Pop quiz: You’re writing copy to introduce a fabulous new product or service. What’s the most effective way to proceed?
- You gather all the reasons why your offer is the best ever and carefully explain each one so your audience really, really understands just how great this is.
- You tell a story that taps into people’s emotions by showing how your offer would benefit their lives and change their future.
Most people would pick A for three primary reasons, all of which turn out to be untrue:
- Rationality Rules
We’ve been taught that logic – rational thought, careful evaluation – drives decision-making. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Emotion drives decisions. Logic just justifies the decision and works out the details.
- Emotion is Impulsive
We’ve been taught that emotion clouds reason, muddling thought and leading to impulsive, wrongheaded decisions. Wrong again.
Research has shown that emotion evolved as a way for us to gauge what things mean to us, to tell us what’s important and what isn’t. If we couldn’t feel, we couldn’t make a rational decision.
As Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert says, “Indeed, feelings don’t just matter–they are what mattering means.”
- Stories aren’t Serious
We’ve been taught that stories are just for entertainment, kid stuff. Fluff. Yep, wrong!
Story was crucial to our evolution. We think in story – it’s how we make sense of the world and decide what to do next.
In fact, recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it.
The key word is seducing.
That’s what stories do: they seduce us, and we have no choice but to surrender. Explain things to us and our analytical brain kicks in. Its goal is to resist change at all costs by challenging every single thing it hears.
Story instantly silences that critical inner voice by allowing us to experience what those facts will mean to us, personally. And when it comes to copywriting, facts are the “what” – what your product is, what it does.
Story shows your potential buyer the “why” – why the facts matter. Make no mistake, there’s no tool more potent than story when it comes to motivating people to act – that is, short a gun to the head.
The question is: how do you do it? How do you translate the facts into a story that calls your audience to action?
- Ask yourself exactly what it is you want your audience to do.
- Zero in precisely on why they’re not already doing it. What holds them back?
Your story isn’t to show them how good your product is, but to show them why their resistance to taking action is misplaced.
Because the real question your audience asks themselves when you pitch them isn’t, “Is this a good product? Is that a good service?” Rather, their unspoken question is, “What would this change in my life, and what would it cost me?”
I’m not talking dollars and cents; I mean emotionally. People want to know if the emotional cost-benefit analysis of doing what you want them to do is in their favor.
Let them watch someone struggling with – and overcoming — the exact same problem they’re struggling with, and they’ll feel what your hero feels – literally. Recent brain imaging study revealed that the regions of the brain processing sights, sounds, tastes, and movement of real life activate when we’re engrossed in a compelling narrative.
Which means that once you’ve grabbed their attention, your audience isn’t just passively watching (or reading your copy); their brain is lit up. They’re actively engaged in trying to figure out what will happen next.
This gives them an even more vested interest in your story, because now they also want to find out whether or not they’re right. This yearning to know is a hardwired desire driven by a delicious dollop of dopamine.
Which leads us right back to the fact that the brain is wired for story.
Want to be a more effective copywriter? Don’t give ‘em facts. Give ‘em a story that brings the facts to life – their life.