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Do you make these mistakes in English?” is the most successful headline ever.

Max Sackheim wrote this ad as a control study and it ran successfully for the next 40 years, making it the most successful ad headline in history.

So what makes it so successful?

In this post we’re going to get a little more specific with what it takes to write good copy.

So how do you use that list of 10 words I told you about last week effectively?

And why do they work?

Words have power. They can make you feel like the king of the world or bring you you your knees. They can give you confidence or make you question your existence.

Words cause wars. Words make babies.

This is what makes copywriting so powerful. You can make a collection of words persuade someone to do or buy something that 30 seconds ago they weren’t even thinking about.

The Science of Persuasion

Contrary to what people want to believe about themselves we are herd creatures. We are first and foremost influenced by what others do or say all the time.

And we are influenced by the herd itself.

We want to make sure we’re apart of the herd. And if we’re not we become obsessed with getting back into the herd. Or even rebelling against the herd.

The herd can be your group of friends, your community, your work colleagues, the local PTA, your religious affiliation, your MMORPG peers. You get my point. It’s any group that you feel a part of, want to be a part of or feel excluded from.

Even ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ online leads to herd mentality behavior.

One of the most tortuous forms of punishment in the American prison system is solitary confinement. Considered one of the most severe forms of punishment exactly because humans cannot live without other humans.

So as much as we like to argue against how influenced we are by the world around us we innately know we are not islands. In fact, to act as an island is a direct response to the feeling of exclusion from a group or society. We cannot escape this truth try as many of us might.

The evidence is all around us.

Many people these days are on anti-depressants. How are anti-depressants sold? In TV ads anti-depressants are shown to relieve the symptoms of loneliness and not being able to keep up with the rest of the world, i.e. the herd.

Afraid your underarms smell? Try this deodorant. Don’t feel pretty? Wear our makeup. Don’t have big muscles? Drink our protein shake.

What do all of these examples have in common? They play into our worst fears about not being accepted by the herd.

This is the basis of marketing persuasion. ‘They’ get you to think that your place in the herd is in jeopardy. Then they offer solutions for the perceived fear.

Ethical Influence Vs. Marketing Manipulation

This is how ALL advertising works and it’s pretty dark. As an entrepreneur you’re in charge of your business’s messaging and copywriting.

You have a lot of power.

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Here at MOL we put an emphasis on ethical marketing practices. We want to teach our readers, followers and clients the most effective marketing strategies.

But we always stress the importance of ethically using these strategies because we know how much power they wield.

We focus on persuasion not manipulation.

Influence not coercion.

So this post contains powerful info about effective selling. But please use this info wisely and with care for your fellow herd members.

Words That Work Hard

Within the framework of persuasion are certain words that bolster persuasion power. These words work for one specific reason: they are personal.

When you speak directly to an individual they get interested.

“To be interesting, be interested.”
—Dale Carnegie

And when you provide easy solutions to their problems they stay interested. Using specific words in your headlines will cause people to continue reading the rest of your copy.

Did you know… your email subject line functions just like a headline. The subject line is what gets your email opened. Email doesn’t work if it doesn’t get opened!

Get your email opened! Click here for a swipe file of our 52 best email subject lines >>

 

There are lots of lists out there proclaiming to be the list of words that sell. But I believe that, besides a few specific crossovers, different words work for different markets. I use a list created by famed copywriter Vic Schwab.

The 10 Most Persuasive Selling Words in Marketing

The best copy is short, simple and direct. It states clearly what the product is, who it’s for, and why they need it.

  • Who
  • What
  • why

A great ad is simple but usually not easy to create. And it’s important to rewrite, edit and test different versions.

Great copy bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart.

And using certain words can boost persuasion in your copy.

Over the last 25 years of doing my own copywriting I’ve found that some words are more powerful than others.

My clients are coaches, trainers, and people who sell from the stage. I’ve found that these are the most effective words for my target market.

You may find over time that you come to a different conclusion in your testing and avatar research. This list is a great starting point for your own copy while you discover what works for your market.

Vic Schwab’s magical list of words I use when I write copy:

1. You

2. Your

3. How

4. These

5. Who

6. Money

7. New

8. People

9. Want

10. Why

Let’s look at some examples of why and how these words work.

This is an ad created by David Ogilvy. It uses two persuasive words: ‘how’ and ‘your’ to create this headline.

It speaks directly to you, the business owner. It gets your attention. Then it tells you there is a solution if you just keep reading.

One of the most successful books ever written. Victor Schwab created the headline out of the book title. Why mess with perfection?

This headline sold over a million books in three years by mail order. It’s one of the most successfully marketed books of all time. It uses ‘how’ and ‘people’ to tell the reader that they can become more influential in their herd.

This headline lasted for 40 years. It was created by Max Sackheim in the 1920’s to sell a mail-order English class. The first iteration was “do you make mistakes in English” which turned out to not be a successful headline at all.

After rewriting and testing Sackheim added ‘these’ and the headline turned into an “overnight” success. It was that iteration that ran for 40 years as a control ad.

 

All these examples are successful because they spoke directly and personally to the reader and gave them a solution to their “problem.”

That is all it takes to write good copy. That and a good product.

That’s all.

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Bonus Word

This word was initially brought to my attention by my friend, colleague, and mentor, Dr. Robert Cialdini. He wrote a book over two dozen years ago called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s about the art of ethical influence in sales and marketing.

There was a study done at City University of New York graduate center, in its copy center. You can read about the study here.

Researchers found that utilizing the word ‘because’ increased people’s desire to help someone else out. Focusing on someone’s need or desire to help someone can be an effective strategy.

In copywriting using ‘because’ can increase a person’s desire for engagement. By giving a reason for a certain result you actually increase prospects’ compliance.

In the study people asked to ‘jump the line’ or ‘cut in line’ with three different reasons for doing so:

1) “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

2) “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?”

3) “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”

The first question garnered very little compliance. The second and third questions garnered 93% and 94% compliance respectively. Which, as you can see, weren’t even very good reasons.

So my advice to you is test ‘because’ as a control word in your ads. See what kind of results you get.

Copywriting and testing your work is really fun when you start getting results and seeing what people respond to and don’t.

Victor Schwab’s Rules for Ads

This is a basic outline to follow when you’re copywriting. These are the foundational tenets that Victor Schwab decided on after he became a successful copywriter and saw what worked and what didn’t.

  • grab attention
  • illustrate the advantage of a product
  • prove the advantage
  • persuade them to take the advantage
  • use a CTA or Call To Action

If you can follow this outline and use persuasive words you will enhance your copywriting. Then when you do your testing you will have controls that allow you to discover what works and what doesn’t with your market.

Grab attention with a strong headline. Remember, the only purpose of a headline is to get people to read the ad. So use persuasive words and grab their attention to keep them reading.

Next, describe your product’s advantage. Why does it work? What’s in it for your prospect? Is it fast? Is it thorough? Does it solve a problem?

Answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”

Third, prove the advantage with reviews, testimonials, case studies. Use scientific studies or facts that back up your claims. Be specific.

Isn’t it fascinating that even after a century of copywriting the foundation is the same?

Fourth, persuade your prospect to take advantage. How do you do that? Once you’ve appealed to their head with the logic of facts and case studies; now it’s time to appeal to their hearts.

You appeal to their hearts by illustrating how they can use it in their world, “Anti-lock brakes will keep your family safe.”

Your prospect will automatically think of their own family and wanting to keep them safe. This is where you get personal.

Finally, always include a Call-To-Action. Tell your reader what to do next. What’s their next step? Don’t leave it up to them. Direct their desire in your favor.

The Wrap Up

Copywriting is not a mystery, but it does take hard work and testing. The good news is you only need one good ad for a product or service to sell well.

You do need to retest and rewrite from time to time but each new time gives you greater experience and insight. So the path becomes easier.

Now you have all the essential tools to write good copy using persuasive words. And this foundation and these words work in email marketing as well.

Do you have “open-rate envy?” Let’s take a look at your email copywriting abilities. Click here for swipe file of our successful email subject lines that get opened and read.

What’s the most successful ad you’ve ever written or used in your company? C’mon, brag a little.

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