Preaching to the Almost Pitch-Perfect Choir (Copywriting Tip # 4)

copywriting tip - preach to the choir

Quick Copywriting Tip #4: Whenever possible, write to people who are already at least half-convinced.


One of the hardest things in the world to do is convince someone they’re wrong. That their opinions are wrong, the way they’ve been doing something is wrong, etc.

We’re all naturally resistant to change (inertia) —  and we usually don’t like anyone telling us to change course.

In many cases, that’s what we’re doing: telling people they’re wrong and we can “fix” them.

We may be asking someone to change

  • from inaction to action — get off the fence, like we talked about in Tip #3
  • from one course of action to another
  • brands or providers
  • his thinking
  • his habits

Change is hard. So why, when your business/profitability are on the line, are you asking people change?

Perhaps you should start “preaching to the converted” instead.

A good writer is more likely to buy writing resources than a bad one, even though he needs it much less.

A dedicated marathoner (like the guy we talked about in Tip #2) is much more likely to invest in fitness stuff than a couch potato dedicated to Game of Thrones and his Playstation.

I know you mean well. But keep in mind that changing the world (or just one person’s mind!) usually takes a lot more work than helping your “choir” make progress towards its goals.

Ideal clients are not necessarily the people who need what you offer the most. They’re the ones who KNOW they need it and/or want it badly and are willing and able to pay for it.

Share your message with those people. Become a visible expert where they congregate. And continue growing your own audience (mailing list) of people who don’t need convincing.

It’ll save you a lot of energy and headache — and probably make you a lot more money.

Check out all 13 Quick Copywriting Tips.

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Your Should-Be Customer Say “No” Because… (Pt. 2)

marketing criteria

[Read Part 1]

When people who should say yes to “you” say “no” instead, there is one overarching cause. Borrowing a few words (and an image) Dr. Harlan Kilstein shared someplace in cyberspace:

“The only reason you hear “no” when you are selling is because you haven’t connected your product to their highest ranking criteria.” Couldn’t’ve put it better myself — so I didn’t even try.

If what you’re offering doesn’t gain a position of ranking priority in your potential customer’s mind, you’re gonna hear a lot of nos. That shows up in a few different ways, one of which we discussed last week. We talked about how sales messages miss the mark if they don’t appeal specifically to the self-interest of the prospect.

Another reason people who should be your customers will reject you is because change is hard. When we’re selling our products and services, we’re asking people to

  • change from inaction to action
  • change from one course of action to another
  • change brands or providers
  • change their thinking
  • change their habits

People generally do not like to change and we usually try to avoid it, even when we know the results will be good.

Please, take 96 seconds to watch this video that illustrates the point wonderfully:

As the saying goes, we usually change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. And this is really the key to overcoming this reason people reject our selling messages.

Many times, we try to persuade tough prospects by piling on benefit after benefit and bonus after bonus. What we don’t realize is that the problem is not a lack of value (although extra value is rarely a bad thing). We oversimplify the persuasion process.

When people make decisions, they have to weigh multiple factors. As marketers, it is easy for us to only address two main categories: payoff of taking action and the cost of not taking action, i.e. the benefits they get from buying and what they miss out on if they don’t.

What we fail to consider is that, in the mind of the potential customer, there are HUGE benefits to inaction.

Changing is hard; your prospects most likely aren’t going to do it just because you offer a better alternative to what they’re doing now (which could be nothing). You’re going to have to paint the picture, taking into consideration the payoff of inaction and the cost of action.

how sales persuasion happens

Recognize that change is difficult for the prospect (just like it is for you). Acknowledge the fact, but put it in its proper perspective. “It feels good to smoke a cigarette when your coworker gets on your nerves, but is it worth shortening your life because he’s a jerk?”

The Cost of Truth

Sometimes we’re stuck in our ways. We like our way of doing things and seeing things. Even when we learn about a better way, we’re not trying to hear it. I was that way with the Dewey Decimal system. The Library of Congress classification traumatized me.

Speaking of books, how many book publishers, newspapers and magazines have gone bankrupt because they didn’t want to change along with the digital revolution?

“Everyone—yes, everyone—has an emotional attachment to their view, no matter how trivial. Some attachments are more easily severed than others. But they are still there.” ~ Abdu Murray

We have to realize that there’s more behind the “nos” we hear than a lack of value on our part. We have to explore ways to facilitate change.

Can that be done through marketing? Absolutely. We’ll get deeper into that in the future.

[Check out Part 3 now!]

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Expect Resistance and Overcome It

Selling is hard.

Rather, selling can be hard.

Each of us has certain built-in psychological resistance to “being sold.” The challenge marketers and salespeople face is circumvent that resistance.

In a 3-part series on the Diamond Website Conversion blog, I’ve gone into detail about several specific forms sales resistance takes on, and more importantly, ways you can bypass it.

No matter what you sell, no matter what field you work in, these obstacles exist in all of your prospects to varying degrees. Do you know how to overcome them?

Overcoming Your Prospects’ Hard-Wired Conversion Obstacles
Part 1: Skepticism
Part 2: Inertia and Reactance
Part 3: Cognitive Biases
(confirmation bias, normalcy bias, etc.)

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Bypassing Your Prospect’s Hardwired Resistance

resistance keep out

In his 2003 book Resistance and Persuasion, Dr. Eric Knowles explores the psychological reasons people to say “no.” Understanding why your website’s visitors tell you “no thanks” can go a long way in helping you change more of their responses to “yes, please.”

Dr. Knowles talked about 3 main root causes for the natural resistance to the sales process: skepticism/distrust, inertia and reactance. Today, we’ll analyze skepticism in more detail to see how you can neutralize it and increase your site’s conversion rate and profitability.

Skepticism – Resistance to your offer

People are trained from a young age to think that “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” Nowhere is this more applicable than in business and marketing.

Does the copy on your website make hard-to-believe claims? Maybe you have to make bold statements because your product or service is just that good. Why should you be penalized for having an incredibly great selling proposition?

You overcome skepticism with evidence. Can you back up the claims you make with proof? Do you have testimonials of satisfied customers whose lives you’ve changed? Can you give statistics from authoritative sources that give credence to your statements? Can you demonstrate that you’re telling the truth with pictures or video?

Don’t hold back on the proof! The more evidence you can show that your claims are 100% legitimate, the less room you leave for skepticism.

Want to do even better? Offer a free trial or sample of your offering. It’s hard for people to argue with results they’ve experienced for themselves.

(Just a thought: if you can’t confidently offer a free trial of your product or service because you’re nervous the customer won’t make the final purchase, maybe you need to improve it until you know that if they try it, they’ll buy it.)

A major reason people hesitate to pull the trigger on a purchase is the fear of feeling ripped-off or disappointed when they finally get what they ordered. You can effectively alleviate that fear by offering strong guarantees and/or service after the sale. When they know they can get their money back if things don’t go the way they hope, making the decision gets a lot easier.

Another mistake many businesses make is sounding just like everyone else in their field. If your website looks the same as your competitors, if your copy says the same things in the same “voice,” your potential customers are very likely to think of you as the knock-off of the sites they’ve already seen. When everyone looks the same, everyone is seen as a commodity.  But worse than that, everyone sounds fake and insincere.  Distrust is a conversion killer.

Use specific language to show readers how well you know them, how well you understand their needs and how experienced you are in delivering solutions for those needs. Speak directly to your audience in language that resonates with them.

Don’t try to talk to everyone. Generic language almost always misses the mark.

Inertia – Resistance to change

If you’ve lived on this planet for more than 10 years, you know how difficult it can be to convince people to change their established routines. People like to do things the way they’ve always done them (even when they know there’s a better way). Studies show that our brains go out of their way to form habits, then “reward” us with happy hormones when we maintain them.

It’s Newton’s First Law of Motion applied to human behavior; bodies in motion stay in motion. We tend to keep doing what we’re currently doing, and it’s hard to start something new.

Habits are hard to break. And there’s a sense of comfortable familiarity and security that come from keeping things the same. So we resist change.

As marketers and salespeople, we often think the way to make our propositions more compelling is to increase the perceived payoff customers will get when they buy from us. That’s why we pile hundreds of dollars of bonuses on top of our offers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; giving more value is always a good idea.

What we don’t realize is that habits are their own payoffs. That’s part of the reason people get set in their ways.

Alan Weber is quoted as saying “Real change happens, when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.” The same is true when it comes to selling your product or service from your website. You may have difficulty demonstrating that the payoff of using your product (which they haven’t felt yet) is greater than the payoff associated with their current product or lack thereof (which they’re currently enjoying).

Consider trying another route. Instead of focusing on the payoff of taking action on your offer, show your visitors how much it costs them to keep doing things the same way. What do they lose by continuing on the path they’re currently taking?

According to Weber, change happens when that reality hits home. Then your prospects can replace their old purchasing habits with better ones – yours!

Reactance – Resistance to persuasion itself

Jeffrey Gitomer wrote in The Sales Bible, “People don’t like to be sold but they love to buy.” When you look at your own experience, you can see the truth in this statement.

Of course, that fact is one of your biggest challenges as an online marketer. People want to buy things to satisfy their desires and remove unpleasant aspects of their lives. They just don’t want to feel like they’re being “sold.”

Claude Hopkins wrote that “Any apparent effort to sell creates corresponding resistance.” It’s an instinctive reaction. Instinctively, our brains think “Hey! This guy is trying to benefit at my expense. Well, he’s not gonna get me!

A customer’s sales resistance is related to a psychological phenomenon called reactance. In layman’s terms (as per Wikipedia), reactance is a person’s subconscious rebellion against what he thinks someone else wants him to do.

We see the other person’s will as a threat to our freedom to decide and act as we please.

When a salesperson asks “how can I help you?” you don’t believe her true intention is to help you, do you? You think she wants to help herself. You imagine that she’s going to do everything in her power to make you purchase what she wants to sell you, not necessarily what you want to buy.

You’re sure she’ll try to make you buy now; you want to make up your mind in your own time.

People want to operate on our own terms, not those of a salesperson (or anyone else). So we resist.

You neutralize reactance by not appearing to sell. You hear a lot of talk about push vs. pull marketing regularly. That’s largely what this issue boils down to.

Have you ever noticed that commercials on TV are louder than the program you tuned in to watch? Obviously, that’s an attempt by the advertisers to get your attention, and it works. You can’t ignore the blaring sound. But is that a good thing? Most would agree that it’s not.

No one likes to be pressured and no one likes to be shouted at. It may grab your attention, but it’s also irritating and puts you in a negative mood. That defeats the purpose of your message.

Don’t “shout” your sales message. Hard-selling is counterproductive. Instead, seduce. Give your visitors reasons to listen. Make them want to know more about what you’re talking about.

Engage your readers by talking about topics that are truly important to them. Tell interesting stories. Create a sense of curiosity. And really communicate what’s in it for them. When you start sounding like someone who just wants to sell something, you’re in a heap of trouble.

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The 7th Grade Science Lesson Business Schools Should Teach

Do you remember learning Sir Isaac Newton’s “laws of motion” in school? I wonder, were you like most of your classmates, questioning whether knowing this stuff would do you any good in the real world?

Today I want to apply Newton’s thinking to something other than physical science. You know me: I always have to look at things differently.

Newton’s 1st Law of… Business?

Newton’s first law of motion states that objects tend to remain in the state of motion that they’re in. We use the term inertia to describe this phenomenon. Moving objects want to keep moving. Stationary objects like to stay still,

You can probably already see where I’m going with this.

If you’ve ever been in business, or seriously considered launching a one, you have almost certainly experienced what I’m talking about. Getting started is hard, isn’t it?

Changing your state of motion from stationary to forward motion takes a lot of energy. Not to mention if you have to get others to move with you! No part of the process requires more hard work than the initial phases. Think of the space shuttle. It takes two rocket boosters and a fuel tank bigger than the shuttle itself just for lift off. The rockets and fuel tank are unnecessary after the astronauts are several miles from the ground. I’m only guessing here, but I imagine that 95% of the fuel burned during the entire voyage is consumed in the first few minutes. Defeating inertia is not easy.

Once you’ve got things started and moving along…Continue Reading on Fishing for Customers blog.

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