The Exact Steps It Took To Win Copy Hackers’ Email Copywriting Challenge

It’s Thursday afternoon, and my “work day” consists of this and only this.

Post to Facebook. Hit “refresh.”

Upvote an entry. Hit “refresh” again.

Comment on another entry. Hit “refresh” again.

Take a sip of water. Hit “refresh” again.

And so on…

It’s been 3 days. All client work has been pushed aside. I’m not even pretending to do an actual copywriting at this point.

When I win this, it’ll be worth it. This is my moment. And I’m going all in.

But let’s rewind.

>> Click here to skip down to the winning emails. <<

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When I read about Copy Hackers Email Copywriting Challenge, my lizard brain immediately provided me with a list of reasons why it was not for me.

The list included (but was certainly not limited to)…

  • That’s for top-brass copywriters—not regular ones like me
  • I don’t have time (Resistance’s favourite line)
  • I wouldn’t win, so why bother?
  • No way am I putting my work in front of Joanna Wiebe, the actual mother of conversion copywriting (akin to salsa dancing in front of J.Lo—messy, awkward, unnecessary)

I joined the FB group anyway, just to lurk.

It took a cosmic message to help me find my courage. A few days before the competition, I had a dream. (This sounds hokey, but I promise it’s the unadulterated truth.)

…I’d won the second challenge…the judges posted, “We can’t wait to meet Tarzan” …muffled dream language…shouts of joyous celebration…

Who am I to argue with cosmic messages?

And so 2 days before the start of the competition, I introduced myself to the group, making particular note that I would very much like to win the grand prize.Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 4.47.35 PM

(This was more a message to the muse than to the group. I’m an advocate for declaring powerfully what you want. Out loud. Before actual people.)

Then I set to work on a strategy.

Here’s what worked, and what didn’t work.

1. I figured out exactly what it would take to win.

In the book Good To Great, Jim Collins tells how his wife casually announced one morning that she could win the Ironman challenge.

Without a trace of ego.

It was a simple statement that she understood what it would take to win, and the steps she would take to get there.

(After making that fateful statement, Joanne Ernst went on to quit her corporate job and win the 1985 Ironman triathlon.)

So, I asked myself. What will it take?

On Day 1 I figured out 2 key things that proved to be the secret of success.

In order to be a contender, I would have to (1) post EARLY, and (2) get at least 4 or 5 votes to keep me top of the pile.

Right away I assembled my dream team of early morning voters – my husband, my mum, my sis’, and a few FB friends I knew could be counted upon to brave the tricky sign-in process. (The others I walked through myself.)

If I could get myself top of the pile early in the day, I could get more organic votes from people who’d read and enjoyed the emails I wrote, had authenticated accounts and therefore counted for actual votes.

(After all, I wanted to win on the strength of my email copywriting, not just because I’d cracked the code.)

>> Click here to skip down to the winning emails. <<

Signing up was a HUGE barrier for a lot of people. Including mine. But I didn’t let it stop me.

In this awesome post, Jay Cross talks about how, faced with even a tiny obstacle, most people backpedal. I wouldn’t let that be me.

Inbound provided a sweet barrier that eliminated MOST of my competition for me, without me writing a single email.

Bonus. I was off to a running start.

2. I offered real value + support, rather than being a self-promoter in disguise.

A lot of FB groups are full of self-promoters in disguise. Fair enough. We’re all in it to meet new people, scope potential clients and learn from each other.

But any obvious grab for clients and/or subscribers is like a big flashing red light. (For me, anyway. Can you relate?)

I really didn’t want to be one of those people.

I made a decision to only share something if it would give real value to people reading it. (I slipped a few times on this, but having that strategy in place did help.)

Once I’d figured out a few key pieces that needed to be in place to win, I made sure to share them with everyone in the competition.

It was helpful, sure, but again, I wanted to win on the strength of my writing, not because I had access to information that others did not.

>> Click here to skip down to the winning emails. <<

3. I risked “annoying” my friends and gave them a good WHY.

I’m fine with people asking me to vote for stuff, and I usually do it without a thought. But if there’s a sign-in process involved? Huge deal breaker.

It’s an immediate “no.”

Foreseeing this barrier, I knew I had to do better than just ask people to vote.

I started by endeavouring to deserve the vote, throwing down some killer emails that would actually inspire people to vote, even though it was a pain to do so.

Then I sent PRIVATE FB MESSAGES to my friends who I thought were most likely to vote, told them WHAT it was, WHY I was doing it, and HOW to do it. (In about 2 paragraphs—a challenge inside the challenge.)

If I had a do-over, I’d make a short video with a screen capture of me logging in and voting.

Then I’d share it in the FB group for other competitors to share with their people. Fair’s fair, right? Plus, that’s being REALLY helpful—much better than a self-serving update about who I’ve been voting for. (I did that, too. Gotta admit.)

I’d also do up a quick FB cover photo instructing people how to vote. There were lots of people who WANTED to vote, but couldn’t figure out how to do it, and got too frustrated in the process.

4. I emailed my list and asked them to tweet about it.

Rather than flat out asking them to vote for me (which didn’t seem fair given that I was writing the email before the challenge even started), I gave them the choice to either participate, or tweet out their support—a technique I learned from Copy Hackers.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.56.03 PM

The second option was a 1-click way to show support, and contrasting that with signing up and voting made it look that much easier.

The competition has barely started when a few tweets like this started popping up on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 1.54.23 PM

You’ll notice I made sure to tag one of the judges in these pre-programmed tweets, so they’d see I was bringing out support for the competition.

I was rewarded with a retweet from Copy Hackers, which gave me a huge confidence boost—exactly what I needed early in the game.

5. I put all the spiritual + emotional pieces in place.

That starts with my husband Jay. I told him what I intended to achieve and enlisted his support. (Ain’t no big wins happening in our house without the full support of everyone involved.)

I let him know I might be a little extra busy this week, and possibly a wee bit distracted even after work. A wee bit turned out to be a big understatement.Poem to the muse

Next, I called on my muse, wrote her a little poem and made a graphic on Canva—yes, it took some time, but she rewarded me with a strong opener and 2 top-voted emails, all of which were written in under 30 minutes.

I also tapped with Brad Yates on “You Are A Winner”. I turn to Brad for almost every spiritual, physical and financial challenge that life throws at me and he never disappoints.

Lastly, I talked with my coach Kathleen Milligan every day. She helped me keep my head in the game.

I also strategized with my hunny after each day, meditated on winning, put a special concoction from the magic shop in my diffuser at the office (leftover from another HUGE month in my business).

Everything I had in my bag o’ tricks came out in support of this win.

6. At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I also threw down some pretty stellar email copywriting.

Here are all 3 of my entries in the competition.

Challenge # 1: Write an email that sells your “ex” on going out for a romantic dinner with you tonight. Just the two of you.

Email Challenge #1

Challenge # 2: Using a story in some way, write an email that convinces Mark Zuckerberg to vote for Donald Trump. ***WINNER OF DAY 2 CHALLENGE***

Email Challenge #2

Challenge # 3: Write an email that sells your reader on why you should win the Grand Prize… with a CTA to upvote your entry. ***TOP VOTED ENTRY OF DAY 3 CHALLENGE***

Email Challenge #3

Finally, there were 2 things that didn’t work.

Posting on LinkedIn got no traction at all.

I have a few hundy connections, and they’re moderately supportive when I post articles, but it just didn’t feel like the right space to talk about the challenge.

And sure enough, nothing I posted generated interest.

Trying to do client work at the same time only added stress and wasted precious hours.

If I had a do-over, I’d clear my schedule and devote myself 100% to winning.

(I pretty much did that anyway, but there was a bit of unnecessary stress because of the work I was ignoring, and a lot of wasted time jumping back and forth between client work and email challenge work.)

So…was it worth it?

That’s a lot, I know. But all I had to lose was 3 days. And I learned a ton along the way, and made plenty of great connections to make it worthwhile.

Would I’ve been completely crushed if I didn’t win? You betcha I would’ve. But I’d have gotten over that.

In the grand scheme of things, there wasn’t much risk involved. It was only my ego at stake.

All in, I won nearly $5K in prizes, including:
  • A scholarship to 10x EMAILS ($1500) – my not-so-secret fave of all the prizes
  • A 1-yr Tier 3 subscription to SumoMe ($1000)
  • A ticket to UberFlip Experience ($750)
  • $1500 in travel expenses (Money in my pocket, since I live an hour away)
I also got some sweet fringe benefits:
  • About 85 (good-quality) new subscribers
  • An influx of potential clients contacting me
  • A tidal wave of kind words (insert Mastercard moment)

Win or no win, those fringe benefits probably would’ve arrived anyway. And they would’ve been worth it.

Whenever I visit Copy Hackers I’m reminded how much more I have to learn about copywriting.

I’m flattered and honoured by all the attention the email copywriting challenge brought me, and now I’m endeavouring to deserve it over and over every single day.

Wanna stay in touch, hear what happens at Uberflip, or just come along for the ride?

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  • Cathy

    Far out, that’s why I never enter competitions! But congratulations – your entry was awesome and I love your site. True talent. From a fan in Australia.

    • Tarzan Kay

      Huge friend of Australia. Where are you from? I was up and down the east coast for a year (got all the way up to Weipa—so hot for this Canadian!)

      • Cathy

        Brisbane or Brisvegas as it’s known locally. Hot but not quite in the Weipa category – that was brave! I lived near Toronto as a teen – knocked out my front teeth in icy conditions – so it goes both ways!

  • Carrie

    great effort, great work Tarzan! Thanks for sharing some of these winning strategies 🙂

  • Lisa

    Hey as one of the contest participants who LOVED your entries – nice post, and awesome blog! I’m glad I got to discover you through the copywriting challenge!

    • Tarzan Kay

      Oh, Lisa, you are so awesome! Thanks for the props. I’m stoked to have you here.

  • Jenny

    Tarzan, I love your work, quirks, and sense of humor. When Joanna Wiebe and Marie Forleo mention a certain “Tarzan” in their emails, any aspiring copywriter is bound to listen. That’s what I did and have stalked you since. (Sorry, I’m fangirling).

    I think you’re great (and have a show-stopping name to back it up!). Keep doing what you’re doing and know that I’ll be following you from now on.

    Much love from the Philippines,
    Jenny

    • Tarzan Kay

      You can’t hear this Jenny (or maybe you can), but my heart is doing an intense “whoosh” as I read your generous and thoughtful comment. I’m honoured to have you as my stalker. ~T