The 3 Emails Every Marketer Needs
John Fancher is an expert copywriter who has worked with numerous high-profile clients including well-known business strategist Perry Marshall.
In today’s interview, I interview him about the 3 emails every marketers needs to take their clients from ‘hell’ to ‘paradise’.
Watch the video of my interview with John or read the transcript below!
Links“The 80/20 Sales and Marketing Book” by Perry Marshall John’s 30-Day Email Marketing Tips Series Deadline Funnel
Jack Born: Hey, everyone. This is Jack Born, founder of Deadline Funnel. And I’m here with a longtime friend, someone that I’ve worked with on the Perry Marshall team, and his name is John Fancher. And I’ll just tell you a little bit about John. So hopefully, you know about Perry. If you don’t, rush over to Amazon and go buy… There’s a couple books I would recommend. A tried and true one that I think every marketer needs in their library is the “80/20 Sales and Marketing” book. There’s a lot of great stuff in there. Take note of chapter six. I make a cameo. My tactical triangle concept is talked about in chapter six. And that was something that Perry has really incorporated into a lot of his business and is really taking it even a step further. But in addition to that, Perry also has written some books on AdWords and Facebook. So behind the scenes, Perry is constantly sending out emails, and he’s writing newsletters and really just continuing to be a thought leader in the business and marketing world. What a lot of people don’t realize is that a significant amount of that body of work is actually written by John Fancher, our guest today. So the emails certainly and the newsletters are a lot written by John. And he’s just a really, really savvy copywriter, has been doing it for quite a long time. And I’m really happy to have you here with us, John, to share your knowledge. Thank you for being here.
John Fancher: Oh, sure, I’m happy to be here. As a matter of fact, one of the other things I do in Planet Perry is something called Tactical Triangle Reviews and Tactical Triangle Attacks. It’s like a consulting program that we have. So yeah, I use Jack’s tactical triangle idea about, just about daily.
Jack Born: Beautiful, beautiful. So what we’re here to talk about today is John is going to share some of his wisdom about email copywriting because he, as I mentioned, he helps Perry. Perry keeps sending out more and more emails to bond with his audience. So, how do you send out emails that really develop that know, like, and trust, that deep relationship, but at some point, they become a buyer? So we’re going to be talking about that. And the topic of today’s talk is three emails every marketer needs. Possibly the subtitle would be Dante’s Inferno: Three Stories Taking Your Clients From Hell to Heaven type of thing. So this will make more sense as we get into it. But the crux of this is, John, that… Isn’t it that, like, when we need to be able to write an email quickly, we don’t want to be frozen, staring at that blank, at that blank screen with a cursor taunting us? And so this is something that you deal with all the time, and so you’re going to help us break out of that and really hone in on three key stories that we can tell in our emails, right?
John Fancher: Yeah, I hope so. Yeah, that is most of what I do, is write emails.
Jack Born: Great.
John Fancher: I do it for more than just Perry. I have other clients that I do it for. So, I don’t know. On average, I probably write 30 emails a week or something like that.
Jack Born: Wow.
John Fancher: So I can’t be banging my head on the keyboard hoping an idea falls out.
Jack Born: Exactly.
John Fancher: Yeah, so Jack asked me, “Could you come up with like the three emails that you write all the time or the three emails you write every day or something like that?” And I think a lot of us who do something every single day for a long time, we don’t think about exactly how we do it. We don’t think about it in those terms. And sometimes it takes somebody like Jack saying, “Hey, can you… What are the three emails that you write most often?” to make me sorta think about what those are ’cause I just sorta do it naturally. I think ’cause I’ve been doing it for so long. So it made me think that the three I write the most are… One of my heroes is, and I’ve usually got it on my desk right here, is Eugene Schwartz. And there’s, like, a classic book called “Breakthrough Advertising,” and he talks about levels of awareness. And I always try to think in those terms when I’m writing an email or, when I’m writing anything, right, is where are they? Where are your customers as far as what they know and what they’re thinking about the problem? Do they even know that they have the problem that you solve? Do they know there’s a solution for that problem? Do they know that your solution is the best one for that? And based on where they are in that, whatever you want to call it, continuum, you need to say different things to them, right? Somebody doesn’t even know that they have a problem. You can’t just go, “Hey, 25% off until Tuesday.” That’s not a message that’s going to do anything for you at that level. But another name for this, Perry, Jack mentioned Perry. He says, “Entering the conversation that’s going on in your customer’s head,” right? That you write ads for that. You write emails to do that. So it really just boils down to where are they? What do they know? And I think that’s always the best place to start with writing anything is, what are they thinking about? Where are they? What do they know? Would you agree, Jack?
Jack Born: Yeah, and I was going to add something to that. When I read your emails, some of your… It’s not uncommon for me to feel like, “Wow, John hasn’t just entered the conversation going in my mind. He’s really peeled back a layer, and he’s really thought about it in a way that I hadn’t thought about it before.” So, in other words, I think in previous trainings of yours that I’ve attended, you talk about it like a page out of their diary, right? So it’s not just this clinical version of, “Hey, I get you, dot, dot, dot.” Like, you can’t get away with just saying, “I understand where you’re coming from.” It’s demonstrating and showing by giving voice to those frustrations, anxieties, et cetera in a way that really they may not have consciously thought of, but it resonates as true.
John Fancher: Yeah, I think that what you just said goes right to… So Jack and I were emailing about this, and I told him, “Okay, there’s three emails, and one’s called ‘Inferno,’ and one’s called ‘Purgatory’ and one’s called ‘Paradise,'” right? And he emailed me back after I described it and said, “Okay, well, Inferno and Purgatory sound a lot alike.” And I’m like, “Hmm.” Again, that whole “we don’t really think about what we’re doing until somebody asks us about it.” And I said, “Oh, now wait a minute. There is a difference, but I’m not quite sure what it is yet. But I know it’s important.” So Jack’s question made me sort of think a little more deeply about it. And what you just said, Jack is exactly the difference, I think. So if I can, if I skip… The next one is Inferno. Okay, so the Inferno was Dante’s word for hell. That’s where they got the fire and you’re burning and you’re being tortured and all that stuff. So an Inferno email is like they know they have a problem, and you’re agitating that problem, okay? You’re not necessarily trying to get them to think any differently about a problem or their situation. You’re not necessarily trying to get them to make, like, a paradigm shift when you’re writing Inferno. They know the problem. You know the problem. It’s just a matter of agitating, making it worse than the old marketing motto of “people don’t take action to make a change until they’re sufficiently uncomfortable with their current situation.” So your job a lot of times is to make them sufficiently uncomfortable before they make a change.
Jack Born: Yeah.
John Fancher: But you’re not… In an Inferno one, if they know the problem, you know the problem. There’s not necessarily… You don’t have to get ’em to think in a different way about the problem. Then that’s one kind of email. And what Jack just said about some of the emails we write in Planet Perry’s world is that we… Perry, for those who don’t know him, is a… I think Jack would agree with this. He’s a philosophical, spiritual, entrepreneurial. Like, he thinks at a higher level than I do, that’s for sure. But he takes on big problems, and he is often a little bit ahead of his followers, right, or sometimes a lot ahead of his followers. And he sees things in a different way, and he sees things coming, and he sees trends, and he sees, as he calls ’em, “bottom of the swamp” truths. So often, Perry is trying to get people to think about the problem in a different way, okay? So if an Inferno email is, “Okay, we both agree on what the problem is, and we’re just going to agitate it. And we both know you’re in hell and we can feel the flames,” and there’s a, as he calls it a “bleeding neck,” right? If your customer has a bleeding neck, that’s the problem where they’ll do anything to get it solved. They’ll go rush to the emergency room. But often, the bleeding neck is what we’re talking to Perry’s people about. It’s not a bleeding neck; it’s a problem that they might have soon or down the line that they don’t know about. And often, we’re just trying to get them to think about the problem in a different way. So if they’re confused or if they don’t know there’s a problem or they’ve given up on solving it, then that’s where the Purgatory email comes in. Does that make sense?
Jack Born: Yeah, I think so. I think it’ll make sense as we go through some specific examples. ‘Cause I know you’re going to after you describe these various emails or whatever sequence you want to do it. But I know that you’re going to share some example emails that you’ve written. To me, it sounds like one of the differences that… Just to recap real quick, it sounds like you’re saying one of the differences here between these types of stories is that in one of them, you’re not trying to change their mind about what the solution is. Like, because some people… They’ve got a problem and they think they know what the solution is or what is going to get them over this hump, but it’s actually something different. And it’s from that mind shift that you enter the equation. You come into their life. But it’s first by shifting their mind before you bring them on as a client. And I think the other… Trying to remember what the other thing that I heard was. I think also another difference in the story from the way that you described it is that it’s sort of the magnitude of the problem. I guess the Inferno one is like, “This is the problem that’s on my desk right now, and I must solve this. This is what’s front of mind. This has been bothering me, keeping me up at night.” Whereas the Purgatory one, they know they have a problem, but they might’ve just put it in a box because, well, you’re like, “I’ve tried six different ways of solving it, and I haven’t been able to solve it.” Or, “Yeah, this problem is coming up. I see it on the horizon, but it’s not the thing immediately in front of me.” And now maybe you’re bringing it to the front, like having it move to the front of the queue, so to speak. Am I getting it right?
John Fancher: Yeah, I think so for sure. In Perry’s world, he often talks about, “I sell two things. I sell crack cocaine, and I sell philosophy.” He’s like, “Crack cocaine is really easy to sell.”
Jack Born: Well, and just so people understand. In the marketing world, typically, that’s traffic.
John Fancher: Yeah, right.
Jack Born: Someone wants traffic. And so the easy thing to sell that people want is the one simple solution that gets you twice as much traffic from Facebook. I’m making that up, but something like that.
John Fancher: Mm-hmm, yeah. They think that’s the problem, and they’re… A lot of ’em are addicted to traffic because that’s what they’ve known. That’s what they… They see you get more traffic. That leads to other things. Perry talks about other things: conversion, economics, and even more advanced concepts like Star principle and simplification and things like that, which are… They’re not bleeding neck problems, and they’re not crack cocaine. You gotta step back to at least 30,000 feet to think about those problems. And a lot of what we’re doing… So when Jack asked that question, I’m like, “Oh, okay. Well, maybe there are some marketers out there that don’t need to write Purgatory emails ’cause they’re not getting… They’re not necessarily needing their customers to think differently about the problem.” I don’t know. What do you think about that, Jack?
Jack Born: Well, I think someone who doesn’t need to write a Purgatory email now eventually will as your business grows and expands and as the market matures because eventually, you have to reach out to the second. It goes back to the Eugene Schwartz thing. As you expand your market base, you need to bring people into the fold where they can be served by your solution. But they don’t immediately understand the problem lurking in their business is more important than they realize, and they should be actively seeking you out. And so that’s where you enter their world and elevate that problem and connect it to the solution that you have.
John Fancher: And this is all… In Perry’s world, we have lots and lots of different sub-lists, right? So no email goes to everybody in Perry’s world. And there are people who’ve been with him, just joined, and we write certain things to them, and maybe those are mostly Inferno emails. But I think the higher we get to where we’re talking to people about his higher level mastermind programs like roundtable or advanced master network and things like that that cost tens of thousands of dollars a year, then we’re probably writing a lot more. We’re writing a lot more Purgatory emails at that level. Just getting people to think bigger, think differently, paradigm shift, things like that. So, yeah–
Jack Born: Yeah, so let’s–
John Fancher: Give them a list.
Jack Born: Yeah, so let’s dive into your description of these and–
John Fancher: Sure.
Jack Born: I know you have some advice about, like, where we should spend most of our attention because I’ve seen a preview of these slides. So yeah, let’s dive in.
John Fancher: Yeah. So again, the Inferno email is, that’s the hell email. That’s the twist the knife email. That’s where they know they have a problem but might not know how bad it is or aren’t taking it seriously enough. Haven’t been made sufficiently uncomfortable to take action to change yet. So we talked a little bit about that already. That’s the Inferno email. And the Paradise email is they know there’s a problem, and they might even know that you’re the best solution to that problem, but they don’t know they want it yet or they haven’t taken action to get it yet. Yeah, so does that make sense, the Paradise email? It’s like that’s the “vision of the better future” email. So it’s testimonials, it’s stories of customers who achieved great things. Sometimes it’s called Aspirational emails telling what they think after.
Jack Born: Yeah, I think another… So to link this to terminology that’s used in the software space and, not just software, but anyway. There’s top of funnel and bottom of funnel. So top of funnel is you’re just reaching them, and they’re… Again, they don’t… The problem is not significantly painful yet, and you’re just… This is their first contact with you. Bottom of funnel is they’ve seen a bunch of your retargeting ads, they’ve gone to some of your blog posts, and now it’s time to send them testimonials. What can we do to bring them across the line? Is that accurate?
John Fancher: Yeah, and I think the temptation for a lot of marketers is to just write Paradise emails. It’s kind of like just tell about all the awesome things that your product does and what awesome things that it could lead to. And, for the right list, for the right market, that’s appropriate. But often, those won’t work if they don’t realize they have a problem or aren’t thinking about the problem the way you want them to.
Jack Born: Let’s talk about the symptoms. Like, how would someone self-diagnose that they’re sending too many Paradise emails, and maybe their marketing, email marketing would benefit from some of these other stories? So, finish… You don’t have to say it this way, but I’m thinking in terms of you might be sending too many Paradise emails if the types of emails you send are mostly about testimonials.
John Fancher: Yeah, I think if they’re more about–
Jack Born: Features?
John Fancher: Features and benefits, for sure. But if they’re more about… Yeah, I think like success stories or… Okay, so here’s an example. Perry tries a lot of times to tell stories that are kind of the, or used to anyway, not so much anymore, but are kind of the equivalent of “I used to be a fool.” He tells the before stories a lot more than… And there’s even a word for… People in his world know that he calls them the “Pink Kool-Aid” stories, which is when he used to be in Amway, and all the mistakes he made and all the pain that caused them and all the things he believed that they shouldn’t have believed and how that slowed down his career. And I think the benefit of doing that is… There’s a lot of benefits to that. One, people go… If they’re going through the same thing, they read themselves into that story, and they go, “Oh yeah, that’s me. So this guy who knows all this great stuff and is now successful, he used to be like me. So I can do that in the future.” Whereas I think… So, if you’re writing a lot of emails about all the great things that you’ve done or all the great things that your customers have done or all the great testimonials you get, which are, those are fine. Those are all great things to do, but often people just aren’t ready to hear it yet because, again, they’re not uncomfortable with where they are yet, or they don’t see the problem the same way you see it. I think that’s a big problem. I’ve worked for a lot of people who they’re trying to get… Perry’s one of them, and I have another client named Tamara Lowe. All of her best clients are people who have tried a whole bunch of other things that did not work. And she’s trying to get them to go, “Okay, when are you going to wake up and stop doing the things that people have been telling you are the way to do it, and when are you going to wise up and do it my way?” So with those people, if they’re still thinking that the old ways are going to be the way that helps them, then just telling success stories isn’t really going to get through to them. Because you’re probably going to ask them for more money than anybody has asked them before. So it’s not just another $500 program you’re selling them because what you sell ’em works. So you gotta get ’em to shift a little bit. So does that make sense?
Jack Born: It does. So I would say, like a big takeaway so far… Before we’ve even really dissected what these emails look like, a big takeaway would be what you’re seeing in your work as an email copywriter is that your clients are not telling enough stories that really speak to the pain that their market is having in a way that really connects with them on an emotional level. And so if you can find a way, and we’re going to talk about how to do that, but once you’re able to do that more frequently, more often as a body of work, as an email sequence, as a series of email sequences, your… Someone’s results are going to improve. Because I find myself motivated to, inclined to trust someone when they can put my pain and my frustration to words in a way that I haven’t thought of before. But again, just connects with me on a visceral level. I’m like, “That hurts to read, but that’s actually what I’m going through.”
John Fancher: Yeah. My favorite way to write emails, and I just did this for Tamara a few weeks ago. She’s like, “Well, we want to… We’re going to sell this coaching program that we do, and we want to do stories of people who have been through the program. And we’re going to give you emails, and we want you to do interviews with them and transcribe ’em and turn ’em into emails.” And I’m like, “Oh, that’s perfect. I’ll do that all day long,” ’cause those are the best emails you can write, really. So I interviewed them and I… One of the things I did was I stayed in, like, the before. Like, “Tell me about where you were before you found Tamara. Tell me about the problems. Tell me about all the things you tried before, all the things that didn’t work, and what was going through your head and where you were as far as your financial situation,” and just really make the emails. When we send out the emails, we… That’s 80% of the email. And then it’s like, “And then I found Tamara.” And then the last 20% of the email is like the after story. Like, all the great things that are now happening to this person. And if you want the same thing, go here. That’s my favorite email to write. And it’s not… If you’ve got good stories, it’s not a hard email to write at all. You tell a story of pain, and there was, like, a little black box where they met Tamara, or they did something with Perry, or they did something with Jack. And then after all this great stuff happened, really quickly give some concrete results and then go here to find out more. That’s my favorite template for writing emails, and it’s, like, also the easiest ’cause I don’t have to write much. It’s just a real story. It’s something that really happened. Now you have to have those stories, of course, but most people do if you look for ’em.
Jack Born: Yeah. And even though we’re not diving too deep into the process that you were just describing, I think if someone has been in business, take a close note to what John just described, which is to interview or hire someone talented to interview your best clients. And then the tip inside of that, which is something that I sometimes share is to really, really stay in the before. Because a lot of times, especially if someone knows that they’re giving an interview like, “Hey, John. Let’s do an interview of you giving a testimony about Deadline Funnel.” A lot of people are really happy to do that. But what I find is that they jump right to how Deadline Funnel has changed their life. They don’t spend nearly enough time in the like, “Oh my gosh, I was frustrated and my Facebook costs were going up and I thought I was going to have to close the business,” and all of the stuff that happens before they finally say, “I’m going to finally try this Deadline Funnel thing,” and then their life changes. So yeah, a key part of that is really digging into, wait a second. Before we talk about, like, how your life has changed, what was the pain that brought you to this solution in the first place? Let’s talk about that.
John Fancher: Yeah, a lot of it is like… Because sometimes they’ll go, “Oh okay, I have that problem. And Deadline Funnel’s maybe one of the things that works.” They could come away from thinking that. But if you really dig into it, and they go, “I tried this, and I tried that, and I tried this, and then I tried this other thing, and they all were terrible. Then I tried Deadline Funnel.” They go, “Oh, okay. Well, I’m not going to try all those other things. I’m just going to go to the thing that works right away.” Yeah, so that’s good. Yeah, we talked about a little bit, like, how to know when to use these. And in a campaign, I’ll use all of them or a version of them, right? If it’s like a campaign of 10 emails we’re doing to promote something, then maybe 60% to 70% of ’em might be Inferno and Purgatory, and 30% of ’em might be Paradise. And it all depends again on the list and the offer and all that stuff that we talked about. But I would say, one rule of thumb is if you don’t know, when in doubt, tell an Inferno story. Tell a, “Here’s the bad stuff that was happening and all the things I tried that didn’t work and all the pain that that caused and I’m looking for a solution.” And often, that’s, like, the next step you want ’em to take if they’re at that level of awareness is sometimes it’s not even to buy, right? It’s to, “Hey, I’ve put this thing together that will give you an assessment of how bad your problem is or how likely it is you can solve it.” You’ve seen versions of that in lots and lots of markets, right, Jack? Where it’s like, “We’ll give you your something, something score or your something, IQ or your whatever,” and it gives ’em a score back. It tells them about themselves, and it goes, “Okay, you’ve got a really bad problem, so you need to do this.” Because often, at this level, it’s pretty hard to get ’em to jump from what made ’em take the problem seriously to buy. Sometimes there’s an intermediate step, especially in email. I’m often not asking for a sale in an email. I’m asking them to opt-in to something, to sign up for something, to go to a sales page, something like that.
Jack Born: Right.
John Fancher: And then if you know they’re confused or despairing or they don’t even know there’s a problem or you need to get them to think about the problem in a very different way. Like we talked about, that’s more of a paradigm shift kinda thing. That’s more of a Purgatory email. And then when they know the problem, and they know you’re the solution, that’s the better place to tell a Paradise story. And like we said, a lot of ’em rush. A lot of people rush to this version first.
Jack Born: Okay, good.
John Fancher: Okay. And we talked about this too, so can we skip that? It’s more of a… The way I put it is that Purgatory is more of an a-ha than an ouch.
Jack Born: Right.
John Fancher: Purgatory email is getting them to think differently about it and go, “Oh, I never thought about it like that before. Oh yeah, I get it now. Okay.” So an example of some Inferno emails that we sent recently were… Perry, one of his, like, side projects is that he’s curing cancer. That’s just something he’s doing on the side, is he’s curing cancer now. So I won’t go into the whole backstory of that, but he’s working with professors and oncologists and people, and he’s done symposiums, and he’s done… He’s got a whole organization that’s raising funds and supporting research and stuff. I think we’d all agree that cancer is something that we all know is a problem. He is actually asking them to think differently about it because there are some things about cancer treatment and cancer research and the system of cancer that a lot of people don’t know. But some of it is just… It’s agitating the problem even more. The reason I chose these emails is that when you’re in a market where there really is a problem, where there really is a terrible thing going on, that the system is just screwed up, it’s just a mess, often the most compelling copy is just describing a typical day. Jack mentioned earlier, “read a page from their diary,” right? And if you can do that, what we did here was literally that. So Perry has a friend whose wife is going through breast reconstruction process after breast cancer treatment. And he wrote in his journal about their visits to various doctors and stuff and all the crap that they went through and the terrible customer service and just the humiliation and the shame and the embarrassment. And it was… The emails were… This is a fundraising kind of campaign, but the emails were just basically, “Here’s what we’re trying to solve,” and we didn’t comment really at all on what Robert had written, what Perry’s friend had written. We just, this is his journal. This is what we’re trying to fix. We don’t want your wife, your daughter, your mother, whomever to have to go through this. And this is what we’re finding. So yeah, there… It’s almost, like, difficult to read, of course. But, let’s see, what do I need to do to get to that? I need to go change what I’m sharing, right?
Jack Born: No, I see your screen.
John Fancher: Oh, you do, okay. There we go. So I think it’s this one. Yes, so there’s the… Can you see that?
Jack Born: Mm-hmm, yup.
John Fancher: Okay. So as you can see, the title of the first one was “When They’re Lopping Off a Breast, the Customer Service is Terrible.” I won’t read all of them ’cause we chopped it up into like four, but I can read, like, maybe the first or whatever you want to hear. This is from the diary of my longtime colleague and client. “My only comment on this: The work we’re doing to fund cancer research is aimed at saving other wives, husbands, partners, children, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers from this sort of ‘treatment.'” And then it launches into the journal. “Visiting plastic surgeon number two to discuss mastectomy reconstruction. Strike one: No directions other than address. Google did a job of getting us there, and it was a confusing, circuitous route to access the building. Strike 2: $200 fee for an initial consult. For… what, exactly? Strike 3: 12-page stack of forms to complete. Could’ve been sent in advance. Wife: ‘Well, with everything going on, they might’ve sent them to me, and I just missed it.’ Me: ‘Even if they had, they couldn’t have called the day before to confirm receipt and remind you? Who’s life is made better by doing it this way?’ And now that these three events have raised suspicion, included in the packet: a form indicating that this physician carries no malpractice insurance. Was that designed to inspire confidence? Strike 4: 17 minutes later, we hand in the paperwork. The other patients have been seen this whole time. We’re the only ones in the waiting room. Occasionally, a medical staffer returns from lunch, carefully avoiding eye contact. No movement, no progress, no indication of what’s next. Do all physician’s offices suck this bad? Strike 5: The floor is dirty. You can hear and feel the grit under the soles of your shoes. They handle minor procedures in here, don’t they? Strike 6: No indication as to when the hell we’re actually going to see someone who self-identifies as a physician. Two outs, nobody on. Strike…” So I don’t know, Jack. Do I need to–
Jack Born: It’s painting a very detailed and bleak painting of someone’s literal day. Yeah, that’s–
John Fancher: Yeah, that is exactly… So the reason I chose that one, and we didn’t talk about this one before today. But I just thought it was such a perfect example of if you solve a problem and you can get somebody to describe a day where they go through the problems that you can solve, or you can get close to that, I mean, that’s the most powerful. I mean, I don’t know how everybody watching this felt. But even reading it again, and I’ve read this like 30 times, I wanted to keep reading to see what was going to happen.
Jack Born: So you kinda touched on something that I was going to ask next. And that was… I’m just thinking, if I’m watching this and I think, “Okay, I want to write an email that really speaks to someone’s pain and what they’re going through.” But, I’m not dealing with anything even coming close to the importance or magnitude of cancer research and what people go through who are suffering from this. How am I going to be able to use this? And you touched on that, but why don’t you speak to that a little bit more? Because a lot of us just sell software or coaching services, and these solve real pain points. But talk to how someone could use a Purgatory story in that sense.
John Fancher: An Inferno story?
Jack Born: Yeah, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Yes, an Inferno story.
John Fancher: Well, yeah. I mean, cancer’s an “easy one,” right, because everyone knows how bad cancer is. If your product or solution does a good job of solving a problem, then someone has had a big problem in the past, or you wouldn’t have come up with your solution, hopefully, right? You’re fixing some problem with your solution, and you’re hopefully fixing it better than someone else, or someone else’s solution is fixing it. So your Inferno email might not be like this, but you’ve certainly got stories where people have spent way too much time solving a problem, wasted too much money. I mean, as far as software sales and installations and things like that go, I mean, there are, like, horror stories abound in that industry.
Jack Born: Yeah, I think… Tell me if you agree with this. And I think this is one of the things that you do naturally because it’s part of what you do. So when I read your emails and the emails of other what I consider to be really talented copywriters of your caliber, one of the things that I noticed that feels different than less talented copywriters is that it’s painting a detailed scene. Now, this one happens to be pulled from someone’s diary, and so they’ve, I’m sure you massaged the copy a little bit, but they’ve pulled the, they’ve written the scene for you. But whether you’re selling software or coaching program or an online course or a physical product that someone’s going to get it in the mail, it’s probably solving a problem. And I think what a lot of email copy is missing is really bringing someone into the scene. And so I don’t know if you would agree with this part, but I like to ask myself or teach people, if this were a movie, if you said, “Okay, don’t…” Rather than you writing an email that says, “I bet you’re really frustrated with X, Y, and Z,” if we said instead, “Okay, you’ve got to write a script that paints the scene of what’s going on. Paint the movie scene so that when we film this, someone’s going to go, ‘Oh man, I’m so emotionally there with what someone is going through.'” How do you feel about that concept?
John Fancher: Well, yeah. I mean, I agree 100%. So one of the things that I try to do is when I write an email, I usually write the first draft really fast, right? I just get it out. And then I look at it, and I go, “Usually, there’s something at the very beginning that is like dull or…” It’s just me… We call it clearing your throat, which is like, “Oh, hey, I want to tell you this story about this guy who did this because you probably have this problem.” Why not just launch right into it? It’s an old dramatic, what, mechanism or technique or whatever it’s called in medias res. And all it really means is jumping into the middle of the story without any prologue. So in the… What is it? Not the Odyssey, the other one… The Iliad. Rather than Homer going, “Okay, well, there’s this woman, and she was married to a king, and this guy kidnapped her, and everybody got really upset. So they went over, and they started a war.” He doesn’t do that. He just starts, like, the Greeks are… The arrows are raining down on the Greeks, and they’re wondering, “What the heck’s going on?” And he starts there. He just starts in the middle of ahh! So that’s in medias res. What that means is just starting at the most interesting part. Now, we did give a little bit of an introduction on this one, but we got into Robert’s stuff, like, right away pretty much. A little short introduction, and then we jumped into the story. The other thing is just, and often just telling stories does this anyway, but it makes things as concrete as possible. Give details. Give, like, time and date, and location details. It’s almost like the journalism thing of who, what, when, where, how, why thing. Whenever you read a good newspaper article, you try to do all those things to really tell a concrete, engaging story. Another one, too, is if you can replace lecturing with, like, dialogue. Dialogue is more engaging and more story-like than me telling you the three reasons you need to do dot, dot, dot. It’s like having a conversation. One of our favorite emails to write is, “Hey, just got an email from so-and-so.” And then we say what they, rather than saying something like, “Oh, hey. Here’s one of the most common questions I ever get. A question I get a lot is this. And here’s what you should do if you have this question.” A better way to do it is, “Hey, I just got this email from Jack. And Jack does this, and Jack asked this,” and you just print it out like we did here as an email, exactly the way Jack says it. And then go, “And here’s my email reply to Jack,” and you can just put it right there. And the email was like, “Hey, if you have Jack’s question and you want to blah, blah, blah, then go here.” Yeah. Is that…?
Jack Born: I also… Yeah, yeah. So I want to ask something, a question about something that feels pretty deep in the weeds, but we’re here to learn about copy. I noticed that in the telling of, in this journal entry, the verbs are in present tense. So it’s not “she went into the room during a conversation, whereas the physician introduced herself,” it’s all present tense. And I find that the choice of verb tense can have a big impact. What are your thoughts on that?
John Fancher: Well, like, the best words in copy are concrete nouns and active verbs. So the more you can stay concrete noun, active verb, concrete noun, active verb, the better the copy is going to be. So the further you get from those, the weaker your copy gets in general. So if you use… So, like, the weakest part of speech in language is the adverb because it’s a modifier of a modifier of a… It’s very far away from bear eats. It’s bear eats, whatever, slowly or something like that. So that’s a little bit language-nerdy, but yeah. And to put it in what’s called “active voice,” right? The subject-verb. Someone does this, someone does this. And present tense is always, it’s like right here, right? It’s happening right now, rather than in the future or in the past. So those are my… So eliminate adverbs with extreme prejudice and then eliminate adjectives, too, as much as you can because those are the two words that will go, “Okay, I should replace this adverb with a more active verb. And I should replace this adjective with a concrete noun, a more concrete noun.” When I see a lot of adjectives in my writing or a lot of adverbs, I just go, “Okay, something needs to change.” And there’s a tool called Hemingway App. Hemingwayapp.com. Something like that. And it’ll highlight all your adverbs for you. I think adjectives are harder to find. So it won’t do that for you, but it’ll highlight ’em all. And I look at it and go, “Okay, a bunch of adverbs in there. This is weak copy probably.”
Jack Born: Yeah. So you were mentioning before that you typically write the first draft as quickly as possible, just crank it out, and then you go back through. And so it sounds like one of the tips would be to look for adverbs, try to remove the adverbs, look for adjectives, see if you can change things up, but then, also focus, give a lot of attention on the verbs. Are you using… Is there a more powerful verb that you can use? And then I would say, play with tenses. If you find that you’ve been using… First of all, have you been mixing it up and not even realizing it? I do that sometimes. So sometimes you want to change from present tense to past tense or vice versa. But play around with things. See how the story feels. If you said, “Okay, what would this email feel like if I change the story so that all the verbs were present tense,” and then read it out loud and see how that feels. And then conversely, if you tend to write in present tense, change it to past tense. How does it feel? And so, I think one of those will feel like it has more impact when you read it.
Yeah, I agree. I would also recommend that you give a little space between doing those two things.
Jack Born: Yeah.
At least with the way my brain works, it works very differently when I’m writing than when I’m revising. So I try not to write and then revise right away. I try to walk away and let my brain go into revision mode. Come back and then go, “Okay.”
Jack Born: And then another one that you mentioned that I think is really, really important is also to think about, especially if you’re telling a story, is there a place in the story that you could use dialogue? ‘Cause that can really bring someone into the story very quickly.
John Fancher: Yeah, it’s like what you mentioned. You mentioned a movie script. A lot of, like, movies, the plot, I mean, yeah, there’s action, of course. But a lot of the plot moves along with dialogue, the things that people say, and you don’t have a narrator often. Sometimes you do, but you often don’t have a narrator, like, every three paragraphs coming in and saying, “And then.” So you’re doing a lot of that. If you’re doing a lot of, like, narrating or… What do they call it? Exposition in movies. It’s like, “Okay, how can I maybe replace this exposition with the story or dialogue or something like that.” Yeah.
Jack Born: Yeah. Do you have another Inferno story or email?
John Fancher: No, let’s–
Jack Born: Okay, you want to move on?
John Fancher: Yeah, let’s do a Purgatory one.
Jack Born: Yep.
John Fancher: Let me see if I can find it. Is it this one, maybe? I don’t know where I put it. Let me see which one this is. Yeah, there we go, okay. And I originally thought this was an Inferno email. But I’ve changed my mind on it based on the question Jack asked. So this was for a seminar. And it was probably the most, I don’t know, philosophical seminar Perry’s ever done. He called it the Truth Seminar. So it was, like, the furthest thing he’s ever done from what we would call the crack cocaine traffic. He does traffic seminars just about every year. And those are like, “Hey, we’re going to tell you the latest, greatest stuff you need to know to get more traffic and higher converting traffic and all that.” He does those. But he also likes to do these philosophical ones. So this is one where we had to try a lot of different things to get people to sort of, like, make a paradigm shift, right? We had to tell stories to get them to think about a problem in a different way. And for seminars like this, we will send 30 to 40 emails to promote it. So this is just one of them that we set. And I’ll just read it. “On July 2nd, 1881, at Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, DC, Charles Guiteau shot President James Garfield in the back. 79 days later, Garfield died. 79 days! Seems like a long time, right? Why did it take Garfield so long to die? Because the bullet had lodged in Garfield’s back, just behind his pancreas. And the doctors couldn’t find it. So over the next 78 days they rooted around in Garfield’s body with their grubby fingers and unsterilized knife-o-scopes. Infection ravaged his body all through the sweltering summer. Fevers, extreme pain, massive weight loss, hallucinations, pus-filled abscesses all over his body, spasms of angina.” I knew that was going to happen. “He eventually died of a ruptured splenic artery aneurism following sepsis and bronchial pneumonia. But Garfield would not have died if X-rays and sterilization methods were around in 1881. They would’ve found that bullet and plucked it out. Instead, he agonized for almost three months and died what sounds like a pretty gruesome death. Why am I telling you about a dead president from the Gilded Age? Because your business model, your market, your product, your industry, your personal brand might have a bullet lodged in it. And there are two things you cannot do: 1. ignore it, 2. go digging around with old tools trying to find it… looking for bullets in all the wrong places… just making the wound worse. You need to perform an X-ray on it fast… before it turns into an infection and gets out of control. I’ve got that X-ray. And I’ll reveal it at my Truth Seminar. Find out more and register here.” And then it takes them to the sales page, where they read the sales page. It’s kind of the opposite of crack cocaine, right? So this is saying you could very well have a hidden problem, a problem you don’t even know about, right, that’s lodged in there. Now, Garfield definitely knew he had a problem.
Jack Born: Right.
John Fancher: I mean, he felt it. But what we’re saying here is it’s going to get worse and worse and worse and worse if you don’t do something to find it. And I’ve got that in my… I’m going to tell you how to do that at the seminar. So it is kind of getting them to think differently about the fact that they might have a problem, right? It’s not like you are currently going through this problem. And a lot of times when you’re facing that, the story that you need to tell sometimes is like this. It’s like a story from history that’s an analogy. It’s like a parable. It’s something that’s like something that’s going on, but not exactly like it, and you need to… In order to get them to shift their thinking, you need to go, “You know what, what you’re going through right now is a lot more like this than you realize. You’re more like a president with a bullet in his pancreas than you realize.” So I don’t know, does that make sense?
Jack Born: Yeah, yeah.
John Fancher: This worked, by the way. It got more clicks than any other email, so.
Jack Born: Yeah, so maybe the mental linkage… Just for memory’s sake, the mnemonic would be Purgatory is like a parable. So in many cases, you’re telling somewhat of a parable or a metaphor to help someone think about their situation differently. Because the message that you’re trying to get across here with your metaphor seems to be very clear to me that you have a problem. We both do. Like, your business isn’t where it could be. The problem is worse than it is. You can’t ignore it. And if you try to self-diagnose it, you could make it worse. And so how about I just help you out?
John Fancher: Right, and it’s trying to make a… It’s trying to really agitate the problem on something that’s pretty abstract really. This seminar that we’re trying to sell, Truth Seminar, it was… We had trouble coming up with angles for it because it is so not bleeding neck. It’s so not, “Oh, I know I have this problem. I know I have to be there.” So this was trying to make it, like, as gruesome and as urgent as we can. It’s like, “Oh, if I’ve got that, then I need what Perry has or what he’s going to show at the seminar.” Like that, so correct.
Jack Born: Yeah, so one of the things that I’ve taught students before is to start to create a bank, a repository, of your own stories. And it could be your own stories, it could be your client’s stories, but just have a place where you have no idea where the, like, how the story fits. What am I going to do with this? Don’t even worry about it. Just document the story. It doesn’t need to even be… You don’t need to write the whole story. Just two sentences so that when you come back and look in your Evernote or your notes or whatever, your Google Drive, whatever it is that you’re using, you’re like, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” So just enough information to document the story because stories will bubble up all the time. Get them out of your head and document them. But the other place, and this email is a perfect example of this, would be either popular media or stories that you’ve heard on a podcast or if you watch the History Channel, maybe you see something about this or if you read a book. Anything is fair game. So some story that’s completely unconnected, and you think, “I don’t know where this story fits in, but this is a fascinating story.” So just try to… I recommend that anyone who wants to get better at email copywriting or telling better stories, it could be presenting from the stage, that you just look for interesting stories. Don’t worry about, “How does this connect?” Just document the story. If it interests you, it’s probably going to interest someone else. And you might write down ten and only have one gold nugget story that you can connect, but it’s going to be a lot easier to have a large catalog of stories that you can look through and go, “Oh, you know what, that fits this perfectly because this is just like this other thing.” I’m trying to convince people that they can’t see their own problem and the problem is much worse than they think it is. And if they leave it untreated or try to treat it themselves or treat the wrong problem, they’re going to make it way worse. That connects with this story. Boom, I’ve got my email, right?
John Fancher: Correct, yeah. I think especially if you are trying to get people to think differently about a problem, then parables and stories from, like, outside of business can be really helpful ’cause it gets them to think of the problem in a different way. So this was a good one for Perry’s group because they… A lot of ’em are interested in history, and they will listen to stories like this, and they like this kind of storytelling, but there might be something for your market. Your market likes stories about dot, dot, dot, fill in the blank. Like all of our people are “Lord of the Rings” fans.
Jack Born: Right, yeah.
John Fancher: So if I tell ’em a “Lord of the Rings” story and make an analogy with that, they’ll eat that up or they, whatever it is. Like Jack said, any pop culture or media that they consume a lot of, if you can draw analogies from any of that stuff or any of those stories, that’s–
Jack Born: There’s a handful of podcasts that I listen to that are just about interesting stories about stuff that you’ve never heard that I just… I listen to them because they entertain me, but it’s not uncommon for me to go, “Okay, I have no clue where that story is going to fit in.” But I listen to this podcast for 45 minutes, just completely enthralled to hear how this story unravels. There’s probably… Like, if I could somehow weave this into an email at some point down the road, it’s going to be amazing. Like, just one example that just popped into my head was there was a story… I heard a podcast of after Einstein died, they didn’t know what to do with his brain, and one of the people doing the autopsy actually took his brain and took it home with him and stored it in his fridge. And like, then the story goes on from there. So it’s like, holy cow. Like, one of the smartest people in the world, one of the most famous people in the world, and the dude’s brain is in someone’s fridge. I’m like, “How that whole story unraveled, why he did it.” Yeah, like all that stuff. So it was just a fascinating story. Where does that fit in? I don’t know. But it’s interesting, right?
John Fancher: Yeah, sure. So tell me some podcasts. What do you listen to?
Jack Born: Yeah, one of them is… So where that one came from is, real quick, Radiolab.
John Fancher: Okay, mm-hmm.
Jack Born: And they just have some super interesting stories. And you can go back years and years and years if you’ve never heard of it before. They’re really very evergreen. So, a story… One of the stories that they covered was the guy who did all the voices for, I think it was Hanna-Barbera. He did like… It’s either… Yeah, I think it was Hanna-Barbera, or the Looney Tunes, or something like that. He did like almost all of the voices.
John Fancher: All of ’em, yeah.
Jack Born: And he was in a car accident, went into a coma, and he was non-responsive until his son started talking to him in one of those voices. And then he was actually responding.
John Fancher: Wow.
Jack Born: Yeah, so I mean, just super fascinating stories. And yeah, there’s other ones like that. I would have to… Several of the podcasts… Another one that I listen to sometimes is like, “This American Life” or stuff from… What’s the channel? I’m blanking on the channel. It’s like public… It’s not public radio, but it’s the–
John Fancher: NPR?
Jack Born: NPR, thank you. Yeah, NPR. So NPR has several podcasts that are good. Just, yeah, stories that you just have not come across. And then they bring it to life in a way that is meant to hold your attention while you’re listening to the podcast. And so, I find that some of those stories are just incredible.
John Fancher: Yep, I’ll throw in “Revisionist History,” “Cautionary Tales,” and “Happiness Lab.” And they’re all–
Jack Born: Oh, beautiful.
John Fancher: They’re all Pushkin podcasts. Malcolm Gladwell. They’re all under his podcast umbrella. I think there’s probably, like, 13 or 14 of ’em by now, but those are the three I like the most. “Revisionist History” is his. It’s his baby. And then the other two are just sort of spinoffs or whatever, but they’re great. And the same way, they’re all… “Cautionary Tales” and”Revisionist History” are very much story-based, but they’re great. And then the same thing, I get ideas for emails all the time. And I’m always thinking that, too. The other day I was at a Perry seminar thing, and this guy was a, he’s a Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu or something instructor, and he said, “Well, every fight starts vertically, but every fight ends horizontally.” And I’m like, I don’t know why, but that phrase is stuck in my head. Like, “There’s an email in there somewhere.”
Jack Born: Yeah, yeah.
John Fancher: Like, it all starts up here. But eventually, you’re going to get down on the ground and dirty. So I know what you mean.
Jack Born: Oh, okay. So I think we tackled the Purgatory example. The metaphor, the parable, getting someone to an aha moment so that they’re ready to take action. Let’s talk…
John Fancher: Well, I think that the final one is… In a lot of ways, it’s the easiest one to write, I think. But I’ll just read one here. This is just like aspirational or whatever. “If you’d like to be the next Planet Perry superstar. When I did my now legendary Star Principle Seminar with Richard Koch, his net worth was about 200 million.” It’s now… Actually, it’s now 1.2 billion. So if we sent that out again, we’d revise it. “What Richard teaches works. And it worked for Planet Perry as well. Some of my long-time and Private Clients have made the shift from marketing tactics to high-level strategy and experienced massive success.” Now, this isn’t necessarily a story email, but it’s got basically seven little stories built into it, right? It’s got Ed, who sold his Loan Builder to PayPal for huge money. Donnie Wyatt sold a lot of money. But the reason there are many stories is that the list that this would be sent to is Perry’s highest level list. Like, the five stars and Infusionsoft list is who this would go to. And a lot of people on that list would actually know some of these names, okay? And I’ve heard of them before. And to see it listed out like this is like, “Oh, it’s specific examples, specific examples, specific examples, specific examples.” And they were all either Private Client or clients of Perry’s at one time, et cetera. And it’s basically if you want to aspire to be like these people, then you should consider Private Client group, which is one of his coaching programs. So it’s not exactly a story, but it is seven little stories sort of baked in. Does that make sense? And then we–
Jack Born: Yeah. It’s sort of a catalog. “Catalog” isn’t the right word I want to use, but anyway. It’s a series of proof points. As you mentioned, kinda mini stories, but they’re delivering proof of success, right? And so this feels like a, very much like what we called earlier a bottom… My terminology that I’m borrowing from elsewhere. I didn’t come up with this. But “bottom-funnel email,” where someone realizes they have a problem and now it’s bringing them across the finish line like, here’s the proof. Here’s the proof. Here’s the proof.”
John Fancher: And then, again, if we go back to, like, a level of awareness or what particular list these people are in that are receiving this email, these are people who totally already buy into that Perry is a good solution. I mean, they’ve already bought lots of stuff from him. And they’ve been in his world for a long time, and we’re trying to get them to join a very high-level coaching program of Perry’s. So we don’t need necessarily to do as much of that problem agitation, Inferno, Purgatory stuff. Some Purgatory, for sure, we’ll do that with this group. Get ’em to think about things a little bit differently than they have in the past. But a lot of it is just, “Hey, you know me, and you know that I know my stuff, and I have this great program, and we’re taking applications for it now. So if you want to be like these guys, then go here to find out more.”
Jack Born: Right.
John Fancher: And if you have a list that’s like that, Schwartz’s, like, top-level of awareness is they are the ones that already know you are the best solution for the problem. And for those, he says, basically, all you have to do is say, “20% off until Friday.” Right, ’cause they already know all the other stuff.
Jack Born: Or just so people don’t confuse what you said is that you needing to throw a discount, but you could say, “I’m now taking enrollments again.”
John Fancher: Yeah, right.
Jack Born: So there is a discount, but like, I’ve opened up a spot for someone to jump in.
John Fancher: Yeah, right, for sure. So there’s not much Inferno or agitation to the pain. There’s a little bit of that, but mostly it’s how… This one in particular. It’s Casey’s rise to selling his business for a lot of money.
Jack Born: Got you. Let’s just look at the shape of this, the story. So two things I want to point out is that if we look at the second line where you write “back in 2013,” this reminds me of one of the emails that you showed a little bit earlier. And I forget whether it was the first or the second email, but it was, “it started with on this date.” Actually, it was the… I think it was the president getting shot in the pancreas. It’s talking about, like, on this date, on this time such and such happened. As soon as you start using that formula, it’s almost like once upon a time. People automatically go into, “Oh, I’m being told a story,” and you have them hooked for a little bit because they want to know, “Well, what happened at this time?” So if you can just scroll back up to… I can’t see the top. “But back in 2013, after years of backbreaking,” blah, blah, blah, “Casey found himself $80,000 in debt.” So you’re setting the stage, and someone’s going to wonder, “How did he solve this problem?” So you told a story, but then… So I think the reason why you’ve classified this as a Paradise email is because you’re showcasing, even though you’re telling it in a form of a story, you’re showcasing that Casey got this amazing result, and now Casey is going to share what he learned with you. Is that correct?
John Fancher: Correct, right. How he went from $80,000 a month to… How he went to $80,000 a month in 90 days, hauling in over two million a year. This was written a while ago, and this is about Casey Graham. I mean, if we were to write this again, we would put in the fact that Casey sold his business for eight-figures. So this is an even bigger story than it is now. It’s more of a Paradise story than it even was when we wrote this. And yeah, and that Casey will show you some of the things. How to create a predictable business, how to launch, all the things that he did to get where he is. So there’s not much agitation of the pain at all. It’s kind of like, “If you’re in this situation and you want what Casey has, then join us on the webinar or find out more here.”
Jack Born: Yeah, yeah. So we’ve covered the three emails. We’ve covered the Inferno email, the Purgatory email, the Paradise email. Some of the big takeaways that I just want to recap, I think it was really important that… You see a lot of emails that your clients have written, and you’re going in, and you’re taking a look at their body of work and then try to figure out how you can take that client to the next level. And you said that not enough, either Purgatory or Inferno emails, but particularly Inferno emails, have been written. That too many people write the Paradise email of “Client had this amazing change. If you want that amazing change, click here,” but not talking to the pain enough. That was one of the big ones. And then I thought a really interesting thing that we covered that wasn’t intended to be part of the presentation, but I’m really glad that we talked about, was after you write the first draft, how do you go through and start to improve that email before you send it out? So, obviously, give your head some time to relax, walk around, maybe give it a day or two. But then when you come back, start going through the editing process and focus in on removing adverbs, removing… We didn’t talk about this one, but overcomplicated, highfalutin words unless there’s really a specific reason to use it in there. But typically, try to get it down to a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level. Focus on the verbs. Try to remove adjectives when possible. Don’t overdo it with the adjectives. Play around with the tense. Those present tense or past tense work. And then, when you’re telling a story, are there areas where you can add in dialogue? We talked about in medias res… Which, by the way, if you want to see a perfect example of in medias res, go back and watch the first episode of “Breaking Bad.” That had me hooked right from the very first episode. Just for those of you who either don’t recall or haven’t seen it, picture a middle-aged white guy with a gas mask on driving an RV trailer in his tighty-whities with possibly dead people sloshing around in the back of the RV as he drives through the Arizona desert. And that’s like the… That’s the opening scene.
John Fancher: Exactly.
Jack Born: As the RV goes by, his pants float down from the sky. What is going on?