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Source: iStock Photo
Source: iStock Photo

By now most organizations buy in to the fact that data is one of their most valuable assets and that they should be making their business decisions based upon insights they derive from it.  It sure helps when you present data to stakeholders in a format that they can both understand and appreciate.

Data visualization tools, or dashboards as they are often called, can simply present data in a colorful and easy-to-understand format or they can be sophisticated analytics tools unto themselves, allowing users to manipulate the data in order to get answers to deeper questions. Some tools are simple graphical representations of the business data and others border on artistic.

Either way, if your end goal is to communicate information across a broad range of stakeholders and spark the kinds of conversations that can help create a competitive advantage, data visualization tools can be a huge asset to your organization.

Join us for a free webinar to get an overview of data visualization solutions and learn how they can prove to be one of your most powerful tools to unlock the value in your organization’s data.

Register now! Webinar: Practical Guide to Dashboards for Digital Channels

A good headline is critical. Its purpose is to captivate your readers’ attention and entice them into your body text. If it fails, all your work will be for nought and you won’t stand a chance of persuading your would-be readers.

You’ve only got one chance, so you’ve got to get it right. But how do you entice readers into your copy?

Most importantly, you have to offer a benefit to your readers. Indicate that if they read on, they’ll get some kind of payoff.

But in most cases, you don’t actually spell out the benefit in the headline. Rather, you engage the reader’s curiosity by hinting at the benefit. Do this right, and readers will find it irresistible. They’ll be hooked.

It’s curiosity — fueled by the promise of a wonderful benefit — that makes a great headline. Below are some proven techniques for writing compelling headlines.

Make a surprising statement

A great way to rouse curiosity is to make an apparently bizarre statement, then leave your readers dangling. (Some social scientists call this “Optimal Level of Dissonance.”) The surprising statement could be a bold promise or guarantee. For example:

“Increase your sales by 25% overnight, or you don’t pay.”

“If you don’t agree that my granola bar is the best you’ve ever tasted, I’ll eat the box it came it.”

Or it could be a statement that’s apparently against your self interest. (Think of Volkswagen’s famous “Lemon” headline.) Here are some examples:

“Why you shouldn’t shop at my store”

“Why I’m the worst copywriter in Canada”

“Run Away Now. Dangerous Information Inside.”

 

“How To…”

People love to be told how to solve problems or get some kind of advantage. Headlines beginning in “How to” can be irresistible. For example:

“How to Write Headlines Your Customers Can’t Resist”

“How To Increase Conversions by 10% Overnight”

Remember also Dale’s Carnegie’s famous book title, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

 

Offer a helpful checklist or “Top Ten”

Like the “How To” trick, offering a list attracts readers by promising a solution to a problem (or maybe just a good laugh).

“Five Sure-Fire Ways to Save on Fuel Costs”

“Ten Great Reasons to Sleep in Tomorrow”

“Three Magic Words that Women Can’t Resist”

 

Ask a Question

Another way to rouse curiosity is to ask a compelling question. (And, of course, hint that you have the answer.) For example:

“Ever Wondered Why…”

“Do You Know the Three Biggest Challenges in Email Marketing?”

“Are You Killing Your Sales with the World’s Most Common Marketing Blunder?”

 

Writing great headlines isn’t easy. To create one that truly engages readers, you really have to understand what it is that drives them. You’ve got to find a compelling benefit that will solve a problem, provide valuable information, or otherwise enrich the lives of your readers.

Like most aspects of writing, it’s largely a matter of putting in the effort. If you haven’t gone through at least 10 drafts of potential headlines, you probably aren’t trying hard enough. Bash out another 20, then start winnowing…

Last week, I outlined some preliminary homework we have to do before starting to write. Let’s assume that’s done now, and move on to structuring our message.

How do we structure messages that resonate with visitors, and lead them to take the action we desire?

We can take a cue from traditional advertising copywriters here. For generations, they’ve relied on a structure called “AIDA” to convince customers they simply must buy their clients’ products.

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. I’ll explain each step below.

Attention

First, you have to capture your readers’ attention. A powerful image is helpful of course. But as a copywriter, your first concern is the headline.

In writing headlines, it’s often tempting to show off how clever we are. Our first impulse may be to use puns, double meanings, humor or other wordplay. And occasionally that can work. Usually, however, it’s much better simply to highlight a key benefit your reader will gain.

State a clear and compelling promise that will capture your reader’s attention and draw him into reading more.

As writing headlines is an art in itself, I’ll go into more detail in a later post.

 

Interest

You’ve captured your reader’s attention with a clear, compelling, benefit-centered headline. Now what?

The next step is to build on the promise you’ve made in your headline.

Presumably, your product solves some sort of problem. So let your readers know that you understand their problem. Describe the problem, emphasize its scope, highlight the annoyance or pain it inflicts on their lives. Stir their emotions.

Where appropriate, use statistics or other facts to let readers know they’re not alone in suffering from this problem. Maybe even let them know you’ve suffered from it too. Show empathy; create a bond with your readers.

Then, indicate you’ve got a solution. Build curiosity, entice readers further down the page…

 

Desire

Next, explain why your product is the best solution to their problem. Build desire, reduce resistance.

Highlight the benefits of your product. Use storytelling techniques to illustrate how your product has helped others. Build an emotional desire for your product.

Remember, however, that your readers need to rationalize their emotional desires. So use logic and cold, hard facts to back up your claims and help readers feel comfortable they’re making the right choice.

Additional ways to build desire and reduce resistance include:

  • Increasing confidence with Social Proof in the form of testimonials, ratings, reviews, etc.
  • Reducing anxiety and resistance: clear security assurances, easy-to-determine shipping costs, strong product guarantees, etc.
  • Adding urgency with limited-time offers, low stock indicators, etc.

 

Action

The final step is the simplest, but is often overlooked: You need to tell readers exactly what to do next.

Should customers simply “Buy Now”? Should they download a whitepaper? Fill out a form? Pick up the phone and call you?

Whatever it is you want them to do, spell it out for them. Let them know how they can enjoy the wonderful benefits you’ve promised them.

In deciding what action to take (including which products to buy), we’re influenced by both logical and emotional forces.

Logical motivations include:

  • Saving money
  • Saving time
  • Avoiding dangers or hassles
  • Achieving better results

Emotional motivations include:

  • Freeing ourselves of worry, fear or regret
  • Becoming wealthy or otherwise successful
  • Being admired and/or well-liked
  • Generally feeling better about ourselves

To be persuasive, we must address both the logical and the emotional factors: the practical reasons we should buy, and how our purchase will make us feel.

But how do we do this?

It takes a bit of homework and planning. In this post, I’ll address the 3 things you should ask yourself before you start writing.

 

1. Why should your customers buy this product?

Before we can sell something, we have to know all about it. We must fully understand why someone should choose our product above all others.

This takes research. You’ve got to learn everything you can about your product, and those of your competitors. In particular, you must uncover:

  • What does this product do?
  • What problems does it solve?
  • How is it superior to my competitors’ offerings?
  • How can I illustrate its benefits and prove its superiority?

Compile an exhaustive list of both the logical and emotional reasons your customers should buy. Then categorize them and rank them in priority. This “list of reasons” will form the backbone of your persuasive messaging.

 

2. Who’s your audience?

Knowing your customer demographics might be a starting point, but to write copy that truly persuades, it’s not nearly enough.

To know which buttons to push, we need a full understanding of our customers’ deep motivations. In particular, we need to know:

  • What makes them happy and content?
  • What do they aspire to?
  • What excites and drives them?
  • What holds them back? What do they fear or dread?
  • How can our product make their lives better?
  • What might prevent them from choosing our product?

Once we understand these things, we’re much better equipped to put ourselves in their position. We’ll know what will drive them to take action.

 

3. What action do you want your customer to take?

You need to understand exactly what it is you want your readers to do.

If it’s simple thing, then just tell them. For example, “Subscribe to my email list”.

If it’s a complicated sequence, you need to simplify it and provide a clear first step. For example, “Call us NOW!”

Sounds simple enough, right? But you need to know this in advance. Because the more you’re asking of your customers, the more you’ll have to persuade them before asking.

 

Once you have clearly formulated the answers to the above questions, you are ready to start working on your messaging. In future posts, I’ll get into the nitty gritty of persuasive writing.

 

 

When it comes to email marketing, I’ve been using ExactTarget pretty exclusively. It’s a beast of an application, with scheduling, automation and interaction options diverse enough for nearly anything. It packs serious power.

However, it’s always seemed a little overkill for a monthly newsletter.

About a year ago I started following a small Email Service Provider (ESP) called Mailchimp, after reading their fantastic study on high performance subject lines.

This week I decided to take a look at Mailchimp and see what they offer and I was amazed. This little app packs a punch, with a full testing suite, a great WYSIWYG editor, support for RSS based campaigns, powerful social media integration, and all this wrapped in an amazingly well designed user interface.

Want to see how easy it is to create a quick campaign for your business?

Create a template. Mailchimp has 30 some odd defaults which you can base your template off. Select one, modify the color scheme, add any permanent images or decorations, and you’re set.

So you’ve made an account and you’re logged in. Can you guess which button creates a campaign? Maybe the big red one.

Lets try something like an A/B Split campaign.

Oh my. This certainly is easy. Notice that you can’t test content though. There’s no option for a simple A/B test on, say, button color. In fact, I am not sure you could even do this, since there doesn’t seem to be a way to select a random sample of users outside of the testing interface.

Next select a list (you have imported your list, right?) and segment who you want to send to (or leave that blank and send to everyone.

Name your campaigns, and select your two subject lines (assuming you chose to A/B test subject lines) or two Send names (assuming you chose to A/B test send names). On this screen you can also connect your account to your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Mailchimp so that it auto posts/tweets about your newsletter. Finally you can set up your tracking, including auto-tagging links for GA.

Select that template you made earlier

Enter your content. Mailchimp has an incredibly good WYSIWYG editor, so you shouldn’t have to mess with HTML too much. Then, if you want to do a text version, enter your text content.

Finally, Mailchimp gives you this nice summary screen telling you what you’ve done and alerting you if anything is wrong.

Then you just test and send. It’s that easy.

All in all I am quite impressed with this program. It doesn’t have the automation power of a highend ESP, but for small businesses looking to get up and running quickly with an email marketing campaign, Mailchimp is it.

Email Marketing

Data Visualization: Enabling data-driven business discussions

Cardinal Path blog post

By now most organizations buy in to the fact that data is one of their most valuable assets and that they should be making their business decisions based upon insights they derive from it.  It sure helps when you present data to stakeholders in a format that they can both understand and appreciate. Data visualization … Read Full Post

How to Write Headlines that Lure In Readers… Like Charlie Sheen to a Media Scrum

Cardinal Path blog post

A good headline is critical. Its purpose is to captivate your readers’ attention and entice them into your body text. If it fails, all your work will be for nought and you won’t stand a chance of persuading your would-be readers. You’ve only got one chance, so you’ve got to get it right. But how … Read Full Post

Persuasive Copywriting: Structuring Your Message With the Time-Proven AIDA Method

Cardinal Path blog post

Last week, I outlined some preliminary homework we have to do before starting to write. Let’s assume that’s done now, and move on to structuring our message. How do we structure messages that resonate with visitors, and lead them to take the action we desire? We can take a cue from traditional advertising copywriters here. … Read Full Post

Persuasive Copywriting: 3 Things You Need to Know Before You Start

Cardinal Path blog post

In deciding what action to take (including which products to buy), we’re influenced by both logical and emotional forces. Logical motivations include: Saving money Saving time Avoiding dangers or hassles Achieving better results Emotional motivations include: Freeing ourselves of worry, fear or regret Becoming wealthy or otherwise successful Being admired and/or well-liked Generally feeling better … Read Full Post

Monkeying with Mailchimp – Easy Email Marketing on the Cheap

Cardinal Path blog post

  When it comes to email marketing, I’ve been using ExactTarget pretty exclusively. It’s a beast of an application, with scheduling, automation and interaction options diverse enough for nearly anything. It packs serious power. However, it’s always seemed a little overkill for a monthly newsletter. About a year ago I started following a small Email … Read Full Post

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