Message & Media: Positive Anticipation
Do you anticipate receiving birthday cards, leaving on vacation or heading out the door on Friday afternoon? Of course you do.
Anticipation is a wonderful emotion. It literally has us looking forward, not backward, focusing on the possibility of good things to come.
Creating anticipation is the job of all direct response writers and designers, whether they're creating messages for traditional print or digital media. Here's why this emotion is so important: Anticipation leads to customer engagement and engagement leads to response—clicks, calls, visits and mail-in responses.
What are you doing to build customer anticipation? Here are 13 tips to try.
• Create that special feeling. Use words and phrases like "exclusive," "by invitation only" and "limited edition" to make your reader feel extra-special. Or enclose a certificate of nomination or membership card. All create anticipation by suggesting your recipient is about to have a unique experience unavailable to the general public.
• Intrigue. Transform your outer envelope teaser with an intriguing command, such as Do Not Bend or Do Not Destroy Without Opening. Or make a statement that arouses curiosity, such as Untouched by Human Hands. Your reader sees these words and wonders, "What does this mean? What's going on here? I need to find out." The anticipation builds and the envelope gets opened. Apply the same technique to your e-mail subject lines.
• Something for nothing. Everyone loves freebies. So use a headline, teaser or button copy that offers a free sample, free trial or free demo. For example, consider this e-mail subject line I received from Snapfish when I recently returned to its website when a long absence: Glad you're back—get 20 FREE 4" x 6" prints with your next upload.
• Lumpiness. Admit it; when a hefty envelope announces Free Return Address Labels Inside or Free Gifts Enclosed, it's difficult to toss it without opening. And once you've got them inside, you're on your way to generating response. Freemiums and other lumpy enticements work.
• Tease-and-reveal. This is where strong direct response designers shine. They know how to use die cut windows, pop-out postcards, peel-off stickers and unique perforations to create intrigue and anticipation. "If I pull this tab, what will happen? Will I see the surprise free gift? Will I qualify for a bigger discount?" I just ran across something called a CargoCard that's an interesting variation on this theme. It's a 3-dimensional postcard you mail with something inside. Talk about a tease!
• Familiarity feeds expectation. It makes my day to see the familiar words Robert Genn Twice-Weekly Letter in the from line in my e-mail inbox. I always look forward to reading what artist Genn has to say. Likewise, your customers, donors and members look forward to receiving mail, e-mail and phone calls from people and entities they know and trust. Use this to your advantage when writing from lines and corner card copy.
• Celebrate! We all love a good celebration; especially when it recognizes a personal achievement or milestone. Thanks to America's greeting card manufacturers, we learned at an early age good things arrive in 5" x 7" envelopes. Consequently, this size envelope is almost guaranteed to get opened with anticipation. Take the opportunity to build relationships by celebrating customer birthdays and anniversaries.
• Helpful hints. These are what made Heloise famous and her column highly successful. So take this tip and create a regular feature in your e-newsletter that offers helpful hints. Tease with a single tip, then link to your website for more. You'll delight your reader and increase site traffic.
• Enticing tabs. While recently browsing TitleNine.com for workout clothes, I came across a menu tab that intrigued me. It was labeled ((BOUNCE)). Guess what dropped down when I ran my cursor over it? A menu for the company's flagship product category—sports bras. I give this tab an A+ for being mysterious, cleverly descriptive and highly effective.
• Pre-announcements. Tests show tag-teaming multichannel messages significantly increases response, as much as 30 percent to 40 percent. See for yourself by testing a pre-announcement e-mail that leaves your customers or members watching their traditional mail for your catalog or solo package.
• Looking for resolution. When you do an Internet search and land on a website, what are you anticipating? Nine times out of 10, you're looking for the answer to a question or solution to a problem. In other words, you are anticipating resolution. The same applies to visitors to your own website. Make the first few seconds count by quickly giving them what they're look for or pointing them in the right direction.
• The name says it all. Which would you rather receive, a fundraising mailing or a Donor Kit? A subscription mailing or a New Subscriber Kit? A lawn service sales letter or a Free Lawn Analysis Kit? The word "kit" is magical. It increases perceived value and openability even when all the components in the mailing remain the same.
• Sell 'em with a series. My last tip is to use a series of messages to build anticipation and pent-up demand. Here's an example. Every week, I drive through the Flint Hills of Kansas. Just outside Lehigh, there's a sign at a farm that changes daily. The copy is always short—just two words. Early in the season it changes from Just Planted to Now Sprouting, then Not Yet. After that, it shifts to one of these: None Today, Ready Now, Darn Rabbits or Bumper Crop. I've only stopped once to buy this farmer's sweet corn. Just as I did, they changed the sign. It read, Sold Out.
For more ideas about how to generate response by tapping emotional triggers, I suggest looking at Denny Hatch's latest book, "The Secrets of Emotional, Hot-Button Copywriting." It's filled with great observations and examples.