Have you ever stopped and thought about the power of the written word?

It is timeless and unlimited.

You can tell your story to an unlimited number of people and if you select the right words and put them in the right order you can move the reader to decision and action.

One of the very best examples of this is a short email written by Derek Sivers, the founder of cdbaby.com.

While his company was growing he took a little time to change the default shipping notification email from a very boring “Your order has now been dispatched” to the following…

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our world-renowned packing specialist lit a local artisan candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day.

We hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. In commemoration, we have placed your picture on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Sigh…

We miss you already. We’ll be right here at store.cdbaby.com patiently awaiting your return.

The email went viral, every second person reposted it to their blogs and whatever social media was available at the time, resulting in copious amounts of free marketing and thousands of new customers flowing onto their site.

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the response, that email was written in the late 90’s and if you google for “cdbaby shipping notification email” today you will turn up 379,000 results.

Last week I was cleaning out some equipment I no longer use and decided to sell two monitors on Gumtree.

I took photos as one normally would, loaded them up and sat down to write the copy for the ad.

It was at that moment Derek’s email came to mind and I decided that I was going to take an extra few minutes to make it interesting… this is what popped out the other side…

Seller’s description

Some time ago I hired a carrier pigeon by the name of Geoff and charged him with the auspicious duty of procuring quality LCD screens on which I could design logos, build websites, chat with my Girlfriend and generally live a good digital life.

Geoff encountered great difficulty in his journey but with the kind of courageous resolve only seen in the dashing protagonists of disney movies he pressed on through fog, rain, snow and sleet only to be hindered by air traffic control who had no appreciation for the importance of his mission. At one point he was even kidnapped and forced to watch no fewer than TWELVE HOURS of reality TV.

Despite the soul-crushing effects of his ordeal, he went on to find the legendary Samsung SyncMaster 2443BW and delivered not one but two of these glowing beauties to my desk!

In the months that followed these liquid crystal monitors of perfection enabled me to earn a living, connect with friends and…

****SPOILER ALERT****

I saved enough money and eventually married my girlfriend!

We now have a beautiful life together, not to mention the fact we have an amazing son who recently came into the world.

While I will always be thankful to Geoff for what he sacrificed for me, unfortunately it has now come time to part with these two digital companions in the hope that they may continue their mission serving another owner into the twilight years of their use.

Who knows, with these two bad boys you might build a career, connect with the love of your life or even change the world!

Consider these screens a choose-your-own-adventure game. What you do with them is you. choice, I just hope they serve you as well as they have served me!

Even though I listed a negotiable price it was sold for the full price by the end of the week.

While I cant state with total certainty it wouldn’t have sold anyway, this is just a little reminder of the power of copy and Shout-out to Derek for helping me sell a monitor 20 years after he gave out the advice…

That is the power of good copy.