Foolproof Attention-Getting Tactics of Great Copywriters

attention-getting copywriting secrets

How do you break through the hullabaloo that your “should-be” customers are immersed in and get YOUR message across?

Well, it starts with attention. “Have I got your attention? Good.” **Queue scene from Glengarry Glen Ross**

I got the chance to spill some of what I’ve learned about getting attention online, in print and in person on The Small Business Marketing Report podcast (now called the Click and Convert Podcast) with Robert Tyson.

In 56 minutes, we discussed:

  • How to use hidden dangers and unexpected consequences to draw people to your message like moths to a flame
  • Why certain kinds of statistics get shared on social media
  • Why picking a fight is often great for business (and how to benefit even if you don’t do the fight-picking)
  • How to use personality… and how much personality is too much?
  • How to use secrets and codes for almost guaranteed attention

Check out “The Psychology of Attention: 5 Foolproof Ways to Grab ‘Em by the Eyeballs”

Honestly, I’ve been fiending to be a guest on The Small Business Marketing Report podcast for quite some time, and I’m a big fan of Robert and his co-host Sean Clark, so I’m excited about this.


Update: Now you can listen to the interview here!


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)


Are You Playing the Flashlight Game with Your Clients

Blackout Attention

My 4 year-old son gets a major kick out of playing with flashlights. He loves to turn out all the lights in the house and pretend it’s a blackout. Then he runs around the house, exploring and frolicking in the dark.

His fascination must have started during a real power outage about 2 years ago (seen in the photo above).

The other night, my 11 year-old twin daughters (also seen in the photo) were putting away their laundry when the flashlight game began. The weren’t supposed to play along, but the game’s allure proved to be too strong. Before long, the girls stopped working to join the fun.

The flashlight game is far too enticing to ignore.

Are Your Clients Playing Your Game?

When you reach out to your prospects and customers, are you presenting them with ideas, words, images and offers too enticing too ignore?

Frankly, none of us have much of an option these days. The people you’re trying to connect with have a limited mental bandwidth. They can only really pay attention to one thing at a time — and there are no shortage of messages and people fighting to be that one thing.

The brain always pays attention to the most interesting thought it can find. Not necessarily the most meaningful or most important, but the most interesting. (That doesn’t mean that you throw away the meaningful, important stuff. You just have to lead with a thought so intriguing that it can’t be ignored. Earn attention, then deliver the meat of the message.)

Turning the Lights On

A flashlight in a dark room gets everyone’s attention. In marketing, it’s not quite that simple. You have to know what kinds of things your ideal clients are interested in. Hint: every answer to this question is about the client — not you.

Everyone is interested in problems that are bugging them…pain that is plaguing them…goals they haven’t reached yet. What are your audience’s problems, pains and goals?

Speak to your clients and potential clients in an unexpected way. Predicable marketing is easily dismissed. Make big, yet believable claims. Or make promises that are so unbelievable that the listener/reader/viewer can’t help but wonder what you’re up to.

One of my favorite novelists, Ted Dekker, put it like this: A good writer is one who can take those rather blunt instruments called words and string them together in a way that turns lights on.

Connection Concept

Whatever you do, don’t be boring!

In many ways, your audience are walking around in the dark. It’s your job to get their attention so you can turn on the lights for them.

There’s only a few more hours to get the 50% discount on next week’s Irresistible Offers teleseminar.  Until 11:59 Central tonight (August 4th), you’ll pay $29 for the hour-long training. Find out more at

**Update May 19, 2017**

I recently recorded a livestream video about writing copy that wins and keeps your should-be clients’ attention. In about 10 minutes, I shared 4 critical ideas that you can put into practice today. Thought you might get some value from it.



How Do I Get People to Want What I Sell? Part 2

Vision USP

Don’t forget to read Part 1.

The Main Qualifier

Whether they’re aware of it or not, every single person on this planet is on a quest. This quest is defined by the person’s vision of his life, both how he interprets his past and imagines his future. It’s the lens through which he sees himself and his place in the world.

This quest can take all kinds of shapes. To be a millionaire living on a tropical island by the age of 35. A mother of two beautiful children. To be respected by his golf buddies. To “just fit in,” or to stand out from the crowd. To rock and roll all night and party every day.

Please understand, persuasion isn’t about building a vision for its own sake. The images you create with your sales and marketing messages have to complement the hearer/reader/viewer’s vision for his own life. They have to fit that vision and expand upon it. Clarify it. They have to move the hearer further along his life-quest.

For example, painting vivid mental pictures of arthroscopic knee surgery won’t convince anyone to undergo the procedure. (That would probably have the opposite effect, wouldn’t you say?) Rather, images of pain-free movement, the ability to participate in activities you’ve missed out on for years, the enjoyment of an energetic, uninhibited life – that’s what sells.

“That’s Not How I See My Life”

A number of years ago, my wife and I had a disagreement over observing a particular tradition. I wanted to abstain from observing it. She plainly informed me that she would not be married to someone who wouldn’t keep this custom. “That’s not how I see my life,” she explained.

My bride had a vision for what her life would look like. She had a strong drive to make the vision a reality.

I was driven by the way I saw the future, too. I envisioned myself as a happily married man, and I was just as motivated to make my vision reality. Needless to say, the aforementioned tradition hasn’t been interrupted since that conversation.

That’s the importance of the quest.

Our quest dictates our priorities (in large part); our priorities determine our decisions, including what we buy.

Knowing and Playing Your Role

The kind of heroes people want are the ones who assist them in making their dreams come true. We want heroes who help us become the heroes we envisions ourselves as becoming on our life mission.

Remember: your customer is the protagonist of his own story. You’re a role player helping him overcome the conflict and reach ultimate victory. It’s your job to talk/write your way into the plot of his story.

The question is, how do you do that?

1. Get the attention of people whose story you can transform in a unique way: Your business won’t fit into everyone’s story. That’s cool because you don’t want to get involved in everyone’s story. You need to have a) a clear understanding of the value you can create for your customers, b) who those customers are, and c) how to gain their attention.

2. Paint a picture of the problem: If you talk about the “good life,” people who don’t have it will feel the sting. Alternatively, you could talk about the problem itself. Your message will resonate with those who are struggling through the challenges now, or those who have already given up in despair. If you can use language they’d use to describe their experience, you’ll really strike a chord. They see that you understand them and their difficulties. It’s much easier to trust the advice of someone who knows what you’re going through.

You can inspire those individuals that there’s still hope, and you’ve found it. You’re also the best person to lead them to the source of that hope.

3. Paint a picture of progress: When you build vision in your prospect’s mind of the progress he’s looking for but doesn’t yet have (or doesn’t know how to get), his desire intensifies. It takes on a definite shape, like liquid poured into a bottle which you design. He’ll probably feel it in his gut. He wants that progress, and if you do it right, he’ll see your solution as the best way to get it.

Last week I shared a quote from Gene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising. Let me share another excerpt as an poignant example. It’s a bit lengthy, but compelling. From the Preface to the Boardroom Edition:

This book was first published in 1966…it only sold a few thousand copies. But since it was published I have had people coming to me regularly to tell me that they directly credit reading this book with their making millions of dollars.

… Here is a book that is called Breakthrough Advertising…and yet was used by men who were not in the business of advertising at all, to make more money than most of us ever dream of accumulating.

How did this happen? Why was a publisher, a financier, a manufacturer of novelties, able to make so very much money with a book that is about putting sentences together? (The financier told me that, within one year of obtaining the book, he had raised his net worth from $100,000 to $10 million). Are the sentences contained in the pages that follow actually that powerful? Can they change the fortunes of men so radically? Are they far more universally adaptable than I had first thought…so they are no longer about advertising products, but literally about opening whole new markets for them?

There is a way to develop an entirely new market for a new or an old product. That way involves a certain number of clearly-defined step. And in this book I show you every single one of those steps…

We are, in a phrase, “Market Makers”…

So, this book is not about building better mousetraps. It is, however, about building larger mice, and then building terrifying fear of them in your customers. In other words, it is about helping to shape the largest and strongest market possible, and then intensifying that market’s reaction to its basic need or problem, and the “exclusive” solution you have to offer it.

Ask Rodale Press–for whom I sold over twenty million dollars of a single book…

Creates some nice images, right? After reading the preface, it’s hard for an entrepreneur or marketer not to be excited about reading the rest of the book.

As you can see, better words paint sharper pictures. Vivid images are the holy grail of desire intensification. Don’t slack off in this area.

In Part 3 we’ll wrap up this short course on desire intensification. Until then, think about the pictures you paint. Think about how what you’re learning about your customers’ desires can make bolder, brighter and clearer visions in their minds. Then work on improving the words and sentences you use to win your customers over.



I usually don’t gush with praise for TV commercials, but Old Spice did something brilliant here.

Sure, it’s loud, over the top and a bit obnoxious, but there’s a powerful lesson to be learned (p-p-pardon the p-p-pun).

If you want your advertising to be profitable, you have to grab your audience’s attention. There are an infinite ways to do this, most of which don’t involve putting your head through a wall (or making the volume on your commercial super-loud, as many advertisers are doing these days. Shouting at your customers is rarely a good way to build relationships or get them to buy).

This commercial is great because it was as unexpected as any I’ve ever seen. Terry Crews literally hijacked a Charmin spot. Viewers had their attention focused (to a greater or lesser degree) on bath tissue, only to be rudely interrupted…in an unforgettable and creative way.

What can you do to hijack your audience’s attention? You can’t sell to them until you do.