My awkward photo with Iron Mike Ditka

I’ve been a Chicago Bears fan for 25 years. 

So when a recent trip to the Windy City led to the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity with the team’s most famous coach, I took advantage of the moment…even if the legend wasn’t as enthused about the encounter as I was. 

Here’s the awkward photo I have as evidence. 

FYI, I'm the geek on the left.

 

Notice… 

  • My way ‘too-close-for-comfort’ lean into the coach.
  • That ‘Da Coach’ appears to be growling something.
  • The strategically placed $20 bill in Ditka’s pocket…which believe it or not, was NOT a bribe on my part to get him to pose for the photo.

While we barely exchanged a word, the picture is a dream for a now grown-up kid who’s fanatically followed this man and his team the majority of his life. 

To see for yourself just how obsessed I am about the Bears, check out www.bearsgab.com, where I served as editor until January ’11. 

What my middle-school girlfriend taught me about copywriting

Kayla was my 7th grade girlfriend…for all of 4 days.

What our relationship lacked in longevity, it more than made up for in awkwardness. Why? Because Kayla was responsible for one of the most embarrassing moments of my middle school career.

The event unfolded at the end of our first official walk home as a couple. After barely exchanging a word over the 10-minute route, we came to her block, where the anticipation had built up to the moment of truth – our first kiss.

When our eyes met, we both knew there was no turning back. As she moved in closer, I was struck by the “You’re mine NOW, little boy” glare in her eyes.

Due partly to anticipation and mostly to horror, I closed my eyes, tilted my head 45 degrees and leaned into her with my lips extended for the anticipated little peck, which was a staple of my previous two (week-long) relationships.

That’s when the seemingly quiet school girl unleashed her inner freak on me.

With both hands grasped tightly around the back of my head, Kayla forced her tongue down my esophagus with the ferocity of a plumbing snake attacking a clogged toilet. My once closed eyes were jarred open, fixated on the nostrils of my female aggressor. My hands remained at my sides, as if to say, “Okay, I’m ready for this to be over now.”

While our mouths were intertwined for what seemed like minutes and I struggled to breathe through my nose, a car honked in the background. I vaguely remember half-waving my hand in its direction…more as a call for help than an acknowledgement of appreciation.

At the end of the lip lock, I managed to mutter a slobbery “Good bye” as Kayla walked away. My buddy, who had joined us on the walk home, reenacted our awkward embrace over the final two blocks of our journey home. I was sure he’d repeat the performance for the other kids on our street later that night too.

So you’re probably asking, “What’s this public display of embarrassment have to do with copywriting, Lover-boy?

Here’s why – when I sit down to write, I let my inner Kayla take over.

I use the make-out session gone wrong as a reminder to myself that to succeed at selling stuff with my words, I have to be direct, assertive, maybe even a little aggressive.

I make sure that…

#1. My copy is clear, direct and to the point.

Like Kayla, I don’t beat around the bush. I tell customers why they need my product and how they can get their hands on it.

This is especially important in the call-to-action. I tell the reader specifically what action I want him to take and what benefit he’ll receive from doing it. And if we’re giving him something for free, I draw attention to that too. For example…

“One quick call to 1-800… is all it takes to make sure you’re not paying more than you need to for your widget. Respond in the next 10 days and you’ll get a FREE widget holder…simply for giving us a look.”

#2. My headline, subject line, and/or opening sentence grabs you around the head (like Kayla) and demands your attention.

I don’t leave myself hoping the audience will respond by crafting some vague sentence like “All widgets are not created equal.”

Instead, I write a benefit-focused statement that hits the reader right where it counts, like “How a widget saved my marriage, and slashed my cleaning time in half.”

#3. I talk with an active voice, not a passive one.

To demonstrate, here are two very different ways to say the same thing:

Passive: “To help control your costs, you can also get widget insurance that features our 3-year rate guarantee.”

Active: “Throw in a 3-year rate lock and your rates won’t go up for 36 months…guaranteed!”

While I sometimes look back in terror at that fateful afternoon with Kayla, I owe her a huge “thanks” for helping me become a better copywriter.

You can probably guess how our 2nd kiss went down…Yep, I went in with my tongue a blazin’ and she went for the innocent peck.

Not surprisingly, she moved on to an older 8th grade boy the next week. As for me, I took a hiatus from the dating scene and found salvation honing my Nintendo video gaming skills.

About the author:

Jeff Fisher has overcome his fear of kissing women and is happily married to the woman of his dreams. While his marriage is on solid ground, he is currently seeking a new full-time copywriting gig where he hopes to improve the fortunes of one lucky employer, one carefully crafted message at a time.

To learn more, contact Jeff or follow him on Twitter at @jeffjfisher.

7 tricks marketers use to get people to buy their crap

Dear Mr./Mrs. Consumer,

I must admit, I’ve acted like a scumbag.

I’m writing to you because I simply can’t live with the guilt any longer. So after years of enticing (okay, tricking) you to respond to offers for my products, I feel like it’s finally time to come clean.

The purpose of this letter is to expose several marketing tactics (okay, tricks) companies like mine use with great regularity to get you to buy stuff you don’t need.

I apologize if you’ve ever fallen victim to one of the following marketing shenanigans, where I used:  

Less-than-honest claims regarding a “limited-time offer.” What we failed to tell you was that “limited time” really meant any time between now and the end of eternity.

The phrase “Call/respond within the next 10 days.” See above.

A “Free Guide/Report/White Paper.” I’ll admit it – this piece was nothing more than a carefully crafted advertisement that offered very generic info on a subject of interest to you…capped off by a soft sell of my product and why you should buy it. We had to resort to these sneaky tactics because you stopped responding to our TV, radio and newspaper advertising.

Celebrity endorsers. We paid an inordinate amount of money to have people you recognized – but had absolutely nothing in common with – tell you why you should buy our product. When in reality, we probably would’ve been better off featuring a ‘real’ customer like yourself. Which leads us to…

Customer testimonials. If we included one of these in a piece you responded to, there’s a pretty decent chance that guy/gal was paid to say nice things about us.

Frequently asked questions. We created insultingly-easy-to-answer FAQs because they were another way to make it look like we actually cared what you thought. In reality, it was just another format for shoving our product benefits down your throat. In hindsight, don’t you find it funny that we never included any hard-hitting questions, like “Why does your product cost so much?”

A signed letter or email from someone with a fancy (probably made up) title. The individual referenced in the piece did not write the message. It was created by a skilled copywriter (somebody like this guy) who makes a living off writing/speaking for other people.

Mr./Mrs. Consumer, I know these revelations won’t make up for all the times I tried to swindle you out of your hard-earned money. But I hope at some point in the future you’ll be able to forgive me for my shady marketing indiscretions.

As a symbol of my regret, I’d like to offer you a FREE, no-obligation, 30-day trial of our latest and greatest widget…

Sincerely,

Big, Bad Marketing Scumbag

 
About the author:
Jeff Fisher is a recovering marketing scoundrel who is eager to prove to one lucky employer he is a truly rehabilitated, customer-focused copywriter. You can email Jeff at jefffisherwrites@gmail.com or follow the ex-scumbag on Twitter @jeffjfisher.

5 annoying habits of the world’s worst copywriter

Believe it or not, some copywriters – who make a decent living off stringing shiny, 7-syllable buzzwords together in sentences – aren’t practicing some of the most basic fundamentals of marketing.

While I don’t wish to totally rid the world of these professionals (heck, they help good, honest writers like yours truly look good), I do want to expose some of their most annoying habits.

Beware of this guy, the world’s worst copywriter, who…

  1. Writes without ever stopping to put himself in his customers’ shoes to ask “what’s in it for me?” A good copywriter always proofs the piece, asking him/herself, “What’s in it for my reader?” This goes back to the whole write to sell a benefit not a feature adage that’s been passed down from one generation of marketers to the next. Maybe it’s just me, but judging from a lot of stuff on the market today, it seems like this lost art has skipped a generation…
  2. Writes to impress his creative copywriting cronies, rather than write for the audience he’s supposed to be marketing to. Winning industry awards/acclaim from other like-minded folks in your profession is cool and all…but when it generates somewhere between zilch and diddly squat as far as sales, that award carries about as much weight as a sopping wet Olsen twin.
  3. Writes copy that fails to include a call to action. In the rare event your prospect does read every word of your copy, don’t ever leave her asking “Now what?” Tell her who to call, where to visit, when to do it by and what she’ll get out of it. And it never hurts to offer something for free (e.g. shipping, newsletter, gift).
  4. Writes about how great his company is before ever giving the customer one good reason to continue reading. Here’s an example of his arrogance: “ACME Inc., a family-owned, Midwestern-based company with roots stretching back to the Eisenhower administration, is pleased to introduce its latest and greatest widget that will revolutionize our industry by combining state-of-the-art technology with the personal touch of a dedicated, experienced craftsman that…” Instead, include a customer benefit (not your feature) in the headline, then repeat it in the body copy and again in your close.
  5. Writes headlines like they’re an afterthought. Your reader isn’t visiting that Web site…or reading that newspaper…or checking their (e)mail to see what he can buy from you today. So your headline (or subject line) has to jump off the page (or screen), shake him silly and change the behavior he was about to engage in before you – the big, bad marketer – came along.

 

About the author:

Jeff Fisher is an experienced copywriter who’s tired of seeing companies waste money on copywriting professionals who don’t deliver results. He’s currently seeking a new, full-time copywriting gig where he hopes to improve the fortunes of one lucky employer…one carefully crafted message at a time. To learn more, please contact Jeff or follow him on Twitter at @jeffjfisher.

Jeff’s Writing for BearsGab.com

In 2009, I was fortunate enough to unite two of my true loves in life – writing and the Chicago Bears. As a columnist/editor at www.bearsgab.com, a site dedicated to die-hard fans of the NFL’s founding franchise, I offer my (very biased) insight on the latest happenings with ‘Da Bears.’

Even if the subject matter doesn’t tickle your fancy, you may find humor (or horror) in my obsession with a sport where grown men tackle each other for a living.

What’s in Your Garage?

I’m proud to call Windsor Heights, Iowa ‘home’ for almost 8 years now. As a writer for Windsor Heights Living magazine, a monthly publication dedicated to what’s happening in “The Heights,” I’ve met a lot of great folks…and helped them share their own personal stories with the rest of the community.

I’m responsible for finding and interviewing contacts for the regular “What’s in Your Garage?” article, a one-page story dedicated to…well, I think the name says it all :-).

You can find the latest issue at www.iowalivingmagazines.com. Just click the “Windsor Heights Living” magazine cover and ‘flip’ through the online PDF.