5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil

"We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions." – Jerod Morris

All writing is persuasion in one form or another.

This is more obvious in some types of writing than others, but it is nonetheless true for all.

When it comes to copywriting, it is clearly true. Every piece of copy we write should drive a reader toward a specific action.

“Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.”

– David Sedaris

But even the best piece of copy in the world doesn’t actually control a reader’s actions. Well-written copy only provides the “illusion of control.” What a reader does after reading is dependent on the “stuff” they brought into it.

That “stuff” includes past experiences, preconceived notions, and, above all else, cognitive biases.

Let’s discuss a helpful handful of these cognitive biases — some you’ll know well, some you may not — and how understanding them and structuring your content in a way that acknowledges and appreciates them will help you connect, compel, and serve better.

What are cognitive biases?

“A cognitive bias refers to the systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.”

Wikipedia

In other words, cognitive biases are mental shortcuts we all make, all the time, without consciously realizing it, that can lead to irrational thoughts and actions.

An example:

We tend to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions.

I sat down to write this article believing that understanding cognitive biases would be useful for content marketers. So, I researched articles that discussed how marketers use cognitive biases to influence decision-making. Naturally, I found many, which confirmed by preconception.

This is called confirmation bias.

In this case, my clear confirmation bias did not lead to a poor or irrational decision. The scientific evidence is quite clear, and ever-expanding, that cognitive biases are indeed constantly affecting people’s decisions and behavior. So, the premise of this article is built on a solid foundation of unbiased evidence.

But what if my goal had been to poke holes in the idea of cognitive biases existing and affecting behavior?

I would have had a hard time finding any credible evidence to support my hypothesis — and, if I did, I would have been much more likely to place undue weight on its validity due to my preconception.

We’ll never eliminate cognitive biases, in ourselves or others. There’s no use trying. All we can do is understand them, embrace them, and endeavor to use them ethically and morally*.

*This is important: There can be a fine line between understanding cognitive biases and then using them for good or exploiting them for evil. If you’re not committed to staying on the ethical and moral side of that line, please stop reading this article now and consider not coming back to this site. You’re definitely not for us, and we’re probably not for you.

4 more cognitive biases you need to know to better serve your readers

Hopefully it’s clear why acknowledging your own natural proclivity for confirmation bias is important. You and your audience will be well-served by your commitment to combating it.

Now let’s run through several additional cognitive biases that your readers bring with them to your content and how those might help both you and your readers make better decisions. (This is a carefully curated list, but I recommend this blog post at Neuromarketing for a deeper dive into 60+ cognitive biases that are useful to know.)

1. Attentional bias

We have a tendency to be affected by our recurring thoughts. Brand advertising is built on that premise.

The more people see an image or a message, the more likely they are to remember the brand, trust the company, and then do business with it down the line.

So if you want to influence your audience with a call to action — for example, trying out our new StudioPress Sites product — then you’re much better off repeating it often, and in several different places.

Consider how often we have subtly and not-so-subtly exposed people to StudioPress Sites as they’ve navigated through the Rainmaker Digital universe over the last few weeks:

  • StudioPress.com has been revamped to display Sites as a major component
  • Brian Clark dropped hints, then followed with explicit mentions on his podcast Unemployable
  • We reached out to StudioPress affiliates prior to the launch to prepare them, and many have published posts alerting their audiences to Sites’s arrival
  • We published an announcement here on the Copyblogger blog
  • We’re running paid ads announcing Sites

You get the picture.

Don’t say it once — say it often, and in many different places.

2. Framing effect

There is the offer. And then there is how you frame the offer.

For example, we recently had a fundraising drive for The Assembly Call — a live postgame show and podcast about Indiana basketball that I co-host. We have sponsors for the show, but we are also listener supported.

Our goal was to generate $2,613 (more on the odd specificity of this number in a minute) during an eight-day window. We promoted the fundraising drive to our email list of about 3,300 people.

The offer — in this case, more of a request — began with:

“All we’re asking is for you to contribute what you believe our content is worth. If you do find value in what we do, any donation helps.”

Okay. Fine.

Now here is how we framed the donation request:

“The average donation has been $52 and the most common donation denomination has been $50. But we’ve had donations as small as $4 and as large as $300.

In fact, this email will go out to roughly 3,300 people … so if every person just donates a dollar, roughly the cost of a gas station coffee, we’ll fly past our goal.”

The initial request left so much open to interpretation: How much should I donate? What’s reasonable? What have other people donated? Will my donation actually make a difference?

Questions like these, left unanswered, can lead to friction that prohibits action.

But framing the requested action based on what’s common and what the range has been — and then explaining how a comparatively small contribution could still make a difference — helped to reduce this friction and induce action.

(In addition, you can see the bandwagon effect at work here: the part that explains what other people have already done.)

We reached our goal in less than 24 hours. I have no doubt this framing had a huge impact.

So, did we play a psychological trick on our audience?

No.

We had many donors who actually thanked us for giving them the opportunity to contribute to the cause. They wanted to support us. We have a good product, a good relationship with our audience, and this was a fair request that we’d earned the right to make.

This is the difference between ethical and moral use of cognitive biases in marketing and using knowledge of cognitive biases to take advantage of an unsuspecting target.

3. Bizarreness effect

So, why the oddly specific number $2,613? Why not $2,500 or $3,000?

Because people are more likely to take notice of — and remember — something that stands out rather than blends in. This is also referred to as the Von Restorff effect.

I’ve found it to be especially true when it comes to headlines and email subject lines, and I knew that the amount of donations we’d receive would be in part dependent upon the open rate of the email blast.

The subject line we used was: “Will you help us reach our goal of $2,613?” I also had the email come from “Jerod Morris” as opposed to “The Assembly Call.”

The number shouts from the inbox, inducing curiosity and demanding a click. As does the request of “help,” especially from a person’s name rather than a brand name; it’s compelling.

We never ask our audience for “help” and they rarely get an email from my name. Bizarre. We figured they’d want to know why.

An open rate of 70 percent suggests they did.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 11.28.43 AM

And the donations that were coming in as late as a week after sending that email (without another email blast to remind them) suggest that the offer was indeed memorable.

4. Risk compensation

Some of these cognitive biases just make simple sense. Like risk compensation, which suggests that people adjust their behavior in relation to perceived risk — we’re more likely to take a bigger risk when perceived safety increases, and vice versa.

This is precisely why every single product we sell at Rainmaker Digital comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

And why we focus on the guarantee toward the ends of promotions.

For example, we recently announced that the price of the Rainmaker Platform was going up. (Spoiler alert: the promo is over; the price has already gone up.)

Here’s what the final email, sent two hours prior to the price raise, looked like:

“Subject: [2 Hours Left] The Price of Rainmaker Goes Up Soon

One last reminder …

Start your free, 14-day trial of the Rainmaker Platform in the next two hours so that you lock in the current price (before it goes up).

Of note:

  • If you cancel prior to your 14-day trial ending, you won’t be charged at all.
  • If you decide to cancel within 30 days of your first payment, you’ll get a refund with no questions asked.
  • In either situation, you can export whatever progress you’ve made with your site and take it with you elsewhere.

So there’s no risk, just a massive annual savings you can lock in.

Click here to start your no-risk free trial of the Rainmaker Platform today.”

We’d proudly suggest the Rainmaker Platform to any of our audience members who have a desire to build and sell digital products. Still, that doesn’t mean starting a trial is without risk, or perceived risk.

A few risks people might identify — rationally or irrationally — before signing up:

  • I have to enter a credit card, so am I going to get charged right away? (Nope, you aren’t charged until the trial ends.)
  • If I make a payment, but then realize Rainmaker won’t work for me, am I out the money? (Nope, you get a refund within the first 30 days of payment.)
  • But what if there is nothing wrong with the Platform and I just decide I don’t want it? (Not a problem! We don’t ask any questions.)
  • I just don’t want to be hassled if I want to cancel and get my money back. (Again, no problemo. The money-back guarantee is no questions asked.)
  • Okay, but what if I did a bunch of work to set stuff up. I don’t want to lose that if I cancel. (No worries. You can export any work you do and take it elsewhere.)

See how that works?

The copy answers the kinds of questions that will naturally come up before action and can even preempt the fears that cause the questions in the first place.

By dissolving the fears that risks induce, we offer people a more comfortable journey down a path they are already interested in walking (and that we know, long-term, could be a path they’ll be thankful we presented to them).

And this is a big reason why (along with the cognitive bias that induces FOMO, of course) the last day of the promo was by far the most successful one. Thirty-eight percent of new trials during the promo period started on the final day, many after this final risk-compensating reminder email was sent out.

So, is the “illusion of control” really such an illusion after all?

It’s interesting to note that illusion of control is also a cognitive bias, suggesting “the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.” (Via RationalWiki.org)

You’re not there with your reader as she consumes your words. You’re not inside her brain, finding out exactly how she’s interpreting what you’ve written. You’re not present to offer any additional arguments about why she should take the action you’d like her to take.

So any control you feel you have as a copywriter does, indeed, seem like an illusion.

And yet …

We know that well-written copy is more likely to influence desired outcomes than poorly written copy.

We know that well-written copy contains words that make sound logical arguments, that empathize, and that possess the ability to compel useful emotional reactions in a reader.

Your ability to understand and acknowledge cognitive biases with your copy allows you to empathize with your reader, and that is what opens the door to compelling a useful emotional reaction.

And we know that emotion drives action more than logic — the latter of which serves more to justify than compel.

Look, who am I to defy the words of a writer like David Sedaris? And to deny a known cognitive bias? Writing probably does give you only the illusion of control.

But maybe, just maybe …

By committing to a better understanding of the “stuff” our readers bring to our words, we increase our ability to turn an illusion of control into … let’s call it … an opportunity to connect.

And when we connect, we have a chance to compel — a privilege and responsibility that truly unlocks the next level of service to our audiences.

The post 5 Cognitive Biases You Need to Put to Work … Without Being Evil appeared first on Copyblogger.


Source: New feed 3

Here’s How I Built and Launched a SaaS Company For Less Than $40k

About 6 months ago I decided that I was going to build a SaaS company from scratch. I had recently sold my company and found myself in discussions with a number of startups around making angel investments. This didn’t get me too excited so I wanted to see if I could build and launch a SaaS company for the same amount of money that I would have otherwise angel invested into other companies.

My thought process was that if I could pull it off then I would own 100% of the company, and have full control of my own destiny, rather than simply cutting a check and owning less than 1% of the company.

My background is primarily concentrated on small businesses, selling products like leads and back office software. In the past 6 years I’ve had thousands of conversations with small businesses discussing everything from how they operate to where they are spending money on marketing. Through these conversations I realized that a lot of businesses are leaving money on the table by not knowing where their phone calls are being generated from, not answering the phone all the time, and not knowing how to close a prospect once they are on the phone with them.

It was through these conversations and the success of the Twilio IPO that I decided I was going to build call-tracking software.

Now that we have launched and have paying customers, I’m sharing the tactics I used to build and launch a SaaS company, along with the documentation that I created during this process including email outreach scripts, user stories, product requirements doc, and other tools I used to make it happen.

Step 1: Finding a Designer

In my opinion, design and user experience (UX) is one of the most important aspects of SaaS. Good design will go a long way to not only convert customers but also help them engage with your product and ultimately retain.

To find a designer I used Dribbble, a community of designers that showcase their work. There are other similar sites out there like Carbonmade or Behance but I’ve used Dribbble in the past and felt more comfortable there.

You must be a paid member of the community to send a message to designers, which costs $20 for the year. After coughing up the twenty bucks (obviously worth it), I took about 6 hours one day and searched for designs that I loved.

I would search for things like “b2b dashboard”, “saas dashboard”, etc:

dribbble-saas-search

After browsing through hundreds of designers and portfolios, I narrowed down a list of my top 10. Since not all of them would be available to take on a new project, I decided I needed to contact them all in hopes that at least a couple of them would be able to work with me, at which point I would then select my favorite.

I sent them all this entire message:

dribbble-inbox-message

Of the 10 messages sent, I received 8 replies. One of the designers was not available for work (but replied anyway.. boom!) and 7 of them invited me to an exploratory call.

Here’s the funnel for my designer search:

designer-search-funnel

The designer that I ended up choosing does amazing work, has relevant experience, and totally understood what I was doing. I personally wanted someone who I could lean on as a thought partner rather than them just blindly doing everything I told them. From the initial phone and Skype conversations, I could tell that the designer I chose was that person.

After thoroughly discussing requirements (more on that in a little), we landed on a fixed price for the project to be paid out at the completion of each deliverable.

designer-setup-email

Here is a cleaner view of the design deliverables:

design-deliverables

I didn’t intend on spending this much money on design – however, it’s my assumption that good design and a beautiful user experience will pay off exponentially in the long run through higher customer lifetime value due to increased retention.

Step 2: Create Product Requirements

I don’t like the phrase “product requirements”. It sounds very corporate and heavy. When I refer to product requirements, I’m referring to all the various documents that help tell the story about what the product is, how it works, and who will be using it.

First, I created a very basic product design overview document (here) and product features document (here). These were created to provide both a high level overview of the product and very specific features that the product must have in order to provide value.

Next, I typed up a real life example of why the product is needed and the problem that it’s solving.

phonewagon-use-case-doc

Finally, I created another document that went over the pain points that we are solving for and the solution that we’re offering to those pain points.

phonewagon-brochure-site-overview

My designer recommended that we create user stories as well. As Mountain Goat Software explains, user stories are part of an agile approach that helps shift the focus from writing about requirements to talking about them. All agile user stories include a written sentence or two and, more importantly, a series of conversations about the desired functionality.

Ours ended up looking like this:

phonewagon-user-stories(see the document here)

We also filled out a worksheet based on the Hook model, the four step process companies use to build consumer habits. If you aren’t familiar, Hooked is an amazing book about how to build habit-forming products.

hook-model(Download the worksheet here)

Summary

During this phase we created the following documents to help us define our product requirements:

  1. Product Design Overview
  2. Product Features
  3. Real life use case story
  4. Pain Points & Solutions
  5. User Stories
  6. Hook Model worksheet

Now that we had thoroughly defined the product, it was time to move on to the agreed upon deliverables from the designer.

Step 3: Design Deliverables

My designer was very transparent and collaborative during the design phase. We would be in constant contact and talked on Skype throughout the day.

He would sometimes send me previews of wireframes and designs in Skype but would always throw them in a program like InVision afterwards to make sure everything is easily accessible.

The design process was very straightforward. We would spend a lot of time on wireframes because that’s where the customer experience and flow gets hashed out. This took quite a bit of time and a lot of back and forth thinking through various scenarios. After we nailed the wireframes, we moved on to design. My designer would send some designs along for feedback and I would comment on them until we landed on something we both agreed on.

During the design phase we used a number of tools for various functions like providing a preview of the current designs (InVision) to submitting an invoice for the completion of each deliverable milestone (FreshBooks).

Here’s a quick list of the tools we used:

collaboration-tools

Step 4: Finding a Developer

The next step to building our SaaS product was, well, building it. Similar to how I searched for a designer on Dribbble, it was now time to search for a developer.

Before I began my search I needed to decide on a few things. First, I needed to decide if I was okay with using an offshore developer. Next, I needed to decide on the level of experience required. Finally, I needed to decide if I wanted a freelance developer or one that was working inside of a company.

While these aren’t exact, the ballpark hourly rates for different experience levels are below:

location-experience-rate-developer

Due to cost I decided I wanted to hire a senior developer in India who was working inside of a company (not freelancing). That way I got access to project managers who would be holding them accountable.

To find the developer I was looking for I used Upwork, a website that connects clients with freelancers. I created a job post and detailed out what I was looking for.

upwork-job-posting

I received 39 applications to my job post and interviewed 6 people. To decide who I would interview, I looked very carefully at 3 things:

  1. Reviews
  2. Job Success Score
  3. Number of Verified Hours

The developer I ended up going with had over 9,000 hours completed through Upwork and 100% job success score, meaning that 100% of his jobs resulted in a great client experience. These are numbers that the freelancers cannot manipulate so they are taken very seriously. In addition to our conversations, these things made me I feel comfortable hiring him.

100-percent-job-success-upwork

Step 5: Building The Product

Building a software product from the ground up is challenging. There are a number of things to do that include setting up the project architecture, creating the database with schemas, tables, and triggers, setting up webhooks for API calls, creating login credential validation, and so much more.

My developer gave me a rough estimate on the number of hours it would take to complete these various stages and updates me every 4 weeks on the status of our milestones.

calltracking-software-developer-estimate

He also sends me daily email updates so I know exactly what he’s working on each day.

workstatus-emails

We are also in constant communication at nearly all hours of the day. My developer is also a thought partner – he is coming up with scenarios that I’m not thinking of and providing very valuable product recommendations. This is incredibly valuable.

After about 6 months and over 850 hours, we were finally able to get a product shipped.

Here’s a snapshot of the developer’s hours as of the time of this posting:

upwork-charges

Step 6: Marketing & Sales

Now that I had a working product, it was time to begin selling it. Now of course there’s a ton of content out there that goes over SaaS marketing and sales. I’m not going to dive into it too deep but rather give you an overview of what I did to begin selling my product.

To start, I registered a domain using GoDaddy, used WPEngine to host my site, setup branded emails with Google Apps, and then threw up a WordPress landing page.

To get my WordPress landing page designed and implemented, I posted a job on Upwork.

upwork-marketing-job-posting

I paid $150 for this to be done and it took them about 2 days. The guy I used for this used the WordPress theme Divi, which is a powerful theme that makes it easy to build WordPress sites with their visual builder (so you don’t need to know how to code).

After the landing page was up, I ran some basic Facebook ads to drive traffic to the site. From there I would call every single person that submitted their information through my form.

I created various phone scripts to document what was working and what wasn’t. I was able to get a couple paying customers using this method. I would create their account on the backend and charge them manually in Stripe. Then I would send them the URL of our software application along with their username and password.

My first customers loved that they were early adopters and able to contribute valuable feedback that would shape the product in the future.

Here’s a cool email I got from one of my first few customers:

first-customer-email

Conclusion

All in all, I spent just under $40k building my SaaS product:

building-saas-product-cost

I’m confident that if you use this approach you can also build a SaaS product for under $40k. This is a great alternative to raising a ton of money and diluting yourself and your future employees.

It isn’t going to be easy. It will require a lot of focus and effort. But if are able to follow this outline and find a talented developer and designer, you will be able to get your SaaS company off the ground. You don’t need a ton of cash or to raise venture capital to do this.

I hope this post inspires you to build and launch a SaaS company that people love.

About the Author: Ryan Shank is the founder of PhoneWagon, beautiful call tracking software that helps businesses improve their marketing spend by using unique local phone numbers on each of their campaigns. Previously, Ryan was the COO at mHelpDesk which was acquired by HomeAdvisor in 2014. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.


Source: New feed 2

[Webinar] 5 Disruptions Reshaping Marketing As We Know It

Most marketers still look at digital as a marketing channel. But digital is no longer just a website or mobile app. Nearly everything in the world is becoming connected and acquiring digital properties. The marketing world is in the middle of five major disruptions that are reshaping the industry….

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.


Source: New feed

How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience

"What you say is crucial. But how you say it can make all the difference." – Brian Clark

Art Silverman had a vendetta against popcorn.

Silverman wanted to educate the public about the fact that a typical bag of movie popcorn has 37 grams of saturated fat, while the USDA recommends you have no more than 20 grams in an entire day.

That’s important information. But instead of simply citing that surprising statistic, Silverman made the message a little more striking:

“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined!”

Yes, what you say is crucial. But how you say it can make all the difference.

How you say it is determined by your “who”

“Marketing succeeds when enough people with similar worldviews come together in a way that allows marketers to reach them cost-effectively.”

– Seth Godin

When you create a well-rounded representation of your ideal customer, what you’re really tuning in to is the way your people view the world.

And when you understand the worldview your prospects share — the things they believe — you can frame your story in a way that resonates so strongly with them that you enjoy an “unfair” advantage over your competition.

Consider these competing worldviews, framed differently by simple word choices:

  • Crossfitter vs. Gym Rat
  • Progressive vs. Snowflake
  • Businessman vs. The Man

These are extreme examples, and you can certainly cater to audience beliefs and worldviews without resorting to name-calling. For example, the simple word “green” can provoke visceral reactions at the far sides of the environmental worldview spectrum, while also prompting less-intense emotions in the vast middle.

Framing your story against a polar opposite, by definition, will make some love you and others ignore or even despise you. That’s not only okay, it’s necessary.

You’ll likely never convert those at the other end of the spectrum, but your core base will share your content and help you penetrate the vast group in the middle — and that’s where growth comes from.

Based on who you’re talking to, you have to choose the way to tell the story so that you get the conclusion you desire.

It’s the delivery of the framed message that keeps your heroic prospect on the journey so that their (and therefore your) goals are achieved.

The “how” is essentially the difference between success and failure (or good and great) when it comes to content marketing. You must tell a compelling story with the right central element for the people you’re trying to reach.

It’s all about the premise

When you think about how a story is told, you’ll hear people talk in terms of hooks and angles. Another way of thinking about it is the premise of the case you’re making.

As a term in formal logic, the premise is a proposition supporting a certain conclusion. Applied to content and storytelling, I use the word premise to mean the emotional concept that not only attracts attention but also maintains engagement throughout every element of your content.

In other words:

The premise is the embodiment of a concept that weaves itself from headline to conclusion, tying everything together into a compelling, cohesive, and persuasive narrative with one simple and inevitable conclusion — your desired action.

And yes, you’re telling smaller stories along the buyer’s journey that forms an overall empowering narrative. You’ll have a “big idea” that’s told one step at a time along the path.

The premise connects you to the emotional center of your prospect’s brain, stimulates desire, maintains credibility, and eventually results in the action you want.

This happens when you understand how to frame your message and overall offer to mesh so tightly with your prospect’s worldview that the “this is right for me” trigger is pulled subconsciously.

Of course, each piece of content reflects your core values and overall positioning in the marketplace. Here’s a famous example from the world of advertising.

Nike has one of the most powerful positioning statements on the planet, expressed in three little words — just do it. Beyond selling shoes, this is a way of viewing the world boiled down to its essence, which is why it’s so powerful.

Now, think back to Nike’s commercial featuring John Lennon’s song Instant Karma:

What’s the premise?

First, notice how you don’t see a logo or company name until the very end. In fact, the camera barely shows the shoes of the athletes. It’s all about the lyrics married to the visuals.

The first lyrical tie-in hits with “Join the human race.” Then things really kick in with “Who on Earth do you think you are, a superstar? Well right you are!”

And then the unifying chorus paired with images of athletic adversity punctuated with triumph, as John Lennon repeats, “We all shine on ….”

This individual promotion supports Nike’s overall brand positioning of just do it in a powerful, unique way. Did it resonate with everyone? Not at all … and I’m guessing that very same commercial today would be absolutely despised by a certain segment of the U.S. population.

But the Instant Karma clip did highly engage the people it was aimed at. Repeat this to yourself over and over:

The content you create is for a particular “who,” and no one else.

Let’s now look at a process for finding your how, both with your overall positioning and at each step in the prospect’s journey.

4 steps to creating your winning story concept

Great ideas are unique. There’s no formula for innovative ideas, and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is selling the slickest of snake oil.

That said, great premises always have certain elements in common. It took me many years to understand that, beyond all the tactics, it’s the premise of the message that matters first and foremost.

The work you’ve done so far on who and what was the heavy lifting of the how. But to refine your content marketing strategy even further, here are four essential elements of a winning story concept.

1. Be unpredictable

The first thing you absolutely must have is attention. Without initial attention, nothing else you’ve done matters.

And nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going. Beyond curiosity, a great premise delivers an unpredictable and unexpected element that makes it irresistible.

It all comes back to knowing who you’re talking to at an intimate level and what they are used to seeing in the market.

What messages are they getting from your competition? This is what you must use as the benchmark to create your own unique and unexpected angle that forms the foundation of your premise.

In this day and age, you might have to dig deeper for a new and unexpected message that startles or downright fascinates people. A creative imagination combined with solid research skills help you see the nugget of gold no one else sees.

Part of why people tune things out is a lack of novelty, which makes even a previously desirable subject matter mundane.

Taking an approach that differs from the crowd can help you stand out, and that’s why unpredictability is crucial for a strong premise.

Just remember that things change. What was once unpredictable can become not only predictable, but trite. This is why being able to come up with a fresh premise is a valuable skill for anyone who creates content or markets anything.

2. Be simple

One of the fundamental rules of effective content marketing is to be clear and simple. Because a premise by definition is an unprecedented and grand idea, sometimes boiling it down to its essence is difficult, or worse, neglected.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to water down your big idea to the point of stupidity.

That defeats the purpose.

What I’m saying is you’ve got to make it so simple and clear that it travels directly into the mind of your prospect, so he begins to tell himself the story. Your copy must guide him and inspire him, not beat him over the head.

So, you’ve got a grand premise that’s unpredictable and destined to shake up your market. Reduce it to a paragraph.

Now, take it down to two sentences.

Get it even shorter.

Just do it.

At this point, you may find yourself with a great tagline. At a minimum, you’ve now got the substance for the bold promise contained in your primary headline.

3. Be real

You’ve heard that in this day of social media, you’ve got to keep it real. Speak with a human voice. Be authentic.

Be you.

You also hopefully know that social media hasn’t changed the fact that it’s about them, not you. In fact, it’s more about them than ever.

How do you make that work? What makes a premise real to the right people?

First of all, your premise must be highly relevant to your intended audience, while also being directly in line with your core values. Without relevance, you can’t inspire meaning. And it’s meaningful messages that inspire action.

Meaning is a function of what people believe before you find them. As we discussed earlier, what your ideal customers believe reflects how they view the world, and your content has to frame that view appropriately to be effective.

As a function of belief, meaning is derived from the context in which your desired audience perceives your message. That context is the heroic journey of the prospect, with your brand serving as a guide.

There’s another aspect of being “real” with your content. Your messages must communicate meaningful benefits that are also tangible. This is the second important aspect of an authentic premise, and it’s critical to help your prospects understand and connect with your message.

In this sense, tangible means real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary. This is the aspect of your premise that is express, meaning the part where you tell the story in a way that concretely injects certain information into the prospect’s mind in a specific way.

Remember the Total cereal ad from the late 1980s?

“How many bowls of YOUR cereal equal one bowl of Total?”

You then saw stacks of cereal bowls filled with various competing brands, with one case reaching 12 bowls high.

Powerful, right?

Instead of saying something pedestrian like, “Total has 12 times the nutrition of the leading brand,” they showed you a tangible expression of the benefit. But it doesn’t need to be done with visuals to work.

Words alone are plenty powerful to paint a picture in the mind. Look at the opening of this article and the way Art Silverman explained the saturated fat content in a bag of popcorn. He took a dry statistic and brought it to life.

You’ll note that both examples contain the element of unpredictability and simplicity. But it’s the relevant and tangible expression of the premise that creates instant understanding.

Make your messages as real to people as possible, and you’ll create the kind of instant understanding that all truly great premises contain. But there’s one more critical element to a premise that works.

4. Be credible

If you’re writing to persuade, you have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain. The part that decides “I want that” is emotional and often subconscious. If your premise doesn’t work emotionally, logic will never get a chance to weigh in.

If you flip that emotional switch, the sale (or other action) is yours to lose. And I mean that literally. Because our logical minds do eventually step in (usually in a way that makes us think we’re actually driven by logic in the first place). If your premise is not credible (as in it’s too good to be true), you fail.

That doesn’t mean hyperbole never works, as long as the prospect wants to believe you badly enough. That’s how some desperate people in certain markets are taken advantage of.

But belief is critical in any market and with any promotion, so credibility is the final key to a winning premise — people must believe you just as your premise must match their beliefs.

Remember, the more innovative your idea or exceptional your offer, the more you’re going to have to prove it. This brings us right back to an unexpected, simple, and tangible expression of the benefit in a way that’s credible.

Every box of Total cereal contains the cold, hard data about the nutritional content. Art Silverman’s popcorn claims were backed up by solid scientific facts about saturated fat.

The kind of proof any particular premise requires will vary, but the more credibility that can be baked into the premise itself, the better.

Now … put it out there

“I’m looking California, and feeling Minnesota …”

That metaphor is from the 1991 Soundgarden song Outshined, written by frontman Chris Cornell. He shared an interesting anecdote about writing those very personal words in a magazine interview:

“I came up with that line — ‘I’m looking California / And feeling Minnesota,’ from the song ‘Outshined’ — and as soon as I wrote it down, I thought it was the dumbest thing. But after the record came out and we went on tour, everybody would be screaming along with that particular line when it came up in the song. That was a shock.”

Instead of the “dumbest thing,” those are the most famous six words Cornell has ever written. In addition to being a fan favorite, the line inspired both a movie title and an ESPN catch phrase whenever Minnesota Timberwolves player Kevin Garnett was in the news.

Why did it work? Because with those six words, Soundgarden’s audience understood instantly what Cornell was trying to convey. He spoke to them.

And yet, what if Cornell had cut the line because “it was the dumbest thing?” I suppose that would have been unfortunate, because he would have missed out on a level of engagement with his audience that the rest of us would kill for.

The content marketing strategy we’ve been working through is putting you in the position to get things right the first time. You smartly spent a ton of time on your who, and then you outlined the critical points of your story by mapping the buyer’s journey and the customer experience.

The who and the what inform the how.

You might even be surprised at how easily the fresh ideas are coming to you now.

But ultimately, we as content marketers don’t know for sure what will resonate. Only the audience can determine that, so you’ve got to put it out there.

When the audience magic happens, you’ll know it.

For the rest of February, we’re going to be sharing our favorite tips and tactics for the how. You’ll be telling better stories, creating better analogies, and connecting with your audience at a deeper level than ever before.

The post How to Create Content that Deeply Engages Your Audience appeared first on Copyblogger.


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