When I was younger I had a friend named Mark M. (for privacy reasons I won’t use his last name here). Mark was an interesting character, and a lot of fun to hang out with. And he was also one of the smoothest con artists I ever knew.
30 years later I can still remember the day we went to a local shopping mall, just to hang out.
We walked into that mall with less than $20 between the two of us. And a couple hours later we walked back out with full bellies from one of the restaurants, and Mark had shopping bags with over $200 worth of brand new clothes. (not stolen… these clothes were “given” to him by the shop clerks) And this was just another average day for Mark.
Over the years, we lost touch and I don’t know whatever happened to my friend. I figure he’s either a multi-millionaire by now… or in prison (It could’ve gone either way). But watching him in action always fascinated me so much, that it eventually led me down a road of studying social psychology, social engineering and persuasion. (I never wanted to be a con artist, but I did become obsessed with understanding how that shit worked)
Which brings us to today.
Today I’m going to share a few tricks of the con-artist trade that also resemble “honest” tricks of the copywriting trade.
So if you’re ready, let’s dive right in…
WARNING! The following list of techniques should ONLY be used for good (not evil). If you’re clever enough to merge them into your copy, you will see higher conversion rates. But if you choose to use them to deceive people it will probably come back to bite you in the ass. And any legal troubles you get into are your own fault. So don’t blame me… and consider yourself warned.
1. Find out what people want and figure out a way to give it to them!
Yes, in it’s simplest form this really is what it comes down to. If you can find out what your “target” audience wants deep down in his soul, and figure out a way to give it to him (or promise to give it to him) then you’ll own the keys to his willpower.
Simply put… people won’t walk across the street for something they don’t care about, but they’ll travel thousands of miles if you promise to help them achieve their deep desires. (and they’ll pay any price you ask)
That’s why understanding your target audience, and human nature in general, is arguably the most important part of persuading anyone to do anything. (I say “arguably” because if anyone tells me it isn’t that important, I’ll be happy to argue with them about it)
2. Choose the “RIGHT” audience
(In con artists terms it’s pronounced… Choose the right “mark”)
As with the “CON” so it is with the “COPY”.
A con artist doesn’t try to offer “insider” trading secrets to an honest person, because that would take too much time and effort. Instead, they’ll pick a greedy person who’s willing to dance on the fringes of legality in order to make fat stacks of cash. (this person is an easy target)
Con artists choose their mark based on certain traits. And sales writers need to do the same. Your chances of success go way up when you selectively choose the market you intend to persuade.
In direct-response marketing it’s understood that the single biggest factor for the success of your copy, is the list you send it to.
Imagine for a moment that you’re selling shoes. The shoes you’re selling are the most comfortable shoes this world has ever known.
You’ve got a few dozen pairs to sell because you’re going on vacation next week, and you’d like to take some spending money with you.
These shoes retail for around $200, but you’re selling them for the low, low (unbelievably low) price of only $99.
Heck, you’ll even throw in a free pair of extra laces for the first 10 buyers!
You’ve written your masterful copy and you’ve done everything else to make this promotion a quick success.
But nobody buys your shoes.
Why not? Because you sent the promotion to a list of people with no feet, that’s why not!
You can have the best product in the world… sell it at an unbelievably low price… hire a great copywriter… and still get crap for response if you choose the wrong audience.
3. Similarity (and familiarity) breeds trust
You might be amazed at how many con games are played out by someone within the victims circle of friends. People in our group are people we naturally trust, so we let down our guard and open the door whenever they come a knockin’.
That person we see in church every week would never try to cheat us out of any money. Would they?
Con artists know that becoming part of the victims “circle of friends” is the easiest way to not only study your target, but also gain their trust.
Unfortunately, in sales copy we often don’t have the luxury of time, and we need to build rapport quickly.
So when you research your target audience, dig deep. Feel yourself becoming one of the “in” crowd and look for the subtleties and jargon that gets used by the group.
No, you don’t need to actually join the local “Moose Lodge”, but you do need to use language that gets your reader to think “Hey, this guy is just like me. We’re part of the same group.”
Sometimes it only needs to be a minor connection… “You like football? So do I…”
It’s often the little things that connect people and immediately create a bond of friendship. When you create the bond, persuading them to buy your stuff can be as easy as recommending something to a friend.
4. Know your audience
When you know your audience, I mean really know their deepest desires, your copy will practically write itself. And if you need a sound bite that you can pin to your wall, so you never forget this concept, here ya go…
“Cheap copy only focuses on words… Good copy focuses on your audience.”
Any experienced copywriter (or con artist) will tell you that understanding your target audience is one of the main keys to success. When we can put ourselves in the shoes of our listener, then we already know what it takes to make the sale.
5. Don’t try to change minds, validate preconceptions instead
Most people are resistant to changing their minds (about anything).
In fact, when given the choice between changing our paradigm, or defending a pre-conceived belief (no matter how misguided the belief) most of us will immediately begin the task of building the defense.
So if you try to change someones mind with logic or reason they’ll filter out most of your argument, and only focus on the parts that either disprove your message, or validate their own.
That’s why, when it comes to persuasion, a con artist doesn’t try to change his mark’s mind. Instead, he taps into the opinions, emotions and paradigms that already exist inside that person’s mind.
It’s the same thing with copywriting.
For example: If someone feels like a loser because they’ve tried to lose weight, and failed multiple times, the last thing they want to hear is “you can do it if you just keep trying”.
They don’t want a motivational sound-bite that questions their willpower, they want empathy! And that empathy can be the bridge that gets them to do whatever you want them to do.
“I understand what you’re going through, and it’s not your fault. Most of those weight loss programs and diet pills simply don’t work for people like us. I know because I spent years trying to lose weight with no success, until I finally discovered…”
Filling a strong need or desire for empathy in your market is one of the most direct paths to gaining entry. But trying to change someones mind by telling them they’re paradigm is wrong, is the quickest way to get the door slammed in your face.
OK, I know I promised 10 persuasion secrets and we’re only at 5. But this post is already getting a bit lengthy, so I’m going to end it here and turn it into 2 parts. If you’d like to see part deux then all you need to do is ask. If enough people ask me for it, then I’ll post it. If not enough people ask for it then I’ll assume there’s not much interest, and I’ll move on to something else.
(hint: I just used a couple of those tactics in that last paragraph. Did you spot them?)
Until next time… Never stop learning, and you’ll never stop improving!
All the best,
- Part 2 – The secret to writing persuasive sales copy - April 30, 2020
- The Secret To Writing Persuasive Sales Copy - April 19, 2020
- Here’s Why SEO Writing Can Destroy Your Content (and what you can do to make it better) - March 29, 2020