Psychologically-Proven Ways to Get Anyone’s Attention

get anyones attention creatively

I love this quote from Steuart Henderson Britt — “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”

The same is true for writing valuable web copy. If you can’t seize the attention of the people you can help, you might as well be winking at them in the dark.

Unfortunately, attention is one of the scarcest commodities in the world today.

There are 3 things that are psychologically-proven to draw the attention. Well, really there are 4, but the fourth one kinda goes without saying

  • danger
  • entertainment
  • curiosity
  • surprise, which is sort of a combination of the other three.

In my guest post on the Orbit Media blog, I discuss specific ways web writers can leverage danger, entertainment and curiosity to surprise their audiences and grab their attention. The article also includes some of the best examples of other writers putting these psychological forces to work.

Here are a few that didn’t make the cut:


How about this example from my inbox today:

danger attention bill bonner

Doom and gloom is a powerful motivator, always has been. And with the recent craziness in the financial markets, “danger” headlines abound.

Your wallet (which you are quite fond of) is in trouble, and if you just read this email, you’ll be prepared to protect yourself.

For a certain audience, headlines like this are nearly impossible to ignore.


Your camera advertisements can talk about frames per second, lenses and apertures — or you can shoot a video like this:

Did you watch the entire 4 minute video? Exactly.

The title of the video is pretty attention-grabbing, too: Locked in a Vegas Hotel Room with a Phantom Flex. The active verb (locked), the intrigue of “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”… and for camera fiends, the prospect of playing with a $100K camera. All juicy details.

(Note: Don’t get me wrong; you do have to talk about the features of your product or service. But, more often than not, you should lead by demonstrating the benefits, the transformation that your product creates.)


Bill Jayme’s famous direct mail envelop for Psychology today is a classic study in curiosity. Questions are always a good way to engage people, and a question like “Do you close the bathroom door even when you’re the only one at home?” is a doozy. It does more than force your brain to come up with an answer; it makes you wonder, “why do I do that?” and “what does that mean about me and my personality.

Bill Jayme Curiosity Attention

The teaser copy makes you want to find out more about the human mind — YOUR mind to be precise. And now that you’ve started thinking about it, your brain practically begs for more insight into the meaning of it all.


Read the full article, The Psychology of Attention: 10 Lessons for Web Writers from Deez Nuts  on the Orbit Media blog.

The most famous formula for selling, e.g. AIDA, starts with attention. Without attention, you don’t have a chance of selling, educating or effecting any kind of change for your readers. You are constantly competing for space and time in the mind of your competitors and every other distraction your should-be customers have to deal with.

This study on the psychology and application of attention will help give you an edge in this battle.

(You may also like to check out Attention-Jacking with Terry Crews)


Dissecting the Best Copy I’ve Seen All Year

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you may recall the story I told about the four-day power outage I endured during the summer. Four sweltering days with no power, no air conditioning or fans, no internet.

The more prepared people in town used generators to keep the electricity flowing. My father-in-law was able to reserve one before all the food in his refrigerator spoiled. He needed my help getting it to his house. While we tried to figure out how to make the thing work (which took much longer than it should have for people of our intellectual abilities), I couldn’t help but notice the Danger sticker:

Danger Copywriting

This is the sort of warning I usually ignore (I am a man, after all…), but I couldn’t dismiss this one so easily. The message was too strong.

“Using a generator indoors WILL KILL YOU IN MINUTES…”

Tell me those words don’t hit you right in the gut. I was shocked by their power — and inspired at the same time. The copywriter hired for this project was pretty darn good!

No Good Excuse for Wimpy Sales Messages

A danger sticker like this one covers a lot of ground, and it only takes two sentences. I see four big reasons why those twenty-one words make such a strong impact on the reader.

1) Unambiguous meaning. There is no question what’s being said. No alternative interpretations are possible. Clarity and specificity create vision. If you don’t heed the warning, you know exactly what’s going to happen.

Are your sales and marketing messages THIS clear? Do you address the problems your potential client is facing this plainly? Are the benefits of your product/service laid out this specifically? Are your calls-to-action simple to understand and easy to follow?

2) Tangible results. The label leaves no doubt about what will happen is you don’t pay attention to its warning. Anyone who reads it knows precisely what he’s dealing with.

When promoting your product, do you leave prospects wondering what’s in it for them? Do they have to put the pieces together themselves? Does your message talk about YOU or the buyer? Do you describe the physical components of your product or the specific ways it will change the customer’s life?

Again, clarity and specificity create vision.

3) Forceful language. Some people may call this kind of language hype or sensationalism. But it’s not that at all, is it? It is a matter-of-fact statement of impending danger. The cost of disregarding the warning is high. Using strong language in this manner is the responsible thing to do.

All sales messages should contain a measure of warning. If you truly believe what you’re selling can help your customers, there’s a little bit of danger if they don’t take action. They’re going to miss out on something good…or experience something bad. You are duty-bound to help them see that.

If you solve a big problem, remind your listener/reader how serious the situation is. If it’s more serious than he knows, educate him.

On the other hand, if you have a bold promise that you can deliver on 100%, don’t water down the message. There’s no better way to get ignored and forgotten than to under-promise. (You will probably never get a chance to over-deliver.)

4) Appeal to existing desire and fear. In this case, the desire to stay alive and the fear of death. In the case of the generator, undetectable poison gas is a genuine concern. It is not fear-mongering to warn people of the risk.

What is it that your potential clients desire that you can help them get? What problems that they’re afraid of facing can you help them eliminate? Those should be major components of your message.

Did I Say Duty-Bound?

I said it and I meant it.

If you provide a product or service that improves people’s lives, and if you care about people, doesn’t it make sense to actively persuade them to purchase your product or service? Doesn’t it also make sense that you remove every possible barrier that may keep them from buying from you?

Selling makes sense.

As I said in a recent newsletter, “selling is not putting external pressure on people. It is creating circumstances where targeted prospects feel internal tension caused by the disparity between where they are currently and where they want to be. A strong sales message heightens that tension as the listener feels the desire to take you up on your offer.”

Selling isn’t something you do to people. It’s something you do with people.

You can tell I’m pretty fired up about this topic. I believe that a majority of business owners and service providers, especially those who primarily operate online, need to re-think the way they sell. I also believe that a smart approach to selling will revolutionize their businesses.

For that reason, I’m starting a training program in January to help entrepreneurs, marketers, and salespeople

  • discover why your should-be customers turn you down
  • overcome their natural resistance and
  • sell actively without being obnoxious.

I’ll share more details soon.

Enjoy the last moments of 2014!


Need Your Content to Sizzle and Sell? Here Are Some Tips

Write Content that Sells

Just in case you missed it…

A couple weeks ago, Jeff Zelaya and I did a Google Hangout on Air to talk about “How to Write Content that Sizzles and Sells.” There’s a ton of mediocre content out there, both online and in print. We talked about getting ideas, honing your craft and writing stuff that doesn’t suck.

Because you’ll never bore anyone into buying, subscribing, or even reading your next paragraph.

Check out the replay:

Jeff also wrote a terrific recap of the Hangout at 13 Tips to Make Your Content Sizzle and Sell on Triblio’s blog, distilling the interview down into 13 actionable (and tweetable!) steps. Smart writing on his part, without a doubt.


How to Write Sizzling Content

Sizzling Content and Copy

“If the woman howling from the backseat of Agent Carson’s black SUV weren’t already dead, I would’ve strangled her. Gladly.”

So begins Darynda Jones’ latest book. But the book is captivating even before the opening line. The title instantly sends your mind on a journey of curiosity.

Seventh Grave and No Body.

To be fair, I haven’t read anything other than the first page of the book. The book cover caught by attention yesterday at Barnes & Noble. My imagination isn’t ready to stop thinking about where the story might go.

That’s what sizzling content does. It grabs your attention and puts it in a headlock. It activates the movie screen in your brain and reaches down to pull on the ol’ heartstrings, at least a little bit.

This is not the kind of writing we were taught in school. The style we mastered between K and 12 is almost the polar opposite, when you think about it: matter-of-fact, even clinical in it’s lack of emotion. Without personality. Yet, a large percentage of business owners and marketers carry this dry, academic style over into their attempts at sales and marketing.

Then they wonder why no one opens their emails.

Now, I know YOU don’t have that problem. But there’s a good chance that you feel like your writing could be stronger. You’d like for your content to be more persuasive. You want your marketing to pack more punch in whatever media you’re using.

If so, I hope you’ll join Jeff Zelaya from Triblio and me for “How to Write Content that Sizzles and Sells,” a Google Hangout On Air tomorrow (Monday, November 17) at 1 Eastern. We will discuss turning your articles, blog posts, video scripts, etc., into “page-turners” your  potential clients will have a hard time ignoring.

Check out the Event page for more details. You can even ask content marketing, writing or persuasion questions and we’ll try to answer them.

Hope to see you there!

P.S.  I want to quickly emphasize a takeaway we learn from the book I mentioned in the beginning of this post.

The title Seventh Grave and No Body, is pretty interesting all by itself. Even more than the words themselves, this title is engrossing because of the mental associations the reader carries while he reads. The title doesn’t mention anything about crime scenes, tricky murder investigations or elusive serial killers. You read that into the words on the page. The pictures created in your mind have more to do with your own personal experience than anything else.

The meaning of a word is greater than its definition.

Leveraging the power of mental associations is an advanced writing technique we’ll be covering during the Hangout. You’re not going to want to miss this.


Why I Only Teach One Kind of Telepathy

Did you see the marketing prank Sony did to promote the movie ‘Carrie’ last fall? It’s very clever and quite amusing when you know what’s going on. If you’ve never seen it, you should watch it. The video is less than 2.5 minutes. Even if you have seen it, you’ll probably enjoy watching it again.

[ The prank is about telekinesis, not telepathy, but I’ll come back to that because I teach one form of that, too. ]

Telepathy is transmitting a message from your brain directly to another person’s brain. And far from being confined to the fantasy world of sci-fi and horror movies, it is real. It is the force that moves nations as well as individual citizens like you and me.

“It’s amusing when you stop to think about it – for years people have argued about whether or not such a thing exists…and all the time it’s been right there, lying out in the open… All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing offers the purest distillation.”
~ Stephen King

Plato’s Republic. The Communist Manifesto. The Bible. The course of history has been shaped by the words written in these books.

Advertising words have also influenced culture, changed perceptions and built empires:

“This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” (Who can forget that one?)
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”  (At the time of his death Forrest Mars and two of his sons were the 29th, 30th and 31st riches Americans)
“A diamond is forever.”  (In 1939 only 10% of engagement rings had diamonds. By 1990, 80% did, largely because of the marketing efforts of the De Beers diamond cartel)

You Are Telepathic, Too…

…but you have to be intentional about it. Rule number one of selling is that nothing sells itself, no matter how good it is.

The people who should be your customers

  • don’t know you exist
  • don’t know there’s a solution for their problems at all
  • are already buying from the competition or
  • aren’t ready to buy yet.

The survival and success of your business depends on you proactively fixing each of those issues.

You need to get your sales message your should-be customers’ minds. That’s telepathy.

Then, you need to get those people to take action based on the message you delivered. That’s telekinesis.

The telepathy part
Create an appealing message. Consider what will appeal to those should-be customers; that’s more important than what you think is cool about your product. The approach most likely to get the right kind of attention is to address, in an interesting way, a topic that has a big impact on them.

Very few things get our attention like problems we’re facing right now.

(Check out the P.S. below for a partial list of ways to deliver your messages)

In that first instant, you must identify who you’re talking to (your should-be customers) and why they should continue paying attention. You can plainly state what kind of benefit they’ll get or you can tease them along with mystery. Both work well in certain situations.

Keep them interested by continually letting the reader/viewer/listener what’s in it for him. In the case above, the reader will have a happier wife, more productive communication, less time sleeping on the couch, etc.

The telekinesis part:

Let should-be customer know how to take advantage of your offer. Make the decision as easy as possible for him; remove as many obstacles (real or imagined) as possible. Help him see what he’ll be missing if he doesn’t take action.

Of course, not everyone will receive the message you’re sending out, and not everyone will move the way you hope. That’s just how these things work. But you have to realize that people everyone has needs and desires, and there’s a segment of the population for whom your product or service is the perfect solution. You would do them (and yourself) a disservice by not trying to get your thoughts into their minds and help them make choices that are in their best interest.

I’ll be sharing the best insights I’ve got on this topic during tonight’s Irresistible Offers teleseminar. If you’d like to improve your telepathic and telekinetic abilities, head over to to get registered. (I refuse to under-deliver, and my money-back guarantee confirms the fact).

P.S. Here’s a partial list of telekinesis delivery methods, in no particular order:

Writing blog posts or articles, on your site or other sites your target customers is likely to follow
Write for magazines, newsletters or trade journals
(Self) Publish and promote a book
Build and communciate with an email list. Or “borrow” someone else’s list
Real mail
Interview or be interviewed in traditional media (radio, TV, newspaper), Google Hangout, podcast, etc.
Youtube or Vimeo. Not (necessarily) being cool or funny, but educating, offering value and being helpful
Banner ads online
Space ads in newspapers or magazines
Pay-per click
Radio or TV commercials
Make phone calls
SMS mobile marketing
Social media

If you need help figuring out which of these channels will work for you, or if you’re not sure how to best use them to communicate your message, feel free to get in touch.



Quote of the Week 63

“I think that some of the direct mail I get is spoiled by the old-fashioned sin of pride…it’s all too easy for us to start to feel superior to the great multitude of readers out there. And sometimes, without really meaning to, we write down to them. I think that this shows through in the finished product and turns readers off. So when I’m working on my stuff, I try to keep in mind two things from the Good Book of Direct Response. One: Write unto others as you would have them write unto you. Two: Pride goeth before a flop. – Martin Conroy


5 Ways Twitter Improves Your Writing Skills

People keep telling me that the internet is making people dumber. To be honest, I don’t know whether or not that’s true. But did you know that Twitter can make you better writer?

If you are purposeful in your how you approach your use of any microblogging platform, there are 5 ways that you can they can skyrocket your writing ability.

1. You learn the value of every word — no, of every character. In writing, especially for marketing and sales, the tighter your message is, the better. When you have only 150 characters to work with, each letter has to earn it’s place. It has to pull it’s weight. This forces you to think carefully about your choice of words.

If you’ve ever gone over the character limit and had to edit your tweet, you know what I’m talking about. “How can I say what I need to say in the allotted space?” You have to be ruthless. If that comma isn’t serving a purpose, it’s gotta go!

2. You begin to break free from some of the “rule” forced on you by your English teachers.  The best writing is the plainest.  How many people do you know that speak with perfect grammar 100% of the time? In my neighborhood (Calumet City, IL, in south suburban Chicago), it’s probably less than 10%.

When you are communicating via the written word, sometimes there’s a desire to be super-formal.  Believe me, that’s not the best way to get your message across to the average audience. Unless you’re talking to English professors…

George Orwell’s sixth rule for good writing is to break any of  his other five rules before ”saying anything outright barbarous.”

Writers need to have the freedom to say what they mean, forsaking the rules when necessary.

3.  You have to learn to communicate in such a way that your reader will understand exactly what you mean. How many people do you know who don’t quite understand this principle? I see plenty of tweets that have no clear meaning, or that can be understood in multiple ways. Thoughtful writers will take the restricted amount of communication space to heighten their concentration. ”How can I eliminate any ambiguity and say what needs to be said so that the message is plainly understood?

This is great focus training for any writer.

4. You are forced to choose exactly what you want to say.  In an age where noisy chatter is constant, a Twitter message makes you strip your message down to the core. The way it should be. There’s no room to go off on tangents or talk about about non-essentials.

When brevity is required, you see who really knows how to communicate, and who’s just talkin’.

5. Twitter can give you extra writing practice. Tweeting is writing on a small scale. More practice is always a good thing. A high percentage of Twitter users access the social network with their cell phones. So even if you don’t have a pen and paper, you can practice crafting clear, compelling messages.