General Musings




If you’ve done ANY copywriting at all you should be acutely aware of just how important the headline is relative to the success of an overall piece.

The headline is the hook, the pull, the first interaction, and as such sets the tone while acting as the touch point the reader uses to decide if reading the balance of the piece is even worth their valuable time.

The following is a handful of 13 headlines I feel are among the all-time greats.  If you look around you’ll see that many variations of these are used in much of the marketing you see.

Here goes:

 1. "The Secret Of Making People Like You"

This headline drew many hundreds of thousands of readers into the body matter of a "people-mover" advertisement — one which, by itself, built a big business.  It speaks to people’s insecurities and general desire for approval.


2. "How To Win Friends And Influence People"

This headline helped to sell millions of copies of the book of the same title. This is a great examp[le of the classic "How to" headline format.  Again, it speaks to people’s desire to have friends (how do you think MySpace, FaceBook and the like have done so well) but this one also grabs on to the desire to rise above the folks around you.  Mind control at its finest (did I mean the headline or what it is selling?).

3. "You Can Laugh At Money Problems — If You Follow This Simple Plan"

This headline hits the reader with something pretty much everybody wants to be able to do.  After pulling you in with an almost universal desire (to solve an almost universal problem) it then hooks you with the offer of a "Simple Plan" you can use to solve the problem.  Emotional entry and strong hook.


4. "When Doctors "Feel Rotten" This Is What They Do"

This headline has got a number of elements at work.  First, it combines the instant authority of the Doctor with a familiar human issue of  "feeling rotten".  The reader continues into it because 1. An authority is speaking, and 2. That authority feels just like I do sometimes.  It is also unusual to think of a doctor not feeling good so that element grabs the reader.   It also suggests the existence of a solution to feeling rotten, and that solution happens to be what the authority on NOT feeling rotten does when he/she feels rotten.  It must be a great solution!

5. "Five Familiar Skin Problems — Which Do You Want To Overcome?"

This headline pulls you in just out of curiosity.  Just what are the five problems and do I have any of them.  It then speaks directly to you, making you answer a question.  Byopeningg that communication it hooks you into moving further into the ad.

6. "How Often Do You Hear Yourself Saying: "No I Haven’t Read It: I’ve Been Meaning To"

I’m about to use a slight variation of this one myself (stay tuned for This headline was part of an ad for a well known book club.  It speaks to a very large market as most people would probably be able to say it applies to them.    The words hit upon the emotional guilt button.  Variations of this headline have been used in all sorts of markets for manydifferentt products.

7. "Do You Do Any Of These TenEmbarrassingg Things?"

We are all afraid of embarrassing ourselves.  No one likes to be criticized, looked down upon, talked about, etc.  The reader is magnetically drawn in by the need to know just what the ten things are, to make sure they aren’t unwittingly doing any of them.  My god… maybe folks are laughing at me behind my back and I don’t know about it.

8. "Six Types Of Investor – Which Group Are You In?"

Interesting lead generation headline.  Even if you aren’t an investor you know you should be.  Just what are the types and which would you be?  This headline could be modified to fit almost any topic.  Rather than investor it could be Parent, business owner, teacher, marketer, etc.  The list can go on and on.  The curiosity factor hooks the reader and also preps them for choosing which group they fit – so they can be properly marketed to.

9. "They Laughed When I Sat Down At The Piano… But When I Started To Play!"

We see this one all the time. Americans especially love to see the underdog triumph.  It’s a lot like the old Atlas comic book ads that featured the 98 poundweaklingg getting sand kicked in his face.  We all loved it when that guy got pumped up and knocked out the bully.

This headline also uses the emotional issues ofembarrassmentt, dominance, victory, acceptance and a number of others.  We’d all like to have that feeling one would get when we surprise them all and triumph… especially beating the folks that laughed at us.

10. "Little Leaks That Keep Men Poor"

Again, the reader needs to know "What are the leaks?",  " Am I the victim of any of them?", "I don’t want to be poor.  He who has the most gold when he dies wins so how to I stop these leaks?"  Need I say more?

11. "To Men Who Want To Quit Work Someday"

This headline is pretty obvious.  It is speaking to men (a pretty large pool) first and to the fact that most everyone would like to be able to quit work.  Men also stress and worry over their ability to retire.  This one grabs its intended victim, and twists the knife as it drives it in.

12. "Imagine Me… Holding An Audience Spellbound For 30 Minutes"

Very effective combination of words.  It speaks to the reader.  It is humble which helps create acceptance.  It also speaks to an issue for sooo many people: public speaking.  There is also then an element of "shoot, if HE can do it surely I can".

13. "This Is Marie Antoinette — Riding To Her Death"

A straight "fascination" as Eugene Schwartz used to call them.  The headline is designed to make the reader feel they’ve got to take a peek at this.  The words paint a good picture while tickling our morbid sense of curiosity.  I love it.


That’s it for the 13 my friend.  Take a moment and read back through that list.  Then take another few moments and see how you might modify and adapt one or more of them for your own purposes.   Also look at the next magazine headlines you see from a different perspective.  You may just start to recognize variations of headlines you’ve seen before.

"There’s gold in them thar words… gold I tell you."

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll


Filed under Blog, Copywriting, General Musings by  #


Here’s a quick dose of marketing common sense that has the potential to dramatically improve the ROI for most any marketing campaign… yet almost no one uses it.

Anyone involved in marketing knows that the more targeted you can be when selecting your list of prospects, the higher your conversion rates.  This is called matching the message to the market.

Demographics, geographics, and even psychographics are all ways of slicing and dicing a prospect list in an attempt to pair down the list to a group that has the best match for your message.  Demographics and geography are the two statistical characterizations that have been used the longest.  These involve filtering a list based upon the message recipient’s geographic location followed by variables such as income, age, sex, home ownership, etc.  Psychographic variables by contrast, are any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles. 

These three filters continue to be the standards by which most marketers determine their prospect lists.

Now let’s take things a big step even further.

Consider the following:

Let’s say I sell designer purses.  These purses are all made by high-end designers and are quite pricey.

When creating a target list I would probably use the following selects (Please note that I am simplifying this for the example.  This list could be drilled down even further in terms of demographics):

Gender – women

Avg Income – $100K+

Geography – I would limit this to larger cities in the US which could be selected by Zip code or a variety of other geographic designations

Age – 25 to 70

Travel – frequently

Hobbies and interests – apparel and fashion

And there are many more.

If we stop there we’ll most likely have a pretty large list with some very good prospects on it.  There is some potential to sell some purses to the resulting list.  I am not sure what the ROI will be but if my landing page and data collection process on the page are good I will add a healthy number of prospects to my own list, and will sell some purses in the near term as well as in the future.

Now, lets consider just one more important factor:

I happen to be selling my purses via a website. 

Does it do me any good to put my message in front of women who do not use credit cards?  How about women who do not shop online?  Even if they do use credit cards and shop online, how frequently do they do so? 

Those are just a few examples of behavioral targeting that can be added to the mix.  Think about how much more refined that list would become when you add the behavioral aspects to your list selects.

There are a growing number of behavioral targeting options ranging all the way down to very scientific data research that can asses a site visitor’s intent vs. interest.  This is pretty awesome stuff that You should consider adding to your marketing arsenal if you have not already.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll


I read a great post by Seth Godin today that was a quick discussion on "Breakage".

He related the breaking point to rising insurance costs (you know the ones… health and automotive that continue to increase well beyond inflation regardless of whether or not you have even dipped into their reserves).

At what point does one say ENOUGH! and switch to another service, where presumably the same cycle will repeat itself.

The insurance companies are juggling the trade off between the extra revenue they collect system wide relative to account attrition.  As I look at Blue Cross Blue Shield’s profit statement of over 100 million (not bad for a "nonprofit") I say they are balancing things just fine.

Now let’s take breakage in a different direction and look at online businesses.

The breaking point that I often see pushed is in the realm of email marketing and list ownership.  I have heard more than one successful list owner admit that once they get a name on their list they will hit them pretty darned unmercifully until they either convert to a customer or unsubscribe.  If they leave without buying then they weren’t worth having on the list.


The lead funnel for that type of business model must be huge.  It is also probably a safe assumption that most names on the lists are there in response to freebie, opportunity seeker type offers.  Not exactly the model customer prospects. 

Now, what if that breaking point were to be skewed just a little?

What if the attitudes and the messages were changed so the folks on the list felt they had a real relationship with the list owner.  What if the content they received in most mailings was so good that they were afraid to leave the list for fear of missing out on something.  Consider that a small change in the messages being sent out could sway 1-10% of the people normally heading back out the door.  Could that translate into a lot more customer conversions, even repeat customer conversions, with roughly the same amount of work.

I say, change the attitude and the income will follow.  You do not have to PUSH people to the breaking point, just lead them to drink your water.

The biggest problem with stretching a rubber band until it breaks is when it snaps back and smacks you in the hand.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

Filed under Email Marketing, General Musings, Online Marketing by  #


Listen in as I join Chris Curtis for deep discussion about eCommerce 2008 – what to expect this year in online marketing, promotion and sales!

Chris is an extremely informed marketer, promoter, and a very adept interviewer.  On top of all of that she is an awesome person.

Use the player below to listen in on the interview.


There are some great nuggets of IM and general marketing wisdom in this interview.

You also get a further look inside the head of Sam Knoll.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll




One of the greatest challenges the marketing world has faced recently is exactly how to leverage the evolving Web 2.0, Social Media universe.

Everyone can see the tremendous numbers of users involved as well as the potential reach that it seems should be possible as well.

That said, very few brands have been able to crack the 2.0 code and harness it to their advantage.

Very few brands have been able to crack the 2.0 code

In my opinion there are two issues at the core of this conundrum.

First, is a general lack in the depth of understanding about just how the social web functions that is keeping folks from seeing just how to use it.  It is not yet another channel in which advertisements can be placed.  I don’t care how good they may be, if it is ads that one is trying to use in the social web… you will most likely be wasting your money.

Secondly, there is an over-riding issue of patience, or lack thereof, that seems to permeate the efforts of most companies trying to happily exist in, let alone leverage, the social web.

Social media tends to grow gradually or organically.  Could this be one reason the Search Engines like it so much?  Note the word "Organic".

If a marketer comes in and tries to forcibly insert their message it usually gets thrown back in their face.  This is going to be a problem for most companies working with traditional marketing groups who are used to being able to put together a plan, design the creative, send that off to one or two places, and then at the pre-appointed time their message is made available to a (hopefully targeted) audience of a generally predetermined size.

Social media requires the same planning and creative design (well not quite the same but you get my drift).  What follows next though is what requires patience.  It is not good enough to disseminate your materials to just a handful of places. 

With social media one must first step back and look at all of the various formats in which a message can be delivered.  Next, the various forms of the message need to be carefully distributed to as many media/community outlets as possible.  Yes, you should start with the big guys but the greatest benefit will be seen by massive distribution.

Look at this massive distribution as a huge collection of windows

Look at this massive distribution as a huge collection of windows, or better yet doors, leading in to your website.  The more doors, the more obvious access points into your product or service.  Yes, you will even receive some good SEO benefit… if your materials are all posted correctly.

Is there a problem with this methodology?

In a word, No, but it does leave a lot on the table.

It is wonderful to have people watching your videos on one of the many video sites and then clicking through to your site.  It is also great to have people following your tweets on Twitter, viewing your images on Flickr, or watching your live stream on Mogulous, but is there any cross-pollination going on?

Is the prospect looking at your photos on Flickr even aware that you also have videos on YouTube, or a blog to which you post, or a live feed?

Chances are the answer is NO, and this is where the real opportunity lies…

Enter the concept of Brandstreaming

Enter the concept of Brandstreaming, also known as "life-streaming" or "life-casting". 

The idea is to aggregate all of the feeds from the various places your contents (start thinking of them as assets) are posted to one single place.  In theory this is then streaming all online aspects of an entire brand (brandstreaming) so that consumers need only go one place to drink from the info well.

There are a number of different sites doing this such as FriendFeed and OnaSwarm and more on the way.

Now, I want to insert my own opinion on this here.

I believe that these sites are on the right track… but only have a small piece of the total picture.

They only have a small piece of the total picture

These sites see themselves as aggregators of content.  That is cool and a step forward.

Now, let’s take things a step even further forward and ask, "What if all of that content from a single brand, as well as that of others covering the same brand topics, was leveraged to create a new breed of ultimate authority site?"?

Are you starting to see some of the possibilities here?

What could you do if you owned the Ultimate Authority site for a given brand or topic? 

Do you think you could make a few bucks with that?

The definition of the "Authority Site" is going to change

The definition of the term "Authority Site" is going to change and in my opinion that change is right around the corner.

 Keep your eyes and ears open for what is coming next.

Now having read through all of that, what is your take on brandstreaming and/or authority sites? 

Please leave your comments below.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

Filed under Blog, General Musings, Online Marketing by  #

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