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Engagement in the age of short attention spans

26th Mar 2019
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Whatever business you might be in, to succeed in today’s crowded online marketplace, you must learn what it takes to write in a way that makes your customers engage with you.

Whether you’re a marketer tasked with finding new customers, a copywriter charged with monetising existing customers, or if you’re an entrepreneur running the whole shebang and you desperately need to boost your bottom line...

You must learn how to your customer’s attention.

Here’s how you can do exactly that in three simple steps:

Step 1: Disrupt Your Customer

This can be in the form of a statement, a promise, a claim, a question or an image…

But it needs to be unexpected or out of the ordinary.

  • Read This or Die Poor…
  • Four Time Bomb Investments That Could Demolish Your Portfolio…
  • Don’t Risk Putting Another Pound In Your Bank Until You’ve Read This

These are all great examples of disruptive headlines.

To create your own disruptive headlines, you can use what are known in direct-response marketing as ‘The Four Us’.

Consider if your headline is unique? Does it have any urgency? Does it offer some use to the customer? Is it ultra-specific? Make sure you can answer at least one or two of these questions to the positive and you shouldn’t be too far off.

As for the subject matter of your disruptive headline, you can find inspiration from two main sources: the copy a customer will reach if they engage with your headline; or the customer who’s reading your headline.

When it comes to taking inspiration from the copy, look to the details, even if it’s something unique about the offer. The copy you’re linking to should be full of subject matter for you to base your headline on. Above all, make sure you mix it up.

Let’s say you’re selling an advisory service about trading the financial markets. The idea behind the copy you’re linking to – and the service itself – is all about how you could shave years off your retirement learning to trade the financial markets by following the advice shared in the service.

You might find some people react better to a headline that focuses on a free gift you’re giving away as part of offer. At the end of the day, some people just get excited about free gifts. But other people might be more attracted to the end result, the deeper benefit of what you’re selling, i.e. the fact that you could shave years of your retirement.

Both angles are valid; you just need to test them to see which takes off and which appeals with which sections of your market.

When it comes to drawing inspiration from the customer, look to what they’re reading about in the news or watching on television, or alternatively think about their personal needs and wants.

To continue with our trading service example, you could look to reports in the news about people having to retire later in life. They’re already seeing this story in the news and it’s likely to be at the forefront of their mind, so when they see the reference to it in your advert’s headline, it’s going to be more disruptive.

Alternatively you could try to tap into the fact that pretty much everyone wants to retire earlier.

Now you should have a disruptive element to your copy. By far this is the most important part, so spend the most time here. If you’re just looking to write a new subject line or headline, you can stop here. But if you need more copy, the next step is to add intrigue.

Step 2: Draw Your Reader In With Intrigue

Once you’ve identified how to disrupt the potential customer, you need to flesh it out a little by adding another level of intrigue. You need to ask what is it specifically that makes it essential for the person to find out more about this. And why.

The key here is to make sure you don’t wrongly interpret being intriguing as being vague. Though you want to keep the detail of the copy you’re linking to a secret, you should still use specific language and imagery.

You also need to keep things short and you shouldn’t try to over explain things at this point. You don’t need to add a lot more here. Just develop the headline with one or two more intriguing details.

For example, if your headline currently reads “Revealed: How To Get Paid Everyday…” you could make it more intriguing by adding something like: “Revealed: How To Get Paid Everyday Without Doing Any Extra Work”.

It’s just about finding that extra little detail that makes people think: “I’ve got to know what that is.”

Step 3: Engage Your Customer To Take Action

This is critically important.

No matter how disruptive or intriguing your headline is, if the potential customer doesn’t engage and click, it’s all for naught. You need to give clear guidance, incentive and reassurance to the prospect so that it would be a mistake not to click.

Let’s break that down.

First, don’t assume the potential customer knows to click. I know it seems obvious, but it’s very possible you could be writing to an older market that isn’t as internet-savvy as you might presume. Not just that, but from a design perspective adverts can often blend into editorial. Make a very clear call to action. But don’t stop there.

Make sure you also give incentive for the customer to click. Don’t just say: “Click here to find out more”. Instead, try “Click here and you’ll receive the full details immediately”. You need to make it obvious that your customer will get something – however small or seemingly incidental – for engaging.

Finally, if you really want to nail it, try to reassure the customer that it’s a good idea to click the advert. Instead of “Click here and you’ll discover the secret”, try something like “Click here and you’ll be thankful you finally discovered the secret”. Again, it’s a really small tweak, but it’s just adding that extra emotional touch that will subconsciously give the customer that push to buy. And once they’ve bought, you’re done. Your copy has done its job. Hurrah.

Remember all you need to do is: Disrupt. Intrigue. Engage.

Glenn Fisher is an author, speaker and copywriter. His first book, The Art of the Click, is published by Harriman House and shortlisted for The Business Book Awards 2019.

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