Bring Your Promise to Life

I’ll say it again … what I said a month ago.

Successful copywriting is not about making a sale … or getting your prospect to sign up … or to subscribe … or to donate … or to act as you want.

Being a successful copywriter depends on your prospect’s belief that your promise will fulfill some deeply felt need in his life.

That promise is crucial to success. And, as Mark Ford tells us, that promise must come very early in your promotion. (Click here to check out The Golden Thread for April 20, 2015, where we discussed the Promise.)

But, as in real life, simply saying, “I promise” won’t capture your prospect’s imagination and belief. By using those words, you’re appealing to the rational, cognitive part of your prospect’s brain.

Appealing early to your prospect’s rational mind can doom your promo.

Keeping the emotional mind on top …

I know you’ve heard that first you appeal to your prospect’s emotional brain and then, only later, to his rational, cognitive brain. It would be great if it were that simple.

The reality is we first respond to any decision-making on an emotional level. But, within micro-seconds, connections to the cognitive brain activate.

Once your prospect’s rational mind is engaged, it’s harder for him to connect with you and with your product’s benefits on the crucial emotional level, where he’s more likely to make the decision you want.

So, to persuade your prospect to do something, you must keep the emotional part of the brain dominant at the beginning of your promotion. If you don’t, his rational mind asks questions and erects barriers almost immediately. This makes it difficult for you to present all the legitimate reasons he should believe you.

How do you do this?

With a word picture that appeals to his senses. Here’s why …

Smelling, tasting, feeling, believing deep in your brain …

If I write about eating a corned beef sandwich, the cognitive part of your brain decodes the symbols on the page we call words. But very quickly a deeper, more basic part of the brain responds. Functional MRI studies have shown the parts of your brain responsible for chewing, tasting, swallowing, and digestion are activated as well.

Your brain responds to reading about eating a corned beef sandwich almost as if you were doing so.

So it is with your prospect when you write a well-crafted picture describing the benefits of your product.

Your prospect’s brain processes your word picture as if he were really experiencing it. His brain literally processes what you’ve said as if it were happening to him right then. He feels the benefits viscerally. This picture keeps the emotional part of his brain active throughout the letter, when you want him responding on that level.

Your word picture pushes the intellectual questions to the back of his mind until he’s convinced he needs to act in the way you want.

This is true regardless of the niche you’re writing for.

Positive or negative … Which picture do you want to leave him with?

Let me give you a warning right here. B- and C-level copywriters spend too much time creating a negative picture of problems their prospects are experiencing. Yes, a dismal picture can motivate your prospect in the beginning. But, you want to get out of negative mode quickly. You want your prospect to feel the positive effects of your promise early in your writing.

Let’s look at how Kimberly Seville balances negative and positive imagery in a promotion for Covenant House. (This is from the Circle of Success Leads Intensive.)

Kelly, a homeless teen, appears one night at the Covenant House shelter door.

Kimberly does start with a powerful, negative picture …

It all began just as dark fell one winter evening when a young girl knocked on our front door. Her cheeks were chapped from the cold wind, and she was shivering terribly.

When you read those words, your brain experiences them as if you were standing in the doorway, watching Kelly shivering in the cold. And, as Kimberly Seville says in her copy, it’s a pretty bleak picture. But she doesn’t stay on that bleak picture very long. She immediately tells us …

I said to her, “Please, come in and we’ll find you a couple of sandwiches and a bowl of hot soup.”

Your brain responds here as if you were offering Kelly the sandwiches and a bowl of hot soup. On a visceral level, you experience the joy of helping the shivering girl. Just 72 words from the start of the letter, Kimberly Seville very quickly lets you feel hope and fulfillment.

She continues a few sentences later …

“Okay Kelly, I’m Sister Tricia. How about if I find you some dry clothes to change into.”

Sister Tricia gives Kelly hope of a safe place to stay. Kimberly Seville gives the reader of her fundraising letter hope of a solution to the problems facing homeless youth.


Your word picture lets your prospect experience hope – not intellectually – but on an emotional level where it matters … and where it keeps doubts and questions at bay until you are ready to answer them.

Hope that convinces the reader you will fulfill his needs. Hope that helps him make the decision you want him to.

Your word picture brings your promise to life.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: May 18, 2015

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