The right words at the right places can win you the right clients for your business. This is what copywriting is all about, and Alex Cattoni, the Founder of The Copy Posse, is an expert in it. Through her unique skills in lead generation and writing high-converting sales copy, Alex has helped scale multimillion-dollar brands, including such names as Shopify, Mindvalley, and Numerologist.com. Ditching law school, Alex went to Malaysia in 2008 to accept a gig at Mindvalley, one of the world’s leading online personal growth publishers. Starting her way from the bottom, she became one of its top executives in no time. Apart from making lead-generating copies for high-level clients, Alex has also accepted the call of sharing her expertise with aspiring copywriters, which she does through her YouTube channel and her eight-week copywriter coaching program. Listen to her share all these, plus some cool YouTube marketing tips as she joins Michael Zipursky on the show.
I’m here with Alex Cattoni. Alex, welcome.
Thank you so much for having me, Michael. It’s a pleasure.
Alex, you are a copywriter, speaker and the Founder of The Copy Posse. You have a community and you’ve helped scale multimillion-dollar brands. You’ve worked with companies like Shopify, Mindvalley, Numerologist.com and many others. Your story, or at least we’re going to start off is interesting because it was 2008 or so when you planned to go to law school. Instead of going to law school, you ended up hopping on an airplane and flying to Malaysia. Tell us what was going on? What took you halfway across the world? Why no law school and Malaysia instead?
It is funny when you hear it back like, “I was going to go to law school. Instead, I decided to move to Malaysia,” which is exactly what happened. As many people, I went through high school and university thinking there were only maybe 1 of 6 options of careers that I could have. I come from an academic family, professors, doctors, until I thought, “I’m going to make a good lawyer one day.” I went to business school. I majored in Business Law. I graduated and like many people, I decided, “I’m going to save up some money, take a gap year while I study for and write the LSAT.”
My dream was to move to Vancouver and go to UBC Law School. I live in Vancouver now and have only been on the UBC campus maybe once or twice to go for a hike or go to Wreck Beach. I was bartending and I had this nagging feeling that I didn’t know if I wanted to be a lawyer, which is scary. A lot of people can relate to that feeling of being on this path and you’re like, “Is this what I want?” Whether that happens in university, after university, when you’re in your 40s, 50s. A lot of people can relate to that feeling. I was scared to admit that I didn’t want to because my whole life up until that point had been pointing me in that direction.
I majored in Business Law. I did all this extracurricular to make my resume more appealing so I could get into law school. I have to give a shout-out to my stepdad, who’s the most amazing entrepreneur. He is quiet and unassuming guy. He probably saw something in me that a lot of other people didn’t. He knew that I didn’t want to go to law school. It was one morning because I didn’t mention, I was back at home, living with my parents as I was bartending. My dad put this newspaper article under my door. The headline simply read Female Attorneys Have Highest Depression Rates or something like that.
He’s trying to give you a little sign.
To me, I was like, “This is the permission I needed.” That was my dad’s way of saying, “Are you sure you want to do this?” He had been telling me for a long time like, “I have totally seen you working in advertising or marketing.” I’m like, “No, dad. I’m going to be a lawyer.” I was convinced. It was after that that I thought, “I’m going to toy around with the idea of maybe not doing law school right away.” I hadn’t quite bought into the whole, “I’m not going to go,” but I thought, “Maybe there’s something I can do to see if there’s another avenue or opportunity for me.”
Through this random series of events, it led me to finding this company called Mindvalley, which at the time was a small startup based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who had maybe ten employees. I don’t quite know the exact number, but it was small. I found this company online and I remember their website said, “If you’re a God-gifted genius, we’ll hire you.” I remember thinking, “There was no way in hell that I’m going to get this job, but I’ll apply anyway,” because as long as I have an iron in the fire, I can feel less bad about bartending and living at home with my parents. Long story short, it’s pretty crazy after it’s all happened and even after I got the job. The fact that someone at Mindvalley saw that email, opened it up, decided to interview me and then a month later, I was selling my car, packing my bags and moving to Malaysia to accept an internship there. It’s crazy.
Talk to us a little bit about that because it’s interesting that you accepted an internship. You started at the “lower levels” within a company. You may not have the business chops in terms of being in the real-world conducting business, but here you are with a law degree. You’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and money into developing that high level of academia and then you go to an internship. Afterwards, you rose up in that company and you accomplished a lot. We’ll talk about that. A lot of people might wonder, in your perspective, why were you okay starting at an intern level? Did it ever cross your mind like, “No, I’m not going to start at the bottom, I have more qualifications, accomplished more and I would never begin at that level?” Are there any thoughts like that percolating in your mind?
There’s always a little bit of ego that comes into play. I made CAD 800 a month working in Mindvalley for the first while. What it came down to was if you’re connected to a path, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Far too many people get hung up on the ego side of things, of what they should be getting paid or what that ought to look like. The truth of the matter is if something feels aligned, you should be willing to do it for free.
Being willing to go down that path, even if you’re not going to get paid for it. The reason that resonates with me is because I remember a job that I had many years ago. I was working for a startup company in the bio space. It also was entry-level, but fast forward and I had been given a lot more responsibility within that organization. I remember the founder of that company saying, “It’s interesting that you were willing to take this job and start off even with admin projects or activities but now look where you are, whereas someone else wouldn’t have done that.” That resonates that you are already seeing the future and what it could be and you were okay with starting at a lower place.
The path can be unconventional too. It would be easy for someone to argue, “You were young at the time and you were willing to take an internship. You had never had a job,” and that’s true. I had summer jobs and I bartended, but that was my first real job. Of course, I was willing to take an internship. What’s interesting about that though is I was, if not the youngest person in the company, one of the youngest people in the company. In 3.5 years, I became the creative director of the company. When I started, let’s say in ten people, I was the lowest of the lowest on the totem pole. When I left, I was one of the executive team members of the entire company. The company at that point had grown to between 55 and 60 people and I managed the entire team and oversaw the creative direction of all the launches and products.
When you’re willing to do unconventional things, the path can also be unconventional after that. Even if you’re in your 40s, for example, the path can look different for you in 1, 2, 3 years, if you’re willing to forget about what these preconceived notions are or social constructs around what you should be paid or what your time is worth. I’m not saying you shouldn’t charge what you’re worth or expect to be paid what you’re worth but as I said, if a path is aligned and you know and it feels right, then money shouldn’t be part of the decision-making process.If something feels aligned, you should be willing to do it for free. Click To Tweet
When people put money at the forefront, it’s usually a short-term decision and you’re not thinking long-term, but success comes from focusing on the long-term, not just in the short-term. You seem to be comfortable in front of a camera. You record lots of videos. You put a lot of content. Is that a sign that you always had or is that something that you have to work on and develop?
I had to work on it big time. In fact, a lot of my students, one of them dug up an old video of me for my Mindvalley days and they were laughing about it because they posted it in my coaching group on Facebook. They were like, “Look at what I found.” I was like, “That’s embarrassing.” I was bad on video, but a lot of it comes from being confident in what you have to say anyway on video. There are times where I put my foot in my mouth all the time, but I put my foot in my mouth very confidently. It comes with practice.
The other thing too is, are you always thinking you look and sound worse than you do? We’re all our own worst critics. When I look back, when I first launched my YouTube channel, my first couple of videos makes me cringe a little bit. When I say that to some of my good friends or colleagues, they are like, “You’re crazy. You’ve been good from the beginning.” I’m like, “I don’t think so.” It’s a matter of starting, putting yourself out there and trusting. When you launch a website, is anyone’s website ever completely done? No. Everyone always wants to update and evolve and it gets better with time.
What we often say to clients is when you think about the highest performers, the most accomplished artists, athletes or whoever, they’re prolific. There’s no one that drew one painting and they were done and it was a masterpiece. There are tons of stuff that you never saw that maybe it was horrible or it was okay but you have to keep putting content out there. Some of it will resonate. Some of it won’t, but if you’re worried about perfection up front, that you don’t even end up taking that action, then that holds you back from getting the result you ultimately you want. Here we are in 2020, what’s working for you, Alex, when it comes to lead generation? You’re on LinkedIn and YouTube. It seems like you have a comprehensive marketing approach. You have a community of copywriters that you work with. You’ve done lots of work with clients individually. What are you doing? What do you find is working best to create new opportunities and attract qualified leads?
It’s 100%t video. To say that video has completely changed my business is an understatement. Before I started my YouTube channel, I did consulting and copywriting for my clients. That was my business and it was great. I got referrals and I have a successful consulting business. It was February 13th, 2019 that I decided to launch my YouTube channel. I did that truly more of an experiment because many of my mastermind members had talked about the power of video and YouTube. I thought, “I want to try this to see if I can use this as a strategy in my business,” but more so because I felt like I was hiding behind the scenes. All the businesses I worked with, I was the one making things go behind the scenes but didn’t have a personal brand of my own.
It was a personal mission as well. It was work. Don’t get me wrong. It took me six months to get 1,000 subscribers but within the next six months, I did launch to quite a small list of people that was wildly successful in terms of what typical direct response marketing conversion numbers look like. It was 1,000% because those people found me through video and felt like they already had a relationship with me. They already knew what I was all about, my vibe, and what they could expect and working with me and my programs because they had watched however many numbers of my videos. If you do the research, 82% if not more of web traffic in 2021 will come through video. If you’re not using video in your business, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
What does that look like specifically? Because anyone can slap a video on YouTube, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to attract people or even be visible. We’re a good example of that. We have under 4,000 subscribers. We have lots and lots of content up there, but we haven’t done a lot around promoting that content. We have other channels that we focus on more. What should we be doing? What should everyone reading this be doing if they want to build up a stronger platform that’s attracting clients like you’ve been able to achieve? What are some of the best practices that you would recommend when it comes to YouTube?
The thing I always like to say is YouTube people, they like to be spoken to. Repurposing content is great and tons of direct response marketers do this. I know because a lot of my friends are direct response marketers. They’ll do a video for something, whether it’s a video of them on stage or it’s a video that they did for clients and they go, “I’m going to put it on YouTube.” They wonder why it’s not getting traction. YouTube is the beast of an audience that has a specific problem. They’re looking for answers to it. Think about it whenever you use YouTube, you’re looking for a solution to a problem or you’re binge-watching episodes of your favorite show or something. You need to address them like, “Hi, YouTube people.” It needs to be unique to them. It doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose content, but I would go the extra mile to make sure that you’re giving content.
For example, if you were to put this video podcast on YouTube, what I would do is I would record a specific intro for the YouTube audience and say, “You’re going to want to watch this interview with Alex because you’re going to learn these three things.” Title it very specific. Make it that this is the exact problem that you’re going to have solved if you watch this video interview. You want to acknowledge them, thank them for liking, subscribing and all of those things because the YouTube audience is engaging and they expect that level of engagement back. By taking any old video and plopping it on YouTube, you might get some views, but you’re not going to grow because it’s obvious that you’re not creating content for that audience.
Making it specific to the YouTube audience, essentially get them excited upfront about why they should even stick around and what are they going to learn in this video. Is there anything else that you’ve done to grow engagement or to be able to get more people reaching out to you from your YouTube videos?
What’s interesting is as strategic as I am, I’m not strategic with my YouTube videos. The way I look at it is I want to create video content and I want to share strategies. As long as I’m helping people, I’m doing my job. I didn’t go into it with this whole big, “I’m going to include a call to action for people to get this or do that and I’m going to build my list.” Honestly, I treated it organically. If I were to look at my month’s worth of content, I do a video once a week. I would say 3 of those 4 videos are specific tactical copywriting tutorials because most of my audience, they stick around because they want to learn copywriting skills and become better copywriters.
One out of every four of my videos, I’ll do a little bit of a broader range of a topic that’s going to bring in more people who might not know that they want to know copywriting, but they want to know a side hustle that they can do from home. That would be an example of a topic that cast that broader net. I try to be strategic in that way, but honestly, the YouTube algorithm is its own beast. I’ll have videos that will pop and do well and videos that I think are pure gold or middle of the road or not that good or whatever. I don’t try to be too strategic because you’ll get let down.
I try to go in with like, “As long as I’m adding massive amounts of value, I’ll include a call to action in the description to join my email list,” if there is truly something of value that I can give that’s going to be supportive of what the video content is. If not, I don’t include a call to action for people to sign up on my mailing list. It’s an organic thing. I’ve even noticed that me saying, “Comment below,” doesn’t make people comment below more, unless I have a specific reason for them to comment below which makes sense. I say, “Careful not to fall into that trap of like, subscribe, comment and share,” because people are like, “What do you want me to do? I’m confused.” It has to be this natural conversation where you’re getting engagement organically as opposed to asking people for it unless it makes sense.
Alex, we could go deep into some copywriting questions here and that’s probably what you get a lot of, but I want to take us a little bit of a different direction. You’ve productized your business to a degree. You started off writing copy and working on strategy with clients and then you’ve now built out a community, a mastermind. It looks like from the outside that you’ve done a lot of productization developing systems and finding ways to create more leverage. Walk us through what you did in your business to take your skills and expertise as services that you would provide one-to-one to be able to productize it to now, we’re able to serve many at one time.To say that video has completely changed the lead generation business is an understatement. Click To Tweet
A lot of consultants can relate to this. In the beginning, you’re starting your consulting business and it’s all about breaking free from the 9:00 to 5:00. If you can get a client, you’re laughing and then it gets to the point where all of a sudden you realize like, “I’m trading time for money. I will only ever be able to do so much because I only have many hours in my day. What if I want to take a vacation? I don’t want to forego that income. How do I set myself up to be able to scale?” It started with doing higher leverage partnerships with my clients, not only doing sort of the trading time for dollars but doing equity deals or commission deals, which started that path.
To clarify that for everyone, let’s say a project was going to be $20,000. Instead of them paying $20,000, maybe you would get paid $5,000 or $10,000, but then you would get a percentage of sales or above a certain level.
Yeah, exactly. With one of my biggest clients, instead of charging a high monthly retainer, I charge a lower monthly retainer and then a percentage of ongoing sales as a result of my copy.
How does all that work for you? Has it worked out well for you? Any big mistakes that you’ve encountered in doing those deals that you think people should be aware of?
I’m only a big fan of doing any commission or equity deals when you have a great relationship with the client. Part of that is because it all sounds great upfront when they’re promising you the moon, “They’re going to send a million people to the website and you’re going to get 5% of sales.” All of a sudden, you realize you have no access to the stats or data. You have no idea if what they’re telling you is accurate or not. You don’t know if you should be invoicing. It becomes convoluted. As much as possible, set that expectation upfront. We’re both accessing the same stats. I can see there are checks and balances in place. There’s no confusion as to what my invoice will be for the commission amount that month.
I don’t like to start with the commission basis until I can see, “Here’s the type of traction they get. Here’s the type of sales that they get regularly.” Especially if it’s for launch and it’s a one-and-done thing that’s a little bit easier to track. Let’s say you’re consulting on a launch or you’re writing copy for a launch. You could say, “I want to take 5% of sales after merchant and affiliate fees,” and get specific and then say, “Between this time and this time on this specific page.” It’s closed, done, over. Ongoing, it becomes trickier because you want to make sure that you’re not getting the wool pulled over your eyes and that there’s trust there. You’re coming at it from a place of being empowered as opposed to being confused as to how much money you’re supposed to make.
You were taking us through where you started off, trading time for dollars, then you went from that into more leverage with equity or performance-based deals. What was the next evolution or step that you went to?
The next evolution was like, “I need to start building an audience and a personal brand.” This is personal preference too. A lot of people enjoy being behind the scenes as consultants because creating a personal brand have this whole other layer of accountability where I always had fear of commitment. Lots of freelancers, consultants, and online marketers, I was obsessed with the idea of freedom. I liked that I only had to work with a handful of clients. I have a few phone calls a week and that was that. When I committed to starting to do weekly videos, the whole thought of it freaked me out. It’s like you’re getting married. It’s like, “You want me to do a video a week? What?” It seems crazy, but I knew for me that was my edge and that I needed to lean into that.
I did it. I made the commitment. I have a lot of friends who do amazing things on YouTube, like Sunny Lenarduzzi, Sarah Chrisp and Wholesale Ted. Many friends who encouraged and coached me to say, “Go ahead, you should start this. You would enjoy it.” It was a grind. I was creating a well-produced video once a week with not a lot of return, but I enjoyed it. For people who are reading, who are experts at something, if you enjoy talking about it, if you find yourself going on tangents when you’re with your friends and you’re talking about work, it means you like it well enough that you could probably do a YouTube channel, at least a blog, a podcast or something to start building out that audience.
For me, it was a natural and organic process. I’d to like say that I was super strategic and I knew that a year after starting my YouTube channel, I would do a launch and I didn’t. To me, it was more about what I thought at the time when I was starting my YouTube channel was that it would be more in authority engines, but I could work with higher-level clients and make more money. I didn’t realize that there would be such a demand for the B2C consumer, education side of my business. My followers started asking me, “When are you creating a course?”
To clarify for everyone, historically, you were working and providing services to other businesses and organizations. What you found as you were doing that is that there’s a whole other side of other copywriters who essentially want to learn from you and gain your insights, knowledge of how you build your successful copywriting consulting, strategic direction business for themselves. What did that look like? Once you decided or saw that there’s a lot of people that don’t have an audience that wants to top into my brain for my experience and expertise, what did you do? How did you go about productizing and developing that offering?
I had a bunch of people ask, “When is your course launching?” It was in November that I said to my team, “I’m going to launch a copywriting course in January.” They were like, “What?” We committed to it. We came up with a loose framework of an eight-week coaching program. We wrote the sales page and got it developed. Being a copywriter and a marketer, I did all the launch planning and the writing of all the launch assets and everything myself but essentially, we launched the program without ever having created it. I was upfront with that on my sales page, but it was also my reason for giving a discount.
I said, “This is the first-ever coaching program I’m doing. I’m going to give it to you for $2,000, which is far cheaper than I would ever pay for one-on-one consultations with my clients or mastermind members or anything like that. You’re going to get a discount in exchange for feedback.” I created the course module by module a couple of weeks ahead of me doing it live with my students. We just finished. It went well. I’m going to be following up with all of them, getting their feedback, getting testimonials and it’s been at this organic process of being upfront about it. People are so forgiving too. That’s what I love the most about it is my students know this is the first time I’m doing this. They’re like, “Next time you might want to consider doing it like this.” I’m like, “You guys are geniuses. Thank you.” They’re helping me as I create and refine the offer.
How do you manage the other aspects of your business? Are you spending time now still working with organizations, writing copy for them and doing strategy with them, or have you shifted? How are you splitting your time and managing everything that you’re doing?All successful people have done something that puts them outside their comfort zone. Click To Tweet
I put 90% of my client’s work on hold for the time that I was doing the program. That’s because the next time I do it, now that the course is created, I have to show up and teach it. I don’t have to go through creating all the slides and all of that. Most of my client work on hold. I kept my longest-running, highest paying biggest clients on board but everything else that came to a natural end. I purposely didn’t sign on any more clients and let them know that, “There’s a bit of a waiting list starting again in May.” This created an essence of exclusivity and scarcity. I knew that would pick right back up again, but I wanted my teams to focus on helping me with the program until it finished.
What are you thinking about now? Are you planning to start opening up the gates a little bit to new consulting copywriting strategy projects? Do you feel like you want to learn more and more into working with other copywriters?
That’s something that I’m figuring out as I go. I thought a lot about it and I love the element of doing while teaching. It’s easy for people who were once experts at something and then they were like, “I’m going to start a YouTube channel.” It’s like, “When’s the last time you were paid to do that?” I love that as I’m continuing to teach, I’m also working with clients and learning as I go as well. I always want to do some elements of both, but being more selective about the types of clients that I work with, which has always been something that I’ve done.
I want to be excited and fired up with the clients that I work with. I’m at that point now where it goes to show, we don’t all have it figured out. Now, my course has ended and I’m starting to bring on more clients, I want to make sure that I’m not completely forgetting about my students and I have ideas for future programs. It’s a balancing act and I’m trying to consciously and slowly scale. Bringing on more writers to serve my agency side of my business, but also being able to focus on content creation for the academy side of my business. I’m figuring it out as I go.
You’ve also been in the world of personal development for a long time, whether it’s working with Mindvalley or other clients, and then yourself being part of masterminds or running a mastermind. You’ve been surrounded by a lot of successful people and people that have achieved a lot in life. I’m wondering what you have seen. Have you identified any specific habits, traits, mindsets, or actions that the most successful people all share?
I could recite The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but for me, one of the big things is taking risks and I don’t necessarily mean like going and quitting your job or firing all your clients and start a YouTube channel. They’ve done something that puts them outside their comfort zone. My decision to move across the world to Malaysia, I still look back at that and I can’t even believe that I did that but whatever that looks like for different people. I can think of many of my colleagues, business partners, and people who are successful and they’ll have inspiring stories because it was like, “I used to work at a gym or I ran a nightclub.”
It’s something different, but they saw an opportunity. They took a risk. It’s continuing this idea of education and access because as you said, surrounding yourself with successful people and with people who you want to be, that’s important. Whether it’s consuming content like podcasts, going to networking events, meeting fellow entrepreneurs, or whatever that looks like, but don’t be isolating yourself. That’s common sometimes with entrepreneurs. It’s like this lone wolf syndrome and like, “I got to do it on my own.”
Another one is the people believe they know what they need to know and they become comfortable and complacent. It’s dangerous because you never stay where you are, even though you might be at a place where you feel good. The moment that you stop is the moment that you’re going down because the competition in the marketplace is if they’re moving forward, you’re not staying. It’s a seesaw. They’re moving up and you’re going down. I completely agree with you. Surround yourself with good quality people, people that can inspire you, motivate you, show you different ways of looking at things, and expand your mindset is important. I’m with you on that.
Continue learning. I already know that or whatever. I can’t remember what the quote is. It’s like the most dangerous words. You want to go into any room and be like, “What can I learn? Who can teach me something?” You can always learn something.
Alex, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. I want to make sure that people can also learn more about you, your work and check out your videos. Where’s the best place for them to go? Is it on your website?
They can go to AlexCattoni.com. There they’ll find my YouTube channel, socials and all of the things.
Thank you so much, Michael. This was fun.
- Alex Cattoni
- The Copy Posse
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/artsnarzykiii
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/InnerviewAdvisorsInc
- Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TerminatorArt
- Informational YouTube video: https://youtu.be/vqFw-2l7_2M
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Consulting Success Community today: