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Next-Level Copywriting Secrets: How To Reverse-Engineer Anticipation & Excitement (Interview with Shawn Twing)

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We’re going to condense your DECADES of experience into one blog. And I’m not lying you guys. This is the kind of stuff that people pay A LOT of money for.

Hey, Posse! What’s up? It’s Alex.

Coming at ya this week with a VERY special interview with a brilliant marketer, copywriter and strategist who will seriously CHANGE the way you think about marketing.

But first, if you’re new to the crew – welcome! 

On my blog, you’ll find hundreds of practical tips and tricks to help you master the world of online marketing, copywriting, psychology and influence. If that sounds good to you, then be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for the next one!

Now, I’m very excited to introduce my guest this week, Shawn Twing.

Who is Shawn Twing?

Shawn ran a successful digital agency from 1998-2021, running campaigns and strategizing offers for massive players like Agora Financial and Legacy Research.

Today, Shawn has teamed up with another OG in the marketing space, André Chaperon, who was one of the first copywriters I studied and learned from when I got into the world of online marketing over a decade ago.

Together, they write more than 200,000+ words a year, crafting emails, courses, content and more.

So when it comes to the world of copywriting and marketing, it’s safe to say not many people get it better than Shawn.

In this exclusive interview, Shawn is going to condense 25 years of experience working with more than 240 clients, completing more than 750 projects, managing more than $100 million in ad spend, and teaching thousands of students around the world the single most important skill they need to become a top .01% marketer.

Yes, I’m talking about the one thing the ONE marketing superpower – that separates the 99.99% of decent copywriters from the 0.01% who are exceptional.

You’ll have it by the end of this interview. Can you guess what it is? Comment below and let me know…

Here’s the interview.

How To Become A Next Level Marketer

Alex:

Hi Shawn, welcome to my YouTube channel! I’m so excited you’re here.

Shawn:

Oh, me too. We’ve talked about this, that was like a month ago. And I’ve had about 75 ideas for this conversation and they all coalesced today into an outline that I’m pretty sure we’re not even going to get to. So I have no idea what’s about to happen and I’m beside myself excited.

Alex:

That’s the best part. It’s like the marketing mad scientist brain that literally goes in a million different directions. And that’s gonna be the beauty of this conversation. I freakin’ love that you’re here because I don’t do a whole lot of interviews on my YouTube channel, but when I do them, it’s because literally I had a conversation with someone that was so mind-blowing. I’m like the Posse needs to know about this.

And so a little bit of backstory on how Shawn and I got connected. Those of you who have been following my YouTube channel for a while, particularly who have watched a video that I did, outlining some of my favorite copywriting courses that I myself have studied over the last decade of learning copywriting was André Chaperon’s, Autoresponder Madness Course. And I was looking for someone to come in and do a training for my Reignmakers. And I thought, oh my gosh, I need to reach out to André. And I messaged him on Facebook. We’ve been friends for a while and he goes, whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not the guy, you need to meet my business partner Shawn. He’s amazing.

So Shawn and I got connected and we had a little conversation about marketing and psychology and the training that he’ll be doing next month for my Reignmakers. And I’m like, I seriously need you to come onto my YouTube channel. We need to geek out about marketing. Some of the stuff you shared literally had like my jaw, like, oh my God, I love this. So I’m just absolutely honored that you’re here. And I know whatever we talk about will be magical.

Shawn:

Yeah, André’s the classic introvert. And I’m not, he says I’m an extrovert. I’m not, I’m an introvert, but compared to André, I’m an extrovert. So we’ve kind of convinced people that we’re like, it’s like fight club. It’s like Tyler Durden. We’re the same person. We just show up as different manifestations. It’s not really true, but it’s a good story.

Alex:

It’s a good story, I love it. I’m just honored that you’re making the time for this, ’cause you’re really, I mean, an OG, you started your digital agency in 1998. So you, when it comes to marketing on the internet, you know a thing or two, and I’m really curious to hear just a little bit of your backstory of how you got into this whole world of online marketing and that journey.

Shawn:

Yeah, I’ll do the very short version just because it sets a little context. I left graduate school, went to DC, got my dream job, happened to be around the time when the internet was becoming a thing. And I was the youngest person in the place that I worked. And my boss came to me one day and said, hey. And he said, he said this with a period, but he meant a comma. He said, hey, we need a website, period. What he meant was, hey, we need a website, comma, that eventually will be 18,000 pages. And that was 18,000 pages in the mid-nineties.

So I had zero qualifications, but it seemed interesting. So I learned, built a website that eventually was 18,000 pages because I knew that I knew how to do that, I got similar jobs with other organizations, sort of around the place where I worked. It just got better and better at it. And then my father was diagnosed with cancer. I moved back to where I’m from, which is Vermont. And I had two skill sets. One, I was a defense and intelligence staff writer for a magazine. I knew a lot about Israel’s ballistic missile program in Iran’s Navy, which in back home in Vermont, not a great skillset to have, but I also happen to have the skillset around web development.

So I just you know opened, put my signal out, started in an agency in November 1998. I started to get customers through word of mouth. I was too dumb, and I’m not saying this with humility, I’m saying this truthfully, I was too dumb to know at the time that there was a difference between, building websites and getting traffic. So I just started to like, whenever I would get a client, I would, I would learn, I was an early adopter for Google ads, then AdWords now Google Ads. And just, we just, I said it all, like I’m curious. So I continued to build the agency, build the agency and then eventually closed the agency 21 years later, 22, 21 years later, and then joined my dear friend, André Chaperon as sort of COVID had hit.

He and I had talked about doing a traffic course. I’ve managed somewhere around a hundred million dollars in ad spend. So we’d been talking for two years about doing a paid traffic course. COVID hit, I said, hey, let’s do it. We had done some consulting together for other clients. And because we wrote together and we did, we write together, which is weird. He’s six hours ahead. So I generally will write the base of something that he’s working on it when I’m asleep. And then I get up and we work on it together. It’s very odd, but that was so much fun.

When we did the promotion together, we said, hey, you know what? Like a month later, we’re like, we should do this more, like all the time. That was two years ago. So lots have happened in two years.

Alex:

Man, the number of times I’ve talked to people that say, man, we pivoted in 2020, it’s like you shut down your agency of 22 years and pivoted massively. But I mean, I absolutely love that. And I love what you said about curiosity. And I mean, that is the secret. I really do feel like having an agency for 22 years, working with over 240 clients, including Agora Financial, Legacy Research, managing over a hundred million dollars in ad spend. I mean, you’ve seen some things, you’ve seen some things.

Shawn:

Yeah, one of my favorite, you’ve given me the perfect opening here. So we can segue into the conversation today. I knew this would happen, talked about this earlier. So I have this thing that I do is part of my curiosity. If I have an opportunity to, if I have five minutes with someone who’s really good at something, like I’ve had this happen a lot, I’ll often ask them like one or two questions. The first question I like to ask is like, if you look over the entire entirety of your career, what do you think of the three things in your field that matter most? That’s a favorite question of mine, or I might ask somebody like, hey, if someone who does like consulting or something like that, like, if you look at like the history of your entire business, all of your experience, what are the three most common mistakes that you wish your clients would avoid? I just love questions like that.

So when I was thinking about our conversation today, but the way I tried to frame it to myself was like, okay, I’ve been at this for 25 years, for 240, 250, or so clients, 750 projects, hundred million in ad spend. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words with André. We teach thousands of students. If we could just talk about one thing, if they could just, if there was just one thing that rises, and the question to myself was, is there one thing that rises above everything else?

You know, of course, you’ve gotta do something. You know, there are like 20 things and there are five things. And then there are two things, and then you’re like, oh, there is one thing. So by the end of this conversation, if I’m successful, if we really do our work well together today, the end of this conversation, I think the people who pay attention to this start to finish are going to have an understanding of that one thing that separates the 99.99% of marketers who are okay, they do well, from the 0.01% who just are exceptional.

And I don’t know, I like to say 5 out of 4 people are bad at math. I don’t know the math, but you know, you’ve been around those people, right? You’ve been around the people, it’s like, yeah, they kind of get it. But then you’ve been around the people that are like, oh, they’re operating in a different world. I think the thing we’re going to talk about is the thing that makes the difference. I may be wrong, you know? So other people may have different opinions. This is just one guy’s opinion. It’s an opinion informed by a little bit of experience, but it’s one guy’s opinion, but that’s the goal for today to tell you, to get your audience to know what I think is the one thing that separates good marketers from exceptional marketers. So let’s set the bar there and see what happens.

Alex:

Amazing, yeah, exactly. Well, and the thing I love what you said, and it’s so true, all the tactics, all the strategies, all of that stuff in marketing is cool. I mean, of course, right. We all wanna learn the formulas, the triggers, the tricks, the tactics, the exercises, all those buzzwords. But when it comes to great marketing, I feel like you can tell, you’re like, okay, this person gets it. And part of that is curiosity. Like we talked about earlier, but I love that. I’m so excited to have this conversation because, and you said this earlier, we’re going condense your decades of experience, like decades into one YouTube video.

And I’m not lying you guys, this is the kind of sh*t that people spend. I don’t think I can swear on YouTube. YouTube, cut that out so that you don’t hurt my organic reach.

Shawn:

Whoops.

Alex:

Yeah, whoopsies. This is the kind of stuff that people pay a lot of money for. And the fact that, I mean, you’re here doing this training for free for my Posse community. I can only imagine the talk that you’re giving next month for my Reignmakers, but I am excited. I am here both as a student and fellow marketing enthusiast, and we’re just gonna geek out on all things marking today. And if you guys watching our stoked, give a thumbs up, comment below, this is gonna be awesome.

Shawn:

And let’s be honest, everybody wants a Posse. That’s why I’m here. It’s just the coolest thing ever.

Alex:

You’re in, you’re in.

Shawn:

Okay, sweet. I’m so excited now. Alright, so let’s start with some of the obvious, right? We’ll just go through a little obvious and we’ll kind of go on some tangents, but the obvious thing, the critical ingredient we have to start with is excitement. We, we all know that everyone’s like, yep, okay, this guy’s an idiot, I just wasted my time. ‘Cause he said blinding flash in the obvious. But we start from the perspective of, we want our prospects to be excited about what we’re talking with them about. That’s a critical ingredient. And the cool thing about excitement is we can reverse engineer it. Like we kind of know the ingredients of excitement.

And rather than go through a 10 hour lecture on how to do that, I’m gonna direct people to someone who really opened my eyes to it. His name is Robert Fritz and a really weird story. I read his books, so I was just stunned. And I’m like this guy, the two books, one is Your Life is Art, and the other is, I can’t remember the name and I will a minute. But when I read the books, I was like, yes, like this is it. But the weird part about the story is I reached out to him on Facebook and I was like, just so wanted to thank him for how much, like, how much sense he had made to me. And I realized he lives like an hour from me. I’m like, how weird is that? And I live in the middle of nowhere. So I was like, how weird is that?

So anyway, Robert Fritz, he’s condensed a lot of creativity down into this idea of structural tension. And we don’t need to get into all the details, but the way he describes it and the way that’s really interesting for our purposes in marketing is that we think about the progression from an A to a B, the A is where our audience is right now, wherever right now is for the audience that you’re engaging with, that’s A, but we are taking them someplace. That’s B and the tension exists between those two things, right?

Now, let’s just do a quick example so we know. If you and I were talking about the Star Wars movie, and I was like, hey, by the way Alex, here’s the thing, Darth Vader’s Luke Skywalker’s father. And like, I told you all the things, right? You’d be like, what? Like there’s no tension anymore, right? Because the thing that’s drawing us forward is the story. And there are all these things we don’t know, and that tension, we feel it we’re glued to the screen. We’re at the edge of our seat. And the first thing I like to think about when I sit down to write or to create at all, is where am I meeting my audience right now? And then where am I taking them?

And this exists on really lots of time scales. So this is the important thing. There is a time scale of like, within a piece of content, like within an email, there’s a tension from paragraph to paragraph, from beginning to end. There’s a time scale from one email to the next, if you’re doing a multiple email campaign, but all of that might exist within this much larger narrative arc. That might be a Facebook ad that frames a certain way to see the world. And then there’s a landing page that continues the frame and sort of builds out a larger understanding of it. And then you might get to an opt-in page, and then an email, maybe say seven emails, and maybe after seven or eight emails, we begin to talk about this offer that you have, and you transition to that.

That’s one long A to B journey, and within that A to B journey are all these other little A to B journeys. And the way I think about it is like a staircase, right? The staircase is going up and there’s tension that’s created and resolved a little, but never too much and a little more and never too much. And we’re continuing to use that tension to pull people forward. Now let’s compare that to, I love this alternative, ’cause it just makes me laugh every time I think about this, I used to read my daughter a book when she was little and the book is called, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie.

And what the book is about is if you give a mouse of cookie, the mouse, he’s gonna want a glass of milk. And then when he wants a glass of milk, he wants this other thing when he wants the other thing and the whole book is about what he wants next until the thing that he wants next, he wants another cookie, right, circular, right? This is every email I’ve ever read ever, which is like, hey, there’s this story. And let me tell you a little bit of story and oh, by the way, I have this thing to sell. Over and over and over and tomorrow, oh yeah, this thing happened to me. It reminded me of this thing. Oh, by the way, I have this thing to sell.

There’s no tension. Every day, you’re telling me a story and you’re resolving the tension. So after two or three stories, I don’t care anymore. Right, you’re not pulling my attention forward. You haven’t captured, you just haven’t done it. I think I’m gonna create a book. It’s like, you know, if you give a marketer a story, right. We’ve all heard this over, oh, just use story. That’s such an incomplete piece of advice. It’s the tension of story that we want. It’s the larger tension that’s pulling us forward. But it’s the micro tensions, the unresolved ideas though, like the implicit ideas, the explicit things that you say.

I had this happen to me, like everyone an example so they know what it feels like. And it still drives me crazy. Tim Ferriss interviewed someone named Safi Bahcall, really fascinating guy, Safi Bahcall in the interview said he has these three writing frameworks. And then he and each framework had some number of parts. And then Tim Ferriss, because apparently he hates me, kept interrupting him and Safi Bahcall never, like he filled in like some details or two of them completely.

But there were details that he didn’t fill in. It drives me crazy, this was two years ago. Three years ago, still drives me crazy. I have personally email, I’ve tracked down Safi Bahcall’s personal email address, I’ve sent him emails. I’ve essentially begged and pleaded. I was like, will you write a book and anything, anything to close the loop. And of course, he’s busy. He’s not gonna do it, right. But think about it, three years, this guy’s maintained my attention because he hasn’t closed the tension he created with me. That’s what we’re, that’s the first idea we’re going through. So fire questions at me about this.

Alex:

Yeah. So much of what you said, I mean, first of all, I’ve never in all of my years of marketing, heard it called tension and that I feel like it makes sense. It’s that like that anticipation, that what, like pull me in because I need to know what’s gonna happen next. And you know, we’ve heard, like you said, use story, use open loops. I mean, I teach all of that, but I love that you said like the difference between seeing an email from someone and they go, let me tell you a story now by my stuff. And like, you can see like, yeah, yeah, they get it, but they don’t quite get it. Like they’re doing all of the right things. They’re using the formulas, the templates, but they’re not understanding that concept of tension.

And I freaking love the idea of micro tension, ’cause you could like, I think of like you said, from every sentence to sentence, you wanna create that pull effect of someone just continuing to read. And of course, there’s lots of ways to do that. But then even the tension that happens from an ad to a landing page or an email to a sales page, and then you could probably even take that higher and think ultimately, where are you helping people get to as their like kind of ideal end state and that tension could be pulled through an entire product suite, from you know, the first time someone ever comes across your brand, the very first touchpoint, all the way up to being your highest, most loyal customer who buys everything from you and has completely transformed their life in business as a result, whatever it is that you’re selling.

And to me, that’s just so powerful because it all of a sudden becomes like inception of the open loops. It’s not just about an open loop followed by an open loop, followed by an open loop. It’s like all of these open loops in one giant open loop. And I mean, blah, my mind is already blown.

Shawn:

We can end here probably. Yeah, easy enough. But we wouldn’t have delivered on the promise though. So here’s the, oh, we made a promise in the beginning. What an interesting idea. So I know a lot of people are watching this are like, okay, great, that sounds fine. But like what do you actually do?

And this is the key to understanding tension, as soon as I say it, it’s going to be so obvious. And I hate say, everyone’s just gonna, it was a head-slapping moment for me where I was like, I can’t believe I didn’t see this. The superpower, the first superpower you have, this isn’t the like big superpower, but this is like the micro superpower, the superpower that we have as marketers, when we think about structural tension and pulling our audience’s attention forward, is we know where they’re going and they don’t.

That’s the core thing to understand, if I want to take you on a journey where, and André and I did this last fall, we have a course that talks about the way we do our personal knowledge management called ideas to assets, and when we, the email campaign for it was about alchemy and this idea of transmuting lead into gold and this cipher had been discovered, and it was this fascinating story, but we knew, and our audience knew too that we weren’t hiding it. But we knew that on, we started the campaign on Monday, we knew on Thursday, there was a thing that they could buy. And we wanted them to have a certain set of emotions and excitement, and we knew that, and we knew what we were going to reveal and all the things it did, but they didn’t.

So of course we could engineer surprise and mystery and novelty and all of, like there’s so much we could do, simply because we know where they’re going and our audience doesn’t. And how often is that true for all of us as marketers? And how often do we forget that we’re taking somebody on a journey where we know where we’re going and they don’t, and what a beautiful way to make something exciting for somebody, right.

Instead of being like, “oh yeah, there’s this thing. I met my buddy the other day and we did this thing and yeah, here’s my stuff, buy it.” Right, instead of doing that, think about like, what’s exciting about the thing that you’re going to offer them. Maybe don’t offer it to them today, right? Maybe that’s part of the excitement. Maybe the story is in parts and it’s the building, it’s the coming together of those parts. That makes more sense that when they all come together, the tension that resolves is in the direction of the thing that you sell, that may make more sense. And marketers everywhere are like, oh my God, wait, what? Like, don’t try to sell in the first email, right. What an novel idea.

André and I never sell in the first email, ever. It’s days, and we have people literally reaching out. We have an email on our site. We have like 250-300,000 words of free content on our site and our emails that we’ve written in our campaigns, we have one of them where, and this happens a lot, but this Landon is the first guy, we love Landon because he was so emphatic about it. We were on day three of a promotion and he just sent us an email and said, “Dudes, take my money.” Like he was so frustrated. Where’s the link? And we get people doing this all the time that will send us emails and they will be like, will you please take my money? Like, that’s what we’re trying to get for a feeling for our audience.

Okay, let’s do this. Let’s go through, actually, I wanna do one more thing and then we’ll transition to some questions. I wanna give your audience, I wanna condense how this feels into one resource they can go look at, we’ll put this, I think we can put this in the show notes, but you can also find it easy search. If you search for Ben Zander TED Talk. I think it’s one of the top 10 TED Talks of all times, Ben Zander was the conductor, or maybe he is the conductor for the Boston Philharmonic. Don’t let the title of the TED Talk put you off. It’s something about classical music.

I’m not a classical music person, but what he does in the TED Talk is gorgeous, stunning, but there’s a part of the TED Talk where he plays Chopin and he explains why it’s so moving. And what this song does is the tension grows. But it doesn’t quite resolve. It grows, you’ll know this. I won’t give it away. You’ll know the song as soon as he plays it. But what the song is doing is it’s progressing. But instead of hitting the note we expect, he hits a different variation of the note and you’re like, and then he does it again. And he goes up and then the note, it’s not quite right.

And you can see the people in the audience and Ben Zander, as he’s playing it, he’s telling, like you can feel it’s not quite right. But then when the song ends, he plays it through in the note that you are expecting to hear that resolves the tension of the song when he plays it, it flashes to the audience and everybody in the audience goes, oh, right. That’s what we’re trying to do, right.

When you take somebody, when they arrive at that destination, you want it to feel like, oh, right. Like whatever it is, whatever market, whatever campaign, whatever it is, they feel like they’re home. Yeah. That finally somebody understands them. Finally, it all makes sense. The reason they’ve tried to get this result in the past and didn’t, now they know why, the reason they have hope for the future.

Now they understand why like all of it comes together and feels like what we feel like when we sit in our favorite chair or we see our best friend, or we’ve all had that experience, we’re like, we’ve had a crazy day or whatever you look up and like the person you most hope to see is there. And you’re like, oh, like, everything’s great now, that’s what we’re doing as marketers. That’s what we’re reverse engineering.

Okay, fire away questions.

Alex:

Oh my gosh. Oh, this is all so exciting. First of all, when you said Ben Zander, I’m like, why do I know that name? I’ve read a book I think that he’s written called The Art of Possibility.

Shawn:

Yeah, it’s right there, hold on.

Alex:

Do I have it on my shelf too? Somewhere I have it. Yeah, here we go. The Art of Possibility, I love this book. Love it. Yes, I highly recommend everyone read that. I may have recommended it before, but amazing book. And, and when, soon as you said that he was a philharmonic like a conductor or whatever, I’m like, oh my gosh, I have read that book. Yeah, okay. Oh my God, okay. Alex, calm down. What do we need to talk about?

So firstly, I freaking love how much you love marketing. And I know we geeked out on this the first time that we connected because I freaking love marketing and not in the, “I’m gonna make a million bazillion dollars and drive a Lambo and you know, make a whole bunch of money and people are gonna buy my stuff kind of way.”

I love marketing because it is truly how you become influential, how you persuade people, how you make a difference in the world. And as marketers, we have this incredible superpower to be able to inspire action through the power of our words. And if everyone did marketing in the way that you are explaining, in the way that I deep in my bones believe it should be done. I truly believe like, we can change the face of marketing so that it doesn’t feel icky or douchey or scammy or and actually is empowering.

And that’s just to hear you say, like to share your definition of marketing gets me really excited, ’cause it is literally the backbone of my entire mission at the Posse. So I know the Posse’s gonna love you for that. And the fact that you’re talking about sort of not selling in the first email again, it’s like, unpopular opinion probably in a lot of direct response marketing circles, because it’s all about like you get the lead, you sell, you get the lead, you sell, they’re either gonna buy or they’re gonna unsubscribe.

And I’ve sort of built my whole business on this idea that I don’t want someone to come and then leave. I want someone to come and be like, oh my gosh, I have found my people. This is where I wanna hang out, seeing your best friend walk in the door and being able to trickle that into everything you do. So I freaking love that you said that. And so I’m really curious, like this idea of reverse engineering is absolutely something that I think about a lot. You know, I can think of sort of the end vision of what it is that I’m trying to create. And it is such a powerful idea because I think so many people go into marketing, maybe even just thinking of like the next step.

Okay. I need to get someone to click this link, which of course is important, right? We want a call to action. We want people to take action on whatever it is that we’re asking them to do. But this idea of reverse engineering is just so powerful because you can literally, it’s not just reverse engineering, sort of one product launch. It can be reverse engineering, ultimately your entire business so that every single thing you do and every single marketing effort you put out there sort of feeding this ecosystem, this machine that you’re building of marketing.

And so I’m curious from a more just strategic, tactical standpoint when you and André are sitting down to map out a launch or to do a product and you know that you have a bunch of messaging to create, is there a process that you go through in order to sort of reverse engineer, but then also bread crumb that excitement to be like, okay, we’re gonna talk about this here, then this is, is there any sort of, kind of creative process that you follow?

Shawn:

There is, and there isn’t. The thing to be aware of for both André and me, between us, we’ve got more than four decades of experience. So most of what we do is unconscious confidence. We just do it. Yeah. But there’s some things that we do, I’ll talk about the things that I do specifically, it’ll be more fair to André. So the first thing that I do, doesn’t matter if I’m writing a single email, it doesn’t matter what I’m writing. The first thing I write down and I write with pencil, I’m a pencil dork. I’m in love with black wing pencils and I’m a pen dork. I’m just a dork, we’ll just leave it at that. So I will write down what, it’ll draw a box with an A in it and a B in it. And I want to know what’s my A to B here.

First thing I want to know, where do I think my audience is? And this is just this, this isn’t sophisticated. I just wanna make sure I understand, you know, if it’s email three in a series or whatever it is, I just, I wanna have a sense where are they? But then what’s the B like, where am I taking them? Because then I really, I ask the question that is, this is a really weird experience for me, because I do it to myself. But then I will ask, I’ll come up with something that I think is the point of like the main message of that email.

And then I write “Who cares?” and the first who cares is sort of neutral. And I write an answer to it. And then immediately after I write who cares again, now I’m a little irritated, right? Because that, there’s a little energy this one idiot in my head is asking the other chimp in my head who cares a little too often. And I’ll do that until I get really frustrated. And I write something and I’m like, oh, that’s actually the thing that I’m talking about. And it’s like that, it’s uncovering it.

And what I’m trying to find is I’m like, what is the thing that actually matters here? We did this with a series I’ll just give you a real example so people understand what this is. We did this with a series last year and André and I did it as dialogue, and I was like, what do you think the theme is? He had an idea like I had an idea and both ideas sucked. And then, then we kinda looked at it and at some point, one of us was like, you know, it’s just, people just wanna feel pride. And we were both like, oh right. Like as soon as we heard the word, we’re like this entire campaign is about the pride of being able to accomplish something. And the pride of looking the people who you care about in the eye and knowing you did the thing that mattered, like whatever that is like, that’s what it was. And as soon as we had that word, as soon as we had that, the entire campaign wrote itself.

And that was a great campaign. The first email that went out immediately, ’cause we set it up, we framed the whole thing that this is about pride and pride’s not a bad thing. Pride can be a bad thing. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, but pride can be a good thing. And we gave some examples, what does it feel like when you have made a certain amount of money that takes care of things that are important to your family, doesn’t need to be the Lambo in the driveway, right? That’s Grant Cardone’s thing. He can have it or maybe no, it’s Ty Lopez. Ty Lopez can have the Lambos. I’m a German guy, I want a Porsche, but what does it feel like? What does it really feel like when the people in your life who you care about, look at you and think like this is important.

As soon as we dialed in on that, the emails that we got in response were shocking. I mean, people were just, like the things that people shared with us. And I realized like, whoa, we hit something here. And to your earlier point, I wanna clarify this. I recognize myself professionally as a marketer. And I love marketing, I think about marketing, but I never really think about it being marketing. For me, what I think about is that there are people in this world whose lives could change, sometimes just a little bit, but sometimes a lot because of things that other people know or know how to do or whatever. And to put those two things together, to show another human being that they can do things that they don’t realize they can do. And to make that connection in a way that’s genuine and caring and never grow.

Like I don’t sell, that’s the whole Peter Drucker thing. The whole point of marketing is to make selling superfluous, like if I have to sell something, I’ve done something terribly wrong. What I like to think about is how do I make this the obvious, how do I make the thing to buy the obvious next step for the person who needs it now and it’s the right solution? How do I make that obvious to everyone so that they know there’s no doubt.

They’re like, this is the thing for me. If I do that, I’ve done. Like I get it, that’s marketing. But anyway, so I sort don’t want a tangent there, but that’s kind of our process. Ask yourself that over again. Don’t be satisfied until you get mad. Like you have to be genuinely mad at yourself, you’re irritated, you’re like, and then you’re, oh, oh, it’s that like that. And then you just go back and start with that.

Alex:

Yeah, I’ll tell you actually this perfect example of what you’re saying, because again, right, it’s really easy to, and I feel like this happens a lot in sales copywriting, writing sales emails, where you’re like, okay, I have this new thing, I wanna sell it. So I have a list or whatever, and I’m gonna send some emails and it’s really easy to fall back on the very logical left brain stuff, right? Right, look at all the value you get. And it’s only for this much. And yes, having a great offer and a good deal obviously is part of marketing. Like you, you want people to feel like, oh my gosh, yes, that’s a no brainer.

However, I feel like so many people skip over what you were talking about, which is what I call value-based marketing. You know, when I’m selling a program, telling people, hey, I’m gonna teach you how to become a copywriter and ignite your business, what do people really care about? So it’s really that who cares question. And even like, they wanna make a lot of money. Okay, why, what is the underlying values? The driving force behind this. And the second you can get so clear on why your audience, what would make this such a no-brainer next step for your audience? And it’s speaking to their values that they feel so heard, so understood.

And this happened last year, I was launching a high ticket membership program. And I had someone on my team help me with writing the sales emails. And she did a great job, but, you know, she was focusing very much on sort of what we typically do with some of our lower ticket offers. So playing up the scarcity, the value price gap, all of that stuff. And we sent out a few emails and a couple people had joined. And I remember sitting and looking at these emails going, they’re great, they’re good sales emails, but what’s holding people back has nothing to do with the scarcity, the value, the price, there’s something else.

Really getting clear on what, what that A to B look like, where are they now, what are their fears? I mean, truly just spending some time thinking about what is holding them back, what are they worried about? What are they you know-

Shawn:

This is the thing that marketers miss too, is what you just described is we are really good at explaining how the thing that we’ve created can get this incredible result, we do all the things to show how it makes perfect sense. But the thing that we forget is that they don’t have any doubt that we can do it. The doubt that they have is that they can do it. And that’s the emotional piece, right?

To speak to somebody and say, listen, I got these results and you won’t likely get the same results on day one. That’s just truth, but if you’re willing to like say, there’s three things they need to do, if you’re willing to show up and do these three things consistently, then there’s nothing between you and what you want other than time and commitment. And you’re being honest, the hurdle and everybody forgets this. This is everybody kind of comes in and shows up to say, like, I’ve done this thing and I’ve created, I’ve put so much value in it.

It’s like, you are not the one they’re worried about. They’re worried about can they do it, right? And that’s often the difference between a good promotion and an extraordinary promotion is the one that speaks to what the audience is deeply fearful about. And no one, and we don’t know this like, if you pull your audience, like, what are your biggest fears? No one, it’s hard to say, well, you know what, at the end of the day, my biggest fear is that I’m not good enough. And I can’t do this.

That’s a fear that we don’t just bring to the cocktail party, right. And we may not even know that, but when you do it for them, I mean, this is the essence of, I think the brilliance of what Donald Miller got so right with story brand is that the meeting of the hero and the guide begins with empathy, then authority, and what marketers tend to jump to is they skip empathy, go right to authority. Like, hey, look at me. I’m so smart.

My dad was a lifelong martial artist. And he, when I was in fifth grade, we were at a tournament. A guy had just got the title of master. And when that happens, people have called you Mr. or Miss or Mrs. for 20 years, and then the day your title changes, people haven’t quite caught up. So my dad, this guy had just become mastery. And he was so mad and kept calling him, Mister, he jumped up on a table, he was wagging his finger. And he said, my title is Master. I won’t say his name, not Mister. You should address me. And my dad, I remember, this was a long time ago. It’s fifth grade. My dad looked at me and he said, you’re gonna meet two types of people in your life. People who demand your respect like that guy and people who command your respect, right? Good marketers command people’s respect because we never ask for it.

We meet our audience with empathy. We have the ability to say, listen, implicitly, explicitly, I have a sense of what this feels like to you. So let me, before we do anything else, before I tell you about me, before I tell you how great this thing is, why don’t you and I make sure we understand each other. I’m gonna take you through what it felt like for me, when I was where you are. And let’s see if that syncs up a little bit. And then if it does, I’ll tell you about, when I look back on it, where I was right. Where I was wrong, where I needed help, where I needed, like I’ll take you on that journey.

Michael Pollan talks about this when he writes, that he doesn’t wanna be the brilliant guy upfront telling you how to do things. He goes on journeys. And then he just takes people on the journey that he went on with him. And I’m like, that, that to me is good marketing. Like, I wanna go do cool stuff. And I’m like, “Hey, let’s go, let’s go do this together. I may be a little farther ahead, but I wanna show you like what I found, like, let’s go, let’s go have fun.” There’s something about that. That’s so profoundly different. I do love marketing every time I talk about it, I realize I love it even more.

Alex:

And I think too, it’s like we say, we love marketing and it’s ’cause it’s for everything that you’re just saying now, and I think a lot of people, and I’ll even get this from some of my students where they’ll join the Posse and they’ll go, you know, finally, someone who’s talking about selling in a way that doesn’t feel like icky, you know? And there’s a lot of resistance to selling and I love selling and I’m always like, whoa, whoa, whoa, no, don’t get me wrong. I love selling as long as we’re selling products and services that genuinely help people because I really do believe that like, this is our superpower and we can help people absolutely change their lives and believe in themselves.

And empathy is that thing that it’s a buzzword. A lot of people talk about it. But again, going back to what we said earlier, not selling in the first email, if all you did in the beginning of a lead’s new relationship with you and your brand, if all you did was focus on understanding who they are, you are gonna sell so much more and you don’t have to do any of like the bells and whistles and any of that, because like you said, you’re not actually even selling, you’re meeting them where they are at. And then you’re saying, come on, let’s go. I found this really cool thing. Like, are you with me, are you not? And then it almost feels like an adventure.

And it’s really beautiful. It’s this really beautiful like, hey, you can come along. I know that you’ll when you’re ready, you’ll make the decision. And that’s all of a sudden changes the entire dynamic of a sales relationship. And again, unpopular opinion. But I truly believe that that’s how you get customers for life.

Shawn:

And I’m so glad you said this, because this is an unpopular opinion that’s so ridiculously misinformed that it’s laughable. So Dean Jackson has said this publicly. And if I assume everybody listening to us who Dean is, Dean is truly the OG of internet marketing, of internet marketing, brilliant guy, kind. I don’t wanna be very clear. I don’t know Dean personally, but Dean and I were at a speakers, we were sitting next to each other at a speaker’s dinner before, I think it was before Copy Chief Live 2019, I think, but we’re talking to each other and Dean shared this with me in person. And I’ve since verified, he shared it publicly. So, and André and I refer to this all the time.

Dean has looked at extensive data for his clients and he works with lots of big clients. I’ve had this conversation with more marketers than I care to even count. We’ve had more of our clients come back. Our students come back and verify this. So I believe this is as true in our world as gravity. And here’s the thing that Dean talks about, when he looks at the data for large segments of buyers, of the people who buy from somebody in two years, right? Buyers not leads, people who buy in two years, only 15% buy in the first 90 days, 15%, like let that sink in. There’s four times the revenue opportunity after 90 days, if you don’t screw things up.

So this idea, and this is the most misinformed idea in marketing of all, which is that if you don’t sell right now, you won’t get the opportunity. It’s so misinformed it’s laughable, yet everybody everybody then adapts what they do to like, well, if I don’t sell to them right now, they won’t buy from me. And it’s like, you’re optimizing for the tiny slice of people who would buy from you over two years. If you just let them buy when they want to buy. And André, and I really have, we have reformulated our entire philosophy of marketing around purchases being an emergent property of relationships.

We’re systems theorists, which means, and it’s similar to what you were talking about before with money, we never think about money. We never think about like, how much is this promotion gonna make? What we think about is how are we going to create the most value for our audience, both for the people who don’t buy anything. So there’s value in just seeing what we do. There’s value, there’s informative value. Like we want it to be interesting. There’s entertainment value. There’s there’s value for everybody, but we know that the money will be an emergent property. It’s not something that you actually make.

It’s something that happens as a result of all the other things and in good marketing the sales that happen are an emergent property of the relationship you build with your audience. Like that’s a critical insight. And if you just focus on the relationship, the sales will actually take care of themselves. But if you just focus on the sales, you’re really going to have a hard time building the relationship ’cause it feels kind of funky if the relationship is all about, hey, remember that story I told you yesterday, you wanna buy that thing? Like that just gets so old.

Alex:

Totally. It’s so, so old.

Shawn:

We have to deliver on a promise here pretty soon.

Alex:

One more comment. And then we’ll deliver on the promise. It reminds me of, I was chatting with Brian Kurtz a couple of weeks ago and this whole idea around like lists are people too. It’s so easy to, you know, as a marketer, look at your email list and you see numbers and percentages, and then you realize on the other end of that is like a real living, breathing, human being who for a split second thought you were worthy enough of their email address and gave you permission to contact them. Now, how are you gonna build that relationship?

And it’s so mind-blowing to me the different philosophy sort of around what you said and about, oh, hey, let’s get the sale right away. And a lot of marketing tools and systems have been built with that mentality. Like you look at, you know, cold Facebook advertising, things like that, you know, oh, the pixel expires. And then we don’t actually know we can’t track. And I feel like everything has been geared towards like, no, it’s all about the immediate sale, the immediate gratification.

And if instead you look back and go, okay, everything I produce is gonna be valuable in and of itself. And that’s my philosophy. I don’t care if anyone ever buys from me, I want every single interaction that they have with the Posse to leave them feeling uplifted, entertained, informed, or even just like have a warm feeling because the content provided some sort of value in that way. And I truly believe that if that becomes sort of the maximum of how we as marketers show up, then the internet is just gonna be a way better place to hang out. And truly like we can change the face of marketing with that philosophy.

Shawn:

Yeah, can you imagine if more people did this, how much fun would it be? Something you just said made me think of an example of it. Just to put a fine point on it, this idea of people versus lists or names or whatever. We had a, I can’t remember exactly when this was, it was months ago, but we had somebody reach out to us who was like, listen, I wanna buy your course. Could you like essentially, he was like, and he said, I wanna buy your course. And he’d done all of our free courses. We have tons of free courses, tons of free content. He’d gone through everything. He’d done the work. And he said, I wanna pay for it, but could you give me a payment plan that was like way longer?

And you know, and André and I, we get these requests a lot, but something about this one stood out and the guy, I was just, he had done the work. So we were looking at we back and forth. And we reached the decision. We said, you know what, we’re not going to do that. We’re gonna give him the course. And we kind of said, here’s what we want you to do. We’re giving it to you, go do it, you make your first a hundred thousand dollars. Come back, buy the course. Like, that’s what we want you to do, but we want you, it was just, and we don’t do this all the time, it was just one particular person. Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine. That gentleman lived in Kiev, he’s Ukrainian.

So now we had this moment where, someone on our support team, I think said, but all of a sudden, all of us, you know, André, me, Nick, others in support were like, wait a minute, we need to go make sure he’s okay. Like there was, he’s a real person. When the transaction comes through, the lead comes through, there’s a real person. And I use this example just because you can feel what it’s like to realize, like, wow, had we handled that differently and I’m not saying we’re perfect by any means, but had we handled that differently, it would’ve felt way different. But to recognize this is a person, everybody’s a person.

And to try to always have that approach, it sounds like it’s really hard, it’s not hard. It’s so much easier than the alternative. The trying to maintain the facade of being, you know, somehow a genius above it all. This is actually another idea from Robert Fritz that, you know, when someone puts you on a pedestal, there’s only one direction to go, right. That’s down, right. So like, it’s not what we want our audience. It’s like, it’s not about being up here on a pedestal. It’s being shoulder to shoulder. Like, yes, you have experienced your audience doesn’t have that you can share with them, but you’re not sharing it from the perspective of, hey, look at me, you’re sharing it from the perspective of, hey, we can change this thing that’s kind of broken together. Let’s roll up our sleeves, get to work, like that, there’s something beautiful.

Okay. Two things before we wrap up, we need to give away the big promise here. Can’t forget that. But I wanna give people a way to think about how to do this. Cause this is the question people come up with, and this is what you and I and your Reignmakers are going to spend hours going into the minutia of how to do this, which I’m super excited. I am so ridiculously excited about the how, but for everyone else, who’s like, well, how do you actually do this?

The way to think about improving your marketing communication is to just look at principles of serialized narratives. That’s where to start, shows like Lost, shows like 24, two of my favorite, Yellowstone and Justified. I binge-watched all of Justified, it was so good. Like, you’ll see these things that we’ve been talking about. Like go watch Justified. Immediately there’s tension because you have the main character, Rayland Gibbons is a US Deputy Marshall who goes back home where his friend is an outlaw. What is that? It’s tension, it’s tension that sustains 78 episodes of the show because you’re always like, how is that going to work itself out?

And then in Justified, there’s also a woman that both of them care about, more tension, right? It propels the show. And when you watch, because you can see that you don’t have to wait for the episode, that’s kind of fun. You can actually see it. How the tension within a series, how it builds and builds and builds, and then resolves at the end of the series. And then the next, and what’s crazy is the next season, it’s the exact same formula, yet you’re on the edge of your seat to see how it resolves. This is learnable. These skills are learnable.

Alex:

I mean, shall we? Promise, we’ll get to the promise in just a second. I wanna say one thing, first of all, I knew that watching TV was the secret to being a good marketer. And second, you could even just read the like descriptions of each episode through a series, which would be such a cool exercise just to see how they’re building tension and opening loops in each of the descriptions of each episode, that would be such a cool exercise to do is just go and then reverse engineer it and watch the series and see how that plays out.

Shawn:

Absolutely, and you know, this is what some people will do though, with this like, oh, I gotta go learn screenwriting. It’s like, don’t worry about that. Go find a show that you like, whatever it is, that’s serialized, there’re episode by episode, you’re pulled through and season by season, you’re pulled through. But feel it, and then, and start to ask is like, what’s going on here?

You’re like, oh, well, at the beginning of the episode, there was a scene that hinted at like whatever, there was a gun, that’s the old saying, there’s a gun in act one, someone gets killed in act two, right, or act three or whatever. Like you start to see all these things. And then it shows up in our writing, right? One way that André and I do this a lot, a lot is with Easter eggs, right? So an Easter egg for everyone who’s not familiar with the term is you do something that’s not explicit. You don’t say what it is that you’re doing. But if you get a little distance and you kinda look at either an individual email or a campaign, you see that there are things happening.

It’s like subtext, you and I actually, there’s a huge Easter egg in our conversation today that we didn’t hint at it earlier, but we’ll kinda let people know that when they see it, they’re gotta go, oh, and that’s a fun, most of what we’re doing is writers is dopamine management, right. A little squirts of dopamine, or like, hey, there’s little tension and it was resolved, but not fully. And there’s a little more, we’re just constant dopamine management.

Alex:

Little squirts of dopamine, that’s the takeaway.

Shawn:

Yes, that’s the intro for me. How to get squirts of dopamine, André, and I use that phrase all the time. It’s all about. And the funny thing we open loop each other all the time. We’re so miserable, just so miserable. Okay, shall we reveal the big secret?

Alex:

We shall. Terrible, if we were like, sorry, you gotta. Let’s just bounce we’re out of time.

Shawn:

Yeah we’ll talk about it some other time. This has been great. Thanks Alex, see you. Bye Copy Posse. Alright, that wouldn’t be very kind. So here’s the superpower. And again, one guy’s opinion. If I look across and I wanna be clear, when I say 750+ projects and everything else, they didn’t all work, right. The numbers I’ve heard a lot are 10 to 15% of offers do spectacular, 10 to 15% of offers fail spectacularly.

And then in the middle are sort of who know, like maybe they could be salaries. Maybe they could do some optimization or whatever. So in my experience, those numbers hold true. And what I generally tell people, when I look back on my entire career, at least half of the offers that I worked on failed, not me personally, but working with client’s offers generally fail. So I’m not suggesting that this observation is like, it just always works. But what this observation for me is if I strip away everything else and if I could find like the one thing that makes the difference.

So if I look at all the offers that did really well or campaigns that did really well or where things were not like incrementally better, they were exponentially better. I think what the superpower is, is the ability to sustain and amplify attention. That’s the superpower and somebody listening this is gonna well, you’ve gotta capture it first. Yes, we know, you have to get somebody’s attention first. But what the mistake that gets made a lot is people get really good at curiosity-driven, attention-getting, the big idea headlines, like all that stuff’s been covered.

But when the curiosity fades, the 100,000 leads you got aren’t worth nine cents total, right? It’s not the getting of attention. And it’s not just sustaining attention, pulling it forward, right. Rather than having to push somebody from add to landing like push it, like, please read the next email. Please read my next story about the thing I wanna sell you. Instead, it’s like an invisible force pulling them. It’s that sustained pulling, but also the ability when you want to turn up tension, right?

You’re like in service to something, where you’re like, hey, if you’re interested in X, raise your hand because we’ve got something we’re gonna do that’s like whatever. And so people raise their hand and then you take them on a journey and then it’s just tension. Like you’re amping it up. And then you resolve it in service of something that’s beneficial to them and others. So again, one person’s opinion, distill everything I’ve learned now, if I only could take one skillset with me into the next half of my career, it would be the ability to sustain and amplify attention. So that’s the big secret.

Alex:

I freaking love it. And it’s so, I mean, it’s so true. I’ll often hear people say, oh, people’s attention spans are like, they’re nothing now. And I’m like, no, no, no. How many of us sit in front of Netflix for hours on end, watching a show until it says, are you still watching? And you’re like, yes, I’m still watching Netflix.

And so I don’t think people’s attention spans have gotten shorter, what’s happened is the availability of high-quality content where people can just go elsewhere. So how are you gonna show up and deliver once you keep or capture that attention? Because to me capturing attention is one thing. But capturing attention without delivering is just clickbait.

Shawn:

And it’s fleeting. Now we want durable attention, right? Novelty is easy, we could figure out in five minutes how to capture, how to get a hundred thousand clicks on an ad. We see it all day, every day, go anywhere. Go anywhere and you see well-engineered headlines. But that misses the point, right? It’s like, you get to click, so what?

I don’t want a click, what I want is a customer a year from now that buys all of my stuff because I have so thoroughly over delivered on what they want most. That’s what I really want. Everything else, I’m not that interested in. Like that’s all I wanna do is build a business where, and André and I talk about this all the time.

The one metric, we optimize our business around one metric and one metric only, which is happy customers. That’s it. Every decision we make is in service to creating a happy customer. And there are objective measures, but they’re mostly subjective measures, but we it’s clicks and leads, and who cares? It’s people. I want people who are delighted, who, if I showed up at something they were doing, virtually, in person, they would genuinely be glad to see me. They’re like, I’m not that idiot. But they would be like, hey, there’s this thing, I have this question. Like maybe if I got a chance to hang out with Safi Bahcall and he would answer my question.

Anyway, Alex, this has been such a pleasure. Oh, I’m so excited to talk to your Reignmakers, the Reignmaker thing gonna be crazy though. We’re going stupid deep with Reignmakers.

Alex:

Again, that’s gonna be the title. I’ll be like stupid, deep. Marketing, stupid, deep writing. Shawn, thank you so freaking much. I mean, this conversation already, just my gears are turning and I know everyone watching will absolutely be like, oh my gosh, this is amazing.  Shawn, thank you so much. This was so much fun. Anytime you wanna geek out about marketing, you know who to call.

Shawn:

Careful what you wish for, thank you, Alex.

 

That’s a wrap! What are your biggest takeaways from the interview?

Let me know in the comments below!

Ciao for now,

Alex

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