Jun 2006
3 Questions That Make Irresistable Headlines
Most people don't read past 5 words of a headline, let alone the content that follows it. So you need to make your headline count. One of the most successful strategies is to focus on arousing the reader's curiosity by asking a question in the headline.

Curiosity is a driving force behind much of what we humans do with ourselves. It drives decisions and motivates change in behavior. If your headline taps into that curiousity, you've got your reader hooked.

But how do you do it?

A good question.

No, really. That's the answer. A good question will make a reader curious enough to invest the time to read further. So how can you use this tendency to your advantage when composing your headlines?

in his book, Question Based Selling, Thomas A. Freese describes a whole new approach to sales and marketing based on asking questions. In a chapter focusing on how to generate curiosity in a prospect, he's found that he's been much more successful selling by first piquing the prospect's interest and then moving into positioning his products value, instead of trying to sell based solely on the features of the product.

It's a losing battle trying to get attention just by stating that you're the best or by trumpeting facts about your product. The headline isn't about reciting your product's features, and if it is, it's just going to get drowned out by the noise in our marketing-saturated society. You need to do whatever you can to get your prospect to read your material. And the question is one of the most effective ways to do just that.

What are the 3 types of question-based headlines?

In his book on copywriting, U.K. marketing expert J. Jonathon Gabay outlines the three different categories of questions that you can utilize to create attention grabbing headlines.

1) The Simple Who?
Gabay splits the question Who? into two parts. The simple Who? includes the question explicitly in the headline.

Who wants ice cream?
Who does fish better than the rest?

2) The Testimonial Who
Why a testimonial considered question? Because the 'who' in question is asked by the reader. Who is this person and what do they have to do with the product? Why did they like the product? Quotes and testimonials are very effective selling tools. They reduce the perception of risk, and if you've got a celebrity giving the quote, they can get you a little more attention based on name recognition.

However, it can backfire on you. The statement must be believeable, and the language used must be appropriate for the source of the quote. If not you run the risk of your potential audience rolling their eyes in disbelief, and that means they aren't reading your piece.

3)The What, Where, and How?
This category encompasses the remaining types of questions.

How does free cable sound?
What $100k in water damage compared to the satisfaction of doing it yourself?

There are a few things to keep in mind when using standard questions. Avoid the self-answering questions and questions with explicit yes or no answers. The point of the headline is to entice the reader by promising to answer the question later in the copy, or even if they know the answer, you want to tease them a little.
Gabay uses the following examples of how not to write your question headline:

Are you overweight?
Would you like some life insurance

These are dull, and they don't get people to read past the headline. If you feel driven to use this type of question in your headline, you can sometimes avoid the pitfall by answering the question in a sub-headline. Gabay, a Brit, has a great example of a subhead:

Are you overweight?
Call us. We'll start saving you pounds over night.

What 3 things do you accomplish by using a question based headline?
Here are the three things that you as a copywriter will accomplish when you use a question in your headline:

1) Questions arouse curiosity. We want to know the answer. By starting with a question, you've gone a long way toward getting your prospect to read on. Ask a question, and the reader naturally wants to know the answer.

2) Creates a predictable response. You can take advantage of our marketing-savvy world by stacking the odds in your favor that your audience will respond with curiosity, but that curiousity will be guarded. "Interesting...What's the catch?" is the reaction you can count on.

3) Copy can be written to address the question and the reaction, making the most of the opportunity to reach your reader.

By using a question in your headline, you can stack the deck in your favor. There can be lot of punch packed into a simple question. Take a look around and see just how the pros use that question mark to hook you and take advantage of that curiosity.

Teach Yourself Copywriting, J. Jonathon Gabay
The Copywriter's Handbook, Robert W. Bly
Question Based Selling, Thomas A. Freese
One-stop inspiration for web design
When it comes to deciding on the visual design of your site, you should invest some time in brainstorming some qualities that you want this 24/7 marketing tool to have. Not a big revelation.

But when it comes time to actually deciding on a look for your site, it's amazing how your brain no longer remembers any of the hundreds of sites that you've visited in the last few days. It's hard to just start to surf with that specific mission in mind.

That's why CSSBloom has instantly earned a spot on my reading list. It's a collection of recently published websites that's updated several times a day. It's a good place to go in order to specifically look at websites for their design and get ideas from the current generation of sites finding their way to the web.

Spend less time hunting and more time getting inspired.
6 Steps to Organized Website Content
The fact is that content is what drives your website. Lucia Mancuso has written a very good synopsis of the process of designing the architecture of the content of your site. It's not easy to create a site that's useful. You need to know exactly what it is that your website is going to do for your customers and your business.
One of the most important elements of every website/ blog site is its content. Content is the key factor that your viewers are looking for.

Brainstorm on all possible topics, content, subjects etc… that you may write about on the site. Don’t do this in any order; just let your mind run with it and write down everything that comes to your head. (I like to do this and walk away from it for 24 hrs and then revisit it again).

No matter what industry you're in, your business needs a website. That much we all agree on. But web design isn't where the journey begins and ends. It's what your visitors are looking to learn about you is just as crucial.

Organizing Content for Designing Information Architecture - [The Blog Studio]
A Little Grammar Never Hurt Nobody
There's an article has been making its way around the net today that really wants to help you.

Grammar's no fun and it's a right pain, but not paying attention to what you're saying, especially when you're tapping out an important email in a rush, can hurt your credibility.

These days, we tend to communicate via the keyboard as much as we do verbally. Often, we're in a hurry, quickly dashing off emails with typos, grammatical shortcuts (I'm being kind here), and that breezy, e.e. cummings, no-caps look. It's expected. It's no big deal. But other times, we try to invest a little care, avoiding mistakes so that there's no confusion about what we're saying and so that we look professional and reasonably bright.

Take some time to read it through, and while you're paying attention to the grammar of what you're saying, you might just catch some other mistake and save yourself some grief.
10 flagrant grammar mistakes that make you look stupid - [ZD Net UK]
Business Cards: A User's Manual
Business cards are incredibly useful marketing tools, but their importance is often downplayed or sabotaged by not taking the time to make them really do the job that they're capable of doing. Chris Brogan writes a good, short and informative article about the life cycle of the business card, from creation to the hand-off to the processing of received cards.

Cards are Good Conversation Starters- If your card isn’t plain white or doesn’t look like you used a built in MS Word template, people will often look at your card the way one looks at a four-year-old’s rendition of a fire truck. “Ohhh, this is gooood.” They nod as they say this. People want to acknowledge you and what your card says you do. It’s almost a ritual thing.

The Business Card Game - [lifehack.org]
Easy Websites from Microsoft, Google
It's no great revelation that the Internet is a good thing for a business. Giving your customers and prospects quick and anonymous access to information about your business is pretty much a must-have. However, the price of entry from a knowledge and skill point of view might appear a little steep and somewhat intimidating.

There are a few options out there for the non-savvy, including an offering from Google and from Microsoft. While the Google option isn't really ready for business use, Microsoft's Live Office looks like it was built with the small biz in mind.

Microsoft's Live Basics is a new resources for businesses to expand into webspace with free websites, free hosting, free email, access to an array of traffic tools, and "free" domain names.

Unfortunately, you can only sign up and access it with recent version of Internet Explorer, so Mac users are left out (which means that I'm left out). But the consensus from the techie arena is that this isn't such a good deal.

There's also some question re: the offer on the digg.com comments board about how easy it is to transfer your name away from the vendor that MS uses to register and manage the domain names.

Here's a summary provided by digg poster C2H5OH.
1. + It's a product like Google Page, which allows you to create webpage easily.
2. - It does not allow you to code your page. (Is it because the generated code is too ugly? If Office 12 generates ugly HTML, I guess this one does, too)
3. + It allow you to use your own domain
4. - Transferring domain out in the future is virtually impossible
5. - Insanely expensive: $50/yr for a domain

And for good measure, here's the meaty part of a Google Pages review by Tam Hannas

It’s NO replacement for a common web hosting service, but it is almost PERFECT for users who want to publish their last holiday photos or theirselves. They need no knowledge about web hosting and HTML developing.

Office Live - [Microsoft]
Google Pages - [Google]
Lessons Learned From Microsoft's "People_Ready" Ad
I'm a Mac guy, and while there's a part of me that giggles with glee at the stumbling and bumbling that's going on at Microsoft, I'll do my best to retain a professional demeanor while I pick apart a recent bit of marketing fluff that they've produced.

Microsoft has two major products that everyone knows about and everyone probably touches everyday: Windows and Office.

But their marketing leaves a lot to be desired. It's a pretty good example of how not to do things.

The trouble is that their stock is dropping. What's more, they have a major product release on the horizon, the next gen of Windows called Vista, that has suffered greatly in the tech press. A combination of feature atrophy and backpedaling on the release date has gotten the techie crowd folding their arms and sitting on their wallets.

Not that the techie crowd is Microsoft's cuddliest group of fans.

But, don't feel sorry for them quite yet. Their profits are still huge, (they made just over $1 billion per quarter in profits last quarter) so they have lots of money to throw at the problem before things get dire.

Their biggest problem is that their only competitor of any significance is themselves. They want you to abandon the previous version of their own software and buy the new version. That's the way they're going to make their next dollar.

So there are question marks in Microsoft's future. But if that's the case, then why are their efforts at marketing their products falling well short of the mark?

John Gruber of Daring Fireball recently wrote an article about an ad that MS ran in the 5/22 issue of the New Yorker. He posted a photo of the ad and transcribed the copy, and then asked a pretty significant question when it comes to marketing a technology product: "What the hell does any of this even mean?"

Welcome to the people_ready business.

In a people-ready business, people make it happen. People, ready with software. When you give your people tools that connect, inform, and empower them, they’re ready. Ready to collaborate with partners, suppliers, and customers. Ready to streamline the supply chain, beat impossible deadlines, and develop ideas that can sway the course of industry. Ready to build a successful business: a people-ready business. Microsoft. Software for the people-ready business. To learn more, visit microsoft.com/peopleready

If you can get through the paragraph, it's not difficult to see Microsoft's intent, but there's nothing that's driving a call to action. Gruber calls this ad "timid", and he's right. The gist is that Microsoft products will empower your employees, getting them ready to work. And, hey, that's a good thing. It's a benefit.

But "our employees will be more ready" doesn't quite provide the fire you want to light under your target audience. With ad copy, you want to use language that will get people tapping their feet because they can't buy it fast enough. Have a message. Say it clearly. That's the goal. Did your eyes glaze over when you read that big ol' chunk of copy? Mine did. I would have skipped it entirely if I wasn't in analysis-mode.

Take a look at the Microsoft piece; how many times does the copywriter use the word "ready"? "People"? What about the "Ready to something, something, and something" pattern? Repetition is powerful...when used correctly. But here, the sentences all start to look the same. Too many commas, too many ideas strung together, too much repetition. Blah. Skip it.

Are your customers skipping your content because it doesn't grab their attention? Does your copy motivate your customers to buy your product?

Confidence Game -- [Daring Fireball]