‘No one buying? …Stop being boring’
Jamie Jensen can be sometimes brutally honest with her clients…but it works. After helping over 500 online businesses get up to 900% more sales through her copywriting agency, Jamie Jensen, a storytelling coach, award-winning writer and the founder of Your Hot Copy copywriting agency sit down with me to discuss how to write so that people want to read.
– So, Jamie – I bet you didn’t see this one coming – tell me *your* story (yes, you can go as far back as you want and give us as many gory details as you like, but tell us what you do now as well).
Haha! Well, I was born in the Bronx but raised in Queens, NY. No, I’m not going to tell you my whole life story! Let’s flash forward from birth to 2011. I had just finished my Master’s in film producing and moved back to New York City from Los Angeles. I was writing movies, shooting a film by day, and bartending by night. In other words, I was burning the candle at all ends. After my film was released, I won an award for “Best Feature Writing” but I was still bartending by night and writing all day. I was exhausted and desperately wanted to serve at a higher level and get paid for the value I delivered. That was when I decided to start my business. So I wrote a website and launched it. I knew I’d be writing and I had already written copy for multiple businesses and projects, I had just never charged for it before. Well, within 6 months, I was booking more work than I could handle all by myself which led to my building an agency. A lot of people ask me what the secret to my success was and I consistently tell them — it was having a clear brand message, story, and the chops to back it all up.
– When did you discover your passion for writing?
My passion for writing has always been a part of my life. If you go to my mother’s basement in Queens, you’ll find storage boxes full of journals that are all filled to the brim with poems, short stories, journal entries, and sketches. From the moment I could hold a pen and a blank piece of paper, I was writing. I also believe writing is healthy for everyone. It’s a great way to get your thoughts clear and face anything going on in your life or mindset. Writing every day was a habit of mine for a long time, and it’s true that you’ll get better at anything with tons of practice.
– What makes a good copy? How to write so people actually want to read?
Good copy tells an interesting story – it tells the story that the customer needs to hear in order to 1) believe in the validity of the offer, 2) believe in the value of the offer, and 3) decide whether or not the offer is the right fit for them. What I always ask people to remember when they’re writing is that all forms of writing have a message, and all messages require stories. Stories are evidence that what you’re saying is real and true. They’re also the way human beings connect on an emotional level and learn. By telling stories we are learning how to become better communicators, leaders, and (as far as business is concerned) salespeople. Getting someone to read your copy is the same challenge as getting someone to watch your TV show or read your article — you must give them a reason to do so. How does it benefit them? You must always have at least one big benefit for the reader that is made clear from the headline, then you do what all great storytellers do: hold the resolution until the very end. In other words, always leave something more to be desired.
– Do you have some top rules or a fool-proof recipe for writing great content?
Yes. The most basic fool-proof recipe for writing great content is to start with your audience in mind. Make sure you write to that one, perfect person that you imagine reading your content. Write in the same way you’d speak to them. And then you want to remember that all great content is typically twofold: there is a problem and a resolution. If you’re selling, the resolution is the offer. If you’re sharing valuable content, the resolution is the tips, tutorials, or explanations shared in the content itself. It’s simple, but it’s the easiest way to break down and strategize your content!
– What actually is storytelling? How can it help a business sell more?
Storytelling is an art and a science, and it’s one that is most intuitive to the human brain. We use stories to communicate with one another, to make sense of chaos, and to generate memories and meaning out of our experiences. This is why we can get so emotional watching a movie about a character we really care about or identify with — it’s because stories work on our emotions to help us process and feel things we otherwise may not. Stories work because they’re human. They provide an authentic, intuitive, emotional, and potentially entertaining component to what may otherwise be dry, drab, and boring material. And YES storytelling can absolutely help you sell more. Stories can help a potential customer see positive potential results, identify emotionally with the transformation the offer can provide to them, and click into the human element of the business transaction. Stories can keep your audience interested and transform that interest into investment.
– Writing can be extremely draining at times, how do you find inspiration and recharge to make sure you can keep delivering these juicy, creative pieces of content consistently?
Spend lots of time in nature! Really, I think it’s imperative to keep yourself inspired by doing whatever gives you energy and great ideas. For me, that’s usually dancing, physical exercise, making sure my environment is comfortable and beautiful, etc. But taking long walks in nature also helps. With writing, sometimes the biggest struggle is just sitting your butt down to do it. I always advise having fun with your writing. Because if you’re not having fun with it, no one else is going to have fun with it either!
– Is content marketing for everyone? Can you write great, engaging copy for any business? Like, say I have a really boring business – I am selling screws online – can you do great content for that as well?
Yes! Content marketing is for everyone, and it’s especially for those who are looking to spruce up their business personality by adding a human element to their business. So YES, this company may sell screws – but what do screws help people do? What can they build? Who is buying them and what are they able to do with them? When you get into the story of every screw, the business is no longer boring — it’s a business with something to say. When you give yourself the permission (as a business) to stand for something and use stories to convey your message, you’ll not only sell more, but you’ll also make a bigger impact.
– How can a small business with no following use copywriting to increase its chances of getting noticed?
I’d recommend a few different strategies. But I’d probably most advise a splashy video that they can run ads to on social media, and a website that’s branded to stand out and make a statement (alongside a marketing strategy that’s suited to their business). Both of these items would require a solid brand story and voice to work. There are other marketing strategies to explore here too. “Getting noticed” sounds super passive compared to going out there, taking a risk, and implementing a more active approach to your marketing. Most businesses that stand out do so because they’ve made a funny or emotionally resonant video, or done something totally different with their marketing than all of their competitors. The work is thinking outside of the box, being open to trying something totally wacky but allowing it to work its magic. There are plenty of ways to acquire new customers without adopting a totally distinct brand voice if that’s not your thing. But, if you want to stand out as a brand, you need a story and voice that sets you apart.
– When you first started your copywriting agency, how did you get it in front of your clients in such a crowded market?
At the time, everything was Facebook groups for me. I posted in groups, used them to engage with potential clients, and most of all: I had a great time. My voice, style of writing, and sense of humor helped me stand out. The results and experience kept clients coming back for more. 🙂
– Do you find newsletters useful for communicating with your audience?
Yes! I send one almost every week and, like many of my colleagues, I get lots of sales and traffic from my mailing list. I also love engaging with people in their inboxes.
– How does the copy for newsletters differ from copy say, for a blog post or social media?
Honestly, I would say… intimacy. All copy is written like a one-to-one conversation but when people read things inside of their inbox, it’s even more personal. It’s a personal space. I think there are a lot of newsletters that have ruined that relationship with their customers by invading that space in an aggressive way. Now, we have to look at whether an email’s subject line will stand out amidst the sea of newsletter clutter. So, newsletters are different in that they are more personal and your metrics are different. Your first challenge is getting people to open the email (open rate), then getting them to commit to reading the email, and then getting them to finish the email and click (click rate). Why should they? That’s the question you have to answer at every step in writing.
– Do you get any crappy newsletters? ( I do.) What would you say is the biggest mistake that people/businesses make in their newsletters?
I’m sure I do, but I delete them without examining them. I think the biggest mistakes I see businesses make are not spending more time on the subject line, writing long emails without enough good value to justify the length, and not linking back to or promoting anything.
– I watched your FUN-eral…Ok, that sounded a bit morbid – I mean, not *your-your* funeral, your copywriting agency’s funeral – why did you decide to shut a booming business down – like, WHY???
The same reason you end any relationship that isn’t working anymore – it just wasn’t working anymore (haha), and it was time. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that money is everything, but it’s not. It was more important for me to focus on the storytelling aspect and offer more teaching and training because that’s where my heart is. In my opinion, it’s the most important piece of the marketing puzzle.
– So what is your biggest dream and goal now?
I’m loving teaching and coaching clients, writing for my higher-end clients on a limited basis, and writing my screenplays. My biggest dream is to support more creative entrepreneurs in building sustainable businesses with strategy, story, and skills, and see another screenplay (or 10) come to life.
– What makes you happy and fulfilled in your career?
I love helping people say what they’re having trouble communicating or expressing. That is at the heart of everything I do.
– And your biggest goal for 2018 is…?
To take more naps at the beach. 😉
Thanks for taking the time!
P.S.: Wanna learn more about how to apply *great content-writing skills* to your newsletter? Check out this post about how to write a great newsletter that people actually want to read!