21 great headlines from trashy tabloids

headline secretsWant to read some great headlines? Check these out:

Man’s head explodes in barber’s chair.

Woman with 4 legs opens dance studio.

Skiing squirrel dies trying to break 196 m.p.h. speed record!

Cow crashes domino game.

Inflate-a-Boob. New breast implants take gals from flat to fabulous … in seconds!

And these are just the beginning. Alex Eckelberry from Sunbelt Blog turned me on to a collection of Weekly World News back issues preserved in all their eye-popping glory by Google Books.

This stuff is like a Barnum and Baily nightmare. But they hold a treasure of incredible headlines that, while weird and over-the-top, work like money machines. I mean, they certainly sell these publications.

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What does “freelance” really mean?

a free lancerPeople use the word “freelance” quite a lot these days, generally to refer to someone who doesn’t have a “real” job. But that’s hardly an accurate definition.

The word freelance comes from the Middle Ages, when there were basically two types of knights. There were the knights who worked exclusively for one king. Then there were the “free lancers,” or knights who worked for anyone who would pay them.

The idea of freelancing is still with us, but kings have been replaced by businesses, while knights have been replaced by professionals of all kinds. Today there are more freelancers than ever before and more freelancing opportunities as well. But it’s important to have a firm understanding of what freelance really means today.

Here’s a good definition:

A freelancer or freelance worker is a person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any one employer.

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23 thoughts to survive any crisis

survive any crisisIt seems every time you turn on the news, there’s another crisis. Another business failure. Another bailout. Another depressing statistic. More evidence that no one has any clue what they’re doing.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little numb with all the drama.

Fortunately, a good sense of humor can help you survive and even thrive when all those around you are panicking. This applies especially to the advertising and marketing industry, which has been hit pretty hard in this wacky economy.

Whether you’re a copywriter, designer, manager, business owner, salesman, or anyone trying to stay sane, you might find a little inspiration (maybe even a smile) in this small collection of familiar observations.

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6 secrets of buyer behavior in a recession

This is a short excerpt from an upcoming white paper called “Getting Response in a Down Economy.” I’ll announce it in my newsletter first. Click here or use the yellow box at the top right of this blog to subscribe.

buyer behaviorThere’s no doubt about it. Business is tough out there. Every day brings more unsettling economic news.

But have things changed as much as some people claim? Has the recession completely changed buyer behavior?

In my opinion, no. Buyer behavior in this recession is very similar to buyer behavior at any other time, but with this important caveat: While people may be buying, they’re being far more cautious and making decisions far more slowly. So it’s harder to sell to them. Harder, not impossible.

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30 Timeless Direct Marketing Principles

Bob StoneBob Stone has been called one of the founders of modern direct marketing. He had the ability to understand both the big picture of marketing and the finer details of selling tactics.

Here are 30 timeless direct marketing principles he discovered over the course of his long career:

1. All customers are not created equal. Give or take a few percentage points, 80 percent of repeat business for goods and services will come from 20 percent of your customer base.

2. The most important order you ever get from a customer is the second order. Why? Because a two-time buyer is at least twice as likely to buy again as a one-time buyer.

3. Maximizing direct mail success depends first upon the lists you use, second upon the offers you make, and third upon the copy and graphics you create.

4. If, on a given list, “hotline” names don’t work, the other list categories offer little opportunity for success.

5. Merge/purge names — those that appear on two or more lists — will outpull any single list from which these names have been extracted.

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Generating sales leads with TV ads

When you think of generating sales leads, you probably think of direct mail or telemarketing. But any medium can be used to generate sales leads, including TV ads.

Watch this TV ad I wrote for Sunbelt Software and then I’ll give you the 3 key tactics used in ads like this.

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Spam scam copywriting secrets

I get them. You get them. We all get them. E-mail scam spam. And you probably just delete them like most people do.

But did you ever take a few minutes to read these messages and consider why some of them work?

There are some key copywriting lessons to be learned here. Let’s look at one short scam spam e-mail I received a few months after tax season a couple years back (I collect these things).

Subject Line:

IRS Notification – Tax refund (Internal Revenue Service)


After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $249.30.

Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 3-6 days in order to process it.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access the form for your tax refund, please click here

Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time. Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.

Internal Revenue Service

Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A. All rights reserved.

First, the subject line gets your attention. It says it’s from the IRS, which is a government department everyone is familiar with. There are no wild claims, just the suggestion that you may have a tax refund, something everyone wants.

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Quick online writing resources

writing resourcesI have an old, crumbling Roget’s Thesaurus on my desk along with a variety of other well-worn writing resources. A bookshelf on the other side of my office holds even more.

I will never give up these beat-up books because when I’m in serious need of a synonym, grammar rule, or other tidbit, these loyal references never let me down.

But when I’m in the heat of writing, I often don’t have time to peruse my reference library. I need something quick. That’s when I turn to a variety of handy online writing resources that can give me what I need in a minute or two.

Here are a few of the best. Bookmark these sites, especially Thesaurus.com, which is so fast and simple I find myself visiting it nearly every day.

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Eye tracking study reveals 12 website tactics

Eye Tracking StudiesEye tracking studies have revealed valuable information about how people read and interact with websites. One study, Eyetrack III, published a summary of their eye tracking results for news sites.

While this is just one eye tracking study focused on a particular type of site, I think there are instructive nuggets here for any informational website.

In no particular order, here are 12 results I found particularly interesting.

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Why “corporate” ads waste money

The money wasted on do-nothing “corporate” advertising is truly astonishing. Here’s a “corporate” style ad I chose completely at random from Target Marketing magazine.

Corporate Ad

Okay, quick … what’s it about? Don’t know? Of course not. You have to read the teeny little block of type to find out it has something to do with email. I think it’s software, but I’m not entirely sure.

This is typical of what I call “corporate” ads. These are ads that look pretty, say little, cost a lot, and don’t work very well.

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