Seriously…Every. Freaking. Place. And you know it.
Whether it’s around the corner, under a rock, or just right in front of your face, there’s no way to duck and cover. Quite simply, we’re witnessing an epidemic of epic proportions, and if you run a business, whether it’s selling courses online, coaching, consulting, or whatever else, you have to understand this one thing.
What is it? PROOFBAIT.
In simplest terms, proofbait is just those ever-so-irresistible proof-driven headlines you see taking over the internet. You know the ones I’m talking about…
It’s when you see some oh-so-enticing numeric result placed front and center, dangled in front of your eyes. It might be monetary. It might be a percentage. But it’s all about stealing your attention, so you can’t resist taking a look.
Here are a couple examples of what I mean…
“How to use a 106-year-old writing formula to make your blog posts 447% more profitable.”
“Here’s a strategy to earn $12,000 a month with your blog in 12 days.”
You get the idea. And, yes, it works. (For now.) But let’s go a little deeper, so you can understand what’s really going on and why it’s dangerous. Let’s start by taking a little trip back in time.
The Formula to Rule All Formulas
There’s an age-old marketing formula known as AIDA. It’s the key to blowing up your blog and creating the type of gripping content that people can’t get out of their heads.
Doing a little clicking around, it traces back to 1904 from the book Salesmanship by Frank Hutchinson Dukesmith. I mention it, simply to say it’s about as tried and true a formula as it there is out there, and if you do any form of marketing, you have to know about it.
AIDA is an acronym describing the four different stages people have to go through, before they become a customer. Specifically, those stages are as follows:
Attention – This is where you get people to notice you
Interest – This is where you develop their curiosity
Desire – This is where they actually want what you sell
Action – This is where you push them over the edge and get them to buy
If you use it right, with a little practice, you’ll be able to get massive increases in conversions and buyers. Not to mention you’ll be able to create gut-wrenching content that draws people in like flies to honey.
Lets walk through a real-world example to see how things work.
The other day, I was working with a client on her homepage. She’s a yoga instructor. So picture this…
Someone hits your website. They don’t know you. They’ve never heard of you. And your goal is to get them to either contact you or give you their email. What stage of AIDA applies at this point?
Hopefully, you answered “Attention.”
So imagine what someone would be thinking at this point.
The first thing anyone thinks when they hit a site is something like, “Why am I here?” or “What’s in it for me?” Remember, they know nothing about you yet, so the big decision they’re really making isn’t whether to buy or not. It’s not even whether you’re any good or not. It’s whether to stick around or leave.
So if you want their attention, that mean you absolutely have to let them know they’re in the right place.
Now let’s take a look at my client’s homepage.
The first thing you see after her picture is “Welcome! I’m Anna!”
And if you think about our goal, that’s Strike 1. Even though people do it all the time, the truth is, no one hits a site and thinks, “I’m dying to know your name.” It sounds friendly and nice. But the question you want to ask yourself at this point is:
Here’s a nice example from Power Yoga. It’s simple, but think about what they’ve done:
“At home or on the road, stream online yoga classes from our studio.”
Right away, you know who this is for people who want yoga on the go. And you know they’re offering yoga classes anywhere. So you can see that when you cut straight to the chase and give people what they want the way they want it, you grab their attention.
Now, moving on, the next thing Anna’s site says is “With over 10 years of experience, I’m happy to help you.” That’s Strike 2. Which isn’t to say that experience doesn’t matter. It can matter a lot. But you have to ask the same question as before. Does it grab your attention? And, again, not really, because Anna is jumping the gun and talking about herself before telling people how she can help them.
Once people are really interested, talking about your experience is worth a ton. But at the Attention stage? Not so much.
Finally, Anna’s homepage wraps up with her offer. “I teach yoga classes with hands-on adjustments.” And, now we’re finally talking about what she does. But…
Even though I’m no yoga guru, I’ll bet anything that people aren’t clamoring for instructors that offer hands-on adjustments. And that’s strike 3. Odds are, by this point, people will just click off and look elsewhere.
And I’ve got nothing against grabbling people’s attention.
But here’s the danger. Too often, people ignore the rest of AIDA. They’re great at creating eye-popping headlines, and they’ve got elaborate sales funnels chock full of the latest tactics to get people on their list, but then things fall flat when it comes to getting their audiences to actually buy.
In other words, proofbaiting is great for the A in AIDA, but without the IDA, there’s no profit, and there’s no impact.
Not too long ago, a friend with a 3,000+ person list launched his first signature course. Usually, you’d expect that to translate to about $20K or more on a product like his with around 45 students. His actual numbers, though? After sinking in several hundred hours, he go 3 clients.
The thing is, if you look at all the education and all the content out there, the vast majority of it focuses on the first stage and getting people in the door. There are bazillion lists telling you how to get featured, get seen, get found through SEO, Pinterest, and Facebook, and so it goes.
But at some point, you hit the wall.
You’ve got people to take a look. But now that you have, how do you turn them into buyers?
What do you do when you launch a course like my friend, but sales go south? Or you run a webinar and everybody leaves? Or you rank #1 in Google, but they don’t read your emails?
And that’s the real problem with the industry. For every person who makes it, I see another 99 die a slow death, because they don’t know how to handle the IDA part of the equation.
But there’s a very specific and important fix.
It comes from a very specific book. It’s old. It’s out of print. You’d think it was antiquated you saw it and you didn’t know better. But the truth is almost every multi-million dollar online expert who teaches people how to build a profitable blog and get rich and make money blogging knows it and uses it. In fact, a good portion of them have built their entire business on “secrets” from this book.
It was written by the godfather of info-marketing himself. Eugene Schwartz. And it’s called Breakthrough Advertising. The core principle is sophisticated, but fairly simple, once you get it.
Basically, the reason any business is going to struggle is because the market doesn’t stay the same.
In other words, the reason it’s so hard to get people to want what you sell and pay what you ask is because trends keep changing, and you’re going to need a very different approach to take people through the IDA part of AIDA if you come into the market late than if you come in early.
Makes sense, right? If you’re the first out there, it’s completely different than if you’ve got 10,000 competitors.
So what Schwartz did was break down the different market stages to identify what you need to do at different times to position your products. And if you want to make sure you create a profitable product and you market it the right way, this is what you absolute have to know.
He identifies 5 different stages in particular, which you can roughly describe like this:
Stage 1. You’re the first to market, and no one in your audience has heard your offer.
Stage 2. Competitors start to enter the market, and your audience is familiar with your offer.
Stage 3: There are many competitors in the market, and your audience is familiar with all the different claims and offers.
Stage 4: There are many competitors in the market, and your audience is tired of all the different claims and offers.
Stage 5: There are many competitors in the market, and your audience no longer believes all the offers and claims out there
So you can see that each of these stages addresses a different audience experience. And, more than anything, if you want a successful business, you have to see the world the way your audience sees it.
I’m going to focus on the first 3 stages, and Stage 2 & 3 in particular, because that’s where most markets are going to find themselves, and if you’re trying to figure out how to get your business to work, the last thing you want to do is enter a market that’s in stage 4 or 5. So here’s what you do.
Since you’re first to market, if you manage to enter a stage 1 market, you’re basically golden. The only thing you need to know is that they want what you sell. But other than that, you’re basically shooting fish in a barrel.
That means all you need to do is tell people your big benefit.
That might be losing weight. Getting fit. Getting rich. But whatever it is, it’s as simple as that. Of course it’s rare that you get in on stage 1 in a market. Most of the time, there’s lots of competition, and it’s hard to crack open a new field. Which leads us to Stage 2.
As competitors start to enter a market, audiences get used to hearing the same benefit over and over. For example, if you keep hearing that there’s a new way to lose weight, you simply get used to it and stop paying attention.
Whatever it is, once you specify the claims, you separate yourself from the competition again, and give yourself the air of legitimacy.
Naturally, at a certain point, everyone starts to detail their claims, too, which takes you to the third stage. And at this point, you take a different approach. Instead of just focusing on the benefits, which has been played out, you focus on how you achieve your results.
Schwartz calls it a mechanism. And a mechanism is just some device you use to make your product work. You see them all the time. For example, Oxiclean’s mechanism is that it uses the power of oxygen to create whiter whites. Or the George Forman grill is slanted, so grease drips out. In the diet market, mechanisms come fast and furious. There’s ketogenic diets. Paleo. The Mediterranean Diet. And so it goes.
Once you call attention to a mechanism, you shift the playing field from results to process, and, again, you revive the market.
And there you have it.
The key to it all is knowing how to position yourself in the right way to separate yourself from everyone else, which means understanding how markets evolve and change, so you can position yourself differently from everyone else out there.
If you do that, you’ll have the foundation to take people from Interest to Desire to Action, and just as importantly, if you don’t, it becomes almost impossible.