Author: Chris Pearson, Partner & Email Marketing Specialist at 3BM
About a year back, I stumbled across a guy and his podcast that caught my attention.
I was in the middle of connecting copywriting to neurology. Essentially, I wanted to learn how to connect the words that people read to the neurological responses in their bodies.
An endeavor I’m still exploring and unpacking.
But, I came across Chris Willamson’s podcast because he was interviewing Dr. Anthony Huberman, a Ph.D., neuroscientist, and tenured professor in the department of neurobiology and by courtesy, psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford School of Medicine.
I started the episode with the two and 90 minutes passed without even realizing it. Enthralling is an understatement.
So, I wanted to breakdown one of his 3 Minute Monday emails and unravel the secrets behind why I believe he’s been able to amass 200 million+ downloads of his podcast.
No small feat.
Chris describes his podcast as “learning out loud with guidance from the most interesting people on the planet.”
Modern Wisdom has over 200 million downloads.
Rules: The Email Muse
Each week, I venture through the marketing wilderness to find highly-effective ecommerce sales emails… and I shine a light on what made them work.
My goal with this weekly tangle with the email muse is to teach you strategies and tactics you can use with your emails.
Where do I find these magical electronic pieces of mail? My inbox, mostly, since I’m signed up to lists that I want to be on. I also take suggestions from readers who have a stellar email they’d like to share.
Did you get an email recently that made you smile, your eyes tear up, or flat out gut punched you? I want to see it.
Forward the email to me at (chris at threebeaconmarketing dot com) with a brief note about what you liked about it. If I choose to break it down, I’ll give you a shoutout and link back to your site.
And no forwarding me your own emails. That’s the only rule.
Let’s get started.
Subject Line: Dripping with Curiosity
One thing Chris does well is create curiosity about what’s inside his emails with his subject lines:
Chris has two things going for him. The first is that he leverages curiosity at a 10 for this subject line. He also has name recognition with his from-name, which we’ll go over in the next section.
The curiosity though is through the roof.
How can you not click on a subject line that mentions aliens, Japanese Sex, and Nuance?
(I’m surprised “sex” didn’t get the email filtered into the promo or spam folder. Goes to show what relationship and reputation with your list allows you to do in the inbox).
What’s the connection he’s going to make between the three?
This is how you get “clicks” on your emails while also delivering on the promise you make with your subject line.
From Name: Personal and Human
Chris uses his first and last name as his from name:
When you use a first name as your from-name, it builds the connection with the audience to that name over time.
Why is connection important?
If your list feels an emotional connection to you and your name, then they’re more likely to trust you.
And trust is key when you want people to do things for you and buy things from you.
Sure, you could use your brand name as the from-name. But, a brand name won’t develop the deep level of trust you want with your customers through email that a personal name could (in many cases).
Email Headline – Consistency
One thing Chris does really well is stay consistent with his Monday emails. Here’s the name of his Monday email that 80k+ people open and read every single week:
3 Minute Monday.
It’s specific. It has a time element. And it’s on a given day.
This simple yet powerful title gives the readers something real to judge the email against. Time, day, and type. This makes the email more real in the reader’s mind because they can feel confident in what they’re getting when they open a Chris Williamson email.
The same goes for people like Ben Settle, Chris Orzechowski, and Kevin Rogers.
Once you’re on these lists (which I would highly recommend), you know what you’re getting. And they all have a different lilt to their style, which makes the experience unique for the reader.
And, once they’ve read a few emails, they’ll either be hooked to stick around or they will leave due to the content not being what they like.
This is polarization 101.
Yes, you want people to make this decision.
There are many worse outcomes than unsubscribes.
People staying on your list but being disengaged is worse than those same people unsubscribing.
Disengaged people bring your entire list down. Whereas, an unsubscribe makes room for people who want to stick around.
Finally, the name and consistency of Chris’ emails is a key factor in why he probably has high open rates, great click rates, and an engaged audience.
You don’t need to get fancy, weird, or out of this world to keep people on your list.
Tell them what you’re going to give them, sprinkle in some curiosity, and give them what you promised.
It sounds simple, but consistency is a foundational principle many brands miss the mark on.
Consistency is a super power in our fast-paced, ever-evolving world.
Opening Line: Friendly and Curiosity Building
A simple but powerful opening line:
Chris uses “friend” when addressing the people on his list. This may seem unremarkable, but he uses this in a variety of his emails to psychologically position his content with his readers.
When he “gives advice” in his emails, the advice is usually to a friend or coming from a friend, which lowers resistance when people read the advice (more on this a little later in this breakdown).
Trust me when I say this: Chris does not waste this opening line.
“It’s been a wild week,” is an initial callback to the subject line.
I’d say that with the subject line it sounds like a wild week. I have to ask, “what happened, Chris? Tell me more!”
This “friend” and “wild week” combo welcomes the reader in and builds on the curiosity from the subject line.
How to Ratchet Up Scarcity and Urgency WITHOUT Being a Sleazeball
Let’s talk about scarcity and urgency:
Chris shares that his shows have sold out in under 60 minutes…
He is adding more shows and more capacity, but…
There is high demand.
He’s showing his audience that they better get tickets as soon as possible, even though the deadline is later this week.
Because if they don’t, they may not be able to see him live in 2023.
This is scarcity and urgency through the roof!
This is how you naturally drive purchases WITHOUT being a sleazeball.
Because he’s being honest about what’s going on. The urgency to see him as soon as possible is real for his audience. And the scarcity of limited tickets left for 2023 is real.
If your scarcity and urgency is borderline manufactured, you’re playing a losing game. Because if even one customer discovers you’re being fake with them, it destroys any trust you’ve built over years in a matter of seconds.
DO NOT fake scarcity and urgency!
An Abrupt but Effective Transition
Chris doesn’t really use a transition. He just dives into the new concept he created:
Chris transitions into a “new concept” he created, which pulls the reader into the next part of the email without much of a break from the show notes above.
I think it still works.
It feels like a conversation. Frankly, it seems like he spoke this email into something like Otter.io and had a VA clean it up a bit. Not a bad tactic if you’re strapped for time but still want to get an email out to your audience.
He also sets the stage for the next part of the email with “…over dinner with a friend.”
There’s that “friend” word again.
He uses “friend” to address his reader, AND he uses “friend” to intro an idea. This may seem insignificant at first glance, but…
Chris is seeding the idea that he could have dinner with anyone on his list, since they are called “friend.” This is a powerful, endearing technique you can use to bring people in even deeper.
Because the reader will identify as a “friend” to Chris, so when he talks about “…dinner with a friend,” they imagine themselves in the scene and conversation (more on this later).
The concept that Chris introduces is curious enough to keep us reading.
It sounds familiar, but it’s new enough to make us want to learn more about it.
And that’s the goal of copy:
Get the reader to consume the next line.
Making your offer, idea, or position “new enough” so that people lean in with curiosity instead of pushing away out of fear of the unknown.
Explaining the Concept: Alien’s Eye View
Chris goes on to explain what this new concept is:
He uses “friend” to set the conversation. Then, he explains it in such a way that it doesn’t read like a high school textbook. He simply relays the conversation he has with his friend.
This little shift toward sharing a story and away from a definition will keep people engaged for longer.
Because we’re all wired for story.
When we hear someone say, “Let me tell you a story,” we naturally lean in.
Story is a primary mode of communication and information transfer for humans.
The reader imagines themselves in the conversation, since they are Chris’ “friend,” too.
So Chris gets to explain this new idea to his audience while also keeping their attention in the process. The audience is attempting to connect this new idea to conext in their own world, even though Chris isn’t technically speaking with his list. This is the power of story. Whomever is listening/experiencing the story will place themselves in it (if it’s interesting to them).
This means you’re able to “smuggle” ideas into a person’s subconscious WITHOUT them realizing you just shifted a belief in their brain.
A story is the Trojan Horse of the idea world, sneaking past the guards at the gate between the conscious and subconscious in the person’s mind.
Those guards LOVE gifts and stories.
Super valuable lesson right there!
The Question: How to Pull Readers Down the Page
After explaining the concept, Chris asks an important question
What does this question do?
It pulls the reader into the conversation even more.
They’re reading along, nodding their heads, engaged.
Then, Chris asks his “friend” a question:
“What would this alien think he values in life?”
The reader’s mind delivers an answer, whether they speak it or not, immediately.
Their “in the story” and their brain doesn’t hesitate to answer the question.
This hooks the reader and pulls them down the page, because they want to know how their answer compares to Chris’ friend’s answer.
Humans crave comparison to see how they’re doing against their peers.
Curiosity to find out keeps the reader interested.
Here’s the friend’s answer:
This gives the reader a chance to “compare notes” to how Chris’ friend answered the question.
Did the reader answer the same way, different, or otherwise?
This comparison brings them into the conversation AND taps into a belief that Chris will address next.
How Alien’s Eye View Is Different
This concept is similar to something else, so Chris addresses how it’s different and unique:
When we introduce something new, it’s best to compare it to something the reader already knows. And then, use that familiar concept to explain the new concept.
It’s typically easier for the human mind to change what they already know a few degrees and get to the new concept.
It’s more difficult if you have to learn a new concept from scratch without reference or context to what already exists in the world.
This is why “higher education” exists, to (hopefully) deliver new and unique concepts to students so they can test and challenge their minds to stretch and learn.
Chris makes it easy for his readers to grasp “Alien’s Eye View” in only a few sentences.
Because he puts the new concept a few degrees off from an existing concept most people on his list would already know.
This increases the likelihood that the reader will adopt the new concept instead of rejecting it wholesale due to not understanding it (or wanting to expend the mental power to learn it).
When you reduce friction for the mind, it’s more likely to evolve, change, and adopt new things.
Challenge a Belief. Make a Point
Here’s where Chris shares his reason for introducing the new concept:
A great way to challenge a belief is to ask the reader to consider altering their worldview based on a new concept.
Some brands make direct statements and force feed their beliefs and values down the throats of their list (do you hear all those customers choking?), but…
Chris takes a different approach.
He asks for the reader’s consideration with a question.
“Will you consider this” is much more palatable than, “You will do this.”
More people will consider the question AND answer it, even if they don’t say it aloud. Their brains will engage and move them toward the answer before the conscious part of their minds have a chance to judge that reflex.
This is the power of asking someone to consider something.
And that interaction with the question plants the seed for action later.
Planting these “belief shift” seeds is what persuasion is all about.
You acknowledge, address, and ask for action based on where the customer is at right now in their life, so they can move into a faster, easier, more convenient future.
And that ask starts with the beliefs that block and limit your customer. Get those shifted and watch how you positively impact your customers.
Shift the Focus to the Self
Here’s where Chris brings home his point:
Chris emphasizes the common truth, and then flips it on its head,
He revises “the truth” with a new truth, using the Alien’s Eye View.
He takes the new concept and applies it to life, giving the reader context on how this concept actually functions in the world.
He then makes a bold statement to solidify this belief shifting argument.
He’s had the same sign off for a while now, and it’s how he would say “until next time” to a friend.
CTA + a Modern Wisdom podcast teaser, which he uses to keep people engaged until the next list of guests comes out.
The Rest of the Email
We broke down the Aliens part of Chris’ email, because it was such a great example of a “belief shift” email.
He does cover Japanese Sex and Nuance in the rest of his email.
For this breakdown, I decided to focus on one portion of his 3 Minute Monday email.
The other parts were more about delivering information to the readers, not shifting their beliefs on something, so I decided to skip those.
What You Learned
Here’s the tl;dr of what you learned today:
- Relationship + Curiosity = More Opens and Clicks
- Use a person’s name for the from-name to keep things personal
- Consistency is the “secret” to getting great results with email.
- Build curiosity to keep the readers engaged down the page
- Use scarcity and urgency WHEN IT’S REAL. None of that fake shit.
- You don’t always need a “transition” in your email copy. Most of the time, you do, though.
- Compare a new concept to an existing one to make it easier on the reader to adopt.
- Use a question to plant the seed of a new idea in the reader’s mind.
- Asking for consideration will keep readers interested. Demanding to change thought will push them away.
- Signoff as a friend, not a soulless brand.
- Book a call with 3BM to see if it makes sense to work together
- Check out Modern Wisdom’s Website.