How to Get Your Prospect to "Listen" to You

[Based on an article by Michael Masterson: "How to Get People to Listen to You" and an article by John Forde: "Memories, Behavior, and the Volkswagen Beetle"]

When you're trying to grab and keep your reader's attention the same rules apply to your writing as they do when you have your prospect standing right in front of you.

Most people, most of the time, are more than willing to listen to what you have to say, so long as what you have to say is interesting.

But what is interesting?

Dale Carnegie's explanation – first articulated in his book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" – is as true today as it was back then. People are most interested in themselves.

Carnegie said that if you want to be considered a great conversationalist, you should say practically nothing. Instead, you should ask questions about the other person. The periodic question coupled with a lot of nodding will make even the dullest dinner guest appear to be a conversational maven.

So the secret to being an interesting conversationalist is to figure out how to keep turning the conversation back to the other person – his interests, wants, and needs, as well as his thoughts, opinions, and accomplishments.

As a copywriter, you already know the power of "You." You also know through the AWAI program that it's not always just using "You" that draws the reader in. It's about deeper emotions and benefits that connect you to your reader.

John Forde wrote a great article about this in a past issue of The Golden Thread (Memories, Behavior, and the Volkswagen Beetle). Since most buying decisions start at an emotional level, not a rational one he suggests using vivid, emotionally charged memories to get your reader's attention.

For instance (and this comes straight from John's article), say you're writing for, an audience that's now 65 years old …

You might want to carefully drop in allusions to what life was like from 1950 to 1955. It was very different from the world today. You might at least want to get a feel for what attitudes were like then and try to filter your copy so it appeals to that perspective of the world. Choosing the right remembered details is how you make your message relevant to your prospect. Where they grew up … what major world events had an impact on their lives …what music they listened to … what jobs they might have held …

Other things you can do to encourage your readers to listen to you is to consider what we've found to be the most important elements of a successful direct mail package:

  • You must figure out what the prospect is really concerned about and make sure most of the copy addresses that concern and not others.
  • You must stress the USP of the product in the beginning, middle, and end of the promotion. If you are not sure of your USP, don't stop until you get one you like.
  • Make at least one big and irresistible promise. It's fine to have dozens of smaller benefits and promises embedded in your copy, but unless you can come up with one overriding promise that touches all your prospect's buttons, you will never have a blockbuster success.
  • Avoid phoniness of all kinds. The strongest copywriters speak with the clearest voices. Study the product until you find out how it can really help your prospect. Then get excited about the good it's going to do and let that excitement show through in your language. Search out and destroy all clichés, especially advertising clichés.
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Published: March 21, 2003

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