You're about to get a masterclass in writing from a guy who spent some time in the slammer. Sounds a bit wild, right? But hold up – this isn't just any ex-con. We're talking about Gary Halbert, a true legend in the world of copywriting. Yeah, his past had its rough spots, but that didn't stop him from creating some of the most killer sales letters you'll ever read. His secret sauce? A rock-solid formula called AIDA. As product managers, we can steal his tricks to make our own writing better. We’ll learn why we should listen to this guy, break down AIDA, and show how PMs can use these insights to crank their writing skills up to 11.
So who was this Halbert guy? In the copywriting community, he is a Hall of Famer. Search for his name and you will find pages and pages of articles on copywriting best practices. He sold anything and everything including supplements, decorations, and family coats of arms. If you’ve ever had a ziplock bag full of sand and a business card land on your driveway, you can thank him (you can be a genius and be annoying). He was all about doing things differently and trying new approaches. He wrote a lot of his ideas down in a series of letters that he sent from prison. If you want to learn other writing and marketing tricks these are a treasure trove. Check them out here.
One of these ideas was AIDA. It was the writing framework he used to sell anything to anyone. You’re probably wondering what is AIDA? It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. It is the path you walk a reader down when you want them to do something for you. Let’s dive a little deeper into each piece:
- Attention: This involves grabbing the attention of your target audience, often through a headline, image, or some other compelling element (such as talking about a criminal).
- Interest: Once you've captured their attention, you need to build their interest by providing more information about the benefits and unique features of your product or service.
- Desire: After creating interest, you aim to foster a desire for your product or service by highlighting how it meets their needs or solves their problems.
- Action: The final step is to encourage the audience to take a specific action, like making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or contacting your company for more information. (When I say specific, I mean specific, as in “click this link to sign up”. Leave no question about the specific action they should take).
As product managers, we might not be pitching products like our salespeople, but let's be real, our job is all about selling. We sell ideas. Ideas like "Hey, this feature is gonna be game-changing" or "We need to invest in this project" type selling. We pitch new features, sell stakeholders on financial investments, and explain the need to focus on tech debt. No, we're not your typical salespeople, but we need persuasion skills. That's where AIDA comes into the picture. It's all about grabbing Attention, sparking Interest, creating Desire, and inspiring Action. And when we get this right, it's like supercharging our communication. So while we're not technically in sales, AIDA is our secret weapon to help sell anything.
Rather than explaining more, I thought I would show you how this could work in practice. I recently had the brilliant idea for a feature that would let me embed a video into the cell of a spreadsheet. I call it VideoCell. Now I can watch “Mini Mall Man” while I create some financial forecasts. If I am going to build this, I am going to need support and approval from the leadership team. Here is what an email to them using AIDA might look like. (I included the section headers for clarity but you should drop those in actual communications):
“Subject Line: Proposal for VideoCell: A Game-Changing Feature to Elevate Our Spreadsheet App Attention: As we continue to seek innovative ways to differentiate our spreadsheet app in the market and deliver exceptional value to our users, I would like to propose the development of a potentially groundbreaking feature: VideoCell. Interest: VideoCell is a unique feature that allows users to save and play their favorite videos directly inside spreadsheet cells. This integration not only brings a multimedia dimension to spreadsheets but also eliminates the need for users to switch between apps or browser tabs. Imagine our users being able to review a product video while comparing its features, watch a tutorial while working on data, or simply enjoy a music video while crunching numbers. VideoCell can make all these possible and much more. Desire: With VideoCell, we can significantly enhance the utility and appeal of our app, offering a unique feature that currently no other competitor provides. This could be a key selling point to attract new users and retain existing ones, potentially leading to an increase in our market share. More than just a feature, VideoCell represents a strategic move to position our app as a versatile, all-encompassing workspace that adapts to the evolving needs of our users. Action: To realize the potential of VideoCell, I propose that we initiate a project to develop this feature. I've attached a detailed proposal outlining the technical requirements, estimated costs, and projected timeline. I kindly request your review and approval so we can move forward with this exciting initiative. I believe it's critical that we act swiftly to stay ahead of our competition and continue providing innovative solutions to our users. Let's discuss this in our next meeting, and I'm available anytime to answer any questions you might have. Thank you for considering this proposal.”
Well, thanks to AIDA, leadership loved the idea and we are going to build it. Before we start we should create a PR/FAQ. Here’s how that might look using AIDA:
Attention (Press Release Headline): Introducing VideoCell: A Revolutionary Feature That Lets You Play Videos Directly Inside Your Spreadsheet Cells! Interest (Summary): Our innovative new feature, VideoCell, is set to revolutionize the way you use spreadsheets. No longer just for numbers and text, our spreadsheet tool now supports embedding videos directly into cells, creating a dynamic, multimedia workspace that eliminates the need to switch between apps or browser tabs. Desire (Problem/Solution): We've heard from users about the hassle of juggling between different apps or tabs when working with data and videos simultaneously. VideoCell addresses this issue head-on, enabling users to watch a tutorial while working on data, review a product demo while comparing features, or simply enjoy their favorite music video while crunching numbers - all from within their spreadsheet. This feature makes the spreadsheet a more versatile and engaging tool, enhancing productivity and user experience. Action (Call to Action): Update to the latest version of our app today and start using VideoCell. Simply right-click on a cell, choose 'Insert Video', and paste the video URL. It's as simple as that! FAQs Q: How do I use the VideoCell feature? A: Right-click on the desired cell, select 'Insert Video', paste the video URL, and click 'Insert'. Q: Do all video formats work with VideoCell? A: Currently, VideoCell supports the most common video formats. We're continuously working to support more formats. Q: Can I adjust the video size in the cell? A: Yes, you can adjust the video size just like you would adjust the size of the cell. Q: Is VideoCell available on all devices? A: VideoCell is available on all devices where our app is supported, provided you have the latest version installed. Q: I'm having trouble using VideoCell. Who can help me? A: Our customer support team is ready to assist you. Please contact them with any questions or issues you have. Experience the future of spreadsheets with VideoCell today!
We used the PR/FAQ to guide us in developing VideoCell and now it is ready for release. We better use AIDA to put together a release note to send customers:
Subject Line: Introducing VideoCell: Transforming How You Use Spreadsheets! Attention: We know how much you love efficiency and versatility when it comes to managing your data. That's why we're thrilled to introduce VideoCell, a groundbreaking feature that's set to revolutionize your spreadsheet experience! Interest: VideoCell allows you to save your favorite videos directly inside your spreadsheet cells. This means you no longer need to juggle between different apps or browser tabs. You can watch a tutorial while working on data, review a product demo while comparing features, or simply enjoy your favorite music video while crunching numbers - all without leaving your spreadsheet! Desire: Imagine the convenience and time saved by having all your relevant videos and data in one place. You can streamline your workflow, enhance your presentations, and make your data analysis more interactive and engaging. With VideoCell, your spreadsheets are not just numbers and text anymore; they're a dynamic multimedia platform that caters to all your needs. Action: To start enjoying VideoCell, simply update to the latest version of our app. Once updated, you'll find a new 'Insert Video' option in the right-click menu of your spreadsheet cells. Remember, the more quickly you act, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits of this exciting new feature. As always, we're here to support you. If you have any questions or need help getting started with VideoCell, don't hesitate to reach out to our customer support team. Don't wait, update now, and elevate your spreadsheet experience with VideoCell!
If we want to get ambitious, we can even try using AIDA to write product documentation. (I went too far here I think, a good lesson in using the right tool for the job):
Attention: Ready to take your spreadsheet experience to the next level? Meet VideoCell, a groundbreaking feature that lets you insert and play videos directly within your spreadsheet cells. Interest: VideoCell integrates video playback into your spreadsheet, eliminating the need to switch between apps or browser tabs. You can now watch a tutorial while working on data, review a product video while comparing features, or enjoy your favorite music video all within your spreadsheet. Desire: With VideoCell, your spreadsheet becomes a dynamic, multimedia platform that enhances your workflow and makes data analysis more engaging. Imagine the convenience and efficiency of having all your data and relevant videos in one place! Action: Getting started with VideoCell is easy: -Right-click on the desired cell. -Select the 'Insert Video' option. -Paste the video URL and click 'Insert'. Remember, you need to be on the latest version of our app to use VideoCell. If you haven't updated yet, do so now to start enjoying this exciting feature. For further assistance, feel free to contact our customer support team. Experience the future of spreadsheets with VideoCell today!
I hope these examples spark some ideas for you on how you can use AIDA in your work each day. Now it’s time to get to work! The first thing you should do is watch this YouTube video that explains AIDA better than I ever could. Then when you go to work tomorrow, open your favorite writing app, type out an outline of “A I D A” and start crafting a better message about your product.
As always I would love to hear what others think about the idea of AIDA. Or if you have any success stories using it. You can reply here to let me know.
(And hopefully, you noticed that I formatted this using AIDA. If it didn’t convince you, don’t blame AIDA, blame my poor writing skills.)