MESSAGING THAT LEADS TO AN “ASK”
Your audience’s brain is a crowded place. The very people you rely on — to buy your product, to support your cause, to take real-world action — are sick with influence. From the phone’s first morning buzz to the ads embedded in the Late Late Show, their attention is booked.
Unless you know how to cut through the noise.
Structured visibility is crucial during the first phase of your outreach campaign, what marketers call the “awareness” stage, the wide rim of the sales funnel. First, you must capture your audience’s attention. You must immediately pique their interest. Only then will the people come to you with the “ask” that leads to action — your desired action.
First contact requires precision. Your tweets, blogs, e-mail blasts, and mailers should be lasers, not nightlights. Ask yourself the following questions when you’re reviewing any piece of outreach copy, and if the answer is “no,” start again with a clean slate:
- Is my message clear? Nothing boosts a bounce rate like confusing copy. It is a grave error to confound the reader. What is the core of your message? Identify it and strip away everything else; you can only convey one idea at a time. Remember: laser, not nightlight.
- Is it concise? Proponents of the “elevator pitch” have it right. Next to confusing your reader, the worst mistake a writer can make is to bore them. Research suggests that the average resident of this digital age loses concentration after just 8 seconds. Use the time you have, and remember that it is very, very short.
- Is our argument compelling? You care about your message. Why? If you can answer that question, you can teach others to care, too. Appeal to emotion, but never sentimentality. An authentic message is inherently compelling — provided you follow the first rule of copywriting and take the time to know your audience, inside and out.
- Are the results of this outreach campaign measurable? Choose the data points you’ll track before you put pen to paper. You might be quite proud of your messaging, but if audiences don’t respond, you need to know why. What’s your goal? Filling out a contact form? Clicks on the site? Website platforms and social media accounts offer robust data-tracking tools; use them and adjust your messaging accordingly.
- Are we realistic in what we’re asking of our audience? The “call to action” fizzles if you ask too much of the reader. There is a long journey between “hello” and “nice doing business with you.” Keep your requests humble, simple, easy-to-perform, and make certain they’re measurable. Rather than “buy now,” perhaps your call to action should start with “learn more.” Great initial messaging doesn’t convince your audience, exactly; it attracts them. At the first stage of outreach, the “ask” is enough.
People are remarkably good at deflecting messages that don’t appeal to them. A 2014 study found that 82 percent of Americans completely ignored online ads. Odds are you know what it feels like to glide right past the advertising, landing directly on the article that attracted you in the first place.
Great messaging is more like that story than the banner ad above it. Engage your audience. Then they’ll come to you.