Don’t be afraid to spoil the ending

I am going to give away the ending of this post. You need to reach the right audience. The right audience won’t run away if they know how the story ends. Give them a compelling conclusion and they will stick around to read the rest of the narrative.

I love reading. I read a lot, sometimes three different books at a time. I mostly read thrillers and murder mysteries where stating the ending at the beginning ruins the whole story. Until it doesn’t. I recently started reading a book where the author gave everything away in the first chapter but it was such a twist that I couldn’t wait to dive into the rest of the book to see how it all happened.

Why don’t we apply these same rules to our marketing content? Why are we so worried about putting the ending first?

When I read for pleasure, I can take my time and be pickier. I recently just started reading a thrilled that started with the ending. It was such a weird twist that I couldn’t wait to dive in and find out how they got to that point. When I read for business and professional development I’m trying to consume as much relevant material as possible. Herein lies the issue that I run into – a lot of the content I need to be reading is dense, technical, and complicated. My eyes start to swim and my brain feels like it’s flip-flopping. The best I can do is a cursory skim of the material. But I don’t get much out of that. The next thing I do is start at the end and work my way backward.

What? You read articles backward?

Yes, yes I do. I’ve done this since I was a kid. I don’t read the sentences themselves backward, just the paragraphs. I’ve found that by reading the conclusion first and then each paragraph that comes before tells a more cohesive story and helps me comprehend what the author is communicating.

Think back to when you were taught how to write in elementary school. Start with your hypothesis or argument, use the next three paragraphs to reinforce your point, and then state your conclusion. Using that structure, your point is the first and last thing you talk about. This structure gives the reader the information they need to decide if they want to keep reading. Back to my original point – if your conclusion is compelling, people will want to read the whole story.

An excellent example of not starting with the ending is online recipes. Who among us hasn’t searched for a simple recipe, only to be met with an 800-word essay on how it had been passed down from their brother’s mother’s sister’s grandmother’s Nona’s housekeeper, and every time they drive past a field of tulips they are reminded of the way the sun shone through the window at 6 am on a Tuesday morning…you get the idea. The reader wants the recipe. Give them the recipe. Then give them the back story. Don’t worry, when you reach the right audience they will want to read the whole thing.

At this stage, you’re wondering, “If I state the conclusion up front will people bother reading the rest of the article?” Yes. If your readers know what they will get out of the content and it suits their needs, they will stick around for the rest of the story. Earlier, I was talking about how I like to read thrillers and mysteries. There are a fair number of stories that start with the ending. It’s a risk, but I’m the right audience. It’s my favorite genre and I’m always looking for new twists and turns. Your content should do the same.

So, don’t be afraid to give away the ending. Your audience will want to know how you arrived at that conclusion and stick around for the rest. You’ll also be doing people like me a huge solid by helping me understand what you want to communicate faster and I will stick around for your whole story too.

Want to spoil the ending for me? Tell me in our Free Slack Community, Analytics for Marketers

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