Today I improved… my headline chops

I’ve made a strategic decision to devote the majority of my study time to marketing rather than technical topics for the time being.  Here’s an example of what I spend my mornings on these days.

(When I asked on Twitter whether people would like to see my business and marketing notes on a separate blog from this one, everyone seemed to think that I should keep them altogether. So… hunker down.)

This morning I came across an article on Copymonk breaking down the components of various Ramit Sethi landing page headlines. It’s easy to gorge on shovelfuls of marketing advice without ever really absorbing it. So I decided to treat the provided headline templates as exercises, and re-write them for products/services I might sell. (Note that there’s a lot more in that article than just the templates.)

Here are my attempts:
“Finally… a [adjectives] [program/course/training…etc] to [1st step benefit] and [specific end benefit] – with [just X time needed]”

It’s always hard to translate concrete money-making offers into the harder-to-quantify software skills realm. That said, I decided to just arbitrarily apply this template to a RubyTapas pitch:

Finally… a trusted source to build your Ruby knowledge  and learn senior engineering skills – with just 5 minutes a week needed.

“Introducing [Course Name], The First [Course/Training/System…etc] With [One-Of-A-Kind Features] To [Benefit]”

[REDACTED] Sorry, the example I used for this exercise is a project I can’t talk about yet 😉

“Break The [Metaphor] [Eliminate 3 Things That Prevent Desired Benefit]
What If You Could [End Result] [Desired Benefit]?”

I decided to apply this to a notional patterns course:

Break the software  architecture deadlock caused by not knowing where to begin, conflicting advice, and the fear that you’ll get it wrong. What if you could confidently design systems by drawing from a toolbox of proven templates?

“Let Me Show You Why [X] [Achieves Desired Benefit]
In This [X], I’m Using A Strategy That [Desired Benefit]”

Let Me Show You Why this code idiom saves me hours of debugging.

In This method, I’m Using A Strategy That has drastically reduced the time I spend head-scratching over stack traces.

“Learn The [Skill Level] [Strategies/Tactics…etc] And Actual [Systems, Process…etc] To Become A [Desired End Result]
Discover Exactly How I [Claim], Including [One-Af-A-Kind Features]”

I took the easy road with this one… the original headline was for a “how to consultant” course, so I just imagined it as if I were selling a course based on my consulting experience.

Learn The expert strategies And Actual systems To Become A six figure Ruby freelancer.

Discover Exactly How I booked $12,000/mo gigs, Including niche positioning strategies, mindset adjustments, marketing hacks, and time management practices.

Most of these make me feel a little icky. Selling to programmers is a very different business from selling “success courses”. But I think the deliberate practice is valuable anyway.

Making myself do these exercises hurt; I really wanted to stop because it was just downright hard to come up with concrete wording based on my own domain. And just like the ache I’m feeling from my last workout, I think that pain is probably a good sign.


  1. Makes me feel more than a little icky. Good luck with your business, of course, but…ugh. Bye bye one small part of your humanity. Marketing speak is a disgusting way to communicate. Hopefully you can write in your own voice without losing potential sales.

  2. I can see why these feel icky; but let me try to also reframe a bit.

    Perhaps by doing these exercises, it can become a chance to really understand the value proposition for the things you are offering people. The phrasing in and of itself can feel a bit smarmy because ultimately you are selling Avdi and (I surmise) you don’t want to feel like a shill for something that mere words have to be used to sell.

    But also, they do begin to reveal what can be valuable, or ways of revealing what can be valuable to others; no, I don’t think these phrases in and of themselves provide that, but the exercise of writing them will, I think.

    So, kudos for making yourself, and me, and probably several of us, uncomfortable for a bit to try to explore more meaning, and kudos also for being willing to show it publicly.

    1. Following up to my own comment, I want to add that you should keep practicing this even if it does make you uncomfortable. I know you know this, but I felt it needed to be mentioned.

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