Author: Chris Pearson, Partner & Email Marketing Specialist at 3BM

I’ve been on John Wood’s email list for a long… long… time… 

And I’ve found his journey from one business to the next super interesting. 

He was/is known as “The Email Automation Guy,” he’s partnered with various brands you would know, but now… 

He’s started and is growing a brand called: 

Here’s the headline of his sales page

“Burn Your Self-Help Books. Fire Your Life Coach. Ditch The Meditation Apps.”

Pretty bold statement, eh?

John Wood also states that: 

“I created Rageheart and The Daily Growl because I want people to know that anxiety, depression and a racing, negative mind are not “mental health problems” but symptoms of a dysfunctional survival response. That is, their autonomic nervous system is stuck in fight, flight or freeze when it’s not meant to be 🤯”

A unique angle to an age-old problem for modern life, right?

While this is a course/program style offer, I still wanted to break it down because of the type of email he sent me about Rageheart recently. 

It’s a story lead, which can be super powerful for ecom brands for two reasons: 

  1. Stories help people define the problems they have so they can move to finding a solution (aka your products)
  2. Rarely do you see ecom brands sending stories to their lists, even though their lists are majority problem-aware prospects who have yet to buy. 

A huge disconnect for ecom brand owners that can easily be an advantage. 

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: Story Driven Metaphor 

John over at Rageheart uses a story and curiosity to “get the click.” 

When I read this subject line, I asked the question, “what’s he talking about?” and then clicked. 

There’s an open loop here. He’s “giving” permission to be a slug, a metaphor for how we all tend to feel around burnout and over working ourselves. 

The best part?

He delivers on the slug metaphor with a great story lead for the email. 

From Name: First & Last

If you’ve read any of my other breakdowns, I harp on this quite a bit. People buy from people, not brands. There is a difference between buying a brand vs. buying from a brand. Two different motivations, right?

People buy Gucci for status, but they buy from Susan at Gucci to feel good about their purchase. Buying from a person you know, like, and trust helps fight off buyer’s remorse. 

This is why I appreciate John sending his emails from himself, and not some faceless, soulless brand. He’s building relationships with his readers through his storytelling and lifestyle. Then, he asks people to go deeper with him through his paid products. 

Brands that get this right will grow a list of whales, who love to buy from them. 

The Story Lead

I’m not going to analyze this story lead line by line, but just know that this type of lead is great to use on people who are still “circling their problem.” 

If the customer is not yet able to define their own problem, it’s too early to offer a potential solution. 

John knows this, being an elite copywriter. And, he knows his list is probably majority people who have found him through his podcast, content, or other means without being a customer first. 

This means that he’s speaking to the problem aware audience. 

Story leads do really well with problem-aware audiences, typically, because a story is a great way to SHOW the reader within context how to define their problem. So, instead of saying, “you have X problem.” You can give the customer the gift of realization, when they say to themselves, “you know what, I think that’s the problem I have.” And, you’re not the bearer of bad news. Instead, you’re the guide who lead them to the thought without being prescriptive or forceful. 

In other words, stories help the reader gain insight into their own lives without being told what or how to think about it.  

And we all know how most people react when you tell them what or how to think. 

A story is how you deliver a message without being “that guy.” 

The Pain/Problem + Transition

A story delivers context to the reader’s perspective so they can identify the problem or pain experienced on their own.

This is powerful. 

Because if/when the reader realizes they have a problem/pain AND they can define it, they’ll look at the storyteller as someone they can trust, because the storyteller helped. The storyteller did not ‘tell’ them… they showed the reader with context. 

Once the story is consumed, John then moves into talking about the problem/pain within the context of the story, not the reader’s life. 

The story is a mirror, not a finger-pointing-authority. 

So, John is able to address the problem because of the story. 

A story unlocks the reader’s mind and asks them to suspend disbelief, skepticism, and cynicism. 

This allows for the message to be consumed instead of rejected. 

John does just this with a story opener, and then transitions into the the problem. 

He also transitions from the problem into the point of the email. 

The Lesson (or, the point of the email)

“Don’t be afraid to be a slug every once in a while.” 

I really like this line, because it ties back to the subject line, giving people permission. 

You see, a key technique in persuasion is to present “new enough” concepts to the recipient so they get the feeling of discovering something new while being able to relate it back to context they already have. 

If you present something “too new” and they don’t have the mental context or concepts to bridge the gap from where they are to the new thing, they’ll get confused and disengage. 

John uses the idea of being a slug, which is fairly uncommon when it comes to talking about “taking a break.” 

There are plenty of other phrase he could have used, but he went with one that’s “new enough” to tease the reader’s brain, but also be able to deliver the concept he’s pitching, which is… 

Being comfortable with the slug days. 

Incentivized Referral List Growth

Here’s something I don’t see a lot of ecommerce brands doing, but could be beneficial to them. 

Incentivize referral-based list growth. 

For every new subscriber an existing customer refers, that customer gets points to use on orders. 

While this could grow you a list of minnows (low-value customers), it can turn your list into a list growth army for the brand. 

If it makes sense for your brand, consider implementing something like this referral program to get more subscribers and/or customers. 

What You Learned

Here’s the tl;dr of what you learned today: 

  • Story & metaphor are powerful for getting the click with subject lines
  • Send your emails from an individual, not a brand, to keep things personal. 
  • Use a story when speaking to prospects who are not yet able to define their problem. 
  • A story offers context to the reader so you can talk about the problem they have yet to define. 
  • The lesson (or point) of sharing the story is there to deliver the new perspective AND the solution to the problem.
  • Use an incentivized referral program to grow your list. 

Now what?

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