Don’t Be A Marketing Scumbag! Conversational Copywriting for Course Creators with Nick Usborne

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Don’t be a marketing scumbag! Conversational copywriting for course creators with Nick Usborne in this episode of LMScast with Chris Badgett of LifterLMS. Chris and Nick dive into the fundamentals of what copywriting is and how you can produce great copy for any product or service you sell.

On a basic level copywriting is writing words that in some way contribute to making a sale. Copywriting can be print ads, blog posts, a website homepage, a sales email, or anything used to shift people’s perception.

don't be a marketing scumbag! conversational copywriting for course creators with Nick UsborneNick has 38 years of experience as a copywriter, and he has worked with several big corporate clients. In 1979 Nick got his first job in copywriting, and at that time he was working with just straight print advertising. He moved into direct response copywriting and has done almost all types of copywriting since then.

Many people don’t think of a business name and tagline as copywriting, but those things are just as much copywriting as a series of blog posts. Having a business name that catches people’s attention and makes you memorable is important for differentiation. Nick and Chris talk about a few examples of awesome company names.

Nick shares a story about a coffee shop in Dublin, Ireland that has the name “Meet Me In The Morning” written on the wall. Chris had a bar in his college town called “He’s Not Here.” These types of dynamic titles are very impressionable and paint a vivid picture in your customers’ heads.

A great strategy to create copy that sells is to try to get into the minds of your customers and speak to the issues your product solves from the buyer’s perspective. Instead of thinking like a copywriter, think like a marketer. If you’re selling fitness equipment, you can go look at Amazon reviews on the product to see how customers talk about it.

With great power comes great responsibility. When you understand the power behind conversational copywriting, you can sell products to anyone who is closeable. Nick and Chris talk about holding your integrity higher than the bottom line and not pressuring your customers or selling products to people who don’t really need them.

To learn more about Nick Usborne and the power behind conversational copywriting head to Nick has a course on conversational copywriting, so check that out at

Also head to to find out more about how you can use LifterLMS to build your own online courses and membership sites. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes hereSubscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!

Episode Transcript

Chris Badgett: Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. My name’s Chris Badgett, and I’m joined by a special guest, Nick Usborne, from I’m so excited to have you. Thank you for coming on the show, Nick.
Nick Usborne: You’re very welcome. Glad to be here. Always good to talk with you.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. So check out and But before we get into it, for the course creators and the membership site builders out there, what is the fundamental skill of copywriting? What is it?
Nick Usborne: Copyrighting. Well, I guess it’s writing words that in some way contribute to making a sale. So, if I write a print ad for Johnnie Walker Whisky, I’m a copywriter. People then look at the ad and then run down and buy a bottle of whisky right there and then. It’s like a branding ad. Or I could be writing the homepage of a website. Or I could be writing a sales letter or a sales email. So it’s anything that contributes to a sale, the short-term or long-term. It’s the words that we use to shift people’s perception or tip them over into saying, “You know what? I want to buy that.” So yeah, we’re kind of persuaders, I guess, for words.
Chris Badgett: And copywriting, or I guess if you were to unpack the word sale, sometimes we’re selling ideas in a teaching environment or in a relationship. We’re kind of selling ourselves, I guess. How else are we selling besides taking money?
Nick Usborne: Hey, we sell all the time. If you know we’re hanging out and you say, “Hey, let’s go to the movies.” And you say, “I want to go to a Star Wars movie.” And I say, “No, I want to go to Star Trek.” Then, we’re going to both try and sell each other on our choice. And we can get really excited and passionate about it. We’re actually selling all the time.
If you’ve got teen-aged kids, I know your kids are a bit younger, but when they get to be teenagers, you’ll be selling them on the benefits of doing their homework. So, all of us are selling everyday, one way or another.
And so, when you take that over into the commercial world, again, I kind of lost track of your question. One way or another, it’s about persuasion and changing people’s perceptions and encouraging them to think about it could signing up. I could be a copywriter persuading you to vote for a different political party, alright? I could be trying to get you to be a vegan instead of just a regular vegetarian.
Sometimes content. You’ll see a blog post and, sometimes, a blog post is just totally editorial content, no endgame at all. But very often, a blog post is actually pre-selling. So, if I write about conversational copywriting, I might write a blog post, which I do. And I’m trying to share interesting information and valuable information, but in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking, “You know what? I just want to get these people into a place where they think, “Hey, this is really interesting. I should get in Nick’s course.”” Or whatever you’re selling.
So, it can be a straight sales task, or it could be a pre-selling task. Or hey, it could just be sharing information so you get to remember me or remember my brand or any company’s brand.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Now, you have, if I remember correctly, 38 years of copywriting experience. And that includes corporate, big copywriting clients.
Nick Usborne: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: And then, at all levels, helping small businesses. But also that experience in corporate. The world of copywriting and direct response marketing, that’s an old art that happened before the internet.
Nick Usborne: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of copywriting?
Nick Usborne: I think the history of copywriting goes back probably to the origins of speech. One person persuading another person to, “We should hunt over there. No, we should hunt over there.”
In terms of my experience, I started in 1979. I got my first job in copywriting. And that was just straight print advertising I was doing. Then, I got into direct response copywriting. So, that’s a bit more kind of urgent, a bit more pushy, because you’re actually trying to get someone to buy something right now. You know that, if it doesn’t happen right now, it probably never will. So, that’s the kind of premise of direct response is to get people to take immediate action. So, I did tons and tons of direct mail packages back in my misstep youth as a copywriter.
And then the web came along. Actually, I pretty much wrote the website back in 1995, so that was pretty early. Then, I start doing web writing full-time and professionally in 1997. And it’s kind of interesting, because a lot of what I learned as a print copywriter, it transfers. But some of it doesn’t. So, it’s a kind of interesting journey, because some of my skills set are still used, and some of the skills set for copywriting for persuading online is actually very, very different. So, that’s a really interesting kind of mashup in my mind.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, we’ll circle back to that difference. But first I just want to ask for the listener out there, if you were to share some pieces of copy or examples that you particularly like. Let’s say an example, a great headline, or something. In your opinion, what’s an example of a great piece of copy?
Nick Usborne: There are lots of them out there. I’ll give you two. So, one is in fact from the world print. This is from the UK, going back to the 1980s, I believe. And it was for an insurance company. And I always forget the copywriter’s name, but she’s just fantastic. And the company was called Commercial Union. Before her, insurance company copywriting was just deathly dull. If you take the dullness of insurance business and just amplify, that’s what advertising for the insurance industry was like.
And she came to it with a totally different voice and tone. And, for Commercial Union, her tagline was, “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis.” And it was all about while other companies are messing around, drowning you with paperwork, we’ll just come out and visit you. We’ll deal with it and write you a check. In fact, with that, she wrote a whole series of ads. But they all had this tagline, “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis.”
And it’s a promise. It’s a promise, and it’s a promise of difference, which is the key. If you’re an insurance company trying to differentiate yourself from another insurance company and fundamentally you do the same thing, fundamentally you’re both deathly dull, then it’s very hard to come up with something interesting, a big promise. And she did that, “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis.” She transformed that company. Actually, she transformed the entire industry with just the first few ads she wrote. Actually, her entire career was built on that success.
So, that to me is, in terms of that’s big business, deathly boring business, a great piece of copywriting. That came out of the UK. A lot of my examples come out of the UK, because that’s where I’m from originally. That’s where I learned my craft before I came over. As you know, I live in Canada now, have been for 30 years, but I got my start in the UK.
Another piece of copywriting which people probably won’t view as copywriting is actually the name of a coffee shop in Dublin, Ireland. And it’s a very small, little coffee shop. And the name of the coffee shop, and it’s kind of written in big letters on the wall, is Meet Me in the Morning. And the first time I saw that, I thought, “Wow, that is amazing.” Again, there are so many coffee shops and they all say the same thing, and they all make the same promise about their coffees and their gourmet this and their small batch roasted that and organic use of beans. There’s maybe five stories that are just recycled by almost every small coffee shop in the world. And this place, it just says, “Meet Me in the Morning.”
Chris Badgett: That reminds me of a bar in the college town I grew up in in North Carolina. The name of the bar was, “He’s Not Here.”
Nick Usborne: Alright, I love that one too. ‘Cause both of them engage you. Now, you have to take part. The “Meet Me in the Morning,” where did that come from? Who said that? Was that a guy to a girl, or a girl to a guy, or two friends, or two strangers saying, “Meet me in the morning at the coffee shop.”? Had they been at a bar or a party the night before Meet Me in the Morning? What was that about? Maybe it was a business thing. Maybe it was personal. Maybe it was the beginning of new love. Who knows?
So, what it does by saying, “Meet me in the morning,” and I love this, because so much copywriting in marketing is where the marketer is pushing the message at you, “We are the best. We are the greatest.” Whatever. “Do this, do that.” A lot of advertising, bad advertising or mediocre advertising, is when the marketer is pushing and telling and trying to force you to change your mind about something and buy their stuff.
Whereas “He’s Not Here” or “Meet Me in the Morning” is the opposite of that. It draws you in. It engages you. It makes you think. It makes you try and sort through the different stories out of your own mind. What does this mean? What could this be? It stimulates your imagination. So, I have to remember that one. That’s another great example. Was it, “He’s Not Here”?
Chris Badgett: Yeah, that’s the name of the bar.
Nick Usborne: The bar, “He’s Not Here.”
Chris Badgett: So, you picture a bartender answering the phone, “He’s not here.” I don’t know. That’s what always came up for me. But it does invite a story. And I was reading a blog post on your site. I believe it was on, where you were talking about the difference between engagement and sales management. What’s the difference? Can you elaborate more on that?
Nick Usborne: I have to interrupt you with one thing, because this is just great. So, how do you pronounce my name?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. Usborne.
Nick Usborne: It’s Usborne. I’m only laughing, but the people watching or listening might realize this. But we talked about this before we hit record, so you said, “I’ve got to get this right. How do I pronounce your name?” You hit record and [crosstalk 00:11:21]
Chris Badgett: I messed it up twice already.
Nick Usborne: Mispronounced twice. Totally irrelevant. So, it’s about the same thing. So many marketers and copywriters think, “My task is to use tips, tricks, devices, persuasion to change your mind. Chris, I’m going to change your mind. I’m going to make you love this when you didn’t love it before.” That kind of thing. And that can work in some circumstances to some degree.
But, if I think to myself, “The chances of my getting Chris to change his mind right here and now is kind of slim. I’m not sure I can do that.” What I’m going to do instead is I’m going to say, “Hey Chris, I got this idea. Why don’t I give you this?,” or, “Can I ask you this?,” or “Let me ask you a question,” or “Hey, could you spend literally 30 seconds to complete this survey for me or poll?”
So, now what I’m doing, I’m saying, “You know what? I’m not going to try to get Chris to take any sort of cut right now. I don’t think I can do that. But I can engage him. And if I talk to Chris back and forth. If he says, “Hey Nick, yeah. By all means, send me an email. By all means, invite me to fill out this survey or whatever.”” If I can interest you and I can get you to trust me by engaging with you, you begin to feel, “You know what? I think this Nick guy’s okay. He’s okay. He’s not out to rip me off. He seems like a legitimate guy.”
So then, in the sit-and-talk communication, I say, “Look, I really think you’re gonna love this product, this service. And, if you don’t like it, just let me know and I’ll refund the money.” Now, I think I’ve got a much better chance of closing that sale. I don’t think I can do it by pushing you, by bullying you, by using tricks. But I think if I can engage with you a bit, if I can help you get to know me a little bit, now I think I’m in a better position to make the sale.
I think a lot of copywriters and marketers and small business start-ups are too anxious to say, “Hey, we’ve got to smack this prospect. We’ve got to hit him hard and convert him right now.” And, like I said, sometimes that’ll work and it works better in some industries and verticals and categories than others. But I think, long-term, you’re much better off building a relationship with your audience. And I think, even though I might get the sale from you in two weeks rather than today, I think, at the end of the month, my conversion rate is now going to be higher because I’ve taken the trouble to engage with you.
And you now are going to recognize my name, remember my name, feel that you trust me. So the next time I send you something, you don’t think, “Oh man, that’s the pushy, loud guy,” but, “Oh okay. This guy, I remember him. He was cool. He gave me some interesting information. I trust him.” Now, you’re going to open that email. And maybe I can get to sell you something else as well.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome, and it’s almost like the need or the desire arises inside the person just from the relationship and the conversation.
Nick Usborne: That’s right.
Chris Badgett: In the Dao De Jing, one of my favorite quotes is about leadership, where the best leaders the people say they did it all by themselves. The leader is almost irrelevant.
Nick Usborne: Right. By engaging with you, I’m putting you in a place where you make the sale to yourself. You make the choice. I’m not pushing you. I’m not tricking you. I’m not slugging you with 22 extra bonuses and saying this offer runs out at midnight tonight.
Alright, so I can be clear, I might actually offer you some bonuses, but I’ll try to do it in a reasonable way. And I might actually tell you that this offer expires at midnight. And I’ll do that because I know that that will have a huge impact. Most of us will put off almost any purchase. And I know if I send out an email today and say, “Hey, buy my stuff. You trust me. Buy my stuff,” and maybe you will. But I know if say, “Hey, we can show you for a while. Are you read to buy this stuff?” And if I say, “Oh, by the way,” for whatever reason, and there’s going to be a legitimate reason, “there’s a cut-off at midnight tonight,” I’m probably going to sell twice as much in that day if I have a deadline.
So, this goes back to what I was saying before. When I moved from the print world, direct response into the web, some things are different. The web is far more about engagement than pushing. But some things are the same. If I say the word free to you, if I say now, if I say sale, it still has the same impact online as offline. If I’m putting on a conference, and I’m nearly filled up, and I say, “Hey Chris, you’d better hurry. I’ve only got three seats left,” that scarcity. Scarcity works as well online as offline. If say, “Hey, we’re closing the door or closing the shopping cart at midnight,” that works.
So really it’s a matter of balance. What I want to do as a marketer is I want to be conversational. I want to engage with you. I want to be totally transparent and honest with you because I think, in fact, transparency and honesty are the best sales tools of all. People love it when they start to realize, “Wow, this guy’s totally open and honest and transparent with me. That’s amazing.” I think that’s a very powerful sales tool. I’m very big on that, but at the same time, I’m not going to ignore the fact that there are certain things that I know will trigger more sales. There are certain words. There are certain things like scarcity and immediacy and running out of time. These work. So I’ll use them, but I’ll try to embed them within a more transparent, legitimate approach.
There’s this wonderful copywriter called Drayton Bird, who’s been doing this for over 50 years, and he’s still very active. And he’ll send me an email saying, “Okay Nick, this whole thing of using the word sale. People use that because it really works. So, that’s why you see sale, sale, sale on everything.” And he’s in fact sharing this insight with his audience. Then he says, “Oh by the way, which reminds me, I’ve got a sale for this product.” At that point, you have to smile, ’cause what he’s doing, he saying, “I’m going to play this trick on you, and I’m going to play it on you because it works. So, here’s the trick. And now I’m going to do it.”
And it becomes an inside joke, so it’s almost like he’s saying, “You guys, my audience, I know you like me. I love you guys, and we know each other well enough that we can be playful like this.” But at the same time, when he does put the word sale in there, he is going to sell more of his stuff. So it’s like the magician showing how he does his trick. It’s totally disarming, alright?
So whenever you’re selling something, you know the most extreme version is if you go to a used car lot and that kind of salesman comes out and starts pushing you to buy something before you leave the lot. And you’re going to feel in yourself all those defenses and barriers coming up. It’s like shutters compounding a window. You’re defending yourself against this salesperson. And that is always there. It is always there to some degree. You’re really aware of it. Someone knocks on your door to sell you something, or you go to buy a car, you’re very aware of that feeling that, “Wow, I’m now defending myself.”
But it’s there always, whatever we’re buying, whether in a store or online. There’s always some element of that. So, as a good copywriter, which Drayton Bird absolutely is, what he’s doing is he is disarming people, so they lower those defenses, so they don’t feel like they have to defend against him selling. That opened this transparency in combination with proven copywriting approaches can be so powerful.
Chris Badgett: At the beginning of this episode, we talked about the definition of copywriting. If you’re doing an elevator pitch of what is conversational copywriting, how do you present the idea?
Nick Usborne: Well, it’s very much what we’ve been talking about. It’s the whole business of instead of pushing and writing and shouting at an audience and saying, “You must buy,” it’s much more about engaging with an audience. So that, if I’m doing traditional copywriting, that comes out of the old days before the web.
So, if you think about media before the web, they were one-way media, like a TV is a one-way broadcast media. I sit and I watch and my favorite TV show’s interrupted by advertising. I can’t talk back. I can’t interact with a TV or a radio or a print ad or a billboard. Old school media are one-way, broadcast media. So, as copywriters in those media, we had to be quite pushy, ’cause it was always an interruption. I’m interrupting your favorite TV show or radio show. We’re always pretty much unwelcome, ’cause you rather there weren’t ads in that show. So, yeah, I have to raise my voice. I have to be pushy. I have to be dramatic in some way to grab and hold your attention.
Now, we move over to the web, which is not a one-way broadcast media. It’s a two-way It’s a multi-way. As a consumer, I can use the web as much as you can as a business or as a company. It’s no longer a media that is owned by broadcasters or companies. So this is a multi-way medium. So that writing at an audience that used to work and still works well in traditional broadcast, offline media, that doesn’t work so well online. Because it’s like people do have a voice. And if you make mistakes, people pick up on it and talk about it. You can’t hide on the web. And if you’re too pushy, you’re too relentless, people notice it and people talk about it. If you treat me badly, I can talk about that on Twitter. I can talk about it on Facebook. I can shoot a video and put it on YouTube. I have a voice as well.
So, in a sense, it’s like if I’m going to be a copywriter, if I’m going to be a persuader online, I have to recognize that this is a multi-way medium. I have to be more respectful of my audience or they’re going to bite me. And I have to be more conversational because it’s a conversational medium. Social media is, by definition, conversational. It’s interactive.
If you look at a smart phone, more and more people are doing everything on their smart phones, all of their social media, lots of their web browsing, their email, their chat. Well, it’s a phone. It’s a conversational device. It always has been about conversation.
So, with conversational copywriting, all I’m doing is I’m taking that step from– To me, it is so self-evident. It is so clear. It is so obvious that if you’re trying to be a persuader or a copywriter in a multi-way medium like the web, in a social and conversational medium like the web, you have to be conversational. And that’s why a lot of companies that have not made this transition and are still using the kind of traditional shouting at the audience, trying to make you change your mind if I push hard enough and I turn up the volume enough and I’m loud enough.
Companies like that, it’s working less and less well because people, particularly generations younger than me and generations younger than you. I watch my kids and my grandkids even and how they interact with the web, how they interact with merchants. They don’t respond to that old-school approach at all. In fact, they’re totally tuned out. My 18 year-old stepdaughter, she doesn’t watch TV. She doesn’t watch TV ads. It’s all streaming. Marketing comes to her through SnapChat and Instagram and things like that. These are social, interactive, conversational places.
So, I’m simply going where it’s at. I’m kind of going with the tide, not trying to push against the tide. I think a lot of businesses, a lot of copywriters are still trying to swim against the tide. I’m just riding this huge wave. It is conversational. Either get with it, or you’re going to be going against the tide or the wave or whatever. I’m mixing my metaphors here.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I want to come back to the example you said about naming a coffee shop or a bar or whatever. But for the course creator, the membership site creator, do you know what a Russian kettlebell is?
Nick Usborne: I know what a kettlebell is. I don’t know what a Russian kettlebell is.
Chris Badgett: For working out. You know what I’m talking about?
Nick Usborne: Yeah, a kettlebell, yeah.
Chris Badgett: So, let’s imagine somebody maybe has some Russian heritage, lives in the states and wants to train 40 year-old dads how to get back in shape with the kettlebell workout, work at home routines in 15 minutes.
Nick Usborne: Right.
Chris Badgett: And if they’re gonna name that course, there’s a couple things I want you to advise on from a copywriting perspective.
Nick Usborne: Is this a real example or are you just making it up?
Chris Badgett: I’m just making it up.
Nick Usborne: Oh okay.
Chris Badgett: Let’s say this person’s really fit, and they decide they want to work with this niche, how do they come up with such a compelling, well-written name for their course besides just “Kettlebell for 40 year-old Dads.” And then they have three options, like the gold, the silver and the platinum way to get the course plus extra benefits. How does somebody like that find their voice and learn how to engage with conversational copywriting, starting with naming their program itself?
Nick Usborne: Right. Okay. Putting me on the spot, right?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Nick Usborne: First of all, if it’s like that, that’s something that’s very visual. Any kind of fitness, any kind of training is very visual. So, I’d really be thinking in terms of YouTube. I’m thinking very short video clips for Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook, wherever. So, I’m thinking digital, visual. I’m thinking showing, a lot more showing than talking, like I’m going to demonstrate it. I’m going to show it. I’m going to feature 40 year-old guys. Maybe I’ll go to a parking lot, and I’ll invite a whole bunch of strangers, a whole bunch of 40 year-old strangers.
Let’s say I start playing around with that. Let’s say I take my kettlebells out to wherever, the parking lot at a game or a Walmart or wherever, some public space. And I get people involved. It’s like real life. And I’m filming it just on my phone, and I’m uploading it. Maybe, as I build a little bit of traction with this, maybe I’m going to do this on Facebook. Maybe I’ll spend a couple hundred bucks to boost some of those videos on Facebook, so I get people kind of interesting in it.
If I’m using real people, then for sure they’re going to share it with their friends and say, “Hey, look, this dude took this picture of me doing the kettlebell thing in the parking lot of Walmart.” Now, I’ve got some engagement. I’ve got some community. I’ve got some traffic going up.
And maybe one of the first things I’m going to do is I’ll be transparent. I’ll say, “Look, I’m going to build a whole course on this. We did five minutes with these guys in the parking lot. This is something you can do. This is something that can make a huge difference to your life, to your body, to your health, to your relationships, to everything. And we’re going to build a course around this. But you know what? We haven’t figured out what to call it yet. What do you think? Just write down below.”
So, I’m going to do this video. I’m on Facebook now. Just write below in the comments. I could do the same in YouTube in the comments stream. I could do the same thing on Instagram’s comment stream. What do you think? What should we call it? And maybe I could do this live. Maybe I could do this as a live video thing. Okay, we’ve got some ideas coming in now.
This is web marketing as opposed to old-school marketing. Old-school marketing, the copywriter would have sat down to craft the perfect name for the course. If I’m online, I’m going to leverage that community aspect.
Another thing I might do if I wanted to kickstart it, I know the people, if I don’t give them anything to go with, I’m going to get a lot of silence. So what I’m going to do is I’ll go to Amazon, and I’m going to go to the fitness section. And I’m going to go to a whole bunch of pages selling kettlebells. And I don’t care what the marketers say, but I’m going to scroll down. I want to see what the buyers say. So, now I’m looking at the buyers of kettlebells, and I’m seeing some of the language they use, some of the phrases they use. And I might get two or three ideas for names based on that.
So, again, what I’m doing is I’m putting aside my ego as a copywriter. ‘Cause old-school copywriter, I had to do it all. I’m going to put aside that, because the fact is probably the best name is not going to come from me. It’s going to come from my audience. So I might get things started by looking at the language of buyers of kettlebells and say, “Oh look. I didn’t realize that they would use that kind of term, that kind of phrase.”
So now I’m back to my live Facebook feed, video or whatever. And I’m saying, “Okay guys, let’s come up with some ideas right here, right now. And if yours is the one we choose, you’re going to get a prize of X. So, to get the ball rolling, here are three ideas I have.” And I’m going to type them in. I don’t like any of these completely yet, but let’s kickstart this with those and let’s see what we come up with. So now the whole thing is now becoming a community effort. So it’s weird because what I’m doing is you’re saying, “Nick, be a copywriter,” and I’m actually turning your suggestion into marketing. It’s a whole marketing idea now.
I’ve been to the Walmart parking lot or the game parking lot or wherever it is. Or maybe I should do it outside of like pizza, so the slightly overweight 40 year-old, I’m doing it outside of the parking lot of a pizza shop. And if the pizza guy comes to shoe me off, that would make a great video as well.
You’re saying, “Nick, be a copywriter.” And I’m saying actually, “No, let’s not be a copywriter. Let’s be a marketer. And let’s recognize that this has a lot of visual potential here.” So, I’m just planning.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You’re totally eating your own dog food, and you’re trying to start a conversation. And also I really admire, as a course creator, the idea of getting out of the building from behind the computer and the video camera to the Walmart parking lot with some prospects.
Nick Usborne: Oh, by the way, there is one old-school thing I will do.
Chris Badgett: Sure.
Nick Usborne: I’ll do this a couple of times to make sure it kind of works. So as long as it kind of works, the next time I go to a parking lot or a different parking lot [crosstalk 00:31:35]
Chris Badgett: So, this is like a sniff test to make sure you’re [crosstalk 00:31:37]
Nick Usborne: Yeah, I’ll do it once or twice to make sure it’s not a complete disaster. If it’s not, the next time I do it, I’m going to bring out the local radio station, the local TV station and the local newspapers and say, “Hey, do you want to come check it out? We’ve done this three times now, and it’s awesome. We’re going to be at such and such a place, and you’re going to see a whole bunch of out-of-shape 40-something year-old guys beating themselves to death with kettlebells.”
So, maybe some of those media people turn up. Maybe they won’t. Depends on the news day. But worth a try. So, that’s old school. And why not? Why not give myself that extra exposure if I can get it?
Chris Badgett: That’s neat. Well, over on your website, which we’ll have a link to in the show notes, you have a thing that people can sign up and they can get your five quick and easy ways to make your writing more conversational.
Nick Usborne: Right.
Chris Badgett: Can you break the ice on what a few of those might be?
Nick Usborne: I could if you had warned me to read up on what they were. A little bit. A lot of it, I don’t remember the one to five. I should probably. And I should probably have looked at that before the call. But it’s like the stuff we’ve been talking about. It’s about using engaging language and not pushy language.
I think one of the things I talk about there, and if I don’t, we can have it as a number six, is story, telling stories. So we touched on this right at the beginning with my coffee shop and your bar. It’s stimulating this idea of story, telling the story of what happened last night, why you’re going to see this person in the morning and why isn’t he here. So you’re stimulating stories. Stories are incredibly powerful.
If you go into a bar, go into a coffee shop, and you see people talking, you see people in conversations, a lot of them will be sharing stories. Like, “You’ll never know what happened over the weekend” or “Did you hear what Doug did at work this morning?” or “My kids were crazy this weekend.” We’re always sharing stories. Stories are very powerful ways to engage with one another and to connect with one another. So that’s certainly one of the things that I’m looking at.
I’m also looking at a lot of writers, if they have any kind of training. I’m lucky, I didn’t go to university. I shouldn’t say that. I’m lucky so far as I was never over-trained as a writer. I’m quite comfortable to break some laws of grammar, ’cause we do in conversation. When we’re actually in conversation, we don’t structure our sentences properly. We might have a sentence without a verb. We might start a paragraph with the word ‘and.’
So my writing style, if anyone reads any of my blog posts or anything on the site, it’ll be almost like, “Oh, okay. I recognize Nick. He’s writing the same way he was talking on that podcast.”
Chris Badgett: Yeah, I want to ask you a question on that specifically. One of the challenges of course creators is writing their course description or their sales page.
Nick Usborne: Right.
Chris Badgett: Do you recommend, when people are trying to find their voice and write what it is and what it’s all about, to take that conversational approach to the sales page? How would you advise somebody to get into that, develop those writing muscles?
Nick Usborne: Developing writing muscles is easy. You just write. I’ve probably written something, not every day because I’ve taken vacations and things. But during the week, I don’t imagine a day goes by that I don’t write a thousand words to something, in emails, blog posts, work for other people, whatever it is. In the course description, I think one of the things I do, like my course description– And again, this is part of putting aside your ego in way.
Somebody wrote to me, one of my people who takes my course. We have a Facebook page, like a private Facebook page. A lot of people have completed the course months ago, but they’re still engaged on the Facebook page. And this lady wrote, “Nick, every time I go back to your sales page, it’s different. Something changes. What’s that about?” And I said really what happens is that I’m reading people’s comments here on Facebook or in emails they’ve sent to me, and I think, “I hadn’t really seen it that way, the way that person, the way my student described some aspect.”
I’m not saying send me a testimonial. I’m just reading how they interact with me. And I’ll very often pick out phrases and ways of seeing things that I hadn’t really thought of before. And I’ll take it, and I’ll rewrite part of my course description.
So this is a very, very powerful thing called mirroring. Mirroring is a terrible way to say it. I have a post about this. This is a real ninja copywriting trick, alright. Again, it’s about the copywriter putting aside his or her ego.
If I have a website about coffee makers. I’m selling coffee makers. And I invite people to be constantly engaging with me, whether it be through comment streams on the website or through social media. And I notice a few people say to me very close to the phrase, “I wish I could find a plastics free coffee maker.” If I had one of those things, I would then write a headline that says, “If you’ve ever wished for a plastics free coffee maker,” I’m not writing a fancy headline. I’m repeating the exact phrase back to the reader. So this is the phrase that that individual may not have used but people like him who are interested in making coffee, a lot of people are using that phrase or a phrase very close to it. I will take that, and I will mirror it back to them.
And this is, like I said, an absolute ninja trick. People are incredibly response to that. That’s why you’re always advised, if you’re writing a Google Adwords ad, that the headline on your Adwords ad should be very similar to the headline on the landing page. It’s that familiarity of, “Oh, I’m in the right place.” Or if I’m taking what other people say, that’s why I go places like Amazon and I read the comment streams and I encourage feedback on Facebook. I’m really fascinated.
I think one of the biggest tricks of writing well, writing good copy online is constantly crawling inside the head of your prospect and your customer. Just get out of your own head of, “I’m the boss of this.” And just say, “You know what? No. I’m just going to crawl inside the head of my audience. What is their language? What are their priorities? What upsets them? What delights them? Nevermind what I think. What I think honestly doesn’t matter at all. What really matters is what they think, what they feel, how they talk, the language they use. And I’ll try to mirror that back to them.” And when I do that, the better I get at that, of being inside their heads and mirroring back to them what they already feel and think and believe, that’s when I make the most sense.
Chris Badgett: That’s beautiful. So conversational copywriting is about setting your ego aside.
Nick Usborne: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: Making a commitment to crawl inside your audience’s head. And, like you said, I think a commitment to continuous improvement. When you find a resonance with audience, you might as well take advantage of that opportunity to update your sales copy, wherever it is. Let me ask you one more specific, tactical question that I’ve always wondered about as far as the different approaches, which is if you have buttons on your website or a call to action at the end of something that’s a link or whatever, should you say, “I’m ready!” Should you put it in their voice or just stick with “Buy now!” or try to find words that– What’s your advice around call to action specifically?
Nick Usborne: Okay, this is based on testing. I did some work a few years ago where, every single day for a whole year, I was involved in testing. We tested thousands and thousands of variables on sales pages, emails, things like that. So, when it comes to that button, there are certain things, like if you’re and you’re selling hopefully more than one item per sale, you’re going to say “Add to Cart.” That’s fine. If you are GoDaddy or some other domain sales company, “Add to Cart.” Yeah, because you want to add another domain and stuff like that.
If I’m selling a course, if we’re selling kettlebells, I often call a call to action as the tale of the headline. So, if our big promise in headline after doing all that stuff in the parking lots is people will feel strong, not be strong, but feel strong, we write a headline based on all that input. Maybe one of our readers is creating the headline for us about feel strong. Then, in my button, I’d probably say, “Yes, I’m ready to feel strong. Yes, I want to feel strong.”
So that’s like the tale of the headline. I’ve got a promise in the headline. And what I’m doing again, in part, is this mirroring thing. I might have a big click ad about feeling strong. I’ve got a headline about feeling strong. I’ve got a call to action. So they’re all reinforcing. And the customer says, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. This is it.” And I’ll particularly get that feeling of “yeah, yeah, yeah” if I draw the headline from the reader rather than from my clever little copywriting brain. Because this is their stuff. It’s not my stuff. It’s their stuff. I got it from them.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Thank you. I also wanted to ask you on your website,, you have a manifesto. And one of the things that jumped out at me on your manifesto, which is several points. But I wanted to ask you why do have the test of the copy to make sure that you would feel comfortable with that copy in front of your mother, your partner or your family? Why is that part of the deal?
Nick Usborne: So that you don’t become a sneaky little– Can I use bad language on your podcast?
Chris Badgett: Sure.
Nick Usborne: You can’t be a sneaky little scum bucket. So sometimes, you know how you get the trolls and stuff on the web. Sometimes, when you’re in unarrest, when there’s a distance, you can be a bit of a scum bucket, a bit of a dick. And I can teach you and I can sell to you and manipulate you and stuff like that. ‘Cause you know I’m hiding behind a curtain on the web. I’m not doing the social thing. I’m not showing my face or my name. So now I can behave badly because you can’t see me. And I don’t have the kind of moral compass to understand that I shouldn’t do it anyway.
So the whole thing about conversational copywriting, part of it comes through hopefully in that manifesto. There are 15 points there. It’s that idea of decency, transparency, honesty.
So here’s the thing. If you’re going to write some sales copy and try to sell me something, and you sit your wife or your mom or your kid across the kitchen, and you read that out, are you going to feel embarrassed? Are you going to think, “Oh my god. My kid’s going to think I’m an asshole.” If it doesn’t pass that kind of family test of reading it to your kids. If you don’t feel comfortable or proud enough.
I used to get this when I started out. When I first started out as a copywriter in my very early 20s. And I’d go home to my mom and dad, and they’d say, “Oh, how’s the new job, Nick?” And I’d say, “It’s going great.” And they’d say, “Well, can I see some of your stuff?” And I’m stuck thinking, “Well, I’ll show them this one and that one. I’m not sure I want to show them that one. It’s kind of sneaky.”
In those very early days, I was beginning to get that sense of, “Well, hang on. Should I feel comfortable writing the stuff that I wouldn’t feel comfortable showing to my mom?” So that’s part of it. That’s part of it. The manifesto is there.
What I love about the whole approach of conversational copywriting, what I’m doing there, is one, the kind of decency, transparency, honesty. I like that. But then people say, “Yeah Nick, that’s all very well, but we’ve got to make a living.” And I could now counter with saying, “Funny you should say that, because this approach not only is open, transparent, honest and decent, but it works better than your old-school selling, pushing at people.” So you’re being a better person, and you’re doing a better job for yourself or your client or your course or whatever it is. So that’s why I get super excited about it, ’cause it actually works better and it allows me to feel like a decent human being as a large copywriter.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. Well, if you’re resonating with this, I’d encourage you to check out Nick has a course on the topic. And I just want to thank you for coming on the show and sharing your wisdom with us, because it’s been a great conversation and we’re hopefully helping a lot of course creators and membership site builders get unstuck, get out of the building, start talking to people and embrace a new way of communication. So, thank you for coming on the show.
Nick Usborne: You’re welcome. Hey, if we get feedback, like I said, I’m all about the feedback. So, if we get interesting feedback from this, please share it with me and maybe we can build that into something else down the road.
Chris Badgett: Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, go check out Is there anywhere else people can connect with you, Nick?
Nick Usborne: Anything else I do, you can get to me through there, so that’s the best place to go, yeah.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for coming on the show.
Nick Usborne: Thank you. Thanks for inviting me. Much appreciated.

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