How the Evil Bald Genius gets away with written murder – that sells

The Evil Bald Genius, a.k.a. Jon McCulloch

Some time ago I happened upon this extraordinary creature by the name of Jon McCulloch. He purports to be a professional business writer, as am I, but transcends those barriers into the realms of overall business sense combined with the ultimate in no-sh*t hilarity.

For example (a brief excerpt from one of his daily emails)

Wanna get laid.. or get shafted?  

Hi Suzan …

…The Nice Guy is the fellow who tries too hard. Y’now he’s just… nice. No rough edges, no sharp corners, and very little in the way of spine. Girls LIKE him… but as a friend. He works hard to please them, but they can’t see him as anything more than their New Best Friend With A Penis.  He doesn’t get laid… but frequently gets emotionally shafted, albeit unintentionally.

But here now, is what Jon wants to share with us…

Confessions of a Grumpy Email Marketer

“My name’s Jon… and I’m… I’m… I’m a writer!”.

A great opening at parties, but, alas, it quickly goes downhill when I’m inevitably asked, “So… what do you write?”.

Because once they start asking questions and getting answers, their eyes glaze over and they clearly wish they were somewhere else (or at least talking to someone else).

Let me explain.

I’m a marketing guy you see. And since my industry is a very grubby one at best, those who know about it immediately tar me with the same brush; and those who are ignorant of the whole seething underground of pustulent “success peddlers” are simply mystified.

Nevertheless, I’m a writer!

That’s what I do, and for whatever reasons, enough business owners like it enough to pay me handsomely for it.

I’m often asked “how do you write like you do?”, and I suspect what they’re hoping for is some list of seven “killer” sound-bites they can absorb by osmosis and become better writers overnight.

Alas, this ain’t gonna happen, and for at least two reasons.

First, there’s no mystery, because the most important thing is to write like you speak. Yeah, I’m sure there are times when you probably can’t get away with this quite so much, say if you’re a lawyer writing up a brief, but for the vast majority of business owners and other writers it’s the quickest, easiest, and most powerful thing you can do.

Or, as I often say, “if you can chat up the barmaid or have a sensible conversation with the lad behind the counter in HMV, you can write engaging, entertaining and profitable sales copy”.

And secondly, the only way to get good at writing is to be bad at writing and to get better with practice. I get thoroughly pissed off with the idiots who glibly inform me my writing ability, such as it may be, “must be the way you were wired up”.

That may be true in part, but while Mumsie is no longer around for us to ask, I am pretty certain the midwife didn’t hand me to her with the comment, “where did he get that pencil?”.

Nope.

If I’m a good writer it’s because I was once a bad one and wrote myself into being a better one.

But it isn’t just about writing like you speak. I mean, that’ll make you a better writer, but it won’t necessarily make you a better business writer (and I always define “good business writing” as “writing wot makes me money”. ‘Cuz ya can’t eat accolades.

The second part of the secret (if secret there be) is to throw in the most important ingredient of all… and that’s yourself.

Here’s a true story for you.

When I first hung out the old shingle as a writer-for-hire I did all the usual crap everyone says you’re “supposed” to do.

I networked, I joined BNI and the local Chamber and I acted in ways totally alien to my true nature. I was sociable, empathetic and tolerant of idiots, morons and fools. I was even nice to people. I break into a cold sweat at the very thought.

And a fat lot of good that did me.

Why?

Because I was like every other bloody copywriter out there. In fact, I was like every other business out there: trying to be all things to all men and women and succeeding only in being nothing of much to anyone. It was, to use a technical marketing term a load of old donkey-snot.

I rapidly gave up on that, and decided I’d do it all differently. I’d make sure at least one person was happy with my style: me.

So I just started writing like me, warts and all. I didn’t just write like I spoke, but I started “speaking” in the way I spoke, too, rather than trying to speak like someone I was “supposed” to be as a professional. I’m sometimes vulgar, often profane, always edgy and consistently eye-wateringly Non-PC.

And bugger me if things didn’t improve.

The quality of my clients shot through the roof, and my fees skyrocketed.

But why did this happen?

Well, here’s my take on it. I could be wrong, but my reasoning is sound and it’s based on well-researched psychology.

We tend to like people who are like ourselves. This is deeply ingrained in the way we’ve evolved. The “out group” is to be shunned (if not actually killed and eaten) and the “in-group”, our tribe, comprises people more or less like us.

And we share similar views, beliefs, traditions and so on. So it comes as no surprise to discover even in the distributed world of the Internet we tend to be drawn to people like we are.

Where has it all got me in the long run?

Well, I’m a strong proponent of relationship marketing.

People find me by whatever means – in the SERPs, through an article or a blog-post like this one, or even by referral and they join my list.

Almost immediately they are warned off because I tell them upfront my style and personality are not for the fainthearted.

Some go, but most stay. And through my daily emails they come to know me and appreciate what I share with them, even if they don’t always like the way I do it. The point is enough of them like it to provide me with a handsome living.

My “numbers” are several multiples of the average in my aforementioned grubby industry.

Moreover, my wife has adopted a similar style with her own Blog (a fetish site – don’t ask, because you’d only go blind if you saw it) and her ebook launches convert routinely at 16%, 37% and most recently 47%.

This isn’t because the sales letters I write for her are sprinkled with magic fairy-dust: it’s because she adopts the same strategy I do. She throws her personality into her daily emails, she writes with little regard for wanting approval or validation. Anyone who doesn’t like it is free to unsubscribe.

Some do, but most don’t.

And so the sales letters need be only a few hundred words long, little more than a call to action.

Why?

Because the audience is already sold, that’s why.

In other words, you want your audience to buy into you so then they’ll buy from you.

If you’re in any kind of business adopting this kind of positioning is, in my experience, vital for attracting the best-quality clients who are willing and able to pay premium prices. Not only that but you like them a lot more.

And they like you.

It all begins with letting it all hang out and cutting dead any tendency to pretend to be someone else. You’re not fooling anyone except yourself.

As Tolstoy wrote “A writer is dear and necessary for us only in the measure in which he reveals to us the inner workings of his soul”.

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Bio Jon McCulloch is perhaps the leading direct response copywriter and marketer in the British Isles, but he’s also made a name for himself over the other side of the Pond. Fortunately for the world, he freely shares his knowledge with others in his own unique way, which is definitely not for the squeamish, faint hearted or easily offended. You can find out more about Jon and download a free Internet and email marketing primer MP3 here.

Now, it’s your  turn to get away with written murder:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. Now that is encouraging for those of us who feel the limits of our writing. I must admit that mine can flow better when I’m not worrying about using words that everyone will understand, and trying to be very correct about it all, and also when I’m supposed to use catchy titles, etc.
    Thanks Suze, and Jon

    • Yes, Babs – it’s very common to acquire a case of verbal constipation whereby you worry about the “how” without relaxing and focusing on the “what” – which is what really matters. Thanks for joining us!

  2. Sarah Arrow says:

    Well this is going to piss of the writers that swear its a gift rather than a skill 🙂

  3. Lol, I’m, sure it will. That’s a great excuse for not sitting down and writing themselves better ;-).

    I recommend ‘Talent is Overrated’ by Geoff Colvin for anyone who really thinks it’s all about innate ability. It’s possible talent matters… but there’s no evidence to suggest that’s the case, and LOTS of evidence suggesting ‘deliberate practice’ is the key.

    Warmly,

    Jon

  4. It’s a really freeing yet, once you ‘get’ it, amazing sensible approach, Jon:

    True, when you write to please yourself rather than your audience there’ll be some who disappear rapidly in the opposite direction but then would you ever have enjoyed working with them as clients anyway? 🙁

  5. This is probably true, Linda. But since I enjoy working with all the clients I work with anyway, it’s no real loss. In any case every choice you make rules out other choices. That’s opportunity cost.

    We all do it all the time, because you can’t have it all.

    Warmly,

    Jon

  6. Fun post–and really great advice! Thanks for sharing this.

Thoughts

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