In section two of the Adweek copywriting handbook, Joseph Sugerman explained 31 psychological triggers that convince people to buy.
This checklist helped me a lot in my copywriting career and I think it will help you too.
So, Here it is..
Feeling of Involvement or Ownership,
Picture this, You are a shop owner and there are two people in your shop.
One of them is just strolling through the shop- looking at each product. And the other one is touching the displayed products – trying to figure out how they work.
So the question is, who do you think is more likely to buy something from your store?
If you have guessed the guy who is actively involved with the product, then you are correct.
So getting people to touch or use your product is a good idea because it gives them a feeling of involvement and ownership.
But, direct response advertising doesn’t give you the opportunities of observing your prospects. You are not there to see any knobs being turned. But you can get them to turn the knobs by giving them a feeling of involvement with or ownership of the product you are selling.
- So, try to make the prospects imagine they are holding or using my product.
Here are some examples,
“Hold the Litronix 2000 in your hand. See how easily the keys snap to the touch. See how small and how light the unit is.”
Take a ride in the new Corvette. Feel the breeze blowing through your hair as you drive through the warm evening. Watch heads turn. Punch the accelerator to the floor and feel the burst of power that pins you into the back of your contour seat. Look at the beautiful display of electronic technology right on your dashboard. Feel the power and excitement of America’s super sports car.”
This is the most important one.
Your advertising must be honest.
Give the consumer a price that’s too hard to believe or a product that doesn’t live up to its claims and you might be able to get away with it once, maybe even twice, but not for the long run.
But this section on honesty is not about whether you can get away with being dishonest and for how long. It’s about honesty as a psychological selling tool.
Let me explain, Consumers are very smart.
The consumer can also tell whether people are truthful in what they are trying to communicate.
And the more truthful you are in your advertising, the more effectively your message will be accepted by your prospects.
Your copy will say what you think you wanted it to say, but it will also say what you thought you covered up.
On the other hand, Consumers really appreciate the truth.
- If you are honest about the negative aspects of your product, you customer will believe the positive aspects of your product.
Take a look at this Ad for example,
Joseph Sugerman was the first one to admit the downsides of his product. And later on , he would explain why the flaws really didn’t amount to much and why the consumer should still buy his product.
The fact that he was so honest about the downsides of the product, made people believe him about the many upsides of the product.
An advertisement is a personal message from an organization or an individual and is a direct reflection of the writer’s personality and integrity.
You can convey this integrity by the truthfulness of your message, the look of your ad, the image that you convey and even the typefaces that you use.
Integrity can be reflected by the choices you make in the layout of your ad.
Is it clean and neat?
Or is it shouting out at you with color bars running in different directions and headlines screaming and words underlined and pictures exaggerated?
The integrity of the person delivering the message is always amazingly clear to the recipient.
And this integrity is often reflected by the appearance of the advertisement and the copy you write.
Show good integrity and your advertising message will be well received. Don’t show it and join the ranks of those who are rarely successful.
If you convey honesty and integrity in your message, chances are you’ve gone a long way toward establishing your credibility.
However, credibility is not just honesty and integrity. Credibility is being believable.
In an ad for a product whose price is exceptionally low, you’ve got to convey that the offer you are making, as great as it may seem, is indeed a valid offer.
great as it may seem, is indeed a valid offer. Let’s say you are offering something for $10 that everybody else is selling for $40. Your job is establishing credibility for your price.
You might explain that you are buying a very large volume from the Far East and that you were able to buy the remaining stock from a major manufacturer for a very low price. In short, you’ve got to establish the credibility of your company and your offer.
- Rash statements, clichés and some exaggerations will remove any credibility your offer may have had.
One of the most important factors that could affect credibility is not resolving all the objections that are raised in your readers’ minds, such as hiding something or avoiding an obvious fault of the product or service.
You need to raise all objections and resolve them. Click here if you want more in-depth information.
Value and Proof of Value
No matter how rich you are,you want to know that you are not being taken advantage of, that you are getting value for your financial investment.
In an ad, the copywriter wants to convey, through examples or by comparison, that what the customer is buying is a good value.
By positioning your product and comparing it with others or by proving the value of something even though the value may not be apparent, you are providing the logic with which the prospect can justify the purchase.
Justify the Purchase
One of the questions people may think about while reading an ad is “Can I really justify this purchase?”
And if there is a question it must be resolved.
If you don’t resolve it, then you won’t answer all the prospect’s questions and this will give the prospect the excuse to “think about it” and, of course, never buy.
Somewhere in your ad, you should resolve any objection by providing some justification to the purchaser.
If you are doing mail order, you should make a followup email to answer every possible question that your prospect might be asking.
Sometimes it’s just saying, “You deserve it.”
And other times you might have to justify it in terms of savings (the price is a one-time-only value), health reasons (protects your eyes), recognition (the men in your life will love the way you look in it) or dozens of other reasons based on the wants and needs of your prospect.
- The higher the price point, the more need there is to justify the purchase.
- The lower the price point or the more value the price represents, the less you have to justify the purchase.
Greed in the form of attraction to bargains is a very strong motivating factor.
Sometimes people buy things just because they are at a bargain price.
Even though it might be an unnecessary purchase.
Don’t hesitate to recognize greed as a very strong factor in either low-priced merchandise or expensive products offered at low prices.
Many people are willing to risk dealing with an unknown vendor just to pay less and get more for their money.
Providing the consumer with more than what is normally received for the price is a way of appealing to the consumer’s greed.
When you lower the price of a product, you usually end up with more unit sales. Keep lowering the price, and you’ll continue to generate more unit sales than before if the price drop is big enough.
Go too low and you’ll have to add a little justification for the lower price as it will start raising credibility issues with your prospects.
The consumer loves to do business with experts in a particular area.
That’s why the trend is away from department stores that sell general merchandise to category stores that sell a specific line of products. These stores have;
- More expertise
- And authority in a specific category.
Establishing your authority is something that should be done in each ad regardless of how big or how little you are.
“America’s largest supplier of specialized products for the chimney sweep industry.”
Or even if you are the smallest, you can always say,
“The hardest working bunch of guys in the advertising business.”
No matter what, you will always find something you can say that establishes your authority and expertise in what you are selling.
Sometimes it is easy to establish authority by virtue of the name of the company.
Aerotyne internationals sounds like a big corporation right?
But Jack and Ed’s doesn’t sound very big at all.
People naturally respect a knowledgeable authority. Let’s say you want to buy a computer.
You might first check with the expert in your neighborhood who is known as the neighborhood computer genius.
Why do you think these online gurus have such a large following?
It’s because they have social proof.
And you would be far more likely to invest money on their courses and seminars.
Because seeing so many people go there makes it way more desirable.
A trial period could be defined as a form of satisfaction conviction.
“If you aren’t totally satisfied with my product within one month, you may send it back for a full refund.”
But that isn’t what we mean here.
Every direct response offer should have a trial period.
After all, the consumer needs to touch and feel a product to make a decision about whether to keep it.
So the trial period provides the buyer with a level of confidence.
The consumer can change his or her mind if it is not exactly what he or she is looking for.
But a satisfaction conviction is more than a trial period. It basically conveys a message from you to your prospect that says, “Hey, I’m so convinced you will like this product that I’m going to do something for your benefit to prove how incredible my offer is.”
If your potential customer, after reading what you are going to do, says something like, “They must really believe in their product,” or “How can they do it?” or “Are they going to get ripped off by customers who will take advantage of their generosity?” then you know you’ve got a great example of a satisfaction conviction.
Here is a great example,
“If you’re unhappy with BluBlockers, I’ll let you return them anytime you want. There is no trial period.”
After reading that many people will think, “That must be a good product or otherwise they wouldn’t make that offer.”
And don’t worry, people don’t return something that they have been using for 10 years.
Nature of Product
This is one of the really important keys in determining how to sell a product. First, you have to realize that every product has its own unique personality, its own unique nature, and it’s up to you to figure it out.
- Every product has one very powerful way of presenting itself that will express the true advantages and emotion that the product has to offer and motivate the largest number of people to buy it.
For example, What is the nature of a toy?
It makes us happy. So present that side of your product.
Who are your ideal customers?
Are they teens? Boys?Kids or women maybe?
No matter what the answer might be you always need to study your target audience.
Joseph Sugerman says if he was selling a home,
- He would get to know the motivations of his prospects and what they are looking for in a home.
- He would find out their history.
- He would ask them about their other home-buying experiences and what their hobbies are.
- He would gather as much information about them as possible and then He would develop a sense of what emotional needs they might have.
There are always a number of fads taking place at the same time.
One might be a clothing fad, another might be an unusual expression made popular by a TV show or commercial, or a fad might be a popular trend.
I don’t know maybe the current trend is the kpop hair;
- Be aware of the current fads so you can determine the hottest product categories and also the new language of our time.
You want to recognize them and harmonize with them.
For example, In the 1950s when the main trend in the car industry were horsepowers, some manufacturers named their cars after their horsepowers.
It really appealed to the consumers.
I kind of forgot what the name was. But you get the point right?
But when some car companies presented a different type of car-one that has lots of space but is slow, they didn’t appeal to the mass public at all.
Timing certainly has a lot to do with fads.
You want to be involved at the beginning of a fad and not enter in the middle or the end.
And you need intuition to detect a rising trend.
Basically, it is the technique of relating what the consumer already knows and understands with what you are selling to make the new product easy to understand and relate to.
- Whenever you sell a new product or a unique feature of a new concept, try to use analogies.
Take what is familiar to the prospect, relate it to the object you are selling, and create a bridge in the mind of my prospect.
Because of this linking, the prospect needs to think a lot less to understand the new product. The product is easier to relate to the needs of the prospect.
For example, when Joseph Sugerman ran an Ad on smoke detectors,
The headline read ; “The Nose.”
He talked about the smoke detector not as a smoke detector (many such devices were already being sold) but as a nose that sat on your ceiling and sniffed the air.
When it smelled smoke, it set off an alarm.
He took the very human and simple concept of a nose—a part of the body whose function is well understood—and then linked it to an electronic device.
The most important thing you can do to turn a prospect into a customer is to make it incredibly easy for that prospect to commit to a purchase, regardless of how small that purchase may be.
Once the commitment is made and the prospect becomes a customer, the playing field suddenly changes. There now exists a level of commitment and consistency, directed in your favor, to encourage future purchases.
A good example of this can be seen at a car dealership. The salesperson tallies your purchase, gets approval from the general manager, and then has you sign the paperwork.
As she’s walking away to get the car prepped and ready for you to drive away,
she turns to you and says, “And you do want that undercoating, don’t you?”
You instinctively nod your head.
The charge is added to your invoice. “And you’ll also want our floor mats to keep your car clean as well, won’t you?”
Once a commitment is made, the tendency is to act consistently with that commitment. The customer nods his head.
(This part is copy-pasted from one of my previous blogs)
You need to do 2 things to harmonize with your reader:
- First, Get the prospective reader to say “yes”.
- Second, You have got to make statements that are both honest and believable.
The moment you get the reader to say “No” Or “I really don’t believe what he is saying” or even “ I don’t think that relates to me’ You have lost your reader.
But as long as the reader keeps saying “yes” or believes what you are saying, he will stay interested and continue to read your Ad.
Let’s take a look at our previous example for a moment:
Example#1.( dehydrated survival food Ad*)
We all take our food supply for granted . And for a good reason. Americans have always had plenty. But we may be heading for one of the most serious periods in our history. Let me explain….’
This ad was successful because when their readers were reading that Ad, their response to it was kind of like this.
‘Food crunch(ummm, interesting…)
We all take our food supply for granted (yes). And for a good reason (ok). Americans have always had plenty(yes). But we may be heading for one of the most serious periods in our history(why?). Let me explain….’(ok).
Notice that, the obvious response to every sentence was “yes”. And that’s what kept the reader’s attention and that’s why it was successful.
So here is a made up example;
‘Do you have food insurance?’(no)
Executives throughout America are taking stock of the future and stocking up(???). Here is how Food insurance program works to protect your family.(not interested)
Did you see the fatal problem?
It’s not creating harmony with the reader.
So do not start your ad with a question that can get a potentially negative response.
Desire to Belong
The desire to belong is a strong motivational factor in marketing but it is often not appreciated. Think about it.
Why do people own a Mercedes? Why do they smoke Marlboro cigarettes? Why do certain fads catch on? It could be that these people buy a specific product because they subconsciously want to belong to the group that already owns or uses that specific product.
In the case of Marlboros, the smokers subconsciously want to join that group of smokers who have responded to the rugged western image the cigarette’s ad agency has created.
The people who buy a Mercedes often want to belong to that special group of Mercedes owners.
You name a product that has an established image and I’ll show you a consumer who, somewhere in his or her subconscious value system, wants to belong to the group of people who own that product.
Fashion, automobiles, cigarettes, gadgets, whatever the category—the consumer who buys a specific brand has been motivated to buy that brand by 161 virtue of the desire to belong to the group of people who already own that brand.
Desire to Collect
There is a very large segment of the population who, for whatever reason, has an emotional need to collect a series of similar products.
Many have several watches, several pairs of sunglasses, several pairs of jeans, a library of videos or compact disks or even cars that cost upto 200 thousand dollars.
- One of the ways that direct marketers optimize on the collecting instinct is by sending, free of charge with their very first shipment, some sort of device to hold the collection.
Joseph Sugerman said, if he had to pick the one major psychological reason that makes direct marketing so successful today, it would be curiosity.
The reason books sell so well is because of curiosity. You can tease prospects by telling them what they will find out by reading your books. In fact, the strongest motivating factor in selling books is curiosity, followed only by notoriety and credibility.
Because a prospect can’t touch or experience the product, curiosity is the strongest motivating factor in mail order.
So, how do you use curiosity in selling your products?
- First realize that when you sell books, curiosity is the key motivating factor and you should use it as your prime selling tool. But realize also that there are many other products that lend themselves to holding back part of the story in order to arouse curiosity and create a demand.
Books are great, but most of the time it’s nowhere near what they claim they are. It’s kind of like clickbait.
You know the hype isn’t real but it still pulls you in.
- Tell too much, and you run the risk of killing whatever advantage you have using mail order as a medium.
Sense of Urgency
You’ve almost sold the prospect. The prospect believes in your product and is ready to buy. But like many of your customers, this one says, “Well, let me think about it.”
It is a proven fact that when this happens, chances are the prospect won’t buy.
There are two reasons why;
- First, in time that excellent sales message you wrote will most likely be forgotten.
- Second, if you’re lucky and it isn’t forgotten, it won’t have the same impact it had when it was first read.
- So, to avoid the delaying tactic, you’ve got to provide prospects with an incentive or reason to buy now.
If you do your job right, customers have to feel guilty if they don’t buy right now. But how do you do it?
The prospect has spent a lot of time with your ad and you’ve convinced him or her to buy.
Now this is where most people mess up, you don’t want to blow your integrity at the very end of the ad by making a statement that is not true.
A statement like, “If you don’t respond within the next few days, we’ll be sold out,” or some other deceit will turn off the prospect.
So be careful.
So be careful. Whatever you say at the end should be the truth and should be crafted to maintain the same integrity that has been expressed throughout your ad.
You can say something like
“The price listed for this laptop is the wrong price and that the new price is $60 higher, but you have a few days to purchase the product at the old price before the new price went into effect.”
- You can also convey a sense of urgency by offering limited editions;
“We have only 1,000 sets and this will be our last advertisement”
You might have a great ad with a good sense of urgency but a fatal error might still kill your ad’s effectiveness.
You can use the sense of urgency in many different ways— low supplies, closeout opportunity, price rise, product shortages, limited-time price opportunity or limited-edition opportunity.
How about “Buy now so you can start enjoying the benefits of my product tomorrow.” Or even “Buy one during the next three days and you’ll get a second one free.”
Fear is one of the great motivators that will cause us to take action.
- Give a person a reason to act based on the fact that they may lose the opportunity to buy something and they will usually act in a positive way toward your offer.
As just discussed, sense of urgency is an important psychological trigger.
An important part of the sense of urgency is fear.
Your customer fears that he or she will lose out on the opportunity of buying a product or service because it won’t be available in the future or it won’t be available at the same price. But fear can be a motivating factor in other situations as well.
Take the current pandemic as an example,
when a new flu virus or strain threatens, this would be an opportunity to sell products that build the immune system or products that may help prevent the disease.
People are buying these products because they want to protect themselves from the virus, which today is a real and present danger.
This is a big advantage at retail. You pick something up, hold it, touch it and look it over completely.
You can make your decision to buy and then you can take it home with you where you can enjoy and use it immediately.
You don’t have that advantage in mail order.
That’s why you should convey to your customer either the advantages in ordering from you via mail or the assurance that you ship promptly and that the customer will have his or her purchase within a few days.
Exclusivity, Rarity or Uniqueness
It is also a very strong motivating factor for the consumer.
The concept is to basically let prospects feel that they are special if they buy a particular product—that they will belong to the very small group that can be envied for owning this very limited item.
The emotional appeal of this approach is quite strong. Everybody likes to feel special. Most people would like to belong to a rare group that owns a product that few people can own and enjoy.
By limiting the number they produce, some marketing companies have come up with a very strong appeal for consumers.
The thought behind the limited edition is also to provide value.
As people build various collections of things, the objects grow in value if others start collecting the same goods too.
You must keep your advertising copy simple. The positioning of your product must be simple. Your offer must be simple. In short, you want to keep your entire presentation as simple as possible while still getting across your message.
Focus on what you are trying to accomplish and eliminate things that either complicate your presentation or aren’t necessary.
But don’t explain things in a way that a golden retriever would understand it. That’s not what we mean by simple.
The copy should be able to be read by the less educated people as well as the more educated and come across clearly.
- The use of big words to impress is one example of writing up to somebody. You’re trying to impress with your use of words while somebody else who might not be familiar with your fancy words will be lost.
- So write as if you were speaking to a respected person.
And just like simplicity in writing, you also need simplicity in lay out.
In emails many people make the mistake of making the email look too messy.
Like, giving links to a bunch of other products, putting a bunch of call to action links. Coupon codes etc.
- Your stuff should be in the right order.
- Don’t give people too many choices.
- And don’t confuse people.
The example on the left gives people 9 different choices while the one the left talks about only one watch.
It is always important to relate the product or service you are offering in human terms.
- How the product will fit, how it will feel, how it will look—these are just some of the ways you can relate.
But there are other ways that copy or graphics can bring a human element to an advertisement.
You can use a picture of a human hand holding a small product. The hand adds size and perspective to what is being presented and also adds that human element.
You can use attractive models. People like to relate to pretty women or handsome men even though they may not themselves be attractive.
In short, in your advertising you want to use as many positive human elements as you can.
People love stories, and one of the really good ways to relate to your prospect is to tell a story.
Story can sometimes be invaluable, because it kind of creates a bond between the product and the prospect.
Stories usually have lessons to teach or experiences to share or even endings that can excite, surprise or bring out emotion.
Finally, some stories add a unique human element that allows you to relate to and bond very closely with your prospects.
Here is an example,
Headline: Vision Breakthrough
Subheadline: When I put on the pair of glasses what I saw I could not believe. Nor will you.
Byline: By Joseph Sugarman
I am about to tell you a true story.
If you believe me, you will be well rewarded.
If you don’t believe me, I will make it worth your while to change your mind.
Let me explain. Len is a friend of mine who knows good products.
One day he called excited about a pair of sunglasses he owned. “It’s so incredible,” he said, “when you first look through a pair, you won’t believe it.” “What will I see?”
I asked. “What could be so incredible?” Len continued, “When you put on these glasses, your vision improves.
Objects appear sharper, more defined. Everything takes on an enhanced 3-D effect.
And it’s not my imagination. I just want you to see for yourself.”
And the rest of the Ad was just the explanation of the features and benefits.
Have you ever gone to a movie and known how it was going to end after watching the first few minutes?
Or a movie where every action can be easily anticipated?
These movies tend not to be very enjoyable.
However, the opposite is true when you watch a movie that keeps you in suspense until the very end when it reaches a credible but surprise ending.
Any movie that is not predictable is more enjoyable.
The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion that it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.
So, if you make your copy too obvious, the reader feels either looked down on or bored. Provide a little suspense so that the reader has to come to a conclusion on her own using intuition, thought, sensation, and emotion, and you’ve got a very good force working for you.
Here is an Ad that Joe Sugerman wrote, that exemplifies what I am talking about.
“The Seiko chronograph alarm sells for $300. The watch costs jewelers $150. And jewelers love the item, not only because of the excellent reputation of the Seiko brand, but because it’s probably America’s best-selling new expensive digital watch. And Seiko can’t supply enough of them to their dealers.”
Now, note what he didn’t say but what was still rather obvious.
So what he didn’t say was that every time those jewelers sold one of those watches they made a small fortune.
The mind had to work a little to reach a conclusion through its own thought processes.
And when the reader compared the $99 watch that joseph sugerman was selling with the Seiko, it appeared that the jewelry stores and Seiko were soaking the consumer.
Have you ever received mailings from charities that include a small gift?
The gifts are usually address stickers, colorful stamps or some other inexpensive token.
Or how about those mailings with surveys that include a dollar bill or a reply envelope with a return stamp?
In both cases you may have experienced a slight touch of guilt.
After all, you’ve received something of value and you feel an obligation to take some action in return, such as sending in a donation or answering the survey.
These are good examples of the use of guilt.
But how do you use this technique in a print ad when you can’t include stickers or a dollar bill?
When you can’t use dollar bills or stickers, you can give the reader plenty of compelling information and reading entertainment—so much so that they sense an obligation to respond.
Repeated mailings also create guilt. Keep sending somebody mailings and after a while, they may feel guilty that they haven’t responded.
Being specific in your explanations is very critical and can establish your credibility.
“New dentists everywhere use and recommend CapSnap Toothpaste,”
“Ninety-one percent of new dentists use and recommend CapSnap Toothpaste,”
The second one sounds much more believable. The consumer is likely to think that we did a scientific survey and that 91 percent was the result.
- So, be specific with your facts.
If somebody is reading a magazine and sees your advertising format—something they have seen many times before—and recognizes your logo or company name, there is a feeling of familiarity.
People feel most comfortable within their own family. They feel confident and trusting and allow themselves to be more vulnerable. So it is with anything people are familiar with.
They trust a brand name, are more confident that they are buying the right product and are more inclined to do so.
There are certain words that are more familiar to most people and to the human consciousness.
For example, Ask somebody for a color off the top of their head and the answer will be “red” the majority of the time.
Ask them to name a piece of furniture and the answer will likely be “chair.”
There are familiar words that can create a very subtle harmony with your reader and it’s up to you to find them and use them.
One of the biggest mistakes traditional advertisers make is to kill campaigns they have been using a long time because they are tired of them.
Too often in traditional advertising, the client gets tired of the commercial long before the public does.
- So keep running your product or service ad until the public tells you when to stop by virtue of lower sales.
Do you know why the click through rates of Ads in my country are so low?
Lack of purchasing power is one reason, but another reason is clicking on an Ad that’s not written in our language feels like getting lost in a different country.
Hope can also be a great motivator.
A woman buys a new face cream hoping that it would make her skin look better.
People buy new books hoping that this information would make their life a little easier.
In short, there is an implied possibility that using a product or service will provide a future benefit.
If you present yourself as a credible person representing a credible company, then what you say will elicit a feeling of confidence on the part of your prospect.
Then, whatever you say your product did for you or for your previous customers will be taken as a possibility for your prospect, and the power of hope will compel your prospect to order.
It might be a book on relationships and how the information changed your life and those of previous readers.
It might be a formula you take to live a long life and how wonderful you feel.
Whatever you are selling, with the proper credibility, you will automatically engage the power of hope to sell.
So, thank you for reading 🙂