Does your marketing content survive the “3-second” rule?

You’re enjoying a favorite snack at home. And suddenly the morsel slips from your paws and on to the floor!

That unfortunate moment sets a rule into play jokingly known as the “10-second rule.” Basically, the rule holds that any food item remains edible if it’s quickly scooped up and dusted off within ten seconds (shorter or longer depending on who you ask).

(Trust me, there are limits to the “10 second rule” and where it applies. Anything that falls to the floor in a public restroom or anywhere “public” – for that matter – stays there as far as I’m concerned. It could be a $5 piece of Godiva Chocolate. If it’s public domain I’m sad to say – the rule doesn’t apply! You with me…?)

There’s a similar rule at play in copywriting. It’s the “3-Second rule.”

Here’s the premise – Your headline must grab your prospect’s attention! And you have about “3 seconds” to do it!

Seems like a short time-frame but consider the amount of information that streams into our consciousness every moment.

>An email hits your inbox. The subject line either compels you to open it or delete it.

>A piece of direct mail arrives in you mailbox among a few bills and credit card statements. It may look compelling enough to tear it open. Once opened, the lead sentence determines whether you give it any additional time.

Marketing content is a “dime-a-dozen.” And since a lot of “dimes” are invested, I’m amazed at copywriting that ignores the “3 second rule.”

Here’s 4 things your headline content must do to seize attention (and survive the 3-second rule):

1)Make a promise.

Typically, it should be a big promise. But big or small – promise something! Tell your reader what major benefit will come to them from your product/service.

You must think (strategically) about this. And your thoughts should be guided by below-the-surface research about your prospect, their problems, and how your product/service is THE solution. Start by answering their dominant “what’s-in-it-for-me” question.

2)Draw a picture.

This is why I often default to a story-lead (like my earlier “food” story). People can relate to a situation, a story, a popular/trending news item, etc.

It’s true – showing beats telling!

An active social media presence helps. Social media keeps “what’s current” in front of you consistently. Keep a notebook or use Evernote to capture story ideas. Subscribe to newsfeeds with services like Google Reader. Keep your ink fresh and ready to create captivating images of your product/service in action. Pictures don’t paint-a-thousand-words by accident!

3)State a fact.

Think action-ability. What actions do your products/services compel a client or prospect to take? Actionable facts give the readers of your marketing promotions something that confirms the trustworthiness and viability of your products and services. Don’t allow your copywriting to ramble. Go ahead and state it!

4)Ask a question.

Questions create necessary tension or clarify tension that’s already present. Ask your prospect a question that reminds them of their core problem or need.

Create copywriting around the answers that solve their problem(s).

Asking questions shows intuition and intelligence. Be intuitive through your marketing content. Show your prospects that you know them. And give them reason to trust you through the answers your copywriting provides.

Seconds count…whether it’s food…or copywriting!

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