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Using E-Mail to Get Attention

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Reticular activating system (RAS), in essence, is the attention center in the brain. It is the key to turning on the brain and is considered the center of motivation. It determines what we pay attention to.

Here’s an example of how the reticular activating system (RAS) works. Do you remember the last time you decided to buy a new car?

Let’s say you decided that you wanted to buy a Ford Explorer. All of a sudden you started seeing more Ford Explorers than you’d ever seen before.

That’s not because people are buying Explorers in record numbers; it’s because the RAS of your brain made you aware of them, whereas you previously ignored them.

The RAS receives thousands of stimuli and messages every second, and since it is not possible for our brains to pay attention to everything, the RAS filters or blocks out most of the messages, allowing only certain ones to come to our attention. ¨

You can immediately see how valuable it would be if you could get your e-mail messages to rise above the avalanche of messages that your recipients receive.

Here are some of the ways you can stimulate your prospects’ RAS in order to transition them to a receptive frame of mind:

1. Ask your reader to write something down. The act of writing something down helps trigger the RAS.

In her book, Write It Down, Make It Happen, Henriette Anne Klauser wrote, “Writing triggers the RAS, which in turn sends a signal to the cerebral cortex: `Wake up! Pay attention! Don’t miss this detail! ”

What you ask readers to write down will depend on the nature of the product or service that you sell.

The simple act of writing down the items puts them at the forefront of your readers’ minds and makes them receptive to go the next step and do what you ask them to do.

Think back on your own experience. Isn’t it true that whenever you had a written list of things you needed to buy (whether you carried that list with you or not), your mind subconsciously zeroed in on those items when they came into your field of vision?

Your mind may have tuned out those things had you not written them down.

2. Create a small, but entertaining or interesting, activity. This provides a refreshing diversion from the usual barrage of commercial e-mail.

Make sure the activity leads up to a well-crafted marketing message that invites readers to click through to your website or otherwise carries them along your intended sales path.

When you lead off with a noncommercial activity, you get recipients to agree to something.

When you subsequently get them to click through to your website, that’s another yes. In effect, you are breaking a large buying decision into several manageable steps to which the reader can say “Yes!”

Professional salespeople use this technique all the time.

One marketer who sells software for installing website audio sends out an e-mail inviting the recipient to send a free personalized audio postcard to three friends.

It is an Ingenious (and fun) activity that also demonstrates the ease of producing an audio recording, displays its excellent sound quality, and thereby paves the way to the sale of the software.

3. Invite your recipient to participate in a quick poll or a one question survey. This is an involvement device that gets your readers to pay attention to a subject on which you want them to focus.

The subject of the poll or survey should be one that is of particular interest to your list members, as well as one that gives you the opportunity to segue into your marketing message.

As an incentive, you may offer to give participants access to the poll or survey results.

4. ”Please forward.” The Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM) discovered a technique for encouraging pass along readership of its newsletter.

AIM simply added “Pls. Forward” to the end of its newsletter subject lines. The association reports that this little device has more than doubled its circulation numbers.

What do you do to get your e-mail messages to rise above the large amount of messages that your recipients receive?


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