Dear Friends, 

About a month ago I was at the airport, briskly walking to my gate, when someone asked me, "Are you collecting points for this flight?"

Normally, when people ask me questions like this when I am walking through an airport or a mall, I ignore them because I know that they are trying to sell me something. 

But in this case, I stopped. My husband and I have been doing a lot of traveling, and we never seem to take advantage of frequent flyer miles, or hotel points or anything like that. It drives me crazy when my more organized friends announce that they're flying to Hawaii with their points because I'm sure I could go to Hawaii with all the points I've failed to collect.

Because the question struck a chord, I stopped, admitted that I wasn't getting points, and walked away ten minutes later with a shiny new credit card and a FREE planket (a pillow and a blanket in one!). 

I don't need a planket or a credit card, but somehow those six words, "Are you collecting points for this flight?" led me to stop, change my direction, listen with interest to a sales pitch and actually follow directions until the sale was made.

How did this happen? 

A good headline gets people to stop, listen, and act 

But how do you write a headline that does that? 

Many headlines are clever for the sake of showing off, and never manage to sell anything. 

There is a more effective way to get reader's attention. You can do that by following a formula called "The Four U's." 

Whenever you write a headline, ask yourself if the headline is unique, useful, ultra-specific and urgent.

In the case of the airline credit card, they focused on one ultra-specific benefit of the card (gaining points for every plane ticket that you buy) rather than trying to list all the benefits. As it turned out, gaining points was the one benefit that I was most concerned about because I was walking around in kick-myself mode, because I thought it was too late to collect points. 

The benefit was useful: when I spend money on airline tickets, I want to know that someday I will get a free ticket. 

The message was urgent. I've been putting this on the back burner for long enough, and got the feeling that if I didn't do something now, I wouldn't get points for this particular flight.

The message was unique. I've seen a lot of airline credit card ads focus on free luggage. This was the first time I heard someone ask about points, and so I would say it was unique. 

Use these four U's as a checklist whenever you are writing a space ad, an email subject line, or a sales letter headline. And let me know if you see a difference in the results.

Persuasive writing is a lot like hypnosis

In Hypnotic Writing; How to Seduce and Persuade Customers with Only Your Words, Joe Vitale explains that people are constantly in their own personal trance. They are in a state of waking hypnosis.
Vitale explains it this way, "Waking hypnosis is not magical or mystical. It's no different than being absorbed in a good movie, or being riveted by a good book. In each instance you are in a waking trance."
People spend most of their time in a waking trance. They are completely absorbed in their own world, not yours, and the only way you can get their attention is to say something that they care about. You start by saying planting a mental image in their mind, and focusing their attention so that you will make a sale.
To put it into simpler terms, your readers are reading for their own reasons. They are constantly asking, "So what?" "What's in it for me?" and "Why should I care?" The only thing that will compel readers to keep going is to have a good answer to these questions.
It's easy to block out most ads because they are focused on the product, not the customers' emotions, needs, and concerns. The more the sales process revolves around the customer, the more likely the message will be read. 
If your sales message is truly hypnotic, not only will your customers read it, they will become so focused on it that nothing else matters. Vitale wrote, "Hypnotic writing is intentionally using words to guide people into a focused mental state where they are inclined to buy your product or service." 

Don't get me wrong. Writing hypnotic sales messages does not mean that readers will robotically do your bidding. Any hypnotherapist will tell you that you cannot hypnotize someone into doing something against their will, and any sales writer will also tell you that you can't create desire that doesn't exist in the first place. 

You believe in your business, and your products. You know that what you offer can truly help people, right? Customers will never be able to benefit from what you have to offer, if they stop reading before the sale is made.
Once you have their focused attention, the trick is to get them to do something

A hypnotist might try to get you to cluck like a chicken or quit smoking. As a salesperson it's your job to make a sale before your customer finds an excuse to walk away.

At the airport, once I was standing next to the kiosk, even though I had already made up my mind that I wanted a credit card that would give me points for airline tickets, my mind was racing for an excuse to leave. All customers are like that. They don't like to be sold. 

In this case, they made the process of getting the ball rolling completely simple. It took five minutes and I was rewarded with the planket. (Good girl). 

When you are trying to make a sale, look at what a customer, client or donor has to go through to make the sale. Is there any way to make it simpler? If readers have too many choices, or given no direction at all, they won't do anything.

Ask your readers to do one thing and make it perfectly clear how they should do it.

If you are having trouble connecting, remember, customers are like airline passengers

When traveling, it's easy to zone out everything. People go by in a blur, you ignore the flight attendants when they explain the safety procedures, and you block out the conversations in the seats in front of you. 

At the same time, you can read a novel from cover to cover in a few hours or plug into your headphones and become engrossed in your music. Don't be discouraged and believe that just because people are in their own world, they will ignore your message. The people who will become your best customers are the ones who will continue reading until they have all the information they need to make a decision.
If you have any questions about how to use these techniques to build your business, give me a call.

Mandy Marksteiner
Copywriter and Marketing Consultant

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