Why People Want to Know
What’s In It For *You*

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I harp on one thing over and over:

The key to successful copywriting, business blogging and marketing in general is to focus intently on what’s in it for *them*.

Them, of course, refers to your readers, your prospects, your current clients and customers, and the giant mass of people out there who don’t yet know who you are and couldn’t care less.

In other words, you’ve got to offer as much unique value as possible.

If It’s Too Good to be True…

An unexpected corollary of offering unique value, though, is that people want to know what’s in it for you. It all comes down to the old cliché:

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

This is a classic example of having a great benefit that triggers an emotional acceptance response, but nonetheless needs to be backed up with a rational reason why.

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Check Out the Official Copyblogger Commercial From Robert Bruce

Does Your Copy Look Spammy?

It’s been interesting this year to watch the intersection (some might say “collision”) of direct response Internet marketing and the blogosphere.

Basically you’ve got the purveyors of the sales letter trying to figure out how to live in the hype-intolerant social media environment.

It’s often not pretty, and here I am right in the middle of it all with a blog about copywriting.

The latest dust-up came when WordPress selectively enforced trademark rights against two popular sites that sell WordPress tutorial videos. Without rehashing the whole thing here, in essence one might say that the problem boiled down to how those two sites looked.

Yes, they use those highly effective long-copy sales letters that many in the blogosphere hate. And the sentiment from WordPress was they looked “spammy” and “scammy.”

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What Prince Can Teach You About Effective Blogging

Back in 1985, Tipper Gore founded the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which eventually led to those “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” labels we all know and love.

What set her off?

She heard the song Darling Nikki by Prince.

Now, while that tune is certainly provocative, who knows how poor Tipper would have reacted if she had first heard Let’s Pretend We’re Married from Prince’s earlier album 1999, or pretty much any song from 1980’s Dirty Mind. And what must she think of some of today’s music, which makes Prince look tame in comparison?

Meanwhile, today Prince is still blowing the roof off of packed stadiums, based largely on the one constant in his career—musical genius.

These days, his show is purely PG-13, with no warning stickers required. He doesn’t play Darling Nikki anymore, nor does he even curse.

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7 More Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work

image of magnetic headlines

Since people truly seemed to find my 10 Sure-Fire Headline Templates That Work useful for coming up with headlines and post titles that don’t follow the typical “how to” and “list” conventions, I thought I’d share a few more.

So here are 7 more sure-fire headline templates that will work when you’re aiming to score more readers:

1. Give Me [short time period] and I’ll Give You [blank].

This headline promises a strong benefit to the reader, like all good headlines do. But this one is especially effective because it promises to deliver in a very short time period.

2. If You Don’t [blank] Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.

We love to belong, but feeling excluded is a real bummer. Whether it be a financial opportunity or the social event of the year, we simply hate it when we get left out.

  • If You’re Out of the Market Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.
  • If You’re Not at SXSW 2007, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.
  • If You Don’t Edit Your .htaccess Now, Google Will Hate You Later.

3. The Lazy [blank’s] Way to [blank].

This headline has always worked well with time-pressured people, and that’s certainly true for most people today. No one likes to think of themselves as lazy, but everyone likes to save time and effort.

  • The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches.
  • The Lazy Dad’s Way to Quickly Getting Dinner on the Table.
  • The Lazy Blogger’s Way to Write Great Post Titles.

4. Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?

OK, technically this is still a list, but it’s wrapped up in a much more compelling structure than your typical “Top 10” article. People want to avoid problems, and this headline promises the critical tips before it’s too late.

  • Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of High Blood Pressure?
  • Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of an Employee Meltdown?
  • Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of Digg Addiction?

5. See How Easily You Can [desirable result].

We love quick and easy when it comes to learning something new or gaining some advantage.

  • See How Easily You Can Learn to Dance This New Way.
  • See How Easily You Can Own a Lamborghini Miura.
  • See How Easily You Can Increase Traffic With Social Media.

6. You Don’t Have to Be [something challenging] to be [desired result].

People almost always have preconceived notions about things, and this can be a barrier to taking action. Remove the barrier that stands between them and the desired result with your headline, and people will flock to read what you have to say.

  • You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Retire on a Guaranteed Income for Life.
  • You Don’t Have to Be a Geek to Make Money Online.
  • You Don’t Have to Be an A-Lister to Be a Kick-Ass Blogger.

7. Do You Make These Mistakes?

This is always a powerful attention grabber, since no one likes to make mistakes. If you’ve targeted your content well for your intended audience, helping people avoid common mistakes is a sure-fire winner with this type of headline.

Find these headline templates useful? Bookmark this page at del.icio.us for future reference. :)

For more headline advice, check out the Magnetic Headlines series.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger, CEO of Copyblogger Media, and Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer. Get more from Brian on Google+.

Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well

Image of Ernest Hemingway Writing

Who better?

Many business people faced with the task of writing for marketing purposes are quick to say:

Hey, I’m no Hemingway!

But really, who better than Hemingway to emulate? Rather than embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly.

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Don’t Take This Advice About
Online Marketing!

Advice is a tricky thing, especially when dispensed en masse.

The answer to most things, if we’re being honest, is it depends.

There are certainly principles that are near universal, and I try to stick with them as much as possible around here, while showing how those basic principles can be applied in a new and quickly evolving medium.

Aaron Wall’s recent confessional post about advice got me thinking about this topic a bit more than usual. In reality, everyone’s situation is different, and what works for me might not work for you when it comes down to the nitty-gritty details.

Now, of course this truism won’t stop all the opportunists with their Gobbledygook Manifestos telling you that the entire world has turned upside down thanks to social media. And of course, only they have the high-priced new ideas you so desperately need to avoid going out of business.

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How to Go Out In Style With Your Ending

Once you’ve sucked people in with your headline, entranced them with your opening, and sent them down the slippery slide with each sentence until the conclusion, you may find yourself wondering…

How do I wrap this thing up?

How you start will determine if you get read, but how you end will determine how people feel about the experience. And, depending on your goals, your ending will determine the success of the piece as a whole.

Begin With the Ending in Mind

One key to a successful ending is to understand exactly where you are trying to take the reader before you ever write a word. I tend to do this all in my head before I write an article, but if that doesn’t work for you, do a quick outline and state exactly what the point of the piece is.

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Little Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points

Oh, those magical bullet points. What would blog posts, sales letters, and bad PowerPoint presentations be without them?

  • Bullet points are so common because readers like them.
  • But typical bullet points are kinda lame … kinda like this one.
  • So let’s start making our bullet points downright fascinating.

Bullet Point Basics

Before we get to the graduate level, we’ve got to nail the basics. So here are the 5 cardinal rules for general bullet points that convey your points clearly:

  1. Express a clear benefit and promise to the reader. That’s right… they’re mini-headlines. They encourage the scanning reader to go back into the real meat of your content, or go forward with your call to action.
  2. Keep your bullet points symmetrical if possible; meaning, one line each, two lines each, etc. It’s easier on the eyes and therefore easier on the reader.
  3. Avoid bullet clutter at all costs. Do not get into a detailed outline jumble of subtitles, bullets and sub-bullets. Bullets are designed for clarity, not confusion.
  4. Practice parallelism. Keep your bullet groups thematically related, begin each bullet with the same part of speech, and maintain the same grammatical form.
  5. Remember that bullets (like headlines) are not necessarily sentences. If you want to write complete sentences, stick with a paragraph or a numbered list.

Using “Fascinations” to Captivate Readers

Are you curious about my use of the word “fascinations” in the subhead?

Curiosity is a very powerful force. It’s one of those things that makes us human, and one of those things we’ll never shake. We simply want enticing things we can’t have or don’t yet understand.

And that’s exactly what drives people to take action.

A fascination refers to a copywriting technique where you create “special” bullet points so compelling and so benefit-driven that the reader simply cannot help but discover the answer.

It’s a great technique for:

  • Drawing people back into the copy they skimmed.
  • Prompting the download of a free report.
  • Causing the click of a link.
  • Driving subscriptions to your blog.
  • Triggering the purchase of your information product.
  • Initiating a new client relationship.

The key to a fascination is dangling the benefit out there in a teasing manner, without actually giving away what it is.

The undisputed king of fascinations is Bottom Line Secrets, a subscription periodical that promises insider information that makes your life easier. The company launched itself many years ago with a sales piece that was essentially nothing but incredibly compelling bullet points.

Here are some samples from that original ad:

  • Why some patients are given favored status in hospitals… almost preferred treatment. This little known information could save your life.
  • How to learn about medical discoveries before your doctor.
  • How and when blood pressure can fool you… and drinking alcohol without hangovers.
  • The two famous cold remedies that, taken together, can give you ulcers.
  • A simple way to prevent Montezuma’s Revenge.

Bullets points are maligned because most people don’t know how to write them. Put a little time and effort into making yours fascinating (or, at minimum, crystal clear and beneficial), and you’ll see your response increase.

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How to Find the Hidden Hook

What’s the secret to finding the remarkable reader benefit that leads to sales, publicity, links or attention?

It’s keying in on the right element of the story.

Recently, blog network b5 Media accepted venture capital in the amount of $2 million to further grow their business.

Certainly, a collection of blogs as a real business is interesting, especially to those outside of the blogosphere.

And a business built around a collection of blogs landing $2 million bucks is certainly interesting as well.

But what’s the angle that’s hooking the mainstream media? Let’s take a listen to b5 Media partner Darren Rowse on that:

I had interviews this week with two journalists about b5media and it was interesting to see that in both cases the story that they latched onto was that we’d built a company without having met each other.

Being interesting is just the baseline requirement.

The real hook is the part that’s fascinating.

Here’s ace copywriter John Carlton’s take on fishing for hooks.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter and Google+.