How to Crack The Believability Barrier
By Daniel Levis
It's true, healthy skepticism is at an all time high online. Especially if you're slugging it out in hotly competitive markets. And Gawd, who isn't these days?
If you're wondering what you can do to keep your conversion shorts up, and your costs down, then pay close attention ...
I'm going to reveal some little known "contrarian" headline writing tricks that will help you wrestle this problem to its knees.
Let's dive in ...
There comes a time in every product or category lifecycle, when a high number of potential prospects within the market no longer believe in the advertising, and therefore no longer wish to be aware of the products.
Here's what happens, and what to do about it.
In the beginning, when a product is fresh and new, the critical mass of constituents within your target market will have a level of awareness concerning their desire for it.
Naturally the more aware they are of this desire, the easier it is to attract their attention and interest, and then intensify that desire toward a purchase. The less aware they are of the desire, the more difficult.
Let me give you an example.
Suppose you have a 42-year-old prospect who is 35 pounds overweight. He knows he should lose the weight, at some level he wants to lose it, but it's not something he thinks about that often.
Will he read an ad with a headline like this? "LOSE UP TO 47 POUNDS IN 4 WEEKS OR RECEIVE YOUR MONEY BACK!" Probably not.
Six months later, our fat guy goes for a physical. When the results come back, the Doctor tells him his cholesterol levels are through the roof. He's going to have to lose the weight, or go on some pills for the rest of his life to keep things under control. And here's the kicker. The pills could make him impotent! All of a sudden he becomes fully aware of his desire to lose weight.
OK, but awareness is just the half of it. When the level of awareness goes up, the level of sophistication soon follows. Our fat guy now has his eye out for ways to cut the flab.
He sees an ad with a headline like this, "MELTS AWAY UGLY FAT!" Will he read the ad? At this point, he'll probably read any ad with a good benefit specific headline.
The following day, what does he see? "I AM 61 POUNDS LIGHTER ...NEVER A HUNGRY MINUTE." He reads the ad and decides to try it.
A few days later, he reads, "NEW WONDER DRUG FOR REDUCING!"
The following week, "NEW NO DIET WONDER DRUG FOR REDUCING!"
And then, "FAST WEIGHT LOSS WITH DIET PATCHES - LOSE 9 POUNDS EVERY 11 DAYS!!"
"DROP 10 lbs. IN 10 DAYS GUARANTEED 1ST BOTTLE FREE, SUPER FAST RESULTS!!!"
"NEW HIGH SPEED DIET PILL CAUSES FAT CELLS TO POP LIKE BUBBLE WRAP, BURNS 937 EXTRA CALORIES A DAY, AND BOOSTS YOUR METABOLISM UP TO 500%... ALL WITHOUT DIET OR EXERCISE!!!!"
The headlines are becoming increasingly benefit rich, and more and more outrageous, each one trying to out do the last. And with each round, our fat guy is becoming increasingly skeptical.
By now he's tried several plans and none of them work. After a while it gets so bad he joins the rest of the fat guys who have stopped reading the reducing ads altogether. For the time being he resigns himself, and sublimates his fear ...
What's an online marketer to do?
All good web marketing begins with the market, and ends with the product or service you're selling. Your job is to solve a particular advertising problem that exists at a specific point in time.
With the passage of time, markets change, and new problems arise. Therefore, while there are definitely principles to be followed, there are no stock formulas. Each time out is a new creative challenge.
The above headlines are all fine but they are attempting to solve the wrong problem.
They presuppose a high level of awareness, and a low level of sophistication. If you are operating in such a market, by all means, use these kinds of headlines. They will work.
On the other hand, if you are faced with the more difficult challenge of overcoming the hyper skepticism that's steadily chipping away at online response rates, then keep this in mind ...
THE REAL PURPOSE OF YOUR HEADLINE
Much confusion exists about how much selling a headline needs to do. In truth, your headline need not sell at all. It need not mention your product, or even your main appeal to be effective. Your headline has just one job. To stop your reader in his tracks, and force him to read the second sentence of your copy…
Now look up at the headlines above. What do they have in common? They are all good benefit headlines. They are selling headlines.
When your market is sophisticated (having been repeatedly clobbered over the head with seemingly similar products), or it is not yet keenly conscious of the need or desire your product fulfills, these kinds of headlines are ineffective.
It's aggravating as hell, because the market is still comprised of ideal prospects. But prospects that are in their own minds light years from accepting the claims of your product. How will you bridge the gap?
Let's proceed through a process of elimination.
1 - Your offer means nothing to someone who does not yet know he wants your product. So details of the offer have no place in your headline.
2 - The name of your product means nothing to him either, so that's out.
3 - And this is the hardest fact of all to accept. When dealing with markets such as these, (where your product has either not reached the direct stage, or passed beyond it) a direct statement of what your product does for the prospect - the desire it satisfies, or the problem it solves - will not work.
So if not price, if not product, if not benefit, then what? The answer lies within your market itself ...
Your headline must acknowledge your reader's identity by echoing his dominant emotion. You are selling nothing, promising nothing, satisfying nothing. Simply bouncing back to him an idea that registers an emotional impact. Giving words to a hidden dream, or exploiting a hidden fear, but without selling in the headline.
Since we're on the reducing theme, here are a couple of weight loss examples. Notice there is no benefit, no promise. 180 degrees from the typical headlines found above. They simply tap a dominant emotion to compel the prospect to read the next thought. There is no product claim to be accepted or rejected.
"YOU MAY BE ONE DIET AWAY FROM A MASSIVE HEART ATTACK!"
Or this... "WHY ON EARTH HAVEN'T MORE PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH THEIR WEIGHT BEEN TOLD THESE FACTS?"
Notice how those two headlines tap into the fear, skepticism, and even anger that exist within this market. And how they echo those sentiments in a way that stimulates curiosity, propelling the reader forward.
Each time you sit down to write, you have a unique problem to solve. That exact problem has never existed before. Society is in a constant state of flux. Technology and products are continually reinventing themselves. The awareness and sophistication of your market is a moving target.
Therefore... in tough, crowded markets, the only sane way to barge in and stake your claim is to truly understand the dominant desires and emotions of your chosen target market.
The next step is to echo those dominant emotions and desires back to your prospects in your headline.
If you can stop them in their tracks without raising the usual alarm bells that go off with typical benefit driven headlines, then... you've doubled your chances of being able to draw them down the page.
And that's BIG… because overcoming the huge and growing online attention deficit is your toughest challenge right now. Use these tips to STOP your prospects, and compel them to read.
Then in your deck copy, directly under your main headline, state the benefits of reading your copy, or buying your product, and you'll have them scrolling.
Until next time, Good Selling!
About the Author
Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant & direct response copywriter based in Toronto, Canada and publisher of the world famous copywriting anthology "Masters of Copywriting" featuring the selling wisdom of 44 of the "Top Money" marketing minds of all time, including Clayton Makepeace, Dan Kennedy, Joe Sugarman, John Carlton, Joe Vitale, Michel Fortin, Richard Armstrong and dozens more! For a FREE excerpt visit Masters Of Copywriting
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