helps Bidsketch make lemonade (new trial users!) from lemons (having to bother people).

Zapier – Bronze Medal

zapier gdpr email

What’s good here:

Instead of taking the Eeyore approach of “We have to do this, bah humbug,” Zapier flips this mandatory email into a boon for subscribers.

They also helpfully remind people of the lists they’re already subscribed to (though mine don’t show, interestingly), and tell them what’ll happen if they don’t click the big orange button.

Fomo – Silver Medal

fomo gdpr email

What’s good here:

This might be the chillest email I have ever seen. Ryan comes across as an animate bottle of CBD oil, he’s so chill.

It’s funny, it’s calm, and it ends on a sweet and upbeat note: “happy selling”. What’s not to love?

Endcrawl – Gold Medal

endcrawl gdpr email

What’s good here:

Who’s NOT going to open an email titled “Please help us stay out of jail”? No one. Except maybe Trump.

But you, dear stranger, are better than he is.

And Endcrawl is better than all of us. Just look at this lively email, with its casual tone, front-and-center bullet-point benefits, funny and varying CTAs, and — just like Bidsketch  — its tantalizing offer, which could turn inactive or clueless subscribers into brand-new users.

Bravo, Endcrawl! U single?

(Hat tip to Alan for bringing this email to my attention!)

Honorable mention goes to Josh Kaufman, whose “New Post + GDPRmageddon” subject line made me smile, and who smoothly rolled a real intriguing lede right into his own policy updates:josh kaufman gdpr email

THE COME ON NOW, Y’ALL

This category is reserved for businesses from whom I just… expected more.

GDPR emails in this category are basically the same as those in “The Bad,” but I had higher hopes for these companies. And they let me down.

Maybe that’s my fault? … Did I just gaslight myself?

Moo

Moo absolutely KNOWS how to write and send funny, piquant emails. I loved this one in particular:

moo email

Image thanks to Really Good Emails. Click through and tap “View the Live Email”. It’s worth it.

So their GDPR email, while friendly and succinct, felt a little flat to me.

There was an opportunity here, and Moo missed it:

moo gdpr email

MailChimp

mailchimp gdpr email

Come on, MailChimp! You were one of the first brands to stand out in the email marketing space.

Why hand over the reins to the legal team and let them send this snoozefest? This makes you look more like MailChump.

What happened to your lovable zaniness? Where is your zest and zip? Wherefore art thy zazz???

AppSumo

appsumo gdpr email

Only the subject line here (“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (to our privacy policy)”) and the subheader (“laws are a-changin'”) are good. The rest of it is, well, boring.

And that concludes the GDPR Email Olympics! Conceived, hosted, produced, and attended by… pretty much only me. #lonelyolympics

Was this fun for you to read?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it and add a sweet comment.

In the meantime, here’s some #GDPR easy listening for you: