What’s the first thing your copy should do?
Most people think it’s to grab the reader’s attention.
But is “attention” the right target?
Attention is fleeting, especially nowadays.
One second you might have your reader, the next they are already gone.
On to the next shiny object.
What if you could really grab them and keep them glued to your copy?
I think a more useful way to think of this is in terms of “states”.
That’s because your state is an entry point for persuasion.
Want an example of someone who’s a master at using people’s states to lure them in?
Just watch one of his live shows.
He fills up huge stadiums with thousands of people. How’s he able to captivate their mental state to such a degree, that he can often change their behavior – on the spot?!
Simple, he’s great at putting you in a state where his message can land (and don’t take my word for it, I just heard him say it on a podcast).
People’s mental state, whether it’s one of anxiety, fear, happiness, excitement, dread, depression, agitation etc. – is a much easier entry point to access than attention.
Because attention is somewhat controlled (even though it’s getting harder and harder). But your state is automatic.
Rory Sutherland says it best in his book “Alchemy”:
“The truth is that you can control the gearbox of an automatic car, but you just have to do it obliquely. The same applies to human free will: we can control our actions and emotions to some extent, but we cannot do so directly, so we have to learn to do it indirectly – by foot rather than by hand.”
He then gives the example of bravery, which for most people (except maybe the military who developed techniques for intentionally suppressing fear) is not a “consciously determined state – it’s automatic, not manual.”
So the lesson here?
The first thing your copy should do is not to try and grab people’s attention…
It’s to find an entry point in their current mental state, and either…
…disrupt it if you want to change it…
…or resonate with it so deeply that they start thinking you’re inside their own head.
One of the best questions you can ask your customers to get this intel, is pretty popular in the Jobs to be done framework: “What was going on in your life that brought you to [buy product/sign up]?”
Ask it and ask it often.
Bonus: preface it with “Think back to the time you decided you wanted to…” and you’ll get them in an even more accurate state of mind to answer.
P.S. I’m taking on a couple consulting and coaching clients for the new year. Are you a business owner or freelancer (or aspiring)? Let’s talk.
Quote and reflection of the day:
“He smiled and said, “The trick is: you bite off more than you can chew… and then you still chew it. Your mind always believes it can do less than it actually can. It will tell you it’s too much, to stop, to take a break, to cancel this or that. But your mind will lie to you to keep you small.””
– Mark Manson, 3 Life Lessons I Learned From Will Smith
We think of the comfort zone as something external, but the biggest comfort zone we live in is internal, in our minds. It’s also the toughest to get out of. But it’s where you have to start from.