In my 25+ years in Advertising, I’ve have spent countless hours reading books, articles, theories, studies and blogs … loaded with tips, secrets, rules and keys … to create messages that boost awareness, improve perception and create traffic. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that this vast wealth of knowledge, philosophies and gimmicks can be condensed into 7 short words: “Tell People What They Want to Hear.”
It’s simple. It’s timeless. It works for any industry, business, product or service. “Tell People What They Want to Hear.” That doesn’t mean lie to them or mislead them. It just means to make the message important to the listener or viewer. Put yourself in THEIR shoes and answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” What would YOU have to hear to make YOU take action? When you hear “nobody beats our price” … or “the best customer service” … or “we treat you like family” … does it motivate YOU to call or visit a business or website? Not me, because everyone says it.
One challenge that copywriters face is when we’re asked to write what a client wants to SAY, instead of telling people what they want to HEAR. What the client might consider important may not influence a potential customer at all. When is the last time you got a sudden urge to go to a restaurant after hearing they’ve “been in business for 47 years?” Or bought furniture from a store because they’re “family-owned and operated?” Or bought a car from a dealer because they’re “just minutes from downtown?” Or bought anything from any business that talks about how many awards they’ve won? Owners and operators take great pride in those things, but to a consumer, those “advantages” don’t pass the “That’s nice, but what’s in it for me” test.
It’s worth repeating: We don’t need to lie or mislead people to get their attention or motivate them to act. But we do need to tempt them. Create greed. People love to think they’re getting a better deal or a deal that not everyone else can get. People perk up when they hear words like “FREE,” “50% Off,” or “Guaranteed,” to name a few. Relate value. Tell people WHY a price is good or different from everyday (“Save an extra $20,” “buy one, get one at half-price,” “5 for the price of 3”). Stress limits to create urgency (“while they last,” “limited time only,” “2 per customer”).
The “7 most important words” method isn’t limited to retail. It’s useful for branding as well. Using third-party testimonials or accolades can be very influential and persuasive. People want to hear about the experiences of others to give credibility to claims of “Exceptional Service” or “Added Value” that can’t be proven or quantified otherwise. A sincere message delivered by a business owner or employee can add a layer of trust and accountability.
Keep it simple. Tell people what they want to hear.