Words that Sell
Do you ever stop and think about the power of words? Unless you’re a writer, probably not. Words are such a ubiquitous (which, by the way, is a great word…) part of our daily existence that we often look right past them. However, writers, copywriters, sales people, and marketing professionals know the true power of words. These individuals are modern day wizards, using phrases like “you” and “because” like a magician uses abracadabra.
As such, copywriters need to consider all the usual suspects – grammar, syntax, and style. However, they need to go one level deeper too – thinking about how words create an emotional response or need in the reader.
Have you ever read an advertisement or landing page and found yourself thinking “I need this product – it could change everything for me!”?
If so, then you know what great copywriting looks and reads like.
Our goal as writers is to create copy that unleashes a need in our reader – a need that can only be filled by the solution we’re offering.
It’s deceptively simple – but like most things that look easy on the surface, there’s a lot of complex things going on in great copywriting when you dig beneath the surface.
It all starts with language.
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Words that Sell
All right, now that we know why words are important, let’s open up the copywriter’s secret vault and share some of the most powerful words in the universe.
Using these words will help you write better copy, but more importantly, will help you better connect with your reader and convince them that your solution is the thing their life is missing.
We start with the most powerful word in the copywriter’s arsenal: you. It’s just three short letters, but it is the foundation on which all great copy is built.
If you want to do a quick test to see if someone is a great copywriter or a middle of the road journeyman, one of the easiest ways to find out is to simply look at their work and count up the number of times “you” is used in the piece. Then count up the number of uses of phrases like “we” and “us”.
If the latter outnumbers or equals the uses of “you”, you know you’re not dealing with a top tier copywriter.
The power of you lies in the brutal truth that people reading your work care about themselves. They do not care about you the author, or your company (at least not beyond what you can do to make their life better or solve their problem).
Because of this, framing all of your copy around the customer is powerful. You’re creating a direct conversation with them on the page. It’s all about them – how can your product solve their specific problem.
Leverage the power of you to reach out to a singular reader – and reap the rewards with increased conversions.
The other super powerful selling word that absolutely should be in your vocabulary is because.
Why? Because “because” is one of the great persuader words.
In psychological terms, copywriters are asking our audience to do something – but you can’t just ask them to do it. You need to tell them why they should do it – and that’s where because comes in.
There’s a great Robert Cialdini experiment that highlights how important it is to give people a reason for taking an action.
In his example, someone needs to use the copy machine. In the first example, they simply say “Excuse me. I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
And surprisingly enough, 60% of people agreed to let him make his copies.
The second test expanded it to “I have five pages, may I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
That one got a whopping 94% of people to step aside.
The key here is that yes, sometimes people will take action if you simply ask them (it really depends on how much action is required and how you ask), but more people will respond positively when you tell them why they need to take action. And that’s the magic of the word “because”.
You and because are two of the most powerful selling words in your writer’s toolbox, but they’re not the only ones. In recent years, we’ve seen the word “value” rise up in the ranks.
If you’re like me, your initial reaction is probably “value? Why is such a vague descriptor so powerful?”
The answer is mostly because of a paradigm shift in how copywriting works.
In the old days, companies were obsessed with the idea of selling you products and services based on features and benefits. Writers and sales people would make lists of all the ways their product was amazing and what benefits it offered and hoped that was enough to make you close the deal.
But if you were paying attention when we talked about “you”, you’ll come to realize why this approach isn’t effective: it’s about the product and the company, not the customer.
Features and benefits are nice, but remember – the customer only cares about how the product solves their problem or makes their life amazing. That’s the value of the product or service.
If you can show how your product creates value for the potential customer, you’ll connect on a much deeper level.
When it comes to selling – whether with copy or in person – a big part of getting the sale involves getting the customer to see themselves living their best life after acquiring your product or service. So, we ask them to imagine – and start them on the way.
Think about it – for decades car salesmen have used this gambit when you’re in the showroom. “Imagine cruising down the highway in this thing, with the top down and the engine purring…”
Getting the potential customer to visualize a desired result makes your solution feel more real. You’ve moved them from the abstract world of value to a better place where they can actually see (if only in their head) how much better off they could be by using your product or service.
If you’re not asking your leads and visitors to imagine how much better their situation could be, you’re missing out on a way to connect with them on a deeper level.
When it comes to power words that sell, it’s hard to beat “successful”.
No one wants to fail. No one wants to be a loser. No one wants to come up short. Fear of failure is a great motivator for most people, and there are entire industries built around the idea of selling success.
Successful works in copy and in face-to-face sales because it denotes a positive outcome. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want from any transaction – from buying a soda where the successful outcome is quenching our thirst to purchasing sales enablement software where success is measured in increased sales and revenue.
Sales, marketing, and copywriting all involve psychology, and as we learned with “imagine”, if you can sell the client the dream and the positive result, the path to closing the deal becomes much smoother.
Power Words that Sell in Headlines and CTAs
The five previous power words are good all-purpose terms – you can use them anywhere and everywhere. You should be using words like “you” and “because” in all of your content and pitches because they’re highly effective and can be used in pretty much any type of content.
But now let’s shift gears and talk about words that fit into headlines and your CTAs to bring results.
For starters, your headline and CTA need to be especially on point because they’re your big pitches. No one clicks a lackluster headline, so no matter how great the content or the pitch is inside, audiences will never see it if the headline doesn’t intrigue or entice them.
Once you get them in, you need to craft a compelling call to action to move the client to the next phase or all of your work on the headline and copy will have been for nothing.
Too often, writers, sales people, and marketing pros gloss over headlines and CTAs. Don’t do this – you should be spending as much time crafting headlines and CTAs as the rest of the copy. These are important…treat them as such.
With that in mind, here are some of the best power words for selling that fit into headlines and CTAs.
The words in this group create excitement about something new or improved or different. Everyone loves to be in on the hot new thing early, so leverage these words that sell in order to create excitement and buzz around your products and services.
This group of words is great because they all revolve around exclusivity. People love feeling like their part of some special or secret group and that they’re getting access to something the masses aren’t privy to.
Using these words can help create that feeling of exclusivity or that you’re about to reveal something that many people are unaware of. These power words are fantastic at building intrigue. After all, who doesn’t want an exclusive offer wherein you’ll reveal the forbidden truth about the world’s most amazing….blender?
See? It even makes that exciting.
Some of the most powerful tools at your disposal are words that sell by creating a sense of urgency. We’re all conditioned to react to a ticking clock, and fear of missing out is real.
Creating the illusion of urgency and a limited time/limited supply offer is one of the oldest copywriting tricks in the book. If your offer is available forever, why would your potential clients feel the urge to take advantage of it now? It’ll be there tomorrow, next week, and next month.
But even if that’s true, we can use these words to create the sense that delaying taking action is to risk missing out.
One word of warning here – words that create a sense of urgency are undeniably powerful, but don’t misuse them. People will eventually figure out if your urgent offer isn’t really all that urgent and can be had at any time – just ask the car salesman who insists there are four other people looking at the same vehicle you are.
Sometimes, our greatest motivator can be pain. Humans, by their very nature, go out of their way to avoid pain at all costs. This can be physical pain, but it also can be emotional pain too – fear of missing out, fear of failure, fear of looking dumb in front of our peers, and countless other fears inspire us to take action on a regular basis.
The list above showcases some very powerful words to help you tap into your customer’s aversion to pain.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go negative often. Use the pain avoidance approach sparingly and only in situations where you decide going a little darker and less optimistic can create opportunity.
Another potential issue here – and with all of these headline and CTA power words – is being sure to avoid “The Buzzfeed Formula”.
If you spent any amount of time on social media in the past decade, you invariably experienced a bunch of articles with titles like “7 Things We Hate with a Passion! #5 Will Make you Feel Stupid!”
Buzzfeed played a large part in running this headline formula into the ground, but there was a time when it worked – which was why Buzzfeed and every other blog on the Internet ran with it.
The key takeaways here are to not be over-the-top sensational in your titles and CTAs and avoid being click bait.
If you’re not familiar with click bait, it’s the practice of creating titles that entice a reader or customer to click, but that fail to deliver on the promise of that title once they get inside. People hate click bait. If they feel you’ve fooled them into clicking and not delivered, they’re not likely to trust you again.
At any rate, all of these words can be used in your headlines and CTAs to create intrigue and urgency. The key to using power words is to use them sparingly – you don’t need to cram 14 of them into every headline. There’s no need to repeat them endlessly in your content.
The real goal is to figure out who your customer avatar is and get inside his head – then choose the words that inspire the feelings and reactions you’d want him to experience. Once you start doing that, you’ll see your content converting with far more regularity.
As someone who loves the power of words, I could literally write about words that sell for the rest of my life.
Language is one of the things that makes us humans – the ability to communicate using a system of words and phrases is pretty amazing when you think about it.
And it only becomes even more amazing when you stop and consider how words can inspire feelings and action. From shouting fire in a crowded theater to whispering something sweet in your partner’s ear, words have the ability to move us….physically and emotionally.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that words can also help us sell too. Studying the art and craft of copywriting and applying these power words to your own sales and marketing efforts can pay serious dividends.
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