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Crafting those first words or sentences that entice readers to click through for the full story is both an art and a science. Successful teasers draw on the basic principles of direct response marketing as well as good journalism.

Sex and money are always attention grabbers according to my favorite journalism professor. (That's all people are really interested in, right?) Money is easy. Just add in specific dollar amounts or dramatic percentage increases.

What about sex? More about that below, along with the five tips. First, here are two before and after examples to show you what works and why in a teaser.

Example #1: Thanks to Bizjournals.Com for Letting Me Mess with Their Copy

BEFORE

Article title: Old friends can be best funding sources

Teaser: He thought ace salesmanship would make his new company go. But he found out marketing without money didn't work. Here's how he found the funding to succeed...

My rewrite:

AFTER

Article title: Old friends can be best funding sources

Teaser: Former star salesman Gerry Sullivan quadrupled revenues for his old company from $28 million to $118 million. But he didn't have the same knack when it came to raising money for his family-owned petrochemical startup. Then he turned to an entrepreneur's proven fallback for funding--family & friends. Find out how he secured close to half a million with only a handshake...

Which teaser makes you want to read on? What's the difference?

The before & after rewrite above illustrates a few of the key ingredients of a good teaser. It should include:

  • Specific and relevant details (a name, an occupation)
  • Actual dollar amounts (if available)
  • A twist or unexpected comparison (in this case; he was a successful salesman but couldn't raise money for his startup through a traditional bank loan)

The intro should set the scene so you want to read on. Here's another example, using a teaser I wrote for a WordBiz Report article on "online marketing tips from an offline pro."

Example #2

BEFORE

Article title: Great Web & email copywriting tips from an offline pro

Teaser: Donna Baier Stein is a direct response copywriter who has written a book and gives frequent seminars. Here are her tips for how to write sales copy for the Web and email...

AFTER

Article title: Great Web & email copywriting tips from an offline pro

Teaser: I asked Donna Baier Stein to distill from "Write on Target," her classic book on copywriting, how offline direct marketing best practices can be translated to writing sales copy for the Web and email. Stein said she starts an assignment, offline or on, by posing four questions.

  • What am I selling?
  • To whom am I selling it?
  • Why am I selling this now?
  • What do I want the reader to do?

Sounds straightforward, but wait till you hear her answers...

I didn't actually use the "before" teaser in the example above. But that's what I started with in my head. I had to force myself to come up with some specifics and an element of drama to make this teaser work. Notice how I added a "kicker" at the end. "It sounds straightforward... but it's not." This intro got a high click-through.

What About Sex?

Sex in this case means an intro with that extra something, a dollop of intrigue, a bit of suspense. These attributes are key and you usually have to give something away in order to create them.

Note how Ann Handley included the following sentence in the teaser for this article:

"Hint: reveal a choice tidbit or two in those first 50 to 100 words... "

It may seem counterintuitive but this is as an essential part of the intro. Why? I'm offering a taste of the specific tips the reader can get by clicking through. Be truthful, however. Don't tease and then not deliver. In Ann's words (in case you hadn't noticed, she writes all the teasers for MarketingProfs):

”Sexy means fun, interesting, intriguing, compelling. It's called a teaser for a reason. Bottom line: A teaser should be lively. That's how it should be written. But what should it say? If the article is solving a business problem, then play it straight. Talk directly to the reader, remind them of their pain. Make it clear you've gotta read the piece for the solution.”

5 Tips to Write Compelling Teasers

Let's recap the five specific tips to write can't-resist teasers and increase your click-throughs for the full story:

1. Include Specifics

As explained above, this may seem counterintuitive. You have to reveal enough information to make the reader long for more of the same. Include dollar amounts, numbers, specific sizes. Generally, bigger is better.

2. Give Away a Choice Tidbit

Tell just enough of the story--and make it intriguing--that the reader begs for more.

3. Use a Twist

This is my secret ingredient to a successful teaser. It means to "invert" the expected outcome. It's a classic device in newspaper journalism. And it works just as well online.

4. Apply the Gotta Know Test

This is key. Your article has to address a pressing business problem and offer a solution. Back out of that and into your teaser. Now you're dangling a tidbit that leads to something the reader has just gotta know.

5. Cut and Cut Again

After you write a draft of your teaser, cut your copy. Then cut it again. I do this repeatedly and find myself taking out extraneous words that don't, well, tease...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Debbie Weil is an online marketing and corporate blogging consultant based in Washington, DC. She blogs at www.DebbieWeil.com and www.BlogWriteForCEOs.com. Visit her main site at www.WordBiz.com.