Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Halloween Lagniappe

I bought more Halloween candy than we'll have trick or treaters. A lot more.

Not for snacking on November 1, but for the Halloween lagniappe.


A lagniappe is what my friends in New Orleans call a small surprise gift that a merchant adds to a customer's purchase. Think "baker's dozen" = 13.

In that spirit, when a pint-sized superhero, princess, or Hogwart's student rings our bell and greets me with "trick or treat" when I open the door, I'll give them a piece of candy.

That's when I'll start having fun. With the lagniappe. As I do every Halloween.

"That's a great costume," I say. "I think you deserve another piece of candy."

And plop, another piece of candy goes into their goodie bag and is greeted with a big smile ... often behind a mask ... but I can see it in their eyes. "Uh. Wow. Thanks, mister." often follows.

"Have a few more," I say as I put three or four more pieces in their bag.

That usually gets a wide-eyed look of surprise and joy as they realize they've hit the motherload of the annual knock-on-doors-and-get-candy scam.

Sometimes when they scamper across the front yard to a waiting and waving parent, I yell, "Wait a minute." And when they stop and turn around, I challenge them: "Can you catch this in your bag?" and toss them an other piece of candy. 

They're happy even if they don't catch it and have to pick it up. Ecstatic when they position the bag properly for a catch.

When I was a kid, the big hit was the house that was giving out full-size chocolate bars.

I think a bunch of small chocolate bars is better. Seems like a bigger haul.

I hope trick or treaters in this millennium feel the same. 

Either way, I'll know they'll be having fun.

Maybe as much as I'll be having.


But this is a blog for marketing writers. 

And I do have something more on point.

Just sometimes I need to recharge by writing something just for the joy of writing. Such as writing about giving candy to diminutive Captain Americas, Moanas, and Harry Potters.

So, back to marketing writing:

Please, please, please as we approach Halloween, exercise your creative muscle and avoid overused words, phrases, and puns like:


Monster Deals

Frightfully Good (and its cousins Horrifyingly Good and Spooky Good)


Treat Yourself



You will not stand out (and thus not get attention or generate curiosity) using them ... especially in tired old headlines and email subject lines such as:

Trick & Treat Your Way to a Bargain This Halloween

Get These Spooky Deals Before They Ghost

Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun 

Treat Yourself This Halloween with Our Spooktacular Offers

Witch-ing  You a Happy Halloween

No Tricks, Just Treats 

NOTE: I give you permission to use "Trick or Cheese." Once. In an applicable spot. But don't let anyone know I had anything to do with it.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Free SEO Training

Understanding Search Engine Marketing (SEO) is a requirement in today's marketing world. 

To fine-tune your understanding, there are a number of resources available. Some you open your wallet for. Some are free.

Before investing in an SEO course consider accessing free resources to help advance your basic knowledge and skills. This foundation will help you decide, based on your career focus, where to best spend your budget: SEO training, SEO tools, SEO consulting, or elsewhere.

Free SEO Training

Here are 27 free courses/articles/exercises to consider:



Quickstart Guide to SEO  

30 Days of SEO -

SEO Basics

Keyword Research -

On-Page SEO Optimization

Link Building

Advanced SEO 

The Ultimate Local SEO Guide  



The Ultimate Guide to SEO Content Writing


SEO Tutorial for Beginners

SEO Writing Masterclass -

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization

Advanced Search Engine Optimization Strategies


Website Performance Optimization by Google





Outside the Google inner circle, nobody really knows how the Google search algorithm works.

There are, however, actions that can be taken to maximize content for search based on experience and the hints that Google divulges about how to stay on its good side.

These factors focus on meaning and intent, relevance, context, and quality. And technical factors such as load time.

Strong writing combined with solid SEO can make a noticeable difference in  ranking, and thus  readership and traffic.

The primary focus is always to give the searcher what they are searching for … with a little friction as possible … in a way that is easy to digest and understand.

And to do that better than the competitors’ offerings do.


More Resources:


What you get out of any training, free or paid for,
is based on 
the commitment (time, attention, practice, etc.) 
you put into that training.

Education without action is entertainment.

You can take all the courses and read all the books,
but if you don't put that information into practice,
you're not going to get where you want to go.


 I am not affiliated with or compensated by any of these courses/books/guides/articles/exercises, their authors, websites, or corporate entities. They are not listed in any particular order.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Buy Lunch for a Salesperson

By lunch for a salesperson

If you're a copy or content writer, and you're not talking to the sales team, you're making a big mistake.
Think about it:
  • They talk to customers and potential customers every single day. They know first hand about those customers' needs, pain points, goals, and desires.

  • They can tell you which assets you have written are useful, and which ones don't resonate. And why.

  • They are the kings and queens of objection handling. They know what kind of barriers stop people from buying - and how to overcome those barriers.

  • They know the words customers use when they say, "Yes", when they say "No", when they describe whey they bought, when they detail why they didn't, when they decide to repurchase or upgrade, and when they decide to switch to a competitor.

  • They can give you frank feedback on the leads you're sending them. .
So book a meeting with a salesperson. Or take them out for a meal. Or beer. Or coffee. Or whatever. And make it a regular thing.
Your copy will be stronger for it.
And then head over to customer service. For pretty much the same reasons.


Follow Up

When I brought this up at a seminar, I was asked, "How do you approach people in these other departments?"

I made a joke about approaching them as you would any other human, but then offered some specific questions to help get the information flow going:

  • How aware are the customers of the problem we solve?

  • What words to they use to define the problem?

  • What do you say to make them say, "Got it. Thanks!"

Saturday, October 1, 2022

A Proven Method for Beating Writer's Block

How to find writing inspiration & insights

Not only can this snap you out of your writer's block, but it's also a useful exercise if you're just looking for writing inspiration and insight:

  1. Go the library, pick random books, read the first paragraph. 

  2. Think about the choices the author made knowing that this paragraph was the key to whether or not the reader would continue to read. Look at how these openings are constructed and think about why they are effective. Consider how they introduce the author's narrative style. Pay particular attention to the first line.

You don't have to start with classics like A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Any book will do. For example, Dead Men Scare Me Stupid by John Swartzwelder is not considered classic literature, but it still worth reflecting on it's opening paragraph and first line: 

Well, they found Amelia Earhart. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, they found her in the trunk of my car. Boy was my face red. I had a lot of explaining to do there. And after I had explained everything, they didn't believe me! You probably won't believe me either, come to think of it. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Until you get to the library, here are the openings from a couple of dozen notable books:

Gravity’s Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there's nothing to compare it to now.

Paradise - Toni Morrison
They shoot the white girl first. With the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are seventeen miles from a town which has ninety miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the Convent, but there is time and the day has just begun.

One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. 
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - Hunter S Thompson

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded maybe you should drive. . . ." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?"

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

It was a pleasure to burn.

Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was lying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his dome-like brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes.

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I'm stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that's all ther was to read about in the papers -- goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corne and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn't help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerve.

1984 - George Orwell

It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.

The New York Trilogy - Paul Auster

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. Much later when he was able to think about the things that happened to him, he would conclude that nothing was real except chance. But that was much late. In the beginning, there was simply the event and its consequences. Whether it might have turned out differently, or whether it was all predetermined with the first word that came from the stranger's mouth, is not the question. The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something that is not for the story to tell.

A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

Red Wind – Raymond Chandler

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge. 


The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls

I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster. It was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the steam coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.


Five Hours with Mario - Miguel Delibes

After she has closed the door behind the last visitor, Carmen leans her head slightly against the wall until she feels the cold touch of its surface and blinks several times, as dazzled. Her right hand is sore and her lips are swollen from so much kissing.


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Douglas Adams

The story so far: In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.


The Talented Mr. Ripley - Patricia Highsmith

Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage heading his way. Tom walked faster. There was no doubt the man was after him. Tom had noticed him five minutes ago eyeing him carefully from a table as if he weren’t quite sure, but almost. He had looked sure enough for Tom to down his drink in a hurry, pay, and get out

The Witches - Roald Dahl

In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black coats, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES.

Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy know was this. One day when she was two years old she was plying in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heard and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy know that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

 The Ghost Collector - Allison Mills

Shelly’s grandma teaches her about ghosts, how to carry them in her hair. If you carry ghosts I your hair, you can cut them off when you don’t need them anymore. Otherwise, ghosts cling to your skin, dig their finger in under your ribs, and stay with you long, long after you want them gone  


The Princess Bride - William Goldman 

The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

The year 1866 was signalised by a remarkable incident, a mysterious and puzzling phenomenon, which doubtless no one has yet forgotten.

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

A River Runs Through It - Norman Maclean

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ’s disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen, and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.

Back When We Were Grownups - Anne Tyler

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person. 


We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson 

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.


All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy

The candleflame and the image of the candleflame caught in the pierglass twisted and righted when he entered the hall and again when he shut the door. He took off his hat and came slowly forward. The floorboard creaked under his boots. In his black suirt he stood in the dark glass where the lilies leaned so palely from their waisted cutglass vase. along eh cold hallway behind him hung the portraits of forebears only dimly know to him all framed in glass and dimly lit above the narrow wainscotting. He looked down at the guttured candlestub. He pressed his thumbprint in the wam wax pooled on the oak veneer. Lastly he looked at the face so caved and drawn among the folds of funer cloth, the yellowed mustache, the eyelids paper thin. That was not sleeping. That was not sleeping.


The Martian - Andy Weir

I'm pretty much f***ed.


Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his. Another guy I know really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I've changed all the names. 

 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K.Rowling

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.

 And how 'but those first lines? Goosebumps, huh?

A screaming comes across the sky. 

It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

All children, except one, grow up.

I'm pretty much f***ed. 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.

Well, they found Amelia Earhart. 

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.  

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

OK. Now go put some words on paper.

The Parking Spot Next to the Front Door

“You could sell sawdust to a lumber mill,” said my boss as he threw his arm around Byron’s shoulders. The team applauded as Byron held up th...