Opening Act

First Impression

When I create a brochure for a client, I put at least 50 percent of my time into making the cover as enticing as I can. And that's not easy. The American public is deluged with so many advertising images on any given day that we are desensitized to all but the most interesting of solicitations. A famous director of TV commercials recently said he turns down lucrative assignments to create automobile commercials because the only cars that can truly turn heads are $100,000 Italian sports cars. He's got a point, and it applies to Caine's efforts as well: He needs to create a brochure cover that has the power to arch a few eyebrows and drop a few jaws.

But remember, you don't have to be a clever wordsmith or creative genius to make this happen. There are some tricks you can learn to make the process a lot easier. One way to start off on a headline-hunting safari is to find a good headline used in a field totally unrelated to yours and mold it into the new context. If you start looking at other ads with such appropriation in mind, you'd be surprised how many ideas pop into your head for your own promotions.

Just to get you started in the right direction, here are a few solid headlines I uncovered and how I would re-cast them for use in other industries.

Original: "Who else wants a supermodel's figure?"

Revised: "Who else wants a pro golfer's swing?" (for golf lessons)

Original: "Why some people almost always make money in the stock market"

Revised: "Why some brokers almost always land the big listings" (recruitment for real estate agents)

Original: "Five familiar skin problems: Which do you need to overcome?"

Revised: "Five home clutter problems: Which do you want to solve?" (custom closet makers)

Thinking this way gets you out of the rut of sticking with the one approach most practiced in your industry.

That said, what do I recommend Caines do to liven up his brochure cover? I decided to borrow a headline I used to promote a national magazine a few years ago. The new headline: "There are 3 secrets to direct-mail success. (And you already know 2 of them.)" Let's talk about what this headline offers:

1. It uses the word "secrets," a provocative, headline-enhancing word I've been promoting in this column recently because of its curiosity-arrousing appeal. Everybody wants to know secrets, especially as they relate to business success. So this alone could increase the chances of getting the brochure opened.

2. The phrase "and you already know two of them" is an irresistible teaser to get readers to flip open the brochure to learn what these two secrets are, as well as the one they didn't know. What are the three secrets in this instance? The first two could be a smart marketing approach and a targeted mailing list. And, obviously, the third secret component is the use of the mailing services of First Class. I think Caines can address the first two elements in short order inside his brochure and then, of course, elaborate substantially on secret number three. This cover refresher should help Caines get his brochure to work harder. And, by the way, a good testimonial wouldn't hurt either.

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Opening Act.

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