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.