Chris Mason is our guest on the 352nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. Chris is a direct-response marketer who wrote a companion book to Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz called, Breakthrough Advertising Mastery. Chris breaks down his process for writing this book and he gives actionable tips for copywriters can use today.
Tune into the episode to find out:
- What similarities are there between songwriting and direct response marketing?
- Why you need to build your “sitting down” muscle.
- How Chris landed Brian Kurtz as a client and how their partnership grew.
- What is the 40/40/20 mix?
- The best process for context switching and juggling multiple projects at a time.
- How to get better at decision-making and what that means for your business.
- Determining your audience’s mass desire and understanding market sophistication.
- When do you incorporate a unique mechanism?
- Two techniques to better understand your audience and their needs.
- How to build the stream of acceptance and shift current beliefs.
- How to break things down into actionable steps for your audience.
- What’s a profit partner and what’s involved?
Tune into the episode by hitting play or checking out the transcript below.
The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:
The Copywriter Think Tank
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground
Free month of Brain.FM
AI for Creative Entrepreneurs Podcast
Rob Marsh: If you’ve been a copywriter for more than a few days, you’ve almost certainly been told that the preeminent copywriting book that you absolutely have to read, maybe even read over and over, is Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising. A few years ago when the book was out of print, it wasn’t uncommon to see a single copy of Breakthrough Advertising selling on eBay for close to a thousand dollars. And it is a good book, even a must read for serious copywriters, but it’s not the easiest book to read or understand.
Hi, I’m Rob Marsh and my co-host of The Copywriter Club podcast is Kira Hug, and our guest for this episode is copywriter and marketing strategist Chris Mason. Chris spent much of the last two years writing a companion volume for Eugene Schwartz’s book called Breakthrough Advertising Mastery. It makes learning the concepts that Eugene Schwartz taught in that book a lot easier to learn. And Chris tell us which concepts of the book he thinks are most important during this interview. He also shared his thoughts about songwriting, juggling multiple large projects at the same time, and what it takes to help shift a prospect’s belief so they can buy.
Kira Hug: But first, this episode is brought to you by The Copywriter Accelerator, which is actually coming up pretty soon. We have a nice little wait list you can jump on that we’ll link to if you have any interest in this program. And hopefully you do have some interest in this program. Rob, why should someone listening be interested in this program?
Rob Marsh: So if you are a new copywriter, a newish copywriter, or a copywriter that is trying to make a shift in your business in some way, we’ve actually designed this to help you go through all of those steps so that you can lay the foundation for successful business, including figuring out what niche you serve, who your exact ideal client is, what kinds of services and products they will actually buy, how you position yourself so that they want to hear from you, how you get yourself out into the world, how you price things. All of that is wrapped up into this one, I don’t want to call it a course because it’s not really a course, but it’s a cohort based group program you go through with several other copywriters, all who are working through the same assignments. You start to create your own network and there’s just a ton of bonuses stacked on top of it as well. There’s so many reasons to join. I’m actually surprised everybody hasn’t joined yet. It’s only a little bit tongue in cheek.
Kira Hug: Yeah, we clearly drank our own Kool-Aid. Yeah, and if you think about some of my favorite copywriters working today, some of the ones who I feel like are the smartest, the most creative out there, many of them have been through The Copywriter Accelerator program. Whether or not you realize that they’ve been through the entire program and really focused on their positioning and everything Rob just mentioned, niching, packaging, which has helped them get to that level where they are so successful because they’ve been so intentional about it. They didn’t just happen to fall into their business. They were intentional about all those micro-decisions and thinking through what they’re building along the way. And you can do that too. If you want to be intentional about what you’re building, you can look into The Copywriter Accelerator and jump on the wait list.
Rob Marsh: You can find that at thecopywriteraccelerator.com.
Kira Hug: Okay, let’s kick off our episode with Chris Mason.
Chris Mason: I got into marketing because I came to Nashville where I still live in right after college, like 2003 or so. And I wrote songs and I performed, so I traveled around the Southeast and Midwest and I quickly learned that, well, if you don’t learn how to promote shows and handle the business side, nobody comes to them. And I started building a email list back in the early days, people who had come to the shows and I was doing marketing, but I didn’t really know that’s what it was. The more I studied about how do I make this thing work, what I was doing with music, I came into contact with, there was a book that was written by one of the head marketing creative guys at Nike that I remember was really powerful for me. I’m blanking the name of it, but it really opened my eyes to this world of creativity and how commerce actually happens.
And that was how I got interested in marketing. And then I grew tired of being a traveling musician. I still write songs. I love that process, but I wasn’t too keen on being a performer. And so I had a mentor, he said, “You ought to think about getting just a regular job,” because I was saying to him, “I’ve been doing this music thing for six years and I feel like I just don’t really understand business that well, and I want to be a better business person.” And so he said, “Go get a job and learn that skill on somebody else’s dime.” And so I ended up doing that for eight years. I didn’t think I would be in the corporate world for eight years, but it really helped me learn the skills that I needed to then build something on the side and get out and do my own thing again.
Rob Marsh: So starts out songwriting, then working. I got to know as a songwriter, any hits? Anything we might recognize? Is it all for yourself or have you partnered with anybody, record labels, anything like that?
Chris Mason: No, I had a song put on hold once, which was by Diamond Rio, a country artist. But that was the closest. So when the song’s put on hold, it’s like nobody else can have it. But that was the closest, and I probably could have pursued that a little more. And actually, my mom was just visiting this past weekend. She’s like, “You got to get back to pitching more of your songs.” So I told her it’s been on my mind because I write music. I mean, I’m writing every week just for therapy, if nothing else.
Rob Marsh: Yeah. Well, if you hadn’t made big, you wouldn’t be here with us. So I mean, in some ways we’re grateful that you’re not playing guitar or something with Diamond Rio. That would be amazing. So before we move on though to the rest of that, what are some of the similarities between songwriting and marketing and the writing that you do? Obviously there’s some lessons to pull from one that apply to the other. Talk about that.
Chris Mason: Yeah, that’s a great question because I’ve thought a lot about this actually, because I think one of the reasons that I got really interested in copywriting, which was around 2012, is when I first got introduced to direct response because I didn’t know that this style of marketing existed because I was much more familiar with brand and awareness and how many impressions are you getting, not real measurable things. But then I got introduced to direct response. And the thing that I loved about it was I just saw that this is a way that you can tell stories and you can go long as long as you’re interesting. And so I really connected endless similarities of finding a good story, starting in the middle of the story, what we would call the hook. It’s the same thing when you’re writing a song of you’ve got your chorus.
The way that I start with music is I usually start with trying to find the melody of the song first, and it usually evokes this emotion. And so then you’ve got this emotion of this sounds like a heartache song. And then for me, it’s digging of what stories have I come into contact with or read about that I feel like I could capture this emotion with. And then you just start putting words out that don’t even go together.
There’s a great video of John Mayer where he is given an interview and he talks about this process. And that is really what copywriting is like for me too, is when I sit down to write, I know where I’m going. Ultimately, I’ve got the action I want somebody to take, and I just write an ugly piece of copy and then it’s easier to go back and edit it and say, “Ah, I don’t want to say it that way,” or “That’s kind of a good idea and I’ll highlight it and I’ll come back to it.” But it’s a series of days. It doesn’t happen for me quickly at all
Rob Marsh: That John Mayer video’s incredible. We’ll try to link to that in the show notes.
Kira Hug: Yeah, I have not seen that.
Chris Mason: It’s wonderful.
Kira Hug: I’d love to hear more about your creative process before you even sit down to do that or while you’re in it, is it your morning routine? How does it fit into your life?
Chris Mason: I actually wrote about this recently. I used to have a routine. When you’re talking about my creative process, do you mean songwriting or just in general?
Kira Hug: I mean more general, but yeah, how do you stay creative and make it a habit?
Chris Mason: Yeah. Well, I don’t know about staying creative. I think part of that is just in me honestly. But I guess the habit that I’ve been good about developing now is I used to have more of a routine where I would sit down and I would read something or I do some meditation. And I found that for me on the days that I missed that or I had something come up, I was so committed to that that it actually became a bit of a crutch for me. And so I felt like I didn’t start my day off the right way. And part of that’s probably just from that black and white thinking.
I grew up in the South as a strict religious upbringing, and so there’s part probably some head trash around that for me and just how I think about it. But I ended up just saying I’m not going to have a routine, but what I’m going to do is just I’m going to commit at this time every day, usually around 7:45 or eight, I sit down and I’m just going to write, and I don’t even know what I’m going to write about, but I’m going to start with writing an email and it’s going to be on something that I want to teach or talk about or a story, just something.
And sometimes there are emails that I would never send. So I do a lot of things in private just to build the habit of what I’ll do publicly. But that’s it for me is just building that muscle of just sitting down and writing whether I feel like it or not, because then it is very similar to exercise where you don’t always feel like lifting the weights or going on the run, but you build this, you get results even if every rep is not perfect. And that’s what I feel like because I’m just showing up and I’m doing my creative workout. I’m just sitting down and writing every morning.
Rob Marsh: I like thinking about it that way. So continuing on with your career or going back to, while you were in this corporate job, I think you started a side hustle and then that turned into something or a couple of things. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Chris Mason: It just became clear to me that direct response marketing and copywriting was something I needed to learn. 2012 or so, I was studying a lot of Dan Kennedy, just listening to a bunch of interviews, the kind that you guys put out. And then I decided that the fastest path to cash for me would be to start consulting, which is something that I had resisted for a while because consulting still felt like trading time for money, which I didn’t want. But the pain of being stuck in that day job and unhappy was more than the pain of having to deal with all the things I thought would be bad about consulting. So I just opened my eyes to start looking for opportunities. And I saw a friend post on Facebook that his company was hiring somebody to help launch their podcast of all things.
And I had a little bit of tech know-how, but I also knew that these were guys who were involved in direct response too. So anyway, I got a part-time gig with them running their podcast. And then Brian Kurtz was one of the early guests on the show, and I was doing the pre-interview for the show with him and just really hit it off, couldn’t believe that people still bought things through direct mail and was like, “Are you kidding me?”
And so the way it worked with Brian, he ended up becoming a client because at that time, he was getting ready to leave boardroom and he needed a way to build an email list. And so after that call, I built a squeeze page for him and sent it to him, was like, “Hey, we’ll use this for your interview and you can start building your email list.” And that was it. He just kept coming back to me for random stuff and he is like, “Hey, I’m going to do this Titans direct response event in 2014. Will you helped me with that?” And that was really my real education into this world, and even who Brian was, honestly.
Kira Hug: Okay. Well, I definitely want to hear about Titans and Brian, I want to know the real story about Brian, but I’m curious how you made the consulting work, and it sounds obvious because I think it just probably came naturally to you, but there are a lot of copywriters who want to shift into offering more consulting, and they don’t know how to do that.
Chris Mason: Yeah, I mean, the experience that I had, there was no system for me. It’s like when you were car shopping and you’re like, “Oh, I think I want to get this car.” And then you start seeing that car everywhere you go. For me, it was like that I decided in my mind that I should look at getting a couple consulting clients, so it will help me become a better copywriter. I know that I’m halfway decent, even as a newbie just because I connected with it so well because it felt so similar to songwriting for me.
And so I just started seeing a couple opportunities and when I saw this one from Andy Drish popup that they were hiring a podcaster, I was like, “Oh, this would be a great opportunity for me.” So I think from that was my experience. If I was advising somebody and they had been running into a brick wall not being able to find clients, then my advice would be to set the goal of do 50 or a hundred outreaches in a week, and you’re going to get somebody to respond. It may not be the perfect client, but it just depends on where you are and how hungry you are.
Rob Marsh: I’d love to hear about the Titans event, and I was out of the country at the time that happened, otherwise I would’ve been there. Maybe we would’ve met even sooner than we did, Chris. But some of the takeaways from, not just from the speakers or some of the things that you might have learned there, but from producing the event and helping Brian put that together. I’d just love to hear your thoughts on that.
Chris Mason: Yeah, I think when we were putting that to… Well, I mean there were lessons learned just on the technical side of things like getting merchant accounts set up and there were some hard lessons of you can’t just open up a payment gateway and all of a sudden start charging people $3,000 for a ticket without any heads up because that gets everything frozen. So there were definitely some lessons like that for me, I think as far as substance on being a part of just watching Brian put that together, and it was really Brian putting it together. It was him and Dan Kennedy that were the lead speakers, and it was really an owed to Marty Edelson who had just passed away. And I think one of the things that I took away from that for me was just how intentional Brian was about the small things.
So how we were going to transition from speaker to speaker, when were people going to need to have a bathroom break. So it was just always thinking about what the audience was experiencing, just these little details of putting an event like that together. And then we had VIPs, and this is where Brian his generosity and his over delivering nature really shines through because he is like, “These are our VIPs.” They’re paying five grand ticket and how are we going to make them feel special above and beyond. So they had their own little separate area to eat lunch and connect with everybody. And then had what was the biggest boardroom dinner ever. I mean, it was this huge, huge table with I think 60 people. And Brian went around and he spoke about each person individually at that event. And so I think more than anything, and I’ve continued to learn this from Brian, it’s just be professional and be committed to giving people more than they expect from you. And I have those lessons on a regular basis with Brian.
Kira Hug: I wonder what other lessons you’ve had and pulled from your time working with Brian, marketing lessons, other business lessons. What else? What stands out?
Chris Mason: As far as the marketing lessons, Brian, his expertise is in list selection and list development. And even when he was a boardroom managing just a huge list of names, he truly does think of list as people. So he doesn’t think of them as just a data set. That’s something that I’ve internalized and these are people that we’re making this offer to. And then the other component is that the list is the most important of if anything you do in marketing. So he talks about the three-legged stool of the list offer and the creative and the idea that if you’ve got a starving crowd and they’re hungry, if you saw water and you’ve got a group of people that are dying of thirst, it doesn’t take much to get that offer to convert if you found the right people. So that is probably the biggest takeaway.
Now, when I work on any kind of promotion that we’re going to do, we always start first with what list segment are we going to go to and what do we know about this list segment based on how they have purchased from us in the past. So if we’re going to people who bought Breakthrough Advertising, that then informs the way we will talk to them, and we’ll acknowledge that, “Hey, we know that you bought this book from us and we know that you believe this set of values. And so we’ve put this offer together just for you. We’re working on an offer right now for Breakthrough Advertising buyers to join Titan’s Accelerator, and it’s going to be a different type of an offer than just the regular one that we’d send out to everybody on the house list.”
Rob Marsh: While we’re talking about all the stuff that you’ve done with Brian as really his business partner in so many ways, there’s this book that you helped create that came out maybe two years ago, year and a half ago, seems like maybe a little less than that. I’m trying to remember when I got my copy, but it was a big… Tell us about that, what the book is and all the stuff that went into it, and then maybe we can even talk about some of the concepts.
Chris Mason: Yeah, so Breakthrough Advertising Mastery is I think what you’re talking about.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, yeah, let’s talk about that.
Chris Mason: So that one was actually we just started shipping it this past November, but it did take me almost two years to complete it. And that was a process of when we launched Titans Accelerator, there was a subgroup inside of this little virtual mastermind that they just wanted to go deep into Breakthrough Advertising that Brian has the rights to sell Breakthrough Advertising, still sends checks every quarter to Barbara, Gene’s wife. Gene is the person who wrote the book. I’m sure your audience knows that, but this subgroup inside of Titans Accelerator had these weekly account or study groups for Breakthrough Advertising. And when I saw that and I participated in them, I realized that one of the common pieces of feedback we get from people who buy the book is like, “Hey, this is a really dense book.”
And they would have questions like, “I’m not understanding what he’s talking about on market sophistication and things like that.” Just because it’s a book that was written in 1966, it just is a different beast than the way books are written today that they’re much more kind of integrated into an experience of you’re going to go online, you’re going to get all this probably some training videos, and there’s much more of a process. And in many ways, to me that it makes me trust older books even more because that was it. They were just selling you. You’re not getting into a funnel or anything like that. There’s a little more purity to it. But anyway, when I saw this interest, I had this idea, I wonder, one of the skills that I got good at developing or I developed in the corporate world was being able to take complex ideas and simplify them.
And I enjoyed that challenge. And so I had this idea that we should do a bootcamp, a two-week bootcamp, where we would teach the first three chapters of Breakthrough Advertising and let’s just see how that goes. And so that’s how we started. And I put this eight calls, I put that curriculum together and got really great feedback from folks, put 60 people in, and then we did it again. And at that point I was like I think I could continue this process that I did with the bootcamp and just do it for the rest of the book and put it together in my original idea was just to make a study guide for it. And so my process for that was the first thing every morning I spent the first hour of every day reading Breakthrough Advertising, writing, pen and paper, just making notes in a notebook, making notes on the margin.
And then when I was done, I went back and organized all those notes and just started to think, all right, now how would I create exercises that somebody could do so that they could feel, we were talking about earlier, like just building that muscle and that muscle memory. Can you give somebody the feeling of what it would be like to practice coming up with some copy that uses identification or gradualization or how would you practice writing to somebody who is solution aware? And so the goal wasn’t to say, “Here’s fill in the blank template and you can write your sales letter just like Gene did.” It was more about how can you develop through repetition the skill and the way of thinking that Gene is talking about in the book. And so that ended up being Breakthrough Advertising Mastery, and we came into contact with somebody on Brian’s list who was a huge fan of Gene, and he had collected all the ads, the actual ads that were in the book.
And so I hired him to go back through the book and list the page numbers at the bottom of every ad. So if you’re looking at an old clear all ad or something, you could look at the bottom of that ad and say, “Well, Gene talks about this on page 92.” So then you could open up Breakthrough Advertising and get what Gene was saying, but then also see the actual ad that he was looking at when he was writing the book. So it ended up being much bigger than, I mean literally because it’s over 500 pages, much bigger literally and then also just figuratively of it was a big project to take on and put together. And it took almost two years to do that, but it’s out now.
Kira Hug: I wonder what advice you would give yourself. It’s such a huge project and maybe we don’t have that same project on our plate, but we all take on these huge projects. What advice would you give yourself if you were starting out again? Not necessarily to go faster, but just to be able to do it differently or better or make it less painful along the way.
Chris Mason: I mean, I actually haven’t thought about that because I am big, for me personally, on pacing and doing a little bit of spurts of effort. And I really wanted to take the time because it is such an iconic book that I didn’t want to… So I wasn’t trying to necessarily go fast. If anything that I think the thing that could have made it gone faster is if… Because I didn’t move on until I knew in my head that I understood it and it made sense to me. And sometimes that was the thing that slowed it down.
To give myself more sort of mental ram, I guess, it would’ve meant allowing for more thinking time and space for me. That probably would’ve been the way to make the process go faster instead of because I was working on other projects and writing copy. So it was a lot of mentally just jumping from one project to the next. And so I guess that would be my advice to myself on a next project. Can you devote more time to putting in the effort and then resting and then coming back to it versus putting in the effort the hour or two in the morning and then jumping into another copy project? They call it context switching.
Kira Hug: All right, let’s get into it. Rob, do you want to kick it off?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, so a couple of things jump out at me immediately. One these things is something we’ve talked about with Brian Kurtz on the podcast in the past. I think even on the very first time we had him on the podcast, which was episode 22, where we talked about the direct response formula 40-40-20, where 40% of the success of your project is in the offer that you make, 20% of the is the copyright and the 40% is your list. And when Chris talked about his approach, Brian’s approach, both of their approaches to the list and seeing them as people and not just as an asset for throwing emails at or for trying to sell to, but each individual person on that list is a person with emotions, with feelings, with needs, with problems and challenges that need solving.
And just shifting to thinking about them as people as opposed to a marketing asset, I think changes the way that we communicate with our audience a lot. And so that’s just one thing that immediately jumped out to me. I thought that’s worth reemphasizing, put a pin in or whatever you do, because the more we see the people we’re talking to as people, the less likely we are to try to manipulate or do weird marketing stuff and more try to help them actually solve the challenges they face.
Kira Hug: And that also reminds me of something that Todd Brown talks about frequently around not writing copy like a copywriter, and I am so guilty of this, so this always resonates with me, but where when we sit down to write copy to our email list, we put on our copywriter hat and we really try to be really clever and we fall in love with the sound of the copy and the conversion principles that we’re practicing. We’re so proud of ourselves because we’re being good copywriters, and it’s really easy to forget that there is a person on the other side and would you actually say that to that person? Would you have that tone of voice with that person if you were talking to them? And yes, there’s room to ramp things up and speak and show up as an 11 rather than diminishing your voice. But I catch myself often just thinking about, okay, would I actually write this to a person if I’m thinking about my list as people and not just subscribers or people who aren’t actually part of the community?
Rob Marsh: Yeah, that’s a really good point and something that I have banged around in my head a lot too. Don’t write like a copywriter, write like a human being. One other thing that Chris mentioned, I think this is when we were talking about writing music, but just this idea of taking the time to build the muscle of writing and whether it’s writing songs or writing copy or writing a novel or whatever, we should approach it oftentimes the way that we approach exercise or building muscles or anything that we’re trying to get consistent at and to do well and to do better and to grow, we do need to do it almost daily.
And we do need to take a very systematic approach and making sure that we have carved out time either to practice the skills or practice the writing or whatever the thing is that we’re trying to develop and build and grow. So again, worth just drawing a line under and saying, yep, ring a bell with me. And I’m hoping that anybody listening is thinking, okay, how can I start to build that muscle of sitting down and writing whether I want to or not?
Kira Hug: And Chris mentioned making the decision to be a consultant and how once he made that decision, he was able to spot all these opportunities. And so to me, that’s just really reminding me that we just have to make the decision. And I think where a lot of writers struggle is not in seeing the opportunities because the opportunities are always out there, but in making that decision because we’re so scared or stressed or anxious about making the wrong decision, so we don’t make any decision or making a decision that we feel like we’re going to be stuck with for years and years and years.
And some of the writers I’ve seen that appear to be more successful because we’ve worked with them and we really can see how they’re showing up what they’re doing, even some of their financials, I’ve noticed that they often make decisions quickly and they don’t stress about the consequences as much because they know they can make another decision if it doesn’t work out. And so that part of the conversation resonated with me because I love that Chris just made that decision, made it easy. And then all the opportunities presented themselves.
Rob Marsh: I mean, even more than just making a decision, it’s giving yourself permission to do this stuff. So oftentimes we’ll see copywriters who can see opportunities around them, but because they think of themselves only as copywriters and not as problem solvers or not as consultants or not as partners for their clients and the people that they’re working with, they’re just showing up as copywriters. So they’re there to take those orders or to fill that role only. And so giving yourself permission to show up in a bigger way is a big part of that decisiveness, of that decision making as well.
Kira Hug: And we talked about Brian Kurtz, and I just wanted to say, because we were talking about Brian, and Chris had mentioned how intentional Brian was at the Titans event that he hosted, and you and I have been able to see Brian in action in the masterclass group we were a part of for a couple of years. And what I love about Brian and that intentionality is that he just cares about all those details involving humans, interacting with other humans, down to when you and I would sit down for dinners with these large groups, which is, I don’t know, sometimes 40 people, 50 people, Brian would assign seats at the table, which was definitely extra work, but it wasn’t random.
He assigned seats based on who he thought you might want to connect with. There was usually a reason or a story related to where he put you at the table, and oftentimes he would share that with you so you knew why you were wherever you were at the table. And I haven’t seen that or experienced that anywhere else. I think it’s something that is rare these days. And again, it’s just another reminder that those little details around intentionality can go a long way, especially if you’re curating a community of people who want to connect with each other and want to be there. Brian has done that beautifully.
Rob Marsh: You and I are both unabashed Brian Kurt’s fans. We’ve seen him in action, we’ve seen how much he cares and how kind and generous he’s been with his time and advice for us. He’s a great guy and I’m totally jealous that Chris gets to work with him on a regular basis. I think that is a phenomenal partnership. And again, if I could trade places with anyone, it might be Chris and being able to work with Brian. Okay, let’s get back to our interview with Chris to find out how we can apply key principles from Breakthrough Advertising into our businesses to help our clients.
Chris, as you think about the stuff that you put together for the bootcamp, I’m wondering if we can talk about some of the ideas that Gene talks about in his book, and we’ll definitely link to a place where you should buy it. If you want Gene’s book and you’re listening and you haven’t got this, it has sold for thousands of dollars online. I know there’s still some places to sell it for high amounts. Brian makes it available for less, so we’ll link to that. But most of us know about buyer awareness and the stages of that. I think that gets repeated a lot in the copywriting world, but there’s way more in your first few chapters of the book. So will you talk about some of the other concepts that Gene talks about?
Chris Mason: Absolutely. One of the big ones is the very first page and it’s mass desire, and this is key throughout the whole book. And it’s the idea that mass desire in the market is preexisting and it’s not created. For me at least, it was a huge light bulb to think about what my job and my role is as a marketer. So when I got into copy, I also was interested in the folks who talked about NLP and I was just more curious about it of how does this NLP thing work. And I think that there’s a natural conclusion from that I can make people want something.
Rob Marsh: Using the right words they’re going to respond to that.
Chris Mason: Yeah, and what Gene says in the very first page is like, “No, no, no. The desire is already there. What we do is channel it.” And it gave me this image of a river in my mind of the river’s just flowing. And what we do as marketers is we’re trying to carve off a little piece of the river and figure out how to channel it towards our product or our offer or whatever it is. And so that was a big one for me because then everything else from that first page is built on everything he talks about. Somebody’s talking about market sophistication, which is looking at the market and saying, “All right, how many other products are currently fighting for the attention of my customer? And how do I stand out given my competitive landscape?” It always starts with, well, let’s go back to what the desire of the market is.
And so typically, if you’re the first person to market, that would be a stage one of market sophistication. So you really don’t have to do much more than just say, “This is my offer, here’s a price,” because they don’t have anything else to compare it to. As you get further stage three, for example, you’ve got more competition. So people are copying what you’re doing, they’re copying your marketing, and this is where you can get into trouble if all you’re doing is copying other people’s stuff, but you don’t really understand the desire that makes the market. So it’s not that somebody wants to lose weight, it’s that somebody doesn’t want to end up like their mom who maybe died prematurely and they want to be there for their kids. There’s so much more underneath those surface desires that people have. But when you get into something like a stage three, then you’re looking at mechanisms.
So you’re talking about how the product works and you start seeing things like if we’re staying with weight loss, our weight loss product has this special ingredient in it and that special ingredient attacks the fat cells in your body. I’m not a physician, nobody listen to me. But you start to talk about your product that way, and it’s based on these stages of sophistication that really exists for you as a way to set yourself apart from your competition in the eye of your market. The first part of the book is all about just your headline. That’s it. It’s not about the body copy, it’s just about how do you get attention. And then in part two, you get into these techniques that are more about, okay, once you’ve got the attention, what are the different ways that you can keep it and lead somebody down the path to where you help them see the problem they’re facing?
And he says that you want the solution to that problem to run through your product. So it just feels like, well, this is the way that I solve this specific problem that has been highlighted in the headline and the lead in or the ad that I’m responding to. And the two of the techniques that really speak to me, the first one is identification, which I think is in chapter seven. And that’s really about knowing who your market wants to be. And you’re telling them in your marketing who they are, you’re showing them through your words, through your imagery, their ideal future self, and you connect with them that way. Plus using all the techniques from part one of the book of how you establish yourself as an expert by knowing what it is that they really want. And that gets to mass desire and the other things we talked about.
The other technique I really like, and this is probably my favorite one, is gradualization. And that’s the language of logic. And he really breaks down in that the architecture of belief. And he makes the point that if you ask your prospect to accept an idea or a belief that they are not going to accept, then you actually put them in this childlike state and nobody wants to be a child. Actually, I think that an example of something that may do this in the current world is when you see ads or posts that say, “I sent this one email and it made me a million dollars.” And I think that you can certainly scoop up a certain group of people with that kind of claim, but those types of claims don’t really have a long shelf life because they’re just not believable because clearly there’s more to it than just sending this one email.
They’re not telling you about the list that they built in the relationship. But the thing about gradualization is you start with what are the things that my market already believes and accepts? And the way I do it in the book, the exercise is like you just list those things out and then it’s this exercise of, okay, I know the things that they accept already and I know the solution that I ultimately want to offer. And then it’s like this puzzle of, can I make a logical connection between the two? So if you already accept that living a healthy life is important, all right, we can agree on that. So what follows from that? And you just build this bridge and that whole chapter is chapter nine. Gradualization is about that process, and there’s a great example of an old ad that does this, selling a TV repair manual. But yeah, that gradualization is probably one of my favorite chapters in the book.
Kira Hug: Chris, I would like to hear about how your process for distilling the information, and I know you mentioned giving yourself space and pacing it out on a larger scale, but just how do we take content from a book and then make it something that is actionable that people can implement and really think about and get it? What does that look like?
Chris Mason: What it looked like for me was as I read through the book and I just tried to highlight and underline what were just felt like light bulb moments for me or things that I had forgotten or, oh yeah, I remember hearing this idea from Perry Marshall or something like that. It was like, “Oh yeah, that’s a good one.” And so it started just underlining. And then often it was at the same time and I’d underline it and then I had a notebook right next to me and I would just write out what the sentence was, and then I would make this dot underneath what I wrote and usually like a green dot. Here it is actually, it was this marker right here, it’s sitting on my desk. I make this green dot and that let me know that, okay, what I’m about to write is my interpretation or my takeaway because I wanted to distinguish between what Gene was saying and what I was saying.
And so when I went back through it, I was like, “Okay, this is my idea. Let me make sure that I’m not doing a disservice to his idea.” So that was my process initially of just pulling out the ideas that spoke to me. And then for each chapter, I would just write a, not fascination bullets, but more like a bulleted summary of what is the most important thing about chapter one of mass desire. And for that one, that was easy. It was desire is not created, it’s preexisting.
And it’s like, okay, if we’re going to believe that is true, what can I give to somebody to help them explore that idea in their audience? And then that’s where the creativity just comes in of just thinking about different ways to give people that experience. And so what I ended up doing on desire in particular was realizing that a book that was written in 1966, the kind of desires you could talk about then you could stay high level. You could talk about who wants to lose the weight. Now after hundreds of different diet pills and things like that, you have to get below the surface and so what’s under the desire? And so then I felt like, all right, well, that’s what I needed to do on the chapter for desire. So we’re going to talk about how do you get underneath what somebody really wants underneath the surface, and that gets us talking into transformation.
Then I had the idea of if you can describe the before and after, no matter what you sell, if you can describe what your customer’s life will be like after they purchase, then that is really what you are inviting people into is a chance to move away from their dissatisfaction and towards an identity or a new way of being that is also in line with this overall desire of losing weight or living healthy or you making more money, whatever it is. But it’s like why do you want those things? So every chapter was like that. It was like pull my notes out, what do I think he’s really trying to say and what are different ways that I could give somebody an exercise to practice this.
Rob Marsh: It feels like going through this process, Chris, you are probably the foremost authority on Eugene Schwartz’s book. Maybe someone like Parris Lampropoulos has read it a few more times and knows it. But with all that stuff that you’ve pulled out of the book, now how do you use it in your writing? When you sit down to write a sales page or create a new funnel, is there a construct that you use as you go through this stuff or do you just sit down and it’s like, “I’m starting with my template and I’ll revisit these ideas and add them in later.”? How does that all work?
Chris Mason: Definitely depends on what’s being written. So email is different, and I feel like email is what I’m best at. It’s short form and it’s usually story based. But if it’s like longer form sales letter, the thing that always just sticks in my mind is starting with what is the thing that they want? What is the after photo look like for them? And then I will then write down what is it that somebody needs to believe going to gradualization, but what is it that somebody needs to believe in order to say, “Yes, this makes sense for me.”? And those are usually the two places that I start. And I don’t mean what do they need to believe so that I can manipulate somebody into believing what they don’t believe. It’s more sort of that stringing together those stream. Gene calls it you’re creating a stream of acceptances.
So it is just creating this yes stream. So it is starting with what do they believe now, what do I need somebody to believe to be able to join Titans Accelerator or whatever it is, and can I make my case? So I very much view it as like a lawyer making a case. And that’s probably more to do with my personality than anything else. It’s how I think. Somebody like Paris or David Deutsch, who’s maybe not so regimented would have a different approach. But that tends to be what I do as I start with what is… Gene says what is the desire that creates the market? And so I spend a lot of time thinking about what is the thing that people want that even makes this market possible. And then I look at beliefs of what do they believe now, what have they tried that isn’t working, what do they believe about products they may have purchased in the past that didn’t work for them, and then what do they need to believe to be hell yes.
Kira Hug: Where do you see the biggest opportunity for writers today and moving forward given your unique perspective and your expertise from writing and just putting this book together? Also, knowing AI exists and these tools are becoming more and more a part of what we do as writers, where do you see that opportunity?
Chris Mason: The word opportunity takes me in a different path than maybe what you are actually asking, but the opportunity that I see for freelance copywriters is to start… This is what I did with Brian, and I call it becoming a profit partner. So if you’ve got a skillset to where you know how to write compelling copy for somebody you can put offers together and you’ve got a client that you know their business very well, there’s a huge opportunity to go to them and say, “Hey, I think that if you were to launch an offer like this, that it would do really well for your list.” And here’s the deal I’ll make with you is I will take on the risk and I will create this offer. And depending on what it is, I will also build the support structure around it. This is how we got Titans Accelerator.
I went to Brian and said, “I think you could do this virtual mastermind.” This is what it would look like. It took 18 months to get to a yes, and then we launched it. But then I built all the support system to make it run behind the scenes. And in exchange, I get to share in the revenue. And that is an opportunity that I see for somebody who is a freelance copywriter to be able to look for one or two of those kind of deals because then you start earning money on the things you’ve built on repeat and everybody’s rowing in the same direction because then your client obviously wants the offer to be successful. You want it to be successful because it’s monthly recurring revenue. It’s not time for money. And so that actually is an opportunity I see that I think is available to more copywriters than the ones who actually seek it out.
Kira Hug: Well, as a follow-up, how do you structure that? And you don’t have to share your numbers of Brian, but how would you recommend we think about it structuring that percentage? And also does that mean that you go all in on one profit partner at a time, or do you see us having maybe two or three? What would work or what would you recommend?
Chris Mason: The most that I had, I had two. I do a couple of different offers with Brian that way. And then I had another client in the survival space that we did a partnership on a healthy tea product for a couple years and then just decided to close that down. We didn’t have any passion around it anymore, but I don’t know, without talking to an individual what it is that they want and what kind of life they want to say, well have five or six or one. I view it more as I think that this is a good framework that will allow you to use your copywriting skills to do more of designing the life that you want. That’s how I would look at it. And so it’s like if you’ve got a book of clients now, I would definitely have been working with a client for at least a year.
I wouldn’t do this with a new client because you’ve got to have trust both ways. And in terms of a percentage, I don’t know. In the tea business, it was 50-50 and we did it that way. There are issues with 50-50. I think it’s probably good to have the face of the brand, the client have a higher percentage, so whether that’s 60-40 or 70-30 or whatever. But I think having the client have a higher percentage in my experience so far is it seemed to work better, but I don’t know-
Rob Marsh: It probably keeps them interested longer, right?
Chris Mason: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. But just as a general framework, I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of copywriters that they just haven’t thought of. And it’s very similar to the idea of getting royalties. But in this case, you’re taking more of an active role and you also want to do the numbers. If it’s just about the money and you can make more money just with volume of just getting clients, then do that. But I think there are some out there who maybe want a slower life and they don’t want to continually have to crank the flywheel to drum up clients. And I think profit partnership is a worthwhile thing to pursue and look into. I’d be happy to talk with anybody about that.
Kira Hug: Your next book.
Rob Marsh: We’re definitely going to take you up on that offer. We’ll find a place for you to share that with one of our groups or our audiences. So Chris, as we’re almost out of time, I’m curious with your business, the things that you do, what are you most excited about? What’s getting you up in the morning aside from maybe songwriting and then you’re just like, “I can’t wait to get working on that.”?
Chris Mason: So the thing that I’m excited about right now is with the release of the book, I’ve always been behind the scenes and have been happy to be behind the scenes. And one of the things that writing the book and doing the bootcamps taught me is that I really do enjoy going deep on a topic in teaching and helping people like one-on-one or in a group setting. So I didn’t know that about myself before doing the bootcamps, but now that I’ve got the book and it’s got my name on it, I’ve got a new website that I actually just today got the new design back from. But I’m thinking in terms of, well, what does a personal brand look like for me? How could I help people? I want to do these a few times a week, just offer to let people pick my brain.
And I mean, I would charge a small amount for it, but I just like being able to connect with somebody one-on-one and help them figure out where they’re getting stuck. I’m even more motivated if it’s somebody who is in a day job and they’re stuck the way that I felt stuck. I just have a big heart for those people because I know that that world, that life and feeling so well. But that’s what I’m excited is to figure out what it looks like for me to step out from buying the curtain a little bit and figure out what I’m comfortable with in doing that. But yeah, that’s what has me excited right now.
Kira Hug: Very cool. Well, I’ll book the sessions, the pick your brain session.
Rob Marsh: The wizard behind the curtain.
Kira Hug: Yeah, anytime you put that out there, I’ll grab it. We really appreciate you, Chris, jumping into the show and talking about the process and putting the book together and creating it so that we can benefit from it. So thank you for giving us your time. I appreciate it.
Rob Marsh: Thanks, Chris. That’s the end of our interview with Chris Mason. Before we go, let’s touch on just one or two other things that stood out as we were chatting with Chris. I think I went first last time, Kira, do you want to take the lead here?
Kira Hug: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I love geeking out over the topics that Chris shared with us. And one of them, just another reminder because I have read Breakthrough Advertising and that there’s so many great reminders that he shared around desire, just the reminder that mass desire isn’t created, it already exists, and we just have to channel that desire. And that’s so easy as copywriters to forget that and I forget that repeatedly.
And then you may put an offer out there, or you may help a client put an offer out there and it just doesn’t land. And it’s because we’re not paying attention to the market and really having a pulse on what the market desires today, not a year ago. And this part is moving so quickly today in a way that Eugene Schwartz probably couldn’t have imagined. And that desire is changing day by day by day. So it really is about paying attention to the market, paying attention to your audience, listening to them, because what you think was their desire that you’re channeling from not too long ago could have already shifted. And so that just resonates even more than it did when I last read the book.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, what he said about thinking about what’s under the desire I think is really critical as well. I think in the example of maybe wanting to lose weight and what is the thing that’s driving that oftentimes, well, I want to look better for putting on a swimming suit or whatever. That’s the cliche reason. But there may be other things too. They’re psychological. Maybe there’s a personal need that’s underneath that. And we see this with copywriters all the time where a client will come to us and say, “Hey, I need a website.” And the first level reaction is, okay, the desires for a website, so I’m going to write a website. But by asking a series of smart questions about the business, you might discover that what the problem they’re really trying to solve could be solved with a website, but it might also be solved in three or four other ways.
Because what they want isn’t a web website, it’s the thing that the website is going to get them, and maybe that’s business related like sales, new customers, maybe it’s psychological or a mental benefit. People are going to see me as a professional because of the way that I’m showing up online in this way. There’s all kinds of desires under the desire. And so really taking a few minutes or as we’re doing the research with our clients, it’s going to be more than a few minutes, but really trying to figure out what is the desire under the desire. And sometimes it’s two or three layers deep, like Chris pointed out.
Kira Hug: Yeah, that’s a great point to just keep digging deeper and not settle until you really hit that deep desire. We also talked a lot about market sophistication, which I love talking about. And we have a presentation in the Copywriter Underground about the different levels of sophistication and what they all mean and how you can use that in your own copy. I think the important part that Chris hit on is identification and how important identification is today because many of the spaces we work in, at least the space I work in with course creators and launching different memberships, it’s very crowded. And so once you’ve gone through all the promises and your audience has heard all the promises and they’ve seen all the typical unique mechanisms, once they’ve know and they’ve seen everything out there, they stop believing in all of it. And at that point, the best way to connect with them and to resonate with them and cut through all the noise is for them to identify with you as a brand, you as a person with your business.
And they can only identify through you if you share parts of your brand with them. And so that’s where personality driven copy can really play a huge role in launch copy in many different spaces so your audience can really see themselves in your brand or see what they want or they aspire to be or value or a viewpoint and really resonate with your brand so that they’re like, “Oh, I feel this connection. That’s what I want. I see it in your brand, so I’m going to opt in and I’m going to pay attention to this.” And again, that’s more important today than ever because our space, especially the online marketing space, is just so crowded and messages just aren’t landing like they used to.
Rob Marsh: And going along with that, that gradualization process, is the development of beliefs. It starts with the brand and try and a customer or client identifying themselves with something that they see in this brand that they’re starting to engage with, but then moving them from where they are, the beliefs that they hold today to those beliefs that they need to have in order to solve the problem that they have. And that’s where the sales copy content that moves people through a funnel, that’s where all of that stuff comes in. And it’s all about the gradualization process that Eugene talks about and that Chris was talking about to move people logically from one point to another until they get to the point where they’re ready to buy, they’re ready to fix the problem, they’re ready to engage or do whatever the thing is that they need to do to take the next step.
Kira Hug: And just how important it is to make the message believable. And if I say I’m selling this email template because this email made me a million dollars, that is hard to believe. But if I say I’m selling this email template and this email made me a thousand dollars, or I get really specific with a specific number, but it is believable, it’s like, well, it seems like an email could make around $900 or a thousand dollars with that type of product. I can believe that, I can buy that. Then the person leans in and they’re more likely to listen to you rather than shutting you down because you make a huge claim that no one would actually believe.
Rob Marsh: Yeah, believability is massive. One other thing I want to emphasize that Chris talked about is the relationship he has with some of his clients that is being a profit partner and the way that he works with them. Again, a little bit different from the approach that most copywriters take where I find a client, I work with a client, I finish the project and I move on to another client. And actually becoming a partner like Chris is with Brian Kurtz like he is with a couple of the other products and companies that he talked about.
And those long-term engagements allow you as a copywriter, as a marketer to learn the market, to be able to understand where people are in levels of sophistication and readiness to buy and all of the things that we’ve been talking about, so much easier when you’re showing up as a partner to your client and maybe even as a partner to your partner if you’ve designed your business that way, as opposed to a copywriter who shows up as that vendor ready to just help fill the order and move on. And so I think a lot of us could benefit from rethinking our approach to our clients. How can we partner with them more? How can we get to know their business better? What other things can we help them do, problems to solve, challenges to overcome? And maybe again, going back to what we were talking about earlier, maybe we’re not showing up as a copywriter anymore, but as a consultant and as a true partner in their business.
Kira Hug: And I think that goes back to just making that decision that Chris made around being a consultant. I am at the stage where I just want to be a profit partner with clients. I don’t want to run through dozens of clients every month. I just want to work with a few and really dig deep because there’s more opportunity for profitability and just keep it really simple. And then once you make that decision, it’s easier to spot those opportunities. It’s easier to show up as a profit partner and talk in that way and attract opportunities.
And so it goes back to just making that decision and being intentional about it. All right, well, we want to thank Chris Mason for giving a behind the scenes tour of Breakthrough Advertising Mastery and breaking down action steps we can all implement ourselves. If you’d like to connect with him and you definitely should, you can find him at chrismason.net. And if you want to tune into our episodes with Brian Kurtz, you can check out episode 324, episode 219, and episode 22. We’ll link to all of them in the show notes. Clearly you and I are on team Brian Kurtz and now also on team Chris Mason.
Rob Marsh: That’s the end of this episode of The Copywriter Club podcast. The intro music was composed by copywriter and songwriter Addison Rice. The outro was composed by copywriter and songwriter David Munter. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit Apple Podcasts and leave a review of the show. If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can leave the review wherever you listen. We really appreciate that feedback. And be sure to check out our other podcast all about artificial intelligence and how copywriters and creatives are using it to get better at what they do. That’s at aiforcreativeentrepreneurs.com. And if you want to join the wait list for The Copywriter Accelerator that we talked about at the top of the show, head over to the copywriteraccelerator.com to get notified when the door’s open and to get access to the early bird discount. Thanks for listening. We will see you next week.