As part of the B2B Writers International Book Club, we recently read Fascinate: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist by Sally Hogshead.
In her book, Hogshead says you face three enemies when you’re trying to communicate with your audience.
This is the first in a series of three articles that’ll show you how to overcome these threats, so your message gets through to the people who need to see it.
So, first up…
10 Tips for Combating Distraction
“The addictive nature of web browsing can leave you with an attention span of nine seconds… In this distracted environment, you have only an instant to communicate, convince, and convert.” — Sally Hogshead
There’s so much information coming at us today, we are overwhelmed and overstimulated. We cannot give equal attention to everything we see and hear. And with the increase in AI-generated content, the problem will only get worse.
As copywriters, we need to communicate quickly and effectively if we want our target audience to slow down and listen to us. If our readers get confused or distracted, we’ll lose them. And they’ll take their attention elsewhere.
How do you fight against distraction? Here are 10 tips for writing copy that communicates, convinces, and converts.
1. Master the Headline
A headline is the first thing readers see. An attention-grabbing headline is the difference between content that gets clicked on and content that’s ignored.
To craft an attention-grabbing headline, you start by understanding your audience’s needs and desires.
Pose a question, challenge a common belief, or make a bold statement.
And remember, clarity trumps cleverness.
Here are two headline examples.
Tips for Better Gardening
It’s a nice, if bland headline.
Compare that to Transform Your Backyard: 5 Secrets to a Blooming Oasis.
Which one would you be more excited to read?
2. Don’t Bury the Lede
“Burying the lede” is an old journalism term that refers to starting an article with secondary information instead of the main idea.
In today’s fast-paced digital environment, readers want instant gratification. Get to the point — quickly.
Here’s an example.
Burying the Lede: “In recent studies, many Americans have voiced concerns about air quality. With various environmental factors at play, it’s essential to have a solution. Our purifier means clean air in your home.”
Direct Approach: “Breathe easier with our top-rated air purifier that addresses America’s growing concern about indoor air quality.”
With the second example, you give the reader the Big Idea in one easy sentence.
3. Clarity Over Complexity
Industry-specific language and jargon might sound impressive, but it’s essential to remember that people often skim content online. They may skip your content if they stumble upon unfamiliar or complex terms.
Check out this example.
Jargon-Filled: “Our proprietary bi-modal congruent software interface optimizes the end user’s digital experience.”
Clear and concise: “Our software simplifies your tasks so your online experience is smooth and efficient.”
In the first example, the reader is probably thinking, “Huh? I have no idea what you just said.”
In the second, they say, “I get it. This software makes my job easier.”
4. Benefits, Not Features
While features describe what a product or service does, benefits explain how it adds value or improves the user’s life. Benefits answer the customer’s question, “What’s in it for me?”
Here’s an example.
Feature-Centric: “Our vacuum cleaner boasts a five-speed motor and advanced HEPA filter system.”
The reader might say, “Ummm, okay. And? What does that do for me?”
Benefit-Focused: “Enjoy a dust-free home and breathe easier with our powerful vacuum, designed to capture even the finest particles.”
Now, the reader is more apt to say, “Yes! I want to breathe easier in a dust-free home!”
5. Use Urgency
Urgency can be a potent motivator when used genuinely and not excessively. It plays on our inherent desire to take advantage of opportunities.
This is what urgency might look like.
Regular Statement: “Enroll in our online course to learn digital marketing.”
Urgency-Infused: “Enroll now! Only 10 slots left in our exclusive digital marketing masterclass. Don’t miss out!”
Be cautious, though — fabricating urgency can erode trust. If you tell the reader there are only 10 slots left, there better be just 10 slots left. Today’s consumers are savvy. They’ll call out inconsistencies in your marketing, and you’ll lose their trust forever.
6. Harness the Power of Persuasive Language
Persuasive language uses specific words and phrases to evoke emotion, build trust, or establish authority. It taps into the decision-making part of the brain, making your content more memorable and actionable.
Look at this example.
Regular Statement: “Our fitness program can help you lose weight.”
Persuasive Pitch: “Unlock a healthier, more confident you with our proven fitness program, tailor-made to transform your life.”
Losing weight is nice, but isn’t being healthier and confident more enticing?
7. Personalize Your Message
In an age of information overload, personalization stands out. It shows your audience you’re paying attention and care about their unique needs.
Here’s an example.
Generic Statement: “Our software is trusted by many businesses.”
Personalized Pitch: “As a thriving start-up, discover why businesses like yours are scaling faster with our dedicated software solutions.”
In the first example, they’re talking about any business. It could be a small mom-and-pop store, or it could be a Fortune 500 enterprise.
In the second example, they’re talking specifically to start-ups interested in scaling.
8. Perfect Your Call-to-Action
A call-to-action (CTA) is a prompt that encourages readers to take a specific action. In a sea of content, a well-crafted CTA ensures that your audience knows exactly what step to take next.
Look at these examples.
Weak CTA: “Submit.”
Strong CTA: “Start your journey to better health today!”
9. Leverage Social Proof
Social proof comes in various forms — testimonials, reviews, endorsements, case studies, or even the sheer number of product users. Including social proof alleviates skepticism and builds confidence in your offering.
Here’s what social proof might look like.
Without Social Proof: “Our online course is comprehensive and transformative.”
With Social Proof: “Join the 5,000+ professionals who’ve elevated their careers with our comprehensive online course. Amanda from XYZ Corp says: ‘This course was a game-changer!'”
In the first example, you only have the seller’s word that the course is comprehensive and transformative.
In the second, you know that 5,000 others have taken the course, and one thought it was a “game-changer.”
10. Embrace the Power of Storytelling
Stories help humans connect, empathize, and understand the world around them. Framing your product or service within a story makes it more memorable, relatable, and impactful.
Look at this example.
Standard Statement: “Our shoes are durable and comfortable.”
Storytelling Approach: “John trekked across Europe, from bustling cities to rugged terrains. Throughout his journey, one thing remained consistent: the comfort and resilience of our shoes. Experience the adventure without compromising on comfort.”
Which description makes you more eager to try the shoes?
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Distraction
In today’s digital whirlwind, getting noticed is half the battle.
Think of these tips next time you’re crafting that killer piece of copy. They’re your toolkit for capturing attention and creating meaningful connections in a noisy world.