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So I’m spot checking the whitemail…
In case you don’t know… whitemail is the various emails that people send in, commenting on this or that… questions, compliments, complaints, and so on…
And some lady writes in and she says, that what I’m teaching about writing emails and building lists is demonic. I kid you not. That is her word: Demonic.
She says I’m showing people how to prey on sin and human weakness. That I’m encouraging my students to manipulate people to get them to do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
And that anybody who follows my advice is going straight to hell.
Talk about fan mail!
Of course, there is some truth in what the lady is saying…
My teachings are manipulative. And they do get people to try new things they otherwise wouldn’t.
But what’s wrong with that?
Every mother manipulates her baby — if she wants it to live.
Every time you go to the bank, you manipulate the teller.
When you go to a restaurant — if you’re smart — you manipulate the waiter into giving you better service … and the waiter manipulates you into coughing up a bigger tip.
And the teachers in school manipulate the students into learning to read and to write — at least the good ones do.
Life is one GREAT BIG MANIPULATION!
Marketing is manipulation.
Does that mean we’re all going to hell?
I think not.
Persuasion is just a tool. And like any other tool, can be used to destroy or create.
Take a hammer for instance. You can use it as a murder weapon, or to build a house. Does that make you a bad person for going into a hardware store to buy one?
Of course not!
You’re either a psycho killer or a handy person to have around… and the hammer has nothing to do with the distinction.
Judging from this lady’s reference to “hell” and “demonic” and “sin,” I’d wager she’s under the spell of the biggest and perhaps most destructive manipulation of them all.
The truth is: whether you appeal to vice or virtue in your sales copy has nothing to do with whether you go to hell or to heaven. It’s the intention in back of it that counts.
If you feel your best chance of getting your prospect to take an action that’s in his own best interest means making him feel a little envious, angry, greedy, or guilty, then I think it’s your duty to push those buttons.
Persuasion is full of such ethical questions…
If in your sales copy you step deliberately into a persona that mirrors the likes, dislikes, beliefs, feelings and frustrations of your prospect… or one your prospect is likely to admire, identify with, and want to emulate… is that manipulative?
Guilty as charged… but how else will you create rapport and guide him toward a better life?
People instinctively, automatically, and reflexively follow people they like.
Create that relationship in your sales copy and your marketing, and you can lead your prospects in just about any direction you like.
And we’ll get back to the story in a minute… but I just wanted to stop and drill into each one of these points. I did promise you 5 Email Copywriting Formulas, didn’t I?
Email Copywriting Formula #1 — C-A-S-T-E
I’m talking about the fact that if you can get people to like you, they’re more likely to get on your email list, and if the emails you send people make them like you even more, they’re more likely to buy from you.
And so here’s the first formula. I’m going to break it down quickly and then give you an example of how you can use this to better monetize your list…
I call it the CASTE system for the digital world, which unlike the Hindu caste system is the great equalizer because anybody, regardless of station in life can build a large and lucrative email list with this.
C stands for COMMONALITY.
In a previous career I carried a bag, and my job was to finesse my way into a business with the goal of loading that business up with computer and software gadgetry and related services. And the first thing I would do was carefully examine the prospect’s habitat…
I’d learn whatever I could about the person online, I’d survey the cars in the parking lot … the décor in the lobby… the desk and the walls in their office… looking for common interest…
… Something that I could converse with them about that would build a genuine bridge of rapport… whether it be a picture of his kids or a stuffed fish behind the desk or an award or trophy of some kind…
Because we like people who are like us.
A stands for AFFINITY.
Humans are highly social creatures, and we tend to band together around various causes, ideologies, allegiances, common interests, and so on. And we derive a great deal of our identity from our affiliation with those groups.
There is “us” and there is “them.” There are insiders and there are outsiders.
And so if you want to monetize your email list, then you want to be, not just an insider… but an advocate for the group against outsiders (or abstract forces) that threaten the cause… or challenge the ideology… or seek to destroy the group entirely.
S stands for STATUS.
Everybody wants to feel important. Everybody wants to rise in the pecking order.
And we LOVE people who make a habit of making us feel special and significant, smarter, stronger, more compassionate, more sophisticated, and superior to other people in some way. It’s baked right into our DNA.
T stands for TRANSPARENCY.
What do best friends do?
They confide in one another. They tell each other personal secrets about things they’ve done they wish they hadn’t. Embarrassing things. Humiliating failures.
And E stands for EMPATHY.
All of us are walking around with a deep intrinsic, instinctive and unconscious desire, and that is to feel understood. To feel that the person we’re dealing with knows how we feel, and why we feel the way we do.
OK, so here’s an example of the CASTE system at work in an email. This is an email that sells teaching aids to special education teachers.
Read This If You Love Your Students
Despite the rewards… committed caring and sacrifice can take a heavy toll. Status statement — IF you’re one of the committed, caring ones, and you love your students.
So you have to be a little careful if you love your students as much as we special-ed professionals do. Commonality statement — I am like you.
Because there are few things more demanding than working in the classroom, pouring out our hearts and souls for our special needs kids.
Hi, it’s Krystie Yeo again, to make your life easier.
And frankly, you’re not human if a million-repetitions-a day doesn’t wear you down. Empathetic statement — I know how you feel.
Then there are the sudden disruptive behaviors that throw your classroom into instant turmoil.
But if our jobs weren’t tough enough already, there are the inevitable snarky and insensitive remarks from ignorantly cruel kids, parents, and even other teachers. Affinity statement — us against them.
That’s why I was in danger of burning out a few years ago.
I was trying to do everything myself.
But I didn’t have to… and it was unhealthy! Transparency statement — I’m far from perfect, and here’s why that’s a benefit to you. You make your skeletons dance, turning your own failings or even the shortcomings of your product or service, into reasons to buy from you.
Who the email is from is just as important as the message contained.
So there’s the CASTE system in action, for rapid rapport building and bonding with your email list, getting them to fall in love with you and even go into withdrawal symptoms when they don’t hear from you often enough.
Now let’s get back to the story…
When you use metaphor or analogy to re-frame something… perhaps you reframe something the prospect finds frightening, as exciting …
Or you make something objectionable, seem agreeable …
Or something dull and uninteresting suddenly becomes fascinating …
Is that manipulative?
It is… but how else will you make the mundane magical to draw your reader in?
How else will you make the unfamiliar easily understood so he can embrace it?
Email Copywriting Formula #2 — S-A-M
The human mind thinks in relative terms. Without contrast and comparison, there is no meaning.
And when confronted with a new idea, we instinctively, automatically, and reflexively look for a handy little existing pigeonhole in which to stick that new idea.
The SAM formula allows you to hijack that natural process.
S stands for SIMILE.
Word bombs that ignite little image reframes in the prospect’s mind as they’re reading your emails…
And basically what you’re saying is “this is like that,” comparing one thing with another, amplifying or diminishing its importance or twisting the meaning in the comparison…
I really thought you could use this report because there’s nothing more embarrassing than making the most elementary mistakes in front of people you’re trying to impress.
In fact, using the wrong word is like going on stage with mustard on your shirt, your fly down, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. You see the simile?
You don’t notice but everyone else is snickering.
A, stands for ANALOGY.
Not just a little word bomb, but an extended contrast or comparison.
In his entire lifetime, world-renowned artist Vincent Van Gogh sold only one painting.
It was to a friend who paid Vincent a minuscule sum for the piece.
And as strange as it sounds, he was also famous for cutting off his ear and giving it to a prostitute he was in love with.
Obviously, Van Gogh didn’t have an email list or he could have gotten attention a better way.
But despite his lack of internet savvy (and consequent inability to connect with his audience), Van Gogh kept plugging along.
He went on to create over 800 now-priceless works by the end of his life… worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars.
And though he continued to do what he loved, half the time he was starving.
Which is why no one is attending the ‘Van Gogh School of Business’ in Amsterdam.
It goes to show, no matter what you have to offer the world, and as spectacular as it may be, it will not serve you or others if they don’t know about it.
If only Vincent were around today, to attend the ENCORE presentation.
He surely would have had a massive following and reaped the fruits of his passion for painting…
… Before he died!
And while Van Gogh doesn’t get a second kick at the can, YOU DO.
At 2 PM Eastern tomorrow, you can get everything you need to build your email list and finally bring your business dreams to life. Do you see how this analogy reframes something relatively inconsequential — missing a webinar — as something utterly tragic?
And M stands for METAPHOR.
These are a little more subtle. Instead of comparing one thing with another, you basically call the thing you want to reframe, something it isn’t.
Still Howling at the Moon for Success?
We’ve all been through it.
You can howl at the moon.
You can tear your hair and gnash your teeth.
You can bang you head against the wall and bash your knuckles.
It doesn’t matter.
Universal principles… call them LAWS… won’t change just because you’re flipping out, worrying, or raging that, “IT SHOULDN’T BE SO!” Of course nobody is really howling at the moon or tearing their hair out or gnashing their teeth or banging their head against the wall or bloodying their knuckles… they’re just fretting a little bit… and these metaphors are amplifying and dramatizing the reader’s pain.
You see how the SAM system works?
If your intentions are honorable, what’s wrong with that?
Or when you force your prospect to associate positive emotions with the purchase of your product or service by stimulating his creative imagination…
Is that manipulative?
Absolutely… but how else will you motivate him to move toward his dreams, and away from his fears?
Email Copywriting Formula #3 — W-H-I-P
The sub-conscious mind literally cannot tell the difference between an imagined and a real experience.
And the sub-conscious mind is where decisions are made. It is a goal-seeking device that automatically moves the person in the direction of his creative imagination.
And there are certain embedded commands that you can use in your emails to activate the creative imagination.
If you do a good job on guiding the imagery… you can create an almost overwhelming desire in your reader to take action…
I call this the WHIP formula. 4 simple command phrases that future pace the reader… forcing him to imagine something pleasurable to move toward (the result of taking some sales-advancing action)… or something painful to move away from (the result of not taking some sales-advancing action).
W stands for “What would it be like…?”
What would it be like to finally reach your ideal weight? Would you do “this”? Or would you do “that”? Who would you do it with? Where would you go?
And you’re basically forcing your prospect to visualize himself involved in some future outcome, whether it be something to move toward, or something to move away from.
H stands for “Have you ever…?”
Have you ever felt, have you ever dreamed, have you ever wished? And you describe the situation.
I stands for “Imagine…”
Imagine you’re dreaming about standing on the edge…
… Of a shark-infested pool.
And for some crazy-dream reason, you’re poised to jump.
But it’s 3 AM and you can’t wake up.
You’re sweating… thrashing… the sheets are soaked and twisted.
You see black fins circling, cutting through the mist over the pool.
Water is lapping at your toes.
You’re starting to lean forward.
Your arms are flailing.
“DON’T DO IT, YOU IDIOT!”
But you CAN’T stop and you can’t wake up.
A puppet master is operating your legs.
Now your body’s in the air.
You hear a splash…
TURN ON THE LIGHT!
And… pant… pant… take a breath, it was only a dream.
Yet what you’ve just experienced is like the waking nightmare of supposedly making your business easier on the internet.
And P stands for “Picture yourself…”
This is a pattern interrupting command that instantly dissociates the reader, forcing him to step outside of himself and observe his own behavior and situation from a different vantage point — as he would like it, or as he fears it.
And the effect of all of these WHIPS is a heightened state of suggestibility and open mindedness.
Is there something wrong with planting the positive seeds of hope and empowerment in another person’s mind… or even scaring him out of his wits if necessary, and then coming to the rescue? Not if your intentions are good.
When you use specific words and phrases that are anchored to the emotions that will motivate your prospect to action…
Is that manipulative?
It is… words are symbols — representations of reality. The right ones can trigger a cascade of associated images and emotions in the mind of your reader.
Email Copywriting Formula #4 — K-I-S-S
KEEP. IT. SIMPLE. STUPID.
Words like love, hate, sex, death, kill, joy, and blood are all examples of viscerally charged anchors that create automatic, involuntary associations. Simple, one or two syllable words, often of Anglo-Saxon origin tend to have emotion-inducing power and they inspire action.
Multi-syllabic words like affection, animosity, copulate, obliteration, terminate, exultation, and lineage, most likely of Latin origin… encourage abstraction. Use too many of them and you put the impulsive, action-oriented side of the reader’s mind to sleep.
A single word choice in an email can drastically alter your reader’s internal representations, moving you either closer or farther away from a sale.
Take this string of copy here:
Magical Back Pain Lies?
When back pain puts you in a vice…
When burning, tingling, or numbness make you limp…
When vicious spasms force you to bend to one side…
… There’s one thing no one needs… and that’s magic. The words force you to become emotionally invested. You can feel the pain and you’re primed for action.
What if it said:
Fanciful Back Pain Fabrication?
When spinal aguish limits your mobility, and discomfort and suffering leaves you motionless, and viscous spasms destabilize your posture, there’s one thing no one needs, and that’s deception. Now your intellect is getting involved, you’re thinking instead of feeling…
When you work diligently to select the words that inspire your reader to actually do something as a result of your writing — instead of just thinking about it — is that evil? I don’t think so.
When you tell stories that merely suggest what you want your prospect to think, rather than coming right out and telling him directly…
Is that manipulative?
It’s downright sneaky because when someone thinks they’ve come to a particular conclusion on their own… they bite down hard on that conclusion… they’re like a dog on a bone with that thing.
And that gives them the conviction and confidence they need to take action.
Email Copywriting Formula #5 — C-H-A-N-G-E
Well-told stories throw the reader a little off balance, confusing him temporarily.
He’s like a stranger in a strange land, searching for his bearings in your words. His natural inborn curiosity makes him hyper-aware of them, until the punch line is revealed.
Stories are about change.
And when your prospect experiences a well-told story — a story about you, or about somebody else who underwent some sort of transformation, perhaps a customer or some other third party, whether the story has a happy or sad ending… your prospect projects himself into the action.
He lives the transformation in the theater of his mind. And he will accept the conclusion embedded in the story, as his own.
And these are the essential elements:
C stands for CONFLICT.
Two dogs, one bone. It’s the first question you ask yourself when you’re writing a story: what’s the bone? Because it’s the essence of what makes any story work… whether it be a few lines in an email or a blockbuster mini-series.
You can sum up Game of Thrones in a single sentence: 7 kings, 1 throne.
And conflict doesn’t have to be a conflict between people. It doesn’t have to be man against man, man against the system, or even man against nature. It can be man versus himself, a clash of ideas and emotions.
H stands for HERO.
Who is it going to be? You or your prospect or some other third party (perhaps a customer or client, perhaps even a fictional character).
A stands for ACTION.
What is the hero doing to get what he wants?
N stands for NEW KNOWLEDGE, insight and revelation.
It’s the punch line or moral of the story. How does the hero win, or lose?
G stands for GOAL.
What does the hero want? Either the same thing as your prospect, or something analogous to it.
And E stands for ENEMY.
Who loses when the hero wins, and vice versa?
How to Get Away With Murder (Free Web Workshop)
The accused sat terrified in the prisoner’s box awaiting the magistrate’s verdict… So there’s obviously a CONFLICT about something. And it’s not clear yet, and as strange as it may sound, the accused is actually the HERO in this story.
“Guilty as charged! Sentenced to hang by the neck until dead!”
The condemned was the town cobbler, who days earlier in a fit of blind rage had brutally bludgeoned one of his customers to death. There’s the ACTION, providing a service, selling stuff, and the GOAL to make money.
Normally a hanging was cause for celebration…
… But there was no cheering from the townspeople today.
One townsman, in fact, mustered some courage and stood up to address the court.
“If Your Honor pleases, you have sentenced to death the town cobbler!
“He’s the only one we’ve got. If you hang him, who will mend our shoes?”
Presently, the whole room came alive with chants for the cobbler’s release.
After restoring order in the court, the magistrate thought for a while, nodded in agreement, and overturned his own verdict.
“What you say is true,” he said.
“Since we have only one cobbler it would be a great wrong against the people to let him die. As there are two haberdashers in the town, let one of them be hanged instead!”
For entrepreneurs, the lesson is clear.
If you can position your business as desirably unique and indispensable to your clients, you can mess up a lot and still make out like a bandit. There’s the NEW KNOWLEDGE and insight.
And if you fail to create this all-important perception, you’re going to get killed. And the ENEMY is ignorance — not having or not communicating or not knowing the importance of, a clear USP, Unique Selling Proposition.
Does captivating a person’s interest in this way make you some kind of horrible person?
Aspiring copywriters often ask me, “How can I become a better storyteller?” I tell them, “Read the great popular novelists — people like Stephen King, John Grisham, and others.
You’re not a novelist, but you can learn a lot about wrapping your selling argument in story from these great writers.”
Milton Erickson, one of the greatest therapeutic storytellers to have ever lived had this advice…
I have actually done this. It’s a fascinating exercise that really does make you aware of the patterns these great storytellers use to formulate a gripping page-turner… and how they set up multiple open loops and close them sequentially to keep you glued to the page.
Mirroring and matching… stimulating your reader’s emotions (both negative and positive)… using metaphor and analogy… leveraging heavily anchored words and phrases… future pacing… storytelling?
They’re nothing more than a few tools of the copywriter’s trade, analogous to a magician’s sleight of hand…
In the same way a magician manipulates your senses, a competent copywriter manipulates your emotions. In both cases opening your mind to the wondrous possibilities that exist beyond the mundane.
I guess there are a few fruitcakes out there who take exception to this.
What can I say?
And what do you think?
Is persuasion evil?
Does getting good at it make you a sorry sinner, or a saving saint?
Sound off in the comments box below.
Until next time, Good Selling!