Arousing Interest and Holding It
We have seen how attention can be secured, but we must next know how to turn that attention to our advantage — to arouse interest. We must do this immediately, too, for but a fraction of a minute elapses between our opening paragraph and the one that follows and the mind of the reader, excited by our first statement, demands further satisfaction or it will turn to other things.
There are two distinct kinds of interest elements. The first of these is the human interest element. Human interest is difficult to describe. It is that thing in a story, for example, that causes us to live with the characters through their adventures. It is a direct appeal to the emotions. It is to you, of you and for you.
Remember that every man is interested in himself, his business, and his problems — but seldom, if ever, in you or in your affairs. If you want to interest him in your proposition, you must carefully weigh and analyze his needs, locate the real cause of his troubles and then show him the vital connection between your proposition and his interests. E. St. Elmo Lewis, the well-known business writer, brings this point out very clearly when he says….
"When we finally come to understand that the interesting element in all advertising is the human element, the personal element which reduced to a general principle simply means that men are always more interested in men than in things, we will make our advertising personal in both the sense of the writer and his business and in the sense of the man or woman who is to read it.
"The other very simple human principle involved in successful advertising and always practiced by the man with a vision, whether he be selling goods on the road or writing about them in his copy is the simple principle that Madam de Sevigne gave as a recipe for good conversation….
'Always talk about your listener's interests, his pleasures, his business, his hobbies or his loves.'
But let us show by means of illustrations just how this HUMAN INTEREST element and the YOU element work together.
"If you draw $3,000 a year, you are a $60,000 investment at five per cent. If you are a live wire — we know you are or we wouldn't use our postage on you — you are keeping your eyes open for ways in which to make yourself an $80,000 man instead of a $60,000 man."
Your imagination is at once excited by the clever comparison of your income and what you would represent as an investment. Perhaps you never thought of yourself just that way before. You unconsciously rise in your own estimation. Now, suppose the writer had introduced the same subject from his point of view instead of yours. Some such a paragraph as this would not have appealed to you at all…..
"We believe we can show you through our knowledge of your problems how you can increase your income."
A book publisher pictures to you in a very human way a condition that you can instantly recall having been placed in at some time or another, when he writes….
"Do your arguments always win for you? Are you always able to say what you have planned to say — and does it always have the snap and persuasion you imagined it would have? Are you ever forced to admit that your adversary has beaten you in the business of wits — because you said the wrong thing — perhaps used but one wrong word — at the critical moment?"
You can not make a satisfactory answer to these pertinent questions. Hence what is more natural than that you should eagerly turn to what he has next to say and the solution of the matter that he will offer.
A farm machinery manufacturer hits five nails on the head when he sketches these advantages to his farmer prospects….
"Did you ever stop to think what you could do with an engine on your farm? If you only had a one horsepower you could run your cream separator — pump all the water you could use — grind from 12 to 25 bushels of grain — run a fanning mill, grindstone or washing machine — and while your engine was doing this work for you, you could be busy at other jobs to be done."
He might have told how big his plant was, how long he had been in business, how many engines he turned out a day, what kind of materials he put into them….but, no….he was a wise man….he realized that what the farmer was interested in was what the engine would do for him, how it would solve his labor problem.
A hat manufacturer writes to dealers thus….
"We want to help stimulate your hat business. We have the right goods to do just that thing. We have developed the hat departments of hundred of merchants in every part of the country and we are certain we can help you to make more hat sales and that means for profits."
Would you expect such a letter to cause you to write an early reply? The manufacturer mentions himself five times and you are thought of only twice. How much better it would have been, how much more it would have appealed to you, if he had said…..
"Two things will stimulate your hat business — the right goods for your trade and the kind of good co-operation a live manufacturer can give you. Both are yours for the asking. We'll gladly satisfy your keen business instinct on quality and price and give you the benefit of what we have learned in helping build hat businesses for hundreds of merchants in every part of the country."
Never lose sight of the importance of presenting your proposition from the point of view of the reader. This is well summed up by one writer who says…..
"When you have mastered the facts of the case, then you might give your attention to the importance attaching to the point of view. The keenest facts do not make an effective appeal to the mind unless they can easily and naturally be applied to something in which one is already interested or about which one already has some knowledge. Of what use is it for you to try to interest me in the purchase of an automobile by telling me the vital facts about cylinders, tires, engines, coolers, and the like, when all your talk is pretty much like Greek to me? If I already have a machine and you are trying to sell me a better one, doubtless that might do, for I would be supposed to know something about those things.
"No, you are approaching me from the wrong point of view. What you must do is to show me how a busy man with no time for additional pleasures and not inclined to extravagant show, can use a machine to increase his efficiency, save his time, promote the health of his family, entertain his friends and serve the sick and the poor. I am already interested in such matters and if an automobile has any application to such things, then your facts along that line will interest me at once. Later you can tell me all about the mechanism.
"In other words, after you have acquired a great range of facts from your own point of view you must turn right around, if need be, and do your best to see them from the point of view of the man whom you are seeking to impress. You will find the same facts taking on entirely new colorings. It is up to you to pick and choose those that will relate themselves to the other man's present knowledge and feelings. You have got to start in at the place where you find him. Else you will never get the chance to pull him along to the place where you want him to go. Your minds must meet, as the lawyers would say, on some common ground before you can expect him to follow your reasoning to some conclusion as yet new to him. A point of contact must be established and that you can discover only by taking the right point of view."
Our first interest element — human interest — coupled with the YOU element is essential in addressing those who are unfamiliar with your proposition and what it will do for them. There is another class of prospects, however, to whom our second interest element will more strongly appeal. These are the type who are as familiar with our proposition or product as we ourselves, perhaps. They might be termed those who know. To this class, obviously, it is unnecessary to inject the human interest element. What they are interested in is the plain, practical details. They already know what there is in the proposition for them in a general way. What they want and the only thing that will interest them is something about quality, service, profit, price, delivery, terms and the like. In writing this class we must use, as a general rule, our second interest element — technical interest.
This element gets right down to business. It paints no pictures, but presents plain, unvarnished facts. It takes for granted that the reader already knows what he can do with a proposition and the only thing he is interested in is whether or not he can do it with the specific proposition presented. Such an interest appeal, for instance, would not dwell upon the pleasures or benefits of owning an automobile, but at once launch into a description of its mechanical construction, the bore and stroke of the motor, the lighting and starting system, etc.
Note how this letter immediately goes into facts and figures that are interesting to the engineer to whom it was sent.
"Early in 1914 the Chamber of Commerce Building, Detroit, spent $142.61 for Nonpareil Insulating Brick and $72.23 for Nonpareil High Pressure Covering, to replace other forms of insulation in their engine, pump and boiler-room. In the six months beginning April 1 and ending September 30, 1913, with their old insulation, their coal consumption was 673.97 tons, costing at $2.95 per ton, $1,988.21. For the corresponding six months in 1914, after the new insulation had been installed, the coal used amounted to 537.785 tons, costing $1,586.46. The saving directly due to the Nonpareil Insulation was, therefore, 136.185 tons of coal at $2.95 per ton, or $401.75."
You can well imagine that such information would not arouse your interest in their insulating system if you were not already familiar with the advantages of insulation in general. The engineer knows what they are talking about. All he is interested in is whether their system of insulation has any advantages for his use…..hence their recognition of this point in putting such a strong testimonial before him.
To be right, however, the technical interest element in arousing interest must be used right. It is better to err on the side of underestimating how much your reader knows than to give him credit for more knowledge than he has. No one should use this form of appeal without having a thorough knowledge of the proposition or product advertised. It is easy to fall into the habit of confused, meaningless technical terms and no one must be addressed as carefully as the man who knows, for he will instantly detect both ignorance and deception.
There are many other ways of creating interest, but the two elements given cover the subject sufficiently until such a time as you are experienced enough to call upon your own ingenuity and create something unique or original.
But always bear in mind that you are trying to get your reader's interest and not your own. What may be intensely interesting to you may not appeal to him at all. To accomplish this you must, as has been emphasized before, talk to him about himself. Keep your hopes, desires and ambitions in the background. It is no news to him that you want him as a customer — everybody who has anything to sell does. What he is interested in is why — from a purely selfish viewpoint — he should buy your goods — what he will get out of it if he does.
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