Is Curiosity The Key To Selling?

David Copperfield
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve recently got hooked on studying the opening lines from popular novels and you can see a few of them over on my blog sianscribbles.

Grand.  But what can we learn as copywriters and marketers about opening lines.  When I go to buy a book I look at the cover.  If that piques my interest then I might have a look on the back and see if anyone worthwhile has recommended it, or if it’s the literary recommendation of the Worksop Flat Cap And Fig Newtons Weekly Chronicle.  Assuming it’s got past this test, then I might open the front cover.  And that’s when the opening line comes into play.

Publicity online amoxil machines and advertising aside, it seems reasonable to assume that the most popular books have something at the start which encourages the reader to continue.  And then tell a mate that it’s a good read.  So is the key in the opening line and what is the common denominator?

Curiosity.

Of course it doesn’t always work.  The first line of David Copperfield is enticing enough…“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” And yet it is the prelude to seven pages (I’ve never got further than that) of verbosity which had the effect of making me feel as though toffee was being poured into my every synapse.

You only have to look at the rest of the Media to understand that as a species we are driven by curiosity, solving riddles and stories.  How many conspiracy theory books and TV programmes are there?  Squillions.  Here’s an exercise you can try with your very own email account – especially if you have one you use for signing up to the lists of marketers and business pro’s.  Go scooting down the subject lines and see which ones grab your attention.  Have you ever met a subject line where you just KNEW you weren’t going to be interested in the information, the product or the person who sent it, but something about the subject almost compelled you to open it?  And arn’t you always disappointed?  So there’s another lesson there. Yes, it’s great to get the curiosity flowing but you have to follow through with the delivery or it will all go horribly wrong and you may not be trusted again.

There is also a fine balance between arousing curiosity and satisfying curiosity, and the copywriter who satisfies curiosity is apt to lose customers.  Similarly, you can arose curiosity, but be so obscure that no-one bothers to delve any further.

Here’s an example of the proper use of curiosity appeal, taken from the copy for a mystery and adventure book.  Notice how you get told enough of the situation to rouse your curiosity; but it stops short from satisfying your curiosity by telling you the outcome…

How could it happen in 1995…a millionaire’s yacht stranded helpless on a cannibal island!

Curiosity is a fantastic advertising and copywriting tool, and when used correctly can lure your reader into the selling process and secure the deal, as long as you remember these key points…

1. Arouse but don’t satisfy your readers curiosity

2. Follow through on what you’ve alluded to in your headline

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