Sep 292010

I listened to Alan J Cole give a presentation on 8 Steps to the sale this morning at my first 4Networking meeting in Carmarthen. It was a very good presentation

One thing particularly stuck in my mind:

Agreeing is easier than deciding.

Alan was talking about how much easier it is asking for agreement in a sales conversation rather than asking for a decision.

He explained that to agree with something takes less effort than making a choice or decision.


"Let's go to the beach, okay?"


"Shall we go to the beach or the lake?"

The first question is easy to answer. If the idea appeals to you and you have no other plans then it's easy to say yes.

The second question requires more consideration. You have to visualise your day at the beach versus your day at the lake. What would the questionner prefer to do? Will you have a better time at the beach or the lake? Is there a hidden agenda here? Is there a wrong answer? Oh dear. Not at all straightforward. Much more mental effort is required.

What if I make the wrong decision?

One of the reasons we don't like making a decision is because we don't want to make the wrong decision and look a fool. Giving agreement is far less risky. Someone else has already made the decision, stuck their neck out and paved the way for you to follow.

How can we relate this gem from sales conversations to copywriting?

This got me thinking. How does this work in copywriting? Crucially a sales conversation has at least two people involved whereas the copy you write for your website or direct mail letter, stands alone. You have to do the talking for both sides of the conversation.

Yes we can compare copywriting to a conversation. If you watch someone reading, you can tell from their body language if they are engaged or not. If the message resonates with their concerns or aspirations, you will see first, increased levels of attention, demonstrated by leaning forward and staring intently. If you really hit the mark you may see someone nodding. 

That is 'agreement'.

This happens when you have identified the reader's main concern or problem. Before your sales message can have any effect, the reader has to know that you are talking to people like her.

Let's say you are a book keeper. If you begin by saying how many years you've been in business and how quickly and accurately you can 'do the books' you may or may not grab your reader's attention.

However if you begin by saying,

'Does your heart sink when it's time to do the VAT return? Do you put it off to the very last minute and begrudge every hour you spend on it? Isn't it time to consider outsourcing?'

If your reader recognises her situation in your opening lines, then you have her attention. She knows you're talking to her.

If your message hits the mark, she will agree, that you not only recognise her problem, but that you have the necessary solution.

She'll be nodding.

So the lesson we can learn from sales training is that in copywriting, you can ask for agreement as you go along, so that when you 'call your reader to action' at the end, their decision is already made.


How a Sussex farmer uses e-news to increase sales at Farmers’ Markets

 Email marketing, Marketing  Comments Off on How a Sussex farmer uses e-news to increase sales at Farmers’ Markets
Sep 232010

I recently interviewed David Dean of Sussexwaymeat. David farms on the Sussex Surrey border. He has a mixed, 60 acre farm and on farm butchery.

David confesses to being a bit 'in the dark' about technology when he started his e-news campaign but this hasn't stopped him harnessing this powerful tool to increase his takings.

He generously agreed to talk to me about his experience of using e-news to promote his business. You can listen to the interview right now. You'll be taken to another page on my website. Just click the link to listen at your computer.

How to create powerful headlines that hook your readers

 copywriting  Comments Off on How to create powerful headlines that hook your readers
Sep 022010

You have to think up headlines all the time. Headlines for web pages, headlines for e-newsletter articles, headlines for the subject line of your e-newsletters, headlines for letters, headlines for leaflets and adverts.

You might create them at the start or the end. You may spend a long time or a little time constructing them. Yet it is the headline that pulls people in, hooks them and gets them reading your material. Without a powerful headline, readers may never realise the value of the information below.

In business writing, headlines fall into two distinct categories: headlines for sales material and headlines for articles. This article is going to focus on headlines for articles.

What is a headline?

It is a flag. Think of your daily newspaper. The headlines are big, bold and attention grabbing. The bigger the story, the bigger the headline. You can scan a page and know in a few seconds if there are stories you want to read. How do you know? The headline tells you. It does this in just a few words. It attracts you with a promise of something juicy; something interesting; something important; something funny. How does it do this?

How does a headline attract attention?

To attract attention a headline has to connect with the reader's concerns or interests and has to provoke curiosity – leave the reader wanting to know more.

Consider these two headlines:

Small rural school reflects on how to best spend the school lunch budget
Village School Kitchen Under Threat

Both headlines are basically about the same story but the first is dull and we easily drift off to something more interesting. The second one uses drama to suck us in.

Why is it important to create a powerful headline?

We are bombarded with literally thousands of words per day and to get attention you need to create headlines that attract your target readers. Headlines that make people pause, make them want to know more – these are vital if you want people to read the rest of your web page or article.

How do you create a powerful headline?

'How' and 'why' are two of the most powerful words you can put in a headline?


They create curiosity.

Consider these 3 pairs of headlines:

Organic beef has higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids than conventional beef
Why organic beef is richer in Omega 3 fatty acids than conventional beef

Intruder alarms can prevent burglaries
Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%

PV panels can generate electricity even in Wales
How PV panels can save you money on your electricity bill even in West Wales

Can you see how adding the 'how' and 'why' creates more curiosity? It makes you want to know more. In the first example, a statement is made. It doesn't encourage much response.

You'll notice that some of the headlines had some specifics in them like 20%. Let's take that intruder alarm example and see how adding specifics builds curiosity.

Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled
Why fitting an intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%
Why fitting an infra red intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled by up to 20%
Why fitting an infra red intruder alarm reduces the chance of being burgled in Carmarthenshire by up to 20%

If you're afraid of being burgled or you have been burgled, this headline is going to grab you. If you live in Carmarthenshire and fear burglars, this headline is really going to make you sit up and take notice.

When do you construct the headline?

Some people write an outline and then the headline. Some use the headline construction to help them focus on specifics in their article – they write the outline second. The more specific the headline, the harder it is to waffle in the main article.

How can you get better at writing headlines?

First start collecting headlines from magazines, websites and e-newsletters. Notice which ones pull you in. Then examine what words they use to attract you.

Next you have to practice. If you write a blog, practice with your post titles. If you write e-newsletters, practice with your article headlines. Without practice this is all just theoretical.

Powerful headlines are the hook that gets your reader's attention and draws them into reading the rest of your copy.

©Juliet Fay. All rights reserved.

First published in my e-newsletter. To get regular marketing and writing tips straight to your inbox sign up to my mailing list by clicking the email icon below.


Product Offers: Links you should visit

E-Newsletter Strategy Workshop – Carmarthen – September 21st 2010

Are you struggling with creating effective e-newsletters? This one day workshop will give you the tools to find out your objective when sending out e-newsletters. Are you looking to build credibility in your industry sector? Attract buyers to special offers, get business referrals or build a long term loyal customer base?. To find answers to these questions and pick up many more tips for creating effective e-newsletters – click here.

You could get up to 50% funding if you are a graduate.  Find all the details from Go Wales (details on the E-Newsletter Strategy page).