If you’re building a business with content marketing, you’ve probably noticed that the attention span of your audience is shrinking by the second.
We’re all on the verge of an attention meltdown.
This can be a huge hurdle if you’re trying to effectively engage your audience and get your products or services in front of them.
That means you have to use every writing tool you can to gain and keep audience attention.
Believe it or not, a return to solid writing fundamentals — and more specifically, specificity — can get you out ahead of the competition.
One small note before we get started …
If you only read one section of this article, read this one
Specificity is especially helpful for writing your headlines.
Remember the 80/20 rule: 8 out of 10 readers will read your headline copy but only 2 out of 10 will read your entire post.
Since headlines persuade your audience to read your content, you should dedicate 50 percent of your efforts to writing magnetic headlines before you write the rest of your copy.
Here are 10 compelling tips to help you win the battle for your audience’s attention.
1. Get to the point
Old-school copywriter George Lois wrote a very useful guide titled Damn Good Advice (for people with talent!). In it, he gets to the heart of the importance of specificity.
“All creativity should communicate in a nanosecond.”
That’s about all the time you have to make an impression, but “creativity” can be misunderstood.
He reminds us that brevity is the key to good copy and that every single word counts.
“It’s not how short you make it; it’s how you make it short.”
Creativity is getting people to read your copy, without confusing hyperbole or jargon phrases.
2. Without attention, you have nothing
Without an attention-grabbing headline, you can chuck your great content in the trash.
“AIDA” is the classic marketing acronym heralded by many great copywriters:
Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.
Gaining attention is gold because it’s the first step on the path to getting your prospects to take action and buy.
3. Grab attention by being ultra-specific
The Four U’s of headline writing, as outlined by American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI), are a helpful guide when evaluating any piece of sales copy or content:
Useful is absolutely required. If your headline can only be one more thing, make it ultra-specific. This is key because specificity presents the most benefit to your reader.
You make an immediate promise of the reward you’re offering so your prospects will have a reason to give you their precious time and read your first paragraph.
4. Specificity builds credibility
If your headline isn’t presenting specific, rewarding information, you’re bound to get bogged down with the rest of the unreadables.
Just remember that the #1 rule for building credibility is making good on your headline’s promise.
Here’s an article from Brian Clark on 5 Ways to Convert More Prospects by Making Your Case.
5. Specificity is persuasion
Being vague doesn’t work in real life, and it doesn’t work in copywriting.
Statistics, exact details, and case studies:
- Catch the eye
- Build curiosity
- Reinforce authenticity
- Show your readers your attention to detail
Getting specific means revealing the cold, hard facts of what you have to offer, as long as they’re not overly technical or confusing.
6. Specificity boosts your conversion rates
Marketing Experiments have shown that optimizing your headline can boost your conversion rates by 73 percent.
Not only will you boost your readership, but optimizing your headline by just a single word or figure can actually get more people to take the action you want them to take.
That’s reason enough to do some split testing of your own.
7. Warning: big words make you sound dumb
We’ve all seen inexperienced authors use big words to make themselves feel smarter.
You’re not fooling anyone, so do your research and know your audience.
Remember the maxim often attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne:
“Easy reading is damned hard writing.”
8. There is no substitute for great copy
As Stefanie wrote yesterday:
If a client thinks that the money they paid you was a waste because they didn’t make it back in sales, they’ll view you as interchangeable with any other writer — and there’s probably someone else who charges even less than you for a comparable lack of results.
Writers end up thinking that making a living off of their craft is unrealistic and businesses devalue writers because they aren’t familiar with the power of the right words.
But when you’re able to show a client what the right words can do for their business, everything changes.
9. To approach greatness, you have to start at the start
Ernest Hemingway started out as a reporter for The Kansas City Star.
He won a Nobel Prize in his later years and credited his formative years writing “copy” as a journalist.
Cub reporters were each given a style book when they started, with these rules:
- Use short sentences
- Use short first paragraphs
- Use vigorous English
- Be positive, not negative
It doesn’t get much simpler than that.
10. One word can make all the difference
Mark Twain wrote:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — ’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”
Specificity is the lighting rod that will lead your prospects through your sales cycle to take action.
Let’s get specific
We can all use help getting more specific in our copy.
There is no “the dog ate my homework” in content marketing — do your research or somebody else will do it better and with more detail.
Know your audience, their problems, fears, desires, and dreams, and you’ll be well on your way to getting them to read your copy and take action on your offers.