Want to generate an endless amount of ideas? Do this

I know this is probably going to annoy the hell outta you, but I’m going to be a teensy weensy bit vague in this email.

(I don’t get many “You better not tell your ‘email club’ about me, Holt!” clients, so this is a rare one)

. . .

I’ve recently been tag-teaming a project with another writer, we’ll call him… or her… Robert Downey Jnr.

It’s a bit of a big gig, but Robert and I seem to be doing pretty well. So well in fact that, as of writing this, we remain “unfired”.

The project’s hard going though. Not so much writing the emails. It’s coming up with hooks that’s the tricky bit.

Let me give you a vague-enough-so-I-don’t-get-fired-but-specific-enough-to-make-you-realise-how-hard-it-was example…

We were tasked with writing a 36-email long sequence.

No problem for two fearless copywriters, right?

Here’s the thing…

All 36 emails had to be focused on a VERY SPECIFIC feature of the offer.

Think about that for a second.

(OK, maybe 5 seconds…)

Imagine you had to write 36 emails about the latest Ferrari, but could ONLY talk about the colour of the hubcaps…

Most people struggle coming up with ONE “hooky” way of looking at something, let alone 36.

It was even more of a challenge in our case because initially, I got the maths wrong. 

I thought we only had to come up with 18 hooks. That’s when I hopped on our brainstorming call and Rob informed me I’d only counted my half.

Turns out 10 + 8 + 10 + 8 does NOT equal 18.

(I checked it…TWICE! Besides, you don’t argue with Ironman)

46 seconds into the Zoom call and things were already twice as bad as I thought.

Long story short, we did it – 36 different hooks on a single idea.

You wanna know HOW we did it?

Was it Nootropics?

Did we cannonball 3 litres of Red Bull and binge-watch Sabrina The Teenage Witch for inspiration?

Nope.

We did it the same way anyone does anything:

Because we bloody well had to!

You can Google productivity hacks all you like, but give yourself a hard “do this by then or else” deadline… and trust me… you’ll make shit happen.

Nothing moves people more than necessity.

Try to come up with an idea for a new offer… and you’ll get ONE new idea.

Try to come up with TEN (and give yourself a deadline that makes your heart skip, skip a beat*)… and see what magic you create.

* Damn you, Olly Murs…

So next time you’re gathering all your multi-coloured markers and tabs, ready to time block your life into 17-second increments in that pristine planner you got for Christmas, don’t forget to toss in a deadline for a little extra UMPH!

John Holt

P.S. In the next few weeks I’m launching something that’ll help you take the hassle out of making sales with your emails.

In “Sent.”, I showed you an easy approach to writing emails from scratch, this will do the opposite – I’ll be writing them for you.

Best of all, it’s a “Done for You” offer… WITHOUT the hefty price tag.

I’m popping this “P.S.” here because one of the benefits of this offer will be that you’ll NEVER struggle to come up with hooks and email ideas again because…

I’ll be doing it for you.

If I had any sense, I’d keep this email in my drafts folder and pop it in my launch sequence, but I wanted to send it now to turn YOU into a productivity beast…

… and ME into a hook-generating machine!

How to lose friends and alienate people

Not many men would go to the trouble of deploying a Soviet scientist to annoy his missus, but that’s what I’ve done. 

Why should you care?

Because I’ve also accidentally stumbled on the secret to getting more replies to your emails and social posts.

The best way for you to experience this (and I do mean “experience”) is to listen to the Nickelback song, “Photograph”. 

(I know… it’s Nickelback. Don’t worry, you don’t have to endure all of it and I promise it’ll be worth it)

My wife HATES the last few seconds of this song.

Listen to the last 15 seconds and see if you can spot why.

It’s missing a word, isn’t it?

It doesn’t “feel” finished.

“Every time it makes me… WHAT????”

Leaving something unfinished is a great way to annoy my wife.

This is why I’m always singing Gina G around the house:

“Ooh Aah just a little…”

….

….

….

“BIT!”

Try it yourself. Pick a song, sing the main chorus and annoy the shit out of my wife miss out the last word.

It almost eats at you, doesn’t it?

Musicians tap into this. They’ll sing the first part of the chorus and point the microphone at the crowd to finish it off.

(I always liked Lee Mack’s joke about this – “yeah, we know the words, Robbie. Thing is, we paid £250 a ticket… any chance YOU could sing a few of them?”)

The scientist Bluma Zeigarnik was the first to discover that people tend to focus on – and remember – unfinished things. She noticed waiters were much better at remembering incomplete orders than those that had already been served.

Some people – like my wife – go one step further… they not only notice incomplete things…

… they feel COMPELLED to finish them.

Copywriters use this in their marketing, with open loops being a great example.

(Don’t know what an open loop is? I’ll reveal all – and a weirdly counterintuitive way of using them – in just a second…)

If you want someone to respond to something, see if you can end it on an “unfinished” note.

In an email, you might not miss out words at the end of sentences, but you might mention that you have two important things to share…

… and then only share one.

There’s a lot more to this idea, especially when it comes to one-to-one communication, but here are the main points:

1. If you want people to respond, add an unfinished element to something they want closure on.

2. Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik was a Lithuanian-Soviet psychologist and psychiatrist who discovered this “Zeigarnik Effect”.

3. I am familiar with the website: “Wikipedia”

4. I’m a terrible husband.

I think that’s everything… 😉

John Holt

P.S. Did you spot the meta-joke? Bravo! 10 points for you, my friend. 🙂

Do you have time for this?

Dog walks used to annoy the hell out of me.

I live in the UK so most of the time it’s a bit too grey and gloomy for my liking. 

My main problem is that I feel dog walks eat into my productivity. It’s 45 minutes – twice a day – I’m not making progress in my business.

Recently though, I’ve started using a technique I learned from Cal Newport’s Deep Work that’s helped me dial back the frustration.

Productive Meditation.

I know that sounds like an Oxymoron…

(“What the hell’s an ‘Oxy’? And don’t call me ‘moron’.”)

… but this idea has helped me make progress in something I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Pretty much. (Though my couch has more scorch marks)

Here’s the basic idea of Productive Meditation: you use moments of downtime – waiting in line, having a shower, performing brain surgery – to mentally tackle a problem.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the idea.

Now, “go out for a walk and have a bit of a think” probably isn’t the earth-shaking value bomb you might have been hoping for, but for me…

It bloody well was.

I’ve started slowly with P.M. – using the first part of the dog walk to come up with gags I can post to my Instagram page.

Carving out time to write jokes has been on my “I really need to get round to this” list for a while, but like most things on that list (Hiking the Himalayas, learning my wife’s name)…

I never seem to get around to it.

The simple act of dedicating a TINY portion of my day to this one thing has made a big difference.

Like I said, I’ve started slowly…

I go on the walk and think of a gag. 

ONE MEASLY GAG.

As soon as I think of one – and I have a clear vision of how I’m going to deploy it – I dictate it into Trello so I don’t forget it and then dive back into my ever increasing podcast playlist.

This stupidly simple practice has made something clear:

The first step in doing something? MAKING TIME TO DO IT.

It doesn’t have to be a massive chunk of time either. You don’t need to take three weeks off work, or cancel your Tuesday night Phlebotomy for enthusiastic beginners class.

For example, I thought of the idea for this gag before I’d even crossed the road outside our house. A few minutes later I came up with the Where’s Waldo/Wally? hook and I was pretty much done.

Some days it’s easier than others. Also, I have to remind myself to focus on the process, rather than counting the side-splitting gags.

(Present side-splitting gag tally = 0)

As long as I make the time and come up with a gag (no matter how bad… yikes!)… it counts as a win.

Have a look for any downtime/annoying spots in your day. 

See if there are any that lend themselves to mentally wrestling with a problem you never get round to tackling.

It’s a win-win – you have a more enjoyable “bad” experience AND you finally get to tick something off your “oh my god… that’s been there since 1989!!!” list.

John Holt

How to be funny (even if you’re unfunnier than an [INSERT WITTY SIMILE HERE])

What’s up dog?

(Just to be clear… that’s my attempt at an informal greeting, NOT a “games pet owners can play over the festive period” recommendation)

Do you ever wish you could add a splash of humour to your words – whether they’re on your website, in your emails, or when replying to legal injunctions served by the cast of Holby City?

Humour is a funny thing. 

(Literally and metaphorically)

On one hand, humour is like Tai Lopez – a powerful marketing tool, but on the other…

It’s also a bit like Tai Lopez – best in small doses.

I spent the best part of ten years as a comedian and magician learning how to be funny. In fact, making people laugh was the entire basis of my marketing as a magician.

I wasn’t totally shit at it either. 

I even won an award for my stand-up.

Am I the most hilarious person in every room?

No.*

* I WAS the funniest person in every room… until I bumped into Russ Abbott in the gents at Keele Services. There’s no coming back from that.

Here’s The Thing…

(Sorry, but I’ve had that gag on my Trello board for ageeees)

Here’s the (real) thing…

You don’t need to be the funniest person in the room for people to think you’re funny.

It’s the same with your marketing.

You don’t need to be an award-winning stand-up* to make your customers smile when they read your emails.

* Did I tell you I won an… oh I did?

“Yeah, yeah… I get it. Can we just get to the transition where you show ME how to be funny?”

Well… you COULD spend years reading comedy books, writing gags, and testing new ideas to see what worked, in the hope of honing your funny bone…

Or…

“GET ON WITH IT, HOLT!”

You could just click here.

You might be expecting that click to lead to a premium “HOW TO BE FUNNY” course with a hefty price tag.

If you are, you’re in for a nice surprise.

If you want to add some fuzzy funnies to your words, that click is a good place to start.

Consider it an early Christmas present…. that’s been sitting under your tree for the past year and a half!

And if you’re not a fan of scrolling up…

Here’s the click again.

John

Sully my breeches

I buy jeans like most people buy milk:

“If you’re passing Asda, can you pop in and pick me up a pair of those £8 ones? 34 waist, 31 inside leg. Thanks.”

That was until last Sunday at 14:47 when EVERYTHING CHANGED, and I went upmarket. 

A bit.

(Alright, I’m guessing the time, but it’s close enough and, after my last email, I feel the need to up my specificity)

I’ve been needing some new jeans for ages so, when me, the missus and my kid went to town to do some shopping, I thought I’d pop into Tesco and quickly grab a couple of pairs.

As I was passing M&S with my daughter, however, I could hear my wife’s voice inside my head, nagging me about finally getting a decent pair of jeans…

… you know, jeans where the back pockets aren’t hanging at knee level, requiring you to lean back like Keanu when rummaging for your keys.

My daughter interrupted my mental meandering:

“Can I go to ‘Claire’s Accessories’ for a bit? I’ve got a few people to buy for…”

Revealing insight about me No. 1 – I’d rather watch a Sarah Jessica Parker movie marathon marathon* than spend 18 seconds in a shop packed with squealing children and hair accessories along with a nervy – and possibly underqualified – teenager puncturing the lobes of young girls near the entrance…

* Nope. Not a typo. I’d genuinely rather watch an SJP marathon of marathons.

I took this as a sign from the Universe to shift my arse to M&S and check out some decent denim.

[FUNNY STORY ABOUT THE “THING” THAT HAPPENED IN THE CHANGING ROOM REMOVED FOR DECENCY AND LEGAL REASONS]

It was an eventful 17 minutes. 

I met a man called Andy who has no concept of personal space… and I also spent £50 on two pairs of jeans. Not a massive upgrade from my Asda slacks, but still… it’s 300% more than I usually spend.

Weirdly, even though they’re only £25, I’ve noticed some changes:

Like how I now take my wallet out of my pocket at home because I don’t want any weird ‘bulk’ at waist level.

(You may insert a joke here)

I also do a few weird things on the dog walk too…

(You may NOT insert a joke here)

I keep my distance from other people’s dogs in case they jump up at me and sully my breeches.

Also, when I was moving some branches after the recent storm damage, I stopped myself before wiping my hands onto my jeans.

(I used my friend Alison’s jeans instead. She was NOT happy. She definitely would NOT like Andy…)

Weirdest of all, I’ve started walking… “wider”.

I don’t know how to best explain it. Imagine a cowboy with rickets after spending ten years in an overly amorous prison.

That’s how I’m walking now.

I’ve realised why… as I step forward, my foot brushes against my other ankle. And when you’re walking in the countryside, it tends to leave a muddy skidmark on your jeans.

(IT’S MUD, ALRIGHT?)

I’m walking wider to stop my mud from getting on my expensive(ish) jeans.

EMAIL HACK – Stuck for a segue? Use big text!

When stuff is cheap, we don’t tend to look after it. 

The cheaper something is, the more disposable it becomes.

And if I was protective over my £25 jeans…

Can you imagine me on a dog walk rocking a pair of these bad boys?

It’s the same with your offers.

It’s worth thinking about your audience and asking:

“What would I need to charge to get them to engage with it as much as I want them to?”

Too low and your life-changing course might sit gathering digital dust.

Too high and maybe they’ll focus on it a little too much… to the detriment of other important stuff they should be doing.

A question like this might not determine your ultimate price, but it’s a pretty good marker.

John Holt