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Shock Night! How to feed the fear

by Pete Godfrey · 9 comments

Shock Night! How to feed the fear

Let’s talk about headlines.

Yeah I know I cover headlines fully in my courses and yes, we have talked about headlines here on the blog and in my newsletter many times, but bare with me will ya… this is special.

We’re going down deep into the underbelly of persuasion and you’ll see a very cool way to snap your prospects awake and instantly get their attention.

But let’s back up a bit here. In last weeks, The Walking Dead post I talked about ‘The Walking Dead’ and how many folks are in a comatose state. This makes it even harder for us marketers to get their attention.

The old big benefit headlines of the past are still working, but they are losing their shine. However, one way to get attention is to shock them awake and give them a jolt that instantly removes the fog and gets their attention (albeit briefly).

You can do this by looking for the horror stories in your industry.

Here are two examples from magazines I saw recently.

Plastic Surgery Disasters

Drugged Doctor Botches Operation

Headlines like those above, targeting the right market, would sure to get attention. That’s why it’s a good idea to always be on the lookout for horror stories in your industry… ones that your product/service can solve.

Two templates for you…

Don’t YOU Be The Next ______________ Victim

Secrets They Don’t Want You

To Know

Think about this and how you can apply it to your next promotion.

For example, one of my newsletter members was doing copy for a bathroom renovations mob. She concentrated on the horror stories; her hook was the shocking number of people who get hurt or even killed each year with bathroom accidents. Another member, Jean Cannon, gets your business systems in shape so if any nasty accidents occur you are covered. Every business needs her services; the trick here is to make them want it. BIG difference between the two right?

Anyway, Jean could easily lead with horror stories of business owners getting sued and losing the business and so on.

Think about it.

It’s in the media every week. Every week we see a small business owner getting sued for something… losing the business over a misunderstanding. It makes my blood boil. I get emotional just thinking about it. And that’s what good copy does. It gets your blood pumpin’ as Carlton would say.

(By the way, Jean’s doing some mighty good workshops of late: Jean’s Workshops. But, I reckon if she looked for the horror stories she would get a lot more attention.)

Two more examples for you…

Years ago my good friend and mentor Ted Nicholas had a book that on the surface was pretty damn boring.

The title was:

“The Complete Book of Corporate Forms.”

Ted knew instinctively to use fear to sell it. This is the headline that sold hundreds of thousands of this book…

“What Will You Do When Your Personal Assets Are Seized

to Satisfy A Judgment Against Your Corporation?”

Gets ya right in the pit of the stomach doesn’t it?

But what about normal everyday businesses?

How can they use fear?

Well I mentioned the Bathroom Renovators earlier, but let’s look at something ordinary like carpet cleaners.

For years Joe Polish has been teaching them to focus on fear.

You may think your house is clean but you don’t see all the festering, diabolical parasites lurking in your carpet. And you let your baby crawl on that?

Classic stuff.

This is GOLD.

Use it!

And don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Enjoy the ride.


NEXT WEEK: Where’s Ya Passion?

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About The Author

Copywriter, Sales Strategist - Pete GodfreyPete Godfrey, The Wizard of Words, from rebel without a clue to one of the most in demand and highest paid Copywriters and Sales Strategists in Australasia… all with the power of his emotionally charged words that sell… Discover the “Secret Weapon” to increasing your Sales and Profits by downloading the valuable report "The Ultimate Copywriting and Marketing Secret" While you're at it, follow Pete on Facebook

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tamara November 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Very nice stuff Pete.
I think I’ll go and change my adds to “Don’t let your child be the next suicide victim”.
“Don’t let your child be the next to be called a dummy at school”
“Don’t let your child be the next high school drop out”
“Don’t let your child’s lack of motivation kill their future”

Thanks a million – it really is gold!


Pete Godfrey November 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Hi Tamara, with some markets you’ve got to be careful when using fear.

When I wrote a sales letter for a speech and learning disorder therapist who specialised in children, I was very aware that I didn’t want to offend or scare the parents but I DID need to get their attention.

So I merely planted a seed. I came up with, “Are You Afraid Your Child is Slipping Behind The Rest Of The Class?” headline. Worked very well because instead of being blatant about it, I merely planted a seed… I did it in a subtle way.

So while this is a great technique I revealed, sometimes you have to think long and hard about using it.


Gary November 7, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Great article Pete.

Don’t YOU Be The Next Online Coupons Victim. Secrets These Shady Operators Don’t Want YOU To Know!

I was well into some copy this afternoon and then saved it for later this evening. Just checked out your blog and discovered I was already going after fear. Needed a headline template and you plugged the gap. Your first two examples fit beautifully.

Loving it!


Pete Godfrey November 9, 2011 at 6:09 am

Worth a test Gary…glad to help


Deb November 8, 2011 at 8:25 am

Great Article Pete, thank you for sharing your wisdom…one of the new market areas I wanted to tackle was the Gen Ys, have you any thoughts on this market from your experience?




Pete Godfrey November 9, 2011 at 6:11 am

You’re welcome Deb… as for thoughts on the Gen Y market, as with all other markets Deb, your marketing must start with them… you must find out their desires, dreams, frustrations, wants and needs and have true empathy for them. The more you know about a market the better you can sell `em.


Michael Yardney November 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Great Article Pete

It’s given me a great headline for a future property market update article.


Pete Godfrey November 9, 2011 at 6:12 am

Hey Michael, great to see you on this thread… and yes, for your market, this one is definately worth a test.


Loz November 10, 2011 at 9:50 am

Hi Pete,

Great reminder about the power of fear and how to leverage action !!

Love your stuff, I have also heard some of Joe Polish’s work and its also excellent.
I am writing to small business owners about their advertising and marketing and how to attract more clients. In my first email the subject line was “In tough times…” The open rate was only 42%. It is difficult to get them just to open the email…
So I figured that the subject line needed lots more punch…

Some of the possible subject lines
“thousands wasted on dud ads”, “Don’t YOU Be The Next Advertising Victim”,
Struggling to attract customers, Failing business losing the battle on droves…”

With respect,


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