Breed curiousity to get results

May 30, 2012

There’s a powerful but elusive emotion that you can trigger an increase in traffic and conversions. Used properly, it can entice your reader to give you their full attention and follow your call to action. But, there’s a catch… Despite its intensity, this emotion is fickle and it’s often mishandled in marketing. Make a mistake and your reader’s interest can disappear with the smallest of distractions.

This emotion is ‘Curiosity’.

Stemming from our need to gather information to make sense of the world, curiosity can have us glued to puzzles and games for hours, finish books we don’t enjoy, or bounce from article to article in Wikipedia resulting in a completely lost afternoon. More constructively, curiosity has been the driver behind the greatest discoveries in science, medicine, and technology. And yet, the sudden curiosity to read the latest celebrity scandal, caused by seeing magazines at the store counter, can disappear as soon as you finish paying.

So how can you trigger curiosity and turn it into action? Psychology and economics professor, George Loewenstein, conducted an in-depth study and discovered that the peak combination for triggering a high level of curiosity included:

  1. Violating the right expectations
  2. Tickling the “information gap”
  3. Knowing when to stop


Violate the right expectations

You’re probably already familiar that most curiosity is triggered by challenging common beliefs. If there is something that readers don’t expect, disorder is created, which requires investigation to restore sense and meaning.

Curiosity headlines are some of the hardest to write, because simply turning something on its head usually isn’t enough to encourage your reader to take action. To create a real desire for your reader, you have to violate the right expectations, namely from highlighting a gap in someone’s knowledge of a topic that interests them.

Tease … just a little

Tests revealed that most people assume they know more than they actually do, so you definitely want to make sure you’re not losing readers who “think” they know what you’re going to tell them.

Ultimately, you need to directly poke at their area of expertise and say, “I know you know a lot, but you don’t know this.” This encourages the curiosity gremlin to wreak havoc.

Know when to stop

Curiosity doesn’t intensify indefinitely, rather it peaks and declines if left unsatisfied for too long. A common problem in sales copy is overdoing curiosity, believing the reader will stay interested forever.

Your headline is important in getting the attention of your reader, but it doesn’t guarantee continued interest. The headline gets them to read the first line of your copy, and the first line gets them to read the second line and so on until the end.

So then, your opening paragraph needs to acknowledge the curiosity you highlighted in your headline. Don’t introduce something new and unrelated, hoping that your reader’s curiosity will cause them to power on through your copy looking for the answer that was promised to them.