How to be seriously funny

A loyal member of our email club writes with a timely – and commonly asked – question about using humour in your marketing:

“I really like the way you use humour in your emails.

I would love to do the same, but my question is:

“Are business owners OK with this way of doing copywriting?”

Let me explain…

Many of them are “way too serious” and I wonder if it would scare them a bit to inject some humor in their copy.

It must be hard to convince them, right?

EVEN MORE so if it doesn’t really fit their personality.

What do you think?”

– – – 

Here’s my reply:

A lot of the objections to humour are rooted in the mistaken belief that humour is a either/or thing. You either have to be “pee your pants hilarious” or “funeral-level serious” – there’s no middle ground.

But in the real world (and even most of Plymouth), there’s a lot of grey between those two extremes.

The key is to find the right balance. 

If it helps, scrub out the word humour or funny and use “personality” or “character” instead.

You don’t have to be funny to write “fun” and “friendly” emails your subscribers love, but…

You DO have to put a bit of YOU in there.

You want customers to buy what you’re selling, right? OK, well… you’re gonna have to give ‘em a reason to choose YOU over your competition.

Infusing your emails with YOUR character and personality is an easy way to go about it.

It certainly beats trying to “force the funny”*.

* FYI, That’s also the title of my unreleased Star Wars fan-fiction.

I mean… how hard is it to be you? Not very.

Plus, when you give people a feel for what you’re like to work with, the nightmare clients scarper from your world as fast as they possibly can, taking 75% of your business headaches with them.

Not only that, but dream clients – the kind you luuuuuurvvvveee to hop on Zoom calls with – start paying more attention to you.

There’s no point in writing a laugh-out-loud email for a business owner who has the personality of a beige doormat.

The moment the client met Mr. Personality, there’d be a whopping big “disconnect” and the client would spend the entire meeting if they were in the wrong room.

The reason I said this was timely was because I’ve been looking through your responses to the survey for my upcoming free email writing challenge and “SHOW ME HOW TO BE FUNNY, HOLT!” was a common theme.

BAD NEWS –  I’m not going deep on how to be funny.

GOOD NEWS – I will show you how to write emails that positively stink…

… of your personality.

(Unless you’re “beige doormat” man*)

* FYI, That’s also the title of my unreleased Marvel fan-fiction.

More soon…


P.S. If you can’t wait for my email writing challenge to add a bit of personality to your emails, social posts, or clauses to your prenup, check out “Five Days To Funny” in the GOOGLE DRIVE OF AWESOMENESS!!!! (link below)

WARNING – this only applies to non-murdery things

Writing an email on how to successfully tank your email deliverability made me realise something…

To do something successfully, you don’t actually have to know what you’re doing.

Like… AT ALL.

Admittedly, what I’m about to share doesn’t apply to life or death moments.

If your appendix is 3 seconds away from exploding, you want someone brandishing the knife who knows a little more than “whatever you do… don’t stab them in the throat”.

But for other – non-murdery – things, knowing what NOT to do is a great way you can make progress.

If you’ve ever listened to Tim Ferriss’s podcast without skipping the intro, you’ll have heard (at 3x speed):

“What if I did the opposite?”

Often, doing the opposite of the thing you know doesn’t work will get you good results.

You don’t need to be a handsome, muscular, and deluded Cheshire-based copywriter to boost your deliverability.

If you know salesy words will put you in Google’s naughty spam corner better than a well-placed Ronaldo free kick… not using those words is enough to get you better results.

The BESTEST results? Maybe not. But good enough.

And, most of the time, good enough is good enough.

If you’re struggling to come up with a call to action to get your subscribers to click through to your “geocaching for agoraphobics” guide because you hate the high-pressure, sleazy way CTAs you see in your inbox…

Do the opposite.

Instead of:

“Do yourself, your family, and the entire planet a favour – WHILE YOU CAN! Get this life-changing, world-beating course NOW NOW NOW!!!! STRICTLY LIMITED SUPPLY… This limited edition PDF won’t be around forever!”

Try something ike:

“This is something I dive deeper into in my course. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can enjoy all the fun of geocaching… without having to leave your house, click here. There’s a bunch of testimonials on that page too, so you can get a feel if it’s for you or not. If you have any questions, just ask. I’m happy to help.”

Likewise, if you don’t know how to write an email that sells, but hate the slimy, oozy, sleazy tactics you see in your inbox… you don’t need a thousand-dollar copy course…

… you need a THREE thousand-dollar copy course.

(Only kidding)

Just try writing an email WITHOUT using the words and pressure you hate.

“… and if you’d like me to help you on your journey to email marketing Nirvana, keep your eyes peeled for my name in your inbox, as I’ll be announcing my FREE email writing challenge soon…”

… is what I might say if I wanted to let you know about my email writing challenge.

And I just did. Because I do.

And right now, you’ve still got chance to let me know what you’d like to get out of the challenge so you get even more out of it.

Click here and let me know what you’re struggling with and how I can best help you write awesome emails!


[Email Challenge] The results are in…

A few days ago, I sent you a quick:

“I’ve had a brainfart… what do you think?”


I’d been thinking about creating a short “How to write emails that sell” challenge and… honestly?

I had no idea if you’d be interested or not, but your responses came in thick and fast…

I’ll take that as a big, fat “HELL YES!” then, shall I?

I’m excited to put this together.

I’ve been sketching it out over the weekend and am pretty sure I know what I’m going to include, but…

I want to make sure this is as useful as possible for you.

– – – 


One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is assuming they know what their audience wants and needs.


You might THINK your joggers are worshipped by mums because they make them feel sexy, but unless you actually TALK TO THEM (the mums, not the joggers)

… you’ll never know.

You might be surprised to discover the main attraction about your joggers is they’re the only brand that doesn’t look like joggers… so mums can enjoy comfy and cosy school runs… without feeling drab.

Or maybe you’ve cracked the “elastic code” and created a pair of joggers that don’t need inching up every five minutes so you don’t get arrested for indecent exposure.

Don’t assume.

Talk to your customers.


– – – 

So here’s me talking to you… to help make sure this challenge gives you the best possible results…

I’ve put together a magnificently fabulous survey.

(There are sans serif fonts, three colours, AND bolded text EVERYWHERE! I’ve gone all out)

Unless you’re shackled to a radiator with your hands behind your back, it’ll take you less than a minute to fill out.

There are only three questions and you don’t even have to answer them all.

Here’s a link to the super-quick – but magnificently fabulous – survey.

If you’re interested in learning how to write emails that sell (for FREE), click the link so I can make this as valuable as possible!



P.S. One other thing – this challenge is going to be free, but…

only the first time around.

Cards on the table – I’m not usually one for creating a suite of offers for the sake of it, but I’ve been hankering after a low-price, $7 offer for a while and feel a short email challenge could fit the bill.

So not only will you get it for nuffin’… by clicking the link below, you’ll be helping yourself get even better results!

Here’s another link to the survey.

Yes or no? (Please reply)

I’m bouncing around an idea you might want in on…

I’m thinking of running a FREE email writing challenge.

It’ll be over five days and delivered via email.

In those five days, you’ll discover how to face the blank page and crank out an email that:

1) Sells whatever it is you sell – without coming across as “salesy”

2) Expresses the full force of your awesome personality – so you don’t sound the same as everyone else

3) Requires zero struggle – so you’re not spending 3 hours screaming bad words at the flashing cursor 

The challenge won’t turn you into an email marketing god by any stretch, but…

…  it will give you the bump start you need to hit SEND.

Being a sensible (and lazy) chap though, I don’t want to waste time creating this unless you actually want it.

So here’s what I need you to do…

Hit reply, saying “YES” or “NO”, depending on whether you’re interested.

If you want to send me a funny reply, go for your life.

Just let me know whether a free email challenge would be something you’re interested in.

If I don’t get a fair amount of “YES”s, I’ll cut and paste the idea into my “What the hell were you thinking?” note in Evernote and you’ll never hear of it again…

Have a great weekend,

John Holt

You CAN write an email that sucks (here’s how)

If you want to make the most of your emails, making sure they get delivered to – and seen by – the person you’re sending it to is probably a good place to start.

Email deliverability experts have a vast array of technical apps, complicated dashboards, and cotton-stitched branded T-shirts, so you know it’s a complicated – and probably costly – problem to solve.

I’m no deliverability expert, but as someone who’s successfully sent over 23 emails in his lifetime, I know a thing or three.

So I thought I’d share some quick tips you can start using to make (almost, probably, maybe) certain your missives are landing in the right place.

Of course, being me, I wanted to put a little twist on it. So with that in mind, I present…

“Tank Your Deliverability” – Three Quick and Easy Tips You Can Use To PLUMMET Your Open Rates

1. “Christ Janice. Canva much?” 

If you’re looking for the easiest way of triggering Google’s AI’s “Promotional message” alert alarm, packing your email full of images is probably it.

Give yourself the best chance of your email remaining unseen – don’t waste time on connecting with your audience or crafting a persuasive, natural-sounding message. Personable stuff like that might confuse the bots into thinking you’re a real human being, with something useful to say.

Instead, put your email on the fast track to Spam city by bleeding your Canva account dry and stuffing your email with images, graphics, and clip art instead.

BONUS POINTS: Don’t even think about using ALT text. I mean it. Don’t you dare click in that box.

2. “Think John Major… only less charismatic”

You have a unique voice and personality, you say?

Get rid of it.

Trying to be a decent, communicative human is a fruitless exercise that results in your email landing in your customer’s inboxes and possibly being opened… maybe even read and acted on.


You’re not ready to unleash that kind of hell.

Instead, help the magic AI robots discover you’re a mindless drone by getting rid of anything distinctive and interesting about your email.

Remember when your school teacher told you you were special and unique?

Don’t listen to her. She clearly knew nothing about email deliverability.

If you want to land in the promo tab every single time, get rid of your likable, distinctive, and singular qualities.

Got a unique view or take on the latest developments? Great… keep that shit to yourself.

Imagine you’re a chameleon being hunted by 15 SAS snipers – blend in like your life depends on it.

Keeping your message bland, uninteresting, and sounding the same as everyone else is guaranteed to keep your open rate clear of double-digit territory.

3. “Like Wolf of Wall Street… but dial it up a bit!!!!!”

You know “A B C – Always Be Closing”?

I’ve got a new acronym for you:


You’ve already taken the first few steps – eliminating your unique personality and voice from your email. Now you’re ready for the next one…

… filling that void with as many high-pressure, salesy, and sleazy words as you can.

Ideally, you want to write something that makes you feel sick and your grandmother reconsider her will.

If you’re not retching as you read your email, go back and try harder.

Here’s a few words to get you started.

And here’s a few more.

And, since I like you…

Here’s even more.

Those should give you enough ammo to keep you in trouble for a while.

– – – 

Guaranteeing your emails never get seen by your audience is no easy task.

Especially for someone as fun, personable, interesting, and useful as you.

But I believe in you.

You CAN write an email that not only sucks balls… but remains bolded, unopened, and unnoticed in your subscriber’s inbox.

Hopefully, this email has helped make that dream a reality for you.