scott digital marketing fargo blog 5 best words in copy

Author, novelist, and journalist George Orwell once said, “All words are equal, but some words are more equal than others.

There are certain words that can instantly influence your prospects and buyers because of the incredible psychological power they have. These are words that sway and impact your decision making process, as well as that of your buyers.

You might be surprised to find that these “power words” don’t seem all that powerful.

This speaks to just how efficient they are. Simple language is crystal-clear language, and these words make it clear just what you want your prospects and buyers to do.

You might be surprised just how effective these deceptively simple words can be.

I’ve listed the five words below (along with studies to prove my point) that will instantly show you how you can persuade your audience. 

Warning: You must understand why these words are persuasive. You must use them in the contexts that make sense for your audience and your business. If you just start slapping them on every piece of content you create without rhythm and rhyme, you’ll quickly see just how unpersuasive they can be. The proper application of writing compelling copy using these words is critical.

Consider yourself politely warned. Here’s the five words.

1. You

Your prospects and buyers love reading their own name, so it’s guaranteed that they will love seeing the word “you” in your copy.

According to recent research examining brain activation, few things light up the brain quite like seeing our own names in print or on the screen. Our names are intrinsically tied to our self-perception and are a massive part of our identity and ego. It should be no surprise that we become more engaged and even more trusting of a message in which our name appears.

Data has shown that you and your ideal buyers will gladly pay more for personalization, so isn’t it time you start getting personal with the content you create and deliver to your prospects and potential buyers?

That said, there’s one small problem with this finding: Writing general web copy with name utilization in mind isn’t possible. Meaning, you can’t literally put your prospects names on all the copy you create because there’s no way to know the names of all your prospects. What you CAN do is capitalize on the power of permission marketing, i.e. having your emails software add a ‘name’ to every email for personalization purposes. That’s what name utilization is.

2. Because

In a study from the classic book Influence by Robert Cialdini, experiments were done with office professionals who were in a hurry to use an in-office copy machine.

The experiments examined how different requests might affect people’s willingness to allow this person to “cut” in line.

In the first test, the participant simply stated: 

Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?

In this scenario, around 60% of people allowed him to cut in line and use the machine first.

In the next scenario, the request was slightly tweaked. This time the participant said: 

I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?

Did you see the ever-so-subtle difference between the two?

Let’s break it down: The request was only minimally changed, and the word “because” (their reason) was barely a reason at all. “Because I’m in a rush” wouldn’t stand up as a good excuse for most of us, right? Isn’t a majority of the working world in a rush?

Despite what we might like to believe, around 94% of people allowed him to cut in line this time!

According to Cialdini:

A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.

Here’s the bottom line: Many companies are proud of the features that their product (or service) can offer, and that’s fine, but you have to remember that when you are focusing on writing persuasive copy, it all comes down to answering your customer’s #1 question:

What’s in it for me?

Although “because” may appear to have some sort of brainwashing effect on people at Xerox machines, it’s only really a matter of reasoning: even giving weak reasons have been shown to be more persuasive than giving no reason at all. Use words like this to create an incentive for customers to take action. And use “because” when pointing out these compelling reasons, but don’t rely on it as a crutch.

3. Free

Everybody loves free.

People love free stuff so much they’ll actually make different choices when the respective value of the item or service remains the same.

In his book Predictably Irrational, author Dan Ariely reveals the startling fact where he examined a very unusual “battle” between Lindt chocolate truffles and Hershey Kisses.

Here’s how it worked:

  • To test the power of the word “free” in relation to value, the study first asked people to choose between a $.01 cent Hershey Kiss or a $.15 cent Lindt truffle (about half its actual value, generally considered a richer, superior chocolate).
  • Tastes were found to be very much in favor for the truffle. Who’s going to pass up a deal on Truffles, right?
  • Later, another random group of subjects seemingly flipped on their opinion of these two treats when it was revealed that when the price was reduced by one cent for both brands (meaning the Kiss was now free), people altered their choices drastically.
  • Although the relation in prices remained the same (a 14 cent difference between the two), people chose the Kiss far more often when it was free.

The reason for this was because a concept called loss aversion. Loss aversion is a cognitive psychology and decision theory that refers to people’s tendencies on not missing out by avoiding losses. (aka FOMO) 

There’s a danger in using the word free in your business copy.

There is a certain inherent caution in trumpeting free things. Having something for free will attract more potential buyers, but it’s usually the wrong buyers. Free will most certainly include a fair share of “bargain hunters” who aren’t likely to be your ideal buyers that really grow your business because they align with your mission and vision.

Use free only when it makes sense, and only in the right context.

Conversely, you should use minimal pricing to keep out those barnacle customers who aren’t ideal long-term buyers, or who aren’t truly suited for your flagship offerings.

4. Instantly

The subject of delayed gratification is an important one among neuroscience experts, as many famous studies (such as the Stanford marshmallow experiment) showcase how being able to delay rewards to a later date is a skill needed to become successful. 

The reason this interests us as marketers is because it reveals an interesting aspect of human nature.

We want things yesterday!

Several MRI studies have shown just how fired up our mid-brain gets when we envision instant rewards, and how it’s our frontal cortex that’s activated when it comes to waiting for something (that’s a no-no for sales).

Words like “instant,” “immediately,” or even”fast” are triggers for flipping the switch on that mid-brain activity.

If you are in the business of selling web-based software, you already have an advantage here: “instant access” isn’t a vague promise, it’s often the reality. For those in the physical products or services business, reminding customers that they will receive their product quickly (or someone will get in touch with them ASAP) can go a long way in being the gentle push they need to buy.

Even “cheap” or “indecisive” prospects and customers can be influenced with these subtle changes in language that insinuate fast removal of their pain points. It’s a reliable tactic for converting more prospects into customers as long as you follow the one golden rule:

Always deliver on your promises. And, whenever possible, overdeliver.

This is an area where many business get too optimistic. It’s smart to emphasize instant rewards, but it’s also always a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver so you can actually follow through on your promises. 

5. New

This one word seems absurd and self-contradictory.

According neuro-imaging research, your buyers respond more favorably to recognized brands and often have anxiety for any drastic changes when they go to buy. (Remember New Coke?)

On the other hand, it’s long been known that novelty plays an incredibly important role in activating our brain’s reward center and in keeping us content with our products.

“Newness” is important to products, especially because research has shown that you’ll hate your new headphones in 2 years, but that concert you went to 5 years ago  aged in your mind like a fine wine.

How can you achieve a zen-like balance against these two contradictory sides of the same word?

The important things to consider here are which parts of your business generate trust, and which parts generate utility. It’s your brand that creates trust, and as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Your services or products however are what customers get utility out of, and stagnant offerings are your first class ticket to an abysmally bored user-base. Your core brand elements like your unique selling proposition, your mind-blowing customer service, and the quality of your offering in the marketplace should be approached with excessive caution if things are going well.

With your products and services, it’s far easier to excite your customers with new features through innovation, even if things don’t work out perfectly. The majority of your customers will appreciate innovation attempts over no progression at all.

New fixes to old problems, new features and improvements, a fresh new design, or even new ways of promoting a new message (think Podcasting) are all essential for keeping your customers in good graces without losing the trust that has cemented you as an awesome brand in their mind.