Guest post by Ashley Preston
You only have six seconds to capture someone’s attention.
It is a busy world out there and you’re competing against all of it. Information is constant in today’s day and age, and it is always coming at us. So how do you get people to look up and listen through all the noise? How do you get them to click on the link? How do you get them to care about what it is you’re saying?
I spent a lot of time in newsrooms writing the promos and teases that kept viewers tuning in and clicking articles, and I can tell you there are a lot of ways to do it – with some ways proving to be more effective than others.
These are the best techniques newsroom writers use to get you to look up, click the link, and see what they have to say.
First Thing First
The single most important thing you can do is create content that has value. None of these tips matter if you’re pumping out bullshit that has little to no value to your audience. If you don’t understand or care about what you’re writing about, there is a good chance your clients won’t either.
Make sure what you’re writing about is worth the paper (digital or otherwise) it’s written on. Make sure you clearly understand what the objective of your information is, and how it helps your customers. Knowing the value you're providing makes it easier to show others why they should take time out of their busy days to consume your content.
Sure, you can write bad content with interesting teases that get people to click or listen, but you can only do that so often before you lose credibility.
Now that we’ve gotten that important disclaimer out of the way, here’s how you capture the attention of your readers or viewers with gusto.
Imagine This Scenario
Imagine a scenario where a family’s house burned down right before Christmas.
The family got out safely after a daring escape through a second-floor window, but now they don’t have a home or any presents to give to their children for the holiday. The Red Cross is helping, and a local charity is collecting Christmas donations.
The reporter covers the story – talking to the family about the fire, their escape, and the overwhelming sadness they feel when they think about Christmas morning. The reporter then talks to the organizations helping the family get back on their feet and have a good holiday.
The goal of the reporter’s story is to let the community know that the family is devastated by their loss, feels lucky to be alive, and that the public can still help make the holiday a little brighter for them.
There are several ways you could write headlines and teases for this type of story.
1. Call to Action
People react when there is a way to positively respond to information that upsets them.
In this instance, you would let the community know that they can do something to make this situation better. Oftentimes people feel helpless, especially in the face of bad news, so when people realize they can help, they will. A tease like this would focus on letting people know there are steps they can take to make things better for the family.
Example: “A local family barely escapes a fire that destroys everything they own days before Christmas; how you can help make sure that their holiday is still a festive one.”
2. Important / Interesting Facts
People love a good story, and we are drawn to shocking information.
While it is always important to lead with the most relevant information, it is also a wonderful way to turn someone’s head. These are the facts that people will remember and make people care; use that to your advantage. A tease like this would likely focus on the family’s escape and the community outpouring that quickly came in.
Example: “They barely escaped with their lives; a local family jumps from their second-story window to save themselves from a fire days before Christmas – what the community is now doing to help.”
3. Emotional Story
This is, without question, the most powerful tease element you can include. Most people are caring and can relate to the pain of others. It’s why I can’t hear Sarah Machlachlan’s 1999 hit “Angel” without thinking about dogs in cages. It is why music stirs us like it does. We are moved by raw emotion.
Emotional statements from people directly impacted by the situation stay with you. They help us empathize better with people. They encourage us to act. They help us better connect with ourselves and with others. If you can use an emotional tease, the general rule is do so, because you will usually see results.
In this scenario, a professional writer would lead with a statement from the family, something talking about how both grateful they are to be alive, but sad that their children will have nothing, along with information that the community can still help.
Example: “We are so grateful we made it out safely, but I still don’t know how we are going to tell the kids that Santa won’t be coming this year – what the community is doing to help a family who barely escaped a devastating house fire right before Christmas.”
Ponder This When Writing Headlines and Teases
All these techniques can be used together – a fact and the emotional toll it took on you, a fact with an action you can take, a brutal emotional plea and action you can take, etc. but make sure you factor in at least one of these elements.
When writing out your headlines and teases, ask yourself:
If you’re looking for more help getting your content strategy in the right place, or improving your internal communication, let us know. We are a group of business coaches (with a background in media and journalism) who are here to help you clarify your ideas, articulate your message, and execute your mission. We would love to help you show the world that what you’re doing matters.
Guest post by Ashley Preston
I know you want me to write a simple how-to manual for lead generation right now – something that helps you lay out your plan in a neat, step-by-step fashion. However, I am here to tell you that it does not exist.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to closing sales because no business offering is the same. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not showing your company’s unique value the respect it deserves.
Creating more leads and converting them into sales is both an art and a science, so we must have the mindset of a mad genius such as Salvador Dali, in addition to the painstaking laboratory rigor of Marie Curie. It takes an artist’s view of layers, tone, color, experimentation, proactive and reactive adjustments, and a little bit of bravery to find out what works for you and your business.
Think Like an Artist Instead of a CEO
As an artist, I can tell you that there are plenty of times I have started a drawing, spent hours on it, stepped back, and realized something was still not quite right. When that happens, I am left with two options.
Depending on the issue and the medium I am working in, I can sometimes correct it and keep moving forward with that piece. Other times, though, I see that I will ultimately spend less time working by abandoning that version and starting from scratch.
In sales, sometimes we spend so much time in the rapport-building process that we lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve – a sale. It may be beneficial to step back from the sales process and consider what nuance or elements have been missing. Are you lacking the warmth of trust, the heat of authority, or maybe the cool shades of thoughtfulness. Treat the relationship like a creative collaboration, adding these new tones as needed.
You may also want to look at your social media channels and the message they are sending about you and your business. What types of posts are getting the most interaction from your audience? What is getting them to comment? Are they responding more to questions or product information or funny posts? What content is getting the feedback you’d hoped for? Adjust your content strategy as needed until you’re attracting the right attention to your business.
Pay close attention to the flow of your sales conversations. You may even record them and analyze the play-by-play. Pay attention to the language your customers are using when they are interacting with you. You can mirror those word choices to better connect with them. Pay attention to their complaints if they have them; they are sharing pain points you might be able to help resolve. Conversations can reveal so much when we allow ourselves to let the moment dictate our actions.
I will sometimes start a painting with little idea of what I want to create – letting the painting naturally materialize through experimentation. This is much like analyzing client needs – taking one step (and one question) at a time until that discovery process is complete and a richly detailed image of the client's problem has taken shape.
While I have been immersed in art since I was young, there are plenty of techniques and styles I have not touched upon yet. I will often pull out my old art tutorial books or watch a YouTube video to see how other artists tackled something, but even then, it is up to me to incorporate the information in a way that works with my own style.
You may consider watching YouTube videos by thought leaders and sales experts (Jill Konrath, Gary Vee, etc.) or watching some sales role-play videos to tighten up your practice.
As an artist, you need to be willing to make mistakes and adjustments. The process of creating is just as important as the result. Allow yourself space to let the process tell you what it needs. Give yourself permission to start over when it is called for and don’t waste time on something that no longer works.
Give Yourself Space to Experiment
Bravery is not the lack of fear – it is action despite that fear. It is terrifying to take risks. Even as someone who is comfortable with some risk, I still feel afraid when I take chances, even if I believe the odds are in my favor that things will be fine.
Often, successful people are willing to deal with short-term discomfort because they know there is no perfect approach. All knowledge is useful. Learning from your sales and messaging mistakes allows you to refine the messages that best land with your ideal clients.
Sales is not a numbers game. It has always been about quality.
Make time to experiment with new ideas. Each week, or each workday, testing out new concepts and playing with sales pitches can make a difference in the results you’re getting. Think of all the things you might experiment with -- your greeting, your signature, your subject line, the first sentence, the length of your message, the tone of your message, or the font you’re using.
It takes conscious effort to allow yourself to openly create, but the rewards you reap from that kind of healthy risk are tangible.
Use Data to Refine Sales Messages and Get Results
There is not much point in doing something if we are unwilling to learn from it. The beauty of that type of experimentation is that you can collect a wide range of direct data to help you refine or recreate your message.
Pay attention to what techniques and language are connecting (or not connecting) with clients. Maybe they are smiling or leaning forward when you use a certain phrase, or you notice that you have connected with numerous potential clients through a certain social media platform. You may leave a sales meeting feeling how much they love you, but then they go radio silent and stop responding to your calls. Use that information to tweak and refine your strategy.
Keep a list of pitches that have worked well. Take note when someone responds exceptionally to something you said. Track response times to see when potential clients are generally online. Track your follow up and the time it takes to get a response during the week compared to over the weekend. Use whatever information you can pull to test your experiments, and adjust your strategy as needed.
Stop Looking for The Perfect Sales Conversion Process
Just stop. It can feel lonely and stressful when making choices that affect your business, reputation, and even income.
However, it is important to remember that you did not come this far to only come this far. You have made difficult choices before, and you will continue to make choices that you think will best benefit your business.
And that is the whole point. Whether you are the Director of Development or the CEO, you likely want to be in charge and have some say over what happens to the clients in your pipeline. You know what is best for your clients and your business, so own it.
Be Comfortable with the Unknown
It takes effort and practice to have faith in your process. We often want immediate results and concrete proof that something will work before we even attempt it, but you will get much farther by trying new ideas, using first-hand data to pivot your message and approach, taking the reins of your business and doing away with the limitations of any out-of-the-box program or process.
It’s our mission to identify development opportunities and help our clients think like artists. The best artists are willing to shape, and even scrap, their own work. Find your power, formulate your plan of attack and throw away that dusty old playbook. If you need help getting clear on your next best steps or want to schedule a conversation, send us a message.
ABOUT THE Author
Joran Slane Oppelt is an international speaker, author and consultant with certifications in coaching, storytelling, design thinking and virtual facilitation.