Message & Media: Hook, Line and Sinker
Just because it's short doesn't mean writing effective teaser copy is easy. Creating teaser copy is part science, as well as part art. Good teasers make the difference between success and failure for emails, direct mail, even Twitter and blog posts.
Long before I wrote outer envelope teasers for direct mail, I was an avid fan of those tantalizing blurbs on magazine covers like Glamour and Seventeen, as well as my mother's Good Housekeeping and Ladies' Home Journal. I still love analyzing the words magazine editors so carefully choose for their front covers in an effort to entice me to buy and read their magazines.
Recently, I saw a great example when checking out at the grocery store. Prevention's August issue promised its targeted audience of age-conscious females the following:
- Health Secrets for Your 30s, 40s, 50s+
- Get Slim after 40
- The New Science Belly Breakthrough
- 20 Award-Winning Skin Creams that Work
- Sweet! Ridiculously Easy Dessert
- PLUS Love Your Age
And lest you think teasers are only successful on the covers of women's magazines, a recent Money magazine that arrived in our mailbox catered to both male and female readers with the following teasers:
- Best Deals on Everything!
- 5 Steps to a Safer Portfolio
- Why Big Banks Are Still Risky
- How Health Care Is Changing
- The Secret to Retiring Well
But here's a change: The teaser copy once found primarily on magazine covers and direct mail outer envelopes is now used across marketing channels. Take a look at these real-life examples.
• Email subject line: Don't buy your Halloween candy before reading this.
• Direct mail letter Johnson Box: Would you like brighter, healthier, more evenly toned skin in just 2 weeks?
• Email link to Web page: Find fun discounts on movies, major league baseball, museums and more here!
• Twitter post: Are you driving one of the most stolen vehicles in 2013? Find out: http://ow.ly/o0eqE
• Direct mail outer envelope: Discover an easier way to add an hour of productivity to your day GUARANTEED.
• E-zine teaser to clickthrough to article: 10 tips for boosting smartphone battery life.
• Copy showing through outer envelope picture window: Are you paying too much for your business insurance? Find out inside.
• Facebook ad: OZ Tip to Erase Body Fat.
• LinkedIn article: 9 types of entrepreneur. Which type are you?
• Video teaser: What's next for fiscal cliff negotiations? Watch this video.
• QR Code: Scan this with your smartphone for a video demonstration.
The trick to writing effective teasers—no matter which channel delivers them—is to leave your reader hanging and wanting to know more. Here are 15 tips:
1. Arouse Curiosity
Tap what you know about your reader to increase open rates: What do you have in common with these 5 famous writers? (I admit it; I bit!)
2. Ask a Question
The trick to asking the right question is to be certain you know what the answer will be: Would you like to know a 10 second trick that prevents heart attacks?
3. Create Mystery
Who doesn't love a good mystery? This one was featured on an outer envelope for Forbes magazine: He (name revealed inside) will make $15 million this year—and he's dead. (The implication is that you'll learn the answer inside.)
4. Get to the Point
Your customer is bombarded with thousands of advertising messages daily, so be succinct: We want you back.
5. Establish Urgency
Deadlines have always made direct mail teasers more effective. And with email, deadlines can be even more precise and convincingly urgent: Final day! Early bird registration ends at 5 p.m. Eastern. Another example: Our biggest sale of the year ends in 6 hours.
6. Announce Good News
New and improved are powerful words: New! Buy online and make better margins. Or how about announcing a favorite product's comeback: 25¢ bulbs are back.
7. Start a Story
Mal Warwick mentions this fundraising envelope teaser in his book, "How to Write Successful Fundraising Letters": She was only 11 years old. She was as old as the hills. (How can you resist not finding out more?)
8. Promise a Benefit
Know what your reader loves, then link a product benefit to it: Bison is better for you than beef. See back for details.
9. Provide a Pat on the Back
We all like to feel important: We value your opinion.
10. Make a Challenge
Often used by magazine writers and editors, this technique works well across channels: Take this test to learn your Investment I.Q.
11. Personalize It
Personalized teasers don't have to include an individual's name to be effective. Personal relevancy is every bit as powerful: Attention Kansas residents: Premium rates remain the same from 2012 to 2013.
12. Establish Exclusivity
We all like to think we're getting special treatment: 15 discounts for union members only or Take the cruise of a lifetime with fellow ASU alums.
13. Tantalize With Tips
Properly targeted, tips are highly effective enticements to increase open and clickthrough rates. Team the word "tips" with a number and you're destined for success: 9 tips for cutting the cost of car insurance or 5 budget-friendly shopping tips.
14. Make Teasers Action-Oriented
You've probably noticed teasers often start with verbs to encourage response: Register now, save 30%.
15. Who, What, When, Why, Where and How
When faced with teaser writer's block, I jumpstart the process by starting with who, what, when, why, where or how: Why I still buy newspapers.
Three final reminders …
1. Free. It's a powerful word, but it also triggers spam filters. So use it wisely in email subject lines.
2. Don't overpromise. Ultimately, you want a satisfied, not a disappointed reader.
3. Test for the best. This is Direct Marketing 101. Teasers are an important creative element to test because they can dramatically change response. In the case of email subject lines, pretest before rolling out. For direct mail teasers and ad headlines, do A/B split tests. The results may surprise you.