“I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.”
Al Capone

The Deepest Human Desire –
Dale Carnegie’s “Copywriting Secret”

Of all the emotions you can use to persuade someone, the most powerful is the desire to feel important. To feel appreciated.

Get a deep understanding of how to use it, and you’ll be set to persuade more … both in writing copy and your personal life.

In How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes, “There is one longing – almost as deep, almost as imperious, as the desire for food or sleep – which is seldom gratified. It is what Freud calls ‘the desire to be great.’ It is what Dewey calls ‘the desire to be important.’”

Used properly, it can mean the difference between beating the control and having your promo do “okay.”

To help you apply this principle, I’ve gone ahead and adapted four of Dale Carnegie’s strategies from How to Win Friends & Influence People to writing copy:

1. Become genuinely interested in your prospect.

This is where it all starts. If you can’t become sincerely interested in your prospect, there’s no way you’ll be able to persuade him effectively. The best way to become interested is to do a lot of research. As you’re discovering more about your prospect, you’ll find something about him you can get excited and interested about.

How do you do this?

You could interview your ideal prospect in person or over the phone. If that’s not possible, the next best thing is to visit online forums, blogs, and discussion groups. This’ll give you an inside look at what’s on your prospect’s mind … what keeps him up at night … what his beliefs and ideals are, etc.

Remember, you’re writing to one person – as a sincere friend who wants to help improve his life through your product or service. Becoming genuinely interested in him is the only way you can do that.

2. Empathize.

Be sympathetic with your prospect’s ideas and desires. Let him know you agree with him. You understand his world.

Doing this helps you gain his trust. And lets him know just how important he is to you.

Here’s a great example of copy that empathizes with the prospect’s frustrations, written by copywriting genius John Carlton:

“My name is Dr. Michael O’Leary, and until very recently I was your basic ‘hacker.’ I had a love/hate relationship with golf – some days I’d be driving like a pro, maybe even flirting occasionally with par … while the next afternoon my game would absolutely go all to hell. I swear I’ve stood at the edge of the lake, holding my bag overhead, one emotional hair-trigger away from tossing the whole mess and never stepping up to another ball the rest of my life. Doesn’t it drive you nuts?”

As he reads this, the prospect instantly thinks, “Wow. He understands what I’m going through.”

3. Talk in terms of what your prospect wants.

The best way to talk in terms of what your prospect wants is to address the benefits and deeper benefits your product provides. But, as you describe the benefits, make sure you’re talking benefits the prospect actually wants.

For instance, telling your prospect your diet pill will “keep your blood sugar levels stable” isn’t very appealing to him. Instead, you want to describe what stable blood sugar levels means in terms of what he wants. In this case, stable blood sugar levels could be described in terms of fewer hunger pangs, fewer cravings, and more fat-burning potential.

Here’s an excellent example of talking in terms of what your prospect wants (from the same promotion written by John Carlton):

“Now you can learn to use your natural ability to ‘load’ every drive with 200% more explosive power almost overnight, getting distance you could only dream of before … while nailing shot after shot exactly where you want it, as accurate as clockwork … and, if you’re like most golfers, knocking a pile of strokes off your next round!

4. Get your prospect’s point of view.

Says Dale Carnegie, “Tomorrow, before asking anyone to put out a fire or buy your product or contribute to your favorite charity, why not pause and close your eyes and try to think the whole thing through from another person’s point of view? Ask yourself: Why should he or she want to do it?

Follow Carnegie’s advice. Before you write a piece of copy, stop and visualize your prospect. And figure out why he would want to buy whatever it is you’re selling.

Asking yourself this one question is what 99% of copywriting is about.

It’s all about your prospect. Make him feel important using these four tips, and watch your response rates soar!

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 18, 2009

1 Response to “The Deepest Human Desire – Dale Carnegie’s “Copywriting Secret””

  1. Fairly basic, but a nice hook into Dale Carnegie's material.

    todayswriterMay 19, 2009 at 5:56 pm


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