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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: LMiller  |  October 01, 2007

Creating Curiosity: Three Ways To Be Compelling

Originally published for

What makes potential clients check out your website? What drives reporters to call you and feature your comments? What is that first spark that compels people to act?

Curiosity. In this crowded marketplace, it’s not enough to be different. You have to stir the pot, sound the alarm, and drive home the belief that “without me, you will miss out.” The more curiosity you create, the more compelling you are to media, the marketplace and yes, potential clients. Below are three ways to present what you know and create the curiosity that makes people act.

Warning! Big Change Ahead

Politicians have done it for years: sound the alarm, own the issue. Everyone is curious about what’s next. That’s why futurists are so popular on the speaking circuit. The real question on our collective minds: Is this new development going to hurt me, and if so, how can I avoid the pain?

Even in crowded markets, being the first to identify the upcoming storm is possible. But if you’re not the first mover on an issue, the best alternative is redefining the problem already on the table. Redefinition of what is already known creates curiosity and opens the door to agreement on new solutions.

Many of us do a pretty good job at talking about the big challenge. The problem: We rush too fast into advocating a new solution. Just like a comedian needs a primed audience, every solution needs a warm-up act to stimulate agreement. Experts who outline their version of the challenge create curiosity and build buy-in for their views.

Who does this best: Everyone talks about business growth. So how did Jim Collin’s From Good to Great become the bible on the subject? Collins created curiosity by redefining what getting to the next level really looked like. He used research to dismiss conventional wisdom and to describe the abyss of the journey. This redefinition set up buy-in to his flywheel effect and his ten factors of success.

Your next steps: Look at how your most profitable buyers describe a central issue and ask yourself, “What are they missing? Where are the crossroads and why was the wrong route chosen?” Redefine the challenge around that, and you’ll signal to the marketplace that you are a fresh voice with out-of-the-box thinking.

Heads Up! Good News Is Coming

The second way to create curiosity is to throw a party. Everyone is attracted to good times. And who doesn’t want to have an advance heads up, so they can take full advantage of opportunities before everyone else? By showing the way to grow and prosper in the future, you become the pied piper.

This method uses the attraction of being first. There is a strong desire to win, to be triumphant in our culture. Anything that suggests a way to get ahead of the pack will create curiosity.

The key element in this approach is focus. This strategy is a very delicate balancing act. Go too broad, and you become a futurist who is a moving target. Go too narrow, and you become a one-trick pony. To become compelling, the focal point has to be narrow enough for the market to grab on to. To become lucrative, the focal point has to be deep enough for multiple revenue streams.

Who does this best: Harry Dent built an empire around his best-selling book Roaring 2000’s, complete with six-figure speaking fees, advisory services, and book advances. He narrowly focused on the economic growth angle, without getting sidetracked by how this dynamic would affect work life or other issues. Not only did he create opportunity by showing the good times ahead of us, but he also created urgency to act by predicting when this party will be over.

Your next steps: Look to the horizon and search for the opportunities. Where can you focus on just one aspect of the landscape? Ask yourself, “Where are the opportunities here? What can my clients take advantage of if they only knew about it? Is there a window of opportunity that will close at some point?”

Extra! Extra! The Inside Scoop

This strategy is used by every tabloid, and by every celebrity. The secret is out. Everyone wants to know the “inside scoop” that only the “cool kids” know. There is always curiosity around scarcity. We naturally want what we don’t have, especially if we think the “secret” will help us.

This approach also uses the power of comparison. Advertisers use this subtle tactic all the time. It goes like this: The dorky guy gets the girl when he uses this product, drives this car, etc. The message: You don’t want to be this person, so do this and you won’t be. When you paint a vivid picture of pain, curiosity naturally moves towards pleasure, even in unknown territory.

Many experts know to use scarcity to make themselves more compelling. The problem arises when they don’t deliver the goods. When the “secrets” don’t match the hype, this approach can backfire and often does. The best benchmark is going against conventional wisdom. The more your material provides a credible alternative to the status quo, the more curiosity it will create.

Who does this best: Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad empire. Let’s stop and think about this for a minute. Who does not want to learn what the super-rich know that we don’t? The super-rich are the adult version of the “cool kids” from high school. Everyone wants to be them, and everyone wants to know how to make that happen.

Just look at how the “poor dad” was portrayed. Hard-working, good-hearted, but we don’t want to be him. Setting up the comparison created curiosity toward Kiyosaki’s solution and made it more compelling. And his definition of liabilities and assets defied conventional wisdom enough to pass the, “Is this really a secret?” test.

Your next steps: Use comparisons to couch your solutions. How can you respectfully describe the “don’t want” alternative? How does the “inside scoop” differ from what everyone else knows and why is that important? What is conventional wisdom and how do your views differ?

The Power Of Curiosity

Curiosity is our radar system. It gives us early warning to change and opens the door for innovation. All of us use this emotion to be inventive and fulfilled. The media and the marketplace use curiosity to search for the latest thinking, a fresh perspective that jumpstarts conversations and originality. Help your market get what they don’t have, and watch buyers run to you to learn more.

Filed Under: Sales

About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.