The Supreme Marketing Advantage (Copywriting Tip #6)

Copywriting Tip 6 Trust

Quick Copywriting Tip #6: Trust is EVERYTHING.

I got a bunch of hate mail a few weeks ago. Actually, the Vice President of one of my clients got hate mail…because of something I wrote.

Here’s one of the notes:


The sales reps were upset that they had to deal with a barrage of emails like these.

The VP, whose name was on the offending message, had mixed feelings. Sales were through the roof (relative to the norm)…on a product that’s somewhat difficult to sell. But “potential buyers” were upset with him.

As I said to the Mr. Vice President, “The people who complain are probably never going to become paying customers anyway. This kind of reaction is how you know you’re doing it right!

Direct response involves forcing people to pick a side and being willing to lose some people along the way — if you’re doing it right.

“I’m glad I didn’t get involved with you…”

Let’s focus for a moment on the angry, all caps email I shared above.

The final line brings a crucial issue to light: you need to get good at gaining people’s TRUST.

This guy suspected that he couldn’t trust my client – and the marketing message that pushed him over the edge proved (in his mind) his suspicion was correct.

We all face this obstacle. But we don’t always use trust as an opportunity.

In the copy I wrote, my client came across more as a salesperson (which he is) than an expert or leader (which is is). And it’s hard to trust salespeople.

Everything in the message was true. Honesty isn’t enough to make people trust you. It’s just the beginning!

Earning the kind of trust that makes it easy (or at least easier) for prospects to become clients takes work.

Pillars of Proof

At a conference in Denver earlier this month, Patrick Bove, Senior Copywriter at Stansberry Research described 5 Pillars of Proof you should be using to defeat skepticism and win trust from your should-be clients. Here’s a very quick overview from a mind-blowing session:

Financial Copywriter Patrick Bove Stansberry

Proof of Character

  • Who are you? Why should I believe you?
  • What’s your track record? What achievements can verify your expertise?

Proof of Story

  • How do I know you’re not making this stuff up?
  • Are there 3rd party sources that verify the point you’re making?

Proof of Catalyst

  • Why is your story important to me NOW

Proof of Product

  • Demonstration: Don’t just tell me about your product. Show me it works.
  • Who does it work for and when? Who is it not right for?

Social Proof

  • Testimonials, case studies, etc.

Notice how testimonials are great, but they’re just not enough to convince people anymore. If you want to make trust your supreme marketing advantage, you’ll have to go much further.

The good news is, your competitors aren’t doing any of this. Once you start implementing these ideas, you’ll probably be light-years ahead.


Check out the other 13 Quick Copywriting Tips here.


Steve Lahey Picks My Brain About Stealth Selling and Copywriting

Small Business Talent Podcast with Stephen Lahey

Over the years, it seems like I’ve sold almost everything: Swiss watches, cell phones, warranties, coffee grinders and even plain old advice. You’ll never hear me say I’m a natural salesman. I wasn’t even always good at sales.

In 2012, I wrote Stealth Selling: Non-Pushy Persuasion for Professionals, an ebook revealing my personal selling philosophy along with insights and advice I’ve picked up along the way.

This week, I had the privilege of appearing on Steve Lahey’s Small Business Talent podcast. He asked me about stealth selling, ethical persuasion and life as an entrepreneur.

I even performed a live dissection (guess that would make it a vivisection) on his new service page sales copy.

It was fun and I’ve received a lot of great feedback. If you have about half an hour, I’d be thrilled if you listened to the interview here.

By the way, the Steve’s podcast is always excellent. If I were you, I’d check it out every week.

I’m also working on making a second edition of Stealth Selling. Up until the time I release it (hopefully by the beginning the end of April), you can pick up the original for $5, which the lowest price I’ve ever offered (a large percentage of buyers paid $19 for it). I’ll also send you the updated version as soon as it’s ready, free of cost.

If you’re interested, click here.

One more thing: if you listen to my interview with Steve Lahey, leave a comment and send a screenshot of the comment to db at donnie-bryant dot com, I’ll give you the book for free. Why? Because maybe what Steve said on Twitter is true:


Learning Salesmanship from a Kid’s Toy

Today’s lesson is inspired by and based on a 31-second video. (None of this will make much sense if you don’t watch it now.)

Why Does This Ad Work?

I wasn’t able to find any verifiable figures on how this particular device is selling (or how much can be attributed to this 2-week old commercial), but according to Inc. Magazine, the company that created nabi, Fuhu, is the fastest growing privately-held company in America this year. With 42,148% growth over 3 years, they’re clearly doing something right.

Let’s go with what we know. This commercial is:

1) Laser-targeted. Fuhu knows precisely who the main buyers of these tablets are: parents (mostly mothers) of children in their Pre-K and early school years. This commercial makes its appeal directly to them. They’re not trying to win over any other audience. The commercial is running on channels where Mom, in full parenting mode, will be most receptive to the message.

2) Emotionally-driven. The classroom drama plays on the heartstrings — and does so mostly without words. It isn’t about tech specs; it’s not even about the device itself. The quick plot focuses on the triumphant end result: your child is fearless, unstoppable, even when her peers tremble.

3) Visually compelling. Again, the words are almost an afterthought here, although they do strengthen the visuals. But if you play the video again with the volume off, it has just as much punch. Video is powerful that way.

Viewers who don’t have kids can still appreciate the impact of the message.
Parents who see the commercial are deeply moved.
Parents with kids struggling academically…well they’ve probably already gone to buy the thing.

You can make your message visually compelling even if you’re not using video. Good copy can create the exact same effect in print or audio. Robert Collier said it well:

“The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the reader’s mind by your words is worth a thousand drawings, for the reader colors that picture with his own imagination, which is more potent than all the brushes of all the world’s artists.”

Your Action Steps

1) Get to know your target audience. I sound like a broken record, but this point can’t be stressed enough. You can’t make a truly persuasive marketing message if you only have a vague idea who you’re talking to and what they care about. If you don’t get anything else from this newsletter, I’d make this the thing you pay attention to.

Your ideal client is like your spouse: you can never know her too well.

2) If you are intimately familiar with a promising audience, consider customizing a product or service for them. Fuhu saw a big opportunity to market kid-friendly, drop-proof tablets (you know you always cringe when your little one grabs your iPad with his slippery, slimy fingers). They went from $279,000 in revenue in ’09 to $118 million in 2012.

Maybe there are some 9-figure doors waiting for you to open them.

3) Add emotion to your messages. Aim for those heartstrings.

You’ve got a great product with all the bells and whistles. Who cares? Potential customers want to see their own triumphant end result. Paint that picture.

4) Make sure you have a good copywriter on your team.

5) Get your laser-focused, emotionally-charged message out in places where your best buyers will see them — and be in the right state of mind to listen attentively. Maybe it’s a radio ad during drive-time. Maybe it’s an snail mail letter from someone they trust. (That’s another one of those things you’ll have to figure out with study and testing.)


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.)


Another Angle on Storytelling

As you may already know, storytelling can be a powerful tool in any marketer’s repertoire. Crafting and telling engaging stories is an important skill to develop. A good story can neutralize the automatic resistance that arises when people feel like someone is “selling” something by engaging their minds in a different way than ad-speak and sales pitches do.

Let’s look at this issue from a different angle. Even when you’re telling a great story about your business or personal brand, there is something important you have to deal with. Allow me to introduce the idea with a quote from Perry Marshall.

“Stories run deep. If you want to change the story you’ve been in to the story you want to be in, it’s best to just assume it’s going to take everything you’ve got. If there’s a resource that is capable of improving your story, you should avail yourself of it.”

Everyone is the protagonist of his or her own story. The story is his world and how he sees his place in it. It’s how she thinks about herself. Every day the plot progresses, characters come and go, and so forth.

The story you want to tell as a business owner, service provider, etc., doesn’t matter at all unless it intersects with your customers’ individual stories.

That’s why your selling and marketing has to be about them.

Think about it: no matter how interesting and compelling a story about lipstick may be, most men are never going to buy the product. We may enjoy the dramatic unfolding of the plot or be fascinated by the characters involved, but we’re not buying. It doesn’t impact our story as masculine individuals.

Plot Development

Every story has conflict. The main character is seeking something she wants or needs, or she’s fighting against the bad guy.

Let’s look at an example that most of us are familiar with. In the recent movie Captain America, the hero Steve Rogers starts out as less-than hero material. He’s scrawny, frail and completely unable to do the one thing he desperately wants to do: join the army and serve his country. Watching the first few scenes, you get a good grasp of the story Rogers is living in. Do you know your customers that well?

Enter Dr. Erskine, a brilliant scientist who can change the protagonist’s entire story around. He can get him into the army and give him the physical prowess to become a true force on the battlefield.

In movies and novels, magical or futuristic scientific elements, like Dr. Erskine’s technology, are often used to cause a major change and push the narrative forward. Why can’t your product or service fill that role? If you genuinely solve problems, create opportunities and improve people’s lives, you can enter your customers’ story right at that point of need.

The magic is that you’re helping people get something they’re struggling without, or helping them eliminate issues they can’t handle by themselves.


Eucatastrophe is a term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien. He used the word to describe a “sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.” It is a fortuitous event which leads to the hero overcoming the conflict in the story, leading to the happy ending he always had in mind.

Your business can be a eucatastrophe in the story of your target audience. You can be the person or team who helps them attain the things they’ve been dreaming of. Those dreams may seem impossible, but you can enter their stories and bring the untouchable within reach.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind.

1) You are never the hero of the story. You’re the “plot device” that empowers the hero (your customer) to get to “happily ever after.”

2) Yes, I’m going to keep saying this: you have to know your audience. You have to know who needs what you’ve got.

The better acquainted you are with their pains and aspirations, the more equipped you’ll be to enter their story at the appropriate point and provide awesome results when you get there.

3) Don’t be an uninvited guest in the story. In Captain America, Dr. Erskine didn’t kidnap Rogers and perform his experiments. He gave him the option. Of course he’d say “yes” because the offer was exactly what he was already hoping for.

Even if something is good for people, forcing it on people won’t work well. Offer your product or services in a way that enables those who want what you’re selling to come to you.

4) Dr. Erskine also used a weeding-out process to select the right candidate to become his super-soldier. He didn’t want to work with just anyone.

To protect your story (and sanity), be selective about who you target and work with. You may have to turn down deals and reject clients. Set your standards and stick to them.


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.


The Strongest Incentive

Curiosity is one of the strongest of all human incentives. Once it’s been aroused, we can hardly sleep until we satisfy that curiosity.

How can you add curiosity to your business, product, or service? To your marketing message?

Have you ever heard of the Zeigarnik effect? It’s another psychological  phenomenon that can boost your persuasiveness. When people are given incomplete information, such as a story that is cut off before the end, the brain feels a strong need to “close the loop.”

This is why television shows and movies use cliffhanger endings. The audience just has to know what’s going to happen next.

Using the Zeigarnik effect is effective in both marketing and in-person selling situations. When you make a unique claim, make the person who reads or hears wonder “How is that possible? How can she do that?”  (Copywriters often call these “can’t-do-it” bullets or fascinations.) Their curiosity will compel them to find out the answer. Now, instead of chasing clients, they are coming to you, wanting to hear what you have to say.

That’s a much more advantageous position to be in.

That doesn’t mean that you embrace ambiguity. That will have the opposite effect. You want your readers, hearers and viewers to know exactly what you’re talking about: that’s what makes the information interesting and relevant to  them. Build curiosity around how and/or why.

The information has to be specific, relevant and unique. If it is too vague, it won’t be important enough for them to want to find out about. If it’s irrelevant, who cares? If the claim isn’t unique, or if the missing portion is too predictable, the curiosity disappears.

Take for example one of the longest-running advertising headlines in history: “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?” Anyone who wanted to speak intelligently 80 years ago (when this ad was written) was overcome by curiosity.

You can’t read that headline without wanting to learn more. The question implies that there is a strong possibility that the reader could be making embarrassing mistakes without realizing it. It also implies that reading the article (or advertisement) would be the first step to fixing the problem.

So, how can you add curiosity to your marketing messages today?


The Myth of Selling Without Selling

It seems like nobody likes sales people (at least when they’re customers), and “sales” seems like a dirty word these days. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nothing I can think of sells without selling. Not even candy bars in vending machines.

Let’s explore that thought experiment for a moment. Imagine one of those vending machines with the glass front that allows you to see its contents. In this one, all the merchandise is packaged in identical, completely nondescript containers. Perfectly cube-shaped, unmarked cardboard boxes.

You have no clue what’s inside any of them. Could be anything.

When you happen across this vending machine, what are you going to buy? Will you press A1 or E7?

I’m willing to bet you’ll choose to keep the dollar in your pocket.

Why? Because nothing is being sold. It’s just there. It’s available for sale, but it’s not being sold.

Now let’s imagine the vending machine is in the middle of a sweltering desert. There’s nothing else in sight but sand and scorpions. And you’re getting really, really thirsty.

What do you do now? Remember, you can’t tell what’s in any of those containers. Might be bottled water, or a bag of cheese curls. But since you have that dollar in your pocket, you might take a chance and pick something at random. You desperately need something to drink, and you have no other options. So you take a chance.

Why? Because your thirst is more important, more urgent than your dollar bill.

A Salesman’s Journey

I’ve sold lots of different stuff over the course of my career. Everything from warranties to watches. I loved it. The rush of closing a deal. The battle of wits and wills when overcoming customer objections. The competition between peers and with myself

At one point, I felt like I could sell anything to anyone.

Then, Harry Browne smacked me across the face with his painfully simple, brutally powerful book, The Secret of Selling Anything.

The question is often asked, do salespeople sell, or do customers buy? I always held to the position that salespeople sell. When transactions take place, the success is 90% due to the ability of the salesperson.

Reading Browne’s book, I found out that I was wrong. I was introduced to what Browne referred to as the “universal fallacy:”

The universal fallacy is the belief that an individual would willingly accept something unprofitable to himself.

“No individual will give up some of his own resources for something he values less. When you think he will, you’re headed for failure. He may very well make an exchange that you would never make — but he will not willingly make an exchange that will lower his values.” (Author’s emphasis)

No one willingly does what she does not want to do.

Jonathan Edwards, considered by many to be the one of the greatest minds in America’s history, had this to say about making decisions: people “always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.

Edwards is saying that, from the options available to us, we always choose what has the strongest, most desirable emotional impact on our lives in that moment. Period.

Back to the Vending Machine

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot.

If you were responsible for the sale of just ONE of the items in the vending machine, how would you get the guy in the middle of the desert to spend his dollar on your product?

For starters, you’d make sure that he knows it’s a refreshing liquid.

In our example, where does the selling power come from? It comes from the thirst of the guy in the desert.

On the other hand, could you sell salty potato chips to him? I don’t care how good a salesperson you put on that job, he’s not going to have much success.

We see that people buy what they want. Selling is (or at least it should be recognized and treated as) giving people what they want. Helping them satisfy their desires and needs.

With the vending machine, you’re not selling without selling. You’re selling without being obnoxious. There’s a major difference!

Guess what. Your salesmanship is nothing more than increasing the likelihood that your product in that vending machine is the one that gets picked.

The argument isn’t so much whether salespeople sell or customers buy. It’s both! The desire comes from the customer. It is the job of the salesperson or marketer to help the customer make the best decision.


Framing for Failure

If you’re anything like me, you find yourself “framing” quite a few of the statements you make in day to day conversation. This can be constructive or detrimental, depending on how you do it.

Framing is simply saying something to prepare your hearer or reader for what you’re about to say. For example, “Listen up! What I’m about to tell you is important.” That’s an example of positive framing.

You can do some harm to your cause by setting up your comments with something like “This is gonna sound really dumb, but…” (I’m really bad with that one.)

I had thought about this topic before, how negative framing such as the second example hurt your chances of being persuasive or sounding authoritative. Why do I talk like that? Why does anyone do it?

It all came to a head when I was looking at a letter my sister wrote yesterday. She used the other “bookend” to frame her argument after she had said what needed to be said. It was something like “This may not sound like the best idea, but I believe in it.”

So, why do we talk and write that damaging stuff? Here’s my thinking on the subject.

We lack confidence in our position. We think something is wrong with what we want to say. Or that the audience is going to shoot us down.

So we choose to soften our statements by framing them. It’s more for the us than for them.

Rejection will come easier because we have prepared everyone for it.

Imagine using these kinds of remarks in a sales pitch. “You may not like this product, but here it is anyway.” “Most people choose the competitor, anyway.” “You don’t really want this additional feature, do you?

See how much that hurts you?

Negative framing is something that I’m going to work on eliminating from my speech and writing immediately. I encourage you to join me. Let’s get some guts about ourselves to make strong, bold statements without feeling the need to cushion them. No more self-destructive talk.


Fair Warning

I’m working on the December edition of my newsletter.

I feel the need to warn you. If you aren’t subscribed to the newsletter, you’re really going to miss out on a powerful lesson this month.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but let me say this: the information I’ll be expounding on would not usually be free. In fact, I’ve never shared these insights before at all. Nor have I heard them expressed anywhere else.

Frankly, I’m glad that my subscriber list is fairly small. Can’t have too many people walking around with this kind of info.

Nevertheless (always-the-more), if you really want to cram some dynamite into your salesmanship skills, you won’t want to miss this.

This will impact your ability to persuade, influence and sell

  • face-to-face
  • online
  • in print
  • over the airwaves
  • even from the stage.

See the subscription box on the right side of this page. Scroll down just a little bit. There you go. Just be aware that if you enter your email address, I fully intend to rock your world.