This has come up at least half-a-dozen times in the last week…

I’m stressed right now.  I’m sure you are, too.  Our families are.  Our teams and employees are.  Our customers and clients are.

We’re stressed about the virus and its health impacts.

And we’re stressed about the shutdown.  And the impact it is having and will have on our economy and especially our business and personal finances.

I did just share a video, with tips to help you think strategically.  To respond to the stress.  And do what you can do today (personally and in your business) to ensure that the best is yet to come.  If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s highly recommended.

But today I want to talk about how to communicate with your clients, customers, prospects, and general marketing audience in a time of stress.

And here’s what I can tell you: I’ve seen a whole bunch of SUCCESSFUL marketing messages in the middle of this crisis.

These are from businesses that have nothing to do with niches like the survivalists.  Niches you would expect to thrive in this time of crisis.

And they have one big thing in common: they’re speaking to the LIZARD BRAIN.

A warning…

What I’m about to share with you is incredibly powerful.

It is also easily exploited.

DO NOT exploit people’s fears and vulnerability over this crisis, to take advantage of them for personal gain.  If you do, there will be a special spot in Hell with your name on it.

I will always operate my business from a place of preeminence and win-win-win leadership.

That is, every aspect of my business is built to serve YOUR best interests, as best as I understand that.  One core value in my business and life is to increase the truth, beauty, and goodness in this world.

It is only from this perspective that I feel okay using what I’m about to tell you today.

And it’s only from this perspective that I believe you should use it, too.

Start from a place of service of your customers’ and clients’ greater good.  Make sure that whatever you’re offering them or action you’re asking them to take provides them value in this current circumstance.

Then and only then, do everything in your power to convince them to take you up on your offer, or take your recommended action.

As we respond to and recover from this pandemic, our world will need the economy to be fully operational, and money to keep moving.  That’s up to US, the marketers, entrepreneurs, and salespeople who have value to offer.

And it’s what we do now, in this crisis, that will ensure the “slingshot recovery” Perry Marshall and I discussed last week.

This is how we will ensure the best is yet to come…

I am doing this as one of my normal Mailbox Monday issues…

I wanted to write about this anyway, but it just so happened that a really relevant question was also at the top of the Mailbox Monday queue.

If you have a question — about marketing, advertising, business, copywriting, career-building, consulting, personal development, sales, or similar topics — you can submit it here to be answered in an upcoming issue.

Today’s reader question…


I am struggling with over-complicating the copywriting process. I feel like since I have “marketing eyes,” most copy (that works!) reads bad to me.

For example, I am biased against starting an ad with a questions like “are you struggling with problem?” (which is, in fact, a completely OK thing to do).

The outcome is I always feel the need to come up with something different, which 1) makes writing anything an endless slog and 2) is probably hurting my clients’ results.

I am convinced that if I could get over this I would write a lot more and faster (which means improving more), and I could get my copy career on the right track.

I know, rationally, that it’s all about doing what works.

But my brain just goes back to this.



First, I want to put this in the context of the current crisis…

Let’s start with this.

When we’re in the middle of a crisis or major change (like we’re dealing with now), our thinking brain gets overloaded.

And for the purposes of survival, our brain has three main responses that happen when our thinking brain gets overloaded.




This is how humans survived and evolved for the last couple millions of years…  And how animals evolved going back to the beginnings of animal behavior…  All the way back to the earliest reptiles, which are the first known animals to live on land.

And today, our brains are much more complex than that of reptiles.  But the fight, flight, freeze responses all take place with activation in the part of the brain that first developed in reptiles.

So when we face a crisis, it’s this part of the brain that’s activated.

It’s this part of the brain — focused first and foremost on survival — that drives much of our decision-making.  (Arguably, this is true all the time — it’s just much more pronounced in crisis.)

What does that mean for our communication?

Don’t make me think…

I lean heavily toward heady messages.  I like to hang out with people who think.  I like to think.

And so my default is to share my thinking.  Which often requires YOU to think.

That’s a bad example.

Marketing is most likely to perform best when the marketer or copywriter does the thinking for the prospect.

This is not an insult or taking away choice.

Rather a reminder that you benefit from explaining things clearly, choosing simple and readable language, and similar adaptations.

Share complex thoughts in simple language.

This is, for example, why writing about investments to educated professionals STILL works best when the writing is at the 7th grade level or below.

In a crisis, aim for 5th or 6th grade.

The simpler, the better.

Selling Philosophy vs. Lizard Brain…

This is Perry Marshall language, but not exclusive to him.

Perry and I like to sell philosophy.  Because we both know that better thinking leads to a better life and business.

That’s why I write and teach so much about principles and strategies.  And so little about techniques and tactics.

Because in the long run, that’s in your best interests.

But in a crisis situation, your audience DOES NOT HAVE THE TIME.

Honestly, right now many of us have more time than ever.  Stuck at home, we have all the time in the world.

(Not all of us, I know.  I am actually writing this on Sunday because I’ll be home-schooling my kids Monday when I would normally work.  I’m making huge changes to make time for work.)

Whether we have more time or not, it doesn’t FEEL like we have more time.  Because the Lizard Brain only knows NOW.

Which means you have to focus your message on the NOW.

— Write simply.

— Write about the urgent situation, and fulfilling urgent needs.

— Write to help your prospect get out of fight, flight, freeze.

— Write to help your audience take action now.

— Write about present benefits, and present stories, and present actions.

— Write to give the lizard brain the relief it so urgently needs.

— Write for comfort and consultation amid the chaos.

— Write pointed at creating a brighter future.

(And if you’re speaking, not writing, all the same rules apply.)

Now zooming out, both to answer the question above and to address copywriting and marketing messaging at a higher level.

Why novice copywriters write bad copy…

Most people who study copywriting study the greats.

And often, the greats like to share their most interesting examples.

Which is sometimes what worked best.  But it’s also often what they liked the most.

And because copywriting and advertising are “creative” professions, that’s often “creative” ads.

This is amplified because this is what “creatives” who get into copywriting like to study, so they get passed around and discussed more often.

Which means when you show up to this game as a novice, this is what grabs your attention first.

So you see over-the-top stories and gimmicky hooks.

Sure, they probably worked.

But they don’t necessarily represent what makes the most sales, or is the most effective.

The Gary Bencivenga ad that bought him a home in the Hampton’s at a royalty of 5 pennies per piece mailed had this rather mundane copy on the cover…

The Doctor’s Vest-Pocket Sampler of Natural Remedies

No more drugs…  No more surgery…  No more disease!

An overview of today’s safest, most powerful NATURAL REMEDIES from top M.D.s and Alternative Healers.

How BORING!  …  And yet, it mailed over 100-million pieces at favorable economics, with every response tracked.

Creativity on the front cover could’ve cost Gary B. $5 million in royalties.

Simplicity of language and in his promises made him a fortune.

With that…

Stop writing like a copywriter!

Here’s what I think.

And I’m guilty of this, too.  Especially early in my career.

The “marketing eyes” described above is EGO.

Ego in the negative sense.  Pride.  Arrogance.  Hubris.

It’s the desire to be seen as “creative.”  (Note how often I put that in quotes.)

It’s the desire to write with style.  Rather than focus on substance and results.

Sometimes, what is substantive and gets results also has style.

But most often, style gets in the way.  It’s used to polish a turd.  It’s used to hide the fact that you don’t really know what your market wants, or how to offer it to them.

When you get clever, you’re hoping your cleverness will fool them into liking you.  And with that, giving you money.

Not only does this not work as well, it’s deceptive and a slog.

Because if your ego is about creativity, and your creativity doesn’t get results, it reflects on you as a person.

So you write some hot headline and nobody cares?  YOU are a failure.

If you make a hypothesis about what they want, offer it in the headline, and they don’t want it?  Well, maybe your hypothesis was wrong, but your test was successful in telling you that.

This, probably more than anything, is the biggest thing a novice copywriter must learn.

Stop making it about your copy.

Instead, make it about what you can do for your prospect.  What they get by responding.  How it will solve their problem and change their life.



Get over yourself.

Write clearly.

Write simply.

Speak to the lizard brain.

Even if the benefit they get will eventually be on the level of philosophy and better thinking.

Only use creativity and indirectness in a situation where your market is so saturated you can’t get response with something more direct.  Or in a totally saturated market, where you’re having to find a new way to reach unaware prospects.  (Even then, find out how to work in directness in your promise.)

And in a crisis situation?

Drop the creativity and indirectness altogether.

You won’t be given the time of day.

Among the other benefits that will eventually come from this crisis (there are always both costs and benefits), there will be many copywriters and marketers who finally drop the ego and learn to speak directly to the human beings in their audience, market, and customer base.

The best is yet to come.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

PS: Relevant BTMSinsiders training to today’s essay:

Emotional Direct Response Copywriting: Connect with prospects at the deep emotional level.

Story Selling Master Class: Stories are working better than ever, in light of the above.

High-Velocity Copywriting: Exact templates to write effective copy, fast, using the 3 big idea types.

Using this time to improve your skills is a smart way to ensure an even more rapid recovery.  For one low monthly fee, you get access to all of the above and more.

Learn more.