The power of curiosity and playing “hard to get”

Jan 28, 2022

Issue #151

Kids today are missing out on SO many things…

One of them is the joy of passing notes during class.

Back when I was young, passing notes in class was the ONLY way to get a message to a classmate or have a “private” conversation while the teacher was up in front of the blackboard.

(Private is in quotes, because pretty much everyone in class, or at least your co-conspirators, knew that you and the other person were having a conversation.)

There was a whole art form to passing notes in class.

You had to write your note on a scrap of paper… fold it up as small as possible…

Write the person’s name on top…

And then (this was the tricky part), get the person next to you to discreetly pass the note to the person next to them and so forth…

…sometimes requiring them to catapult your note across a long line of desks with the flick of a finger…

…or toss it across a large gap to another cluster of desks, just to deliver it to the right person.

And all of it had to be done sneakily while the teacher had her or his back turned while writing on the chalkboard.

Oh, what a thrill it was… the danger of getting “caught”… the camaraderie and creativity of the co-conspirators passing along your note… and the excitement of a fun distraction while the teacher droned on and on.

Kids today simply spend a few seconds shooting off a text on their smartphones. They don’t know what they’re missing.

In any case, it was while passing notes one day when I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade that I learned two powerful lessons: the power of curiosity and playing “hard to get”.

Little did I know how well they would serve me later in life as a freelance copywriter!

It all started when Dean Foreman passed me a note from a few clusters of desks away during class. On the note he had scrawled, “Which boy do you like best in the class?”

Now, I already thought Dean was the cutest boy in the class, and I had a bit of a crush on him. But I instinctively knew I couldn’t just give him that immediate satisfaction of saying it was HIM.

So I thought for a second, and then wrote down, “You and _______.” And then passed the note back to him.

I watched in suspense as Dean unfolded the note and read it. Right away he started looking around the room, evaluating his male competitors.

I started looking around, too, because I wasn’t sure who “_______” was either.

You can probably guess what happened next. A flurry of back-and-forth note-passing ensued, with Dean obsessively guessing one male classmate’s name after another.

The list of scribbled-out names on that tiny little note got longer and longer.

I knew I had to come up with somebody. Then I locked my eyes on Jay Fox.

A worthy competitor to Dean, no doubt. Not as cute, but more intellectual in a masculine sort of way (as “masculine” as a 10-year-old boy can be, anyway.)

So finally, after multiple rounds of note-passing, I wrote down Jay’s name. Then I asked Dean which girl he liked best in the class…

Of course he answered, “You and _____.” And you know what? I left it at that. Which probably drove him crazy.

In any case, somehow I instinctively used–and learned the power of–curiosity in responding to Dean’s note.

Whenever you can insert curiosity into your copy… whether it’s a subject line, headline, or bullet… you open a loop in your reader’s mind that BEGS to be closed (as demonstrated by Dean’s obsessive guessing of who “______” was).

Once you capture someone’s curiosity (it must be something that they see as relevant and of interest to them), and open that loop, they will do just about anything to close it.

They’ll open your email and read it… they’ll read that first sentence in your lead, and likely the ones that follow after that… they’ll respond to your newsletter or book offer because they just HAD to find out the answer to one of those tantalizing bullets in your copy…

It’s a magical “superpower” to unleash on your prospect when you insert curiosity into your copy.

I don’t think I’ve seen a headline or subject line that couldn’t benefit from MORE curiosity (just like Christopher Walken’s character on an old Saturday Night Live episode relentlessly needing MORE cowbell…)

So when in doubt, think “I’ve got a fever… and the only prescription is… MORE curiosity!”

And that leads me to the second lesson I learned here: playing “hard to get”.

I’ve talked about this before, but there’s nothing that makes you more attractive to potential clients than the idea that you’re “in demand”. You don’t want them to think you’re sitting there by your computer twiddling your thumbs with nothing to do but wait for their email.

Your potential clients need to “fit into your schedule”… you can maybe “move some things around” or they may have “called at a great time” because the project you had slotted in had to be pushed back…

…or whatever honest (or harmless white lie) response you give them for being able to hop right onto a project (of course, not until AFTER you’ve received the 50% advance from them…)

Having these kinds of boundaries and putting out the perception of not being instantly available at a moment’s notice makes you look like a professional… like someone who’s not as needy and therefore probably good at what they do, creating an urgency to want to hire you!

I learned this lesson and had its power demonstrated to me at the tender age of 10. And it’s served me well ever since.

Alright, moving on–in yesterday’s email (in which I talked about my upcoming interview with marketing expert and mentor to some of the biggest names in direct response, Rich Shefren–you can check out how to hear it and get a trial subscription for just $1 to his “Steal Our Winners” virtual mastermind here), I promised I had some exciting news to share.

Well, I’ve got TWO exciting things to share with you…

The first is, I just launched my new branding and website! You can check it out here. I’d love to hear what you think…

I spent a lot of time and worked closely with some highly talented folks (huge shout-out to Hillary Weiss, who’s incredible to work with and just opened up her Power Position coaching to new applicants).

I also am finally coming out with my new course on doing copywriting research! It’s called Research Beast and I’m planning to launch it next week. You can get on the priority notice list here and be among the first to hear about it!

That’s all I’ve got today… “pass me a note” when you get a chance (you can reply back to this email) and hope you have a great rest of your Friday!

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I always have this little note at the bottom of my emails about letting your fellow copywriters and marketers know about me. But this time I’m also putting it in the P.S.

So if you are so moved, I’d LOVE for you to send them to my new website here so they can become Copy Insiders, too (and get my fabulous copywriting checklist!)