Who Are You Calling A Moron?

Who Are You Calling A Moron?
Who Are You Calling A Moron?
Keep in mind there may be a good A recent chat with a friend reminded me of a copywriting lesson I learned long ago in a place far-far way (Philly): Never insult your audience. Easier said than done? Maybe. But we know there’s a fine line between insulting your audience and completely alienating them. Thank God there’s a solution:

Give your copy the “moron” test. I learned this during my days at a large business-to-business newsletter publishing company. We’d give our headlines a test to see if we could put an insulting name at the end of them - in turn killing off the headline.

Here’s an example:

Have You Complied with HR 1091?

Try adding “moron” to the end of that question. Flows pretty nicely doesn’t it? It’s almost like you’re a school teacher with a ruler standing over the reader.

You can change it to:

HR 1091 Requires Compliance by Jan. 1

Using this fact-based approach lets the reader ask his or her own compliance questions. Give the information or the germ of an idea and allow the reader to follow up on his or her own. We want to inspire thought and then subtly direct action.

Though I gave a headline as an example, you can apply the “moron” test to any part of your copy, especially the questions.

What’s the difference between an insult and a gentle nudge in your product or service’s direction? I’ve seen a few campaigns (via e-mail) where it’s obvious the goal is to shame the reader into action. An e-mail I recently received from expert e-mail marketer Stephen Pierce of the Whole Truth read, “Have you done this yet?”

Moron could easily be added to the end of that question. And though he didn’t want to insult, he did want to get the reader’s attention - and that’s just what he did. The well-written letter that accompanied that subject line was a gem - no doubt winning Stephen tons of sign-ups for his teleseminar.

The Bottom Line

With the prevalence of books from the “For Dummies” series you’ll have to weigh whether your audience has no qualms about being called a moron (or a dummy as the case may be). So measure your audience’s reaction to different tones of voice and approaches. Use these steps to create a test group of subscribers to try out your more creative e-mail newsletters and campaigns:

1. Randomly gather 15 to 20 names from your list and only send them your more alternative campaigns while sending the rest of your list more traditional information.

2. Ask you test group for feedback on the campaigns.

3. Monitor the group’s actions. Do they unsubscribe, click through or just open your e-mails?

4. Integrate some of your more successful ideas into the traditional information you give the rest of your list.

This way you have a relatively safe place to test out your tones of voice. With this technique you can find out whether your list loves - or hates - the whole moron/dummy approach to marketing.
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