Why Did You Lie to Me?

In late July I sent out a survey asking you what you’d like me to write more about.

By far, the most popular choice for what I should write more about was “how-to posts.”

More specifically, you told me you wanted me to write more about copywriting. Specific responses included “copywriting tips,” “secrets of good sales copy,” “ads that work and ones that don’t work,” and “critiques.”

One guy said this: “Copywriting. Not politics, new offices, or personal stories. Does anybody really care? The lead-in to your point is too long.”

I’m pretty sure this same person unsubscribed a few days later because he sent me this note:

I’m sure you’re really successful and make good money. I’m genuinely happy for you and wish you well. However, I’ve been a journalist, broadcast and newspaper editor and published author for 20 years and I simply could never take to your writing style. That’s just me. I’ve no interest in stories about your personal life; mild illness or moving office are subjects that are every-day, boring topics. I always struggled to get past the first two paragraphs. But it’s not me that counts; it’s your clients. Sorry!

I took this guy’s complaint seriously and did a look-back at the posts I’d published during the time he was reading.

Conclusion? Nitpicking to the extreme. If people want a reason to unsubscribe, they’ll go find one.

Anyway, in addition to asking you what I should write MORE about, I also asked you what you’d like me to write LESS about.

Most people said they’d rather I didn’t write about (American) politics. Another person said, “Don’t dabble in Middle-East politics.”

A few people asked me to avoid controversial topics. What should I write less about? You said:

  • “Controversial stuff. Don’t think it adds any real value.”
  • “posts criticizing other marketers (criticizing politicians is fine with me)”
  • “I don’t think it’s helpful to name and shame a person in public because we all make mistakes and if we criticize the action rather than the person, we can still drive home the message without offending anyone in particular.”

I don’t always take the advice people give me, but in this case I figured I would. After all, I did ask for your input.

Which is why I’ve now published almost nothing but copywriting and business posts since July 23.

And guess what?

More unsubscribes… lower traffic levels… and a general sense of disinterest.

I realize some readers (maybe you) were following the Copywriting Mistakes series very closely. One woman emailed me because she’d somehow lost one of them. Other people replied with potential projects they wanted to discuss.

So some people were tuned in and responded positively.

But… overall… more people unsubscribed and fewer new people subscribed.

This is the exact OPPOSITE of what happens when I write about controversial stuff.

When I publish my opinions about politics or scams or bad copy or anything else that gets people’s blood boiling, I do get more unsubscribes. But the number of new subscribers usually eclipses the unsubscribe rate.

I guess it’s just more proof that offering up a bunch of free on-topic content is not necessarily the best strategy for growing readership.

It’s also proof that what people say they want is not a reliable predictor of actual behavior.

And what really matters is not what people say, but rather what they do.

So here’s my theory about why all those copywriting posts failed to generate any growth in readership:

Content is ubiquitous and often perceived as being boring.

But well-informed opinions are usually interesting and entertaining — even if you don’t happen to agree with them.

So I’ll happily pepper my daily emails and blog posts with a little more marketing irreverence over the weeks and months to come.

By the way, if copywriting is the ONLY thing you want to read about, why haven’t you joined Copywriting Code yet? It’s pure, unadulterated teaching focused 100% on direct response copywriting.

If you’re not a member yet, join here.

-Ryan M. Healy

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Ryan Healy

Ryan Healy is a freelance copywriter, list manager, and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.