Learning Copywriting from the Masters in the Middle of the Alaska Wilderness
Denny Hatch is someone I've known for a very long time. You may know him as the voice of Target Marketing magazine's Business Common Sense column, but he and I go way back to the days when he was the publisher of the highly informative Who's Mailing What newsletter. It was a simple premise, but pure genius. Monitor everything in the mail stream, each package from each marketer, track each time they mailed. And from that, Denny could see which pieces were tests and which were rolling out. And from there, he could measure how long a control remained a control.
And that is how Denny and I came into contact. He noticed a lot of my cartoon-driven mailings showing up as durable controls; he even handed me a few "Axel" awards for having achieved what he terms, "Grand Controls," which remain in service for more than three years.
Denny has been at this for 60 years, putting him in a unique position to spot the reasons why control-busting copy is so good. So what does this
have to do with Alaska? I'm there now, reading his new book, Write Everything Right! In fact, I'm in Glacier Bay, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, testing the allure of his writing against the best distraction Mother Nature can throw at it. And it's holding up well, which means Denny is doing something quite right in this book.
Write Everything Right! takes you through a master class on writing effective copy, but fortunately for my vacation, it doesn't read like a novel. You can afford to put it down. In fact, it's advisable, because the book is more like an encyclopedia of great, record-breaking writing samples and advice from some of the biggest names in direct response and well beyond. This is a book designed to help you engage readers of your e-mails, ads, blogs, articles and more, spreading your message while gaining attentive followers, motivated prospects and a steady stream of new clients.
So what are the biggest roadblocks we all face as copywriters today? Denny identifies four, and the remainder of the book is devoted to honing your craft, to raise your level of success as a writer.
1. The Great Time Crunch. We're all running in too many directions at once. Technology hasn't lessened the burden, it's made it worse. As the great copywriter Vic Schwab wrote, "We're all uninvited guests" in the lives of those we hope to influence. The goal is to make your writing, "Easier to read than to skip."
2. The Literacy Problem. We continue to slide to new lows of literacy. According to Denny, 50% of American adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level, 45 million are functionally illiterate and read below a fifth-grade level, and 44% of American adults read less than a book a year. The problem balloons exponentially in younger generations who text constantly, but have lost the ability to distinguish the correct spelling of the word, "You." To be an effective writer, you must find ways to connect with anyone on any level.
3. Poor Attention Span. The Web, e-mail, texting, television and video games have greatly shortened our attention spans, to an average of just nine seconds. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse claims, "Technology is rewiring our brains." Our ability to focus is undermined by bursts of information, while our brains respond increasingly to immediate rewards or threats alone. Accordingly, keep your messages short, on point and directed toward immediate action.
4. Information Overload. As Denny puts it, "We are drowning in a tsunami of humanity screaming for our attention." 500 channels of television, social media tweets, shares, blips and boops, billions of e-mail messages, plus the essential interactions of our day have left us permanently overloaded. Your challenge is to break through it all with a compelling message.
Despite these challenges, written communication will always be a critical part of how we all do business. It's how we pull people toward us, how we turn them into prospects and how we motivate them to become clients and more. Drawing on Denny Hatch's unmatched repository of winning campaign strategies and writing tactics can only make your own position stronger as a communicator.
In that case, you'll want to pick up a copy of Write Everything Right!straight away. Even if you happen to be heading out on vacation. And now if you don't mind, I'll be getting back to that glacier. It's just magnificent.
Would you like to double your e-mail campaign open rates immediately? Put my "cartoon device" to the test in your next e-mail campaign or marketing automation sequence for free and get a free e-book excerpted from my book, Drawing Attention.
Stu Heinecke Host of Contact Marketing Radio Founder & President of "Contact" and CartoonLink, Inc. Wall Street Journal cartoonist Author of How to Get a Meeting with Anyone