Copywriting Lessons From a Spammer – Part 1
I use both Gmail and Yahoo for my email. Gmail is what I use for business, and Yahoo is more of a catch-all. Gmail seems to do a better job of catching and weeding out spam than my Yahoo account, which is why I began using Gmail more.
Spam messages used to drive me crazy. I would receive about 30 emails a day to my Yahoo address, and 25+ of them would be spam, which was very frustrating.
But then a friend of mine told me about the book Delete This at Your Own Peril – One Man’s Hilarious Exchanges With Internet Spammers. The title explains exactly what the book is about – a guy who exchanges emails with spammers and he reveals the spammers’ ridiculous messages. So, I decided that if someone could write a book based on spam messages, then surely there was something valuable I could learn from these messages – and so I eagerly began watching for (and welcoming) these messages.
I began reading all of these message that ended up in my inbox, as well as regularly checking my spam folder for messages. After spending some time reading spam messages, I was amazed to discover that many of these spammers were master copywriters, and worth studying.
Think about it, if you are a spammer, you know that your message isn’t going to be wanted (excluding weirdos like me). So, if it’s going to be effective, your message must immediately engage your readers (which is the most critical component of successful copywriting).
I’ve compiled a small collection of spam messages that are masterfully written and worth studying for ideas and techniques for successful copy writing.
Here’s one example (with my comments indented in blue):
Subject: From Dr. Anthony Nelson
(He used both curiosity and credibility in his subject line, causing readers to think – who is this “doctor”… it must be important if a “doctor” is emailing.)
“AUDITOR AND ACCOUNTANT GENERAL
FOREIGN REMITTANCE DEPT.
INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL BANK LIMITED
Plot No: 21/22 HEAVY INDUSTRIAL AREA
(The introductory paragraph matches the tone of the subject line by using professional sounding jargon that still raises the curiosity factor.)
My name is Dr. Anthony Nelson, the Auditor and accountant general Foreign Remittance Department, International Commercial Bank Ltd, Accra Ghana . With due respect and regard to your person. I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us and our families as well.
(The copywriter knows that he only has a few seconds to keep the reader engaged – and reading the message, so it’s critical that he remove any doubt or fears that may be in your mind. In this case, he lets you know that he’s “really” Dr. Anthony Nelson, quickly confirms his position, and then lets you know why you should keep reading – ‘a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us and our families as well’.
As a reader you still have doubt in your mind, and the copywriter knows he must not only remove the doubt but also keep you engaged. Notice the way he carefully crafts the story below. )
During auditing in this Bank. I discovered a very huge sum of money belonging to one Mr. Carlest Albertos, a Colombian drug baron who was incidentally shot dead by Anti-Drug Law Enforcement Agents known as (OPERATION SWEEP) on attempt to arrest the syndicate at his hide-out Hotel on 6th May 1991. And since then his funds has been dormant in his escrow account with this Bank without any claim of this funds in our custody either from his family or relatives because he did not disclose any Beneficiary to this account in case of death such as this.
(He leads off by confirming again that he’s a “bank auditor” and then transitions into his story. Notice that he doesn’t just say, “I found a bunch of unclaimed money while auditing.” Nope, he gives a very detailed story – one that seems at least a little believable; after all, a Colombian drug baron having millions of dollars doesn’t seem unrealistic. Pay attention to the details: he gives the drug baron’s name, he gives the operation name, and the date of death – each of these subtly help lower your defenses as a reader.)
Although personally, I kept this information secret within myself to enable the whole plans and idea be profitable and successful to us during the time of execution. The said amount is US$21M, Twenty One Million United States Dollars. As it may interest you to know. I got your impressive contact information’s on the website through review on Chamber of Commerce on foreign business relations abroad.
(In the paragraph above he continues adding details to the story – and answers one of your lingering questions….”How did he get my contact info?”)
As a Staff in this bank, I have in my possession all the vital documents to perfect this deal by making you the sole Beneficiary whom this money will be officially transferred into his bank account.
(He confirms his position, and then lets you know that he has the power to make this “deal” happen.
Up until this point, he has done nothing but answer your fears and concerns, and build trust through his story. But in the following paragraph he asks for your help.)
I need your assistance and co-operation to get this deal done perfectly. Because as a foreigner you stand a better position to be presented through documentations as the sole Beneficiary. I will not fail to inform you that this transaction is 100% risk free. On smooth conclusion of this transaction. You will be entitled to 40% of the total sum for active participation.
(He knew that once he asked for your “assistance and cooperation” that some additional fears would arise – which he quickly addresses by saying, “100% risk free.” Then he quickly shifts over to remind you of the benefits, “40% of the total sum.”)
Perhaps, I intend to use 20% of my own share in building an orphanage homes and sponsoring charity organizations and NGO’s nation wide. Rather than putting the fund into the banks treasury as unclaimed fund.
(I love the way he attempts to ease your mind by casually mentioning all the good things he will do with his share of the money. After all, what crook would want to do such noble things with “his” money?)
Please you have been advised to keep this transaction “Top Secret” since I am still in Service and intend to retire from active service when I have concluded this deal with you. And I assure you that this transaction will not last more than six (6) banking days for you to confirm that the money has been transferred into your nominated bank account. I will be monitoring the whole situation here in this Bank directly and indirectly and update you with comprehensive information’s until you confirm the fund in your account and ask me to come over to your country for disbursement according to the percentages previously indicated.
(You can see from the paragraph above that he has clearly shifted to the close. He addresses last minute concerns and attempts to easy any fears that may still exist in the mind of the reader.)
All other relevant information’s will be sent to you when I received your positive response indicating your willingness to participate in the transaction. Please I also need your private tel/fax numbers for urgent communication.
(The paragraph above is the Call to Action. He gives you clear instructions on what to do next – and more importantly he makes it simple. Notice how he doesn’t ask for your bank account number [which is really what he is after]; he simply is asking for your positive response and your telephone number.)
I look forward doing business with you.
Dr. Anthony Nelson”
I realize that some may assume I’m endorsing or encouraging spam, and this isn’t entirely true. Like it or not, spam is a fact of life – particularly life on the internet. I guess you could say that I believe when life hands you a lemon (spam)… you should try to make lemonade (learn from spammers).
What are your thoughts? Have any great spam messages you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments, or send it in an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – but please…no spam ;-).
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