By the time you get out of bed, scan the newspaper while sipping a morning coffee, drive to work listening to the radio, turn on the computer and check your e-mail, you're exposed to dozens — perhaps hundreds — of marketing messages. All before 9:00
There's no avoiding them. Advertising, sales, marketing and other persuasive messages are everywhere — on radio and television, in magazines and newspapers, all over the Internet, in e-mail inboxes, on posters and billboards, and in the mailbox.
The competition for the hearts and minds (and wallets) of customers is stiff. So if you want your copy to break through the clutter and get noticed, you have to make sure it gains attention.
Think about it. If the advertisement or sales letter you're writing doesn't get noticed, customers won't read it. And if customers don't read it, they won't be persuaded by the message you so painstakingly crafted.
So how do you make sure your copy gains attention? Following are the most common ways to accomplish this.
A Great Headline
An effective headline is the copywriter's number one secret weapon. It is by far the simplest and most effective way to gain attention in just about any form of advertising, sales, marketing, or public relations communications.
A headline is that big block of bold text at the top of an advertisement. But you'll also see headlines at work in sales letters, flyers, catalogs, Web sites, trade-show exhibits, e-mail promotions, and even in blogs.
How do headlines work? Imagine flipping through your favorite magazine. Your decision whether to read a particular article depends, at least in part, on the article's title (which is a lot like a headline). If you want to plant a vegetable garden, for example, then an article with the headline “Grow Veggies That Make Your Grocer Green With Envy” will likely get your attention.
Make sure the headline matches the message. If your headline reads “Your Hair Is On Fire!” it will certainly gain attention. But if the ad is actually about photocopiers and has nothing to do with a head in flames, then potential customers will just get annoyed. They'll feel duped and may actually decide not to buy the product.
Advertisements use the same technique. Headlines are like article titles, striving to capture your interest. Have trouble with acne? Then the headline “Reduce Acme Blemishes — Overnight” will seem like it's jumping off the page. Want to be a published author? Then your eyes will lock on the ad that reads “Get a Book Contract in 90 Days.” Planning on buying some new clothes? You might even clip the ad that reads “One Day Only: Save 25% on Cashmere Sweaters.”
As you can see, headlines are an important tool in the copywriting trade. They're fun to write, too. How do you develop a great headline? You'll learn dozens of proven techniques in Chapter 7.
An Eye-Catching Visual
You don't always need a headline to gain attention. Sometimes a clever, fascinating, or even shocking visual can work just as well.
On your way to work you notice a billboard with a huge picture of a duck staring right at you. His feathers are ruffled. He looks panicked. He seems to be struggling to say something — to you! It's such a beguiling image that you take notice. And as a result, the billboard ad takes hold. Before you know it, you're reading the line of copy adjacent to the picture, encouraging you to donate to a much-needed bird sanctuary.
The picture did all the work. No headline required.
But pictures and other images are not the only way to create an attention-grabbing visual. Imagine receiving a direct-mail piece that looks like a child's puzzle box. Or coming across a magazine advertisement that folds open into a poster. Or picking up a brochure and discovering that it opens into an elaborate unexpected shape.
Sometimes a very simple idea can be extremely effective. For example, a collections agency once sent a sales letter to potential clients. It had no headline, just a small stone glued to the upper right-hand corner. The letter began as follows:
In ancient Greece, business owners would attempt to collect on overdue accounts by throwing stones at the customers. This forced a customer to choose between a daily bruising and paying up. Today, things are more civilized. But debt collection is no less frustrating…
There are many creative ways to gain attention with the visual presentation of your promotional piece. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and, of course, your — or your client's — budget.
You don't have to be an artist. When you come up with a visual idea for a promotion, make a rough drawing. It doesn't have to be a work of art. Stick men are fine! In most cases, the designer or art director will be able to interpret even the most amateurish of scribbles.
A Combination of Headline and Visual
Often you will need a headline to work with a specific visual to gain attention. In print advertisements, headlines and visuals often work in tandem. Take away one or the other and the impact, and in some cases even the meaning, diminishes.
Consider this headline:
Look What Happens When Salespeople Follow The Power Prospecting Method.
Alone this headline doesn't make much sense. Look at what?
However, when you put this line of copy next to its intended visual — a salesperson's weekly calendar filled with appointments for presentations with hot prospects — then the meaning is clear. Any sales professional or sales manager who comes across this ad will want to learn more and, therefore, read the body copy.