“It’s not what you said. It’s how you said it…”
We’ve all played the role of victim or accuser, whether in a relationship with a significant other, a parent, sibling or even those with whom we work. Miscommunication is at the root of most conflict.
Therefore, effective communication, while subtle, can pay huge dividends – in relationships and business alike. But don’t just take our word for it: Social psychologists and copywriting experts have done the research and strongly agree.
One Word Can Make or Break You
Did you know that a single word can mean the difference between someone buying in or opting out of your message? Social psychologist Ellen Langer once conducted a study that tested the power of a single word. In her experiment, she asked respondents if she could cut in line at a Xerox machine, varying her phrasing slightly in three separate trials to test the effect of her wording.
And what were the results?
- When Langer phrased her request as, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine,” she found that 60 percent of respondents agreed to let her cut in line.
- When the request was rephrased as, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush,” she noticed that 94 percent of respondents acquiesced.
- When the request was rephrased to, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies,” the number changed to 93 percent.
It’s interesting to note the differences between the first and the latter two of Langer’s experiments. As strange as the last question sounds, the real lesson of note is in the barely noticeable drop in positive responses.
What Does This Mean for Me and My Business?
Simply put, if you want people to take action, you need to give them a reason. In fact, the presence of the reason is more important that the reason itself.
People just need a why. If you think about it, it makes sense: Your why is your value proposition, or your mission statement. Which of these requests sounds more enticing to you: “Click here!” or “Click here to find out how to save on your next vacation”?
Clicking on a link, subscribing to an email list, opening an email, and clicking on a new product are just a few examples in a long list of small “sales” that ultimately lead to the final sale, and revenue for your business. And those sales can come oftentimes down to a single word.
Turning Clicks to Cash
As you can see, getting new customers to buy into your brand or product is tricky business. There’s a reason why companies and universities spend millions of dollars annually to study what makes you say yes or no.
When it comes to conversion rate, especially, wording is everything. Fortunately, companies like Ogilvy & Mather have done the dirty work for us, compiling lists of the most persuasive and influential words to use to increase conversion rates.
It should come as no surprise that words like you, free, because, instantly and new are at the top of the list for most persuasive words in the English language. Here are some examples of email subjects using those words to generate high open rates:
- “Thank you, Chris!”
- “Sneak peek of our new video”
- “Update your profile instantly”
Of course, email opens, while important, are not the only type of conversion. David Ogilvy, the marketing mastermind behind Ogilvy & Mather, went a step further and published a list in 1963 of the most influential words in his industry. Some examples are:
If you look carefully at these words, you should notice some thematic similarities between them. Each of the terms on this list either appeal to a sense of novelty, or to a sense of instant gratification. This is a powerful concept – one taps into the complex wiring of the human brain.
I Want It Now!
Think back to the first time you tried a new flavor of ice cream that you loved, or the first time you made it to a new level on your favorite video game. The rush of satisfaction that you felt was your brain’s production of dopamine, the chemical released in our brains that signifies a reward.
According to Kelsey Libert in her article This is your Brain on Viral Content: What Psychology Says You’ll Click On, the region in the brain that is responsible for motivation and reward-processing (aka consumer decisions) responds better to novelty than to the familiar.
Put simply, “When the brain discovers a novel idea, it releases a reward (dopamine) that inspires us to go searching for more.” In the wrong hands, this is the root of insatiable drug addictions. In the hands of savvy marketing, it is the foundation for an effective conversion.
When you consider that the same rush of dopamine happens when we experience instant gratification, it is no wonder that Ogilvy’s list of influential words all trigger novelty and instant gratification.
Use The Right Words at the Right Time
Your work isn’t done once you have chosen powerful words. The best marketing involves the most powerful words in the right situations. For example, Leo Widrich of Buffer and Social Media Today once compiled a list of “189 Phrases That Influence, Persuade, and Convert.” Widrich told us that in order to encourage community, use phrases such as:
- Become a member
- Come along
Remember that pyramid by Abraham Maslow that you had to memorize in high school Psychology? As it turns out, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs brilliantly explains why marketing that encourages a sense of belonging satisfies a deep psychological need within our brain. Similarly, by using influential phrases that imply scarcity like “only 3 left” or “limited offer,” marketers can appeal to our most basic needs.
At the end of the day, it seems that no matter how smart we think we are as consumers, we’re all slaves to our desire. Any self-aware business will partner with a marketing firm that understands these desires and knows how to turn them into sales.
To put it bluntly, we want what we want when we want it. And even if we don’t want it, you can convince us that we want it if you can use the right words at the right time, give us a reason, and associate it with our basic needs.
If you need help with optimizing your website with high-quality, strategic copy that can drive clicks and conversions, try out Eminent SEO. Learn about our Landing Page Optimization Services here, or call 800.871.4130 today.