by Tom Ruwitch
Near the end of his career, legendary copywriter Gary Halbert quizzed a protege. “The best way to get a prospect’s attention is to appeal to their sense of…”
The protege thought about it for a moment and replied, “...Their sense of self-interest.”
Halbert said, “No…their sense of curiosity.”
Decades earlier, the advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins said something similar: “‘No other activating factor compares with curiosity.”
Marketing experts often tell us to discover prospects’ aspirations and fears and speak to those. That’s the self-interest thing. And it IS important.
But before you can show prospects how you’ll fulfill their aspirations and protect them from feared outcomes, you have to get their attention…
…and appealing to their sense of curiosity is a great way to do that.
Want to write better subject lines or headlines. Spark curiosity.
And here are two words that will spark it: Why and how.
If you join my email list (which I shamelessly recommend), you’ll see lots of subject lines that start with “Why…” or “How…”
“Why knowledge alone will get you nowhere”
“How to thrive, not just survive, during these crazy days”
“How to rise above the dime-a-dozen”
“Why Disney’s magic-makers have systems for everything”
Each of those subject lines sparks the reader’s curiosity. They wonder “why?” or “how?”
The first three also speak to readers’ self-interest. They don’t want to “get nowhere.” They want to thrive, not just survive. They want to rise above.
The fourth one trades on Disney’s success and reputation to imply: Valuable business information enclosed.
Here’s one I received a while ago in my inbox: “Top marketers say this is more important than anything else…”
That got my attention. That sparked my curiosity. “I wonder what that ‘more important’ thing is,” I thought.
In 1921, a copywriter named Max Sackheim wrote this headline for an advertisement promoting the Sherwin Cody School of English and its products:
“Do You Make These Mistakes in English”
Ads with that headline ran for more than 40 years. Why? Because decade after decade, that headline inspired curious people to think, “I wonder what mistakes he’s talking about?” So they kept reading. And the ad kept selling. It wouldn’t have run for 40 years unless it worked.
Try it with your marketing. Spark curiosity with your next subject line. Sprinkle some curiosity into headlines and subheadings on your website. Introduce a sales letter with a curiosity-sparking headline.
You’ll draw readers in, which is the only way to get them to your call-to-action.
Tom Ruwitch is founder of Story Power Marketing. Coaches, consultants and other experts hire him to power up their stories because most dish out the same boring content, put prospects to sleep, and then feel fed up and stuck. So he helps transform content from boring to brilliant, marketing from frustrating to fun, and results from pitiful to profitable. Sign up for Tom’s info-taining, daily(ish) emails at storypowermarketing.com/email.