Dec 18 2012

Mental Triggers and Strategies Used By Direct Response Copywriters

Category: conversion rate optimizationTom Shivers


Certainly a good copywriter has command of the mental-triggerEnglish language, but proper grammar and correct spelling isn’t always in the best interest of the direct response copywriter.

Real quick, take the direct response copywriter’s test:

  1. Name three mental triggers that influence people who are considering to buy a product or service.
  2. Name two strategies for writing offers that get results.
  3. Name one strategy for closing the deal.

Direct response copywriters are a different breed all together. As the name suggests, they write copy or prepare content to do one thing: get an immediate response from the person reading, watching or listening.

Direct response copywriters understand the psychology of a person who is in purchase mode and how to influence them to buy NOW.

Not long ago I asked a simple question on Quora and got some great feedback from a number of direct response copywriters. In this post I’ll share with you some of the secrets I’ve learned from the pros…

Mental triggers that influence people to buy, from Ernie Jones

Social Proof: Too often overlooked… when people aren’t sure what to do, they look at what others are doing.  For example, one tele-retailer recently boosted their response rate significantly by changing the standard line “Call now! Operators are standing by” to “Call now! If lines are busy, call back.”  You’d think that telling folks the lines may be busy would discourage response, but it actually ramps it up b/c folks think, boy, this must be popular.  It’s also why baristas seed their tip jars with coins and bills.

Pride: There’s an old saying that’s still true — Don’t tell me about your grass seed, tell me about my lawn.  And there’s an important corollary — don’t tell me how nice it will look to me; tell me how envious my neighbors will be!

Solutions:  When business owners write their own ads, they usually rattle on about features, then wonder why the ads don’t work.  It’s because no one cares about features.  They care about benefits (“tell me about my lawn”).  But they care even more about solutions.  For instance, we saw measurable and significant improvement in response by changing a headline (altering the topic here b/c the client owns the original language, but the strategy is identical) from “Student ‘Loans’ You Never Have to Pay Back!” to “You Don’t Have to Worry About Paying for College – Student ‘Loans’ You Never Have to Pay Back!”

Pandora: For headlines and envelopes, people too often try to make the sale before the sale can be made.  Instead, you want something that makes them so curious, they have to keep reading.  For example, one of our most successful envelopes simply said (again, changing the topic): “The IRS Is Praying You Won’t Open This Envelope”.

Emotions: People make decisions based on emotions, then use reason to either reinforce or change that decision.  If you walk by a new sports car and think, “Ooh, that’s cool!”, you then start thinking “Yeah, but I can’t afford it” or “You know, I think I can swing that!”  But if you don’t like sports cars, you’ll never bother to ask yourself if you can afford it.  I know that if an ad doesn’t make a person FEEL “I want that” within about 3 seconds, it will fail no matter how many reasons it lists for making the purchase.

Offer strategies that get results, from Chris Hadad:

Easy, Simple, Done For You: What can you offer to reassure them they’ll have awesome results even if they’re lazy?

  • Step by step templates (just follow instructions)
  • Cheat sheets (cliff notes to success)
  • Swipe files
  • Software (just push a button)
  • Access to my team/rolodex

Remove All Risk: I want customers to feel like they’re ripping me off by giving me their money.

  • Unconditional guarantee: “60 days, prove to me you used it, I’ll work with you personally and if you don’t get results you get double your money back.”
  • Conditional guarantee: “I don’t believe I deserve your money unless you get incredible value.”

If it took you more than a minute to take the direct response copywriter’s test above, you’re not one. Of course, there are many more mental triggers and strategies than those listed here. The true test for a direct response copywriter is the increase in purchase orders (they are worthy of their above average rates), but maybe this will give you some help in screening one for your next project.

If you are a direct response copywriter add your comments below! I’m always looking for good sources.

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2 Responses to “Mental Triggers and Strategies Used By Direct Response Copywriters”

  1. Sallie Boyles says:

    Smart article! A little Psychology 101 can take a marketing campaign a long way.

  2. Tom Shivers says:

    Hi Sallie thanks, indeed psychology and copywriting go together, as you well know.
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