Monica Badiu, Email Copywriter & Copy Coach

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My friend and co-worker, Josip, said something recently that sparked the whole idea behind this list of books that made me a better copywriter and entrepreneur in 2023.

I was telling him about the books I was planning to read so I could better understand one of our clients at Data Driven Marketing.

To that, he said:

“This is why you’re a good copywriter.”

It made me think. It’s true. I do spend a lot of time reading. It’s not just dry business material or copywriting books. A lot of what I read is about human behavior, decision-making, leadership skills, personal growth, innovation, and the marketing of successful entrepreneurs and companies.

And I learn so much from every book. One page can spark so many new directions and perspectives.

Reading good copy trains my brain to write better copy.

Learning about human behavior (like how we make decisions or why we don’t do the stuff we say we want to), helps me go beyond the general approach of email marketing, delivering copy that is truly valuable to anyone as a human being, not just a potential customer.

So, here it goes.

These are the books that made me a better copywriter and entrepreneur in 2023. And you’ll find important lessons for your small business too.

Monsters and How to Tame Them by Kevin Hart

Monsters and How to Tame Them -
Monsters and How to Tame Them, by Kevin Hart – An Audible Original.

Never ever have I imagined I would be learning about human behaviour and mindset from Kevin Hart, but this Audible original just threw me off. It’s crazy how on point it is, and because it’s recorded by Kevin Hart, it’s also funny.

I also never imagined, just how much stuff I have in common with Kevin Hart when it comes to mindset bullshit.

This was the best book I read (well, listened to) in 2023, and here’s why:

One of the reasons I can promise that most of the promotion emails I write are valuable is because I make them talk to the most common mindset limitations and bullshit every one of us is going through every single day. This book lists them so clearly: chasing approval, making excuses, comparison, and struggling to let go of control.

I loved this book for its tone of voice.

As a copywriter, this helps train my brain to write in a very approachable, informal, down-to-earth, personal way. There are some f* bombs in there. But I don’t mind them.

I listened to this book at a time when I was also dealing with some heavy stuff myself. You might know this about Hart, but you definitely don’t know it about me: I am a workaholic, I struggle with imposter syndrome, and I also strive for perfectionism. Similar issues to Kevin’s, and hearing him talk about how he has experienced these things helped open new perspectives in my life.

A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heying, Bret Weinstein

A Hunter-Gatherer's Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life
A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heying (Author), Bret Weinstein (Author)

One of the themes I will most commonly adopt in my emails has to do with the stress of modern life. It’s a common problem for every one of us, regardless of the roles we have in life.

You could poor, you could be wealthy. You could be a mom or a dad, a grandpa or a grandma. You could be a successful entrepreneur, you could be a business owner who is struggling or you could be someone with no business acumen who is thinking about starting a new business venture. You could be an artist, an influencer, a janitor, a teacher, a taxi driver, a stay-at-home mom…

Regardless of who you are, living in today’s world is very, very stressful. And this book explains why.

We’re not built for the life we have right now.

So much has changed in such a short time that our bodies and brains have not had time to adapt. We live in constant anxiety and overwhelm. We have the entire knowledge of our human world and history at our fingertips, yet we drain in information overload. We’ve finally built a global village which, in theory, would allow us to be more connected than ever before – yet, we are more isolated than ever.

All of these have proved to be powerful themes for emails dedicated to a course creator who is active in the personal development niche.

I wrote about isolation, how we don’t know our neighbors’ names anymore, and why that’s making us feel lonelier than ever before.

I wrote about the concept of hypernovelty and its effects on our health and development as a collective.

I wrote about what it feels like to be out of sync and why so many people are struggling with that.

These topics hit home. And they did because they are profoundly true and descriptive of what we’re all living.

“The best, most all-encompassing way to describe our world is hyper-novel. As we will show throughout the book, humans are extraordinarily well adapted to, and equipped for, change. But the rate of change itself is so rapid now that our brains, bodies, and social systems are perpetually out of sync. For millions of years we lived among friends and extended family, but today many people don’t even know their neighbors’ names. Some of the most fundamental truths—like the fact of two sexes—are increasingly dismissed as lies. The cognitive dissonance spawned by trying to live in a society that is changing faster than we can accommodate is turning us into people who cannot fend for ourselves. Simply put, it’s killing us.” Heather E. Heying, A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life

There are also important business lessons for entrepreneurs in this book

Everyone can sell something. Very few take the time to actually serve their target audience. To own the responsibility that comes with entrepreneurship. It’s not just about economic development. It’s not only about your bottom line but about the potential for creating social change.

Adapt your messaging to truly show that you understand the issues your customers are struggling with, then find ways to guide your audience through the thick of it.

The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture by Gabor Maté MD, Daniel Maté

The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture
The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture by Gabor Maté MD, Daniel Maté

This book was so good on so many different levels. I read it because I was doing research for an email client in the trauma niche.

I wanted to make sure that I do understand the many nuances of what it means to experience trauma, what the effects of living with unhealed trauma, and what are the misconceptions.

I got so much more out of it.

Here are some important lessons you’ll get from this book:

We live in a toxic culture, and this has implications not just for people who have experienced trauma (which, by the way, all of us have to some extent).

There is a quote in there from Bessel van der Kolk, that says:

“Trauma is when we are not seen and known.”

Tackle this in your email marketing (in an empathetic way, and you’ll be building a brand that becomes a partner, someone your audiences trust to have their best interests in mind.

The effects of stress are deeper than we think.

Entrepreneurs are by default living in a lot of stress. It’s not easy to manage and scale a company, deal with risk taking, worrying about money, taking care of your employees, having a family.

It explains why we are so numb:

Work pressures, multitasking, social media, news updates, multiplicities of entertainment sources—these all induce us to become lost in thoughts, frantic activities, gadgets, meaningless conversations. We are caught up in pursuits of all kinds that draw us on not because they are necessary or inspiring or uplifting, or because they enrich or add meaning to our lives, but simply because they obliterate the present.” Gabor Maté, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

Business owners will also find a reminder of why your marketing should deliver actual value instead of taking advantage of your buyers’ fears.

When do you feel happier, more fulfilled, more viscerally at ease: when you extend yourself to help and connect with others, or when you are focused on burnishing the importance of your little egoic self?”Gabor Maté, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison (Author), Lisa Sweetingham (Contributor)

THIRST, A story of redemption, compassion, and a mission to bring clean water to the world, by Scott Harrison

This book isn’t just about a top nightclub promoter in New York City who decided to change his life and help others.

It’s an example of leadership, marketing innovation, and effective communication:

  • Harrison and his charity launched a 100% donation model (all money from donations goes to the beneficiaries instead of supporting administration costs)
  • Bold storytelling made the issue relatable and engaging to people who were not impacted by the lack of clean water
  • Content marketing and effective email marketing helped fund this massive mission of bringing clean water to everyone on the planet within our lifetime.
  • There are lessons in there for businesses, even if you don’t have a focus on social entrepreneurship. Owning your mistakes and being transparent can help build more trust with your target audience than you can imagine.

Social entrepreneurs should be reading this book as well as any NGO.

It’s going to help you understand how to be more effective when it comes to raise money as well as communicating the impact you have.

I resonated deeply with Harrison’s story and mission.

I believe businesses have the power and a responsibility to give back to the community. Their bottom line is green because their consumers have money to spend. No money, no buyers, no bottom line.

Plus, as a business owner, you have much more potential to create change.

You have a lot more of the necessary resources to create impact than any individual customer. You have a brand, visibility, connections, and money coming in. Investing it back in the community is a good focus for a long term vision and success. When you help your community thrive, you demonstrate leadership, and that builds trust, brand awareness, and brand affinity.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink

You probably did not realize this, but as consumers, we have a subconscious dislike of sales reps, sales pitches, or anything related to being sold to. Here’s proof:

What comes to mind when you picture a scenario where someone is trying to sell you a used car? Probably caution, a concern you’re being taken advantage of.

Interestingly enough, we are all selling all of the time, whether or not we are entrepreneurs or employees who are required to sell products or services.

This book does such a good job of explaining why.

“…one in nine Americans works in sales. But so do the other eight. Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others. Like it or not, we’re all in sales now.”

This is a practical book, and I think every small business owner should read it.

It’s going to help you realize that selling is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also going to open your eyes to a new way of selling. Thanks to the technology we’re always carrying in our pockets, consumers have turned the tables.

They’re no longer at the mercy of sales reps who only care about their commission.

Prospects have the power of knowledge.

They can research your company, product, and even clients. They can read all the positive and negative feedback your clients have posted about your own business online. They can find your employees online and even scour the online marketplace for better deals on your product or from your competitors.

Small businesses need to understand this major shift and adapt.

Tackle the concerns, the obstacles, the fears, the assumptions in your marketing. I do it in promotion emails, and it helps to build a relationship based on trust with your audience. Don’t let prospects make assumptions about what your company can or can not do for them. This is an opportunity to turn your business into a brand that exists to serve the best interests of your target market.

“Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead. Don’t try to increase what they can do for you. Elevate what you can do for them.” Daniel H. Pink, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

As an email copywriter and copy coach, I found this book very useful. But, if you are a business owner or are considering starting your company, read it. This book explains how to take your idea and develop messaging that speaks to your ideal audience.

Here’s why I think entrepreneurs (and copywriters) should study Miller’s framework:

You’re not the only company in your market.

Everyone has access to all of your competitors at their fingertips. If you don’t stand out from the crowd, you’re going to miss out. This framework helps you understand how to make your messaging focused on the actual benefits and transformation a buyer can achieve if they use your product or service.

People don’t care about you or your bottom line.

They pay attention when your focus is on them, their pains, needs, and desires. This is one of the biggest rules I have when writing promotion emails. It’s not about the product. It’s always about the audience.

“Imagine your customer is a hitchhiker. You pull over to give him a ride, and the one burning question on his mind is simply Where are you going? But as he approaches, you roll down the window and start talking about your mission statement, or how your grandfather built this car with his bare hands, or how your road-trip playlist is all 1980s alternative. This person doesn’t care.” Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

Your customer is the hero. You’re only a guide.

I love this concept and use it very often in email marketing because it helps shift focus from how great the company, the brand, the teacher, or the course is to empowering the prospect with the knowledge, accountability, and motivation to achieve what they’re set out to solve.

Make people feel heard and seen.

This is one of the best lessons you’re going to get out of this book for your content marketing. This is a basic need for us as humans, and it’s something that most brands don’t do.

“(1) identifying what their customers wanted (to be seen and heard), (2) defining their customers’ challenge (that people didn’t recognize their hidden genius), and (3) offering their customers a tool they could use to express themselves (computers and smartphones). Each of these realizations are pillars in ancient storytelling and critical for connecting with customers.” Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

70 of Our Favorite Quotes About Reading

Now, it’s your turn.

Leave a comment below and tell me:

What book made an impression on you in 2023?

About the Author

Monica Badiu is an email copywriter and copy coach. She specializes in sales copywriting for online course creators who want to send emails that speak to their ideal customer and generate conversions without using fearmongering or pressure. She’s made clients over $3 million in 2023.

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