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[Podcast] Communicating Magic: Creating Videos and Emails That Convert (Alex Cattoni)

By Bob Sparkins  |  Published Mar 02, 2023  |  Updated Feb 08, 2024
Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A marketer with 17 years of experience, Bob has taught over 1,000 webinars and spoken at over 50 events.

The Lead Generation Podcast Episode 52: Alex Cattoni

Turning your marketing ideas into words that convert strangers into customers can be a real struggle—but it doesn't have to be. We’re excited to share an interview with Alex Cattoni, the founder of Copy Posse and one of the leading voices in online direct response copywriting.

Last year, she won the prestigious Digital Marketer of the Year award at Traffic & Conversion Summit, and she educates a quarter million subscribers on YouTube with her weekly copywriting lessons.

In this episode, Alex shares insights from her journey from customer success intern to freelancer to entrepreneur. She also discusses her perspective on the role of AI in copywriting and how to write effective emails that get readers to become customers.

Key Takeaways

  • You can help “de-douchefy” internet marketing. Buyers want authentic sales conversations, not false scarcity with obnoxious, over-the-top tactics.
  • Listen for growth opportunities. What your customers and clients are asking you to do may reveal a pivot to an even bigger business.
  • Bet on yourself. At first, you’ll be challenged with feeling awkward or uncomfortable after taking a leap. But the consistent, persistent effort pays off.
  • Create content you want to create. Build your initial audience with the guidance of SEO-based demand, but your passion and enjoyment of what you’re talking about will fuel your growth.
  • AI is a tool, not a replacement for effective copywriting. The human skills of creativity and synthesis will remain the differentiator for entrepreneurs.
  • Leverage your thank you page for increasing open rates. Instruct your new subscribers on how to receive your emails so they don’t miss what they’re asking for.
  • Use open loops to move your readers into action. Pique their curiosity, from subject line and in-email stories, to landing pages and offers so they continue to want more.
  • Understand the context of your prospect’s journey. When and where a prospect is in their relationship to you determines how you can most effectively communicate to them.
  • Continue building their desire after purchase. Strengthen your messaging after purchase to facilitate the use and success of your program or products.

Resources Mentioned

Podcast Block Blog@2x

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Transcript

Who is Alex Cattoni?

Bob Sparkins: Alex, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Lead Generation.

Alex Cattoni: Bob, thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be here.

Bob: I cannot wait to dive into some copywriting tips for our entrepreneurs that are listening today, especially around email marketing. I think that's one of the areas that people really struggle with and they don't need to. But before we do that, let's go back a little bit first to more important question to set the stage, how do you transform the lives of the clients and people that you work with and what you do at Copy Posse?

Alex: Ooh, what a juicy question. So what I like to say is that I'm sort of a mindset business wrapped in copywriting. So copywriting is something that I absolutely love and have been doing it for a long time. I've been in the online marketing world for about, oh gosh, 15 years now. And to me copywriting is such an incredible skill set for anyone to have, but like many of my community members will have heard me say a million times, copywriting isn't copywriting without marketing, and marketing is obviously a much broader topic, but I am passionate about marketing.

I'm passionate about helping entrepreneurs and freelancers and creatives use the power of words to make an impact in the world, and really, really passionate about helping entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses and share their messages. So oftentimes people find me because they want to learn copywriting tips, and then what they don't realize is they're getting into a whole bunch of mindset and entrepreneurship and marketing coaching, which is what I really, really love to jam on. But of course, none of that would've been possible and I wouldn't have been able to grow my business like I had if it hadn't been for copywriting and knowing how to get your message out in the right way. So yeah, that's me.

Bob: I love it and I love that you have this gateway drug towards things that really matter, but you have people, the medicine that they need first, which I think can go a long way for a lot of people. When people do follow you on Instagram, which I hope that they do, and on YouTube, you talk a lot about de-douchefying the internet from really bad marketing practices, and I think that's something we echo here at Leadpages. What does that mean to you and why when people are coming at copywriting or any kind of marketing online today, why is it important that they think about that authenticity piece that you speak so highly of?

Alex: I love that you asked that. I feel like some people are afraid to ask me about my mission to de-douchefy the internet. And I'll be honest so I've been in the marketing role for a long time, like I said, and it was around 2019 where I was starting to get pretty jaded. I was working behind the scenes with a lot of incredible brands and businesses, but had been in the industry long enough to realize that just because someone says they do things to help people doesn't mean they actually do. And really hated that copywriting was sort of being lumped in with what a lot of people considered to be douchey sales tactics. One time I was at a party and I told a guy that I was a copywriter, and he's like, "Oh, you're the one that writes all those spam emails that I get."

And I was offended because as someone who had built my career for over a decade and really prided myself on the fact that I was working with incredible brands that were making an impact in the world, I did realize there was a bigger problem at hand and that there was this divide in the industry. There are so many incredible, incredible entrepreneurs and creators and business owners who have products and services that they live and breathe and that genuinely help people. And then there were a lot of others who were willing to do anything to make a quick buck. And you see that everywhere from clickbait copy to misleading claims to terribly written decline links that someone's selling their soul if they don't purchase your product, to fake scarcity, to a bazillion gajillion upsells.

Like everything that I learned about marketing from my background at Mindvalley and it being about the customer and about adding value and about creating a brand experience I was so passionate about, but then just as passionate as I was about that, there were a bunch of other people teaching stuff that I just didn't vibe with, and I thought you know what I'm going to say something about it and that became my mission. And I think that was part of why my content rose to the top of a very oversaturated and over-served market. I mean online marketing, a lot of people are talking about it, and I'm really proud of that because it's my mission to build this army of incredibly powerful creatives and marketers and writers who are using these powers of persuasion and influence to truly make the internet a better place.

And so it's an uphill battle, but I think it's really important, especially as markets get smarter and smarter. I've talked to a lot of marketers who are saying, "Wow, it's getting harder and harder for us to convert the same way that we used to, and customers are taking longer to buy." And it's like, yeah, people no longer want to be forced down a funnel and forced to buy on day one, or they're forgotten about or treated like just a metric or a number. People want to buy from brands and businesses that share the same values as them. And I see that just happening more and more as the market becomes smarter. Everyone knows what's up and they want to make decisions and put their money where their values are.

Bob: Yeah, I think the days of churn and burn being the primary way to make money online hopefully is a thing of the past one of these days. That's my hope.

Alex: Yeah, and exhausting. Imagine if you had to put all that work into getting new customers over and over and over again rather than treating the customers that you do have like absolute gold so they'll buy from you again and again and again. It's way easier to turn a customer into a repeat customer than it is to acquire a new customer.

Bob: Exactly. This is actually a topic I talked about with Gia Laudi a couple of months ago in an episode about customer-led growth so those of you listening, please make sure that tune back into that one as well.

Becoming a Copywriter (Accidentally)

Bob: So my next question for you, Alex, is kind of a little bit of a bio. You mentioned Mindvalley, some folks may not even know what Mindvalley is, although it's obviously a pretty big enterprise. What kind of role did you have there and when did you know, or what was the circumstance that got you to become a freelance copywriter at the end of your tenure there?

Alex: Yeah, so Mindvalley, for those who don't know, is one of the world's leading online publishers of personal development, wisdom and education. I joined Mindvalley back in 2008 as a customer support intern. So I was fresh out of university delaying law school as long as humanly possible, thinking I want to go travel and have some fun and managed to discover Mindvalley and talk about jumping in both feet. I applied for the job knowing nothing about internet marketing or personal development. I came from a small city in Canada where self-help and online marketing were two categories that I had just never heard anything about. And so I sold my car, packed up my life in a suitcase and moved to Malaysia to accept a job as a customer service intern. And while I was there I just fell in love with marketing.

I could not believe that people could make money online and truly change lives. Mindvalley is now a massive company and impacts a ton of lives, and it was cool being part of the executive team.

I started as a customer service intern, then I got promoted to project manager and then business manager and then creative director. And so it was quite an interesting three and a half years that I spent at Mindvalley and left in 2011, mostly actually because of health reasons, I was celiac and didn't know it, so I couldn't have gluten and was poisoning myself every single day and didn't know what was wrong with me. So I made a really tough decision to move back to Canada and kind of found myself in this awkward situation. Do I go back to school? Do I start a business? What do I do?

And so I started marketing consulting actually first. I was never a copywriter at Mindvalley, although I did write some copy at Mindvalley. I was never an actual copywriter on the payroll. And so I started marketing consulting for brands and businesses, helping them build funnels and automate their marketing. And they always would ask me the same thing, do you know a great copywriter? And I'd always say, well, not really. I knew of the handful of legends that I learned from and they're not taking freelance work. So I was like, well, I could try. I think I might be able to do it. And that's just how I got into it. I started doing it for my clients and turned out I was pretty good at it. This was back in 2012, 2013, and then did that exclusively freelance behind the scenes until I started my YouTube channel in 2019.

Discovering Your Own Voice as a Copywriter

Bob: Very cool. And we'll talk about that channel in just a few minutes because it's blowing up and I think you've got some really cool lessons to share with us about that. But as a freelance copywriter kind of accidentally, I imagine I make up that you probably took on the voice of your clients as they want you to do typically. As you did that, how did you discover your own voice? Because obviously today you are likely doing a lot of the writing and having people help steer what copy means to you, but how did you discover what your voice was along the way?

Alex: That's such a good question. I think writing copy for others I think gives you this really interesting ability to be able to get clear on your own voice because we don't often spend time thinking about our voice because it's just our voice and it's how we talk, it's how we communicate with our friends, it's who we are.

But working with so many different brands and businesses where I had to be very intentional about the way that I was communicating on behalf of these brands, it became almost like so apparent what I was not sharing because I had to constantly edit my own voice out of what I was writing. And I just remember thinking, oh, it'd be so cool to just write in my own voice and to be able to use slang and be tongue in cheek and be sassy and create my own brand voice.

And so I think through the process of writing for other people, it shed light on how I would've wanted to communicate if it were my own brand in business. And that was a really unique experience as well and something that takes time to cultivate.

Everyone in the beginning really has to think about, "Okay, what do I want my brand voice to be?" And I always say it really stems from who you are as a person and what you value. And through communication with your audience it allows you to crystallize it more and more. You mentioned how my mission is to de-douchefy the internet. I didn't say that in the beginning.

I didn't have those words. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but that specific term came from I think a conversation with one of my students in a training session. And they were like, you know you, they're like yeah, you know, down with the douchebags or something like that. And I was like, yeah, I'm going to de-douchefy the internet. It just came out. And I'm like, oh my God. That's it. That's the magic.

And so coming up with your brand voice I think is an evolution that you discover more of who you are as you step out into the world and continue to teach and speak.

Bob: And I imagine you never feel like it's truly finished, it's not really done. It just-

Alex: No, and it evolves. My brand voice in five years and 10 years might be completely different than it is now, but that's how we are as humans. We evolve, we learn new things, we admit our faults. Hopefully we share from a place of authenticity of who we are in the moment. And there's times where I look back at things that I said even two, three years ago, and I'm like, oh, I think my mind has changed since then, or I've gotten new information. And I also think the most important piece of feedback I ever got is someone saying to me, "You know you're allowed to change your mind. You're allowed to evolve as a brand."

And I think that's the fear a lot of people have with putting something on the internet because it feels so final. It feels so well if I've said that publicly, what happens if I do something different? What happens if I publicly fail or I launch a business and then it doesn't work? And I think that's the beauty of the transparency of entrepreneurship is we are constantly evolving and changing the way we communicate, changing with new information that becomes available. And we're all just navigating this world. And so showing up as authentically as you can in any moment and knowing that it might change down the road.

Emerging from Behind the Curtain with a YouTube Channel

Bob: Yeah, that's incredible. When you look at your time as a freelancer and then you started up your YouTube channel, Copy Posse in 2019, I imagine there might have been a little bit of fear or uncertainty before you made that leap. A, was that true? Am I making that up, or is that true? And how did you get over it? What did you do to go ahead and push through and make it happen?

Alex: Yeah. Oh yeah, you were spot on. I thought about starting my YouTube channel probably for a year and a half before I did it and like anything I kept coming up with excuses as to why I wasn't ready. And my excuse was that I needed to have this perfect wall behind me. I'm like, I need to have, I'd follow all my favorite YouTubers and be like, I love their set. It's so great. And I remember telling a friend that I was going to start a YouTube channel, and I kind of forgot that I had said something to him. And then it was a year later and we're hanging out and having coffee or something, and I was like, yeah, I think I'm going to start a YouTube channel. He's like, "You told me that a year ago. Well, what the hell?" And I was like shit, I got called out. And so I was like, you're right. And that weekend I went to the local bookstore, bought some motivational quotes. It was just ridiculous. And I put them up on the wall and I'm like, okay, I'm going to do this.

And I think for me, I talk a lot about imposter syndrome with my community, and I think that it's just so, it's such a real phenomenon. I was comparing myself to all of these incredibly smart copywriters, mostly men who were all men, who I had learned from over the years and just kind of thought to myself why would anyone take me seriously? I thought I didn't have enough experience, even though I had been doing it for almost a decade and told myself all the reasons why I wasn't ready or that I would fail or that it wouldn't work. I think it really was that friend calling me out and being like, oh my gosh, I need to be in integrity here. I'm going to do it even if it doesn't work out. But then I kept going. It took me six months to reach a thousand subscribers. It was a labor of love in the beginning. It didn't feel easy. And I think it's always interesting when people say, oh yeah, you came out of nowhere. And it's like, well, yes, kind of.

And from my perspective I was down in the trenches every single week spending, because I was still working full-time writing copy for clients. And so starting my YouTube channel was me on the weekends putting in the work to get that content out there. And it took me way longer back then because it was awkward and uncomfortable, and I probably took 18 takes for every single video. And then you just realize that it's about showing up consistently and trusting and betting on yourself. I think the biggest thing is that I just focused on what it was that I was doing and who I was helping and didn't pay attention to the noise or what was going on in the industry because I found myself comparing myself to others, and that's not a productive way to get anything done. So I kind of turned off, or turned on the blinders I should say, and just sort of leaned in.

Bob: That's great and four years later, and you're knocking on the door as the time of recording at a quarter million subscribers, which is no small feat. So congratulations on that.

You mentioned this idea of imposter syndrome. I'd like for you to share in a moment a YouTube tip or two, but I do want to call out those of you listening, don't compare yourself and your set and your lighting and your sound to Alex for your first five videos because you've done hundreds, right?

Alex: Yes.

Bob: Have you hit over a thousand videos yet? I know you're probably pretty close.

Alex: Not a thousand yet. No, I think we're on definitely hundreds. Yeah. I don't actually know how many videos we've published, but yeah, exactly. And I actually kept a video up from my channel from a few years ago. I officially started actually right now on the day that we're recording this. Today is my fourth year anniversary of publishing my first video when I officially was like, this is what I'm doing. But there was one video that I recorded maybe a year or two before that that I put on my YouTube channel, and I kept it up so that everybody watching can go see how bad my first video was, because it's terrible.

The lighting was bad. I didn't know anything. I was just using my regular webcam. And back then the regular webcams were terrible, and the mic, the audio, everything was bad about it. But that it just goes to show that your audience loves to watch your evolution. I get so many people who say to me, I have been following you since you had a hundred subscribers, and I love watching you evolve and grow. And again, making that part of your process and story, it's fun.

Bob: That's great. I remember some of my earlier ones were like with the flip HD cameras, and you couldn't block the wind, and let's just, it's fun to look back and be nostalgic about that. So kudos for sticking to it and obviously being successful.

Getting Views on YouTube with Better Thumbnails and Topics

Bob: As I mentioned before, I do want to talk about email primarily, but while we're on the topic of YouTube and you are someone who teaches on copy, thumbnails, titles of thumbnails, titles of videos, any tips that you have to get the click to watch the video for those that might be exploring YouTube and they come across your video for the first time, how are you intentionally making that headline non-douchey, but also that gets attention?

Alex: Yeah, that's tough. You see a lot of videos that do really, really well, and I think my kind of secret is I never do a video without first knowing the hook, because it's easier to come up with a catchy hook when you have a blank slate, and then to create the content that then satisfies that hook as long as it's legit and real. And so I never do a video and then go, what am I going to title this video? So everything is done very intentionally from that perspective. What I will say is that when you are just starting out, SEO keywords is a good way to start. The way I sort of see it, and I've talked to a lot of YouTube experts, and I don't consider myself a YouTube expert because I'm not someone who really dives into the data and analyzes every little metric and figures and reverse engineers and figures out, I just don't.

To me, I'm like, I just post the content I want to post. And some of it does well, and some of it doesn't, and I will spend some time focusing on that. But from what I know is that, especially in the beginning, if you have zero subscribers, YouTube is a search platform and a search engine. And when you are trying to get eyeballs when you don't already have an existing audience, that's a really great way to start.

So for your first, let's say 10 videos, really try to dial in on some of the key topics that your audience will most need support and help with. And then once you start reaching even a little bit of an engaged audience, YouTube will then start really understanding what kind of content your subscribers will watch, and then will start serving your content to similar audiences. And that's kind of what I noticed with my growth is that in the beginning it was a little boring.

So I was like, if I have to talk about this other challenge that I didn't really want to be talking about, but I knew my audience really wanted to know an answer to it, I'm like this can be so boring. But I think for about the first couple thousand subscribers I really focus more on that SEO kind of strategy. And then I shifted and was like, all right, what does my audience want to hear from and what's going to get them really excited to continue watching? Because at that point, that's when YouTube starts looking at retention of... And retention is important for all the time, but they start looking at the engagement that your videos are getting with your existing audience. And so I kind of made a pivot somewhere around that number where I just started talking about the topics that I genuinely wanted to talk about without really worrying about the SEO quality of it at all, and started sharing more opinion pieces or marketing trends or things that genuinely I wanted to talk about, not just specific copywriting tutorials or how-to's.

And then the last thing I'll say with thumbnails is you never want your thumbnail on your title to say the exact same thing, because your thumbnails only job is to get people to click. And after they click, they're not going to see it anymore. And so it's good to have a big face and text that's large and easy to read. So you want it short and you want it catchy. It doesn't even have to make perfect sense. As a copywriter I'm so used to writing full titles if you were writing a blog post or something, and that's great for the actual title of your video, but for your thumbnail, it's really just to get the gist of it and to get that open loop concept of, "Ooh, I want to learn more about this," and go ahead and click.

The Role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Copywriting

Bob: Very cool. One of the hottest topics of our time right now for writers is the role of artificial intelligence. And there's a lot at play, a lot of different opinions. Here at Leadpages we have an AI engine that we're excited about, but we also have a very good, what we think is a good perspective on what it means. I'd love to hear your thoughts on all the copywriters out there who are either sweating or nervous about everybody else becoming users of AI and their landing pages and their sales pages and their emails, et cetera. Where does Copy Posse stand on the whole AI debate?

Alex: Yeah, I'll be the first to say, holy cow, AI, I think we've all had this moment in the last five months of, whoa, the sheer speed at which it can create is very impressive. But I also believe that anyone who really deeply understands copywriting and knows that it's so much more than just putting words on a page, AI is not a replacement for someone who understands true copywriting and marketing. And so where I think AI is a total game changer for anyone is in just massively streamlining the content creation process, generating new ideas, generating new concepts for testing, frame working, summarizing, repurposing. There's so many shortcuts that AI can kind of open for creatives, copywriters, and entrepreneurs.

But my belief is that AI is not a shortcut to building a brand that people trust because on the other side of AI needs to be the marketing mind, the founder, the entrepreneur, the copywriter, the marketer who goes, "Okay, what is it that we're trying to create here?"

Because anyone who's played around with AI knows that it's really impressive, but it doesn't always create the content that is going to be the most powerful or strategic or persuasive. And so I see a huge opportunity opening up for copywriters to become AI architects and producers, and understanding how to use this technology to create campaigns, to structure marketing funnels and sequences.

But in order to be able to do that, you have to have the foundational knowledge because the output is only as good as the input. And then it's only better if someone who understands it can then take it and edit it and tweak it and change it and use it so that it actually is effective. And anyone who's just blindly copying and pasting word for word any AI content is not really thinking forward to what is it that we're trying to create, and how is this going to fit into the bigger picture in a way that actually makes sense, is relevant or even accurate?

Because AI lies and it creates information, which means AI lies. And so to all creatives, it's not just copywriters, it's video editors, it's content writers, it's graphic designers. Anybody who's doing any of that sort of creative work, I understand it's a bit scary, but the landscape is changing for everyone. It's no longer this future technology, it's here. So I really truly believe that we need to look at it from an optimistic point of view and go, okay, great. How can we use this as a shortcut to build businesses that allow us to help more people faster?

Bob: Yeah, that's awesome.

The Importance of Email Marketing

Bob: You do a lot of video. Where does email play in your business in the totem pole of all the things that you are doing to move forward?

Alex: It is high. If I had to pick two ways to make money, it'd be creating video and sending emails. In fact, that's how I launched my very first program. So I had started creating content on YouTube, and I was not following any of the traditional direct response marketing rules. The stuff that I had been doing for clients for years, I wasn't doing. I started producing videos and had no list. And so I thought, well, I'll just put a call to action in my videos in the description that says, join my list. There wasn't even a lead magnet. It was literally join my list. And I made that on Leadpages and was just like, yeah, join my email list. And I don't even think I told them what they were going to get. But then on the flip side, on the thank you page, I embedded a survey where I asked, because I had no real idea who my audience was yet, I was still kind of figuring it out.

And I had a survey that asked them some questions about what their biggest challenge was. Were they a copywriter or were they wanting to be a copywriter? I was just using it as a way to gather data. And so that's what I always say to people getting started. If you don't have anything to sell yet, then get information because that is going to help you create something that you need so that you can sell. And so I started building my list in 2019 when I started my channel, and by January, 2020, I had about 2000 people on my list. So not a lot. It was just a small little baby list. And I'm like, you know what? I'm going to do my first launch.

And I took all this survey data that I had gotten, so let's say it was about a thousand responses that I had gotten from this survey and saw all of the challenges that my customers or that my soon-to-be customers were struggling with, and created my very first flagship product, the Copy Posse Launchpad. And to that list of 2300 people, I did $84,000. And so at this point, I was like, holy cow. Email marketing, I've always loved email marketing and when I worked with clients, that was my jam. If they had a list, I could make them money. And so that's how I built my business and still to this day is the number one revenue generator in my company.

Bob: That's really cool. And I love that you started it with just the newsletter. We always tell people, please don't just send people to a newsletter. If you can get a lead magnet together, put it together. But if you don't have a lead magnet, yes, your newsletter can be the thing. And I love, so as you may know, as a Leadpages person, I can see how you're doing with your pages that you create and you're getting 50% plus on a newsletter, which is amazing for people to sign up. You're getting even better on the cheat sheets. We'll talk about that in a minute. But it's really-

Alex: I love that. I love that you could see the data.

Bob: Yeah, well, it's so cool because every other person who is coming to that page is saying yes to receive email from you, which is very odd in 2023 because people think that email is dead. But it is great as a relationship builder, especially in tandem with video as you're doing so well. So kudos to you for that.

Get Higher Email Open Rates

Bob: And I also love that you are using on your thank you page these days a video that says not just what you're up to, what your mission is, but it's also gets in the weeds of, by the way, if I showed up in your promotions tab, here's what you do. If I showed up here, here's what you do. Why is it important to have that communication on your thank you page? Why did you put it in the video, not just in text on the page?

Alex: Yeah. So video to me is how my audience is used to hearing from me. So, so many of my audience find me through my YouTube channel, and I wanted to use video right away on the thank you page to just create that quick rapport. Like, "Oh, I know her. I've watched her videos." And wanted to kind of walk them through that process. Now that I'm thinking about it it probably would be smart to also have it in text on the page. But that's the thing about entrepreneurship, it's like there's always a million things that you could be doing to better optimize the experience and the funnels. And I look at that now, I'm like, oh, yeah, thank you pages probably could be a little bit better, they're so bare bones. But for me, I was like, I just wanted to welcome people to our community. Some of our opt-in pages do have a tripwire offer after the fact if we're being more intentional or spending money on ads.

But for the most part, I just want people to know, hey, you're part of my community now. Welcome to the Copy Posse. Here's what you can expect. And then obviously trying my best to land in their primary email tab because we've seen with the change of especially Gmail and the promotions tab and just the crazy drop in open rates that you get if your audience is not engaging with your content in the primary tab or getting your content in the primary tab. So I highly recommend anybody who's building a list to make that part of their communication early on just so that they, you're training them when the views are the highest, and when their attention is on you, you're asking them to add you to your primary list.

Bob: Yeah, I know that seems like a little bit in the weeds for those of you listening, but it's so critical. It's the difference between a 15% open rate and a 30% open rate, and you don't want to disregard it.

Creating Compelling Email Subject Lines

Bob: Headlines take the form of subject lines when it comes to email marketing. That's where I want to turn our attention now. When you're thinking through the email that you're going to write, similar to what you mentioned for the titles of the video, are you starting with your subject line or do you come up with it after you've written your email? How do you craft a really great email subject line that gets people to open it up?

Alex: Yeah, that's a great question. I would say sometimes I write emails with the subject line in mind. I'll give you an example. If it's a story-based email, I often can think of the hook before the email is written. So one that's off the top of my head, I wrote a story-based email talking about how I lost $80,000 in this one business, and immediately I knew that the subject line I wanted it to be something like an $80,000 lesson or something like that. And so often I'll think in terms of hooks, other times I just think, oh, this is a really cool story. I'll write the email, or my team will write the email and then we'll go back and review the email and go, oh, what's the juicy bit here that we can pull out as a subject line? And occasionally I'll think, ooh, this is a good subject line, but I think I can make it better if I used this word instead of that word.

So then I'll go and update the email accordingly. And it could just be a word tweak here or there. But yeah, subject lines are incredibly important. I think a lot of times people make the mistake of making subject lines too long. Most people are reading your email on mobile, so making sure it's not, you think on a small screen it's not wrapping three times, it's a, or being truncated, it's a short subject line, something obviously that opens a loop as long as your email then of course satisfies that open loop and encourages people to continue reading or to click onto the next thing. Subject lines are if there's one skill that you could have an email copywriting, it's knowing how to write a good subject line, definitely.

The Wise Use of Open Loops

Bob: Yeah, for sure. You've mentioned this term open loop a couple times, and I know a lot of people listening, they've heard this over and over again. Maybe you are familiar with the Zeigarnik effect, all that stuff, but there's others that maybe they're new to that concept. Can you do a quick 45-second version of what you mean by open loop and why it's so important in copy?

Alex: Yeah. So an open loop is a concept in which the brain, when provided certain information, naturally wants to seek out some sort of conclusion. So the best way that I could explain it is when you purposely omit certain information to then trigger that open loop response or that open loop in someone's mind where they then must click or continue reading in order to then get the answer to this missing information in their mind. And so in the case of a subject line, there's different types of subject... Sorry, open loops. There's a preview where you're kind of giving a hint at what's to come. There is a cliffhanger where it's like, you'll never guess what happened next type of open loop.

There's a lot of different ways that you can set up the information, even using a number in a subject line. People love learning and frameworks. So if I tell you that there's four steps to solving a problem that's really important to you, you're going to want to know what those four steps are, just by the pure fact that I told you there's four steps. And if I missed a step you'd probably reply to my email going, "What the hell? Where's the fourth step?"

We love learning in frameworks and numbers, and so anytime you can use that concept in your marketing, you're going to drastically increase your click throughs and open rates.

Steer Readers to the Next Step

Bob: That's great. When you are in the middle of your email, so we've opened up the email, we've got the message, you do a really great job in your emails with the storytelling and the connection with those individual people, what are some of the things that you're thinking about as you and your team are writing these emails to make sure that not only do they get, well, let me not make an assumption here. What are you doing with these emails to get the next step to be taken?

Alex: Yeah, I think that's always something that as a copywriter, you start thinking about it almost subconsciously. But the first question I always ask myself when writing an email is, how is this relevant to not only whatever content we're promoting, but how is it relevant to the reader? So I think of the reader on one end opening their inbox and seeing that email in their inbox, and then I think of whatever piece of content or program or offer, whatever it is that we're promoting on the other side. And I think, how do I use this tool, an email to guide that person on the other end of the computer in their inbox through to the next step? And so this idea of really sort of breadcrumbing information and not revealing too much too soon, because again, what happens is if you open a loop in the subject line and then you close it in the email without then opening another loop to get them to click through to the page, what you're going to do is you're satisfying that open loop.

They've gotten the information they want, and there's no need for them to continue clicking forward. And so the perfect example of this, and I remember when this show made this change, and I knew exactly why. So the Bachelor, I used to love The Bachelor, I don't watch it anymore, but they used to end every single episode with a rose ceremony, meaning every single episode would wrap up with this perfect bow. You would know who was eliminated that week, and then you could probably skip the next episode and then go watch the one after that. And whoever was missing, you'd go, oh, well, that's just what happened last week. This person got, didn't get a rose or whatever. And then they changed the show so that the rose ceremony now happens right smack dab in the middle of the episode. And so you complete that open loop of who's not getting a rose, and then what do they do?

They open up a whole new storyline of new drama, and then you have to watch the next episode in order to come back and see what happened before then they do another rose ceremony. And I like to think of doing that in marketing. It's this idea of, I'm going to tell a really compelling story in this email, but I'm going to hint or leave out certain information that is relevant to the reader, and then also a bridge to the offer or the piece of content that I'm creating so that they're then going to want to click through to satisfy that next bit of information. And so I think the biggest thing that, the biggest mistake people make is they give too much information in a way that isn't serving them in their marketing journey or their buyer's journey. And so figuring out how to serialize and breadcrumb out that information across multiple touchpoints.

Bob: That's really, really good advice and I think anybody who watches Netflix and sees the continue to next episode, that's what you're doing every single time you're doing an email, at least in a series, you're doing that.

Crafting Launch Emails that Drive Sales

Bob: Now you have a really cool cheat sheet that you give away from one of your landing pages, and it's all about seven different types of emails that people should be writing in their business. I encourage everybody to go take a look at that. I want to have you speak for just a moment on that launch type of email.

So the sales emails that are going to promote a time-sensitive, at least to them, offer of some kind. First of all, how does that differ from those nurture emails of relationship? And what have you learned over the last 12 plus years that people who are just getting started, they could be maybe a little ahead of the game, out of the gate?

Alex: Right. Yeah. So I love writing sales emails and whenever I do a sales campaign, I mix it up. So we all know that nurture emails are more sort of content, relationship-building type of emails. We send out multiple a week, so we do one on Wednesday, we do one on Sunday. We're starting even to think of doing possibly one on Fridays now where it's just storytelling value, we'll still link out to different things we're doing, if we have a wait list for something or if we're giving an announcement about an upcoming launch. But we do it in a very conversational like, hey, here's going on type of way. And then when we go into launch mode I usually email my list every single day for about seven to eight days promoting a new program. This is if I'm doing a direct email to sales page, no webinar or anything like that.

It's just a direct sales campaign. And because you spend so much time or you should be spending a lot of time nurturing and building up that relationship with your audience, when you do send out a sales email, I kind of see it as, hey, those who are interested are going to be really excited to get this information and those who are not hopefully will tolerate me because I've just been sharing so much value over the last however many months.

And so the first email I like to send in any sales campaign, I call it the invite email. It's sort of for the eager beavers, it's for the ones who have been waiting for this and they're in. So writing a really short and sweet, here's what I've got, here's what it does, here's who it's for, click here to get it kind of thing. And so that's always how I start an email campaign or a series of emails during a launch or any sort of promotion.

And I end with a very similar email. So on the final day, it's usually a, this is your last chance, recap of the offer. Here's what you're going to get, here's why you need to act now. Doors are closing, of course, assuming you're always using real scarcity and you should be. And so this is when I do any sort of door open, door closed type of campaign. And then in between, I usually do a mix of different styles of emails. Some are longer, some are shorter. One of the things I really like to think about are the different types of buyers. You have the people who are like, I always say I'm a buyer, not a shopper. I don't like shopping, but I really like buying stuff. And if I know something's going to solve my problem, I don't need to waffle on it. I'm in.

Other people have a bit different buying behavior and they like to spend time thinking about it. So I'll often send an email that is more about educating the market. Okay, here's why this is important. Here's why it matters. Here's why this is something you should pay attention to, and it still could be a lot longer, but of course, I'm building up the need for the sale, digging the hole, so to speak. I'll often do emails that are more like social proof based, so I share a lot of customer stories and social proof as much as possible. And so I'm always trying to think of a new reason to send an email, and that's probably the best tip I could give anybody. Unless you're doing a really quick three or four day Frank Kern style fire sale where you can send the same email for four days in a row and then you're done.

If you're doing any sort of a longer campaign you want to give, you want to have a reason to be continually emailing your list. If you're just sending the same thing over and over again, people can get really kind of jaded by that, and that's when they're likely to unsubscribe. But if you're emailing them with seemingly new information, they're more tolerant of reading and reviewing your emails even if they never buy. And so that's something that I think a lot about is how can I make the point from a lot of different directions to overcome objections and ultimately make the sale.

What to Say After They Buy

Bob: That's great. Now, one of the types of emails that I think people overlook, it's super critical is the after purchase emails. What kind of language, what kind of thought process or mindset do you have with those emails as opposed to the one that got people to buy in the first place?

Alex: Yeah, so my post-purchase emails are very celebratory. I always want everyone to feel like they made a great decision. I make them feel like they're now part of our community, which they are of course, by joining any one of our programs. So it's very reaffirming of their decision and really playing up the you belong here, here's why, making them feel like they're a part of something, because they are. And I think people will join programs for the content, especially if we're talking membership programs or if there's any sort of continuity where you're billing them monthly. People will join for the content, but they'll stay for the community. So I'm constantly trying to get not only them feeling connected with me and my team, but them connecting with other members of the programs as well. So immediately putting them into community groups or in our higher-level programs, we do accountability pods. I know that if they connect with even just a handful of people who are in the program, they're that much more likely to consume and finish the program and get results.

Bob: And those results are obviously key because it impacts their life, but they become better customers for your next product and your next product and testimonials for other people to be introduced, which is obviously very important to the momentum that you can get in your business.

Continue Learning from Alex Cattoni

Bob: So we're coming to towards the end of our session, Alex, this has been a really fantastic conversation. I've learned a lot. I know the people listening have learned a lot. What is a next step that people can take to learn from you? What's hot on the table for them to become a better copywriter, even if they're not doing that professionally, but they are wanting to get more sales for their own businesses that they're running?

Alex: Yeah, thanks for asking that. Copyposse.com is where anyone can go to learn more. And like you said, I do have a ton of different programs. Many of them are geared not just to copywriters, but also to business owners. And one of my favorite programs that I've ever done was my Posse Eye Brand Voice Guide Challenge last year. It has been off the shelf, not available since I ran this program live, but in early March, so right around the time that this is coming out, it will be available. And this program is basically my proprietary framework on how I create a brand voice.

So any entrepreneur can go through this no matter what stage you're at, whether you've already been in business for a while, or you're brand new and you're really trying to get clear on what that foundation is that you can use to not only guide your messaging, but also inspire your team and rally affiliates and there's so many powerful reasons why you should have a powerful brand voice as a business owner. So that will be available at copyposse.com, and you can always just Instagram me. I love to hear from anyone who's listening to this. You can just shoot me a DM and say hi and that's @copyposse.

Bob: That's awesome. My final question for you, Alex, is I'm sure along the journey you've run into some obstacles, you likely still do because that's the nature of what we do. What kind of mantra or thought or quote, or maybe it's a book or meditation, I don't know, what is it that you turn to that helps get you to the other side, whatever that might be?

Alex: I think the thing that I've realized is most important on my journey is to stay really, really grounded in who I am and what I'm trying to create. Because it can be really easy when fads fade, trends change, the winds blow, and you can sometimes get a little bit lost in all the things you should be doing or people telling you that you should be doing this because that's the only way you're going to be successful. And whenever I have those moments of doubt or when I'm feeling overwhelmed, I love to just take a moment and sit and be with myself and remind myself of what it is that I'm doing.

Because no matter what, if you can continue betting on yourself more than you bet on anyone else, because it's, always boggles my mind how much we can overestimate other people's abilities, but underestimate our own. And just remember that you have a powerful message that needs to be shared with the world and people who need to hear it. And so anytime you're feeling discouraged or need a reminder of who you are, sit with yourself and remind yourself that there's no better thing to bet on than yourself and why you're here.

Bob: Sounds great. Well, we're big fans of what you're doing and the transformations you're having here at Leadpages. Libby and Laura, two success coaches on our team have gone through your programs. They are especially very excited about this episode coming out, as are the rest of us. So thanks so much for being here, Alex. Look forward to seeing all the great stuff that you do throughout the next coming years.

Alex: Thanks, Bob. See you.

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Bob Sparkins
By Bob Sparkins

A former high school history teacher turned entrepreneur and marketer, Bob has educated business owners worldwide on how to leverage digital marketing to grow their brands. He’s taught over 1,000 webinars, participated in over 200 podcast episodes, and taken the stage at over 50 business conferences and events.

The Lead Generation Podcast Episode 52: Alex Cattoni
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