In Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins wrote these wise words:
“Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.”
That means as copywriters, we can unearth timeless techniques proven to persuade when we dig into human nature. And, that leads us to someone Gary Bencivenga once called a “master of influence”:
In 1936, Carnegie released How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Fast-forward 85 years. The priceless jewels found within this masterpiece still shine, sparkling and bright.
Mesmerized, I combed through the pages, extracting gems that can help any freelancer “win” customers and “influence” prospects.
And, I thought I would share what I found with you.
So, let’s dive in.
Address Your Target By Their Name
Research shows when you hear your name instead of another’s, your brain activates uniquely. The response is far more intense. It’s as if the sound of your name causes your brain to light up.
So, Dale Carnegie was on to something when he said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
And for sure, we want our prospect to hear sweet, appealing music when reading our copy. So, whether it’s an email or sales letter you’re sending to a prospect, you stand to benefit when you address the recipient by name. Doing so makes the communication feel more personal. Plus, calling out someone’s name is a dynamic attention-grabber.
That’s why Gary Halbert once said:
“No one… will fail to perk up at seeing his or her name in print, especially if it’s unexpected.”
Step Inside Your Target’s Shoes
Have you ever heard that saying, “Treat others how you’d like to be treated”?
Well, that’s not always true.
Just because you’d like to be treated a certain way, it doesn’t mean the other person would, as well. You’d have to know their perspective.
As Dale Carnegie once put it: “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”
In other words, step into their shoes, walk around in them, get familiar.
And, that’s the approach you should take as a copywriter. But, where should you start?
First, research your prospect. As you do, try to get a feel for how they would like to be treated. When that happens, you’ll be able to convey empathy in your writing. And, as you review your copy, you’ll find it easier to answer questions like, “What would my prospect think of this line? How would it make my prospect feel?”
You’ll have a better understanding of which emotions to trigger, too.
Clayton Makepeace once said:
“Putting yourself into your prospect’s shoes can get you a long, long way toward connecting your product’s strongest benefits with your prospect’s most compelling emotions.”
Cater to Your Target’s Desire to Feel Important
We have an insatiable desire to feel cherished, valued. The desire is so overwhelming that Dale Carnegie called it a “human hunger.”
I’ll let him elaborate:
“Here is a gnawing and unfaltering human hunger, and the rare individual who honestly satisfies this heart hunger will hold people in the palm of his or her hand and ‘even the undertaker will be sorry when he dies.’”
So, let’s apply Carnegie’s wisdom to copywriting…
Wouldn’t you love to hold your prospect in the palm of your hand, while helping them satisfy a deep desire or a burning need?
Of course, you would!
But, the question is, how?
One way you can make your prospect feel important is by using flattery to appeal to their ego.
Here’s Bob Bly’s take:
“‘Flattery will get you nowhere,’ the saying goes. But actually, flattery can get you almost anywhere — especially in marketing. The reason: People want to feel good about themselves… and, if you give your prospects a legitimate way to do that, you get their attention and make them receptive to your sales pitch. Of course, the flattery has to be legitimate.”
Here’s an example from a promotion for The Oxford Club:
“You have been chosen from a select list to receive an invitation into what must be the world’s most remarkable — and profitable — financial alliance.
It’s an alliance that includes many wealthy investors, financial experts, and extremely successful entrepreneurs.”
Notice how the copywriter used words like “chosen” and “select list.” Also, the copy invites the prospect to be associated with the “wealthy” and “extremely successful.” The implication being that the prospect is special enough to be grouped with the world’s elite. Pure flattery.
Search for Commitment
Sometimes, asking a question goes beyond seeking an immediate answer.
And sometimes, making a statement goes beyond expressing an opinion.
Occasionally, you can direct “questions” or “statements” at your prospect to get a “yes” response. That “yes” response is an example of a commitment. The more times you ask questions or make statements your reader agrees with, the more likely they are to keep agreeing with you. Their momentum can propel them toward answering your call to action.
Dale Carnegie once said:
“The skillful speaker gets, at the outset, a number of ‘Yes’ responses. This sets the psychological process of the listeners moving in the affirmative direction. It is like the movement of a billiard ball. Propel in one direction, and it takes some force to deflect it; far more force to send it back in the opposite direction.”
Replace the word “speaker” with “copywriter,” and Dale Carnegie’s message still applies.
In fact, Joseph Sugarman once said:
“Get the reader to say yes and harmonize with your accurate and truthful statements while reading your copy.”
All of this connects with one of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s principles of persuasion: consistency.
Here’s how Cialdini explains it:
“Once a stand is taken, there is a natural tendency to behave in ways that are stubbornly consistent with the stand.”
Let’s check out an example from a Gary Bencivenga ad:
“Here’s the problem. Competition for white-collar jobs has grown so fierce that a single help-wanted ad in a major newspaper can pull 2,000 resumes. That’s seven large mail sacks bulging with resumes — from a single ad. How can you beat odds like that?”
Notice how Bencivenga sets the stage by providing proof first. Then, he asks a logical question the prospect would have to agree with. This commitment sets the tone for the rest of the ad.
Add a Dose of Drama
“This is the day of dramatization. Merely stating a truth isn’t enough. The truth has to be vivid, interesting, dramatic. You have to use showmanship. The movies do it. Television does it. And you will have to do it if you want attention.”
Dale Carnegie said that in 1936. But, those words fit uncannily into today’s environment — like a glove. Nowadays, with the internet, it’s easier than ever to catch a movie or watch television. It’s so much easier to get hooked on entertainment.
So, what does all this mean for you as a copywriter?
That you have to work overtime to keep your prospects engaged. That you have to keep in mind your prospect is likely to get bored quickly. So, how do you counter that?
By giving them what they yearn for: A dose of drama. Gary Halbert called it adding “theatre” to your copy.
Here’s how Halbert put it:
“Two things will get a person’s attention and interest: Showmanship and the ‘Reason Why’. To get the attention of the person you’re after, a little theatre will go a long way. Be creative.”
An example of “theatre”?
Check out this headline from a John Carlton ad:
“Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!”
The fact that the golfer was one-legged adds drama to the copy. The prospect wonders, “If a one-legged golfer can have these results, imagine what I could have.”
“Human Nature” Teaches Us How to Influence
In preparation for How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie examined everything he could find on human nature. He studied everyone from Andrew Carnegie to Benjamin Franklin. He even studied Julius Caesar.
Carnegie’s intent? To gather timeless techniques for grabbing the heart and influencing the mind of your target.
In short, Dale Carnegie accomplished his mission.
As he put it, “Countless numbers of salespeople have sharply increased their sales by the use of these principles.”
So, as a copywriter, why not profit from them, too?