Kristen Guy Copywriting

Month: October 2017

What Hairdryers Have to Do with Your Marketing

Girl drying her hair with hairdryer

Have you ever seen the 1980s Mel Brooks’ movie “Spaceballs”? Judging by the title, you can probably guess it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. But it does have a scene that has always stuck with me because it’s a funny example of non-essentialism.

In it, the hero Lonestar (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick, Barf (John Candy), are trudging through a melt-the-shoes-off-your-feet desert, lugging the bags of damsel-in-distress Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga). When they’re too exhausted to go any further, they drop the trunks and peek inside at the precious cargo the princess demanded they take along. To their surprise, they find a monstrous hairdryer.

Flabbergasted that he’s wasted his energy carrying an unnecessary and useless accessory, Lonestar confronts the princess: “What’s this? I said take only what you need to survive.”

To this she retorts, “It’s my industrial strength hairdryer, and I can’t live without it!”

Instead of opting for the few vital items she needs to stay alive in the desert, the spoiled princess brings everything: an absurdly heavy trunk, a hairdryer that needs electricity to work, a lacy parasol that does little to block the sun, and two additional bags with who knows what in them. It’s true non-essentialism in action.

If you’ve ever been charged with growing a business, you may have felt that you couldn’t live without certain aspects of your marketing. Maybe you were spending your budget on online advertising with a minimal ROI or a social media site that you couldn’t keep up with. Despite this, you kept trying to execute that aspect because you were personally driven to make it work or had been instructed to pursue it. This is an example of how non-essentialist activities can sabotage your business.

Non-essentialism: Pursuing Everything

So what is non-essentialism? According to author Greg McKeown, author of the book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” it’s the idea that you have to pursue EVERYTHING. Yet when your energy is divided among many different activities, he says, what often ends up happening is you make “only a millimeter of progress in a million different directions.” In other words, you expend a great amount of effort and, in return, get only paltry results.

Essentialism: Less but Better

Essentialism, on the other hand, is based on the German principle “weniger aber besser.” Translated as “less but better,” the idea centers around identifying and acting on only the vital few opportunities and discarding the trivial many.

This is crucial to understand because each of us is limited in the amount of time, energy and resources we have. If we take on too much, we risk failing at our tasks, missing our goals and looking incompetent. In short, our marketing suffers, resulting in fewer customers than expected, lagging sales and meager (if any) growth.

If you invest your time in only the truly essential opportunities, though, you’ll succeed in making notable progress in the areas that matter most. Essentialists understand that they can’t fit everything in. Instead, they willingly make trade-offs that lead to a more focused approach. This lets them put maximum energy into those activities that will truly make a different in their businesses.

Becoming an Essentialist

To transition from being a non-essential marketer to an essential one, start by asking yourself these questions:

•  Am I investing in the right activities?

•  If I could do only one thing, what would it be?

•  What am I truly best at?

•  Where can I offer the highest level of contribution?

To help you answer question 1, for example, you may want to analyze your marketing strategies and tactics to see which ones are bringing in the most customers or revenue. Once you’ve identified those with the best results, amp up your activity in those areas and reduce or cut your spending in those that aren’t returning a significant return on your investment.

Let’s say you’ve been spending a sizable amount on Facebook advertising, but with scanty returns because most of your customers come from referrals. In this case, you may want to consider diverting funds from your online advertising to a strong referral program.

The Basics of Effective Marketing

In my experience, effective marketing comes down to this:

•  Know what your goals are for your business, so you know what you’re trying to accomplish.

•  Find out where your customers hang out, and connect with them there.

•  Continually track your marketing to discover what’s working and what’s not.

•  Cut your underperforming marketing tactics and devote more time, money and resources to those that are producing
maximum results.

Do this and you’ll begin to market like an essentialist. Sure, you’ll be making progress in only a few select areas, but it will be progress on a grand scale that will boost your business to a higher level.

In the words of author and entrepreneur Richard Koch, “Most of what happens in the universe—our actions, and all other forces, resources, and ideas—has little value and yields little result; on the other hand, a few things work fantastically well and have tremendous impact.”

And that’s something Princess Vespa would agree you can’t live without.





Why Your Headlines Aren’t Working

You’ve spent hours writing a brilliant landing page about your company’s new product. Now you’re ready to go live so your soon-to-be adoring prospects can learn all about it.

But, wait. You forgot the headline. To remedy this, you spend 30 seconds thinking one up, then slap it at the top of your landing page.

Bad idea.

Why, you ask? Because these days, prospects only spend about five seconds deciding whether to read on or move on.

If your headline is junk, all those people who come across your page will stop there and never get any further. Never learn about your amazing product. Never find out how it will help them solve their problems. Never learn how it can improve their lives and bring peace and joy to the world.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic. But the truth is that a bad headline often leads to a missed opportunity, a lost sale, a never-gonna-get-them-back situation.

Headlines are so important, in fact, that most copywriting gurus recommend spending 80% – 90% of the project time developing the headline versus the body copy.

In his book How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, master copywriter John Caples wrote, “If you can come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad. But even the greatest writer can’t save an ad with a poor headline.”

So how do you know if your headline is a good or bad one?

Ask yourself these questions:

• Is my headline ho-hum or attention-getting?

• Does it simply try to entertain or does it communicate real benefits?

• Does it include clichés and overused phrases or original, creative wording?

• Does it appeal to anyone and everyone, or does it target a specific audience?

• Is the message weak, or does it offer a compelling reason for prospects to read on?

Headlines that are boring, missing a benefit, use clichés, speak to a general audience, and lack a compelling message are not effective. These are the “bad” ones.

For a headline to fall into that magical category of “good,” it must do three things: get attention, speak to a specific audience and arouse curiosity.

Get Attention

A good headline must call to your prospects and lure them to you . . . like a mythical Siren beckoning. It needs to say, “I have a solution to your problem that will improve your life. Come closer.”

Here are a few examples:


10 Questions to Answer Before Selecting an ERP System (software consultant firm)

Longer, Straighter Drives . . . Without Lessons (golf club manufacturer)

You’re Injured, But Not Helpless (medical device company)


By including an important benefit or tidbit of useful information in the headline, you appeal to your prospect’s self-interest. This helps him answer the “What’s in it for me?” question and compels him to read on.

Speak to A Specific Audience

Few products are meant for everyone. For instance, most high school seniors don’t have the means to afford a sports car. And a retiree likely doesn’t need the latest breakthrough in acne prevention.

Yet many companies struggle to attract the right buyers because their headlines are just too general.

A good headline makes it clear who the target audience is through the words used. Here are some examples:


5 Reasons Your Mancave Needs Daylight (audience: men with dark mancaves)

Market Peaks: Welcome or Worrisome? (audience: financial investors)

The Most Energy Efficient Lighting for Your Home. Ever. (audience: home owners who want to save money)


When creating headlines, select words that speak directly to the prospects your product can help. By doing so, you’ll waste less time answering questions from people who aren’t a good fit for—or perhaps can’t afford—your product.

Arouse Curiosity

Humans are naturally curious. A good headline takes advantage of this by piquing a prospect’s interest. You can achieve this by:

• Asking a question

• Making a statement that challenges the status quo

• Sharing new or useful information

• Promising a reward

• Telling a story

• Using an interesting statistic

• Making an offer

Headlines that convey a sense of intrigue, humor or mystery compel prospects to hurry on to the body copy to learn more.

Developing effective headlines is challenging work. Yet if you want your prospects to become customers, a good headline is the first and most important step.

Start by making the three improvements I’ve shared with you, and you’ll be able to craft stronger, more focused headlines that attract the right people to your business.

Or if you have better things to do than obsess over headline strategies and techniques, I’m happy to chat about how I can help. Just give me a shout here.

Did you find this post useful? If so, and you want to receive more tidbits of copywriting wisdom, sign up for my monthly newsletter.


Image courtesy of alexisdc at