Last week we talked about the growing skepticism online, and how to challenge it with your headline. Also how to momentarily halt your web site visitors, and force them to focus on a single thought that opens their minds to entering your sales funnel.
And as you’ll remember, this can mean deliberately not mentioning your product (or service), or even the benefits your prospect will derive from it in your headline. You are simply flagging your prospects down, and enticing them into your message.
Now, it is your fulsome narrative that must do the selling. Realize that to do that, it must alter your prospect’s internal map of reality. You are an architect of dreams, a painter of a vivid new world, where your product or service emerges as the vehicle through which your prospects will satisfy the desire which caused them to stop and focus on your headline.
To succeed, you must expand upon the dimensions of their thinking. You must take a desire that already exists, and strengthen it, building its intensity to a fever pitch. Your prospects must see themselves in this new world you project them into, and they must feel comfortable and complimented by the thought of others watching them in it. And they must believe in both the pleasures and hopes you reveal, and their own ability to fulfill them.
THE DNA of ONLINE PERSUASION
The structure, the sequence, the tone and pacing of your copy are all predicated upon the achievement of these objectives. The closer they match the preconceived ideas and notions of your target market, the easier it is for your prospects to accept your proposition.
Let’s look at these dimensions of thought in more depth. Your prospects are propelled through life by desire. It is the very nature of being human. We want, we need, and are driven to satisfy these urges. So you must focus your prospects on those desires that are satisfied by your offering, and magnify them. These desires have incredible power!
Think of them like electricity. A marvelous force of nature, that you may channel and direct. They are material, these desires, such as the desire to possess … let us say a shiny new sports car. They are sensual, as in the rush that comes from grinding on the accelerator! And they are emotional, such as the joy of being aware of the envious looks from those who depend on more pedestrian means of transportation.
Your first task is to bring these “wants” to the forefront of consciousness for your prospects. To help them savor every aspect of their fulfillment. To make them see a new vision, to involve as many senses as possible in the “daydream” which is their reaction to your copy.
Realize also that your prospects are not only concerned with their own direct experiences. They are also playing out a role on life’s stage. And by definition, they are influenced by how others will see them playing out that role.
You must portray them in a light they feel comfortable with. You must put them in a complementary position. A place where the self-image is built up, and fortified. And you must do this with a certain level of transparency … because if your prospect becomes aware of what you are trying to do, the spell will be broken.
Harnessing the Need to Believe …
And finally, they must believe. To be believed, you must begin by confirming your prospect’s existing biases. You must be in sync with his prevailing opinions, prejudices, biases, fragments of knowledge, conceptions of reality, regardless of your opinion of their validity. Violate the prospect’s existing beliefs and biases, and there is nothing that can save your copy, for you will have violated something sacred.
That may sound like a dramatic way of putting it, but it is not. It is human nature to desire order, a sense of structure and logic to our existence, and so we cling very strongly to our beliefs. To think in a truly objective fashion is to risk having our whole world crumble around us, and most of us will not do it. So it is useless to butt heads.
However, this compelling “need to believe” that exists naturally within all of us can be channeled, propelled by its own force, in the direction you require.
Only by harnessing the power and energy of existing beliefs, and channeling them, can you hope to expand upon their dimensions. And so great marketing and sales are like judo. It is a careful fitting together of new information with what has already been accepted as truth. Your sales narrative must pass through the “filter” of existing belief. It must remain consistent with pre-existing biases… in harmony with habitual thought channels that already exist with respect to the subject matter at hand.
So you start with those beliefs as your base, and you build on them with your market’s prevailing logic. You prove to your prospects that your product or service works … you prove to them that their kind of people relies on it … and you prove to them that it will work for them just as surely.
Your prospects want to believe. They need to believe. But they need you to lead them gently to those new beliefs through the safe and charted territory of those they already take comfort in.
How To Borrow Existing Stores of Trust …
Every bit as important as your copy itself is the context in which your prospect receives it. The best copy in the world can fall flat, and weak copy can do well, depending on what happens just before the prospect is exposed to it.
What I’m talking about here is borrowed believability. The transfer of stored trust onto your copy from those places where it already exists. One such example of this is the email endorsement. A respected authority spends a great deal of time and energy building a relationship with his or her subscribers. There is a familiarity and sense of rapport that builds up over time. Those good vibes can be borrowed.
A similar thing happens with social media. People don’t hang out on Facebook or Youtube for the ads (at least not most). They want to be entertained, informed, acknowledged and kept up to date on what’s happening in their world.
The channels they chose are those they believe are telling them the truth, and those that are consistent with their beliefs and attitudes. Some of this conviction is automatically grafted onto your copy when you advertise in these channels.
But there’s more to the story. There are actually some techniques you can use to actively leverage stores of trust and focus more of their power on your copy.
Formatting – If you are advertising (and I use the term loosely here to refer to any piece of content placed in external media that can draw attention to your sales funnel) in the right places, you are seeking to leverage stored trust. This stored trust is a conditioned response, part of which is triggered by the visual cues associated with the media.
Therefore the closer you can mimic the formatting used in the trusted medium the better. The type face, spacing, use of images, music, b-roll etc. should blend in as seamlessly as possible with the rest of the content the prospect is exposed to in the trusted media. Seek to blend in, allowing the prospect to enter your sales funnel with the least shifting of mental gears… avoiding a jarring transition as much as possible.
Phraseology – In addition to mimicking the general look and feel of the various watering holes where you place your “ads”, the phraseology is another opportunity to blend in chameleon like.
Certain publications and properties, or classes of publications and properties, use distinct phrases consistently. These also become cues that elicit the conditioned “trust” response, and can be adopted in your copy as well, thereby further helping oneself to the storehouse of believability that has been built up.
Take for example this ad from master copywriter Gary Bencivenga that appeared in USA Today some years back …
Do you make these mistakes in job interviews?
– GARY BENCIVENGA
NEW YORK – Do you know why you should never eat a spinach salad when you are being interviewed over lunch?
Do you see it? Gary the columnist. When was the last time you saw a copywriter putting his name in the headline of an ad in USA Today, and telling you where he’s “reporting” from?
Mood – In the above examples, we’ve talked about leveraging the lead source format, phraseology, and style to lend believability to your copy. The reason being, that people have become conditioned to flip an internal mental switch when they become aware of the contrast between the editorial and the ads. This response is based on the look, sound, and feel of the copy.
But there are also queues in the language itself. Editorial language is quite different from advertising language. People tend to trust the first, and distrust the second. If we’re not careful, the naturally biased and emotionally charged tone of the advertising language we use can produce a counter reaction by its very appearance.
Here are some tactics that allow you to simultaneously borrow the believability of the lead source while sidestepping the “hard-sell” stereotype.
The first is the careful use of understatement, usually prefaced by some reference to the prevalence of overstatement. Perhaps admitting up front that the claims you are making are being made by everyone, and that everywhere you look you see them, but who do you believe? And then going on to differentiate your offer, using few adjectives and color words. Short, simple sentences, and an air of “take it or leave it” nonchalance.
The Damaging Admission – Another mood altering drug in copy is the strategic disclosure of certain negative facts about your program or the class of product or service you’re selling. The idea here is to introduce a non-selling idea that by its very nature surprises the prospect. He’s not sure why you’re revealing such information. The trick is to use something that can then be redefined as a benefit.
If done skillfully, from that point forward everything you say carries more believability. Here’s a line from Michael Masterson that serves double duty. It looks negative, but plays to the reader’s ego at the same time.
“Quite frankly, the American Express Card is not for everyone. And not everyone who applies is approved …”
Actually, your damaging admission need not even be anything peculiar to your product or service. It may be something as simple as an admission that the desired results may take some effort. Frequently competing advertisers are pushing the “quick and easy” envelope and their claims are only half believed.
By admitting the truth, you leverage the natural skepticism that exists and channel trust in the direction of your offer. Of course you should also be able to show how your program is actually the quickest and easiest of them all, if that’s true, and point out any false logic used in competing marketing.
Here’s a classic example written by Hank Burnett that demonstrates the use of harsh reality to sell a product. Note the damaging admission in the second paragraph …
As Chairman of the Admiral Richard E. Byrd Polar Center, it is my privilege to invite you to become a member of an expedition, which is destined to make both news and history.
It will cost you $10,000 and about 26 days of your time. Frankly, you will endure some discomfort, and may even face danger.
On the other hand you will have the rare privilege of taking part in a mission of great significance for the United States and the entire world. A mission, incidentally, which has never before been attempted by man …
As we move forward and the web continues to up the ante in terms of the number of commercial messages your prospects are pummeled with daily, attention and engagement become increasingly challenging.
The knee jerk reaction is to increase the intensity of our claims and add more eye candy to our visuals to attract attention. Unfortunately these also have a tendency to scream “AD” and put up immediate barriers to trust.
The techniques we’ve talked about here offer some counter maneuvers. To continue the discussion, click here.