TCC Podcast #372: The Road Ahead with Sean MacIntyre - The Copywriter Club
TCC Podcast #372: The Road Ahead with Sean MacIntyre

Financial Copywriter Sean MacIntyre is our guest for the 372nd episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast. We had the opportunity to hang out with Sean at the Copy Legends Lockdown Event and were intrigued by what he had to say about A.I., positioning yourself as an expert authority, and how to get better at copywriting. There’s some great advice here that Sean shares from his mentors as well as direction on how to read a sales page so you learn from it. Click the play button below, or scroll down for a full transcript.

The people and stuff we mentioned on the show:

Small Group Coaching
The Copywriter Club Facebook Group
The Copywriter Underground

Full Transcript:

Rob Marsh:  You’ve heard the good and bad about the future of copywriting and content writing. AI is going to take all of our jobs. Or conversely, it’s the greatest opportunity ever to come along… at least for the copywriters ready to take advantage of the new technology. And then there’s the economy, which for many has felt like a recession—in spite of some positive broader economic markers… regardless the ups and downs of the business cycle means there’s a recession coming sometime in the future… whether that’s next year or five years from now. So how are you planning for this stuff? What are you doing to add new skills? And should you get a part time job to hold you over while you figure this all out?

Hi, I’m Rob Marsh, one of the founders of The Copywriter Club. And on today’s episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast, my co-founder, Kira Hug, and I interviewed financial copywriter Sean MacIntyre. We covered a lot of ground in this episode… we talked about AI and why it may not be the risk some people say it is AND what’s really happening as these technologies develop. We talked about how to protect yourself from a recession and the themes your copy should address to connect with readers in stressful economic times. We also talked about having ideas, how to read a promotion so you learn from it and become a better copywriter, and a lot more. You’ll definitely want to stick around for this episode.

But first, this episode of The Copywriter Club Podcast is brought to you by The Copywriter Underground. It is truly the best membership for copywriters and content writers… let me just give you an idea of what you get for $87 a month… first there’s a monthly group coaching call with Kira and me where you can get answers to your questions, advice for overcoming any business or client or writing challenge you have. There are weekly copy critiques where we give you feedback on your copy or content. There are regular training sessions on different copy techniques and business practices designed to help you get better. And we’re adding a new monthly AI tool review where we share a new AI tool or a technique or prompt you can do with AI get more done. That’s on top of the massive library of training and templates. And the community is full of copywriters ready to help you with just about anything… including sharing leads from time to time. Find out more at

And with that, let’s go to our interview with Sean.

Kira Hug:  

All right, Sean, let’s kick off with your story. How did you end up as a copywriter?

Sean MacIntyre:  Oh, well, I’ve been writing for money since about 2001. Thanks, mom. And so yeah, I did that to sort of fund my lifestyle at the time. Spent a few years homeless. And so I was actually going to school and writing and working a few jobs on the side there. Did that got one master’s degree, then got another master’s degree, ended up teaching for about seven years in there somewhere. Then around 2015 while I was actually, helping ghost writing books for business professors, I got a job at a little place called Palm Beach Research Group, which is now called Legacy Research Group in the Agora and MarketWise family of companies. And I got hired as a proofreader. And within three months, I was promoted to an assistant managing editor. Three months after that, I was promoted to a managing editor and actually bylining reports. And then a few months after that, Mark Ford asked me to be the head of the division, like his division of the company. And that’s how I met Mark Ford (who is) Michael Masterson. 

We broke off that company and hooked it up in 2017 with Agora Financial. I went up to Baltimore, met Joe Schrieffer, met everybody in that space. We hit it off extraordinarily well. We launched a business there. And so I studied under David Deutsch. I studied under Addison Wiggin. I studied under Joe Schrieffer. And so I was getting feedback and mentorship from all of them, including Mark Ford on my first long form direct response package. And then we launched November. And two weeks after we launched, Mark Ford, who we built the business around, said, I’m going to retire again for like his seventh time. And I was like, oh, well, that was a lot of work and a lot of moving around. Because at the time I was commuting between New York, where I was living with my ex-wife in Baltimore, doing that every single week. That was tough. 

And so in January of 2018, two things happened. One, I was basically winding down the domestic side of that business, but I was still managing the international side. That’s an important thing for later. And then all the fine folks at Agora Financial were just like, you seem like a pretty decent copywriter. Do you want to just keep writing for us? So I was like, sure. So I did. And then in 2019, I had my first million dollar launch. And then I had a couple more after that. I was doing a lot of webinar copy, but then I wrote a few very successful backends under the tutelage of Evaldo Albuquerque. And that was definitely my most successful promo to date.

I think Evaldo gets 80% of the credit there. And then, you know, around the same time, the business that I was managing internationally, basically I started writing just content and copy for international affiliates, especially one in Japan, a business there that we had partnered with under the Mark Ford brand. And they kept asking me for content and I kept providing it and they kept asking for copy and I kept providing it. They translated into Japanese and that business grew to, oh, I want to say 10 million to 20 million somewhere in there. 

Then around 2020, that business was so lucrative and making so much money that it just made sense for me to work for them most of the time. Since then, I’ve been doing that for the most part, managing that business, writing for that business. Every now and again, I’ll take a freelance gig. I’ve written for Rob Booker. I’ve tried writing for International Living and stuff like that. I’ll just take a freelance gig just to stay fresh, just to keep my hand in the game of long form direct response copy. But I’m still writing it. It’s just, you know, going to international markets at the moment.

Rob Marsh:  Okay, you covered a lot of ground. My first question is, you said you’re homeless. Seriously homeless, like living on the streets homeless? 

Sean MacIntyre:  No, I was like, I just didn’t have a place. I was crashing on couches and living on a cot in my grandmother’s office from about the age of 17 to 21. It was just bouncing around a lot of different places. I wasn’t like destitute, addicted to crack cocaine, like, oh, God, help me. No, I just didn’t have a whole lot of money and wasn’t very interested in trying to get a place to rent. There was some dumpster diving, but I was never destitute. And in fact, a lot of the money that I was trying to save, I ended up using that to go live in Paris for six months. I toured around Europe. I was like the bougie version of homeless, not like, I had to pay to have all my teeth replaced homeless.

Rob Marsh:  Sure. So how, how does that the bouncing around from place to place, how does that impact what you do today? Did that give you a skillset that maybe makes you able to see things that other people can’t see or like, how does that play in your life today?

Sean MacIntyre:  Well, I think the simplest answer to that is the fact that in this business, as you both surely know, it’s very uncertain. And you have to be so comfortable with a lack of knowledge, the firm belief that what you’re doing is right, even though, theoretically speaking, you don’t know if things are going to work out. Every single piece of copy you put out into the world is a roll of the dice, certainly a skewed one, depending on how good you are. But one thing that I experienced at a very young age up until my mid twenties was just constant unending uncertainty. And I got really comfortable with being able to do things confidently, but still not really knowing what the outcome would be.

Kira Hug:  I feel like uncertainty is a really good theme for 2023 and as we go into 2024 I know so many copywriters who listen to this show are feeling uncertain about what it means to be a copywriter today and in the future and so it sounds like you’re really good at dealing with uncertainty. I guess my question is how would you as a copywriter and how would you recommend other copywriters deal with this odd time for many of us as AI is rapidly evolving and as the economy is feeling very tight and tricky… how do you think about day-to-day what should i focus on how do i grow and build?

Sean MacIntyre:  I think the answer to your question is encapsulated and subsumed inside of your question, which is the best way to overcome a lot of the uncertainties that people are currently facing is to learn and to grow. A lot of people that are worried about AI are the people that are sort of in this muck and mire, this highly competitive area of copywriting where they’re dealing with a lot of people where what they’re producing is essentially commodified. 

What do I mean by that? What I mean is that if your job is to churn out PPC ads, for example, AI is going to beat you every single time. There’s nothing you can do to do better than AI at those iterative—hey, let’s test 50,000 angles on this thing—kinds of tasks. If you are working in a commodified market, you’re going to earn commodified prices, if you can get a job at all. And so how do you work around that? Well, you reposition yourself as being the person at the helm of AI, doing that for businesses. So you become less of a copywriter and more of an AI interface consultant. And what you do in your own copy for yourself is emphasize the fact that you’re able to test things faster and better than any other copywriter in history, because that’s true. 

But the other way that you could go with that certainly is through upskilling and focusing on the types of copy that AI can’t and probably will never be able to do, at least in our lifetimes. That’s the kind of copy and the kind of strategic thinking that you’ll often find in a long form direct response package, something that takes a more indirect approach, ideation that’s very timely. For example, ChatGPT is backwards looking. All AI is backwards looking. It’s trained on past data and that informs what stochastically it’s going to deliver in terms of word salad that you see. And so what’s interesting about that it cannot give you any insights or understanding about the present moment ever, like ever. It just cannot, because all of its training data is weighted on the past. And so that gives you an advantage if you are, for example really emphasizing the fact that your copy and your content is based on what’s happening now, what’s happening in this moment. That could be anything from brand new studies that have just come out about a concept. That could be political copy. That can be financial copy that takes a political or a timely bent based on new patents, new inventions, new things. None of that’s in the training data. And so if you can write about that kind of stuff, you can find a little chink in the armor to shove a dagger into the market, you’ll make a ton of money. 

It’s just a matter of fact that AI is always gonna be nipping at your heels. So you have to stay learning and writing that kind of copy is just hard. It’s just harder. And so the only way to get good at that kind of stuff is to really take the time to try to grow and upskill as often as possible. I would recommend about like 25% of your day should be devoted to learning that kind of stuff.

Kira Hug:  When you say grow, copywriters love to grow, right? I think we’re all into development. Like what are you thinking about specifically when you think about growing? How do you approach it?

Sean MacIntyre:  So here’s a really good one. AI tools, a lot of chatbots, they’re not trained on books. So for example, you are writing health copy, what you should be eating in all likelihood. The AI tool that you’re using has not been trained on Michael Pollan’s latest book about Omnivorism, you know? There are so many different spots in the world to find information and insights and ideas that are compelling, that are provocative, that are evocative, that AI just doesn’t touch and can’t really tap into because it doesn’t understand anything. AI is actually not very intelligent in that way at all. And so what’s very interesting about that is that oftentimes, if you’re sitting down to write a piece of copy, almost everything that you need for that package is in the first chapter of any book. 

And a couple of things there. One, most copywriters, they ain’t copy readers. Like, I don’t know if you guys have noticed this, but a lot of newbies and a lot of intermediate folks, they don’t fucking read. And so you get a natural advantage over them by the sheer dint of exposing yourself to evocative and interesting new ideas that are found in books. And so that gives you an edge over competition, for one. Two, if you go to books or even go to just timely updated information that’s just coming out on a daily basis, you’re going to have an edge over the competition because they ain’t reading it. And also too, books often provide sources to their material. So if you need to back things up for compliance or for legal, oftentimes you can just use the book to back things up. So that makes your life easy. And then three, like if you go to books or any sort of timely updated information, Google scholar, for example, or if you subscribe to any sort of, you know, academic journals that publish novel Psych, psychological or health data. AI is not going to be able to touch that. You know, they might be able to synthesize some of the findings, but the lateral thinking that you as a copywriter are capable of, you’re not going to be able to arrive, rather flip that, AI is not going to be able to arrive at the same insights that you can if you are really good at this kind of stuff.

Rob Marsh:  While we’re talking about AI, let’s keep going. We connected at Copy Legends, Todd Brown’s event, and there was a discussion around AI, and you were talking about some of the limitations. It’s something that I have been thinking about, something that Kira and I have chatted a little bit on our AI podcast. Specifically you were talking about what the future of products like ChatGPT is because they’re so backwards focused and because they’re now writing much of the content that’s going to be appearing in the databases that will be added to their databases. Talk about that your thoughts there about why this is not the future of copywriting.

Sean MacIntyre:  There’s a simple way to understand what I’m talking about, but it’s not just like products like ChatGPT. It’s every AI product, because almost every AI product out in the market right now is just a wrapper around a connection to GPT4 as managed by open AI. And so like, you know, you’ll see, you know, things like different products that basically like will spit out a VSL for you in like 10 seconds. All it’s doing is taking your input. putting it into a series of prompts and like gated, logical things, and then sending that to ChatGPT, taking the output and sending it back to you. That’s called an API call. And so what’s interesting about the very problem that I’m alluding to is the fact that like every single AI tool is going to suffer from the same ineluctable degradation. 

What the hell does that mean? As the copywriter Kyle Milligan likes to make fun of me, he says, intellectual degradation? You mean like, indelictable Kellogg’s cereal? Yeah. So he basically put it in a way that other people, humans, can understand, which is, ultimately, ChatGPT and AI, as they train on new data, they’re making a copy of a copy of a copy because what they’re spitting out into the world, it’s getting published online. It’s getting published and like put up onto websites. Now that that AI output is being propagated through the internet. Well, now that same AI is going to be trained on the same data that’s been output. So you’re going to have ChatGPT and other AI tools that are going to be trained on more and more AI writing. 

And so ultimately, you run into this issue where AI is just going to revert to the average, revert to what it has put out in the past, and it’s going to be statistically weighted more towards what’s bad about AI writing right now. Bill Gates even just said in a recent interview that GPT-5, it’s not going to be better, like exponentially better, we’re approaching the asymptote, the curve of quality. It had its exponential run, and now it’s trailing off, it’s approaching an asymptote, it’s a sigmoid curve, as we math nerds like to say.

Rob Marsh:  You may have just lost the entire audience, Sean. We’re talking to writers here.

Sean MacIntyre:  I apologize. I sometimes forget myself. To put it simply, AI quality with the current model has hit a limit. Like we don’t know yet how far away we are from that limit, but in terms of how good AI can get, we’re basically there. And the reason for that is because of the way AI is actually functioning and designed. And a lot of the people that are really big proponents of AI and how it’s a future or how everything’s changing. We have no idea what the world’s going to look like, but you know, you just don’t understand how these things actually work. And it’s not something to be particularly afraid of. It’s a language calculator and mathematicians are not afraid of calculators.

Kira Hug:  Yeah, it all makes logical sense to me. And it’s, it’s feels like a victory for writers, right? It’s like, we win in the end, this is great. But the companies are incentivized to continue to develop these models and improve these models. So I don’t know what they’re doing to avoid this issue, but I’m sure they’re aware of this issue. Do you have you read anything about what they’re doing to avoid this type of degradation so that their tools become obsolete eventually.

Sean MacIntyre:  So I can give you a simple formula for actually generating good sales copy. And I’m sure there’s some company out there that’s working on this. What you do is you train your own large language model on the basics. And what you do then is you sort of segment it and you train the language model on say, only Facebook ads. So you have a model, a GPT4 that’s just for Facebook ads. And you know, that takes a huge amount of Facebook ads, a huge amount of data. And then you do that for headlines. Then you do that for leads. Then you do that for proof sections. And eventually if you train enough of these models, you can get them, good enough to be able to produce, I would say, C, C minus level copy. Now, all of that would require millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars and so much data and so much server space. That’s the reason why most of the AI tools that are out there in the world right now are just, again, wrappers around GPT. Nobody’s actually taking the time and putting the investment into actually creating a model that’s just for copy. 

Now, OpenAI, just look at what they had to do to get to where they are now. Ten years, billions of dollars of investment just to get us to… it can kind of produce okay writing. And again, like that’s not millions of dollars, that’s billions of dollars that they had to invest to get there. Who out there in the copywriting or advertising world is going to sit there and invest millions if not billions of dollars to create something that is just going to produce advertising copy? I’m sure it’ll happen eventually, I’m sure costs will come down, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Just because, again, there’s that huge gate of financial need between us here and that point. 

Now, in terms of the degradation, that’s just a function of the model that AIs use. So for example, they all right now are based on the Google Transformer architecture. The architecture, it’s fixed. It’s gotten us to this point, and now to go further, we might need a different architecture. And I don’t know what that’s going to look like. They’re certainly working on it, but I haven’t seen any papers come out, I haven’t seen any data come out that shows that we’re overcoming some of the problems that people are sort of talking about. That was a very technical answer to, I think, a very rational concern.

Rob Marsh:  I think it’s good. As you talk about it, it actually reminds me, going back to good old Eugene Schwartz, market sophistication and stages of awareness, if we’re always backward looking with the data that an AI model has to work with, it becomes really difficult for it to understand changes in market sophistication as markets mature, or as new products come online. And so that’s a really good place for a copywriter to live and to build a skill set in understanding how do you move from one level of sophistication to the next level? And what are the appropriate copywriting, persuasion, design, whatever tactics that get people to respond and do some of the things that will help them in their lives.

Sean MacIntyre:  I agree with that 100%. If it’s one thing that I’ve found, it’s that a lot of companies right now, especially small businesses, are—am I allowed to swear a lot on this?— Most companies right now are chicken shit. Just look at the recent black Friday that just happened. How many emails did you get over the last week that were… Hurry up now, time’s running out, get your deal in, 50% off. There’s nobody out there that’s really pushing the bounds of what copy can do and how it can inspire and instruct and touch people emotionally. There’s nobody really doing that at these large corporate levels. A lot of small businesses are looking at large corporations and saying, we want to be like that. And that is how they’re getting terrible copy that can be commodified. 

And so I think it’s incumbent upon copywriters to learn not only more indirect approaches, the types of copy that can really inspire, get under people’s skin, that can sit with people for a long time. And learn the commodified copy, hey, 50% deal ending soon, yada, yada. If you can write that well, you know, fine, great. But it’s the more indirect, the copy that would be more appealing to a more unaware, unsophisticated audience, like, or even a sophisticated audience. Like once you start learning how to write that kind of copy, ChatGPT can’t come for your job because ultimately ChatGPT can’t think of novel, unique ways of approaching a problem or an idea. Again, it’s based on training data. It can literally only know what has come before. And so a good copywriter can come up with new angles and new avenues of approach that have never been tried. But a lot of companies right now just really, they aren’t interested in doing that. And I think that’s more of an opportunity than a threat. Because, you know, guess what, we are barreling towards a recession. And a lot of the people that don’t find a way to carve out an edge for themselves, whether they’re a copywriter or a small business, they’re going to face the consequences of that.

Kira Hug:  I was just going to say that you’re giving me some hope and this feels really uplifting, and then you just stomped all over it with the talks of recession, so you killed my hope. But it was sounding positive for a while because I do have plenty of Black Friday emails in my inbox, as we all do, and you’re right. The copy for most of them is garbage outside of the copywriting space because we know how to write email. There is an opportunity. I could reach out to every single business that sent me one of those commoditized emails, and that’s a potential client, right, if you can make that argument and build a case for it. So that feels uplifting for many of us. But you mentioned recession and how we need an edge. So can you talk a little bit more about that, especially with your insights into the marketplace? We feel it coming, but how do we prepare for it? How would you prepare for it?

Sean MacIntyre:  You know, the best thing that a person can do to prepare for a recession is to just go and find the copy that was working really well in 2008 and 2009 and even 2010. You know, the classic one that everybody talks about is End of America, written by Mike Palmer for the company Stansberry & Associates. That letter, you know, it’s what, like 60 pages long. It’s really just about articulating and arguing a particular idea. This thing is going to cause these problems. And also, by the way, you can buy a newsletter about this. Like that’s it. That’s the whole letter. And people look at that and they say, oh, well, this is this sold the most. It’s the best front end letter of all time. We need to write like this. No, like every recession is different because it causes and spurs different and novel anxieties. One of the things that a copywriter can do, especially a financial copywriter, but every copywriter is to just have their finger on the pulse of people and understand their anxieties in that particular recession or that particular downturn or that particular moment. 

Because if you look back at 2008, what were the anxieties? It was people’s retirement funds were essentially obliterated in a single month. The housing market was basically wrecked. People bought houses at crazy high mortgage rates and then like at crazy high valuations and then they lost the value of that house. So it just was impossible to refinance because they were underwater on all these loans. You look at the anxieties and the anger that people felt towards Wall Street at that time. And so you can take all that and sort of be like what are people worried about now? Again, housing prices are basically the highest that they’ve ever been. So what are people’s anxieties? Well, a housing market crash, basically losing a lot of the value that they’ve built up, the wealth that they’ve built up in their home. For the vast majority of Americans, that’s where the wealth is. That’s your retirement plan. That’s where the money is going to come from, because that’s the equity that you’re building up over the most of your life. And so you can also look at things like, well, right now, social security is basically going to be out, like done within the next 10 years. And so they’re talking about having reduced benefits for younger generations. So, you know, this recession, like it’s incumbent upon people to start making money now other anxieties would include things like for example the decline of the dollar relative to like you know bricks and like the rise of china and things like that and that’s something that’s new that’s something that people weren’t really talking about 15 years ago because there was no reason to worry about something like that and so now all of a sudden you do have a number of people that are very anxious about the value of their dollar. 

And with the recent spate of inflation, they have a good reason to worry about the value of their dollars because it lost a lot of value. And anybody who’s going to the grocery store right now feels that. And everything that I just said, by the way, is literally you just rewrite everything that I just said in a piece of copy and it would probably work really well because it’s what people are feeling. And that’s something that copywriters should keep in mind as they go into this recession. They could really recession proof their copy by paying attention to the pain points and the fears and the anxieties that people are feeling in this moment. And as distinct from past recessions and past downturns and past anxieties.

Rob Marsh:  So I like how you’re addressing how we can talk about it in the copy that we write. Let’s take a minute and just think through also some of the things we can do in our own businesses. I think a lot of people may have felt like there’s been a recession over the last year in some copywriting niches, and we’ve definitely seen people feel that. And I think oftentimes the response is, well, I’ll go get a job, or I’ll go get a part-time job, and that will help insulate it. The problem with that and in recession, of course, is the companies start to lay people off, and now you’ve put a lot of eggs into a basket that’s no longer going to help you. So I’m not necessarily saying people shouldn’t do that if that’s the right thing for their family. But let’s talk about what we can do in our businesses, even if it’s a side hustle. Just a couple of ideas of things that we can be doing to protect ourselves so that when it happens, we’ve got those clients that are not necessarily going to tighten their belts the same way that others might.

Sean MacIntyre:  Well, I mean, a few ideas come immediately to mind. So for example, there’s certainly ample opportunities to sell like the basic essentials. You can while you’re writing copy for your clients, also start your own business, teaching people, for example, I’m just throwing out ideas, how to prep for a nuclear war or something like that. You can sell information. I know one copywriter, I think Nick Usborne is his name—he has a website called coffee detective. He just sells affiliate coffee and that thing’s been making him money for like 10 years or something like that. Just learning how to take your copywriting skills and apply it to things that don’t really ever go away. That’s going to make you enough money. Not only could it grow to be a business by itself that you are in charge of, but it could also just be a good source of passive income. In fact, affiliate marketing is a great way to do that because guess what? 

Even during a recession, people still need toiletries. People are still thinking about where to get food. People are still thinking about shelter. People are still thinking about their pain points. And in fact, some of the best selling financial packages also came out in that 2008 to 2011 era when everybody was very anxious. So I think that what people need to do to sort of protect their job and protect their income is really think about the kinds of things that they can do that they’re interested in that other people are passionate about that doesn’t really go away during a recession. 

Now on the topic of like getting a part time job while they’re also doing copywriting, I’m actually a big proponent of that. I’m a big fan of that, especially if you’re not like super established in your career, because the last thing that you want when you’re sitting down to write is worry about where your food is going to come from or worrying about who’s going to take care of your kids. Like you want to have just a baseline, just a bare bones baseline of stability there before like you start worrying about this other thing that can make you much more money. And so what I would encourage people to do, especially if they’re just learning or like they’re that like newbie to beginner stage, where they’re still trying to like figure out the whole client and prospecting process is really like, you know, don’t feel bad about getting a part time or full time job, you know, having a nine to five, and then writing copy from five to nine. Because One, you can still make a hell of a career doing that. And two, it alleviates, it destroys and dismantles the affective filter that you build up from your anxieties and your nervousness about money, which guess what? Will help you become a better copywriter faster.

Kira Hug:  Is there a different way or a better way we can talk to prospects and clients during this time to position us as a value add, maybe in a different way than we would out of a recession time?

Sean MacIntyre:  Yeah, absolutely. So like here’s a very simple thing that I’ve been telling people in the financial space, your mileage may vary for like e-com businesses or coaches or things like that. But one of the things that happened in the financial space over the last 15 years was that people were making all the money writing what’s called bearish copy. That is copy that’s really fear-based, worried about a downturn, where the main onus is how to protect your wealth rather than grow it. And then the longest bull market in human history happened. Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but a very long bull market happened. And then over the course of 12 years, All the people that were really good at writing bearish copy either were fired or replaced, forgot how, or just retired. They just stopped writing copy. 

And so we got to this point, this interesting point in 2022 where the market had a very severe downturn. And nobody was equipped, like had the ability to write a bearish promotion. And if any of you are familiar with like Agora and the Agora companies, If you look at the copy that came out in 2022, it was so dissonant and so unconnected with what was actually happening in the market. Like people, people had one gear, how to make 10,000% off of Bitcoin, how to make 20,000% in 38 minutes with like options trading, like people were still just spamming out those kinds of offers. But there was only one business, only one name that was actually generating actually any money for the entirety of 2022. And that was Jim Rickards, the guy who basically has been saying the whole market’s going to crash for like 50 years. And so the only the people that really wrote for him and wrote offers for him actually made any money over the last year or two, whereas everybody else were just stuck in this miasma where they just couldn’t conceive of how to approach their messaging differently, how to change the messaging to be appealing to people who now are afraid and not greedy. And a lot of copywriters lost their job over the last year and a half because they couldn’t make that shift. 

And so if you’re selling, for example, dog treats, like if you’re a dog treat copywriter, if you are just like you wake up every morning and you are just sweaty and naked and just desiring of writing a dog copy, well, an easy thing that you can do to sell yourself to dog treat making companies is to talk about, well, how they can actually continue to make good money even during an economic downturn. And so like, for example, Pets and pet owners, they still need treats. You still need to take care of your pet. People with pets are not going to not spend on dog treats, dog toys, dog food. It’s just an expense that is baked into the, like people’s ordinary lives. And so you can certainly work that into your messaging in a way that allows you to feel like, like you said, Kira, a value add to a business that sells dog treats because a lot of other copywriters are not going to be thinking about the business that they’re pitching themselves to. In fact, that’s a common mistake that a lot of people make. They don’t think about what the business needs from them. And so if I’m sure there’s a lot from my little spiel just there that people can pull from and sort of tease out, that would be beneficial to them, but just being thoughtful about almost like a copywriter, what a business needs from  you and being cognizant of that. And that’s going to allow you to position yourself, I think, in a very positive way for businesses that themselves are anxious about a recession.

Kira Hug:  Yeah, there’s something about the agility part of it that, I mean, it’s interesting that so many of the financial writers were let go or just left because they weren’t able to make that shift. Where do you see that coming from? Do you think that most of us just kind of get in a rut where we write a certain way? I know I do, and I have to catch myself. I’m like, don’t do that again. Try something new. Is there anything that has helped you be more agile in your own writing so that you could make the shift?

Sean MacIntyre:  Yeah. So for me, for example, in 2022, the company that I write for… I even had dinner and I met with Bill Bonner and I said something along the lines of like, I’m just happy that the business that I’ve been running was actually able to turn a profit in 2022. And Bill, in his sort of demure, very polite way, said, actually, I think your business is the only one in the Agora family that turned a profit that year. And that was just because I saw the writing on the wall, like in late 2021, and saw 2022 is going to be a little tough. And so I changed my messaging early. And for that reason, we were able to actually sell very, very well through 2022, despite the downturn. And the fact that like, all the products that I manage and write for are also basically recession proof like, you know, large cap blue chip stocks, the things that I write about are just like, Hey, you know, buy the dip and buy quality and you should be fine in the long run. And it turns out like that messaging worked really, really well once people were just like getting completely thrashed by growth stocks and options trading and things like that. All that’s extremely technical. I apologize, but you know, just like at the product level and at the messaging level, like we were golden before the downturn even started. And so I didn’t have to be super agile because we were already prepared for it.

Rob Marsh:  I would love to talk, Sean, about how to break into financial copywriting today. We’ve addressed it in the past once or twice on the podcast, but with the shifts in the market, maybe people should be doing something different. Let’s say that I’ve never written in the financial space before, but I want to. What should I be doing now to make that possible, say, in 2024?

Sean MacIntyre:  Good Lord. This is one of those questions where it’s like, how to win a war. where it’s like, there’s not really a right answer. You know, it never comes down to just one thing. And so all I can really give is some basic things that seem to work reasonably well for a lot of people. one of those things very simply is every now and again, not regularly, but every now and again, the large, you know, financial publishing companies will have boot camps, like, you know, intensives will have training sessions and training camps where they invite between like six to 20, you know, prospective copywriters to come to Baltimore or to come to Florida and just learn, just train with the best. And you’re expected to write a lot. You’re expected to read a lot. You basically have to like dump your life and go there. And so if you ever get a chance to do that, do that. Leave your kids, leave your wife, go to Baltimore, learn how to write financial copy. Easy, right? So if you don’t want to do that, one of the difficulties that you’re going to have you know, if you want to work remote, for example, is the fact that like a lot of these companies, you know, they have a very specific work culture. They have a very, you know, it’s like financial copy, you know, compliance is different. The way one writes is different. The way ideas are formed is different. It’s just a completely different culture. And if you’re not there in the office, you don’t really get exposed to it very easily. So a lot of people have trouble if they’re working remote. So if you aren’t, you know, willing to bend on like abandoning your family to go to one of these boot camps, if you’re not willing to bend on like, you know, I have to work remote, your chances of being a financial copywriter go down precipitously. And that’s just a fact, unfortunately. 

So with that small sliver of like opportunity and chance that you have remaining, what can you do? Well, here’s what you can do. read financial copy, financial promos every single day, read one promo per day, like annotated, like really understand it, stay on top of the market, read financial news, like really, really, really work on your idea glands, like really develop your sense of like, like, what is it that’s enticing people? What is it that’s working? What is it that people are afraid of? What is it that people are excited about? What is it that that interests people? And it takes time to really develop those glands in your brain. And you have to read a lot of promos. I would say at least a hundred before you start to say like, okay, I have a general sense of like how to, how this is marketed, how these companies make their money. And then what you can do is you write a spec lead and a spec lead very simply is you have a headline complex, you know, you eyebrow copy headline deck copy, you know, teasing an opportunity. Then you have a lead. where you basically are spelling out, you know, what’s in it for the reader. You know, you have an exciting pattern interrupt. You are basically spelling out the thesis of the argument, the sales argument that you’re making. And then you send that to a publisher and you go, Hey, listen, I studied your business. I’ve studied your products. I’ve noticed that this product, like, you know, the copy maybe could be improved. And so I wrote a spec lead and Hey, if you want to hire me to finish this promo, I will. And if not, no problem. Cause here’s the thing. If you, if they say we are not interested in paying you to finish this promo, guess what? You now have something in your portfolio to show to people. Cool. And if it works, Hey, you just literally did most of the work that you would need to do to write, write and finish that promo anyway. In order to write the lead, you have to do a ton of research. And so the rest of that should be relatively simple. 

And that’s a very good way to get your foot in the door, get the attention of people who like the people at the top of financial publishing companies tend to be very, how should I say, libertarian, very like pull yourself up by your bootstraps, very like, you know, meritocratic, I think is a word that I could use. And so anybody who does that really kind of proves themselves as being worth talking to, because they actually went the extra mile to understand the business, to pitch an idea, to actually go ahead and write it, and then to share it with the publisher, being like, here you go, Grotus, do you want me to finish this? A lot of publishers respond to that very well. And I’ve known a lot of people who have actually gotten jobs that way. That’s how it starts. And usually what happens is they like, if you write a successful promo for them, they’ll either bring you in for an interview or like ask you to fly to Baltimore or Delray or wherever the company is and just sit and meet with you and see what else you can do together in the future. And that’s how a ton of people have gotten jobs, both freelance and in-house.

Rob Marsh:  I love that. I want to ask just a quick follow up. You know, when we say read a promo every single day, I’m guessing you mean more than just read it. We were talking about thinking strategically earlier. How do you read a promo so that you understand what’s really going on as you dissect it?

Sean MacIntyre:  So, you know, I have a YouTube channel called copy that, that I started with a few friends and business partners of mine and you know, we really are going after like true beginners, like people who are like, what is even copy? That’s the people that I’m trying to speak to, to try to get them into this world without having to like charge them an arm and a leg. One of the earliest videos that we have on that channel is one where I just explained the process that I undertake to dissect and pull apart financial promos and any sort of long form copy in general. Really, you want to go ahead and understand the structure and what each section is doing and how it functions in the context of the larger sales argument. You want to understand the angle that it’s taking. I’m sure some people are listening and being like, what is an angle? What, what is this guy even talking about? He uses so many big words. I hate him. And he’s so bald. No. So an angle is really like a lead can try to appeal to people’s greed or can try to, you know, scare people away from their fear. It can, you know, try to emphasize like how this will make you a handsome person or can, you know, emphasize how it’s going to like affect your health. Like the angle of approach is going to be just the, the appeals that you use in the beginning of a piece of copy, you want to understand what that angle is. And you want to understand the structure. I said you want to understand what kind of lead is being used and, you know, referred to the book, great leads. If you want a good primer on that you want to understand what’s going on in the proof. Like what kind of proof is it using to actually make its points? 

Like, how is it like proving the actual argument is true. The argument usually being to get this result, you need to buy this product. You need to have some basis of proof for that. Though a lot of amateurs think that you can just say, well, this product is the best at doing this, and that’s enough. So don’t be that person. Another thing, too, is you want to look at the offer and find out specifically, what is the bonus set? What is the stack? What is it doing in the offer to make it feel sensational or irresistible or cheap relative to whatever it is? And if possible, you want to understand from the ad, like in context in the world out there, what is it doing to try to present this opportunity as novel or unique or bigger than anything else? You know, any piece of copy that exists in the world has to make the product feel differentiated in some way. You know, we nerds call it a USP or unique selling proposition. And so what you want to do when you analyze a piece of copy, not only going line by line and playing about like, you know, what is this saying? What is this section doing, et cetera, et cetera. But you also want to understand like, how is it presenting this argument in a way that actually does feel new or fresh or provocative or interesting, especially to the target demographic.

Kira Hug:  All right, I know we’re running out of time, and I want to ask you about some of the mentors that you mentioned. I mean, you had a laundry list of top copywriters, A-listers that you’ve worked with.

Sean MacIntyre:  Yeah, they’re all disappointed with me.

Kira Hug:  They’re all disappointed. So I’m not going to run through all their names, but I’m curious, like if there is a takeaway you could share from one specific mentor, or if you just kind of want to like share a takeaway from their collective wisdom, we’ll take anything you’ve got.

Rob Marsh:  I want one from all of them. I want one from Mark Ford and Joe Schrieffer.

Sean MacIntyre:  Let’s go through the list. All right. So so from Mark, this is the first piece of advice I ever got from Mark Ford, a.k.a. Michael Masterson. Wrote some copy, and his only comment was this copy sounds like copy. Fucking stop that. And what that means is that a lot of new people, you know, they’re sort of adopting the, the wig of sales talk and everybody knows what sales talk sounds like is, you know, just imagine like going and buying a used car and it’s clearly a piece of crap, but the salesman is just talking it up so much. Like you can just smell the rhetoric that they’re using and you don’t want your copy to sound like that. So remove the wig and learn how to actually articulate a good sales message that feels organic, natural, like good writing that a human meat person would use in everyday language. 

Joe Schrieffer, the, I think the best piece of advice that I can pull from him is what he called the daily practice. Kyle Milligan talks about this a lot too, which is every single day. If you want to get better, you need to read and analyze a piece of copy per day. You need to write at least one page of copy per day. And you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s like a whole thing or part of a thing. It just has to be at least one page. So 250 to 300 words of copy and write down an idea per day and ideas per day is like where people get like stuck on the most. And over the course of this podcast interview, I’ve sort of alluded to different ideas and where to get different ideas. So like for example, if you’re reading, the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, like you might come up with an idea like, wouldn’t it be really cool to talk about in a sales letter, a diet plan for losing weight that doesn’t involve keto, that doesn’t involve like paleo, that doesn’t involve restricting yourself from carbs. Like, how cool would it be to get something like that? There you go, you have an idea, you’ve read a thing, and then you formulate an idea that you can use and copy to actually present a product or pitch an entire methodology. Bingo, bingo. That’s an idea. So that’s Joe Schriefer daily practice. 

From David Deutsch, I think the best nugget of advice I got from him was, well, I’m going to give two. One was sort of like what Mark was implying. You want to talk to your prospects as though they were your friend. You want to, reach out to people and speak to them in such a way that they feel comforted, like you actually care about them. Like a lot of copy, especially very commodified copy is it really, it just stinks of like people trying to extract as much money from the prospect as possible. And If you don’t write that way, they’re going to trust you more. And counterintuitively, if people trust you more, they’ll give you more money, even though you’re not like going for the throat and of asking more money, asking for more money. Another thing that he gave to me that I think was very good advice was that every single sales letter should teach somebody something about the world or about the notions that they have or about the things that they identify with. A good piece of long form copy especially should give somebody something that they could talk about at dinner parties or that they can share with their family. Like some fact or way of looking at the world that inspires them or makes them feel smarter. Like if you can do that. Man, like your job is secure and like you were just a great writer And people are gonna buy your stuff because your copy makes them feel good And if your copy makes them feel good, then surely the product will too So that’s another thing Who else from Addison he he was really affronted by cliches and What I mean by that is if you’re writing and you’re just pandering to people, like for example, if you’re selling like, you know, prepping informational content or like, you know, any guns or, or gun accessories or any sort of like, you know, things that you would use, like in a sort of survival context, the simplest like sort of crow magnet way to approach that kind of copy is to just appeal to people’s base instincts like, Oh, you know, Biden with the help of like clone Obama is going to come for your guns and that stuff, that works, but it doesn’t work as well as copy that tries to avoid pandering copy that takes a less cliche approach to these more sensitive topics. You know, it’s much more powerful and tends to bring a better qualified customer. If you’re able to say things like, listen, you know, we don’t know if this is going to happen, but isn’t it better to be prepared? Things of that nature, like rhetorical twists that sort of go against the grain of cliche. That tends to work very, very well. And I got that from Adison. I’m trying to think who else,

Rob Marsh:  Bill Bonner, let’s do one more Bill Bonner.

Sean MacIntyre:  Oh Bill Bonner was really just all about like ideas and I’m trying to like there’s like one letter that I wrote and it was reviewed by both Mark Ford and Bill Bonner and the idea that I had Basically, Mark was just like no this is stupid and Bill was like and this is literally what he said the email Oh contraire It’s actually very interesting. It presents an interesting argument about the world And, you know, Kira Rob, I’m sure if you remember from copy legends, like, you know, I was talking about how people don’t really know what an idea in copy actually is. And most people, when they talk about ideas, like, you know, it’s like the color red to me, my color red is different from your color red. Everybody has a different sense of what an idea in copy is or should be. But for bill Bonner, it was really about creating and crafting an emotionally compelling argument about the world, like this problem is being caused by this. And here’s why this thing is going to happen and it’s going to be bad for these reasons. So Bill was really all about the idea and creating an evocative idea and copy. Now, listen, if you’re selling, I don’t know, the GPS dog leashes, you don’t need an idea in your copy. You just need to be able to articulate like what it’s good for and run from there. But if you’re selling information, especially coaching, newsletters, magazines, things like that, ideas tend to work very well, especially in areas of uncertainty. So bill was all about the idea and encouraging that.

Rob Marsh:  I wish we had time to go deeper on ideas. Maybe we’ll have you come back. We can do an entire training or a podcast or something just on ideas. That’s something that is certainly worth thinking about and working on doing. One last question for you, Sean. And it’s just, what’s next? What’s next for you? And what are you looking forward to in the coming months?

Sean MacIntyre:  Well, in Japan, we are launching a new division of our business which is entirely focused on entrepreneurship. It’s a sort of like part two to Mark Ford’s book, ready fire aim. I think I’m going to launch that domestically as well, but I had to completely build the infrastructure for that business up from scratch. So, you know, we’ll see what happens. We’ll see how far it goes. If it’s profitable, we’ll just keep spamming out offers and, you know, seeing what happens. It’s interesting.

Rob Marsh:  Yeah. It’s kind of what Mark has built his entire career on at least the last 20 years or so. So it’d be interesting to see what you do there.

Sean MacIntyre:  Yeah. It’s, I mean, listen, business is easy once you let go of the fact that it needs to work.

Rob Marsh:  Oh, that hits home.

Kira Hug:  Yeah. I haven’t figured out. That’s helpful. It sounds like you might be hiring, right? So copywriters looking for jobs should reach out to you as you expand.

Rob Marsh:  But not in the typical way. Obviously, Sean just spelled out if you want if you want to get on the radar how to do it.

Sean MacIntyre:  Yeah, I actually so for real with my copywriting community through copy that I actually did just hire a copywriter and I gave him $10,000 to write a launch promo for one of the products that we’re hoping to launch. So like there are opportunities and certainly what you can do, whether it’s my community or some other community is just ingratiate yourself with the higher ups, the powers that be, and just generally don’t seem like a schmuck and opportunities will tend to kind of fall from the sky. And if your mouth is open, you might catch one.

Kira Hug:  So I’ll pitch you tomorrow, Sean, look out for that in your inbox.

Sean MacIntyre:  Looking forward to it.

Rob Marsh:  John, if somebody wants to connect with you, where should they go?

Sean MacIntyre: slash copy that is a really good place to start. But really, I’m just kind of all over the place. You know, catch me wherever and hopefully I’ll see you around.

Kira Hug:  Awesome. Thank you. Thanks, Sean. This was awesome. Appreciate it.

Sean MacIntyre:  

Thank you for having me.

Rob Marsh:  And that’s the end of our interview with Sean McIntyre. I want to add just a couple of thoughts to the conversation we had with Sean, just to give you a little bit more to think about and maybe some ways to apply the ideas that Sean and Kyra and I were talking about. So when we’re talking about this idea of daily practice that Sean shared as he was talking about his mentors, we oftentimes hear that copywriters should spend time handwriting sales pages because that helps get the language into our brains. It helps develop the copywriting thing. But reading sales pages and even handwriting sales pages is not enough. You need to go deeper. You need to be looking for what makes a sales page effective. And so just some thoughts as you’re looking at copy, as you’re reading copy every single day, ask yourself, who’s the audience? What’s the big idea? How is the writer creating intrigue or curiosity with the headline? How would you characterize the hook? What’s the theme or argument of the page? How does the writer establish the authority of the brand or the person behind the offer? And speaking of offers, how is this one structured? It’s more than the product for sale. It includes the price, the guarantee, the terms. Is there a trial? Are there bonuses? Are there purchase plans? How does the writer overcome objections? How do they prove their claims? How do they dimensionalize the benefits? What would you do differently to make it better? That’s maybe the most important question to ask as you go through the copy. What would I do differently to make it better, to make it more convincing, to make it more powerful, to make the idea bigger, to overcome more objections, or to do it better? And this isn’t just applicable to sales pages. You can do it with home pages or about pages. You can do it with case studies or white papers. You can do it with blog posts and emails. You should be reading some copy every day and come up with a new idea every day. That daily practice will set you apart from 98% of the copywriters out there. 

As we were talking about copy boot camps, it just struck me that maybe it’s worth talking about why they work. Yes, you learn copywriting. But the most important part of the boot camp is the connections with the people who are actually running the boot camp. They see your work. They see your effort. They see your talent. And that counts. And if you can’t do a boot camp, and most of us can’t just pick up and go to a place like Baltimore for two or three weeks to learn copywriting and interface with all of these other people that are there, but you can still get some of these things by joining a mentor’s program. If you join a program or a membership, they see how you show up. They get to know you. They take an interest in your progress. They want to make sure that you get to the end. At least the good mentors want to help you get to the end of the program and have a successful outcome. So you can get a lot of the same impacts virtually by joining these kinds of programs, but you do have to invest in yourself and in your business in order to do that. Looking back, the very smartest thing I ever did as I was in my own business to help me grow from struggling to find clients to a six-figure business was investing in a mastermind for copywriters. Your next investment may not be that, but it should be something. And the more you invest in yourself and in your business, the better your outcomes are going to be. 

And then finally, I love the lessons that Sean was sharing from his mentors. At some point, Kira and I should do an episode where we talk about our mentors and some of the things that we’ve learned. But in the meantime, I want to challenge you to come up with a few lessons that you’ve learned from your mentors and share them on social media. Tag the Copywriter Club so that we can see them. And if you don’t have any, find a mentor that you can learn from in the coming months. Get on their email list. Join a program or membership with them. And I could even suggest the Copywriter Underground as a place to start if you don’t already have this in your life, but you may have some other options or something you’ve been considering. There are some amazing resources in the underground, as well as regular opportunities to connect with Kira and me, as well as the other copywriters in the community. You can check that out at 

But again, if that’s not the right investment for you, find the one that is. I want to thank Sean for joining us to chat about his experience in business. I love wide range of conversations like this. We jumped around quite a bit. Hopefully you like them too. You can connect with Sean on LinkedIn or watch some of the content that he shared on his YouTube channel, Copy That. There’s some really good stuff there. And just a quick reminder, check out that Copywriter Underground at forward slash TCU. 

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 Muntner. If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, please visit Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to the show and leave a review. We love to hear your thoughts about the guests, about the topics that we cover, and the podcast as a whole. And don’t miss our other podcast at You can also watch that on YouTube, AI for Creative Entrepreneurs, and listen wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening, and we will see you next week.

Kira Hug:  Copywriters coming together to help the world write better, copy and make more money. Kira and Rob’s Copywriters Club can make you lots of money, listen. Copywriter’s Club can make you lots of money as long as you listen through the whole damn episode.

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