Pt. 2 – 10 Persuasion Secrets Of A Con-Artist You Can Use In Your Copywriting

Reading Time: About 8 minutes

So here we are, back for part 2 of some really cool persuasion secrets of a con artist, that you can adapt to your sales copy.

Before we get started I’d like to thank everybody who sent me positive feedback on part 1 of this article. (I suppose I should also thank the two guys who sent me snarky feedback…? Naw, screw those guys. I’m just gonna thank the positive folks this time around)…

And just a reminder, when you’re logged into the community you can always post your comments right here on this page instead of trying to message me.

Anyway, I got enough positive feedback from part one; so as promised, I’m delivering part 2 for your education, and entertainment. (Hmm, I guess that would make it “edu-tainment”?)

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue with part 2 of our story…


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.



6. The Zeigarnick Effect

We’ll start with The Zeigarnik effect because it’s one of the techniques I used at the end of part 1. (If you remember, I promised to give you the second half of the list if you came back for part 2) And here we are…

The Zeigarnik effect (named after psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik) basically means that when we start something and become engaged with it, it tends to stay at the fore-front of our focus until it’s completed. In extreme cases it can even resemble borderline OCD.

The Zeigarnik effect plays on our natural curiosity, but it mostly plays on our in-borne need for closure.

Imagine you’re watching a really great movie, or seeing your favorite sports team play in the championship game…
…The story is riveting… your heart is beating fast with anticipation because you’re engaged with the players and invested in the outcome… there’s 2 minutes left and you’re almost at the dramatic climax… What will happen? How will it end?

Is there any chance you’d be willing to walk away at that moment, if it means never finding out how it ends?

HELL NO! Most of us would sell our first born child just to see how it ends. (well, maybe the second born since the first one is starting to grow on us a little)

Con artists understand this phenomenon very well. And they’ll use it to engage their target.
By baiting the hook and teasing the mark, a master con artist can lead the victim around like a well trained puppy on a leash.


With information marketing we can often create a similar effect by teasing our audience with pieces of the solution they’ll enjoy, but stopping just short of revealing the answer. (if they want the answer, they’ll need to buy the book)

Another version of the Zeigarnik effect can also be achieved when we use something known as “open loops” in our copy. This is where we start a story, then segue into something related, then bring it back around to finish the story and close the loop. By engaging our audience in this way we keep them with us longer and give ourselves more opportunity to seduce them into buying from us.



7. The Reciprocation Effect

Beware of strangers bearing gifts.

Most people (except for sociopaths) don’t like the feeling of being indebted to others. When someone does us a favor, or gives us a gift, we feel a sense of obligation to return it in kind.

If you’ve ever received a holiday card from someone you knew, who was not on your own holiday card sending list. You probably felt a tinge of obligation to send a card back to them.

This social balancing act probably stems from a time when tribes and communities needed to work together to survive. Everyone did their fair share, and helping each other allowed the entire group stay alive.

In Robert Cialdinis book “Influence” (if you haven’t read it, then I highly recommend you do) he talks about the law of reciprocation. I’m not sure it’s an actual “law” but it is a solid psychological phenomenon.

Fundraising campaigns have used this phenomenon for years, with great success. Perhaps you’ve even received some of those personalized address labels in the mail, that come with a letter asking for a donation? (if you haven’t, then try making a single donation to a veterans group and you’ll soon be getting more free address labels than you can ever use)

And remember the Hare Krishnas that used to hang out at airports? They would give travelers a flower and then ask for small donations to help spread the love of Krishna to the world. The flowers cost about 2 cents, and many people would donate spare change in return. (spare change that eventually added up to many millions of dollars in donations)

These groups know that a large percentage of people who receive these small gifts will donate to their cause due to the law of reciprocation.

That’s also why giving an unexpected gift or doing an unrequested favor for someone is a favorite persuasion techniques of con artists… because it works.


Your challenge in copywriting is to figure out how you can make your advertising itself valuable to your audience.

Selling a book or information product…? Try giving the first chapter, or a few tips, away for free. Just make it so valuable that your reader not only wants more, but so they feel like you’ve already given them something valuable.



8. The Benjamin Franklin Effect

An opposite technique to the Reciprocation Effect is what I call the Benjamin Franklin Effect. This one is equal to (maybe even stronger than) the last technique in its power. And it’s a lot more sneaky…

The Ben Franklin effect is when someone who does a small favor for you is more likely to do another favor for you, because now they like and trust you.

There are other (more scientific) names that explain this phenomenon, like cognitive bias and confirmation bias, but the story that first introduced it to me was about Ben Franklin. So that’s why I like to call it the “Benjamin Franklin” effect.

In his autobiography, Franklin explains how he dealt with the animosity of a rival when he served in the Pennsylvania legislature.

This other man didn’t like Ben, and berated Ben’s character at every opportunity. Then one day Ben heard that his rival was in possession of a rare book. Ben wrote the man a letter expressing his desire to borrow that book, and asked if he would do the favor of lending it to him for a few days. The man sent it, and after a few days Ben returned it as promised with another note, expressing gratitude for the favor.

After that day, the other man never spoke badly about Ben again, and they even became great friends.

The simple explanation for this phenomenon is because people reason that if they helped you, it must be because they like you (even if they didn’t before) because why would they do even a small favor for anyone they didn’t like.

Once someone likes you, then they’ll more easily trust you. Once they trust you, then you’re 90% of the way towards persuading them to do whatever you want.


This technique is easier to do in face-to-face persuasion because the small favor can be something right in front of you and your mark… “Hey, can you hand me that pen and paper? Thanks.”

But it can also be done in sales copy with the right setup. Unfortunately, explaining how this works would require at least a full chapter in a book, and this is only a short article so we don’t have the time for it right now.



9. The Topic Of Focus Should “ALWAYS” Be About The Mark (uhm… I mean customer)

When you’re talking to your mark, make her feel like she’s the only important person in the room.

Don’t do what most people do and try to impress someone with how smart you are. Instead, impress everyone with how great you think “they” are.

When I first watched my friend, Mark, perform his con games, I couldn’t figure out why people were so attracted to him. I mean he wasn’t an ugly guy, but he was no Johnny Depp either.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I first read Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people” that it all clicked for me. “He was attractive because he focused on the other person, and made them feel attractive and important.”


In sales copy, when it comes to focusing on your target audience there’s a magic word you can use to show them it’s all about them.

NO, the magic word is not “Presto-Chango” or “Abracadabra” – The magic word is “YOU”.

Experienced copywriters know the word “you” lets your reader know that it’s about them. So make sure you use “you” at least twice as many times as the word “I” or “me” and you’ll have an easier time making your copy about your audience. (instead of about you and your company).

Because as my friend Zig once told me… “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care, about them.”



10: People Pay Attention To Authority Figures And Experts

Often, just looking like an expert can give people the impression that you know something.

Imagine you’re walking down the street, in any major city… A person who looks, and smells, like he hasn’t bathed in weeks approaches you with an insider stock trading tip. He says that he overheard someone talking about it, and he wants to share it with you. Would you listen to him?

Now imagine someone pulls up next to you in a Mercedes Benz S-Class, wearing an expensive suit, and offers you the exact same stock tip because he overheard someone talking about it, and he wants to share it with you.

Which one of these people are you more likely to listen to?

When you see a doctor in a white lab coat, she doesn’t need to open her mouth to convince you she has medical experience. She exudes an aire of confidence, and that alone convinces us to give her at least a modicum of credibility.

The con artist knows this, and he’ll use it to bypass your skepticism, and get you to let down your guard.


In the world of copywriting, we can exude authority and expertise through the use of proof elements such as… Proof of past experience… Degrees or awards… Glowing testimonials… Third party endorsements…
All of these things can help us build authority in the eyes of our audience.

In commercial advertising many companies will used what’s known as “Borrowed Authority” to increase their credibility.

What the hell does Michael Jordon know about making shoes? Probably nothing. But put his name on an athletic shoe, and watch Nike sell “Air Jordons” for more than $300 dollars a pair.

So when it comes to your copy, figure out how you can bring authority and expertise into your offer to expand your credibility.

And if you really want to step it up a notch… Once you’re seen as an authority, admit to a minor flaw.

When done with proper timing, few things make an authority figure more charismatic than when they admit that they’re “human” and not perfect. It brings you just a little bit closer to the level of your followers, and it can open up a whole new door of authenticity and trust.


OK, I know I said this was a list of only “10” persuasion secrets. But I’ve got one more that I really want to share with you, if that’s OK with you?

This one did not come from studying con-artists.

I observed it when I was researching some of the mindfuk games played by the cults of this world.
And even though it’s mainly used to control people, if we tone it down we can still “ethically” use it in our copy, to invoke a powerful emotion in our audience.

The powerful emotion I refer to is “outrage” (or the feeling of aggression that comes from tribal intolerance and social betrayal)

And the method I refer to is…


11. Find A Common Enemy

There’s an old saying that goes… “the enemy of my enemy, is my friend”.

If you and your target audience share animosity towards the same institution, corporation, or diety, then you’re already on the same side. And when you’re on the same side, it’s easy to get them to pay attention to you when you speak out against the enemy.

In religion, it’s the devil trying to get your soul… In finance, it’s the big banks or the government that wants to take your money… In the health industry, it’s bogus medical claims from the other guys, or it’s big pharma and the FDA that’s corrupt… In most retail sectors, it’s the big box stores or Amazon that’s attacking the livelyhood of small businesses…

When writing copy, if you really want to rally the troops behind your cause, then nothing sells like a little outrage at a common enemy.


Well, the clock on the wall tells me it’s time to wrap this up. So I’m going to end it here.

My greatest wish is that my ramblings are always worth the few minutes of your time that you spend reading them.

Truth be told… The hardest part for me is deciding which sections to edit out for the sake of brevity. (this page was actually twice as long before I bush-whacked it with the machete of deletion) Hopefully I left enough of the good stuff in to make it worth your time?

All the best,

Posted in Writing Mindset.

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