It was the day I realized I could practically make money appear out of thin air…
I still remember the call. It was from Katie Yeakle, at AWAI.
“Roy,” she told me, “your new promotion is doing really well. In fact, it’s doing so well, we’re worried we might sell too many of this new program.”
Think about this for a minute.
For years, I’d heard the truism that “All it takes is ONE sales letter to change your life.”
And I’d believed it. Kind of.
After all, I’d seen countless examples of the other people whose lives had been transformed through a great piece of copy. But it’d never happened to ME. At least, not yet…
And then, that call.
That call was proof that I’d tapped into something special.
That call was proof of the power of not just any copywriting, but MY copywriting.
That call told me that it wasn’t just about other people, it was about ME.
Now, I’ll share the conclusion of that story in a moment, but first…
Can I share with you one big secret to writing the kind of copy that stirs an emotional response… Please?
I’ll tell you… When I look back on that AWAI project… Plus others like it that have broken clients’ sales records… I definitely see the power of this principle in action.
Because, as you probably already know, people make their buying decisions with EMOTION.
Yes, they want to back up those decisions with logic.
But you need to move their heart and their gut before you worry about persuading their head.
And the way you do that?
PUT THEM IN THE EXPERIENCE…
For the most part, an emotional response will come from either a carrot, or a stick.
You know the image. You hang a carrot in front of your donkey, to get it to go in a direction. But you keep a stick ready to swat it on the butt if it isn’t moving.
This is, of course, just a metaphor. I’m not calling your customer a… Well, you know what I mean.
The carrot represents pleasure and good feelings.
The stick represents pain and bad feelings.
We are compelling to move toward pleasure, and away from pain.
And the response happens on an emotional level — it’s not about logic or thinking.
So the best way to trigger an emotional response in your prospect is to show them the carrot or the stick. But not just show it, as in, “If you buy this stock, you’ll get 500% gains.” Or, “You’re going to have a heart attack if you don’t lose 50 pounds.”
Rather, the more you can put them into the experience of pleasure or pain and connect that to the action they need to take now, the more response you’ll generate.
Which brings me to…
The two best ways to make your prospect experience pleasure or pain…
The first of these is obvious. And, in fact, I just showed you how to do it, in the introduction to this essay. You put your prospect in the experience with an EXAMPLE of that experience.
You could call it a case study, but be careful about being too dry.
I began this essay in a very specific moment. It was the moment I got the phone call telling me about my first big copy win.
That helped you feel what I felt.
I brought you into the experience and excitement (the carrot, the pleasure) by sharing my story.
The second way to put your prospect into the experience is with an ANALOGY of the experience.
That is, an experience that’s like the experience and generates the same emotion but is also decidedly different.
This can be a little tricky. Because it requires you to talk about something unrelated to the product or service or even the market as a whole before bringing it back around.
I was writing a new lead this morning. Since it’s active client work, I can’t go into too many details. However, I was able to use an analogy of an incredibly normal event we’ve all had happen to us that causes us to be shocked and startled, and tie it into the idea I was writing about.
There’s a specific emotional experience around being startled. It’s something we’ve all felt. And if I tell it vividly enough, it has the potential to create visceral, physiological responses that are similar to the feelings I want my prospect to have (and yeah, this is more of a stick).
And because I’m able to logically tie it into the idea as well, those feelings are naturally transferred into the idea itself.
The trick, in doing this, is getting in and out quickly — and to your main message. But if you can do this, you can borrow emotional responses from all kinds of stories and life events, and use them to increase the response your marketing generates.
The question then is: who’s story do you tell?
Quickly, I’ll just state that you have a lot of options here.
First off, you can tell your story. And by your story, I mean, the marketer’s… The person who is the spokesperson in the copy itself. There are big benefits to this, in that almost any storytelling helps to engender the knowing, liking, and trusting that lead to someone feeling comfortable buying from you.
Second, you can tell the story of “my friend.” I’ve used this to tell my own stories, from a client’s perspective. The spokesperson in the copy talks about their friend’s story, and it’s mine. Alternately, “my friend” can be almost anyone else, or any random (but relevant!) story you’ve collected. It’s a good “catch all” category for telling stories in persuasion.
Third, you can tell the client’s story. Here, you could talk directly to the client going through a common experience, with just the right combination of specific details and vagueness so they can fill in the details for themselves. Tell me if you’ve ever had this happen before. The phone rings. You pick it up. It’s your client. And they have yet another change they want to make on your project before it goes out the door. See what I just did there?
Fourth, you can tell the future client’s story. By this, I mean the story they’ll be telling after they’ve benefited from your service. This is called “future pacing” and the trick with it is to make it feel as real as anything that’s already happened or is currently happening to them.
Fifth, you can tell a fictionalized story. I once beat my client’s control by 2.3X with a promo that started with a 3-page fictionalized story about what you would experience in the first few days of a long-term power outage. I spent three pages in this second-person perspective, before zooming out and writing the rest of the promo from the client’s voice. Alternately, when you study classics like John Caples’ “They laughed when I sat down at the piano,” you’ll quickly realize that he just made the whole thing up (perhaps based on an example) but told the story in a way that it worked.
How to use this?
First, just make sure this is something you’re doing. Being very intentional about putting your prospects into the experience will trigger emotional responses. The more you practice, the better you’ll get, and the better you get, the better RESULTS you’ll get.
Second, consider becoming a better Story Seller. Once you understand how to tie stories into your selling messages, it will completely change the way you persuade. Your shortcut is the Story Selling Master Class.
And third, I promised the resolution to my AWAI story. I actually told Katie they should shut down sales. They said they’d never done it before in their company’s history. So they decided not to. Until a couple days later, when sales were still coming in so fast they did a “closing the cart” campaign. All-told, we generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in less than two weeks. And after they started selling the product again, I think sales eventually cleared $1 million. And while that sales letter itself didn’t make me rich, it played an important role in launching my copywriting business and absolutely changed my life.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,