When I first got started in online marketing, I knew I had to learn copywriting fast.

I read every thing I can on copywriting – went to book store every day to read magazines just for the headlines & their ads, attend forums, study viral posts, etc. (Don’t forget, infomercials are GREAT for this.)

I even went as far as working for free as a freelance copywriter for some “information product” gurus that I actually never met.

When I got started in affiliate marketing, my skills were put to the test.

In fact, I noticed that there’s pretty much a pattern to how copywriting works

1) GREAT headline

and

2) GREAT headline

Without a good headline, everything else is pretty much fluff.

Don’t get me wrong: the rest of the copy is important too but without a good opener, you’re not going to get your visitor to read the rest.

Here are some patterns I’ve picked up over the years doing copywriting:

1) Ask questions

If you ever Google “top 100 advertising headlines”, you will find that usually the headlines start with a question.. like:

ARE YOU EVER TONGUE-TIED AT A PARTY?
DO YOU MAKE THESE MISTAKES IN ENGLISH?
WHICH OF THESE $2.50 TO $5 BEST SELLERS DO YOU WANT — FOR ONLY $1 EACH?
WHO EVER HEARD OF A WOMAN LOSING WEIGHT — AND ENJOYING 3 DELICIOUS MEALS AT THE SAME TIME?
WHOSE FAULT WHEN CHILDREN DISOBEY?

Why are questions so effective?

Well…

Let me ask you a question.

Why do you think?

See what just happened?

My question makes you PAUSE. Most people are often busy, which means they don’t have time to read your STUFF.

It’s not only critical that you get their attention, but that you get your ENGAGEMENT.

But asking question does more than get them to THINK about what you’re asking: (src)

1. Questions help build rapport and trust. They show people you’re listening to them and that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say. Questions provide a perfect way to gently introduce yourself and tie what you do directly to what matters most to your client.

2. Questions help people self-discover you. Self-discovery gets people to persuade themselves, and research shows this self-discovery approach to be most effective. The bottom line: People believe what they say not what you say.

3. Questions enhance your credibility. They make you look smart, self-confident, interesting and interested in the other person. They give you an opportunity to show your wisdom, expertise and experience without pontificating or running off at the mouth.

2) Curiosity

The problem with most offers, or at least the marketing message to the offer, is that nobody gives a shit.

We live in a world of excessive offers and infinite media; there is no POSSIBLE way everyone can care about everything they see, read, or hear.

So what’s the solution?

Create a curiosity, like in these headlines:

THE SECRET OF MAKING PEOPLE LIKE YOU (who doesn’t want to be liked? And who doesn’t want to know secrets?)

A LITTLE MISTAKE THAT COST A FARMER $3,000 A YEAR (who doesn’t want to know what the mistake was?)

HOW A NEW DISCOVERY MADE A PLAIN GIRL BEAUTIFUL (now you know why women get boob jobs)

DO YOU MAKE THESE MISTAKES IN ENGLISH? (i.e. are you a dummy? who doesn’t want to know if they’re making these idiotic social faux pas?)

WHY SOME FOODS “EXPLODE” IN YOUR STOMACH (we’re not talking bean burritos)

WHY SOME PEOPLE ALMOST ALWAYS MAKE MONEY IN THE STOCK MARKET (the ORIGINAL carleton sheets)

You get the point.

So why does curiosity work? (src)

A Cal Tech study scanned volunteers’ brains while they read trivia questions designed to create a mixture of high and low curiosity. When subjects were interested in a question, the researchers saw more activity in the caudate region—a part of the brain known to be involved in anticipating rewards. (Interesting side note: If they found they had given an incorrect answer, the curiosity effect seemed even stronger.)

curiosity-brainwave-patter

To use this strategy in headlines, “prime the pump” with some intriguing but incomplete information. Tell the reader enough to pique curiosity but not enough to give the whole story away—like this famous ad by John Caples does.

they-laughed-john-caples

3) Specific results with NUMBERS

How to Lose 5 Inches Off Your Wasit Without Dieting
How to Make Your Face 10 Years Younger with these 2 Cheap Tricks
Learn This Average Joe’s Secrets of Dating 10 Women in 10 Days

Remember that old saying that sales isn’t about features, or benefits?

Well, you can throw ALL that away.

No one buys your stuff to because of “benefits”… they want RESULTS.

feature-vs-benefit-vs-results

Ask yourself this: why do you buy a mouse trap? Because it’s made by Harvard pH.D? Because it’s quiet & humane when it kills mice?

No, you buy it because you want that damn mouse out of your house.

If you do copywriting, make sure to focus on the end result of using your product or service for your customer.

Here’s an interesting psychology study by Columbia University: (src)

A study on the psychology of waiting in line found that when we don’t know how long something is going to take, we experience that time differently. If a patient in a waiting room is told that the doctor is running 30 minutes late, he might be annoyed at first but he’ll eventually relax into the wait. But if the patient is told the doctor will be free soon, he spends the whole time nervous and unable to settle down because his expectations are being managed poorly. When we’re in this situation, time actually feels like it’s going slower for us.

Numbers can help by providing that expectation management for us, so we know exactly what we’re getting into. Those might be some of the reasons that a Conductor study found that audiences prefer number headlines to almost any other type.

4) Challenge the Status Quo

3 Solar Secrets the Utility Companies Don’t Want You to Know
Gym Trainers Hate Him for His Workout Secrets
Grandma Rediscovers Once Banned Wrinkle Losing Tricks

We are conditioned to think to accept things as the norm, and of course, everyday experts and gurus like the electrician, gym trainers, and dermatologists are no exception.

Challenging the experts achieves these:

1) peak curiosity
2) imply that your product/service is the cheaper & superior DIY solution

An information product marketer Kevin Trudeau actually made a killing selling weight loss books with this method

kevin-trudeau

I guess he got a warning from the experts he was trying to discredit.. so he changed it to “they”.

Also he went to jail for FTC violations & making false claims.. now he’s in jail. (Remember, you STILL have to apply ethics in your marketing. Don’t be shady.)

If someone stood up and challenged a doctor, wouldn’t YOU at least hear what he has to say?

Conclusion

There are lots of copywriting tactics that worked 100 years ago that STILL work today.

Make sure to test out your different ideas and get your OWN facts & numbers before you decide what works for your specific marketing funnel, product, or service.

Curious… what other tactics have worked well for you? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.