How I Used Obsession Eleven to Woo Elon Musk

pretty words.jpg

Today I’m going to do 2 things:

  1. Reveal the first pillar of Obsession Eleven

  2. Show you how I applied it to copy I wrote for a multi-billionaire audience


And the 1st pillar of Obsession Eleven is…

Good writers finish last.
AKA, your reader always comes first.

I know I’m not the first copywriter or marketer or strategist to tell you, “Don’t write for yourself, write for your customer!” There are eleventy billion blog posts about this. BUT STICK WITH ME, because unlike those eleventy billion blog posts, I’m going to tell you HOW to do this.

Better yet, I’m going to tell you how I do this and turn copy into cash cash money.

Disclaimer: Magician Gob Bluth may be able to wave his hands and turn words on a page into dollar bills - but remember, that’s an illusion, Michael! It does not really happen. You cannot really do that. So sorry about that.



But Gob can teach us an important lesson about word choice.

YOU may not like describing your work as magic tricks because you find it degrading. You may prefer illusions because it better captures your magnificence.

I hate to break it to Gob but his customer says magic tricks. His magician peers may understand the word illusions but his magician peers aren’t paying him. The people who will pay him don’t know or care about the difference between tricks and illusions. If Gob really wants to get those paying customers, he’s going to say magic tricks and he’s going to like doing it, damnit.

The secret to writing copy that turns into cash is using the same words as your customer. Even if you hate those words!

You can find out a lot about which words your customers use by getting into bed with your site data and other people’s data (research). Whenever data are available, you bet your bippy I curl up with all of it.

But what if there are no data available? Maybe you’re writing for a brand-new site or a market segment that’s hard to study?

That was exactly the case with my multi-billionaire copy.

Mini-case-study: How I made sure Elon Musk came first

Recently I had to write a single page of copy for a coach whose engagements command a high price. Her ideal clients are high-achievers with wealth and bold visions for the world. Guys at the level of Elon Musk or Warren Buffett.

You know...multi-billionaires. I’m confident I’ve never met a billionaire let alone had a conversation with one.

How would I find out what words appeal to multi-billionaires? I couldn’t use site data, because this was for a brand-new website.

I was going to have to get into Elon’s head some other way.
This is the weird part - but it works for me every time.

I begin every client engagement with an interview. Sometimes clients don’t really understand their target market. But my client did. She had spent a lot of time with the Elon Musks and Warren Buffetts of the world.

Most importantly, I always interview my clients over the phone or in person. Why? There’s always one word that jumps out at me like Gob from the Aztec Tomb. And that’s the word I need to write the copy.

First, I wrote down all the words for this client.


These aren’t just the words her ideal clients would use. These words describe how they see themselves - or want to see themselves.

The words are part of a bigger puzzle: how your clients want to be talked to. The way your clients want to be talked to is what you’re trying to get to. It’s how you knit all the words together.

This is where it gets weird. Jenn Whinnem weird / Obsession Eleven awesome.

The word that had captured my attention was elite.

My next step is always to let my mind play with that word while I do other things.

This time I was brewing coffee and thinking about her clients when the word thoroughbred popped into my head.

I pictured Khartoum, the ill-fated horse in The Godfather, and how his coat glistened even inside the stable.

Then I remembered that suburban middle managers could afford to own thoroughbreds. Scratch that.

And then I remembered dressage horses and their eerie dance steps.

Dressage is an elite equestrian sport only the very wealthy can afford. The costs for buying, training, and caring for these horses are high. The cash prizes for competition are low.

I watched YouTube video after YouTube video of dressage horses, listening to the announcers’ voices, examining the riders’ costumes, and watching the steps over and over.

Then I sat down and wrote the copy.

For the record, there’s no mention of dressage, horses, etc.

So where did the dressage come in? It’s in the way I talked to her clients.

I made the syntax match the elegant rhythm and flow of the horse’s dance steps  - specifically, passage and the half-pass - by varying sentence and paragraph lengths. This created pauses and often moved ideas in two directions at once.

See, we expect to be spoken to 1) in a certain way 2) in a variety of contexts. I may love being sassed at Waffle House, but I don’t love it at a funeral parlor.

Our multi-billionaire might love bold, in-your-face ad copy for clothing. But a professional advisor - whom our billionaire must trust enough to confide in - must present herself differently.

My lesson for you boils down to this: think about script, style, and scene before you write your copy and during the writing process.

It's the difference between talking to middle managers - or selling to multi-billionaires.

Words” by João Trindade licensed under CC-BY 2.0.