Freebie Friday continues!
If you missed the last two weeks’ editions, then check out Getting Great Testimonials and Training People To Be Trained By You. This week’s release is Clear, Not Clever Titling, which will help you in your quest to name your products and services in a way that increases the chance people will pull their Visa cards out. (Yay!)
For those new to Freebie Friday, we are sending out samples from our BIG LAUNCH class (opening up in late December) so you can get a feel for what’s inside.
These freebies are what we call the “Launch Multipliers”, which are 108 tactical training modules that come with the class and are designed to boost your conversion during a launch.
So! Without further ado, let’s get to today’s lesson.
(We have links for you to download the audio or written version below, followed by the full text of the lesson.)
Clear, Not Clever Titling
… or, read it below!
Clear, Not Clever Titling
Hello, and welcome. I’m Naomi from IttyBiz and you are listening to the BIG LAUNCH launch multipliers. This track is called Clear, Not Clever, Titling.
We’re talking about product or service titling a lot in this month’s modules, since subtle changes to your title can be one of the simplest ways to bump up sales. Or, in some cases, changing a poorly performing title to a better title can take sales through the roof. You never know.
But despite what our mothers always told us about not judging a book by its cover, the truth is we all judge a book by it’s cover. And it’s title. Just like with products. Because the name of a product doesn’t just do the job of revealing what the product is all about – it reveals how well the marketer behind the product understands the audience it’s being sold to.
We gave an example in one of the other multipliers about Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Workweek.” Tim originally was thinking of calling the book “Drug Dealing For Fun and Profit”, because he had developed his particular work strategies via a nutritional supplements company he owned.
But after running split tests on various titles, the market declared “The Four Hour Workweek” the winner. Why? Because apparently, out of all the things in his book, that was the outcome that made his audience’s mouth water the most.
And it was a very clear title. Very outcome driven. No one could mistake what was being sold to them. So the title did a very good job of communicating the most important outcome that readers cared about.
Which, in Tim’s case, was a bit of a marketing ploy, since the book wasn’t about working four hours a week at all. As one blogger famously commented, “Nobody works as much as Tim Ferris does,” and Tim has a rather creative definition of work. Apparently, if you enjoy what you’re doing, those hours don’t quite count as work. That didn’t seem to make it into the blurb in the dust jacket for the book. Hrmm. We’ll just leave that one alone.
The point is, clear outcomes tend to do you a lot of favors when you’re trying to sell something. They tell the person who is considering buying your lovely thing what they will get – or potentially get – as a result of handing over the money.
This is helpful to you as the seller, particularly when you don’t have much in the way of an ad budget.
Let’s talk about that for a moment, before we get into the clear vs. clever debate.
We will often get asked why we advise people to be clear with their titles when other companies can get away with doing the exact opposite. That’s a fair question. The answer is ad money and branding.
If you are Chanel, for example, you could get away with naming your next big line of perfume something like “Cube” or “447″ or hell, you could just forego naming all together and put a picture of a horse on the bottle and not give it a name.
If you are Steven King, you could release a book with those same names. A Steven King book with nothing but “447″ on the cover is going to be an international best-seller.
When you have millions of advertising dollars at your disposal, and you have a brand that’s pretty much a household name, you can name things anything you want. That’s because people will pay attention to you because of your brand alone, and you can throw tons of money into ads that do the explaining for you.
When Steven King fans see his latest book is called “447″ they immediately think “I can’t wait to find out what the book is about.” When Chanel fans see a new bottle of perfume with no name an a picture of a Palomino, they think “I can’t wait to find out what this perfume smells like.” And they will pay very close attention to all of the ads plastered everywhere that carefully explain what’s inside.
That’s fantastic if you’re a household name with an ad budget approaching infinity. Clever names are really exciting for those customers, because they’re willing to wait to discover what the product is all about.
But if you’re not a household name, tough cookies. If your product has too clever a name, if it’s not more or less immediately intuitive what outcomes are going to be gained by purchasing that product, the average consumer is going to think “Ok, I don’t get it,” and then they are going to move on. They’re not invested enough to figure out what it means.
“I don’t get it” is one of the worst things a customer can think when it comes to buying your stuff.
Customers, being humans, are distractible. And if your title doesn’t do a good enough job of distracting them from funny cat videos on YouTube, and get them thinking about something relevant to them in a way that turns them on, the chances of getting them to pay attention go through the floor.
Sometimes a clever name can do a great job of distracting them, and we’ll talk about that in just a little bit. But sometimes it doesn’t distract them, and the reason for that all comes down to context. In order for customers to consider your product, they have to consider the relevant context to their lives.
That relevant context is basically how they decide if they want it or not. And while relevance is different for every customer, you can take an educated guess on how any particular title might resonate with them. Putting just a little bit of extra thought into this, plus a little bit of split testing, can make a significant difference in the number of the sales you make.
So, let’s talk about titles so you can figure out how to do this really, really well for the rest of your natural life.
We often get asked “What’s the right title for my product?”. Well, there’s no one “right” title for a product, in the same way that there is no one “right” outfit to wear.
If some random person on the street pulled you over to the side tomorrow and said “Hey, what should I wear?”, you wouldn’t be able to answer the question. You’d need more data.
For one thing, you’d need to know where they are going. Are they headed to a nightclub or to wedding? A job interview or lunch with an old friend? The context of where they’re going completely change the answer that you’re going to give them.
If they tell you they’re going to a wedding, you’re not going to tell them to wear a sundress or a bikini, because that wouldn’t be appropriate for the situation.
Unless … what if the wedding were at the beach, with one of their friends from college, who was a bit unconventional and having a very casual wedding? A sundress might actually be a great choice. It might even be the kind of wedding that you could go barefoot in.
So the context of the event matters, but the context inside the context matters, too.
If it were a job interview at a bank, maybe a suit is in order. If the interview was with a really hip startup in Portland, maybe jeans and a t-shirt. So there’s no set answer even inside the event itself. You need more context.
And even after that, you need additional context around the impression you want to make. Is this the kind of event where you’re trying really hard to impress everyone? Maybe this is the wedding of your boyfriend’s brother, and you might want to look as nice and neutral as you can to impress the parents.
Maybe it’s the wedding of your ex from college, and you want to dress to the nines and upstage the bride so everyone knows you were the one who got away. We don’t judge. Sometimes that’s just what you want to do.
The point is, when it comes to picking an outfit, it depends on a lot of factors. And all those factors boil down to what kind of impression you want to make and on whom. It depends how you want to position yourself, and what your goals are, who your audience is, and what outcomes you – and they – are looking for.
So, all that said, let’s stop talking about revenge dressing at weddings and get into how this applies to titles.
You will often hear us – and the rest of the copywriting world – say that your titles need to be clear and not clever. That is true … to a point. As we said earlier, if you are not a well-recognized brand, or you don’t have a lot of ad budget to spend exposing people to your product and all the finer points of it, yes, you will probably want to veer into “clear and boring” as much as possible.
However! The more you know about the context and the impression you want to make, the more you actually can go into the clever arena without losing sales. It’s just that when you’re starting out, you want to play it safe. Like they say, first you have to understand the rules before you can break them.
The reason people say “be clear, not clever” isn’t because clever is bad for sales – it’s because most people don’t know how to be clever while still staying clear. They get clever and end up with something that doesn’t communicate enough context for someone to be interested in learning more.
Let’s go back to the 4-Hour Workweek, or it’s original titles.
“Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit” was certainly clever, but it kind of sucked at being clear. If the book was actually about drug dealing, well, we’d have to say that title was fantastic. But it wasn’t. And the author didn’t actually want people to think it was about drug-dealing, he probably just thought it was clever and controversial and would catch attention.
And in a way he would be right. “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit” would probably capture people’s attention for a moment, and they would think “Wow, I can’t believe someone was crazy enough to write a book about selling drugs like that.” But it wouldn’t hold their attention, unless they were actually looking for a book on drug dealing. For the rest of the world, you’ve got 7 billion people who would NOT be scratching their heads thinking “Gee, I wonder if that’s a book about lifestyle design and early retirement?” They’d just move on. That would have been a title “fail.”
Now, as we said in another module, another potential title for the book was “Broadband and White Sand.” That’s a very clever title. It rhymes. That’s often helpful. But it doesn’t exactly tell you what the book is about. You can almost picture Tim Ferriss pitching the book saying, “Ok, let me explain. The internet is so awesome that you can build a business that will let you be able to run it from a beautiful beach in the tropics. So, ‘Broadband’ … and ‘White Sand!’ Get it?”
Anytime a description of your title accompanies the words “Ok, let me explain” or “Get it?”, you are in trouble.
There are a million things competing for your customers’ attention. Very rarely will they spontaneously want you to explain something to you. Very rarely will they just “Get it.” And if they don’t get it, they sure don’t want to be made to feel like they have to say to you “Oh, now I get it. Clever.” It doesn’t works with jokes, and it doesn’t work with titles.
That said, “The 4-Hour Workweek” did a good job of grabbing attention. It was clever, yes, because it took the typical association of a workweek being 40 hours and removed the zero. And it kind of made a promise, too. Your work week, the title implied, was about to get a lot shorter. That’s definitely something that will capture and hold attention. Nobody had to “get it”, because everyone already knew what a 40-hour workweek was. So you have a lot of leeway in the clever department if you are making a play on something that is universally understood. So there was a lot of clever without sacrificing any of the clear.
So, how do we tie all of this into something that can take the sales you make in your next launch up?
Let’s give you a little bit of an exercise in crafting your titles.
We’ll start with step one: Brainstorm titles that are as boring as possible and speak to a specific outcome or purpose.
In this stage we are just calling the product what it is. If you’re selling a physical thing, like an office chair, you can come up with names like “Black Office Chair” or “Memory Foam Office Chair” or “3-Way Adjustable Ergonomically Designed Office Chair.”
If you’re selling a book or an information product, you can come up with titles that just tell it like it is. “How To Pay Less For Your Next Car.” “Online Natural Birthing Class.” “How To Launch A Product.”
If you’re selling something that’s a service, start with boring. “Career Transition Coaching.” “Golf Coaching.” “Branding and Marketing Coaching.”
These are not meant to be your final titles, but one of them may end up being the one that sticks. The main point of this part of the exercise is to get you looking at every boring, practical way of explaining what your product is and what it does for the customer so that you have a bank of extremely clear ways to describe what you’re selling. You have now given your left brain a serious workout.
Now we move on to step two: Brainstorm titles that are as over-the-top clever as you can manage.
This may seem counter-intuitive based on everything we’ve covered so far, but there is a method to our madness.
When you spend some time brainstorming titles that are extremely clever and don’t necessarily do a great job of saying what your product does, “Broadband and White Sand” style, you’ll be bringing in your right brain for some creative work. You’re going to come up with titles that you would never use in a million years, but this s where you let yourself have some creative freedom.
This does a few things. On one hand, it gets you having a little fun with the naming process. On the other hand, it gives you a lot of titles that might – maybe just might – be the seeds of a great title. Sometimes you will hit upon a name that is so mind-bendingly clever and just so happens to be extremely clear at the same time. That’s a good thing, because you get all the benefit of a well-branded, creative title at the same time you communicate what needs to be communicated.
For some reason the Snuggie comes to mind. You know that blanket with sleeves? That name is ridiculous. Yet somehow it does communicate the outcome that the customer wants – snugness under a blanket – with something fun. You may not come up with something like that, but if you give yourself the freedom to come up with names you don’t intend to use, you might just hit a winner. So spend some time coming up with the cleverest, most potentially obnoxious names you can think of.
And when we say obnoxious, we don’t mean intentionally obnoxious. We’re just talking titles that you immediately say “I could NEVER name my product that.” The reason for this is because there are perfectly good products that you love and enjoy buying which have names that, had you been the product creator, would never have gone with. It’s a lot like song lyrics. Take your favorite songs, and imagine you were writing the lyrics. Had they come out your mind, you would have said “No way.” But you ended up liking them nonetheless.
Now, once you’ve done that, you can move on to step three – finding a middle ground.
This is where you look at the boring names and the clever names and you see if they can somehow be combined, merged or massaged to make something that has the benefits of being clever while still being clear.
There are a lot of ways to do this step. You can simply combine part of a boring title and part of a clever title. You can take certain words you came up with and replace them with other words that are part of your customer language. You can look at the titles you came up with and say “That’s not the right title … but if we changed a few words it could work.”
In this step, you also want to take into account the factors we talked about with what to wear to the wedding. You want to consider what impression you want to make as well as how you want other people to feel about the product.
We’ll give you a few examples as we close from some of our own products.
This class, BIG LAUNCH, is less on the clever side and more on the practical side. But we wanted people to be excited about the class and think of something big. So it’s very clear – it’s about big launches, but it’s in all caps. It’s really short and punchy. It has gravity. It’s actually based in client language. Clients say “I’m getting ready for my big launch.”
Another class we run is Your Next Six Months. We could have called it “Business Plan in a Weekend,” but that would have been flashier than we wanted. We actually want that class to have a boring feel, because the topic is boring and practical. But we put the word “Your” in there to make it feel more personal, to soften it up. Again, it was based in client language. Every summer they would tell us “I want to plan out my next six months.” So practical, with no splash.
A third class we offer is Fast Track to Fully Booked, a class for coaches. We wanted this one to have a bit of clever appeal, so we put “Fast Track” in there. But it’s also clear, because it actually is an 8-week intensive fast track. Again, client language helped us put the “Fully Booked” part in there. So this title was designed to communicate energy and action, the opposite of boring. So we veered on to the clever side there without sacrificing clarity.
One other example – we have a class called “Let’s Fix Your Business.” That slides way over to the clever side, because the outcome isn’t as clear as with the other classes. So it’s almost – almost – a title that fails the clear, not clever test.
But the thing we wanted to communicate here was togetherness. The class is an 18-week intensive with constant and ongoing live support, so we used “Let’s” in the title to communicate that. The “Fix Your Business” is a curiosity play, but it still passes the test. The customer may not know exactly what they need to do to fix their business, but they sure know it needs fixing. So like The 4-Hour Workweek, it’s is easy to wrap your head around.
We hope those examples give you some real-world ways to see how you can be clever while still being clear. If your audience is practical enough, you may be able to pull off titles that are boring, and still win. How To Win Friends and Influence People is a title that has proven very successful without having to be catchy.
So go through this exercise and come up with the boring ones, the clever ones, and some in between and see which title feels best for your product. The more time you spend trying to nail it, the better your odds are at driving sales up.
And that’s it. The secrets to titling revealed. Hmm. That sounds like a good name for a book. Maybe I should write that down. Where’s my pen?
Thank you so much for being here with us today. You’ve been listening to the BIG LAUNCH launch multipliers, Clear, Not Clever, Titling. I’m Naomi from IttyBiz, and I’ll talk to you very soon.