One Powerful Copywriting Tactic to Capture Your Audience’s Attention and Boost Engagement May 15, 2013

In order for your target audience to be able to engage with your brand, they have to notice you first. As the number of messages, advertisements, and other communications we encounter on a daily basis continues to rise, getting your potential customers to pay attention is becoming increasingly difficult. So how can you create a message that cuts through the clutter to capture your audience’s attention, boost engagement, and ultimately increase conversions?

Break The Pattern.

The human brain is designed to notice changes, whether they are in our environment or between what we expect to happen and what actually happens. In his best-seller, All Marketers Are Liars, Seth Godin outlines the four steps in the process of human perception.

The first thing he says we do is look for a difference. If what we encounter matches our expectations, we ignore it. That means if you’re looking to get people to pay attention to you, your message has to be unexpected in order to stand out.

It may seem a little counter-intuitive at first, but the best way to break someone’s expectations is actually to start off by matching them. Because if you immediately show someone a message that challenges their beliefs, there’s no way they’re going to listen.

A Republican could have the most compelling argument and comprehensive set of facts supporting his case, but if he went to a Democrat and immediately said “You’re wrong, I’m right, and here is the proof,” there is no way the Democrat would suddenly become a Republican. The Democrat would find a way to spin the facts to support his side, discredit the information in the report, or come up with another way to justify not having to change his mind.

There’s a name for this, and it’s called Confirmation Bias. It’s a psychological phenomenon that says it’s almost impossible for people to change their minds, once they are made up. Instead, we will find an explanation that makes our experiences “confirm” (hence the name confirmation bias) what we already believe.

Returning to the example of the Democrat, because of his confirmation bias, he will come up with an explanation for the Republican’s report that will prevent him from having to change his mind. Whether it’s finding a flaw in the report itself, or even claiming that the Republican doctored the numbers, he will look for any possible explanation of the situation that fits what he already believes rather than having to change his mind.

So, in order to get someone’s attention we have to break his or her expectations. But if we challenge someone’s beliefs too strongly, or too soon, their confirmation bias kicks in and they will invent any possible excuse to say we are wrong and they are right. So how do you get around this?

How To Break The Pattern To Get Noticed

The key word being pattern, not expectation, and if you want to break a pattern first you have to establish one.

To get around the problem of the confirmation bias and get people to change their minds, you need them to agree with you first. By establishing a pattern that doesn’t challenge the potential customer’s expectations, but instead meets them, you will gain their trust. Instead of seeing you as a threat to their existing beliefs, they will see you as reinforcing them.

For example, you can ask a series of questions related to your product that are all designed to match your target market’s expectations and get them to answer “Yes.” Now their guard is down, they are not feeling threatened, they are actually feeling like your company has the same values and beliefs that they do because they’ve answered “Yes” to all of your questions…so far.

Then comes the punch line. At the end of the series of questions, right when the potential customer’s trust is highest, you ask a final question that gets them to answer in the negative. After answering yes to all of the other questions, they will be expecting to answer “Yes” to this question as well. When they can’t, you’ve broken the pattern, and now you’ve got their attention. And because you spent the time establishing the pattern and building trust with them, it will be much harder for them to ignore you at this point.

The final trick is to make sure that when your potential customers answer “No” to the last question, you can immediately offer them the solution to turn their “No” back into a “Yes.” Now that you’ve surprised them and made them aware of whatever it is they are missing, they will be in a state of severe mental discomfort. If you have a product or service ready to help them take away this pain, there’s no way they won’t seriously consider purchasing.

The Best Way To get Someone’s Attention Is To Do The Unexpected

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the best way to do this is to first create a pattern that is expected by your target market, before strategically breaking that pattern at the punch line.

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Nick Cuttonaro

Nicholas Cuttonaro is an Internet Marketing professional specializing in search engine optimization, lead generation, and online reputation management.

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