Is Your Boring Brand Personality Killing Your Sales?: How Ecommerce Brand Saddleback Leather Gets It Right

If you sell a commodity product in a competitive niche, can using brand personality as a differentiator really make a difference to your bottom line, or is that just some BS sold by ad agencies and marketers who want your business?

The real question: When competing for audience attention and dollars, can a standout brand personality, creatively expressed in your marketing communications and other customer touchpoints, help drive sales and build a devoted following of customers and brand evangelists who are happy to spread the word far and wide about your products?

If we look to the example of Saddleback Leather Company, the answer is yes.

This article will explore how Saddleback Leather CEO Dave Munson (with the help of other smart people in his orbit) has figured out how to set his company apart in a memorable (and profitable) way among a sea of other leather goods companies, at least partly by using personality as a differentiator.*

I’ll be focusing specifically on the Saddleback Leather website, though the brand personality comes across in their videos, emails, and all other communication touchpoints as well.


I do not have insider access to company data or insights. The observations and opinions here are my own, based solely on my 15+ years of experience as a former ad agency employee, freelance marketing copywriter, DTC ecommerce copywriter and lover of brands with personality, along with the copious research I did before I began writing. Any dumb takes or egregious mistakes should be attributed to me, and not the sources and articles I link to in this blog post.

Also very important: The success Saddleback Leather has achieved is a result of many elements, of which brand personality is just one. Brand personality just happens to be what I’m focusing on here.

Sources: The sources I used to write this post, including articles, podcast interviews with Dave Munson, and research into brand personality, differentiation, and other related topics, are listed at the end of this post.

Ok, now that we have that out of the way …

Introduction & Background

Today I’m taking a look at a small subset of popular leather goods company Saddleback Leather’s digital presence – specifically, their website – to demonstrate how a compelling unique value proposition (UVP), use of storytelling, quirky brand personality and stand-out copy – help them differentiate in a crowded, competitive market with a commodity product, and generate enviable revenue.

How much revenue, you ask?

While I don’t have personal, insider knowledge of the numbers, my research tells me that in late 2017 (the most recent figures I could find), that figure was over 15 million dollars a year in online sales.

At around that same timeframe, it took 200 employees to keep up with Saddleback Leather’s bag orders.

Not bad for someone who:

:: Started off selling leather bags from the luggage rack of his Land Cruiser

:: Sold bags on Ebay when he didn’t have a company name yet, didn’t spend any money on marketing for the first nine years of his business, and who sells a commodity product in a very saturated niche

But beyond the revenue figures, Saddleback Leather has also cultivated something insanely valuable that you can’t put a dollar figure on – they have not just customers, but devoted superfans and brand evangelists who buy from them again and again, AND who spread the good word about the company and its products.

The bottom line:

As the experts at branding agency Ignyte point out in their article, Brand Personality: How to Build a More Human Brand, brand personality is “one of the most important factors in differentiating your brand from the competition.”

And, crucially:

“Personality is the part of your brand that your customers identify and build a relationship with. Because of this, personality branding plays a huge role in driving customer acquisition, fostering brand loyalty, and building brand equity.”  

And that means, all other things being equal, if you sell a commodity product in a competitive niche, emotionally connecting with your ideal customers through brand personality not only helps you stand out in a saturated market, but as a result, also helps influence buying decisions.

Before I break down how I believe Saddleback Leather does this, you may be wondering …

If you’re mostly hitting your KPIs, should you even concern yourself with brand personality?

Let’s say you know the way your brand personality shows up in your marketing communications could use some work, but your website is passable at getting the kind of conversions that define success in your business.

For example, you’re getting email subs on the regular and you’re making sales consistently – i.e., whatever your KPIs are, you’re mostly hitting them – can’t you put off improving your website copy, emails, and other content and marketing communications until later, or just ignore it altogether?

Here’s something to consider:

Every day you operate with a stale, boring, or not-quite-there brand personality, a chunk of the traffic you’re spending time and money to drive to your website & email opt-in are bouncing off, never to return, because potential buyers don’t care about your story or feel an emotional connection with your brand.

And some of those people who bounced?

👉 They could have been your most ardent supporters, superfans, and repeat buyers, for years to come. You’re leaking profits and the opportunity to build an audience of devoted customers and brand evangelists. 👈

On the other hand, when you make an emotional connection through communicating a distinctive, original brand personality, the right customers – and more of them – will want to do business with you.

That’s because “People purchase products because of a story, an emotional connection they feel with a brand.”

And they can’t feel that emotional connection with your brand if your marketing communications are lackluster, bland, and boring.

Ask yourself:

Are potential customers coming to your website right now? Today? Tomorrow? Next week? Then communicating your distinctive brand personality right now, today, tomorrow and next week is imperative.

 “ … you don’t get the opportunity to make a first impression multiple times. How you present your brand across the web matters –– and it matters from day 1.”

OK, let’s get started!

The Details

Company: Saddleback Leather

CEO & Founder: Dave Munson

The product: Premium leather goods that promise to last a lifetime. (Backpacks, briefcases & satchels, wallets & belts, duffels, luggage, toiletry bags, totes & purses, laptop cases, phone cases, and more)

Prices range from a $29 business card holder to a leather suitcase for $1,379 and all price points in between; all products come with a 100 Year Warranty.

Revenue: While I don’t have personal, insider knowledge of the numbers, my research tells me that in late 2017 (i.e., the most recent figures I could find), that figure was over 15 million dollars a year in online sales.

Positioning & UVP: Although Saddleback Leather sells a commodity product in a highly competitive niche, Munson has built a profitable business by creating a compelling value proposition (indestructible, heirloom quality leather bags that last a lifetime), and a differentiated and resonant brand personality that is unlike any other in the market.

[As a reminder, I’m not affiliated or connected with Saddleback Leather in any way. The information I’m sharing here is based on a combination of my own research + mining podcast & other interviews with company owner & founder, Dave Munson, from other sources.]

Let’s look at how Saddleback Leather approaches creating a differentiated brand personality on their website.  

First, what do we mean when we say, “brand personality?”

The fine folks at Ignyte – A Branding Agency, define it this way:

Brand personality is the collection of emotional, intellectual, and behavioral patterns unique to a brand that is consistent over time. Just like people, brands have recognizable traits that stem from the way they think and feel about the world. The authenticity and consistency of these traits is what separates a strong brand from a weak one.”

[I suggest reading the entire Ignyte article linked above for a thorough discussion of brand personality, why it matters to your business, and the important role it plays in differentiating your brand in a competitive niche.]


Through that lens, let’s take a look at the core components of the website Home page and how brand personality plays a role in making a strong emotional connection with the ideal buyer/customer.

When I’m writing a website or doing a website audit and copy makeover, I usually suggest the following basic components on a website Home page*:

:: Tagline

:: Value proposition expressed [on its own, or through other copy elements; the main thing is, it must be evident, either explicitly stated or conveyed implicitly though copy and image elements, etc.]

:: Headline + Body copy

:: Call to action language that asks people to do the most important thing you want them to do while on the Home page of your site [For an ecommerce site, that might be to visit your product pages, sign up for your email list, or initiate a chat session, etc. For a site selling services, it might be to subscribe to your newsletter or sign up for a complimentary consultation, etc.]

:: Email list opt-in copy 

[*CAVEAT: Obviously, how a website Home page is written, designed, and structured will depend on many things – your business model, what you sell, your website’s main purpose, your KPIs, and so on. An ecommerce website Home page will be different than a service provider’s Home page, an attorney’s different than a circus clown’s, etc.]


The importance of a compelling tagline

Because of the enormous competition on the web in every product category out there, and the fact that you’ve got just 2-7 seconds (and some experts say, 2 seconds, period) to catch someone’s attention, a good tagline is important.

In a sea of competing sites that sell similar products or services, you have to do something to stand out and instantly get the attention of your ideal buyer, and a good tagline can help you do that.

What defines a “good” tagline?

An effective tagline will communicate your brand’s message in way that resonates with your ideal audience and gets them to stop and take notice of your business.

It simply needs to get your most likely buyer – not everyone, but only your most LIKELY buyer – to stay on your site long enough to explore what you have to offer, and determine what they want to do next, whether that’s check out your Shop pages, inquire about your products or services, fill out a contact form, sign up for your email list or some other action, depending on your goals and KPIs.

The Saddleback Leather Tagline

Saddleback Leather is known by copywriters, marketing geeks and other students of brand differentiation for having one of the most iconic, memorable taglines on the web:

[Screenshot from Saddleback Leather website]

This is a tagline that stops you in your tracks, if you’re the ideal customer. It sets the tone for everything else you’ll experience on the website and throughout the rest of Saddleback Leather’s marketing communications.

In a sea of competing leather goods brands, it stands out and instantly gets the attention of the ideal buyer. 

Bingo! That means it’s a winner.

Think about it … they could have gone for a bland, boring, forgettable tagline like:

:: Quality Leather Goods for Men & Women

:: Fine Leather Goods & Accessories

:: Premium Leather Goods

:: Or, like many leather goods companies you’ll find online, no tagline at all.

None of the taglines above tell a story or differentiate the brand in any way.

But the Saddleback Leather tagline starts to tell a story the second you land on their website.

It’s arresting, full of personality, and conveys an immediate benefit and the essence of the brand.

You instantly begin to sense that there’s something different about this leather goods company. There’s adventure here. Ruggedness. Maybe some mystery. And definitely lots of interesting stories.

And that?

That makes you eager to explore more of the website and see what else there is if you’re the ideal customer … which is exactly what you want a tagline to do.

[Want to hear the story of how founder Dave Munson came up with the iconic tagline? Check out episode 181 of Steve Chou’s My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, How Dave Munson Started Saddleback Leather by Leveraging the Power of Storytelling, to hear the story.]


What is a value proposition?

This isn’t a class on marketing terminology (and Google returns 173,000,000 million results when you search this term), but the fine folks at Hubspot make it simple to understand:

“Your company’s value proposition is the core of your competitive advantage. It clearly articulates why someone would want to buy from your company instead of a competitor.”

Saddleback Leather creates indestructible, heirloom quality leather bags that last a lifetime.

Their value proposition is expressed clearly and directly in the tagline, and it’s evident in copy and image elements across the website.

For example, you’ll find it expressed either overtly or subtly in:

#1: The famed 100-year warranty

#2: The videos, accessible by scrolling down the Home page and clicking on “Films & Videos” from the image / photo gallery in the READING MATERIAL section

Where you can watch videos like these:

Ten hours of hand stitching with Saddleback Leather, What Quality is in a Saddleback Leather Briefcase?, Australian Crocodile Attacks Bag, and Reconditioning a Saddleback Bag after a direct hit from a tornado, to name just four.

#3: The product copy on the PDP pages

Here’s some of the product description language you’ll find for on the product detail page for the Everyday Leather Tote:

Over-Engineering; no breakable parts; reinforced stitching; copper rivets; custom hardware is made of 316 Stainless Steel; really strong UV resistant industrial Polyester thread, which is “more expensive, by far, but doesn’t deteriorate when the sun hits it like Nylon does.”

#4: The Leather Buyer’s Guide

#5: The answers on the FAQ page

Notice that in all those places where the value proposition is expressed, either explicitly or implicitly, the elements of the brand’s personality – adventurous, friendly, genuine, strong, rugged, outdoorsy, etc. – are obvious.

To sum up, the Saddleback Leather value proposition is distinct, memorable, and differentiates the brand from other leather goods companies. And it positively reeks of their undeniable, one-of-a-kind personality in a way that resonates with their ideal customers.


You know what they say – you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

And because a Home Page is usually the most highly-trafficked page on your website, you want to make sure you’re drawing web visitors in and getting them curious about your brand, so they’ll eagerly click through to other key parts of your site to learn more about your products and/or services.

The Home page of your website functions as a virtual storefront. Just like on a busy street with lots of stores, you want to provide a warm, welcoming, value-packed reason for web visitors to “come inside,” otherwise they’ll click away. 

Your Home page needs to: 

Convince busy and easily distractable web visitors on a mission to find specific, problem-solving information or a specific kind of product or service, to stay on your site long enough to read further, find out what you’re about, and, if they’re the ideal client or customer, take some kind of action – such as checking out your products or services, reading your blog, contacting you for more information, filling out your contact form, or signing up for your email list, depending on the kind of business you have and what your KPIs are.

 [Signing up for the email list is usually the most highly leveraged action to focus on, because that is the audience you’ll be developing a long-term relationship with, and presenting with offers to buy your products or services.]

The idea with web copy is to get people to take action. Because when they take action, they’ll become more engaged with your brand. You want them engaged and curious enough to click around your site and become more involved in the “world” you’ve created on your website.

And because of the way people read and search on the web, you only have a few seconds to do this.

One way to grab attention is with a distinctive brand personality.

If you want to get – and keep – the attention of your ideal customers among a sea of competing brands who sell similar products, your website and other marketing communications need to convey your differentiated brand personality quickly and persuasively.

Notice how Saddleback Leather starts to do this the second you land on their website with a compelling value proposition and a strong tagline, as discussed above.

Add in persuasive storytelling, and the singular Saddleback Leather personality as conveyed through copy and images, and you’ve got a winning formula for standing out in a saturated sea of competitors.

[Screenshot of Hero section of the Home page as of 06.02.23. This will change depending on when you’re viewing the site, and rotates depending on what’s being promoted. Fun fact: When I worked as a product copywriter for the DTC ecommerce site of the apparel brand Champion, I learned how important it is for an ecommerce website Home page to show “newness” or “freshness,” hence the changing images.]

If you’re Saddleback’s ideal customer, you’re instantly hooked and the next step for you is likely checking out a few Shop category pages or even individual PDPs, maybe signing up for the newsletter, watching some of the videos or otherwise interacting with the site.

👉 This is good; this is what we want! Because this kind of engagement means web visitors are curious; they’re becoming invested in your brand and your story. 👈

Scroll down below the Hero image on the Home page, and you’ll find images & copy that direct you to click over to the category pages for Men’s, Women’s, New Arrivals, and Corporate Gifts. (Again, depending on when you’re viewing the page, since ecommerce sites often change out images frequently, depending on what’s being promoted.)

And then below that, we have an embedded video of CEO Dave Munson walking with lions. This is an obvious differentiator, and helps establish the distinctive Saddleback Leather brand personality: bold, adventurous and rugged, with sturdy leather goods that can stand up to any experience, venture or undertaking.

[Screenshot from Saddleback Leather website Home page]

And definitely not something you’re going to see other leather goods ecommerce sites.

Next, as of 06.04.23 viewing, there’s the Leather Desk Collection image and [Shop now] CTA, then a featured products section, then The Saddleback Story section, and finally, the Reading Material section.

Let’s talk about those last two sections briefly.

The Saddleback Story

[Screenshot from Saddleback Leather website Home page]

Ah, the Saddleback Story. This tale has everything: travel, adventure, danger, federales, “surf trips, car crashes, jungle treks, countless taco stands,” and lots of other unforgettable details.

Woven throughout this captivating narrative is the brand’s origin story.  

“So, I had my first bag made while living in Southern Mexico as a volunteer English teacher to kids who needed a little help at a place called Centro NOE.”

When Munson got back to the States, “People crossed the street to ask about it and came out of their offices when I walked by their windows.”

So, he decided to move back to Mexico to get more bags made and get the company off the ground.

After a few years, and many twists and turns, including the business taking off then almost sinking, Saddleback is now a “strong and healthy leather company, built to be able to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’.”

(There’s so much more to the Saddleback origin story than what I’ve summarized here, so I’d suggest reading through the entire thing to see how a compelling, authentic brand story is told.)

Your backstory is your fingerprint

Notice how genuine this story feels. In many ways, it doesn’t feel like an “official” brand story at all, because it’s not slick, commercial, or mainstream; it’s not trying to be a colorful story about a founder because that’s what some marketing/branding/advertising exec/ guru suggested, instead, it feels real because it IS real, etc.

And that adds to its appeal.

The Saddleback backstory is a key piece of what differentiates the brand, and can’t be duplicated by any other brand out there, end of story.

👉 As I always say, your backstory is your fingerprint™, no one else has it or can replicate it, so use it to your advantage in your all your brand communications, where relevant. 👈

Now, my guess would be that Dave Munson himself wrote the content on this page, but I can’t be sure of it.

If you’ve watched any of their videos or listened to Dave on podcasts (which I have, many times), the voice of the Saddleback Story copy certainly sounds like him. And that, again, adds a unique flair that can’t be replicated.

Consider how you can apply this to your own brand story

Now, maybe you don’t have a bullfight, a crooked federale, a $100 per month apartment in Juarez, or travels to Bora Bora, Kenya, Tanzania, or Rwanda as part of your backstory, but there are elements you can tease out that relate to your brand and products that set you apart in your niche, I’m sure of it.

How do I know this?

Almost every time I’ve worked with a copywriting client, they say some version of, “But there’s nothing unique or different about me or my business. There are dozens of other [fill in the blank with their kind of business here] who do what I do. I can’t think of anything that differentiates my products or services or sets me apart.”

And almost every time, that’s not true. In fact, I can’t think of a single client I’ve ever worked with where that has turned out to be true.

It just does not happen.

The trick is to tease out your “unique recipe” (HT to Derek Halpern; see below), which I do with clients during the intake process.


I remember a wedding photographer I worked with a few years ago who said to me on our first call, “There’s nothing unique or different about me. I’m one of hundreds of wedding photographers in my town.”

If you research wedding photographers online, you’ll notice that in most cases, there are many of them in any given town, even small towns. And they almost all have sites with gorgeous work samples and glowing testimonials, but not much that differentiates them one from the next.

So, I understand why my client might have felt the way she did.

BUT … once I started digging through said client’s intake questionnaire, the combination of things that set her apart (aka, her “unique recipe”) were obvious to me.

Yes, there were lots of other talented wedding photographers in her town. But her differentiating factors, when combined, could easily help her stand out among her peers.

For example:

:: She specialized in fine art wedding photography, using natural light, with a focus on outdoor shots in iconic Arizona locations, for first-time brides in their 20s and early 30s.

:: Her work had been featured in Vogue and Brides Magazine, among others.

:: In addition to her killer photography skills, she was also known for being a trusted guide and reliable friend and partner in the planning process.

:: And she had a great reputation for providing impeccable service and a stellar client experience, with the client testimonials to back it up.

And so on.

At the end of the day, there were many things about her services, her approach, her unique photography style, and her background, etc., that when swirled together, easily set her apart from the other wedding photographers in her town.

As Derek Sivers would say, “Obvious to you. Amazing to others.”

Never doubt that you possess talents, skills, gifts & abilities that others find amazing (and that can help you stand out in a crowded market).

A few months after I finished my work with this client, I received an email from her out of the blue one day, saying this:

“How are you? I’m sitting here reading my pricing magazine and thinking about how the web copy you wrote has worked wonders for me. I continue to use it daily over here! On my website and especially my pricing guide that gets me a ton of bookings. What an amazing difference it has made for my business this year. I wanted to send you a nice email, thanks again for everything.” ~Rachael K., Wedding Photographer


I can also remember when I felt this way about my own services.

When I first got started online a bunch of years ago, it seemed impossible to differentiate myself from the thousands of other copywriters out there offering similar services.

It was a real pain point for the first 6-8 months after launching my website and “officially” declaring myself a freelance copywriter for hire.

And it showed in my results – or lack thereof. 

I eventually realized that while none of the things I do is unique in and of itself, the combination is – the kind of clients I work with, my offerings, my personality & style, my process and approach, and my backstory – all combine to help me stand out in the market.

This is what Derek Halpern, who ran the site Social Triggers, calls “a unique recipe.”

Once I understood this and seeded it through all my copy and communications online, things started to get much easier. In a nutshell, I started to attract more of the kind of clients I wanted to work with who saw me as different from other freelance copywriters offering nearly identical services.

“A unique recipe” – this is important to keep in mind.

Remember, you don’t have to come up with one singular attribute that makes your brand different from every other brand on the planet who does what you do.

👉 You simply have to find your unique recipe, and your backstory is a huge part of that.

Add in expressing your brand’s unique personality and voice, the way Saddleback Leather does, and you’re practically guaranteed to set yourself apart from the competition.


Help me, help you (as Jerry Maguire would say) 😊

Want my free 5-part email course Web Copy That Converts? I’m putting the finishing touches on it now; if you’d like to be notified when it’s ready, simply enter your email address in the opt-in form at the end of this blog post, and I’ll send it your way as soon I get it finalized.

In the meantime, I’ll send you my Website Copy & Conversion Audit Checklist while you wait, which is essentially the 5-part email course distilled down into a short checklist.

If you’d like to work together to punch up your copy, check out the instructions at the end of this post.



Now, let’s take a look at the next section on the Home page.

[Screenshot from Saddleback Leather website Home page]

Notice how everything here fits into the rugged, adventurous, or “it’ll-last-a-lifetime” ethos.

This image grid, like other elements of the brand’s visual identity, instantly conveys the one-of-a-kind personality of the brand.

Click on any of the images, and you’ll find personality to spare.

From the “How to Convince Your Spouse” section, for example:

“Honey, all my life I’ve wanted to own something nice enough to hand down to our oldest son and so I want to buy a $5000 pocket watch to show him as he grows up.” To which she responds, “Are you crazy? We don’t have that kind of money!” So that’s when you say, “Well, then would you mind if I just got a $599 Heirloom Quality Leather Briefcase for the kid to remember me by when I’m gone? Which one do you think I should get?”

The entire page is a joy to read if you’re the brand’s ideal customer, but probably not so much if you’re not.

Which brings up a very important point …

👉 One of the effects of carving out your singular brand personality is that there’s a high probability you’re going to turn off some people, maybe a lot of people.

On the plus side, this also means there will be many others who deeply resonate with your messaging. Those folks will stick around, check out your product pages and sign up for your email list. Even better, many will become longtime loyal customers and brand evangelists.

Let’s be real … I’m sure there are things about Saddleback Leather that will turn lots of people off. For example, working with leather in the first place, or the fact that they openly express their faith. It’s not overt or in your face in my estimation, but it’s there, and they don’t shy away from it.

Whether I believe what they believe or not, in terms of faith or anything else, I do know I’m drawn to the transparency and honesty of how they express it, of how they are who they are and don’t try to hide what could be off-putting for at least some prospective customers.

Yet, despite these potential deal breakers, they have a wildly successful business that generates millions of dollars in revenue per year.

Speaking of transparency, I love this last line of the “Our Purpose and Mission” section:

“But please know this right now, I’m a hypocrite. I say to do things and not do things, but I mess up with those things myself. I try not to, but I do. Just wanted to get that out there in case you were wondering.”

This (and really, everything else on the site) lets you know you’re dealing with real people, people who care deeply about the way they conduct business and not “just” any old leather goods brand you found in your online search for a backpack, wallet, purse, or belt, etc.

And none of this feels calculated, commercialized or contrived, but rather, wholly authentic.


Now that we’ve covered the tagline, value proposition, and main body copy on the Home page, let’s take a look at the main CTA, or call to action.

What I like to see for a CTA on a website Home page is an unmissable (without being obnoxious) opportunity to sign up for an email list or newsletter, as its own stand-alone piece of copy – meaning, it’s not hidden in the footer or otherwise hard to find.

Currently, you can sign up for the Saddleback newsletter via an opt-in pop-up that appears when you land on the site (current as of June 2023):

[Screenshot from Saddleback Leather website]

There’s another sign-up opportunity in the main navigation at the top of the Home page, and again in the footer.

I don’t think it would be overkill to create a bold newsletter opt-in CTA and add it just before or after the Reading Material section on the Home page, or another place on the page where it makes sense before scrolling to the end of the page.

Because what often happens is, someone lands on a website, and many of those someone’s will instantly close out the pop-up because it’s just second nature.

Then they’ll start exploring the rest of the website, and their eyes will likely glaze right over the small, easy-to-miss newsletter sign-up opportunity in the site’s footer.

And are they going to remember to scroll back up to the main navigation at the top of the page and click on the newsletter menu item there?

Sure, in some cases, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

This is why I like to see the newsletter opt-in as the CTA at the bottom of at least 2-3 of the most highly trafficked website pages, for example, the Home page and the About Us page.

I’ll say it again – getting folks on your email list is one of the most highly-leveraged actions to focus on, because this is the audience you’ll be developing a long-term relationship with, and presenting with offers to buy your products or services.

(Plus, in the ecommerce world, in addition to all the other email flows you need in your business, you want to be able to remind people who added products to their shopping cart but didn’t finish the check-out process to return, also known as cart abandonment emails.)

The bottom line is, you want to make it super obvious and easy for website visitors to sign up for your emails. Because once they navigate away from your site, they may never return. And there goes someone who could have been one of your best customers and most vocal brand evangelists.

Smart Choice: A Dedicated Newsletter Opt-In Landing Page

That said, one thing I love that Saddleback Leather does (that I don’t see lots of other ecommerce brands do), is have a dedicated landing page solely for the newsletter opt-in, i.e., it’s not a landing page for the newsletter opt-in, plus a few other things thrown in on the page as well. (<– Which is something I have seen a handful of other ecomm brands do on their newsletter sign-up pages.)

The purpose of a landing page is to offer one and only one option – and in this case it’s to sign up for the newsletter, and

The beauty of having a newsletter opt-in landing page is that you can place the direct link to that page in your social profiles and everywhere else you interact online where links are allowed. Hard to do that when all you’ve got are opt-in forms in the footer of your site, or other low visibility places.

Get people on that email list, folks! 😊

Now, if they were to add a specific newsletter opt-in CTA on the Home page, they could simply use some of the same opt-in language they’re already using in several other places on the site, such as that on the PDP pages (more on that in a sec). Easy-peasy.

A Great Idea: Add a Newsletter Opt-In CTA to Your Product Detail Pages

Here’s something else Saddleback does that I think is just brilliant, and something I haven’t seen other ecommerce brands do: they promote the newsletter at the end of the product description on several of their PDP pages.

For example, on the Everyday Leather Tote PDP, it shows up like this:

Unproffesional at its finest — Join Our Newsletter Now.

Don’t miss out on the chance to see unprofessionalism at its finest. Join us now and subscribe to the newsletter today and get exclusive access to all our new designs, stories from the workshop, dad jokes, or bad jokes (like this one) and more delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now and get ready for a truly unique experience.

On the Big Leather Wallet PDP, you’ll find this opt-in copy:

Don’t Be Left In The Dark, Subscribe To Our Newsletter Today.

Don’t be left in the dark when it comes to knowing the latest news and stories from Saddleback Leather Co. Join us now and subscribe to the newsletter today and get exclusive access to limited edition collections, bad jokes, and even stories from when my family and I had breakfast with real kings.

And on the Leather Tow Belt PDP, you’ll see this newsletter CTA:

Better Than The 6 O’clock News, join the Newsletter Now

Forget the 6 o’clock news, subscribe to the Saddleback Leather Co newsletter and get all the latest news, updates and stories delivered right to your inbox. Never miss out on our crazy newsletter – join us now and get the best of Saddleback Leather Co.

And every one of these opt-in CTAs ooze that one-of-a-kind Saddleback Leather personality. Winning!!

Of course, I can’t say how well the newsletter CTAs on the product detail pages are working, but I bet they’re getting more newsletter sign-ups than if there were no opt-in opportunities on these pages at all.


Help me, help you, redux

Want my free 5-part email course Web Copy That Converts? I’m putting the finishing touches on it now; if you’d like to be notified when it’s ready, simply enter your email address in the opt-in form at the end of this blog post, and I’ll send it your way as soon I get it finalized.

In the meantime, I’ll send you my Website Copy & Conversion Audit Checklist while you wait, which is essentially the 5-part email course distilled down into a short checklist.

If you’d like to work together to punch up your copy, check out the instructions at the end of this post.



So far, we’ve covered the Home page of the website and a few other key places linked to from the Home page.

Even if we stopped here, you can see how Saddleback Leather presents a differentiated brand personality in their copy and visual elements, in a way that attracts their ideal customers, builds brand loyalty, and repels the non-ideal tire-kickers.

Of course, it doesn’t stop at the Home page; the brand personality shows up everywhere across the site. In this section, I’ll briefly touch on some of these other essential website elements.


The About Us page links out to the Saddleback Story, which we’ve already discussed. It’s one of the most memorable brand stories you’ll find anywhere online.

As mentioned before, your backstory or company founder story is your fingerprint – no one else has it, so it’s a fundamental part of how you differentiate your brand among a sea of sameness.

You’ll also find the Love 41 Story linked to from the About Us page. The Love 41 story is powerful; that said, I think it would be more affecting if it were written in the first person.

So, for example, instead of this:

When she returned home five weeks later, Suzette was still consumed by the stories and people of Rwanda. There were so many children longing for someone to love them. Something had to be done, and she knew she had the ability to help. There was no choice.

It could be rewritten like this:

When I returned home five weeks later, I was still consumed by the stories and people of Rwanda. There were so many children longing for someone to love them. Something had to be done, and I knew I had the ability to help. There was no choice.

This one tiny tweak creates a stronger impact, in my estimation. It feels more potent and immediate.


Another area of the site that expresses the singular Saddleback personality is the warranty page (Even down to spelling it, “warrantee” – this too is part of their unique brand personality.):

Just remember that before you die, get all your Saddleback stuff sorted out in your will, and if there’s ever an issue, just have one of your descendants contact me or one of my descendants and we’ll get you sorted out.

If you’re the ideal customer, you just have to smile – and fall in love with the brand a little bit more.


PLPs (Product Listing Pages)

I’m not going to spend too much time here, but click through to a few of the Shop PLPs, for example, the Women’s Totes & Purses page. You’ll notice there’s a lot of copy under the product listings that explains full grain leather, why leather matters, and lots more. This is something they do on all the PLPs I checked out.

This PLP page copy reinforces the value proposition: indestructible, heirloom quality leather bags that last a lifetime. Super smart thing to do.

For example, on the Women’s Totes & PursesPLP, you’ll find this bit of copy:

We Over-Engineer our Leather Totes and Satchels

When we design our women’s leather bags, such as totes and satchels, we always design them to last a lifetime. This means adding the best stitching in all the right places, using the best possible materials, and over-engineering the bag so it can take a beating. We never want one of our customers telling us their bag didn’t hold up after a few months, years, or even decades of use. A good quality leather bag should get better with age.

Another PLP page I want to point out is the Leather Belts PLP.

After the product listings, there’s lots of copy that again, reinforces the value proposition.

And mixed in with it, is delightful copy that talks about the various “belt personalities,” where we get to experience that wonderful Saddleback brand warmth and sense of humor.

Check out this gem:

Chestnut Leather Belt Personality

The chestnut leather belt is usually purchased by professional, more urban people who tuck their shirts in. They often have a watch band, shoes, and briefcase that match. People who buy chestnut-colored leather belts are usually highly educated and belong in a Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Saab, or Volvo. They are often classier than most people and perfectionists. They also typically have an excellent sense of taste in dressing and decorating, and they have a sense of humor.

And this one:

Black Leather Belt Personality

The black leather belt is usually worn by people who look good in a thick black leather jacket, ride cruiser-type motorcycles, have black boots, and have a sense of humor. People who purchase black leather belts often also have black accents in their décor, a lot of black or gray color in their clothing, and wear thick black framed glasses. They are usually classier and have a cleaner image than people who purchase other colors of belts. They often drive Volvos or Saabs and are perfectionists.

LOVE IT!  Seriously, love. 😊

The belt personalities copy reinforces a key element of Saddleback’s brand personality:  it’s fun and playful, and conveys a “we don’t take ourselves too seriously around here” attitude.

Not everyone will resonate with that copy play, but this kind of brand personality gets me every single time; I’m a sucker for it!

Other brand personality characteristics that shine through in the copy on the PLP and PDP pages, and everywhere else across the site: adventurous, not your average leather goods company, rebellious, bold, brave, friendly, warm & approachable, genuine, strong, rugged, outdoorsy, and tough, to name a few.

PDPs (Product Detail Pages)

Now let’s take a quick gander at one of the PDP pages.

On the Front Pocket Leather Backpack product detail page, there’s the standard ecommerce DTC site product details format – an image with a few basic details.

When we scroll down, there are videos, a couple of reviews, and lots and lots and LOTS of copy about this backpack. All good – the copy reinforces the value proposition and once again, expresses brand personality.

What I want to point out here is the story that begins about 3/4s down the page:

The Hiking Through the Panamanian Jungle Leather Backpack Bedtime Story

It starts off like this:

My brother and I were dropped off by a boat on one of the Bocas del Toro islands heading to a famed surf spot called Wizard Beach. Everything seemed fine as we started on the trail up a nice grassy knoll with my Leather Backpack on my back, a fancy camera around my neck, and a leather suitcase in my hand. 

And ends like this:

I’m not saying that we would have been forever lost in the jungle and eaten by monkeys there if it weren’t for my trusty leather backpack. Still, I’m just saying it’s a really good idea to wear a backpack to keep both hands free when you’re out and about off the pavement.

A story like this dimensionalizes the product in a way that standard product copy never could. Good stuff.

You don’t have to tell stories around all your products (and this kind of product copy is not right for every ecommerce brand), but if it makes sense for your brand, it can sure help.

One of the masters of fully dimensionalized, story-based product copy, is J. Peterman. Check out their site for great examples of this kind of copy.


Now let’s take a super quick peek at the Frequently Asked Questions page.

I’ve never seen a more thorough FAQ; I counted over 50 questions. The page includes information on cleaning and care, how showroom pickup works, custom work, shipping and orders, and lots more.

Naturally, even here we see the brand personality shine through:

Thanks for stopping by! Since you’re here, we know you are a lover of quality leather and like to be informed too! Well, we’ve put together some frequently asked questions (that’s FAQ for you acronym lovers!) to help you on your quest to knowing all about snagging some sweet Saddleback leather. We know your minds are vast and unique, so feel free to give us a shout or drop us a line if you don’t find what you’re looking for below. Click here to email us, or if you want to give us a holler just call (817) 402-4550. We’re here M-F from 10 AM to 5 PM Texas time, otherwise known as Central Standard Time.

And you see it in many of the Q & As, too:

-Can I request a cool scar/no scars on my leather?

Nope, it’s really the luck of the draw! If you’re not happy with what you receive, (which we really hope you are!) just give us a shout and we’ll get you set up with a return.

-Can celebrities have free bags?

“Hi Dave, I’m So and So’s manager and they asked me to ask you if they could have a free bag. Can they?” Please tell your owner to check the cushions of their couch for the extra money so they can do what the rest of the athletes, actors, musicians, and politicians do and just buy one. No special treatment here. People are people.

How can I convince my honey that I need this?

So you want it. Now comes the hard part of convincing your honey that you need it. Maybe if you throw some of these phrases into the conversation, it’ll help.

(I won’t share the full answer to this question here because it’s so long, but do yourself a favor and check it out on the FAQ page.)

I methodically went page by page through the Saddleback Leather website to write this article, and I didn’t see a single nook or cranny where brand personality wasn’t evident.


That’s what you want – even down to the microcopy in your CTAs, your footer, your opt-in forms, and everywhere else potential customers come into contact with your brand – you want the brand personality to radiate from every corner of your site (and other marketing communications).


The Contact Us page, like all other site copy, is warm, friendly and approachable.

Smart addition to this page: If you want to chat with Saddleback fans about the products, there’s a way to do that from the Contact Us page:

For a Super Fast Answer
It’ll take about 3.2 seconds to get an unbiased answer from some of the thousands of owners in one of their private Saddleback communities click here.

Nice touch, and something I haven’t seen other ecommerce brands do. Yet another way Saddleback rises above the competition in a highly saturated niche.

On the Contact Us page, they share customer service hours, showroom store hours, and pickup hours. Ways to get in touch include phone, email, chat, and even toll-free Skype calls for international customers.

Lots of options here, which is smart. Offering several contact methods engenders trust, because it demonstrates their availability to help solve customer service challenges. If you’re buying a not inexpensive leather good, you can rest easy knowing it’ll be hassle-free to contact Saddleback and resolve any issues.

One more quick note on the Contact Us page: even the microcopy in the chat function here displays the approachable, laid-back Saddleback vibe:

Saddleback Chatterbox

We typically reply in a few minutes,

Hey there, thanks for stopping by! What’s your name?

Like I said, every nook and cranny on the website conveys the singular brand personality, down to the chat function microcopy. Again, winning!


Now, while brand personality as a differentiator is essential when you sell a commodity product in a saturated, competitive niche, I’m not saying Saddleback Leather’s success is all down to that.

No, they’ve done LOTS of smart things over the years, and creating a distinctive brand personality is just one of many elements that contribute to their success.

Like I said up top, the observations and opinions here are based solely on my 15+ years of experience as a former ad agency employee, freelance marketing copywriter, DTC ecommerce product copywriter, and lover of brands with personality, and any dumb takes should be attributed to me, and not the sources and articles used to write this blog post.

Something else to note: I can’t be 100% sure about this, as I have no special insider knowledge about how Saddleback Leather operates, but the authenticity of the brand seems to come directly from Dave Munson and his personality, his unique backstory, and his family and their interests and causes.

**In other words, the brand personality feels genuine; it does not feel as if it was calculated or manufactured in some advertising agency conference room. (If you’ve ever worked in an agency, you know exactly what I’m talking about. 😊)**

While I know from the research I did they have relied on expert advice, it also feels to me that the Saddleback team operates authentically based on who they are and what they believe, and that comes through in their messaging and storytelling, which plays a big part in their success.


If you’ve paid any attention to how many brands sell products or services similar to yours, you know how critical it is to differentiate yourself among a sea of competitors, so you can build an audience of not just customers, but raving fans and brand evangelists.

If your company’s brand personality doesn’t connect emotionally with your ideal clients or customers in an authentic, impactful way, stop and think for a minute about the revenue you could be generating, but you’re not.

Sure, success is not all down to brand personality, BUT …

“Brand personality is a way to humanize your brand with relatable characteristics and clearly differentiate it in a crowded competitive landscape.”

👉 And differentiating yourself in a crowded, competitive landscape can make the difference between a “meh” brand that folks can take or leave, and one consumers love, buy from, and sing the praises of.

To circle back to something we covered way back at the beginning of this post:

When you make an emotional connection through communicating a distinctive, original brand personality, the right customers – and more of them – will want to do business with you.

That’s because “People purchase products because of a story, an emotional connection they feel with a brand.”

And they can’t feel that emotional connection with your brand if your marketing communications are lackluster, bland, and dull as dirt.

Final Words & Next Steps

:: If you want to take the DIY route, there are many solid resources to be found online with a quick Google search that will teach you how to develop a winning brand personality.

:: You can start this process by reading some of the articles I’ve linked up below in the “Sources” section, and by reviewing other brands who have successfully created a memorable brand personality in the Other Examples of Brand Personality” section below.  

OR …

:: You can hire an agency to do the work for you.

OR …

:: You can have one of your staff copywriters team up with the person in charge of your visual assets and punch up what you’ve already got, depending on your current situation.

**As a start, you could simply work on uncovering your “unique recipe,” and begin weaving that into your marketing communications everywhere your customers come into contact with your brand.**



:: If you want my free 5-part email course Web Copy That Converts, email me at kimberly (at) kimberlydhouston (dot) com, with “Web Copy That Converts” in the subject line, and I’ll put you on the wait list and send it your way as soon as I get it finalized.

:: If you want to grab my free Website Copy & Conversion Audit Checklist, which is essentially the 5-part email course distilled down into a short checklist, email me at kimberly (at) kimberlydhouston (dot) com, with “Web Copy Checklist” in the subject line, and I’ll send it over right away during normal business hours.

If you’d like to work together to punch up your copy, email me at kimberly (at) kimberlydhouston (dot) com and tell me about your project, or check out my services here.


Other Examples of Brand Personality

Want to check out some other examples of companies who do brand personality especially well?

Here’s a company whose branding guidelines I helped create at the last agency I worked for:


And here are some of my personal favorite brands with a distinctive personality:

Whiskey River Soap Co.

Hiut Denim

Oya Femtech Apparel

Title Nine

Tory Burch


Trader Joe’s

Dollar Shave Club

Other well-known examples of brand personality include: Nike, Patagonia, REI, Harley Davidson, Jeep, Volvo, Chanel, Apple and Rolex.


This is a list of sources I used to inform this article. Articles that were quoted or excerpted directly are linked within the article where those quotes or ideas appear.

How Dave Munson Started Saddleback Leather by Leveraging the Power of Storytelling (My Wife Quit Her Job podcast, episode 181)

With Just 2 Words, This CEO Has Leadership In The Bag (Forbes)

Dave Munson and the Coolest Bag Ever (Shoptalk Magazine)

Dave Munson from Saddleback Leather – (eCommerce Fuel) Here Dave talks about the personality of the brand, maintaining the voice of the company, and best of all, his approach to marketing

How To Create A Legendary Brand Through Quality with David Munson (Mike Dillard’s Self Made Man YouTube Channel)

Building a High-Quality Leather Bag Brand (Trep Talks)

Brand Personality: How to Build a More Human Brand (Ignyte – A Branding Agency)

Ecommerce Branding: 11 Examples and 27 Expert Tips to Help Build Your Brand Online (Big Commerce)

How to Write a Great Value Proposition [7 Top Examples + Template] (Hubspot)

Here are some other resources you may find helpful on the topic of differentiation and / or brand personality and brand voice. While I did not quote or excerpt these directly, I read them in the process of doing background research for this article:

Differentiation strategy: what it is, why it’s critical, and how to get it right (CXL)

How to Build a Big Brand Voice (Copyhackers)

Brand Personality: Definition, Examples, and How to Define Yours (The Branding Journal)

What is a Brand Personality, According to Marketers Who’ve Developed Them (Hubspot)

Ignyte Brands is a wonderful resource for all things branding, and I read several of their blog articles in the course of researching this article:

The Power of Copywriting in Branding

How to Discover Your Authentic Brand Voice

How to Define a Brand Voice to Set Your Business Apart

7 Simple Website Copywriting Best Practices That Won’t Make You Cry into Your Corn Flakes (but will help you get more business, bookings & sales)

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

I get it.

You’re busy. You’ve got a dozen balls in the air and a To-Do list a mile long.

Which means you don’t have the bandwidth to rewrite your entire website from top to bottom yourself, a dedicated copywriter on your staff to do it for you, or the time to vet and hire a pro copywriter.

But you do want to get more email subscribers, book more complimentary consults or strategy sessions, or make more sales. And my guess is, you want to do it sooner rather than later.

That’s where these seven simple website copy tweaks come in – for when a complete web copy overhaul is not in the cards, but you want to do something to improve your website performance ASAP, ideally in the next few days.

Because as “they” say, your website is your 24/7 salesperson.

And that means that while you’re tending to the other parts of your business, or simply off living your life, your website should be doing a lot of the heavy lifting for you:

  • Educating your potential clients and customers about what you have to offer
  • Whipping up interest in your products and services, so your best, most aligned prospects fill out your contact form, book a complimentary consultation or discovery session, or take the first step in your sales process
  • Getting your ideal clients & customers onto your email list, where after an email nurture sequence, the right ones make the decision to buy

And of course …

  • Making sales

If you want those results, then a great use of your weekend would be to implement these tried-and-true web copy to-dos, so you can get more conversions sooner than later, i.e., more business, bookings & sales, directly from your website. (Yes, there may be additional steps involved in the process, but your website should be doing a lot of the pre-selling for you.)

This list of best practices is based directly on the most common issues I see when I do website reviews for clients.

(Where possible, I’ve linked to a more comprehensive explainer article for each best practice below.)

7 Simple Website Copywriting Best Practices

#1: Know your audience

Do at least some research, even if it’s just talking to 2-3 people in your target audience, reading a handful of blog post comments or forum posts in your niche, and engaging in some “social media listening,” to get a feel for how your likely buyers describe their challenges. Start there – but do more if you can. Knowing your target audience well + gathering voice of customer data makes the difference between copy that converts and copy that falls flat.  

#2: Convey your USP (unique selling proposition)

No matter what it is you do, you can bet there is someone else out there – or a whole lotta of someone elses – doing it too. So, you’ve got to know what makes you meaningfully different and convey that to your right people in your web copy.

Learn more here about what a USP is and why you need one here. [This is a 3-part series; you can access all 3 parts from the Part 1 link here.]

#3: Use conversational copy

Good web copy is conversational, not overly formal, stilted, or full of jargon.

You know you’ve seen it.

Stuff like …

“We create strategic digital solutions for brands looking to expand market share and create new channels.”

Or …

“We create strategic planning, technology, media, social marketing and analytics solutions to meet all your needs.”

Or …

“With over 50 years of industry experience, we execute forward thinking solutions for every client.”

Now, of course, what you write and how you write it will depend on your audience (see Tip #1). If you serve lawyers, for example, your copy will be very different than if your audience is made up of circus clowns.

No matter who your audience is, however, your copy should be 100% free of unintelligible nonsense like that above.

Check out some of the examples in this post from Hubspot:

14 Copywriting Examples from Businesses with Incredible Copywriters

While this Hubspot post is not strictly about conversational copy, many of the examples shared in the article come from businesses who are masters of it.

#4: Write a compelling headline for every web page

Too often I see websites that have a headline on the Home page, but not on the subsequent pages – About page, Contact page, Services page, Shop, Gallery or Store page, and so on.

Here’s the thing – every web page needs a headline – not just the Home page. Web visitors decide in mere seconds whether to stay on a page, and you want to stop the right people – those who are ideal for your products and services – in their tracks and get them interested in reading more. You do that with a persuasive headline that gets their attention and piques their interest, so they want to explore the rest of the page.

Here are a couple of examples from my own files.

For an About page for a fine art photographer who specializes in landscapes & life of the American West, whose audience is made up of collectors who have a deep appreciation for the freedom and adventure of the western lifestyle, I created the headline:

A few miles off the highway, a million miles from ordinary.

You have to admit, that’s much more attention-grabbing for his particular audience than a generic headline like “About Me,” or “My Story” (or no headline at all).

For a page on an artist’s website to sell her real estate renderings service, I created the headline:

Closing Gifts That Help Turn Clients into Friends, Referrals & Repeat Business

This headline is more effective than something generic like, “Closing Gifts” or “Real Estate Renderings.” You’ll notice too that it offers a benefit: Turn Clients into Friends, Referrals & Repeat Business.

For an interior designer who serves busy young families with lots commitments outside the home, who still want to come home to an oasis of comfortable elegance at the end of (yet another) jam-packed day, I created this About page headline:

Accessible Luxury for the Modern Young Family on the Go

Again, this About page headline is going to stand out and grab the attention of this designer’s desired audience more effectively than a generic, “My Bio” or “About Me” as a headline.

#5: Include a clear call to action (CTA) on every page

Every page on your website should clearly indicate what you want web visitors to do next. You do this by including a clear call to action (CTA).

Your call to action will be based on your goal for each page, whether that’s getting people onto your email list, getting complimentary consult calls booked, or having site visitors check out your products and services.

CTA examples:

“Sign up here for weekly updates, event info, and special deals I only share with subscribers”

“Get in touch today for a free estimate”

“Shop the new collection here”

“Visit my gallery here”

“Schedule your free consultation today”

“Contact me here if you have any questions”

#6: Create a clear path to buy (or to get additional information)

A clear path to buy simply means making it as easy as possible for web visitors to make a purchase, or take the first step in your sales process, in as few steps as possible.

How to get from Point A – “Great, I found it! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for,” to Point B – clicking on the “Buy Now” button – should not be a mystery.

If you sell something that requires a few additional steps between “This is exactly what I’ve been looking for” and making a purchase (premium services, for example), then every action that precedes the purchase must be clear and easy to understand as well.

A clear path to buy is also in large part a function of web design. The copy and the design should play to together so there’s no friction or confusion about first steps or next steps to buying, or getting additional information, etc.

Here’s how to determine if your website is up to speed in this department: Pretend you’re the ideal client, customer or prospect, and go through the process as if you want to get more information and/or to buy. (Or better yet, enlist a few ideal prospects, or even friends, to do this for you.) Note what obstacles or challenges come up, and fix those, pronto.

#7: Rely on formulas (instead of reinventing the wheel)

Assuming you don’t have time to take an in-depth copywriting course or hire a skilled copywriter, you can always look to formulas to optimize your website copy.

This is a fantastic resource, from the fine folks at Copyhackers:

The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever)

This article includes copywriting formulas for all kinds of copy assets a successful business needs, web pages among them. You’ll find formulas for writing most of the elements needed for web copy that converts, including:

  • Headline for a page or a blog post
  • Value proposition
  • Block of body copy
  • Testimonial
  • Bullet list
  • CTA or button copy


And there you have it, seven simple copywriting best practices to help you improve your website’s performance so you can start getting more business, bookings, and sales.

If you’ve got the bandwidth, it would be totally worth it to take a couple days and knock out a few of the action items above.

BUT … if you’re up to your eyeballs in obligations with no end in sight, and you’d love an objective take on your website copy and how it could be improved, then I invite you check out my Serious-About-Sales Web Copy Audit & Action Plan service to see if it’s right for you. I have 2 available spots for this website review service each month.

Either way, I wish you much luck with your 24/7 salesperson, AKA, your website!

Copy That Converts ALWAYS Starts Here [+ my research 101 process]

[This post is mainly for those of you writing your own copy. If you’re past that phase and plan to hire a copywriter, they will be implementing their own version of process I describe below.]

Many of the clients I’ve worked with over the years have tried writing their own website copy before coming to me.

Sometimes, the results were kind of ok, meaning, they were getting a few sales and/or inquiries from their website, but not enough to generate the kind of revenue they desired.

Other times, the results were crickets, no matter how much work these clients did to drive traffic to their newly (self) written website.

In most cases, this was because they didn’t do much – or any – research before writing their copy. Which meant they didn’t have a clear understanding of their ideal clients or customers, and what, specifically, the desires and challenges of this audience were.

This resulted in lackluster web copy that didn’t compel conversions, i.e., email sign-ups, booked consultations, or sales.

Now, here’s the thing.

I think when people are first getting started online, especially if they’re a single-person business on a tight budget, they should write their own copy.

[If you’re not sure if that describes your situation, you can check out this previous post I wrote, Should you hire a copywriter?]

Hiring a skilled copywriter can be pricey. Well worth the investment, but maybe not the best use of your marketing budget right out of the gate.

If you are in a place where your budget necessitates going the DIY route when writing your website or other copy, then the most important and useful thing I can tell you is this:

The first step is NOT opening a Google or Word doc and letting the ol’ creative juices flow.

No, the first, uber-important, non-negotiable step is research.

Whether you’re writing copy for your website, newsletter, sales page, landing page, or anything else for your business, the process must always start with research.


Any copywriter worth their salt knows this.

IF you want copy that converts browsers into buyers, or casual website visitors into email subscribers, or any other kind of important conversion that helps you achieve your business goals, then no writing happens until the research has been done.

Ok, I think I’ve made my point. 😊

What kind of research you ask?

To start, you MUST know your ideal client or customer and what their desires are related to the thing you sell, incredibly, insanely well.

More specifically, you must know how they talk about their problems related to the thing you sell, because high-converting copy comes from this voice of customer (VOC) data.

[Learn more about voice of customer research here. Caveat: the article on the other side of that link is more advanced than someone setting out to write their own website copy for the first time really needs, BUT, it will give you a great overview of what voice of customer research is, a downloadable message mining template, and BONUS – examples of effective copy written using VOC research.]

I’m going to show you a simple process I use for gathering voice of customer insights and message mining, and other pre-writing action items, using information you likely already have.

My Basic Research 101 Process*

[*Depending on the client I’m working with, this process can be much more involved than what I’ve shared below, but this will give you a standard research 101 process that works well, even if you’re just getting started and don’t have access to loads of data yet.]

Step 1: Prep

:: Client intake / discovery call

:: Read & review:

  • Client intake questionnaire responses 
  • Notes from discovery call
  • Backgrounder doc (This is the doc where I record insights & observations from the initial exploratory call I have with a potential client, before the client has hired me.)
  • Any voice of customer or other research the client has previously gathered into their ideal clients / customers and their pain points & desires
  • Client’s current website copy
  • Client’s blog posts
  • Client’s testimonials
  • Client’s social media channels
  • Marketing collateral the client has used in the past or is currently using
  • Competitor websites in the client’s niche

Step 2: Conceptualization & Development; Brainstorming Concepts

Take notes on all from step one and write down big ideas, hooks & concepts.

After everything in Step One is completed, I put together what I call the “Core Message Doc.” This document contains information about:

  • The client’s “big idea” [i.e., the answer to the question, “Among all the other ______ out there I could buy from, why choose to buy from ______?” I also refer to this as the “meaningful difference,” or the combination of things that sets the client apart in their niche, etc.]
  • The common objections they receive for resisting the sale and how to overcome those objections
  • Information about their ideal clients and unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference,” and how to craft a compelling marketing message using this info so the client can authentically stand out in their niche
  • Voice, tone & other language notes to use when writing the copy
  • Features and benefits of the clients’ products and/or services
  • Values the client wants conveyed in the copy

Step 3: Competitor Research (and Brainstorming, Round Two)

  • Research other similar service providers
  • Review competitor websites client mentions in the intake Q
  • Add insights from this research into “Competitor Websites & Copy Examples” doc
  • Make notes on big ideas, hooks, and concepts from this research + notes on things to emulate, things to avoid, and ways to stand out, etc. 
  • Pull useful language from client reviews & testimonials; paste into Core Message Doc

Step 4: Complete Core Message, Features & Benefits, Objections to Overcome and Language Notes doc

I now have a completed Core Message Doc that contains all the necessary info & insights I’ve gained from Steps 1-3, above, organized in one central place. I refer to this document over and over again throughout the entire copywriting process, and it ensures that I don’t have to go back to 10 different resources as I’m writing.

So helpful!!

Step 5: Begin drafting initial round of copy

Application of the Process: Wedding Photographer

Now, depending on how much access you have to insights about the clients or customers you’re trying to attract, you may not be able to do all the steps above, but you will certainly be able to do some of them.

To wrap this up in a big, red bow, let me give you an example of how I could adapt the process above if, say, I’m a wedding photographer who’s had at least a small handful of clients, and I’m writing my own website copy with the goal of creating compelling messaging geared to my ideal clients and their desires and pain points, etc.

I’m going to review all previous client intake forms and notes I’ve taken on complimentary consultation calls. From this data, I’m going to make lots of notes on the language people use when they talk about services like mine – what they’re looking for in a wedding photographer, what objections or hesitations they have, what made them choose me, what other / how many other photographers they looked at before choosing to set up a consultation with me, etc.

If you’ve worked with even a few clients, you’ll have at least some of this voice of customer info to pull from.  

I’m going to review any client feedback and testimonials I have (including nice things people have said about my services on social media, and any client reviews I have from sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot). Testimonials and reviews are a great resource for language clients use to describe you and your services. You want to pay close attention to phrases that come up over and over again, because those are likely things that set you apart in your niche.  

I’m going to review any marketing collateral (brochures, Facebook ads, etc.) I’ve had others create for my business.  Some photographers will already have collateral they’ve had other professionals create; this can be a great research resource, if the collateral in question has delivered results.

I’m going to review a handful of competitor websites in my niche (photographers who have a similar style, offer similar services, and may work in the same local area). Here you’ll gather insights into how similar photographers talk about their services and their approach, and find areas where you can differentiate.

I’m going to go to wedding photographer review sites like Wedding Wire and The Knot, and find photographers who offer similar services / style / approach, and look through their reviews. Here again you’ll look for sentiments and statements that come up consistently, to get a bead on what people who hire wedding photographers like you are drawn to.

For example, you might see the phrase, “Jennifer made everyone so comfortable, and it showed in all the shots from our wedding day,” and “Jennifer is a genius at getting people to feel relaxed and at ease, even when shots are totally ‘posed.’ Even our posed shots look natural!” In that case, you know making people look and feel relaxed in every shot is one of Jennifer’s superpowers, and something her clients find worthy of praising. If Jennifer were writing her own website copy, this could become a key part of her client-attracting message.

Next, I’m going to dump all this info into my Core Message Doc organized into categories like:

  • How my ideal clients talk about their desires and challenges related to finding a wedding photographer
  • How my ideal clients talk about me as a wedding photographer
  • Intel about my unique selling proposition or “meaningful difference” – the combination of factors that sets me apart in my niche and compels clients to choose me over similar wedding photographers
  • Common objections for resisting the sale and how to overcome those objections
  • Voice, tone & other language notes to use when writing the copy
  • Features and benefits of my services
  • Anything else that will help me write compelling copy based on my ideal client and their problems, challenges, needs, wants and desires + my USP or “meaningful difference”

Once the above process is complete, then and only then am I going to start writing copy! 😊

Here are a handful of other good research resources:

  • Customer interviews
  • Amazon and other review mining
  • Forums where your ideal clients hang out
  • Facebook groups where your ideal clients hang out
  • Surveys & polls
  • The comments section of blogs your ideal clients read

The main thing is to do all you can to gather insights into the desires, challenges, and pain points + the ideal outcome / transformation your clients or customers want, and write all your copy based on that knowledge.

And that’s all I got for ya today!

[If you want to learn more about writing copy that converts, be sure to get on my email list right over here. You’ll get instant access to the CREATIVE REBEL GUIDE TO WRITING A CLIENT-ATTRACTING ABOUT PAGE, plus copywriting & marketing tips and other fun stuff for creative freelancers & biz owners that I only share with my subscribers, delivered straight to your inbox each Tuesday.]  

Gratitude List: Coronavirus Edition

I’m going to jump right in here, because if I sit here pondering the “right” thing to say in these unprecedented times, I won’t write a word.

Among the ways I’m coping with the coronavirus crisis, besides binge-watching all the cooking + food & wine related shows on Netflix and eating all the Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge ice cream, is making a daily gratitude list.

I’ve had a gratitude practice for years, so this isn’t anything new.

But earlier this week when I took a peek in my journal, I noticed it’s been a long stretch since I did this. So I grabbed a pen immediately and started making a gratitude list, coronavirus edition.

Because if ever there was a time when we need to focus on the good stuff, it’s now.

My plan is to add to it each day we’re on lockdown / quarantined / sequestered. I want to look back on these times, and know that despite the often scary AF situation and prognosis, there were plenty of good things, from the large to the teeny tiny, from the seemingly insignificant to the momentous, to be grateful for.

Here’s my list so far, after 3 days.

(To be clear, I would be grateful for everything on this list in “normal” times, but these are things I find especially comforting during the coronavirus upheaval.)

:: I am so very grateful for my Copywriter Underground family, and all ways I feel supported and understood in that wonderful group.

:: I am grateful for all the podcasts, FB Lives, webinars, and blogs I have access to during this time, both to entertain myself, and to learn from.

:: I am grateful for current client projects in these niches / industries that are keeping me busy, engaged, and on purpose with my work: real estate; transportation; tech; photography; and healthcare. (Proof that even if you specialize in a thing, as I do, you can still easily get clients in other fields if you so desire.)

:: I am grateful for all the free, valuable resources being shared about surviving and thriving during these challenging times.

:: I am grateful for texts from friends, checking on me.

:: I am grateful for long “phone dates” with friends who live far away. A recent conversation lasted for 3.5 hours. That’s the way we do it. 😊

:: I am deeply grateful for the Amanda Frances resources I have access to, including one of her paid bundles (and her free content too, which is plentiful and of high value). It’s no exaggeration to say that, of all the mindset work I’ve done on my own and that I’ve paid for over the years, Amanda’s stuff has been the most effective.

:: I am grateful that I have enough food and toilet paper to last for … hmm, about one week, I reckon. (Not ideal, I guess, but better than the alternative – having nothing.)

:: I am grateful for being able to watch every Stefon (from SNL) segment ever on YouTube

:: I am grateful for the beautiful new place I just moved into. Sure, most of my furniture is still in storage four hours away, but I have my bed and my desk, and that’s fine for now. 😊

:: My gosh, am I ever grateful for Netflix!! I’ve been binge-watching even more than usual. Right now, I’m finding cooking + food & wine shows oddly comforting. Here’s what I’ve binged (and loved) over the last few weeks: Ugly Delicious; Cooked; Chef’s Table; Somebody Feed Phil; Salt Fat Acid Heat (for the second time); Street Food; Restaurants on the Edge; and Taco Chronicles.

:: I am grateful I already know how to run my copywriting & marketing business online, and that I’m used to, and totally cool with, working from home.

03.27.20 Update

:: I’m grateful for a few recent things that made me laugh, such as:

-This absolutely hilarious video of a furloughed sports commentator covering scenes from everyday life. 

-This overheard conversation in my local grocery store a few days ago:

Cashier to woman, probably somewhere in her late 70s / early 80s: “Just so you know, we’re open every morning between 6:00 – 7:00 am, just for seniors.”

Older woman: “Honey, there ain’t nothing I need bad enough to get to the grocery at 6:00 am for.” 😊

:: I’m grateful for four client project deadlines this week that kept me so busy every single day that I didn’t have much, if any, time to think about any end of days scenarios. 

:: I am grateful for the birds singing outside my window this morning.

:: I’m grateful for my new issue of Oprah Magazine, and all the reading joy it will provide.

:: I am grateful for the opportunity to Facetime with my BFF yesterday.

:: I am grateful that Whole Foods FINALLY had bananas this morning when I did my grocery shopping. Hallelujah!

:: I am grateful for the Emergency Money Workshop presented by the delightful Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project earlier today.

:: I am grateful for the opportunity to read this interview with Kenny Rogers in Texas Monthly this morning (from a few years ago). It was a balm for the soul, I tell you! 

:: I am grateful for this amazing list of coronavirus resources I received in my email inbox this morning from

:: And finally today, I am grateful for this FAQ on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus from the New York Times. Very helpful. 


I’ll continue to add to this list as the days (weeks? months?) pass.

It’s always good to focus on the good stuff, but most especially in times like these, so I encourage you to share your own gratitude list in the comments. Let’s spread some positivity, y’all!

My Best Copywriting Advice, Part Two: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Determine the Core Emotional Benefit of Your Offer, Write Web Copy That Sells & Upgrade Your Business Mindset

Last week on the blog, I did something a little different.

Instead of writing a single post about a single topic, I rounded up a handful of posts from yesteryear that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are evergreen topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Today’s post is Part Two of that series.

Let’s dive in.


First things first: the mindset stuff.

I’m a firm believer that if your mindset is wonky, you can do all the “right” strategic things in your business, work your buns off, and follow the lead of other successful creative business builders in your niche, yet still not gain any real traction on your business goals.

I say this from deep experience as someone who has let silly limiting beliefs and varying degrees of imposter syndrome keep me from going after what I really want, over and over again.


In this first post, I talk about four concepts from Laura Roeder’s “Creating Fame” that have the power to radically transform your business:

Your Big Idea; You Can’t Predict the Future; Discipline Isn’t Sexy, But It’s How Things Get Done and Inevitability Thinking.

In a few months’ time – heck, even as early as next month – your business could look totally different than it does today if you adopt these four practices. I know they’ve helped me.

Four Powerful Ideas That Could Radically Change Your Business 


This next post shares a lesson I learned a very long time ago and have never forgotten, and that is, “they want you to be the one.”

This mindset shift will help you if you ever feel terrified of marketing yourself or actively trying to sell your products or services. As in, you know it’s gotta be done, but you don’t do it near enough – or at all – because you let the fear stop you.

They Want You to Be the One (so stop being afraid to market yourself) 


This post is about the natural sales ability we all possess, and how to tap into it.

(Yes, it’s true! We all have this ability, and that includes you.)

I guarantee you’ve been having “sales conversations” all your life, without even realizing it.

Read this post to find out more:

How to Tap Into Your Natural Sales Superpower: Two Quick Tips 


And while we’re on the topic of selling, let me share with you what chocolate cake and donuts can teach you about selling more. 😊

This post is about how to find the core emotional benefit of your offer, so you can connect with and convert your ideal clients.

What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?  


In this post, I share how to create killer web copy for your small business by “painting a picture” of your dream client’s ideal outcome, and give you an example of how it’s done.  

The concept of “painting a picture” in copywriting is very powerful, and one of the key tenets of writing successful copy that converts readers into buyers.

What a Personal Development Classic from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells 


And finally, a case study of sorts about successfully using personality in marketing, and how Bolthouse Farms transformed baby carrots from a boring agricultural commodity into a cool, crave-able snack.

The lesson: With enough creativity and resourcefulness, you too can uncover the benefits and bring out the personality of any boring old thing to make it interesting and appealing to your audience.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: The Baby Carrot Story and Using Personality in Marketing 


That’s it for this week.

I hope you got at least 3-4 instantly implementable ideas to grow your business using the power of  persuasive marketing and copywriting + mindset from these posts!



My Best Copywriting Advice, Part One: 6 Blog Posts That Will Help You Create a USP That Attracts Ideal Clients, Grow Your Email List & Write an Email That Sells

This week on the blog, I’m doing something a little different.

Rather than a single post about a single topic, I’m rounding up a handful of posts that highlight some of my “best” copywriting & marketing advice. (“Best” meaning, these are topics I consider to be some of the most important to building and growing your creative business.)

Let’s jump in.

First up, USPs.

I consider the advice in this 3-part series non-negotiable if you want to stand out in your niche and attract your ideal clients and customers online. (Instead of drowning in a sea of sameness, where everyone looks and sounds virtually the same, and it’s darn near impossible to tell one freelancer, service provider or creative business from the next.)

In Part One of this series on creating a compelling USP for your business, I laid out definitions of the terms USP (unique selling proposition) and “meaningful difference” for our purposes as creative business builders, covered how a memorable USP informs your signature marketing message, and importantly, why your signature marketing message is so undeniably important to the health of your business. I also shared a short excerpt from my guide Marketing Messages That Convert: A Step-by-Step Copy Messaging Guide for Solopreneurs, Freelancers, Creative Business Builders & Other Non-Marketing Types, to help you make sense of it all.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 1 of 3] 

In Part Two of the series, I covered five ways a compelling USP will help you get more business, bookings & sales.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 2 of 3] 

In the final installment of the 3-part series, I shared Real! Live! Examples! of USPs that have helped businesses of all kinds develop enormous brand loyalty with their target audience & stand out in their (very often) saturated niche.

What a USP Is, Why You Need One ASAP, and How to Create One for Your Service-Based Business So You Can Get More Business, Bookings & Sales [Part 3 of 3] 

Next, we talk about email.

Ah, email marketing … so critical to the health of your business online – and offline too, even if you run a mostly bricks & mortar business.

The next three posts cover some of the ground-level basics of getting your email marketing game in shape.

This is brief, straightforward post shares two tips for getting more email subscribers: #1: create opt-in copy that gives people a compelling & benefit-driven reason to sign up for your list; and #2: create a dedicated landing page for your email list. Includes a couple of examples of what not to do, and an example of what’s definitely the better way to go. 😊

Want More Email Subscribers? Implement These Two Ridiculously Simple Tips 

This next post, while similar to the one above, focuses specifically on punching up the copy on your opt-in form itself to make it more persuasive. Includes six examples of compelling opt-in copy.

Grow your email list with better opt-in copy using these two powerful tips 

And lastly, a post about writing a sales email. Something I know a lot of folks feel challenged by.

While this post shares the tale of how I came in #4 in a sales email writing contest, there’s lots of good information about how to write your own story-based email that sells. In this post, you’ll find my original contest entry, plus feedback I got from the two esteemed judges, a basic outline of an email that sells, and tips on what emails that sell need to do to be effective.

How I Wrote a Story-Based Sales Email That Landed Me in the Top 5 in a Copywriting Contest 

And that’s what I got for ya this week.

In my next round-up post, coming in a week or so, I’ll share more of my best advice, including some non-copy related mindset stuff. Fun! 😊

How to Flout the “Rules,” Be Unconventional, and Still Become a Massive Success (A Must-Read Book That Might Just Change Your Life)

Ash Ambirge The Middle Finger Project book

It’s no exaggeration to say that finding Ash Ambirge’s blog, The Middle Finger Project, changed the trajectory of my life.

A little bit melodramatic yes, but that’s how I roll. 😊

Let me explain.

Once upon a long time ago, I was wandering the career desert, wondering how I could use my writing and marketing skills to create a career that paid well, offered lots of flexibility, and allowed me the freedom to be the quirky soul I was.

A career I could be proud of, one I was actually excited to get to do every day.

I had been working in public radio, which wasn’t cutting it for me (one of several jobs I tried and didn’t love).

Feeling bored and uninspired, I started casting around for something else I could do. And I knew that thing would involve writing.

Then One Night, I Fell Down the Online Rabbit Hole and Discovered the Person Who Would Well and Truly Change the Course of My Life

While tooling around on the interwebs one night looking for a “sign,” I found Ash’s blog post, The 67 Emotions of Unconventional Success: My Story, and was instantly smitten with all things Ash.

It was the beginning of everything.

It jolted me out of my complacency.

It made me feel something.

Reading that post, then signing up for Ash’s email list, and later, taking advantage of her paid workshops, courses, kits and e-books, etc., jumpstarted my copywriting career and my freelance writing  business.

I never would have had the guts to become a freelance copywriter and run things the way I do if not for her.

I never would have even believed it was possible.

Yet, here I am.

I can tell more of that story another day if anyone’s interested, but today, I’m here to tell you about Ash’s fantastic, amazing, quite possibly life-changing new book, THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT: Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve.

Ashley wrote this book …

… for the imposters, the small town girls, the trailer park trash, the inner city warriors, the dirt road queens, the ones without a voice, the ones being supervised by a man, the ones broken and divorced, the ones without enough self-esteem, the ones who don’t know what to do next, the ones fighting every day to find themselves, the ones who don’t know what their passions are yet, the ones who could use a big sister, the ones who need someone to grab them by the hand and say “get the fuck back up, we’re doing this” the ones who are gravely underestimated, the ones dying to find their purpose, the ones who need a dangerous dose of confidence, the ones who are down to ride because THAT IS WHAT WE DO, and the ones who don’t know, yet, that they are so much more capable than they think.

I read an advance copy online (I have an actual hard copy coming to me in the mail this week – woohoo!!), and I can tell you, it is mad inspiring.

Reading the digital version made me want to do something big and bold and c-r-a-z-y, so I can only imagine what’s about to transpire when I read the hard copy – yeehaw!

Here’s what the book’s about, in bullet-pointed nutshell:

  • Girl grows up in a trailer park in rural America
  • Mom = social anxiety, doesn’t leave house
  • Dad dies when girl is 14
  • Mom dies when girl is 21
  • Girl leaves small town. Goes to big city. Tries hard to fit in with people who paid real money for “nude” as a nail color.
  • Becomes disillusioned to discover nobody actually knows what they’re doing and the rules were made up by a guy named Ted who ate a cheeseburger for lunch and has a dog named Wedgie.
  • Leaves job. Rebels. Sleeps in car in Kmart parking lot.
  • $26 left. Lots of chicken nuggets.
  • Hears radio announcer. New music album available for pre-order. Suddenly realizes that value comes in many forms—not just in all of material things she never had—and art is worth paying for. And? It doesn’t have to be *finished yet* in order to be exchanged for future value.
  • Takes hidden talent—writing—and uses it to create an all-new job for herself.
  • Earns first $2,000 from backseat of car.
  • Uses it to kick start new life.
  • Makes first $103,000 that year, and then goes on to earn several million dollars from her art.
  • Learns lots of lessons along the way, like: You must be brave enough to cause problems. And: Sometimes you’ve got to be a bitch about money. And: Every good idea is offensive to someone. And: Selling yourself requires you to insist on your own brilliance. And: We must learn to become mothers to ourselves.
  • Ash: “I NEED TORN DOWN SOULS TO READ THIS. I need them to see that they can do so much more than they think. And not just them, but anyone who feels like an imposter every single day of their life. Anyone who doesn’t know what else to do. Anyone confused about their career. Anyone who doesn’t have passions anymore. Anyone who feels like they’ve lost themselves. And anyone who is still really just an innocent babe inside, trying to find their way.”

Today, Ash runs The Middle Finger Project®, an online company and award-winning blog which has provided tens of thousands of young “women who disobey” with the tools and mind-set to reject the world’s expectations of success and get on their own path to happiness, wealth, independence, and adventure. The women who flock to her message want to hear from someone who has hit rock bottom and survived to tell the tale—all while becoming her own brand of self-made success. Expanding on the short, pithy advice on her blog, Ash’s book of the draws on her unconventional personal story to offer an empowering and occasionally potty-mouthed manifesto for the transformative power of radical self-reliance and taking risks.

I didn’t grow up with much myself, so I have all kinds of respect for this girl who went from being orphaned in a trailer park to becoming a wildly successful CEO and author, now published by Penguin Random House and killing it.

And as she points out over and over again in the book, if she can do it, so can you.

A few choice quotes from the book:

  • Every good idea is offensive to someone. This is the very nature of good ideas: they are good because they change things.
  • You must be brave enough to cause problems. A person who never causes any problems is a person who doesn’t trust herself to handle what happens next.
  • You only have 12 fucks a day to give, so use them wisely.
  • Life circumstances are not life sentences. If a Scranton girl who grew up in a trailer park can make it, so can you.
  • Don’t do something because “it makes sense.” It can make all the sense in the world and still make you miserable.
  • That’s when you know it’s bad: when you’re living a life not even Chip and Joanna Gaines can fix.
  • Radical self-reliance comes from following your most dangerous ideas.
  • Anytime you are doing work that you hate, you are disrespecting yourself and it hurts.
  • Sometimes ensuring that you’ll respect yourself again in the morning is the most important form of self-care we have.
  • It’s not about the work. It’s about how the work makes you feel.
  • If you have an idea, you’ve got something of value.
  • Most people will say anything to justify their own actions, because most people would rather be right than happy.
  • What you believe about yourself will either murder your chances or change your life.
  • It’s not about getting hired anymore. It’s about having enough guts to hire yourself.
  • Trying is always the very best thing we can do in any moment.
  • There is no such thing as a starving artist, anymore: the Internet runs on artists. It’s the only reason the Internet was made: by people like us, contributing their ideas.
  • Quit often. Quit over and over again. Become an expert quitter, because this means that you are also an expert starter.
  • It’s easy to do things that merely promise money. It’s much harder to do things that don’t. But in a most ironic fashion, the latter is the surest way to get a metric crap ton of it.
  • Ladies, you need to have your own money. You need to have enough so that you never have to compromise your own better judgment.
  • Nothing is permanent, not even your worst nightmare. This little blip on your radar? This will not kill you. This will show you that you are made of fucking stars.
  • You don’t have to be the most qualified person, ever, in order to make a valuable contribution. All you have to do is be willing to solve a problem you care about.
  • Nobody’s just going to put two-hundred dollars in your hand. You have to be willing to show up and ask, “Would you like my help?”
  • The most important and courageous thing you can do: simply show up.
  • You can have everything you want in life, as long as you’re willing to sacrifice everything you don’t.

I started this blog, this website, and my entire business around the idea that it’s not easy to flout convention and follow your creative calling, but it can be done, and the brave ones do it despite the odds … and succeed. So you can believe I wholeheartedly endorse Ash and her kick-ass book. If you follow and like my stuff, I fully believe you will love her book. (This is not an affiliate promotion by the way, I just love Ash, and I know from experience that everything she puts out is excellent, truly the best of the best.) 


Trash Your Imposter Syndrome and Live the Unf*ckwithable Life You Deserve

By Ash Ambirge


From the founder of The Middle Finger Project®, which is both the name of her hallmark lifestyle blog as well the title of her first book, a fresh, funny, and fearless point-by-point primer on how to get unstuck, slay imposter syndrome, trust in your own worth and ability, and become a strong, capable, ballsy you.


You can go directly to Ash’s site, The Middle Finger Project, here

Or buy from your favorite retailer, online or in store.


Let me know if you pick up a copy of the book, and we can discuss! 🙂


From Full of Excuses and Failing in Business to Self-Made Multi-Millionaire: How a Dead Broke Carpet Cleaner Turned It All Around Using the Power of Copywriting and Direct-Response Marketing

brand vs direct response marketing

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Why is it that we so often stubbornly resist what turns out to be the most life-changing advice about achieving business success from those who’ve been there, done that, and know a thing or two, and refuse to do the one thing that might change things for the better and get us to the point of actual traction in our business?

The thing that might transform a wheezing, sickly, underperforming business from breathing its last dying breath into a revenue-generating, full-time income-producing thing of beauty we can be proud of? A business where the number of email subscribers, new client inquiries, and yes, sales, actually increases consistently?

I’d wager fear of the unknown and the natural tendency to avoid discomfort (~ raises hand ~) is probably right up there at the top of the list, wouldn’t you?

Trouble is, we often let this fear and avoidance dynamic keep us stuck inside our wretched comfort zones, where dreams go to die, all the while banging our heads against a wall, expecting something to change even as we won’t, as we go on doing the same ineffective thing day in and day out to get our business to grow.

Sometimes even to the point where the business withers and dies, and we have to – gasp – go back to work for “the man.” Oh, the horror!

Granted, not everyone reading this is in that position.

But plenty of business owners are – gravitating by default to the familiar and comfortable when it comes to marketing and selling, instead of doing something that might be uncomfortable, yet will yield far greater results.

Well, listen up as I tell you a story about a dead broke carpet cleaner who was failing miserably in his business until he discovered the power of copywriting and direct response marketing, then used this knowledge to turn things around.

And turn things around he surely did, going from flat broke and on the verge of giving up, to charging $25,000 per half day for his consulting services, and hanging out with the likes of people like Sir Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton.

Joe Polish is the guy.

As a lifelong student of marketing and copywriting, I’m always on the hunt for people in the copywriting field who are more – and I mean WAY more – knowledgeable and successful than I am, so I can soak up their wisdom and apply it to my business where it makes sense. Joe Polish is one of those people.

Polish is the Founder and President of Piranha Marketing Inc., founder of the Genius Network Mastermind, and co-founder of a highly popular free weekly podcast on iTunes called I Love Marketing. After creating mega-success in his carpet cleaning business, he went on to teach what he learned about marketing to others in that industry, then created a highly profitable marketing consulting business.

But once upon a time, before the accolades, the successes and the abundant income, he was that practically bankrupt carpet cleaner.

Joe’s Story

You can check out Joe’s full story in his own words here, but in a nutshell, when he was in his early twenties and struggling in his carpet cleaning business, as in, on the verge of bankruptcy, dead broke and living-on-credit-cards-struggling, he got invited on a weekend trip that would change the course of his life forever.

On this jet-ski trip to the lake with his buddies, Joe met and struck up a conversation with the multimillionaire real estate investor who owned the jet skis, a man he rightly assumed he could learn a thing or two from. He told the guy about his carpet cleaning business and how poorly it was doing. He shared that he was thinking about getting into another, more lucrative kind of business. He asked the multimillionaire for recommendations for what kind of business he could get into where he could make more money.

The multimillionaire asked him, “Are there people in your industry making money?”

Joe replied that yes indeed there were, and that a few of those companies were even making over a million bucks a year. But he said those companies had an advantage, because they’d been around for years, and had lots of employees and were well-established in the market, with name recognition that he couldn’t compete with as a newbie.

After listening to these and many other excuses Joe made for why he wasn’t successful, the multimillionaire said to him, “If there are other people in your industry doing well and making money and you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with your business, there’s something wrong with you.”

He told Joe he sounded like one of those people who think “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and that going into a new business wasn’t the answer. What he really needed to do was learn and apply fundamental business principles to his current business to make it work, said the multimillionaire.

In Which Our Hero Makes a Very Wise Decision

Our hero Joe takes this advice to heart, and decides he will do whatever is in his power to make his business successful, “or die trying,” as he said.

Cut to advertising and marketing. Except, instead of using traditional image-based or brand advertising, which essentially attempts to create a positive feeling or image around a product or company and build awareness of the brand – think car commercials and fancy perfume ads, for example – Joe decides to use the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing, which have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years, thank you very much. 

What exactly is direct response marketing you ask, and how does it differ from image and brand advertising?

Unlike brand advertising, which seeks to raise awareness, direct response marketing’s goal is to stimulate an immediate response or action, via print (yes, still!) or web communications. So on the web, that could mean things like getting someone to sign up for your email list, call you for an appointment, set up a free consult, reach out for more information about your products or services, or make a purchase of said products and services.

Direct response marketing works because, as Joe says, “it educates, motivates, and calls your consumers to take action.” (Unlike the Jeep commercial that leaves you full of daydreams about the rugged and adventurous life you might lead if you owned the latest version of the Grand Cherokee, but doesn’t provide a mechanism that allows you to take immediate action.)

And the thing that helps direct response marketing work its wonders? Persuasive writing – copywriting – writing meant to encourage action.

According to AWAI (American Writers and Artists Inc., where I got some fabulous copywriting training):

Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action. That action might be to purchase, opt-in, or engage with a product, service, or company.

But back to our hero . . .

Joe was determined to make his business a success and willing to try direct response marketing to get there. As a result, he went from grossing $2100 per month to grossing $12,300 per month, in just 6 short months. Within a year, he had turned his carpet-cleaning business into a six-figure business.

He began a second business teaching others in his industry the direct response marketing techniques that helped him go from dead broke to six-figure success. He eventually sold the carpet-cleaning business and now generates millions in revenue from his marketing training business.

All because he got out of his comfort zone, stopped complaining about what wasn’t working and opened himself up to something that did, and took action by applying what he learned.

But Will This Work for Me?

Now, you can do “image advertising” or a “brand awareness” campaign if you want to, there’s nothing wrong with that, but just know that it might take months and months to see any kind of traction from your efforts.

Whereas with direct response marketing & effective copywriting, you can create web copy and other communications today that get potential clients and customers reaching out to you tomorrow.

I encourage you to read Joe’s story here, where you’ll learn a lot more about what direct response marketing is and how to apply it, if you’re interested. At the end of his story, Joe shares four proven strategies for marketing your business that worked incredibly well for him and over 6300 business owners in his industry.

And before you go thinking, “But I don’t own a carpet cleaning business, those strategies won’t work for me,” or, “I’m not comfortable using ‘aggressive’ marketing tactics,” keep in mind what I said earlier: the timeless, proven principles of direct response marketing have been working like gangbusters for nearly every kind of business, company and cause for over a hundred years.

And you can adapt those principles in a non-aggressive way to your business and your marketing comfort level. (But don’t get too comfortable, mind you, because your comfort zone is where dreams go to die, and we actually want results here, right?)

Please note, I’m NOT saying you have to actually mail things to people or use the kind of direct response ads Joe talks about in his story (though that works too), but you can practice direct response marketing principles on your website.

If you click on the link above to read Joe’s story, pay special attention to what he says about the difference between marketing and selling, and his definition of what selling really is. I think you’ll find Joe’s definition of selling comforting.

The Takeaway

Over the years I’ve had several clients who don’t feel comfortable “asking for the sale,” or in some cases, even alluding to the fact they have something for sale.

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that those people make far fewer sales of their products and services than people who know they have to get comfortable with marketing and selling to be successful in business, or act in spite of their discomfort with it.

(By the way, I find it easy as pie to help other people with their marketing, but I’m not that terribly comfortable doing it for myself, despite providing marketing, copywriting, and PR services to my clients since 2001. But I act in spite of my discomfort, because if there’s one thing I’m wildly passionate about, it’s having a successful business so I never, ever, E-V-E-R, have to go back to work for “the man.”)

That said, I get that Joe Polish’s style may not be right for everyone. I understand the strategies and tactics of other wildly successful marketers I’ve mentioned on this blog before, people like Dan Kennedy, Ben Settle, or John Carlton may be a little too aggressive for your taste.

I get it.


From Polish, Kennedy, Settle, Carlton and other classic marketing mentors, to brilliant marketing types like Naomi Dunford, Ashley Ambirge, Marie Forleo and others – I take what works for me, what I can adapt to my shy-ish, sensitive and creative sensibilities, and leave the rest.

No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as I see it. Instead, I learn and adapt, learn and adapt.

At the end of the day, if solopreneurs and small business owners who are afraid to sell, or think there’s something inherently wrong or sleazy about selling – and therefore resist learning how to effectively market online – would let go of that one very detrimental mindset, they’d be a lot more successful.

And I can say this, because I had to learn this lesson myself in the early days when I was first launching what was then my generic freelance writing business. I fervently wish I hadn’t wasted a year and half and then some working my fingers to the bone doing what was comfortable but wasn’t working, and applied tried-and-true principles of copywriting and direct response marketing instead.

But better late than never, eh?

So my plea to you is, become a student of copywriting and marketing. Even if you don’t learn from me, that is A-OK my friend, but find someone whose teachings and trainings you do resonate with, and learn from them.

Because as Dan Kennedy says, copywriting is the #1 skill to master if you want to increase your income. I wouldn’t be in the business of writing copy for my clients, or helping my clients optimize and improve their current copy, if I didn’t believe that.

In my case, learning from masters like Kennedy, Polish, Settle, Carlton and other copywriting greats has given me a priceless return on my time investment, many times over.

I wish the same for you.


By the way, if you’re ready for a magnetic website that attracts, engages & sells to your dream clients, using proven direct response marketing principles (in a 100% non-sleazy or aggressive way), check out my Work with Me page for more details.


How I Wrote a Story-Based Sales Email That Landed Me in the Top 5 in a Copywriting Contest

sales emails

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

I came in 4th place, to be exact. Now, that might not seem like much, but there were roughly 78 entries from copywriters who ran the gamut from fairly new to quite successful and experienced.

I’ve been doing this here copywriting and marketing thing since about 2001, but some of my fellow copywriters participating in this? Let’s just say I was a little (and by little, I mean a lot) intimidated.

In fact, initially I thought, “No way am I entering a contest I likely won’t do well in given the competition, especially since it’ll take me hours to write an entry. I’m already at capacity with work right now.”

[Can ya hear all the limiting beliefs nonsense going on there? Yikes!]

But deep down, I really wanted to do this. Because if you’re not making yourself uncomfortable from time to time, you’re not growing. So say the personal development geeks. Of which I am one. 😊

I’m sharing the contest details and my entry here, because if you pay close attention to the rules, template, questions, and other guidance Kevin and Chris presented, along the prep work I did before submitting my entry, you’re sure to learn a thing or two about what it takes to write a story-based email that sells.

The Background

The contest took place inside the Copy Chief community, which I’m a proud member of.

The emails were judged by Kevin Rogers, founder of Copy Chief and expert direct response copywriter who has helped clients earn $100M in sales, and fellow Copy Chief member Chris Orzechowski, email copywriter & consultant extraordinaire who helps e-commerce companies earn big paydays with email.

Kevin and Chris critiqued the email entries via video inside Copy Chief, and chose the top 5; we lucky 5 received a coveted Copy Chief “Nobody Writes Alone” t-shirt. Yee-haw! The grand prize winner also won a scholarship to Chris’s Email Copy Academy and an email sequence review.

The Challenge: Write a “story-based” email that sells

The fellas did a fantastic presentation explaining the elements of, and psychology behind, storytelling emails that sell to help us prepare for the challenge.

The Rules

We were given three products to choose from to write the sales email for:

A pillow, a pressure washing service, or a productivity course.

We were to pick the product, write a story-based email that sells people on buying the product, then post our entry inside the Copy Chief forum.

I chose the pillow, and used Casper for my model. But I renamed my “imaginary” product the Euphoria Pillow. 😊

We were graded on:

  • Subject line
  • Strength of the story/hook
  • Clarity & readability
  • Call to action language

Emails That Sell Need to Do a Few Important Things

In order to write a persuasive email that moves people to action, we had to do three things: determine what our ideal customer’s current beliefs were, tell stories to implant new beliefs that would get them interested in our chosen product, and give them an action to take that would bring them closer to their goal, such as making a purchase.

To determine what to say, we were instructed to:

  1. Talk to people in our market – I did this by chatting with couple of friends who had sleep issues and had recently purchased pillows. I also did lots of review mining: I sifted through pillow reviews on the Casper website, plus positive and negative reviews of other premium pillows on Amazon. I saved loads of this voice of customer data into a doc to use while writing my sales email. (You need to understand where people are now, the challenges and struggles they’re facing, and where they want to ultimately be – which is what your product or solution offers. You can’t write persuasive copy without research and voice of customer data. Full stop)
  2. List out their problems – The review mining mentioned above gave me lots of intel about problems and challenges. For example, many people suffer poor sleep and wake up with a stiff neck and other aches and pains because they don’t have a quality pillow. And we all know poor sleep has a hugely negative impact on everything else we do in our day-to-day lives.
  3. List the outcomes (results) they want in their life – On the surface they just want to wake up pain-free. But what they really want is to wake up feeling refreshed, well-rested, and ready to tackle the day. To slay the day. To handle everything with grace, ease and joy, the way you do when you’ve gotten eight glorious hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep.
  4. List their “false beliefs” – Some could include: “Spending $80 on a pillow is crazy, it’s not worth it.” “A premium pillow isn’t going to make that much difference in my sleep quality.”
  5. List “new beliefs” they need to gain in order to make a buying decision – “$80 is a small price to pay for something that can seriously improve your sleep, and because quality sleep is so important to health and overall happiness, it’s worth every penny.”

The Template

Chris shared a basic outline of emails that sell:

  1. Subject line
  2. Story
  3. Segue/The ‘Turn’
  4. CTA

(Optional): P.S.

(You’ll see these things in action in my email entry, below)

He also talked about eight kinds of subject lines, along with eight different story frameworks.  I chose the personal story framework for my email.

And of course, we covered the uber-important call to action: you must tell people what to do, why they need to do it, and why they need to do it now.

BUT … even after all this, we’re still not quuuuite ready to begin writing.

Nope, first, we needed to answer the following questions. My answers included here:

1. Where does this email fit into the context of the marketing funnel?

It comes after web visitors have read some info on the Casper website, or have otherwise been exposed to the brand, and they’ve signed up for the Casper email list to learn more.

2. What is the objective of this email?

To make a sale

3. What’s the new belief you want readers to have?

That an $80 pillow is totally worth it and can change their life

4. What’s a story/hook that can implant that belief into their brain?

Talk about how quality sleep is the most important health action they can take, as illustrated through a personal story about the before-and-after results of getting quality sleep; demonstrate through a story that shows – not tells – the transformation. Could also consider using data on sleep; benefits of quality sleep, etc.

5. What is your call to action going to be?

Buy now

6. What ‘reasons to act now’ do we need to add?

Don’t miss one more night of quality sleep and go through your days unable to do all you want to do, to the best of your ability. Life is too short, and you have too much you want to do, for that.

The presentation Chris and Kevin gave was so good, and so thorough, it’s not possible to share all of it here, but I’ve outlined the very basics above.

Prep I Did Before Writing

Once I decided to enter the contest, I was all in. Meaning, I did what I do with every actual client copy project I take on – research, research, and more research, which comes in a few varieties:

:: I talked to a couple of friends with sleep issues. I asked how the sleep issues presented, and what they did to resolve them.

:: I signed up Casper’s email list to see how they do email.

:: I spend loads of time on the Casper website, reading about their pillows (product research), AND, more importantly, reading customer reviews (to gather voice of customer data).

:: I did review mining of other premium pillows on Amazon to gather more voice of customer data on things like: where people are in their solution-seeking journey when they arrive at the place of deciding to spend upwards of $80 for a single pillow, what problems they’re trying to solve, what they’ve tried before that didn’t work, and to suss out the transformation they really want. Sure, they want a good night’s sleep, but more than that, they want all the benefits that derive from a good night’s sleep.

:: If this were a real project with a real client, I also would have: had the client fill out my intake questionnaire, had a call to review completed questionnaire and discuss the direction and goals of the copy, talked to a handful of actual customers, done loads more product research, and undertaken more competitor analysis.

My Sales Email Entry

(Chris and Kevin’s feedback is pasted in at the end of the email.)

Original email subject line ideas:

Red wine, tough love, and clouds made of rainbows

Alternative SLs:

Pairs nicely with success

$80 for a pillow?!?! You’re crazy.

A handful of other subject lines I considered, but didn’t post as part of my entry:

BOOM! This is how you improve every area of your life … for just $80

There’s not an app for that

As soon as I laid down, I was in love

This 5-letter word changed EVERYTHING

Why aren’t more people talking about this?

Is this the missing link to a better life?

You can’t put a price on this

__ % of adults don’t get enough of this

Pillow talk

Driving drunk or driving underslept … which is more dangerous?

Sixty percent of adults have done this life-threatening thing


One Saturday night a few weeks ago, Ronda, my BFF of 30+ years, committed one of the kindest acts a trusted friend can ever do.

She called me out on my bullshit.

Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

The truth?

My crappy sleep habits were actually wreaking havoc on my career.

Last Thursday was a typical night, I told her.

I woke up in the middle of the night with shoulder and neck pain. Again.

Tossed and turned for hours, couldn’t get back to sleep.

And the whole time I’m lying there, I’m stressing out more by the minute each time I look over at the clock, knowing I’m gonna have to go into work on the next day and give one of the most important presentations of my career, to our agency’s highest-profile potential client yet, on 3 freakin’ hours of sleep.

The stress and exhaustion made me want to weep.

“Well that sucks,” Ronda said.

I told her that wasn’t the worst of it.

After the presentation that Friday my boss called me into her office. Told me she didn’t think I brought my “A” game. Said if we don’t land this big account . . . then she kind of trailed off and didn’t say much else.

“Uh oh,” Ronda said.

Uh oh is right. Like me, Ronda’s worked in advertising. She knows the drill.

If the agency didn’t land this big client we’d been wooing for weeks, I might get fired.

“Crap, I can’t get fired, I just bought a house,” I said.

That’s when Ronda dropped the tough love.

“Kimberly, you’ve been complaining about this since early April. It’s now May. I told you 6 weeks ago about the Euphoria pillows I bought that totally eliminated my shoulder and neck pain. I told you how I’ve been sleeping through the night for the first time in years since buying them. I told you how I’ve never felt more well-rested. I waxed so poetic about these pillows you accused me of being a rep for the company. Hell, you even slept on one when you spent the night here a few weeks ago and said it was like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. BUY THESE PILLOWS, girlfriend.”

I’m embarrassed to say that’s when I nearly shouted, “But those pillows are $80 damn dollars a piece!”

With a sigh and what I swear was a little bit of an eye roll, she said, “Kimberly, I say this with love as your best friend: you can be kind of a miser sometimes. I know you spent well over $80 on this bottle of wine and the ingredients for the dinner you made us tonight. Why wouldn’t you spend $80 bucks on something that’s actually, you know, going to improve the quality of your life in an honest-to-god real way?

I had to admit she was right.

“Oh alright,” I said, “give me the damn Euphoria Pillows website link. [à Link to website] And pour me another glass of Chianti.”

I’m happy to report that I ordered two Euphoria pillows that very night.

And while it took me a minute to get over the mild shock of spending $160 (I could buy four bottles of pretty decent Chianti for that sum), a few weeks on, I can say it was more than worth it.

Now I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in a very long time. I’ve never felt more well-rested. I’m ready to wax so poetic about these pillows you might accuse me of being a rep for the company.

And it’s not hyperbole to say that sleeping on Euphoria pillows is like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. [à Link to website]

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the devil is Kimberly emailing me about pillows for? I got on this list to learn how to rock an ad agency career.”

But hear me out on this:

Think of superior quality pillows as a career enhancement tool.

That’s right.

A career enhancement tool, one of many in your arsenal.

You wouldn’t show up to the interview for the senior copywriter position at your dream agency with a resume written on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook would you?

Of course not.

You wouldn’t knock back two martinis at your agency welcome lunch the first day of your new job, right?

No. No, you wouldn’t. (Unless you’re Don Draper, in which case, you don’t need my career advice.)

So why would you rely on pillows that make it damn near impossible to get a quality night’s slumber, and potentially screw up your chance of landing & keeping that hot new agency career, all because crappy sleep prevents you from bringing your “A” game?

Don’t do that.

And don’t be me – don’t wait until a poor night’s sleep practically derails your career.

It just so happens that today – next Monday the exact kind of Euphoria Pillows I bought and swear by are on sale for $50 bucks off when you buy two.

$110 bucks to improve the quality of your life and, dare I say, your career prospects too.

Go on over to the Euphoria Pillows website right here, and get your $50 off today through Monday only[à Link to website]

Your shiny new ad agency career prospects will thank you.


Kimberly, reformed miser

P.S. My hesitation about investing in Euphoria Pillows is now a small speck in the rearview mirror. It’s been overshadowed by 6 weeks of kick-ass quality sleep that’s seen my agency land that high-profile client (and I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo!).

Get your career-enhancement tool here for $50 off, through Monday only.



So, there it is.

Once I knew my entry placed in the top five, the next step was to watch the video Chris and Kevin recorded breaking down the email and pointing out what worked and what didn’t.

If I’m honest, I was terrified to watch that video, and put it off for days.

Turns out, it wasn’t so bad. Everything they pointed out that needed improving was spot on, and super helpful to know.

Sure, I winced a couple times, but as Chris said in his review, “I’m being nitpicky, but yeah, you know, you’re on the leaderboard, so I reserve the right to be.” LOL.

Feedback from the Experts

(The feedback below comes from the video review Chris and Kevin did. I took notes while watching the video, so they’re a bit rough.)

Kevin’s feedback:

This had me hooked top to bottom.
Although you risked losing me in detail here…

Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

I love how you framed the value in STORY.

Really well done, @KimberlyHouston

Chris’s feedback:

First up, the weaknesses / what needed work …

He said the subject lines were just “ok/decent.” He said there was some curiosity in the main subject line I chose.

Curiosity is critical to persuasive copywriting, and subject lines are one of the key places we need to be using it. If your SL isn’t compelling, ain’t nobody gonna open that sales email, and you know what that means … no sales.

He also called out this section, saying that I was erring on the side of “a little too much detail” –> Over a bowl of creamy cacio e pepe and a glass (or three) of Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi 2016, I shared with her for what felt like the 187th time how my terrible, fitful sleep over the previous few weeks was really beginning to wear me down.

Detail is necessary and good, and it’s sadly missing in much of the underperforming copy I see when I do copy reviews. However, as Chris pointed out, “There’s a fine line into crossing into too much detail territory.”

He said he would break this up into two sentences –> And the whole time I’m lying there, I’m stressing out more by the minute each time I look over at the clock, knowing I’m gonna have to go into work on the next day and give one of the most important presentations of my career, to our agency’s highest-profile potential client yet, on 3 freakin’ hours of sleep.

I say this to my own clients all the time: If people see long blocks of uninterrupted copy, they’ll usually be turned off and not read it, so this is good to keep in mind, whether you’re writing web copy, sales emails, landing pages, or anything else you write for your business.

He said about this paragraph, “It’s ok, but a little much,” and suggested I might want to pare it down. –> “I told you how I’ve been sleeping through the night for the first time in years since buying them. I told you how I’ve never felt more well-rested. I waxed so poetic about these pillows you accused me of being a rep for the company. Hell, you even slept on one when you spent the night here a few weeks ago and said it was like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows. BUY THESE PILLOWS, girlfriend.”  –> Oh, and he didn’t like the “wax poetic” thing either, lol.

Here he cautioned against using “wax so poetic,” again, and suggested I not overdo that. Ditto, “accuse me of being a rep for the company,” which he pointed out, “is kind of redundant from before, so let’s not have that twice.” –> Now I’m sleeping through the night for the first time in a very long time. I’ve never felt more well-rested. I’m ready to wax so poetic about these pillows you might accuse me of being a rep for the company.

Here he said, “Ok, I don’t really know what that means, but alright.” –> And it’s not hyperbole to say that sleeping on Euphoria pillows is like sleeping on a cloud made of rainbows.

He said to tighten this up a little. –> You wouldn’t show up to the interview for the senior copywriter position at your dream agency with a resume written on a piece of paper ripped out of a spiral notebook would you?

Here, he mentioned something that has always been one of my weaknesses as a writer – long sentences. Sometimes lengthy sentences are 100% necessary, but when writing copy, generally not. –>  So why would you rely on pillows that make it damn near impossible to get a quality night’s slumber, and potentially screw up your chance of landing & keeping that hot new agency career, all because crappy sleep prevents you from bringing your “A” game? –>So Kimberly you really have this tendency to, you know, these long sentences. They’re ok. I mean, you have that, then you have a 3-word sentence, and then you have a medium-size sentence. [Which is good, he confirms] So with readability, let’s try to make this a little bit better.”

And here, Chris made a smart observation about how he would have done this differently. –>“Oh alright,” I said, “give me the damn Euphoria Pillows website link. And pour me another glass of Chianti.” –> He said, “Now here, I might handle this a little bit differently, I might transition and zoom out from the story. ‘You know, she was absolutely right. So I went to the website and actually I got a link for it right here.’ Blah, blah, blah, ‘you can buy it through my link. And it’s changed my life and here are the benefits,’ you know really quick, and then, ‘I think you should buy one too, and it’s honestly changed my life and I started sleeping better, my performance at work started improving,’ and blah, blah, blah. That’s how I would have probably taken it. Instead of putting the link in the dialogue, just segue directly into it.”

Finally, he pointed out the “the whole CTA (call to action) could be tightened up just a tad bit.”

And now, what worked about the email:

Chris said he liked the storytelling, and the one-to-one conversation. He said it was very natural and flow-y, “very email.”

He mentioned that a lot of people tried to shove a sales letter into an email in this challenge, and he told people not to do that; my email was a story-based email, “which was exactly what we were looking for.”

He said this was a great opener:

One Saturday night a few weeks ago, Ronda, my BFF of 30+ years, committed one of the kindest acts a trusted friend can ever do.

Chris –>  “It’s a great opening line, because it hooks you to the next one. And both lines pull you into the email copy. And that’s what you want to do at the beginning of an email.”

Here Chris said, “Yeah that’s a real fear, the fear of underperforming. There’s all these problems in people’s lives, how they manifest, how they appear, how they are dimensionalized in people’s lives, those are a good kind of demonstration.” –> After the presentation that Friday my boss called me into her office. Told me she didn’t think I brought my “A” game. Said if we don’t land this big account . . . then she kind of trailed off and didn’t say much else.

“Here you’re piling on the fear, but it’s ‘good fear,’ not like, ‘you’re gonna DIE!!!’ A lot of other people took that angle. But this is like a real fear.” –>  “Crap, I can’t get fired, I just bought a house,” I said.

“I like this because it’s telling your customer, ‘buy my thing!’” –>  “Kimberly, you’ve been complaining about this since early April. It’s now May. I told you 6 weeks ago about the Euphoria pillows I bought that totally eliminated my shoulder and neck pain.”

Here Chris pointed out, this is “an awesome way of handling an objection. This is a nice job.” –> With a sigh and what I swear was a little bit of an eye roll, she said, “Kimberly, I say this with love as your best friend: you can be kind of a miser sometimes. I know you spent well over $80 on this bottle of wine and the ingredients for the dinner you made us tonight. Why wouldn’t you spend $80 bucks on something that’s actually, you know, going to improve the quality of your life in an honest-to-god real way?”

He said this worked. –> And don’t be me – don’t wait until a poor night’s sleep practically derails your career.

And he liked this. –> Kimberly, reformed miser

And finally, re the P.S., he said, “Good, there’s some resolution to the story.”

P.S. My hesitation about investing in Euphoria Pillows is now a small speck in the rearview mirror. It’s been overshadowed by 6 weeks of kick-ass quality sleep that’s seen my agency land that high-profile client (and I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo!). I was even made the account lead after redeeming myself with a second presentation to the client last week, woohoo! –> Chris:This is kind of aspirational, an implied benefit. People will read that and go, ‘I want that too.” They start to place themselves in your story and they’ll be like, ‘maybe if I . . .’ and they start to connect the dots. ‘Maybe if I get better sleep, I might perform better at work, and good things can happen for me too.’”

In the end, according to Chris –>“Overall, nice job. I thought this was strong, and demonstrative, and very email native I guess is maybe the right way to describe it. So, awesome job, Kimberly Houston.”

Key Takeaways

#1: Do things that scare you. I came very close to not entering this contest, for all the reasons mentioned at the top of the post. And if I hadn’t? I wouldn’t have honed my story-based sales email writing skills, I wouldn’t have gotten one-on-one feedback from two uber-successful & skilled copywriting experts (<– priceless), and I wouldn’t have a valuable piece of content to post to the blog.

#2: Get in a supportive community of your peers. To quote the Copy Chief guiding motto, “Nobody writes alone.” There’s nothing like knowing a wise and experienced group of industry peers has your back anytime you need help with challenges or problems in your business, or simply when you want to share a win. The Copy Chief community is about so much more than copy feedback. Copywriters, marketers and business people of all experience levels are there everyday providing feedback, answering questions, seeking answers to their own questions, and as an added bonus – having a damn good time doing it. It’s no exaggeration to say it feels like a family.

#3: If you want to write persuasive copy that sells, you must do the pre-work before ever putting fingers to keyboard. See above, “Prep I Did Before Writing.” This is imperative if you hope to connect with your ideal customers and convert them into buyers.

#4: When it comes to selling via email, stories tend to work better than strictly transactional emails. (NOT in every case, but in many.) You can probably see why. Would you rather read an interesting story that actually demonstrates how a product can improve your life in real-world ways, or an email that whose sole purpose is to sell, at all costs, and screams something like, “Our biggest pillow sale of the year!! 75% off through midnight tonight! Click here to buy now!”


Next time you’re writing an email to sell your products or services, consider using a story-based approach. It can be a lot more fun for you – and importantly, your audience – than writing a standard sales email. And it may get much better results, too.