Steal My Secrets: How I Do “Uppercuts”

How I Do Landing Page Copywriting Uppercuts - Punchline Conversion Copywriting

Hello and welcome back to the latest edition of Steal All My Secrets (I’m Literally Banking on the Fact That You Won’t)!

ohhhh shit

Ohhhhh shit

Today, I’m gonna show you exactly how I perform the black-magic combination of rewriting and editing that I call an Uppercut.

What’s an Uppercut?

Uppercuts are my most popular productized service.

They’re custom-written improvements to existing landing or sales pages that need some love — both on the overall optimization side (think structure, layout, and design) and on the copy side (think tone, messaging, and personality).

They’ve been called “copy wizardry” by happy clients, and “black magic fuckery” by impressed/jealous copywriting peers.

Here’s what my most recent Uppercut client had to say:

Hi L, great job — the more I read it the more I like it! Def got my money’s worth. I really did get a lot of value from this. Specifically, it is a solid balance between humor and professionalism, nice job of cutting the fluff, loved a lot of the rewording as it helped clarity.” 

Steal my process! Here’s how I do Uppercuts

Step 1: Structure

The very very first thing I do when starting an Uppercut is enjoy a 15-minute roll on a bed of crisp 100-dollar bills, cackling to myself.

money is so great

“They paid me! I’m a real boy now!” I crow to my mother, who is confused about how I turned out this way

The next first thing I do is  look at the structure of the page.

I ask:

  • Does the page meet prospects where they are, and speak to their exact stage of awareness?
  • Are the messages on the page in a logical order? Do they mirror the progression of thoughts the reader is likely to have?

If the answer to any of those questions is “Lol nah,” the structure needs fixing.

At this stage, I’m doing quick-and-dirty restructuring — cutting and pasting messages where they need to be, and adding placeholder headlines and subheaders. Like so:

This is so meta

If this is too meta to follow, I am very sorry and I did it on purpose.


HOT TIP: If you’re using both headers and subheaders, you’ve probably accidentally hidden the REAL benefits in the subheader. Try swapping them.


Once I’ve got the basic section structure down, I apply the same process to the body copy.

Because people write how they think — and we frequently forget things and remember them later— there tends to be also be some disorganization and repetition in the body copy.

Like I do with sections, I’ll cut body sentences and paste them where they need to be to improve the logical flow of the copy.

Then, I insert placeholders and/or highlight spots where I know I’ll need more information or transitions between sections. Voila:

You’re getting a sneak peek at a blog I haven’t finished yet! Lucky you.

Sometimes, people overlook structure in favor of focusing just on smaller line edits. That’s a mistake. Restructuring can help you take advantage of HUGE opportunities to clarify your offer.

Here’s what another client had to say after she saw the radical restructuring I did to her page:

Lianna,

Oh my. You slayed right through the copy and it looks so different but still using the copy and adding your tweaks to it. I had to noodle it over for a day. The first day, I was in shock (in a good way). The second day when I read over it I understood what you did with the structure. Soooooo, a BIG “THANK YOU” for your feedback and your help with restructuring the copy!

Step 2: Hone Messaging + Fill Holes with Swiped Copy

Once I’ve got the structure of the page all fixed up, it’s time to make sure the copy matches what the prospect is thinking.

Before I start working, I ask my fabulous clients to share me on any qualitative customer research they’ve got — things like survey responses, interview answers, customer service logs, etc.

These sources are a G-D goldmine of insight into the words that prospects need to read in order to identify and trust the copy.

Plus, they’re chock-full of descriptive, “sticky” phrases that can go straight into the copy verbatim.

For example,from research for a mattress manufacturer:

“After a year of playing Goldilocks and trying out beds at every mattress store in the Salt Lake Valley we stumbled on [CLIENT NAME]…” 

And from research for a veterinary pharmacy:

I wish you guys were my primary care and not just for my dogs ☺” 

 

^^^^ These tasty morsels are pre-written copy.

Insert them into the spaces you’ve left open to assuage fears, explain specific benefits, and persuade prospects.

Step 3: Punch That Sh** Up

This is the fun part! After the restructuring and message-honing, it’s time to make the page copy stand out from competitors.

stand out

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd. Laser eyes are two of those ways

 

I punch up copy in two ways: by making sure it has its own voice, and by adding humor where appropriate.

First, give the copy its own voice

“I hate to admit it, Lianna,” you say, glancing furtively around the coffee shop. “The truth is that ‘voice’ is one of those things I always reference, but I couldn’t really define it even if you held a NERF gun to my head.”

I’ll save my darts for the next guy, ‘cause I got you, fam!

In her excellent guide on writing voice, Abbey Woodcock defines voice as made up of three parts:

– Tone — The copy’s emotional background or inflection, AKA where the copy is coming from. Tone can be excited, gloomy, sarcastic, angry, you name it.

– Cadence — The rhythm created by the copy’s sentence length and variety

– Vocabulary — The words your copy uses to convey meaning

So, when I’m punching up copy line by line, I’m essentially:

– Matching the copy’s emotion and inflection to the way the client wants to come off, and/or the way they’d like the reader to feel

– Varying sentence length so the copy doesn’t feel endlessly monotonous or — on the other end of the spectrum — choppy and interrupted

– Using casual and accessible language wherever possible, so the copy is easy to read

Then, add humor where it matters

As you might expect from a company named “Punchline,” I’ve got a loooot to say on the topic of humor.

One face-palmingly easy way to inject your page with humor? Add a GIF. Here’s how to identify where you should use GIFs, and how to pick the right one.

If you want to know even more about being funny on paper, read my post for Autopilot: 10 Easy-As-Pie Punchups for Warmer, Funnier, More Personable Copy.

Finally, I explain with a video walkthrough

I rarely send *just* a GoogleDoc to clients, even if I’ve worked with them before.

Instead, I’ll make a 5-10 minute video walkthrough to explain how and why I’ve reworked the page. THEN, I’ll link ‘em to the GoogleDoc — so they’ve always got context for changes that might not be immediately intuitive at first glance.

Nope, my face is not featured in the videos. Which is fine, because by this point it’s wan, puffy, and haggard, like 95% of the GOP.

Uppercut delivery video still

Actual still from an Uppercut delivery video, with client name obscured because I am an international spy

Clients love not having to figure things out for themselves. Here’s what the client above said:

“I just watched the video and quickly scrolled through the notes. I’m definitely going to start implementing these starting this afternoon. Great idea with the video response. Thanks for that.”

Congrats! Now you know all my secrets and you don’t have to pay me. Wait… what did I just do??

As for me, after a long day doing Uppercuts for all sorts of businesses, from motivational speakers to sugar-dating profile writers, it’s time to slink back to my bed of Ben Franklins (which is much less comfortable than a real mattress, but gratifying in other ways).

Are you gonna try my Uppercut process? Leave a comment and let me know how it works for you!

Or…

Here’s How to Pick the Perfect GIF

how to pick the perfect gif

People ask me this a lot: “Lianna, how do you sniff out the GIFs you use obsessively in every piece of content you create?”

I shake my head sadly, and think, Oh, you poor sad slob. If you don’t get it now, you never will.

Then I ride off into the sunset on my high horse.

high horse yeee

Look how condescending this horse is!

Obviously, this is a horrible and shitty thing to think or say.

So instead of saying it, I decided to examine the actual thought process I go through when picking a GIF.

And write it down for you. So you never have to hire me. 😭

GIFs are the future

True fact: GIFs (graphical interchange format, for all you acronym nerds) are uniquely hilarious.

Precisely because they’re less immersive — and thus less intimidating or time-consuming to enjoy — than videos, and waaaay more visually interesting than plain ol’ paragraphs of text, GIFs fill a singular role in content.

They ask little and deliver a lot. They’re a low-tech way to entertain, illustrate a point, crack a joke, you name it. Everyone should use ‘em.


I used to pronounce GIF with a hard G. Now I pronounce it with a soft G, like the sugary, salty peanut butter my mom wouldn’t buy us.

Why? Because the guy who invented it SAYS it should be a soft G. Respect, y’all.


I’m gonna walk you step-by-step through picking a GIF for your blog or email, using THIS VERY POST as an example.

It’s so meta that we might both implode, like dying stars or Donald Trump’s colon — but let’s see what happens.

First things first: Decide where you want a GIF

To find the ideal place for your GIF, zoom out and look at the entire structure of your document. You’re looking for…

  • Walls of text
  • Spots where you’re hammering home a point
  • And any other spot where you’d like to lighten the mood or provide a moment of levity

When I finished this post draft, I set my screen to 50% so I could see where I needed a GIF. Here’s what that looked like (META WARNING):

how to find the perfect GIF

Also, as I’m writing, if I know there’s a spot ripe for a joke, I’ll add [GIF] in brackets so I don’t have to interrupt my flow to go find one.

I’ll also include any notes about what I think the GIF could be, so I don’t accidentally publish without finding the GIF. Like so:

[GIF: how dare you]

Next, head to Giphy.com

(AHEM. Another reason it’s pronounced with a soft G? Because that means Giphy.com is pronounced “Jiffy”. As in, “Find your GIF in a jiffy.” YOU’RE WELCOME.)

Now you’re here on Giphy, and you’ve gotta decide what to search. This is where it gets tricky, and where most people are just like,

huh???

uh wat

See what I did there?

The secret search sauce

And now, the secret sauce. Consider it my GIF to you. 😉

Read the sentence right before the place you’ve decided to insert the GIF.

Right after you read it, imagine making a SHORT, offhanded, under-your-breath joke to a friend next to you. You’re looking for a two-to-three-word phrase, like:

  • Am I right?
  • Oh God
  • How bout them apples??!

Etc.

Then type that phrase into Giphy, and WATCH THE MAGIC HAPPEN.

Depending on how esoteric your search phrase is, you’ll get a page of either directly or tangentially related GIFs. Fair warning: at least 8% of them will contain boobs.

You can also use GIFs to finish a thought, like I did above with the poodle GIF. Advanced users only, please.

So, here I am on Giphy. I’ve decided I need a GIF to finish the sentence “This is where it gets tricky, and where most people are just like… ”

Because I know that sentence would end with “Huh???” if I were writing it, I search “Huh?” in Giphy.

I get these results:

giphy search results

So many quizzical, bemused faces!!

And I pick the poodle head-tilt GIF, as you already knew.

Why did I pick THAT one? Well, a few reasons…

Lianna’s Very Official, Extremely Important Rules for Picking GIFs

  • GIFs must be high-res. Unless they’re REALLY good. And even then, use small or low-res GIFs sparingly. Only one shitty GIF per content piece (please tweet this)
  • No esoteric pop culture or other references. While it’s so, so awesome to use a GIF from The Office because I know my readers love that shit just as much as I do, there’s always a risk of ascribing too much weight or meaning to a GIF that a reader won’t “get”.

    So aim to pick a GIF that’s funny even without knowing what show, movie, or catastrophic life event it’s from. Like this one:
  • zootopia(It’s from Zootopia, but that doesn’t matter.)

 

  • Nothing overly distracting. GIFs that loop for too long run the risk of distracting your reader, so I try to pick shorter loops. I also often eschew GIFs including text, unless the text can conceivably read like an extension of the writing.
  • Nothing racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive or marginalizing. I tend toward the absurd/surreal anyhow, but if there’s ANY chance a GIF would offend your target reader, it’s better to pick a different one.
  • Don’t settle… but also don’t overthink it. The first GIF that stands out to you and meets all these criteria is probably the right one.
  • Pick a few, then whittle it down. Not sure which GIF is right? Open a few in new tabs, and then pick your fave.

That’s it! Only 6 simple rules to keep in mind.


Six rules isn’t simple, you say? Your mind can only hold three rules at a time? Good thing you can hire me to do this for you, then.


If this process DIDN’T work for you, that’s OK. It happens. Here’s how to troubleshoot crappy or nonexistent GIF search results:

Think of a different or related phrase, and search again.

This isn’t as annoying as it sounds, because you’ll find that your first page of Giphy search results will inspire you to make different searches. Sometimes, just a slight phrasing difference (say, from “no thank you” to “no thanks” or even to “do not want”) will turn up the perfect GIF.

Like this one:

perfect gif is perfect

Try this method and tell me what happens

Especially if you’ve thought “Garsh, I just can’t pick a GIF to save my life!” Which I’m sure all of three people planetwide have thought.

The 3 Laws of Copywriting

[Psst–this post is by Terra, the sharp-as-a-tack English Maven intern! Don’t you wish your intern was smart like mine? OK, enough bragging. Read on. — Lianna] 

Fabulous graphic goes here.

When it comes to writing for any genre, there’s a clear list of minimum required skills. You need to know how to read and write, how sentences and paragraphs work, and how to build on them to create meaning. And while anyone can apply that baseline, lowest-common-denominator skillset to just about anything written, not all wordsmiths can write copy.

Let me break that down just in case you, like me, are math-challenged: you need to know how to do much more than write to be a good copywriter. It’s not enough to be able to write a nice metaphor—great copywriters turn phrases that turn into dollars. And you can, too.

In order to harness this power, you must first understand it. The art of copywriting distinctly differs from other forms of writing. Once you learn the rules of copywriting, you can follow them, apply them, customize them, and use them to transform into the copywriter you were meant to be.

Are you ready? Let’s begin.

1. Copy sells something.

Copy is writing that businesses use to advertise a product’s market value. To effectively sell a product, copy must inform, entice, and inspire the audience to become customers. Good copy appeals to its audience, and allows readers to realize the product’s value, connect its benefits to their specific needs, and compel them to buy it by outlining how said product could improve or enhance their lives. If your writing doesn’t sell, the product won’t either. That’s it.

2. Copy targets a specific audience.

Everyone is different, but not that different. Understanding what unifies your target audience is crucial to determining its wants and needs: information you can use to better appeal to them.

Knowing your audience will also shed light on other make-or-break factors, like which publishing platform will drive the most traffic, which advertising channel will return the best results, and which tone and style resonates the most with your audience. Focusing on the customer is a huge part of that equation—by tailoring your copy to a key customer demographic or demand, you can capture their attention more fully and direct business where it matters most.

3. Copy compels its audience to take action.

If your copy doesn’t impact your bottom line, it’s your bottom on the line. Copy’s ultimate goal is to turn readers into customers; if your copy isn’t compelling, the audience won’t respond to it, period. Inciting copy allows readers to visualize the product’s benefits to their lives, which makes becoming a customer more attractive to them.

In order to spur its audience to action, your copy needs to explain why the reader should care, what to do about it, and then exactly how to do that thing. To that end, clients often work with copywriters to determine how the copy should come across to maximize results– inclusive of tone, language style, customer preferences, length, structure, content, and technicalities. Such client specifications are important for producing effective copy, but the process is by no means a one-way street: copywriting is very much a collaborative activity, one in which the customer’s needs and writer’s voice must be heard (and read) to achieve the best possible end result.

There you have it: the three tenets of copywriting that will help you drive profitable business, better communicate with potential customers, and transform your love of language into a tool more powerful than you could ever imagine. By crafting masterful copy, a writer can convey meaning and create opportunity.

But do be wary of your new powers…with great copy comes great response-ability. 

You Have Grammar Cancer

You have grammar cancer.

I’m sorry. I should have told you to sit down first. If it makes any difference, I have it, too. We’re in this together.

You’re probably wondering about the symptoms of grammar cancer. The good news is that it’s not fatal–although, if left untreated, it can kill your social life.

Grammar cancer is that seemingly benign, creeping affectation wherein you begin to casually drop your punctuation. “Hi, friend!” has become “Hi friend!” (or, more likely: “hi friend!”). You can also think of it as “meme speak”.

nice grammar idiot meme

This new syntax makes you look weird or overly formal if you punctuate correctly (and you’re also a reasonably social person under the age of 45). Add this lack of punctuation to a growing reliance on exclamation points and smiley faces, and you have a new, subtle language, characterized by the fear of being misunderstood.

The Onion recently lampooned standard email punctuation, hitting the nail on the head by raising the question: When is it OK to abandon our creeping, cancerous new communication in favor of correctness?

Personally, I become more and more casual as I get to know someone. Just met me? I’m probably capitalizing and punctuating correctly. Been my pal since our daiquiri-fueled college a cappella days? You have seen me type (and say) things that are just straight-up not English.

As with all cancers, curing grammar cancer starts with awareness. I’m thinking of making rubber bracelets.

 

Sharpen Your Focus: 5 Ways to Kickstart Your Freelance Life

Remember this post? It was all about ways to treat yourself for less than $10 on Valentine’s Day, with or without a valentine.

10 Ways to Treat Yourself (For Less Than $10)

It’s not Valentine’s Day today, but I’m always looking for small (read: free) ways to appreciate what I have, and improve my quality of life. Aren’t you?

Today is Friday, though, so I’m thinking it’s an extra-appropriate time to go into the weekend mindfully and kindly–considering how you can get the most from your your body, your home, and your freelance life.

(Spoiler: You can be kind to yourself every day. But somehow, kindness doesn’t seem as accessible on a Monday morning.)

Give these ideas a try this weekend, and let me know how it goes. And don’t forget that sometimes, taking five deep breaths is the best gift you can give yourself.

1. Lay out your clothes every night

Let me tell you how often I don’t do this. But when I do, my day starts much more quickly and smoothly.

Especially when you work from home, it can be easy to sit down in your pajamas with a cup of coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day/level of alcoholism to which you adhere). Before you know it, it’s 11AM, and you feel, well, kind of gross.

Beat that feeling to the punch, and stop stumbling around in the morning, trying to find clean pants through all that crusty eye makeup.

PRICE: Free.

2. Walk around the block every morning

This is the natural next step after getting dressed in your laid-out clothes every morning. I read somewhere that somebody famous did it. You want to be famous, don’t you?

PRICE: Free.

3. Drink a glass of water before you eat

Are you hungry? Are you sure? How bout you drink some water first?

God, I love food. I try to remember to hydrate before I dig in, though. It’s a great tool to keep from overeating.

PRICE: Free, unless you live in California or sub-Saharan Africa, in which case: Damn, sorry.

4. Change your pillowcases

Studies show you’ll sleep better when the fabric next to your head doesn’t smell like morning breath and face dirt.

Okay, no one’s done a study on that, but you’ll have fewer breakouts if you change your pillowcases at least once a week. Plus, it’s my personal opinion that the smell of laundry detergent helps you fall asleep.

PRICE: Depends on how often you do your laundry. Basically, free.

5. Write down what you’re grateful for

Do this either at night before you go to sleep, or take a few minutes before you start work every day. By noticing the little things, you’ll start to build a naturally grateful outlook–which benefits you, your work, and everyone you know.

PRICE: Priceless.

 

Anything to add? Leave it in the comments!

3 Ways Crawfish Boils and Copywriting Are the Same

Crawfish Boils and Copywriting
This little guy should have stayed home today.

Pull up a pile of newspaper, grab a beer, and get comfortable. We’re talking about crawfish, and the qualities it shares with copywriting.

(I’ll admit I was late to the crawfish-eating game. Despite growing up in New Orleans, I didn’t peel my first crawfish until college. But now I’m making up for lost time.)

Last night, I went to a boil, where I ate far more crawfish than I should have. Originally, this was going to be a post about crawfish boil etiquette…but when you’re diving face-first into a pile of tiny, dead lobsters, you can pretty much leave manners by the wayside.

So what do crawfish boils and copywriting have in common?

No pain, no gain.

I developed a bad case of “crawfish thumb” last night around batch three. New Orleanians know that this is when the boil spices begin to creep under the quick of your nails, making the process of peeling each little crustacean a bit more painful.

Similarly, sometimes you have to grit your teeth and chip away at a copywriting assignment, no matter how much it might be hurting your brain (or aggravating your carpal tunnel).

The spicier, the better.

There is nothing more boring than an under-spiced crawfish boil. It’s like traveling to the Grand Canyon and turning the other way. Okay, I might be exaggerating. But if the potatoes aren’t going to make my gums burn, what’s the POINT?

Copywriting is the same way. You’re writing for a purpose. That purpose is to persuade, inform, build trust, create a relationship. Boring writing just isn’t going to get those things done.

Drinking helps.

When it comes to eating crawfish, ice-cold beer is your friend. When it comes to writing, beer will help you come up with ideas, while coffee will help you refine them.

 

Any other ways crawfish and copywriting are the same? Leave ’em in the comments.

And remember: If you get between me and a table of steaming crawfish, I will cut you. Tweet: If you get between me and a table of steaming crawfish, I will cut you.

90-Year-Old Copywriting Advice That Still Works Like a Charm

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite people. Though long-dead, he’s still a total boss.

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Claude Hopkins, whom I like to refer to as the Original Gangster of Advertising.

Claude Hopkins is the reason you use toothpaste.

Claude Hopkins
Behind those cute owl glasses and sweet ‘stache lies the cutthroat mind of a killer. A killer salesman, that is.

He’s also the reason you use coupons. (And, if you send email newsletters, he’s the reason you have the option to do an A/B split test with different versions of your letter.)

Who the F*** Is Claude Hopkins?

Our friend Claude was born in Michigan in 1866, and grew up working his face off as a school janitor, paper boy, and other various pursuits.

By working until 2AM in the morning every day of the week, Claude eventually ended up writing advertising for Bissell Carpet Sweepers (yep, the same Bissell vacuum cleaner company you’ve heard of).

Bissell Carpet Sweepers
Claude sold, like, $300,000 worth of these wooden carpet sweepers, back when that amount of money was basically the worth of the entire United States.

From there, Claude snagged himself a position as advertising manager at Swift & Company–by asking every single client of his to write a recommendation and mail it to the person in charge of hiring.

THEN, he got his local newspaper to agree to publish a daily advertising column so he could show off his knowledge. He mailed all of the columns to the Swift & Company hiring manager. (Still think writing a cover letter is too much effort for a job application?)

Job application
Claude Hopkins worked harder as a 9-year-old than you do as an adult.

Long story short, our boy Claude ended up managing advertising for Lord & Thomas (which you might know as FCB, or Foote, Cone and Belding–one of the world’s biggest ad agencies.

In 1923, Claude wrote a book called Scientific Advertising, which he followed up with an autobiography: My Life in Advertising. He’s a no-nonsense kind of guy with a lot to say.

Here’s Claude Hopkins’ best copywriting and advertising advice from both books. Bullet-point summaries in bold, courtesy yours truly.

1. How to appeal to people

  • Be trusting. “Try to hedge or protect yourself, and human nature likes to circumvent you. But remove all restrictions and say, “We trust you,” and human nature likes to justify that trust. All my experience in advertising has shown that people in general are honest.”
  • Know your customer. “We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn how to win one.”
  • Frame everything as a benefit. “Argue anything for your own advantage, and people will resist to the limit. But seem unselfishly to consider your customers’ desires, and they will naturally flock to you.”
  • Don’t push too hard. “People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves.”
  • Promise access to a secret. “Curiosity is a strong factor in human nature, and especially with women. Describe a gift, and some will decide that they want it, more will decide that they don’t. But everybody wants a secret gift.”
  • Offer cures, not prevention. “People will do anything to cure a trouble, but little to prevent it.”
  • Don’t be cheap. “We learn that cheapness is not a strong appeal. Americans are extravagant. They want bargains but not cheapness.”

2. How to write persuasively

  • Write plainly. “Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers. They have few oratorical graces. They are plain and sincere men who know their customers and know their lines. So it is in ad-writing.”
  • Write to one particular customer. “Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or woman, who is likely to want what you sell.”
  • Spend more time on your headline. “The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest…What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.”
  • Be specific. “The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific.”
  • Pick a descriptive name. “Often the right name is an advertisement in itself. It may tell a fairly complete story, like Shredded Wheat, Cream of Wheat, Puffed Rice, Spearmint Gum, Palmolive Soap, etc.”

3. How to avoid wasting money

  • Use space wisely. “Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices…[Large type] may not be offensive, but it is useless and wasteful. It multiplies the cost of your story.”
  • You’re here to sell. “Do nothing to merely interest, amuse, or attract.”
  • Instead of “buy one, get one,” offer a free sample… “Before a prospect is converted, it is approximately as hard to get half price for your article as to get the full price for it.”
  • …but make them work for it. “Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exbihit that interest by some effort. Give them only to people to whom you have told your story.”
  • Imitate what works. “Before you use useless pictures, merely to decorate or interest, look over some mail order ads. Mark what their verdict is.”
  • Sell to new prospects only. “In every ad consider only new customers. People using your product are not going to read your ads. They have already read and decided.”
  • Track your returns. “Never be guided in any way by ads which are untraced. Never do anything because some uninformed advertiser considers that something right.”
  • Know your customer’s financial situation. “We must learn what a user spends a year, else we shall not know if users are worth the cost of getting.”
  • Budget for waste. “The cost of advertising largely depends on the percentage of waste circulation.”

Did I mention that Claude Hopkins published Scientific Advertising in 1923? Ninety-one years later, this man still knows more about successful, efficient advertising than most CEOs.

Do yourself a favor and get to know Claude.

You can find copies of My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising online, but you should probably just buy it.

Scientific Advertising
Yup. Yup yup yup.

What do you think of Claude’s advice? Anything to add? Throw it in the comments.

Hey, Look, It’s a New Site!

www.theenglishmaven.com
OMG, so exciting.

Hello, friends! You might have noticed that TheEnglishMaven.com is looking a little different. Dare I say: a lot different.

That’s because I took matters into my own hands and switched the site to WordPress! Also, I couldn’t resist the allure of this theme’s pop-up pictures.

Take a look–click around–and let me know what you think!

Also, did you know you can sign up for Maven Mail? (Like your period, or a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it comes just once a month.)

The 5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an “Idea File”

5 Easiest Tools for Keeping an Idea File

Y’all, we’re all geniuses. We have a lot of great ideas, and if we lose them, THE WORLD LOSES THEM. So we write them down and save them for later–but where do we write them?

In an Idea File, of course. Check out the simplest 5 tools for keeping track of your brainwaves–from smartphone solutions to good ol’ pen and paper.

Just remember: However you choose to catalogue your creative impulses, don’t editorialize, judge, or dismiss them. Just write them down, and look at them later to find the ones that shine.

Gmail task list

This is where I, trained as a ninja in the art of digital task management, excel. Like many of you, I use my main To-Do list to check off items when I complete them (and give myself a boost of glorious can-do motivation).

But I also keep a separate list, creatively titled “Ideas”. It’s a good dumping ground for the times when I’m stuck in my email and don’t want to open anything else. And when I use an idea from the list, I can check it off and get that same boost.

Also, if you’re not using Gmail, what are you even doing with your life?

Evernote

I’ll admit: I was slow to come to Evernote. But now that I use it to keep track of my workouts (hello, Stone Age), I’ve come to appreciate its magical capacity to sync across platforms.

Also, I lost my phone during Mardi Gras, and it took losing all of the ideas in the phone’s Notes app to get me to use Evernote. The world will never know about circle bacon.

Fishbowl with scraps of paper

Sorry, no link. This is the most old-school method ever, and I hear it works really well–from the four people who still use it.

Just kidding. If you’re ever hard-up for inspiration, fishing a scrap of paper out of a bowl (or jar) can be the touch of whimsy you need to see an old idea in a new light.

Index card organizer

I like to think of this method as the more tangible, less fire-and-hurricane-safe version of Evernote. You can organize your ideas by alphabetical order, type, or degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. Then, you can use your cards to create an outline for your sixth-grade history paper!

Pinterest, Polyvore and other virtual bulletin boards

Artists, stylists, and other people who think and work more visually should give Pinterest and Polyvore a try. Though Pinterest does have a lot of crap (you only need so many recipes for “green juice,” after all), it’s easy to make private, curated boards that convey a mood or theme without words.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I’d love to hear what other people do. How do you keep track of your ideas?

The Top 5 Quotes from TribeCon 2013

New Orleans’ tech-networking community held its annual TribeCon gathering at the City Park Peristyle yesterday.

Despite a glowering sky, insane wind, and the allure of Halloween pre-gaming, the Tribe managed to kill a giant pot of jambalaya, drain a keg of beer and share some interesting ideas on the intersection of technology and art.

city park peristyle
Algae party! JK, tech conference.

Here are the top five quotes from TribeCon 2013:

  1.  On the creative process and the necessity of creating bad work:

“When I see someone with an immaculate sketchbook, I don’t trust that person.”

Kody Chamberlain

2. On the idea of “digital homogenization”:

“The Internet is really good at telling you what everyone cares about, but it’s really bad at telling you what you care about.”

Ron Goldin

3. On asking for help:

“Everyone wants to be part of something great.”

CJ Hunt

4. On following your passion:

“The type of work you do is the type of work you get.”

Ron Domingue

5. On listening to the voice of your customer:

“It’s not about: ‘How can we get more likes?’ It’s about: ‘How can we get more people to like us?'”

Thomas Knoll

Other highlights: Time-killing jokes from highly bearded emcee Chris Trew, “Workaholics”-inspired bear coats made by Colin Grussing and an introduction to Quintron’s Drum Buddy.

What was your favorite part of TribeCon? Share it in the comments.