Persuasion 101 – Part II: The Anatomy of a Decision

Okay, last time we talked about a principle tenet of copywriting: your job isn’t to make someone do something…you job is to make them WANT to do it. I also promised you I’d tell you how. So here’s a secret:

People don’t make rational decisions; they make emotional decisions and rationalize them.

That’s not meant critically…its a simple truth (and I admit I’m right in there with everyone else). For the vast majority of decisions, big and small, we decide what we want to do based on an emotional response, and then use reason to back up our case for that decision. And often, considerations based on WANT outweigh considerations based on need.

Emotional Decisions
So, when you set out to writer copy, you need to lead with something that is going to engage the prospect emotionally. It almost doesn’t matter what sort of emotion you used (but be very careful with both Humor and Anger). Politicians of all stripes used anger and mistrust to great advantage… and while I personally can’t stand political ads, there is no denying their effectiveness, even though they unapologeticallyrational vs emotional buying
disregard or distort the actual facts.

If you can get them to identify emotionally with the result of performing the action you want them to take, then you’re about 75% of the way there.

Rationalization
Once they’ve decided they want to do what you want them to do, the rest is rationalization. Feed them the facts they need to convince themselves that are making a great decision. If you can figure out the objections that are keeping them from buying, and answer those objections convincingly, then you have your sale.

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(But you won’t get to answer the objections if they don’t WANT to do what you want them to do in the first place).

Good vs. Evil
Now, an alarm may be going on inside your head. “This sounds very manipulative…almost underhanded.”

I can understand your concern…and it *could* be valid…if you’re evil. (Of course, if you’re evil, you’re probably not that concerned about it.)

This is simply a fact of human nature. People don’t make rational decisions; they make emotional decisions and rationalize them. If you’re a marketer trying to sell something and you never grasp this, your marketing is never going to reach it’s full potential. IF you’re a good business with a solid product that meets a real need, and you DON’T help your customers make the right decision in the manner they are going to make the decision anyway…well someone else will. Maybe your competitor. Maybe some shady, fly-by-night shuckster.

If you ARE evil, then sure you can use this simple truth to trick people into buying your product of service. Once. But you won’t build the kind of rabidly loyal customer base that will make for real, meaningful success in the long term. In fact, you’ll do the opposite. You’ll create a band of people whose sole common interest is in letting people know you’re not to be trusted.

Persuasion in Practice
One of the hardest parts of this process is creating thee right emotional connection.

An example of a poor, manipulative execution of this is John Hancock insurance, from a few years ago. They ran a series of commercials depicting people in painfully real circumstances. The situation between the characters is left open-ended in a “oh my god, now what are we going to do?” sort of way. And the spot closes without a voice over, just a title card with the logo, website and phone number. It’s one thing to make an emotional connection. It’s another thing altogether to scare prospects into buying insurance.

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Now, for the most recent exceptional execution of this strategy is a Proactiv commercial, which explains the benefits WHILE making an incredible emotional connection with the target audience.

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