Copywriting

The Polarizing Power of an Unconventional Sales Email

“People don’t read long emails.”

We hear that all the time (it’s second only to our other fave, “People don’t read online.”).

And yet, long emails seem to work. Brilliantly. Not just for us at Copy Hackers, either.

We think a more accurate statement is: “People don’t read boring emails.”

Amen.

In the past 4 months, we’ve launched 10x Emails and 10x Landing Pages, and probably the most challenging part of both product launches was getting the sales email sequence down.

If you’re trying to sell a course using email — and especially if you’re selling a course on how to write compelling emails — the sales emails had better be gold, Jerry.

Because despite what his kids wear on their feet, the cobbler himself (or Copy Hackers in this case) had better be wearing some serious sole!

An email needs to capture the reader’s attention and hold it. A sales email needs to sell.

We’ve written a little about these topics over the past 5 years 🙂 , but this post is less about email copywriting techniques.

This post is about swinging for the fences and avoiding boring messages. You’ll see plenty of big swings when you read the email below, which was written by our good friend and 10x Emails business partner, Ry Schwartz.

More importantly, this post is about the act of selling in your emails, and the impact it can have on your readers and on you.

Below is an email that we recently sent as part of our 10x Landing Pages course launch.

It’s long. It’s unconventional. And it makes no apologies for trying to sell.

The response? Keep reading…

SUBJECT LINE: I’m Not Okay


Hey.

It’s your landing page here.

ie. the forgotten, red-headed stepchild of your marketing funnel.

ie. the thing you send THOUSANDS of hard-earned, expensive clicks to, yet haven’t checked in for months to see how I was even doing.

(hint: I’m NOT ok)

Anyway, I know it’s weird that I’m reaching out to you like this.

But you left me no choice.

Cause we need to talk…

… and you’ve been ignoring my passive-aggressive cries for help for far too long.

Y’know, like how I’ve been…

… giving you cringe-worthy “your CMO will kill you” non-ROI on your ad spend.

… scaring away your visitors (and making sure they never return).

… making potential buyers bounce faster than an overcaffeinated kangaroo.

I thought that by doing all these things, you’d finally pay attention to me.

But nooooo…

Instead, you’ve paid even MORE attention to your top-of-funnel traffic strategies – those bloody ebooks nobody downloads cuz they have to read ME to download ’em, and I’m sure as hell not gonna convince them. As far as I’m concerned, no one should download all that free content you’re PDFing like you just discovered PDFs.

So while you’ve been pulling together that next webinar or doubling down on Facebook ads…

…. I’ve been sulking here, playing Bob Dylan’s “It’s ok Ma, I’m only bleedin’” on an infinite loop.

I mean… WTF!?

What does a landing page have to do to get a little love around here?

And it wouldn’t make me so freakin’, well, angry, if it wasn’t for all the revenue we’re just leaving on the table!

I mean, I exist to place revenue-generating leads AT YOUR FEET.

I exist to get people to sign up for YOUR webinars and buy YOUR products.

That’s literally all I’m here for.

(yes, i’m still here)

Cause did you know that, with just a BIT of strategic tweaking (the kind the lady here can make really easy for you), we could easily:

Capture 2X, 5X or even 10X the clicks you’ve been tossing my way

Convert a whole bunch more leads into real live customers

Take a medieval mace to the face of our biggest competitors… while disrupting industries and creating new SaaS empires overnight (just gimme the chance before you look at me that way!)

Give you the confidence and cashflow to splurge on all those other marketing children you love so much – like that smug jack in Facebook ads, and don’t get me started on the $5K you spent on Jim the Ebook, which was supposed to make you the next Marketo #imbetterthanjim #marketoinvestsinme

Look. I’m not asking for much.

I’m very forgiving.

Won’t even hold a grudge.

But you need to meet me halfway.

Remember when you left me open on one of your Chrome tabs, intending to optimize me, before choosing to watch “Jerry Maguire” on Netflix instead?

Ya. Well I was watching too.

At one point, he said something along the lines of, “help me help you.”

Well, I remembered that line, thinking it would be handy some day.

So here we are.

I’m playing the “Jerry Card.”

So what do you say?

Help me help you

Joanna and her Copy Hackers gang are literally hours away from locking you and me out of their 10x Landing Pages copywriting course

Missing this would really suck.

Cause I need this. Okay? I need this.

WE need this.

And it’s about damn time we committed ourselves to a more profitable (and loving) marketing future together.

We can come back from this dark history of ours.

We can find landing page love again.

But only if you show me you care by 9 tonight

Sincerely,
Landing Page

PS. While I have you here, wow, it’s been nice reconnecting. All of this time we’ve spent apart – I almost forgot how wonderful you and I are together. Now, okay, I know you’ve got Facebook ads you just have to get to, but let’s put another date on the books, okay? Two, actually.

10/11 at 9am PST

10/25 at 9am PST

Joanna calls them “landing page clinics.”

I call them a *can’t miss* chance to seriously 10x you and me

Yes, you’re gonna take a scalpel to my pixels and do some ungodly stuff.

But I’m willing to go through the pain IF it means higher conversions and more sales. If you’re in, I’m in.

You’re getting the easier part of the deal here.

I get surgically ripped apart while you cash in?

No brainer. For you.

These clinics are included in 10x Landing Pages, no matter what plan you choose.

So like I mentioned:

It’s a total no brainer – but it closes in:

countdown


“So How Do You Think People Will React?”

The email went out, and within minutes, the responses began to arrive back in our shared inbox… and they kept coming for about 8 hours.

In all, we received 40 personally-crafted replies to the 10x Landing Pages email (not including the usual assortment of auto-responders, OOO notifications, and the oh-so-friendly “We’re protecting ourselves against spam — please verify…”-type responses).

Typically — for a sales-related email — we receive a dozen or so replies.

This email generated nearly 4x the usual replies.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this email also generated a lot of sales.

So if it worked so well, why are we sharing the [anonymized] responses and making a thing out of it?

Because despite what we teach and practice, we still struggle with this stuff. And we hear from others who struggle.

The Reply button is the reason for the struggle.

Before the Reply button, people could only flip the magazine page, change the channel on their TV or crumple up the direct response mailer — and the marketer would be none the wiser.

(It’s true that cold callers had to be at ease with colourful language, and door-to-door salespeople had to stomach unfriendly glares, slammed doors, barking dogs… and worse. But those are salespeople. Marketing is supposed to be 1-to-many communication, and marketers aren’t required to have the “ignore rejection” gene.)

Email’s changed things. It’s given recipients a way to talk back — easily.

And with an easy-to-access Reply button, people who feel something about what you write will respond. The more people who feel, the more who will send you a reply.

If you’re selling in your emails — and we hope you are — you can expect all kinds of feelings and replies. 🙂 In addition to the inevitable unsubscribes.

If you internalize the negative reactions, you’ll start to second-guess whether you should be selling at all in your emails… and you start to go for the soft sell because it feels better… or because you won’t get as many “hater” responses.

But don’t give in to your instinct to pull back.

Re-read the positive responses.

Meditate.

Eat some ice cream (an appropriate-sized portion).

Do whatever it takes to eliminate the negative talk creeping into your psyche.

Push through the discomfort and remember why you’re selling.

We think of it like this: If we’re not seeing lots of unsubscribes or hearing from people that we’re selling too hard, then we’re failing.

We’re failing to inject cash into our business, which is how we deliver free content on copyhackers.com and at conferences throughout the year.

Paid products and services make free content possible.

So if we fail at selling the former, the latter goes away.

And with that, here is a sampling of the responses to our recent unconventional sales email:

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly [Red-Headed Stepchild]

Er, this one qualifies as slightly bizarre:

weird

This response made us smile. It’s upbeat and pleasant, but it’s also clear that we didn’t sufficiently compel this person to click through any of the links in the email. Noted.

weird2

This person gets it… we’re definitely “pushing and exploring”.

positive1

Nothing warms our hearts more than when people tell us they’re using our techniques. A simply delightful reply…

positive2

A “copy tribe”? So cool. The best part? They decided to pitch us!! Well played:

positive3

Thank you. We thought so, too. But not everyone agrees (as you’ll see down below).

positive4

We could almost take this person’s comment wrong way — but we won’t, because we know that good (and long) copy sells. 🙂

neutral1

The pleasant stuff was nice while it lasted. Until next time…

neutral2

We can appreciate this. How we write may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s authentic (i.e., we tend to write as we speak).

profanity1

Everyone is entitled to her feelings. What some people call “badgering,” we call selling. Huzzah.

negative1

It’s true… if someone recently subscribed to your list, and then immediately starts to receive sales emails, things can feel a little out of balance:

negative2

Find your happy place…

negative3

We’re guessing he’s referring only to our sales-related emails: 😉

negative4

Deliver value in webinar. Check. Send related sales emails. Check.

negative5

Fair enough. But being a ginger who was also adopted into a family of non-gingers, I disagree. Any other gingers out there care to chime in?

redhead2

Nothing too crazy though, right?

The critical replies can take some of the fun out of a fun-to-write email, but making sales puts the fun right back in.

We see these emails right after people hit reply, but you can always set up a “reply to” email that goes to an inbox that you don’t see immediately.

Instead, open that folder or inbox after you’ve seen some sales roll in.

Making sales is the cure for whatever ails ya.

And whether you choose to read replies right away or save the emails for later, just don’t give in to the urge to stop selling (or swinging for the fences!).

Remember why you’re selling in the first place.

~Lance

About the author

Lance Jones

Lance Jones is a CRO and SaaS growth expert.

  • This was an incredibly insightful post. Thank you so much for sharing. Only one suggestion haha, be a little bit more cautious of your blurring tool. It’s not too difficult to see through it.

    • vensky pahamutang

      hey raf, check my code in lesson 17. i used repl.it

      #target [3, 5, 8, 12, 17, 23]

      money = 2
      for extra_money in range(1, 7):
      money = money + extra_money
      print(money)

  • Hey Lance,

    From my own experiences, I think pitching every single email is absolutely fine (and I’d encourage it in most cases – even when sending daily emails).

    But I am a massive believer in the more “soft sell” approach, in the style of Ben Settle, where you plug your sales letter but in a way that’s saying “If you want this, then cool. If not, then no problem.”

    Before any sales pitch, though, it’s always mega-important to provide value, as well as entertainment. (That whole “infotainment” thing Matt Furey first came up with.)

    In terms of getting unsubscribes, I completely agree with your point. If you’re not getting them, then you’re probably being too “plain”.

    It’s always good to be somewhat polarizing. Yes, you get some haters.

    But at the same time, you get plenty of people who LOVE your stuff. And it’s these people who are likely to buy almost everything you offer them.

    Thanks for the read, Lance.

    Tom Andrews

  • Fun and interesting article Lance!
    Nice to see different perspective on the same thing and it’s great that you are taking the critics into consideration.
    Cheers
    Jaylene

  • Geofrey Crow

    What is it they say? Nobody loves you unless somebody hates you!

  • Daniel Davidson

    I absolutely loved this post. It’s made my bookmarks. The email sample was very enlightening.

    And the line “..people who feel something about what you write will respond…” – There are somethings you know, but struggle to articulate, and when it’s given a voice, it just resonates. Well, that resonates!

    Reading through your sample of replies, well, to be honest, I found it deflating. How could people not LOVE this in their inbox, no matter who they are? At least, I know that’s how my initial feelings would be after receiving those replies, but you gave it such great perspective “The critical replies can take some of the fun out of a fun-to-write email, but making sales puts the fun right back in.”

    Thanks for the post, very inspiring Lance!

    • Hey Daniel — that’s so nice of you to say! I’m glad you enjoyed the post… it was fun to write!

      Next time we get a bunch of negative responses to an email campaign, I’ll come here to read your comment! 🙂

  • So psyched you shared this case study, Lance. I’m going to read it before every sales email I send out.

    Chances are whenever we try to bust out of the mold we’ll experience negative reactions. It’s part of the process as we find our way. It’s data. The opinions shouldn’t hold us back from continuing to experiment and refine our brand.

    • Exactly. You should expect the reactions if you’re pushing the boundaries. And pushing is what makes copywriting, fun, right?

  • Peter Michaels

    Great points Joance (permission to use this all the time for you both, it’s great)…

    Folks, this is all about the value of knowing your audience.

    Those smart cats at CopyHackers read what we write in these here comments threads, they read our email replies, they request feedback on their (excellent) courses, and they research the heckins (nope, no profanity HERE, ol-fashioned people!) out of their market and peers.

    Snoopers! Of the highest order.

    That’s why the ‘risky’ approach they took with the email series discussed above wasn’t that much of a risk after all – it certainly wasn’t a hit & hope.

    They realised that not everyone on their list would respond well to the copy style they chose, but they knew that many of their BEST PROSPECTS would. So they created copy for their top – what, 20%, Joance? – percentage of their list who were most likely to buy the course, and created a sales message/tov designed to resonate with them.

    Like the man said, “Paid products and services make free content possible. So if we fail at selling the former, the latter goes away.”

    Thanks for the behind-the-scenes peek, and congrats on the launch.

    • “Joance” – i kinda hope this catches on 😉

    • Ha! Proof that people (besides us) do read the comments! Thank you for participating in my little experiment, Peter. 😉

      You’re spot on with your thoughts!

  • Lance, thanks for the honest (and funny) post!

    I’m in the same boat as one of the people above — signed up midway through your funnel, and was super-confused to see a sales email as one of the first emails I got from you guys. I recognised what had happened, though, and just sat back to enjoy the copywriting instead. 🙂

    I find it weird that people on your list would get offended by sales emails… I mean, what can you expect by signing up for a site that promises to teach you to write to sell? That you don’t want to practice what you preach?

    For my part — thanks for the great content, sales or non-sales. Honestly I get just as much out of analysing the sales ones as I do from reading the value ones. The effort is appreciated either way!

    Daniel

    • Daniel, we love you! We understand what’s happening with our course launches… some people simply don’t want to be sold to. I assume it’s in part because they’re worried that they’ll “be sold” — meaning the sale (or no sale) is not fully in their control… it’s in ours.

      But you’re absolutely correct. If we wrote a killer sales email and packaged it up as a new post — and sent an email about the post — nobody would think twice. But if we send that very same sales email directly to everyone’s inbox, it’s viewed in a different light (by some). 🙂

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!

      • Haha… the way I see it, if someone could write so well that the sale was fully in their control, I’d want to be buying the product they’re selling so I could do it myself 😉

        Keep up the awesome work!

  • I love the humour in it. That said, I do struggle with:
    a) the notion of emailing super-frequently. I know it works with a lot of people, but wonder if it would irritate more than it would gain in my mid-sized business target market.
    b) I keep wondering whether these super-casual emails really work with a business audience. There’s no doubt they work well with wannapreneurs and micro-business owners, but executives of larger companies? I’ve never seen data on that.

    • Hey Tema!

      ‘Super-frequently’ can mean a lot of things. If you look ONLY at the week where our cart was open, then subscribers to our list could’ve received up to 8 emails (unless they purchase along the way, in which case subsequent emails are suppressed).

      Some people (including me) would call that frequent.

      If we sell 3 courses per year, that’s *potentially* 24 sales emails (if you don’t buy anything)… in a year. Is that super frequent for a 52-week period? Perhaps.

      We look at it like this… our goal is to send out at least 2x (preferably 3x) the number of “high value — no cost” emails (emails that lead to blog posts) as the “high value — paid product” emails in a year. There’s a balance to strike. You give, and then you sell (notice how I didn’t say “take” because even with a paid product, there’s still a value exchange… it’s not one-sided). 🙂

      And as far as our style working for larger organizations, you might be amazed at who is on our email list — and who reaches out to us for copywriting help. 🙂 We’ve developed a style and that’s what our audience is used to. So I’d be wary of changing things up — in your case — you still need to sound like you.

  • Steve, I’m going to re-read your comment here whenever I’m feeling a little blue about the critical replies.

  • Evelyn

    Nice to see the variance among responses (as a ginger, I don’t find the expression pleasant however I see it as a useful metaphor!)

    If I may add my voice to the mix (& seeing as this is the internet, I may!), it’d be REALLY interesting to know a bit more around the sales generated from this more ‘out there’ copy compared to previous sales email campaigns you guys have run…? Like, in number (or %) terms? I’ll admit that was *kind of* why I clicked this article in the first place. Though I was pretty glad I did when I got to read all those cute & grammatically nightmarish email response messages. 😉

    • Hi Evelyn. We haven’t made those comparisons yet, but we definitely will. The above email generated a very satisfactory number of direct sales, but like with most course launches, we saw 50%+ of all sales happen on the final day. And since this is just 1 email in a sequence of 7 or 8, it’s difficult/impossible to know which email was ultimately and truly responsible for clinching the sale.

  • I am so, so, so glad you posted this magical blog post. One of the reasons I don’t love sending out my own emails is becuase I just can’t handle the replies, even if only 1/50 is negative. Love seeing that the writers I most admire and respect have to deal with this bullshit too.

    • Hey Marian! We never really “get used to” the negative stuff, but we’ve gotten much better at compartmentalizing those responses — so as not to internalize them. I tend to wait until I’m in a good mood before cracking the seal on the replies inbox. 🙂

  • LOL I was originally reading this on mobile and somehow missed the byline so I thought Jo had written it, and thought: “Wait. You were born into a Mennonite family of 5 kids and you’re also adopted and actually a redhead?! Who ARE you??”

    Great post – made me laugh 😀

    • And you made me laugh… btw, you can call us “Joance”. 😉

  • Daniel Ndukwu

    I really enjoyed that email, made me laugh. It reminded me of the one you guys sent out about copyhackers, unbounce and inbound to promote a competition.

    • You’re right… that was a good email for the copywriting challenge, Daniel!

  • Lance,

    Not only was this funny, but I love seeing some of the behind the scenes stuff. Adds a little humanity to all that salesy, pushy, vulgar stuff you’ve been sending out (kidding, of course).

    People know there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom of each email, right?

    • Feel better now, Chris? 😉

      Ya, I continue to wonder how some people miss the unsubscribe link — we make sure it’s always within easy reach. The effort of looking in the footer and clicking the link HAS to be less than writing out a request to be removed from the list.

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

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