20 Ways to Make Your Copy More Believable
Updated: Apr 18
Guest post by Daniel Levis, originally published in The Total Package.
When planning a promotion, there are always things you need your prospects to believe before they will buy. The idea that not buying your product or service right now would be the epitome of dumbness is just one of them.
On the way to that end goal, there are always supporting conclusions that must be hurdled …
You may need to convince your prospect that a certain process or method is superior to all others when it comes to solving his particular problem.
You may need to prove to him that even though your company is small, you can meet his needs.
You may need to lead him to the conclusion that despite what he perceives as his own limitations, he can succeed with your help … and so on.
Every selling situation has its own unique supporting conclusions. I think we’re all familiar with the idea of substantiating claims with proof, in the form of testimonials, customer success stories, expert endorsements, the credentials of the seller, and so forth … but these are just a few of the factors that impact belief.
Indeed as I sat down to write this article I counted 20 different mechanisms for getting your prospects to believe what you need them to believe … on the road to buying your product. There are mechanisms that can be applied to a conclusion itself. There are mechanisms that can be applied after a conclusion has been stated, in order to substantiate it. There are mechanisms that can be used before a conclusion is even introduced that will make that conclusion more believable. And all of them work together to produce conviction.
Here’s a convenient checklist of things you can do to enhance believability. Use it as an idea starter on your next promotion.
Credentialize. Credentials answer the question, “Why should I listen to you?” They are like badges of authority. They do not always have to be formal designations received from professional bodies or associations however. Demonstrating your track record for producing results is a powerful facsimile of credentials. This is especially true when those results are especially relevant to what you’re promising to do for your prospect. When voiced by someone other than yourself – ideally a recognized authority figure within your industry – these informal credentials are every bit as impressive as real credentials, perhaps more so.
Reason with Them. To reason with someone is to offer evidence and to draw conclusions based on that evidence. In selling, you use reasoning to answer the questions, “how does this work?” and “why is this so?” Show a person how and why something works and they are much more likely to believe that it does. Explain why the price is going up next week, and they are much more likely to believe that it will. Offer reasons why your product is worth more, and they’re more likely to believe that it is. If you want people to believe, give them reasons for doing so.
Gradualize Your Copy. Gradualization is a term coined by legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz. You can and should get the full scoop by reading or rereading his book, Breakthrough Advertising. In a nutshell, gradualization is achieved by beginning with statements your prospects already believe, and then gradually extending and molding those beliefs to new ones that are required to make the sale.
To give you an oversimplification, if you want people to believe the statement, “no matter how many times you may have failed in the past, you can do this,” you can make it more believable by prefacing it with a number of truisms – things the prospect already believes – like so: “You want to be the best you can be. You want the best for your family. As you sit in front of your computer … as you read this message … now is the time to believe that no matter how many times you may have failed in the past, YOU CAN DO THIS!”
Give Away Samples. Giving away a sample of your product is a very powerful and often overlooked way of convincing people of your product claims when you don’t have much of a track record. With information products, it makes total sense to turn your sales copy into a sample of your product. The advertorial approach, were you give away valuable information in your sales copy in exchange for readership is in effect, a product sample. The quality of that information and the experience it creates, are potent proof of the claims you make in your copy.
Make a Damaging Admission. In the 1987 comedy “Tin Men”, Ernest Tilley opens his aluminum siding pitch by handing the home owner a silver dollar, saying he found it lodged between the walkway steps. Surprised by Tilley’s apparent honesty, the homeowner lets down his guard and Tilley handily makes the sale. Yes, Tilley was a con man, but you don’t have to be one to use the damaging admission.
Your prospects are naturally resistant to sales arguments. They are actively looking for “the catch.” When you say something apparently damaging to your own self-interest, voluntarily admitting a flaw in your product, it communicates your honesty. And they stop looking for the catch.
Use Testimonials. Contrary to popular belief, more testimonials are not necessarily better. Many testimonials I read online are just a waste of pixels and actually undermine the sale. To be of real value, testimonials should demonstrate results, as in “I was having horrible hair days and all the girls at the office were laughing behind my back until I starting using XYZ – now they're all green with envy over my soft curly locks and my new boyfriend.”
Bonus points if the testimonial helps you to overcome an objection. “I was totally grossed out by XYZ when I found out it’s mostly frog pee. I mean, come on … gag me with a spoon. But when I saw the awesome results people were getting, you know, I had to try it. And I’m so glad I did!”
Voice and video testimonials are more believable than straight text. If you can’t get audio or video at least try to get a picture and permission to use the person’s full name, location, Web address etc. The more details the better.
Use Authoritative Quotes. This one’s a little sneaky. If your product is based on a particular process or contains a particular ingredient that has been endorsed by recognized experts, then using those endorsements in your copy makes your product claims infinitely more believable.
Here’s an example. “Published research and extensive clinical experience showed that EDTA helps reduce and prevent arteriosclerotic plaques, thus improving blood flow to the heart and other organs.” - Dr. Linus Pauling, Two-time Nobel Prize Winning Scientist
Use Repetition. Have you ever taken stock of how you’ve come to believe something? Chances are it is because you heard that something many times, and from different sources. By drawing a conclusion repeatedly, you make it more believable. Find captivating ways to make your point by direct statement, by example, through story, visually, through third party testimony, and more. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.
Be Specific. Details are convincing. Generalities arouse suspicion. When quoting figures, be exact. Ivory Soap, as we all know is 99.44% pure. Would it seem as pure if it were advertised as “almost absolutely pure”? When naming nouns, be precise. It is more believable to say “styles now reigning from Rue de la Paix, Paris, to Fifth Avenue, New York” than it is to say, “styles now reigning from the fashion centers of Europe to those of America.”
Use the Language of Logic. The very appearance of certain words can help your prospects to feel justified in their decision to buy your product, beyond the actual presentation of proof. Words and phrases like “Because” … “The reason being” … “Why?” … “The truth is”… “The facts are” … “If_____ then_______” … “Proven to” … “Scientifically tested and validated”… “Borne out by research” … “Studies prove” … etc., all increase the believability of your copy. They can lend believability to even the most absurd claims.
Play show and tell. If you can demonstrate visual proof with before and after photographs, screenshots or video footage – do it. Seeing is most definitely believing! Graphics are also useful when presenting reasoned arguments. If you can demonstrate a process graphically, it lends believability to your reasoning.
Be emphatic. When you are emphatic about something, people tend to believe you. The arrested man who says dispassionately, “I am innocent” and then stops, is probably guilty. But he who proclaims his innocence empathically and incessantly shakes the strongest conviction to the contrary. When the conviction of the person communicating the copy is obviously extreme, it tends to rub off on the prospect.
Use presupposition. Statements that presuppose a conclusion lend credence to that conclusion. If you want hockey players to believe your new graphite hockey stick could double the speed and accuracy of their slap shot, you can make that conclusion more believable by presupposing the inevitability of that outcome. Note how the second phrasing does this: “Imagine what it would mean to your game if you could slap the puck with twice the speed and accuracy.” “Imagine what it means to your game when you’re slapping that puck with twice the speed and accuracy.”
Be congruent. The moment of conviction – that moment when the realization that not buying right now, would be about the dumbest thing in the world – is a very delicate moment. I believe there is a split-second gut check that takes place, something akin to our primeval ancestors looking around in all directions, to see if it’s safe, before descending on a patch of berries. Does everything add up? Is this a trap?
A congruent sales argument is believable, because everything about it communicates a consistent meaning. It fits together so tightly from beginning to end that it couldn’t possibly be anything but genuine and honest. It just rings true. There is no weak link, simply no room, for doubt to exist.
Get them to like you. There is a strong connection between likability and believability. So anything you can do to inject personality into your sales copy is a step toward producing conviction. We tend to like people who are like us. Therefore the more you can demonstrate that you share the same hopes, dreams, ideologies, ideals, faults, and frailties as your target audience, the more they will like you. And when they like you, they will allow themselves to believe what you have to say without much critical thought or resistance.
Use metaphor and analogy. We trust what we know. Our beliefs are very comforting to us, because they are familiar. And one of the fastest ways to help someone to become comfortable and familiar with an idea is to compare that idea to something already known and understand. To say that accomplishing something new and unfamiliar is easy has no meaning to someone. To say it is as easy as falling off a log, gives them a point of reference.
Use short words and simple phrases. Plain talk sounds like the truth. Lengthy, highfalutin-sounding words woven into flowery rhetoric give the impression you’ve got something to hide.
Establish buying criteria before talking about your product. One of the best ways to avoid skepticism is to introduce supporting conclusions before even mentioning your product. This is, of course, yet another benefit of the advertorial approach to selling. Because people feel like they are being educated rather than sold, they are much less resistant to accepting the ideas you present.
Tell Stories. We resist other people’s conclusions. We embrace our own. That’s why a conclusion embedded in a story is more believable than a conclusion expressed as a direct statement. The prospect can take ownership of the moral of the story. Nobody told him what to think. He arrived at his own conclusion when he grasped the moral of the story. The moral of the story just happened to be the conclusion you needed him to accept.
Answer Objections before they Arise. If you can answer an objection before it arises you strengthen the believability of your claims. By doing so, you prevent doubt from festering in your prospect’s mind. The longer an objection bounces around in his noggin, the more difficult it is to overcome.
Inoculate against objections while you have the chance. They may not have arisen on their own, prior to the sale, but you can be sure they will – sooner or later. Your prospect may have to justify his decision to his spouse or his buddies. And he will most certainly have to re-justify it to himself at some point in the future. Give him the ammunition he needs to defend his decision.
Offer a bold guarantee. A powerful guarantee is more than risk relief. It should communicate to your prospect that your claims must be true. How could you possibly afford to lay money on the line and guarantee them if they weren’t? So there you have it, a whole score of belief-inducing ideas for detonating response on your very next promotion.
Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant and direct response copywriter based in Toronto, Canada and publisher of the world famous copywriting anthology, Masters of Copywriting.