Why I asked my boss for a colostomy bag

I love that headline. And I’ve just sent an email out to my list, using it as a subject.

Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to test it for ages.

Not because it’s a great story (more on that in a moment).

No, I wanted to use it because, I figured my readers would open it.

See, every week I track my ‘open rates’ to see which type of subject lines get the most attention.

And the answer? Well it’s not what you’d learn at Copywriting School.

Conventional wisdom says, “a headline must contain a benefit”. And if you’re writing an ad, or a sales letter, yep…a benefit-type headline works.

But email’s different. It’s personal. It’s all about relationships. So if you toss in a benefit headline, it looks far too salesy.

And no-one wants Mr Salesy in their inbox…they’ll hit delete.

So what works in email?

Intrigue. Curiosity. Summat that raises an eyebrow. Like, this tale of me asking my boss for a colostomy bag.

As it happens, it’s not a great story. It’s just that he wanted me to sit minding a door for hours on end, without a bathroom break. So I put in a written request for a portable cack sack…just so his boss would see how he was out of line.

I told you it was nothing.

But the point is, people opened the email. Because the subject line made them sit up and wonder.

If I’d written “All beds half price till Tuesday”, would they have opened it?


So what of it?

Well, when you send your next email, stuff the benefits. Go for the intrigue…that quirky little subject line that brightens up a dull working day.

People can’t resist clicking, because it maddens them. They want to know more.

Of course, you’ve got to give them some value once they open it. Otherwise they’ll never trust you with their time again. But pay it off, and you’ve got the bones of a juicy email.

Here endeth the lesson.

Oh yeah. And if you’re wondering how it ends, I didn’t get the colostomy bag.

Shame, cos I’m 50 next year. One day soon, it’ll come in handy…

Meet the Author

James Daniel

You might not know who James is...but you've probably read his copy. Through high street clients like Hidden Hearing, or big gun marketers like Jonathan Jay and Chris Cardell. His words are out there, pulling in new business every month. What else? Well his books, Do You Talk Like That at Home? and Direct Mail 101 will help you squeeze out more sales. Oh yeah - and his new book Before You JFDI will help you plan your next campaign. Grab a free copy here.

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