In my former life as a college professor, I entertained students every day.
And when I give live talks to corporate audiences, I use a lot of humor. But these are captive audiences who appreciate any diversion from the business at hand. Doing a live stand-up comedy performance would be the real test. It was the number one item on my bucket list.
Now, you have to understand I knew almost nothing about live comedy. I’d never even been to a comedy club. The class was a revelation.
First we had an intro. Then they challenged us to go find a friendly open mike (i.e., a place where anyone can sign up to perform for five minutes) before the next class. I didn’t want to be the only one who didn’t so … I did. I descended some rickety steps of a dive-y kind of bar, waited forever for my turn, and (as they say in the business) killed ’em.
I was hooked. Since then I’ve done a lot of open mike sets and got invited to do some shows. And I learned some lessons that transfer to marketing in general and copywriting in particular.
(1) You become more creative when someone gives you limits. You get five minutes at an open mic. Sometimes you get three.
To my surprise, when I cut back to keep the time limit, my material got better.
It works for blog posts and sales letters, too. These days we’re seeing shorter, tighter content, which leads to livelier, more creative copy.
Challenge yourself to use specific structures. For instance, “Write 20 bullets using these 5 styles.” Or “Write a blog post without using the words ‘have’ or ‘get’ in any tense.” You can also challenge yourself to shorten your copy. When you have to cut words, you often become sharper so you get a stronger reaction.
(2) You need to listen for reactions and make changes. One night I got a late slot and realized I’d need to have an especially edgy set ready. Fortunately this is Philadelphia and my venues have been pretty much heckle-free.
In the marketing world I’ve heard people say, “I know my copy could be better but it’s already written and out there.” True, but it’s not that hard to make changes. If your audience is responding – terrific! If not, it’s rarely too late. You can read more in this blog post.
(3) You can’t expect to win all the time and that’s a good thing. So far my experiences have been very positive. But I’m also pushing myself to try different things, get more outrageous, and go out on the edge. Everyone says, “Sooner or later you’re gonna bomb. And then you’ll want to come back and get it right.”
There’s a saying in marketing, “If nobody ever complains or asks for a refund, you’re playing too safe.” And I’d add, “If you play safe and want the same old stuff when you develop your website or sales letter, you might keep getting business – but the breakthrough comes when you break your own mold.”
You have to get out on the edge where you feel uncomfortable and you make your audience just a little uncomfortable, too.
And then, as Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk?”
If you’d like to do more than talk about your own challenges with copy and marketing, let’s do it! We won’t just talk: we’ll focus on getting to solutions fast. Just sign up here.