Joanna Wiebe, Co-founder, Copy Hackers
Joanna Wiebe isn’t someone that’s focused on money, a statement that some of entrepreneurs would be horrified by. However what she is passionate about is words, the power of them, and their ability to inspire, convince, and persuade.
It’s this passion for writing that has led her to create one of the most premiere copywriting services in the world where her skill as a wordsmith is sought after by hundreds of businesses. She doesn’t do this by making good copy, she does it by making GREAT copy.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to separate yourself from the pack and have your voice get noticed then you need yourself some great copy.
Which is why you’ll absolutely love this episode where Joanna takes us through the ins and outs of how to make great copy, and how you can use it to convert like crazy.
- The building blocks of what makes great copy
- How to use the power of words to instantly grab someone’s interest, turn then into a friend, and make them a customer
- The power of using the right words, how to find out what your customers are saying and take advantage of it
- Why you the last thing you want to be is just like everyone else
- A full breakdown of how Foundr’s own copy stacks up from the master!
Full Transcript of Podcast With Joanna Wiebe
Nathan: Hey guys. Welcome to another episode of the “Foundr” podcast. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight, from wherever you are around the world. Hope you’re having a fantastic day. Really excited to share my voice with your earbuds. I hope you’re enjoying our episodes.This episode is with Joanna Wiebe from copyhackers.com, and she’s a copywriting master. What’s really cool about Joanna is, she’s all about writing copy that converts. And it doesn’t just sound cool, but she’s all about making it convert. And what does a conversion mean? Whether that gets more sales, whether it’s more leads, opt-ins, traffic, clicks, you name it. And what’s really cool about this episode is, I actually, you know, put us, “Foundr” in our work, out into the open, and she does a copy tear down on us.And there’s so much gold that Joanna shares this on, how to write compelling copy, and most of all, how to write copy that converts. So, that’s it from me. I hope you’re enjoying these interviews. If you do have a second, please do take the time to leave us a review. It helps more than you can imagine. It helps us grow. It helps spread the word.
And I just wanna say, if you are enjoying these episodes, tell a friend. You know, recommend it to any of your entrepreneurial friends or any of your friends that might be interested in entrepreneurship because it helps. Just a way of saying thank you for this free content that we’re putting out just for you. So, that’s it from me guys. Let’s jump into the show. Joanna’s gonna rock your world. She is amazing. Boom. Let’s do this.
Just, first of all, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I’m gonna ask you a question that I ask everyone that comes on, and that is, how did you get your job?
Joanna: I made my job.
Nathan: And can you tell us…
Joanna: That’s the best way to get a job, is to make one.
Nathan: And can you tell us about that? Just a little bit of your background and how you got into copy or, you know, becoming a great copywriter, then starting Copy Hackers, and, yeah.
Joanna: Yeah, that’s what started…I’ve been pretty good at falling into a relatively decent amount of success in life. You know, I look at people who are able to look back and reflect on the key moments in their lives that…like, the decisions that they made that brought them somewhere, and I really, I really wish that I had strong, well-founded decisions that brought me to this point, but, I think, like a lot of people, you end up somewhere, then you can kind of like, go backward, you know, and build the bridge that got you there, like, right, go backward and look at what happened and pretend you knew, but I didn’t.
I started by, I went to school as an English major, which is like the least lucrative degree you could possibly get. My sister said it was a degree in basket weaving. That was what my wonderful sister said about my degree. And she wasn’t necessarily that far off except, actually, she was. You learn, you learn a lot, right? When you get to do something that you love. And I just loved reading and writing, so I did that, and then, narrowly escaped law school, and got a job at an agency.
A B2B agency in Canada as their first writer. Yeah. And that worked out really, really well. It was actually as a creative writer. That was the title that I chose, strangely. I thought that was better than a copywriter because I didn’t know what a copywriter was, and it sounded boring to me. So I went with creative writer, and, yeah, that was how it started, my life as a copywriter.
I spent a couple of years under the agency, and then I moved over to the software giant Intuit, makers of QuickBooks and TurboTax, and, of course, Mints they acquired, things like that. So, I was there for about five years, and that was fantastic, except I didn’t like my boss for the last year of my time there, and I accidentally quit my job. I sent the email that you write when you’re really angry, and then you mean to delete it. Instead of hitting “delete,” I hit “send” and it, well…
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Joanna: I know. But it was one of those things that had to happen to push me in the direction that I was scared to go in. Otherwise, I think a lot of people feel the same way. They know they’re entrepreneurial, they know that they wanna do something for themselves, that brings value to lots of other people, but you’re scared to do it. And I was. I was scared to go to my own and freelance even, right, which a lot of people do, but I was really scared that it would be very hard to find clients, to keep clients, that I’d have to charge like $20 an hour, all that terrible stuff.
So, anyway, so I accidentally quit my job at Intuit, but in the year leading up to that moment, I was working with some startups that I’d met on Hacker News. So, anybody who’s familiar with the Hacker News community or news.ycombinator.com, they know that’s like, it’s traditionally been a very active community for people in startups.
And so, yeah. So I was hanging out on Hacker News during, well, all my time at Intuit, but in that last year, it was around October of the year I was leaving, so 2010, I think it was, when a gentleman named Shereef Bishay. He posted on Hacker News, he did an “Ask HN”. That’s how you ask the Hacker News Community to take a look at something you’re working on and give you feedback. And so I was one of the people who gave him feedback. It was for this solution called BetterMeans, which was project management software for developers, for programmers, and engineers in particular.
It was a very jargon, heavy homepage that he sent along. And I was like, “Okay. I can help him, right? I can do something.” So, I commented on the Hacker News post, and then I sent along, separately, by email, I sent him a PowerPoint deck I’d put together, of the different things I would do, if I was working on his copy, not pitching myself to work on it because I was at Intuit, and I wasn’t trying to get any freelancing work, I was still at Intuit.
And so, yeah, so I sent that to him, and then about a month later, I got home, it was my birthday. And I got home from dinner, and my inbox is packed. And I was like, “What is going on here?” And Shereef had taken that deck, he’d posted it on Hacker News in a “Show HN,” that was all about how the Hacker News community is such a good, giving community. We all help each other. And he used this deck that I’d created for him as, like, the center of his argument. And, of course, other startup founders, seeing that, were like, “Oh, can she do that for me, too?” So they were reaching out to me, a lot of them…
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Joanna: Yeah, right? So, I had like 50 or so emails in my inbox, and they kept coming in and I’m replying to the ones at the top, right? So, you start at the top of the list and go down. And then, of course, they kept coming in above that, and so by the time I reached…I’d replied to like the 10th person saying, “Okay,” I had to start saying no, right? I can’t help everybody for free. I actually did have a day job I had to do, and so the ones I said no to said, “Well, could you write an e-book or something? Could you teach us in some other way?” And, I thought, “Okay. Well, sure.”
So, I turned those ten people that I said I’d work with, ten-ish. I turned them into case studies that went into what became a massive e-book, which, after beta readers looked at it, became the first four small-books in the Copy Hackers series. And that was really the beginning of Copy Hackers. I launched those books and the Copy Hackers business about two months after accidentally quitting Intuit. And, it’s been great ever since. Yeah, that’s how I got started.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. And how long ago was that?
Joanna: So, Copy Hackers will be four years old this October. Wow. That’s like a week from now. It’ll be, yeah, about four years old. Four years old this October.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Wow, yeah. Because, you know, I’ve read a lot of your work, and I have to say, like, when you come to the Copy Hackers site, you guys know what’s going on, like, it’s really, really impressive. And one thing I see a lot is you guys have so many testimonials and case studies everywhere on a lot of your core pages. Like your “About Us” and all that kind of stuff that I have to say, like, it is very, very convincing.
Joanna: Oh, good. It’s working.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It is working because after, like, you know, the first time I ever found you, I went to the Copy Hackers site, and there was just so many testimonials, case studies, you name it, that I was like, “Okay, wow. These guys must know their stuff.”
Joanna: Well, that’s the hope. We do hope, and we are learning a lot, right? The good thing about case studies…testimonials are one thing, but the good thing, of course, about case studies is that we get to learn. And we certainly do have on our site, examples of case studies where we messed up, where we had an assumption, a hypothesis, and we were wrong. And so, we share those, too. So, it’s not all glowing reviews of our intelligence. A lot of it is the opposite.
Nathan: Yeah, but yeah, I have to say, like, when I have…like, I’m just on your “Start Here Now” page. And, you know, you’ve got “These cool companies read and trust us.” You know, you’ve got, Mars, Freelancer, Ogilvy, Asana, Unbounce, Mindvalley, Teespring, and then, you know, Shopify, Crazy Egg, and then you’ve got all these Twitter, social proof kind of testimonials. And then you’ve got like a video as well. And then at the bottom you’ve got more testimonials, like, you guys do it really, really well. So, has that been…
Joanna: It sounds like we’re insecure. It sounds like we’ve got a complex or we’re like really insecure or something.
Nathan: No. You’re just making a massive no-brainer that you guys know your stuff when it comes to copywriting. And I’ve always been very curious, like, is that like part of, like, your whole thing? Like, writing great copy is just having so many testimonials, case studies, just to make it a no-brainer?
Joanna: Yeah, well, certainly, in the beginning, we didn’t have like any at all, so, we were very conscious of the need for those. And then you get things like, you know, when people do read your stuff, like when Rand Fishkin says something, like, something nice about you, and recommends people to you, I’m gonna use that. I’m gonna say that. When Matt Barrie from Freelancer says, and he said, “These e-books changed my life,” I’m gonna write that down and use it everywhere. Like, you better be careful when you say something nice about me, because it’s gonna end up online.
If you said it publicly, right, not if it’s a private thing. But, no, when there’s that kind of stuff, it behooves us as business owners to use it, to not be shy about it. I think that a big part…like you said, I know that we’re adding testimonials to the site when we remember to, at this point. And, truly, we need to get better at that again, and get back to that. Because a lot of like, the tweets, are old on there, right? And now we have newer ones, that we could absolutely put up, we just haven’t.
But, I think, it’s, you know, with social media and the ability to embed a nice tweet, you really…and it’s really reliable, too, right? It’s got all those cues that signal to people, “Hey, this is a credible testimonial,” really, when it’s a tweet. So, why wouldn’t a person put those on their site? It’s what we do. And it works, right? I mean, social proof is very powerful. I think everybody recognizes that it’s a powerful persuasion technique or principal, and so, yeah, we like to use it.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Awesome. Because here I am thinking, you know, like, we’ve interviewed people like Seth Godin, and stuff like that, and he’s given us great testimonials for the work that we do. I’m thinking we should put them as well, like…
Joanna: Oh, you have to. I would. I would have, honestly…yeah.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Okay. So, yeah, we’ve got all sort of crazy testimonials that I’ve never even thought that we should put in there, but, okay. I’m definitely going to do that.
Nathan: So, look, you’re a great copywriter. Even if you go to your website, you know, you can see what you’ve got going on. You can see that you guys know your stuff. First of all, can you tell us a little bit, just on the business before we get into, as I said to you earlier before we jumped on the call, just all the copywriting gold, and, you know, the tips, and the actual stuff, just on the business you know, how many people do you have on your team? I know that you do have a new service that you help people with. Can you tell us a little bit more about that as well?
Joanna: Yeah, yeah. So, Copy Hackers…I’ve said multiple times, you know, it does well in spite of me, because I’m not trying to grow a big team. I know one of the legendary copywriters, Gary Benjamin got a living legend. A lot of them have sadly passed, but he’s still great. He, as I understand his business at least, he and his wife work on it alone. And I’ve always thought that’s great, right? Like, that’s ideal. I’m not a terrific people manager. I’ve got ridiculously high standards that make people not really enjoy working under me.
I’m just being totally honest. I’m not, necessarily when it comes to writing copy for other things, I think, I’m more flexible, but I know what I need to see from people when they’re writing copy. And so, it’s not building out a team of copywriters. It’s just probably not in the cards for me, and it doesn’t have to be either. I think, you know, coming from Intuit, where I worked on selling QuickBooks, right? Writing copy to sell QuickBooks, one of the things that we kept hearing from business owners was that they wanted to stay small. And they never really got that. Like, why would you want to stay small?
But when I think of a business like my business at Copy Hackers, I want to stay small, where it’s myself, and Lance is my partner in life and at Copy Hackers. He works on it very irregularly, because he is the CMO of Flow, so he can’t help me out because he’s busy being a CMO. And so then, otherwise I have contractors I bring in as virtual assistants and things like that every so often, to help with, you know, product launches, and stuff like that.
And I, you know, bringing in freelancers to do writing, you know, things like that. But our team is small. It’s largely me, just doing it, right? Doing all the parts of it. And I like it. I think it’s good. It means, sometimes though, I don’t get to turn a lot of my ideas into the best versions of what they could be, so I don’t get to publish as often as I want to, because I’m doing other things for the business. But, for now, I’m totally okay with that.
Then when we look at other parts of my world. So, I’ve got Copy Hackers, and as you mentioned we have SNAP, which is productized consultancy. So, it’s where people can go online, buy credits, and spend those credits on copy, that my team of freelance writers and myself work on together. So, if you, let’s say, you want to optimize your landing page copy, you buy 15 credits, you spend four of those credits on getting your landing page copy optimized, so that comes to me and a freelancer that I assigned to it. We work on it together. And then we get it back to you very quickly. That’s a great business.
It’s actually a ridiculously profitable business. I’m shocked at how it’s worked out. But it is, it’s an agency. And so, there’s a part of me that wonders, because I’ve never ever wanted to run my own agency. I don’t want that to feel like an agency. So, I don’t know what the future holds for SNAP. If I was a very smart person, I’d probably put a lot more effort into making it happen, because I’m sure it could be one of those multi-million dollar businesses, so we’ll see. But that’s…I don’t know that that’s on the horizon.
Then, we have another, a SaaS offering for content creators, called Airstory. And that is very exciting to me. That’s myself, and a co-founder, a technical co-founder, who’s on it full time. And we’re growing that. And we’re just a private beta, so I know it’s…actually, when I talk about it, I know how scattered it sounds. I know it sounds like, “Oh, she’s spreading herself across all these things.” And that’s where I am right today, but it doesn’t mean that I plan on being there tomorrow.
We have plans for what will happen with SNAP. We have plans for Airstory, and, of course, we have plans for Copy Hackers. And it won’t mean me always being spread thin, but it does mean, you know, you have to do…you know, you put the irons in the fire and see what works, and then choose the ones that you wanna work on most. Really, that’s where I’m at with the business.
Nathan: Yeah, I know. And, I think, that’s really, really important because, yeah. Like, if you looked at all, the all three that you just described, you can’t make them all just like, absolutely blow it out of the water, right?
Joanna: No, no. I, you know, if I decided to stick with SNAP, because it’s a great…what’s challenging for me is, and maybe other business owners feel this, when you see something that…I didn’t want SNAP to be a cash machine. I expressly said that to Lance and another person who was our business partner at the time. I said, “I don’t want it to be that, I want it to be something different.” And somehow it sort of turned into a cash machine, which I just don’t enjoy. I’m not that motivated by money.
I’m more motivated by wanting to like, work on something really exciting, so Airstory might never make any money, but I really love what it’s doing. So, yeah, you know. So you weigh things, and you go into a project, thinking it’s gonna be something. You put it out there, and you see how people respond, and you have to make decisions at that point. So, for me, I’m not 100% sure, but I do think SNAP will be going away. I’ll be always focusing on Copy Hackers, and doing my best to give the rest of my time to Airstory.
Nathan: Awesome, awesome, awesome. Yeah. And I feel you on the money piece. I can see that you’re at heart, a creative, right?
Joanna: Yeah, I think so. And, I think, that that means, I know that I have to make money. I come from a lower, very lower middle-class family, just above the poverty level for most parts of our lives. And so, I get the reality of needing to make money. I just don’t care that much about it when it comes down to it, right? And what…any investor who’s like, “Wait. Hold on, hold on…” No, no, it’s not that. It’s that, I think that, the old rule, if you do what you love, the money will follow.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s so true.
Joanna: And I just wanna be sure that that’s what I’m doing, yeah.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. You wanna do work that excites you. When it becomes like, like a grind, that’s, like, when, you know, you’ve got, you’re back in your nine-to-five, I think. But sometimes you do have to grind it out. Sometimes you do have to grind it out, you know.
Joanna: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, you know, that’s why SNAP really isn’t closed down yet, but, we will see. We’ll see what happens.
Nathan: Awesome. So, yeah, look, let’s get to your creative stuff, like…
Nathan: First of all, I think probably the first thing we should tackle with this copy pace is, what are the biggest, common amateur mistakes you see people make with their copy? And then we’ll delve deeper from there.
Joanna: Oh gosh. I get this question a lot. And then my answers change every time because it’s like, the three things I saw this week will rise to the surface, but there are lots of mistakes. And they’re all well-intentioned, right? So, most people who are writing copy are doing their best to balance a bunch of stuff that’s going on in their heads. I think that there’s almost a good thing about design, like working in Photoshop. If you don’t know how to work in Photoshop, you’re probably not gonna really engage that much in design, which means that you’ll trust other people to do it and you’ll give some level of feedback.
But there’s really nothing keeping us from writing copy, from putting words down on a page. And, so, there’s no filter, there’s no wall that holds you back, so you dive into it with a lot of the baggage that you’ve carried your life around, how you’re supposed to make things sound, what sounds good, what your English teacher said. So that leads to rookie mistakes. Like, trying to make copy sound polished, right?
So, there’s, you know, when we’re sitting around reviewing copy or looking at other people’s copy, and especially writing our own, I think we tend to…and not, I think, I know, because I see it all the time. We tend towards this place where we’re trying to say things in as few words as possible. We’ve been told somehow, that you have to get down to as few words as possible, which, there’s a gigantic asterisk beside that statement. Because there’s so much to say about what it means to get things down to as few words as possible because, it’s a big statement, with a lot of things buried inside of it.
So, we try to get it down and then we try to do things like, make it sing, which is probably the worst advice I’ve ever heard. And people like to latch on to that, like, “Oh. You should make your copy sing,” which is awful for a lot of reasons. Largely because lyrics aren’t meant to have words stand out in them a lot of the time, right? Like, it’s part of a flow. It’s just trying to create a sense of, you know, the melody, right? Working with that. And copy is supposed to be noticed.
So, we want words to stand out. We want things to sound raw and unfamiliar, and unexpected. And that’s really unusual in copy that “sings.” So, while everybody, all these rookies, are really trying to make their copies sound very polished, like a marketing copywriter wrote it, that’s the rookie mistake. The goal is to make it sound like something that might actually get noticed, which means using words that are unexpected. And we’ve seen loads of academic studies, and then we test the same sorts of things in our split tests that we run.
But all of these studies end up showing us that people really do, absolutely need to see words on your page that are different from what they expected to see. That doesn’t mean you go in crazy directions, where you use words that cause confusion, but rather, instead of saying the simple, obvious words, you say something that’s stickier.
So, for example, we did this split test with a website out of the UK, I think, they’re out of the UK. Now, that I say that, it change my mind. I work remotely, so I never meet any of my clients. But they’re called Dressipi, D-R-E-S-S-I-P-I. And they do clothing, online. So, they help you find clothing. So, their homepage headline went like this, “Clothes you’ll love. Perfect for your shape and size.” Okay. Not a bad headline, right? It’s saying something. There’s love.
Nathan: It’s simple, straight to the point, yeah.
Joanna: And that’s what people think it’s supposed to be. Simple. Straight to the point. Okay. Let’s hold that up in the air. Is it supposed to be simple and straight to the point? Those are good things. But everything with a grain of salt. So, we tested against that. I’m starting down, straight to the point.
Nathan: And what was the call to action?
Joanna: The call to action was, “Get started now.” Yes. Get started now. Let me actually…I’m gonna bring that up while I’m talking about this. I save all of my split tests. So, “Clothing you love. Perfect for your shape and size.” And we tested against that copy that we were trying to make feel different and uncomfortable. That was like our hypothesis. We’re, like, people will convert more if they notice the words. The words say something that are sticky, that’s stickier and different.
So we went out and we did, and this is what I recommend. This is another anti-rookie mistake. So, a rookie mistake is to sit there and stare at a page. The thing to do if you’re going to write, copywrite, is to go out, and listen, and look for your message. So, your message is never hiding inside your head. The next great line of copy isn’t sitting inside your head.
There may be fluke instances in which you have had a good line of copy in your head but that does not mean that all the lines of copy are waiting in your head. They’re not. They are out there in the words that your customers and prospects are using online, and, of course, in surveys and interviews you do with them. But especially, for those of us who are pressed for time, especially online.
So, we were like, “Okay. Well here’s this headline. It’s perfectly fine, but it’s converting at like, you know, the typical 2% rate with ‘Get started now.'” Oh wait, no, “Sign up now”. That was the call to action, which is just tragic, right? But we went out and we listened to how people who would fit well as a Dressipi user, how they were talking about their bodies. So, the goal with Dressipi is to help people of any weight, or size, or like height, find clothes that’ll actually work for them.
And so, we’re like, “Okay, well let’s talk about then, overweight women, who are trying to find clothes that they feel comfortable and confident in.” How do these women potentially talk about themselves online? And we, so we went and eavesdropped online, right? People are writing in forums. They’re writing in YouTube comments. They’re writing in blog comments. They’re writing all over the place. About their feelings and experiences, and they’re using their natural language except on Twitter, where they’re forced to keep it very short, so that’s tough. Less useful to go to Twitter.
But you can go to like forums and things, and just pay attention to the language that people use, and then copy the interesting stuff. So, we saw that women were talking about themselves with real words, which should be no surprise to anybody, right? They were saying “bum,” “boobs”, all…keep going with it. Everything you can imagine that people say about their own bodies when they’re just talking normally like human beings, not marketers, human beings, about how they feel about themselves.
And so, we were like, “Okay, well we’re trying to say something sticky, so let’s do this. Let’s try.” So, we replaced that with our new variation that we tested against that headline I mentioned earlier, was, “Big bum? Thick waist? Not so perky boobs? Find clothes you’ll love, ” or it’s, “Find clothes…” I don’t have it in front of me, I’m sorry, but, “Find clothes you’ll look good in just as you are.” I know it ended with “just as you are” because we were like playing off the, you know, Mark Darcy, “Oh, I like you just as you are” to Bridget Jones saying, which every woman on the planet adores, frankly.
So, we went with that, but the point was the big bum, thick waist, not-so-perky boobs. And then…
Nathan: Yeah, shots at you.
Joanna: Right. Right? You have to. And I know that everybody can’t use the word “boobs” on their page, or “bum.” I’m not saying that, but the point is to try something that’s gonna get noticed. The effort of actually trying to get noticed. It’s a big hurdle to be able to get over because, largely, we’re trained not to get noticed, to be a part of the herd, to be part of the crowd, to be somewhat invisible. And I can talk at length about that. I just talked to CTA COMP about that. I mean, you can really Google any of your competitors, look at the PPC landing pages for them, and in most cases, they’re all saying the same thing, which is absolutely nothing.
Like right now, Google “Invoicing Software,” like in quotation marks, “Invoicing Software”. Click through…I’m sorry to spend the money of all of these invoicing software companies, but click on those PPC ads. Go to the landing pages and they all say…basically all of their headlines are exactly the same. Like, you could look at seven, ten, thirteen, they’re all saying the same thing, “Invoicing software. World’s easiest invoicing software.” And, there’s lots of reasons we can say they’re doing that, but what are they wasting? What are they giving up in saying the exact same thing that their competitors are saying? So, there’s that big question.
But anyway, we ran this test, and we also changed the button copy from “sign up now” to “show me outfits I’ll love.” Again, that’s also trying to get noticed. It’s trying to say something. And it’s following good practices around writing buttons, right? Like, where you want to express more of a call to value, rather than just a call to action. So, a call to action is “Sign up now.” That’s the action to take. But is that what people really want? Right? Is it what they want to do? Is it going to give them the thing that they’re looking for? It’s a means to an end, but surely we can do better in our copy writing than just messaging a means to an end, right?
We’re here to move people to action, so, a call to value might be “Show me outfits I’ll love.” So we tested those two, and we also did a variation that just had the headline without the button. We tested that as well. And that didn’t perform as well, of course, as the headline that had the optimized button. And the results were 127% increase in clicks on that button, for the variation that had that unexpected, unusual, unfamiliar headline, with a call to value rather than a call to action. So that’s…
Nathan: Yeah, wow.
Joanna: Right? One hundred twenty-seven percent more people clicking means that now, of course, on the next page you want to do things to make sure that they’re not just clicking and then vanishing, but you’ve given them…they’re excited, they’re interested. Now, optimize the next part of the funnel, right? And keep doing that so you can actually turn these visitors into users and customers.
So, yeah. So, that’s a big one, right? That’s looking beyond yourself for the message and making yourself feel uncomfortable. If it scares you, you’re probably doing it right. Right? If it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably…no one’s gonna even read your copy.
Nathan: Yeah, no. This is great. There’s a lot that the audience can take away from that example. I’m gonna get a little selfish now, and I was hoping you could pull up the “Foundr” homepage and give us some raw feedback and just go down on us.
Joanna: What? Okay. You asked for it. Don’t forget that.
Nathan: All right. So if you go to “Foundr,” foundrmag.com, I’d love to hear your feedback and…
Joanna: Oh, Lord.
Nathan: Yeah, I know, I know. Might not be up to scratch, but we’ll see how we go.
Joanna: Here we go. Okay. So, the pop-up got me first down below. And I’m a an of pop-ups, I’m not saying anything bad about it, but it did attract my eye. I wasn’t ready for it, so I’m gonna close it, and I don’t know how many others would do the same, but there’s that. Okay. So, then when I go back and look, I see all of this cool stuff, with these cool people. I’m watching the video in the background, by the way. So, it’s very, I would say, distracting.
I know what the point is, like, I know why you’re doing it. I think it’s great and it says a lot about the power of “Foundr Magazine.” I just, I’m so distracted by it that I’m not really sure what the words are doing there. That’s, for me. So, we have to, I mean, copy has a hard enough job to do as it is. Copy is your online sales person, and, not like a car sales person. It has to be like a sales person who starts out as a friend for some people and who builds your brand for other people. Like, your copy has a lot of work to do. And to have it compete with, you know, huge names, like, you know, Arianna…is it Arianna Huffington? I always forget her.
Joanna: Yeah. With these images of people that you know and it seems that you really, kind of just, wanna watch, I feel bad for copy that it has to try against that. So, there’s that. Do you need copy on the page if you have that much going on? And if you do, should it be centered on the page? Maybe. Now, it’s worth testing, but generally those distractions…although I can see this being good for branding and for making “Foundr” feel like a great publication to read. Yeah. The copy is left to struggle against it.
So, your headline is, “Entrepreneurs need help.” Okay. Now, here’s the thing. Okay. You’ve done the thing. You’ve done the thing.
Nathan: Yeah, I know.
Joanna: You’re trying to get the headline down to as few words as possible, and it has to sound…but I do think, I think, that you’re saying something that’s a little different. You’re just doing the thing where you say it the same way anybody else would, which, you have to decide what’s more important to you in a business. Is it standing out? Or is it…are you going to put a lot of money into branding and other ways of getting people to recognize what it is about you. Your words could do that, right? Choosing the right words could do a lot of heavy lifting.
So, “Entrepreneurs need help”, I would say, the sub-head below it, which is usually the case…and Oli Gardner talked about this, and I’ve written about this in my e-books. The sub-head is usually better than the headline. So, in a lot of cases, you could scrap your headline completely, and just like, make your sub-head your new headline. And what would happen if we did that? Then, your headline would be, “The resource,” I pause on that because it sounds boring, “The resource entrepreneurs choose to learn how to build and grow a successful business.”
So, there are multiple clauses in that sentence, which isn’t a bad thing except, if you were to turn it into the headline, you’d probably wanna use some punctuation, just to break it up. Again, your English teacher isn’t looking at this, no one’s grading you on it. The only grading you’re getting is whether somebody converted or not. So, grammar rules, grammar’s good. Punctuation is a different story. So, I might do something for that headline, for that sub-head which could possibly stand alone. You said, “The resource”, is it the number one resource? You said “entrepreneurs”, how many entrepreneurs? And if you say how many entrepreneurs, you don’t necessarily have to say “the number one resource.” A lot of people don’t believe “the number one resource” anyway, but “the resource” alone, just sounds like, kind of, shallow…
Nathan: We feel very bland.
Joanna: It’s not very…right? I wouldn’t know, walking away from this, why I should read “Foundr,” right? I don’t look at any of this. Like, we can pick into the words all we want to, and we should, but we have to have a goal for the copy. What is it? Is it just to get people to keep reading down the page? That we have to do…and, in any case, we have to, I think, do more than we’re doing here. What is it about “Foundr” that makes it better to read than any other publication that I might be considering reading? Because, of course, one of the big forces that we’re working against when we’re trying to get people to do something, is inertia.
Why should they change out their path today, and hit “subscribe now?” Why? Because it’s bright pink? That’s one reason. That’s a way to get the lizard brain to look at it. But will I remember once I have subscribed to it, and I get a notification on my iPad that it’s available? Will I remember why I subscribed in the first place? And if your copy is not expressing what’s really interesting, and different, and wonderful, and innovative about you, especially if you’re talking to entrepreneurs, there is more of an expectation.
Even if it’s not spoken, there is an expectation that the things they’re going to spend their time doing, have to be at least, I would say, as innovative as they are. They have to learn in multiple ways from the things that they’re engaging with. So, that means learning from the actual way that you market yourselves. Not just the content of it, not just the design of it, but that’s another way to learn, too. But also, like, how you stand apart, what makes you different. So, I would ask you, what is different about “Foundr?” What would you say is the different thing about “Foundr?”
Nathan: Well, we have many different elements to our brand, because we have the podcast, we have the magazine, we have our blog content, our social content, and then we’re starting to move into training products. So, we’re like a multifaceted platform, so, when you say what is different about Foundr, do you mean around the mission of the brand, or the magazine, or…?
Joanna: I mean, I’m a person who comes to your site. I’m an entrepreneur. So I’m a good prospect for you. I’m an entrepreneur who needs help, okay? So I’m a good prospect for you. I land here…the question is always, of course, how did I get there? But let’s say someone referred me here, said, “Oh, you should read Foundr.” Maybe it was a tweet.
So I end up over here. What are you gonna say to me? What is the thing, the single takeaway that I must have, if you’ve only got, you know, five seconds to get me? What is it? Because you can’t say a platform. Nobody gives a crap about a platform, right? I mean, it would be nice and, you know, C-levels feel good about it, but, does your prospect feel good about it? So what is that thing? And it’s not easy, right? It’s hard.
Nathan: No, yeah. What is that thing? I guess, yeah. I guess the biggest thing is that I started “Foundr” knowing nothing about entrepreneurship, so, it’s coming…I’ve just created it, and all the other elements are part of the platform, and everything we do just comes from things that, I think, are valuable and cool. So, I guess, another piece of that puzzle also, is we’re able to get in touch with hard-to-reach people.
So we’re kind of like, I guess like, a cool, funky version to a “Forbes” or “Entrepreneur,” but, it’s made by people on the ground that are actual, real entrepreneurs, that are actually, I guess, in the trenches.
Joanna: Okay. It’s interesting some of the language that you used there. It’s so different from what you see in the tone of your copy here. And now I think that the design of your page, once we get past all those, the images up in the hero section, it’s clean, and I think it’s the tone that one would expect, based on what you’ve just said. The visual is. But you said words like “cool” and “funky”, and I’m not saying that you have to use those words on the page, but they’re moving in a direction that’s pretty far from “The resource entrepreneurs choose to learn how to build and grow a successful business.”
That has nothing. I don’t feel any connection to it, and because none of your competitors are saying anything that makes them stand out, because most of them…you mentioned “Fortune,” all these other publications that are really standing on their brand, on their history. You aren’t, you don’t. You’re new, you can’t stand on that. And, not only that, that’s not a very powerful thing to stand on. That’s how you become, you know, kind of outdated and out of touch.
For you, you have other things going for you, that have to do with being younger, really, and talking to a generation in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re tied down to what “Fortune” is. Not that I have a problem with Fortune magazine, or whatever…
Nathan: Yeah, all these guys produce great content. No, not bagging them.
Joann: No, of course, not, right? No. And I don’t think I’d be…I hope nobody’s taking that away, but, when we’re trying to position ourselves against other people, especially the incumbent, like, something that already exists, that is really powerfully known, and basically ubiquitous in business, how do you inch your way in there? And, the huge opportunity for every small business, for mine, for yours, although things, you know, are going well in these areas, but still those opportunities are so much growth available to us, but not if we’re scared.
I think not if we sit quietly and try to say things that aren’t really gonna say too much at all. We have to dare to be as innovative with our copy as we are with the products that copy is trying to sell. So, you’ve got a really innovative design, right? And you have, clearly, incredible content, but the question continues to be, why should I care about you over something else? Do I just add “Foundr” as one more magazine? What makes you wanna rush to read it? And those are the kinds of things that, I think, we have to dare to say more in our headlines and our sub-heads. And then we have to, throughout our copy, reflect our brands, and feel confident about that.
So, if you speak and you say words like “cool” and you feel that you are closely connected to the type of person who would read “Foundr,” then shouldn’t you use words like that? At least it’s worth the test.
Nathan: Yeah, no, I agree, 100%. This is great feedback Joanna, and I hope the audience doesn’t mind me being a little bit selfish, and they’re learning along the way, too.
Joanna: You got in trouble for your headline. So, you didn’t really get much out of this. You just got in trouble.
Nathan: No, no, no. I want you to do these tear downs. So, I think that’s amazing. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up. This is great. Whilst I’ve taken away lots, I’m sure the audience will. Two more questions before…or three more questions, and these are quick ones. You talked about tools. What’s your number one tool to test, is it a visual website…what do you call that, VMO?
Joanna: It’s now just VWO, that’s what they call themselves now. But yeah, it was Visual Website Optimizer, which I have traditionally really liked. Then they did an update that was problematic for power users. I was a power user, and I couldn’t use it the way I used to, so I switched over to Optimizely. And Optimizely is good, as well, but now VWO has new ways of working with data that makes a lot of the results more reliable. So, one of my big problems with testing platforms is that you have to use a bunch of calculators outside of the testing platform to…
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Joanna: Yeah, to feel good about the results because, you know, Optimizely and VWO have traditionally called tests when their calculations show that there’s a winner, and that could happen for as few as like 7 conversions on 1 variation, and 13 on the other. Which is just clearly not enough data, like that’s not a good enough sample size. So, that’s been a problem, and now that VWO is working to fix that, I assume Optimizely is as well. But I’ve definitely turned it back towards VWO. So, that’s the one that I use the most.
Nathan: Gotcha. And, sample size? You recommend 1,000?
Joanna: Yeah, I’m not the perfect person to talk to about sample size because you get into those big questions, right? And stats was like my worst course in university. Oh, Lord. I ran out of that class when it was done.
Nathan: Yeah, no. I feel you. That’s okay, that’s okay. Look, I…
Joanna: Yeah, but there are…
Nathan: …personally figure 1000’s around, you know,.
Joanna: And if you go to like, conversionxl.com, right, you’ll get a lot about the detailed side of split testing.
Nathan: Yeah, awesome. Okay. Second last question. Top three tips, top three takeaways you want people to take away from this interview around their copy. And, you can pitch your, like, any free resources you have or anything like that.
Joanna: I can pitch? Whoa, I’m a copywriter. Don’t get me started. Just kidding. No. I think that a big takeaway is, one, to test wherever you can, but then not to be too focused, I think, on the data, which we haven’t really got into here, but for as many times as we say, as we find, really, great results, there’s other cases where we had a really great potential win that didn’t finish.
And I think that we get to a place where marketers rely so much on other things telling them what to do, and what not to do, that you lose a bit of the joy of being a marketer, and it can be a very exciting space to be in. So, I’d say test, but be careful that you don’t test away all of your excitement and all of your opportunities to innovate with your copy. So there’s that.
Two, don’t look inside your hear for your messages. It’s frustrating, anyway. It’s not gonna lead to anything good. Don’t ask your mom. Don’t ask your spouse. Unless your mom is the perfect audience, and then just interview her and listen, but don’t ask her to weigh in on your copy. So, go out and find those messages. And that means, going through Amazon book reviews, and forums, and YouTube comments, and blog comments, and all of those things, and interviewing customers when you can, and serving them where you have open-ended questions that allow you to go through a pour-over of the actual phrases that they use.
And then take that, and use that language to write your copy. And then, if you can’t test, because you don’t have enough traffic, let’s say, then at least you have a really strong starting point, because, again, you’re basing what you’re writing on something real. Not just on sitting there staring blankly ahead and hoping that the muse will strike somehow.
That, and, let’s see, what other one? I guess a really actionable one is probably, go over to your homepage or a landing page right now, delete your headline, make your sub-head much bigger than it is, and hit “publish.” That’s probably more likely to be clearer than what you currently got on your page. And if that’s not true for you, absolutely congratulations, and send me your page.
Nathan: Boom. All right. Last question before we wrap is where is the best place people can find you? Or do you have any, yeah, free resources or anything that people can get started as well?
Joanna: Oh, yeah. We love doing free at Copy Hackers. So, we’ve got lots of worksheets, persuasion e-books that are free on there. We’re about to launch a new promotion really, where we’re just giving away our first e-book on “How to Find Your Message.” So, book one is our most popular e-book, and we’re just gonna give it away now, so you’ll be able to get that soon. I would think I’d have more control over some of the stuff that I do, but we work with Balanced Exchange, which is an incredible platform and they’re kind of in charge of the timing of that right now. So, anyway, that will be coming.
But, yeah, if you go to copyhackers.com, our blog, we’re constantly publishing whatever case studies that lead, that are at a place where they’re able to be published as case studies. So, we’re happy to share what we’re learning there and, of course, of Twitter @copyhackers with an “s.”
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look, Joanna, you’ve absolutely blown me away with how much gold you’ve shared with us. And…
Joanna: With my rambling?
Nathan: No, no. It was great. It was great. Like, I know your work well, and I knew you’d bring your A-game and, look, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. You were amazing.
Joanna: Thank you. It’s been great chatting with you. I hope people have got good stuff out of it.