Broken typewriter – doesn’t autocorrect misspellings.

I started writing fiction when I was 6 years old. I’ve written damn-near every day since then and have been fortunate enough to find my work published in various literary magazines that you’ve never heard of or need to.

With that said, marketing copy is a new venture for me. This “world” of language interests me as a new avenue to take with my words: new ways to appeal to reader’s emotions, experiences, and worldview. To get my learn on in this field, I’ve scoured countless articles and books, each saying similar things and promising the same results.

From what I’ve read thus far, it boils down to this: blow smoke up your reader’s ass. Turn yourself into a factory, ignite the flames, and let the steamy goodness pour from your fingertips.

My eyes have rolled so many times I’ve lost 4 pounds chasing them around the office – so I suppose there is at least one benefit to this method. But when I’m doing my thing on the Internet, I quickly closeout these pop-up opt-ins for the same reasons each and every time:

They’re often gimmicky and they’re often mean-spirited.

Worse yet is just how often the authors position themselves as nerdy. Then you scroll down to a picture of an attractive, big-smiled person with impeccable hair. You’re not fooling anyone – and if I can’t trust your own self-awareness how can I trust your other words?

So today, we’ll look at some types of opt-ins and whether or not they’ll yield the results you’re looking for. (Hint: it varies depending on your industry and ideal customer)

Forming the Words to Say…

What these “How to Write Better Calls to Action” articles do get right is their insistence to avoid lazy verbiage like the Zika virus – just maybe not phrased exactly like that.

Would you sign up for something that asked for your email this way:

  • Sign Up For Our Newsletter
  • Join Our Newsletter

I’m fairly certain the writer of these two fell asleep while writing them. I yawned typing them out. If these took more than 1 minute to create, it was time ill-spent.

The articles are right. Avoid this copy like it’s your boss. It’s boring. You’re not providing a benefit or anything worthwhile. Drop this like a bad habit.

Now we get into murkier waters – waters filled with mosquitos possibly carrying Zika (I’m not giving up that image).

cockroach marketing
“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous marketer.”

Some articles suggest tailoring your opt-ins in this way:

    • Join Our Growing Community
    • Join 12,000 People and Counting
    • Join Us

Unless your organization is actually a cult you should consider avoiding these, too. Reading these appeals to a sense of community, a fear of exclusion; ostracization. But with society as it is, “Join” can be read in a negative/skeptical context. Go ahead, say “Join Us” out loud. You may or may not have said it in a really scary voice, beckoning some poor soul into your pyramid scheme.

“Muahaha” these copywriters chide, rubbing their dirty hands together.

Don’t do this. Don’t be them.

False Promises

Maybe even worse than the above-mentioned examples are the calls to action that present themselves as something so incredible that you’d be a damned fool not to take advantage.

Truthfully, your audience will feel like bigger fools for “taking advantage” of these hyped-up, often-flaccid offers.

Here’s an example:

“Jot down your email for your FREE, incredible, life changing guide to shedding pounds in 1 day!”

It must be nearing the holidays – and your audience has been so good all year! Finally a gift – a precious, precious gift. So your audience flash-types their email address and prepares for a new standard of living. Charts unknown. They take advantage…

…of your 4 page eBook.

Ralphie Got His Gun
Sheer moments before tragedy

Ever seen A Christmas Story?

Remember how Ralphie so desperately wanted a Red Rider BB Gun only to (SPOILER ALERT) shoot himself with the thing the moment he got it? Everybody warned the kid, but he wasn’t having it. Now he knows better. So does your audience – you just pissed in their cereal.

That’s a two-fold metaphor – it works for the reader and the writer. You’ve both shot yourselves. For the reader by allowing this opt-in to hype them in a way that could only let them down – and by the writer who knew it would work. Congratulations to you both.

Fine, Go Ahead, Don’t Sign Up, Whatever

Here’s my personal favorite, and I’m seeing these things everywhere.


“Shed the Debt! Live Free! Die Hard!

No thanks, I love accumulating debt and just wish I had more.

Every single time I happen to glance at these opt-ins, I have the same thought:

Oh, F you.”

taking ball homeLife is very-often NOT an either-or scenario. Just because somebody doesn’t want to opt-in doesn’t mean they ENJOY the opposite end of the spectrum. They just don’t like your offer. Simple as that. This kind of passive-aggressive copywriting only works to make your organization appear condescending. Is it?

Placing blame on the reader for not taking advantage is the marketing equivalent of taking your ball and going home.

Were you that kid? Don’t be that adult. Stop being pouty and engage your visitors with respect to themselves, their time, and their email. Respect your own organization by offering high-value content, real rewards, and the things your audience wish they had instant access to.

This is where you have to really dig in and get yourself out of the “cookie-cutter” CTA mentality. This is where you realize whether or not you know your audience.

But more on how to write better calls to action next time…

I need to sit back and calm down.