You can sum up copywriting with two main methods: increasing pleasure or eliminating pain. Almost every successful marketing campaign does one or the other.
But one is more powerful than the other. And it’s alleviating pain.
Humans are more driven by the fear of loss than the desire of gain. In fact, researchers have discovered that...
The Fear Of Loss Is
Psychologically Twice As Powerful
As The Pleasure Of Gain!
Here’s what that means in “plain English:”
Let’s say that you’re selling a weight loss supplement. A more psychologically powerful angle to sell this supplement is to talk about all they’d lose by gaining more weight or failing to lose weight. Rather than talking about all the ways their life would be better if they lost 50 pounds.
So, for example, if they didn’t lose weight, you could talk about how every pound of body weight adds 4 pounds of pressure to their knees with every step. And how if it goes unchecked, they won’t be able to run errands, walk up steps, or pick their kids or grandkids up.
This would be more profitable than talking about how they’ll look better in the mirror, gain more confidence, and lower their risk of chronic diseases if they lost weight.
That’s not to say that there’s not a time and a place to talk about gain. But focusing on the potential loss is at least twice as effective.
But that ain’t it.
Perhaps the most powerful part of focusing more on the fear of loss than the desire for gain is…
You Don’t Have To Make Any Claims About Your Product Whatsoever!
Many supplement and alternative health companies fear the big, bad FDA. It’s no surprise the FDA is in bed with Big Pharma. And they can hunt any supplement or alternative health company who makes huge claims — like saying your supplement cures anxiety (even if it does).
And unfortunately many companies don’t realize this and commit this mistake.
But when you talk about the fear of loss in your marketing, you don’t need to make claims like this. Especially when you do it in a story — which naturally lowers people guard against being marketed to. As I explained in my last post.
One more thing about claims before we move on:
It’s many brands’ natural assumption that making big, fat claims works.
And it does work — but it also unintentionally backfires.
For example, the bigger claims you make, the more proof you need. (Like testimonials, before/after pictures, case studies, scientific research, etc.)
What happens more often is brands lack this proof. Whether it’s because their product isn’t as good as they market it or they don’t have systems in place to foster oodles of positive feedback.
So what ends up happening is they make these big claims without proof — and people don’t believe them! Not only does it make them not want to buy your product, but it puts a bad taste in potential customers' mouths for good. They feel like they can’t trust you — and trust is the most important reason people buy.
Not only is it a good idea to avoid making claims to keep the FDA away, but it can help you land more customers too.
Alright, back to this idea of eliminating pain:
If you wanna eliminate pain, you first have to create pain.
Here’s what I mean:
Most people are dealing with pain whether they know it or not. The more your potential customers are aware of their pain, the easier it is to sell. But the problem is, many people don’t even realize they're in pain. And when they do know they’re in pain, they don’t know why they are or how to fix it.
That’s what I mean by creating pain. I’m not saying you should drive around to your potential customers and bust them in their kneecaps. Rather that you need to understand their pain, say it back to them in their own words, and then offer them a solution to ease that pain.
Let’s stick with our weight loss example and pretend your ideal client is overweight and you have a product that can help them.
Now, they might KNOW they are overweight. But they don’t know why.
It could be that they eat the Standard American Diet. Or that their gut microbiome is all out of whack. Or that their poor eating habits increased their resting metabolic rate — making it next to impossible to lose weight.
Or a mix of all three.
This is where a wise copywriter creates pain by saying how nutritionally depleted the Standard American Diet is. Or how “healthy” foods are ruining their gut microbiome. Or how their processed food increases their resting metabolic rate and is physically addicting.
It’s more effective to tell this in a story format. But even if you just gave ‘em the facts about these topics, it’d still convert a good chunk of potential customers.
That’s because you’re creating pain that they didn’t realize they had. And you’re creating villains — the Standard American Diet, “healthy” foods that aren’t healthy, and addicting processed junk food.
Let me riff on this villain idea for a second:
Humans Have A Weird Psychological “Quirk”
For Identifying Against Common Enemies
That Unites People In A Way Nothing Else Can!
Rebels, thought leaders, and revolutionaries have fought against “the powers that be” for all human history!
Use this in your marketing and slowly you’ll start building a community of like-minded and loyal customers.
Alright, so far we covered:
* The fear of loss vs the desire for gain
* How to make more sales by making less claims
* Why creating pain out of thin air helps you sell more
* And the massive untapped power of incorporating villains into your copywriting and marketing
Now, let’s get into the “Twist The Knife” method.
I’m not sure who first coined the idea of twisting the knife. I first heard it from the legendary Ben Settle. But any copywriter worth their salt knows about this and uses it ruthlessly.
The whole idea of twisting the knife is to make someone’s suffering worse.
Now, wait just a second. Again, I don’t mean driving around to potential customers' houses and busting their kneecaps. We don’t really want to make someone’s suffering worse. But we want them to FEEL the consequences of what that’s like so they buy your products and avoid suffering.
Stories are typically the best way to do this without repulsing your potential customers. (This method is an advanced copywriting trick and can backfire on amateurs — especially when you DON’T use stories.)
But the whole point is to add on ALL the negative consequences that WILL happen to them if they don’t buy your product.
Let’s watch how this plays out in real life using our continuing weight loss example.
You could tell a story about your overweight grandma like this:
My grandma suffered from terrible weight problems later on in her life.
It started when her doctor prescribed her pharmaceutical meds. She was always full of energy and active, but these drugs ransacked her energy.
Since she had less energy, she started doing less.
She went grocery shopping less. She babysat her grandkids less. She stopped exercising. She didn’t start any projects around the house like she used.
I remember talking to her once and she told me about all the “phantom pains” she felt in her knees. She explained how every step she took felt like it caused a mini earthquake inside her knees.
It got so bad she couldn’t walk up the steps to her bedroom anymore. So she slept on the uncomfortable couch every night which made her back pain worse. She could barely walk herself to the bathroom without excruciating pain.
She had to wear the same clothes every day unless I went over and helped her change.
And worst of all, her mental health went down the tubes.
She used to be full of joy no matter what was going on around her. She just loved seeing me and our family. But now she’s always in a depressive funk — even when she’s hanging out with her grandchildren.
She feels defeated before she wakes up every day.
And her life has transformed from an active, happy one to a vicious downward spiral of worsening health conditions. All because of the weight she gained after taking pharmaceutical drugs.
Okay, short story over.
Do you see how emotion soaks throughout the story?
How her gaining weight caused all sorts of other issues most people wouldn’t normally associate with weight gain? (Like not going grocery shopping, excruciating back pain, inability to walk, and depression.)
How each pain point compounded onto another?
Did you notice how I made no claims about our pretend weight loss supplement?
And how I didn’t assume anything about the reader? At no point should they have felt like I was calling them overweight or depressed. But if they are, this story resonates with them on a visceral level.
Plus, the story above didn’t even include a big, bad villain. But adding one makes it even more effective, emotional, and profitable.
That’s the power of twisting the knife in stories. Of course, you don’t have to tell a story in order to twist the knife, but it’s much harder when you don’t do it in a story format. And it could backfire and put a sour taste in your ideal customer’s mouths.
Use this more in your copywriting, emails, and marketing and your sales will go through the roof.
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