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Don’t get robbed blind on the internet: 8 tell-tale signs of hypnotic sales copy

Imagine you’re walking down the street and someone comes up, hypnotises you, and takes all your money. You wouldn’t want that to happen, right? So why do you let people get away with it on the internet?

UrsleepyizHypnotic copywriting is a tried and trusted method of getting people to buy things. I see it all over the internet. Is it evil or immoral? No, I don’t think it is. Is it mind control? No. People can’t use these techniques to make you do something against your will.

But they can persuade you to buy things.

I don’t have an issue with this, and I don’t think there’s a hard delineation between hypnotic writing and non-hypnotic writing. It’s kind of a grey-goo area.

You could even argue that all great writing is, in a sense at least, hypnotic. Being lost in the world of a novel is a type of hypnotic experience, for example.

But when people use hypnotic techniques as part of a direct sales system, I like to be aware of it. If I know what the writer is doing, I can choose to go along with it (if I want to immerse myself in that novel), or choose to hold back – if I don’t really want to pay $97 for that e-book.

So, here are some of the tell-tale signs that someone is using hypnotic writing techniques to persuade to buy or do something:

1. Language

This is by far the most obvious sign, because the language used will often be quite different to non-hynpotic sales copy. Look out for words such as: peace, calm, relax, resources, easy, pleasant, strength, lovely, wonderful, warm, cool, fantastic, sleep, she, yes, girl, smiled, suddenly, wonder, imagine, story.

Look out for phrases, too, such as: you find yourself, you start to feel, you can let yourself, perhaps you can remember, wouldn’t it be wonderful if… you get the idea.

In hypnotherapy, these type of words are referred to as ‘nominalisations’. The words are hypnotic because they have no real meaning by themselves. The reader must ‘go inward’ to see decide what they mean from them. This creates an inner experience, which itself is hypnotic.

Watch out in particular for the word “imagine” as it links in so successfully with the second technique – story-telling – and in particular, getting the prospect to picture themselves using the product or service. (You’ll notice how I used the word “imagine” in the first paragraph of this post).

2. Story-telling

The hypnotic writer will weave stories into their sales copy. This will usually be a story about someone who used the product or service to get what they wanted in life. The writer will be painting a picture in your mind of how happy the person feels now they have the product.

Or, and this is very common with get rich-quick schemes on the ‘net, they will get you to imagine yourself, in the future, enjoying your new found wealth or whatever.

You’ll be led into imagining all the wonderful things you can do, and how your life will be fulfilled. Those positive feelings will be linked to the item for sale.

And you may find that your critical defences are weakened enough that you decide to give it a try. You end up making an impulse purchase. But it wasn’t really impulsive, it was manipulated.

The stories the writer uses will of course contain powerful sales messages. But this will usually be quite subtle. What they want you to do is to draw your own conclusions form the story, because that way you are much less likely to be sceptical.

Having drawn your own conclusion, you are basically convinced.

The story will usually fit into a normal sort of format. The main character will be in some form of conflict. There will come a moment of crisis, a turning point, which contains the moral of the story.

“Pete was struggling to make ends meet and he hadn’t had a holiday for three years. His girlfriend was on his back, and saying she couldn’t take it any more. When was he going to do something with his life? Why was he still stuck on that job that he always moaned about?

“But that day, Pete was out walking the dog, when he met his old friend from college, Tom. And Tom told him about ProductX and how his life had changed.
Pete decided it was time to stop prevaricating. He would act. He would show them all that he was a man of action. He would buy ProductX. Tom was right. Now was the time…”

3. ‘Intimacy’

The writer will try to create a feeling of intimacy, knowing that customers buy from people they like. They will try to put personality into their writing and build rapport. (Of course, you could argue that any decent writer, or even half-decent human, being would try to do this).

4. Tapping into emotions

The writer wants to get the reader into an emotional state of mind so that their critical defences are lowered. They will do this by trying to break the reader out of their day-to-day preoccupations and appeal to core emotional concerns. The language will be very visual. Testimonials will be used extensively to generate credibility and trust. A seemingly strong guarantee will be used to disarm caution.

5. Knocking down objections

You probably have good reasons why you don’t want to part with $97 for a get-rich e-book offer. The hypnotic writer will try to anticipate those objections and knock them over one by one.

One of the main reasons for not buying now is that you want to stop and think about it, so the offer will include time-limited price reductions or give-aways to try to stampede you into the sale.

By anticipating your objections the sales writer can deal with them on their own terms – hypnotically. This will often result in copy that reads like a dialogue between the reader and the writer. For example, the writer might make a big claim and them immediately attempt to deal with the reader’s scepticism.

Make $1,000 in your first month

Don’t believe me? Want some proof? Ask Tom, who used ProductX to ….

6. Subtle use of repetition

Ok, sometimes not so subtle. But the hypnotic writer will tend to repeat the main idea they want to get across many times. Repetition is said to be quite an effective hypnotic technique generally. The writer knows that the more you repeat the basic offer or reason to buy, the more it will influence the reader’s unconscious mind.

7. Giving commands

When people read, they are (in a sense at least) speaking the words in their mind. It’s almost like mouthing the words, but in your head, rather than by actually moving your lips. This can be used as a way to put hypnotic commands into the person’s mind.

The hypnotic writer will repeatedly use a command which encompasses what they want the reader to do. For example:

Buy productX and your life will be transformed. Joe decided to buy productX and he made over $2,000 in the first month. When you buy productX you get a complete money-back guarantee and our promise of ongoing support.

Also, when you buy productX today, you get 50% off the normal price. This offer won’t be around for long, so buy productX at the reduced rate while you can.

The idea is to keep using the phrase “buy productX” until the prospect can’t get the idea out of their head. Until they are persuaded that that is what they want to do.

8. Single-minded focus

The hypnotic copywriter will try to establish what is the one thing that prospects want from a product or service. It could be clearer skin, or a way to impress girls, or enough money to quit your day job.

Having decided what it should be (or better still, having discovered with certainty what that one thing is, through rigourous testing and questioning) the copywriter will then keep using that hypnotic command. It will be in the headline, in the first para, in the last para.

There might still be a long list of reasons why you should buy ProductX. But the writer will keep coming back to one thing that (he thinks or knows) will really press your buttons.

Keep your eyes open

This is a basic summary of some of the main techniques of hypnotic writing. As a consumer, I hope you can use this to be more aware of how copywriters persuade you to buy.

As a writer, you can keep an eye out for these techniques as well, as a way to learn more about hypnotic writing.

Of course, to really get the most out of this information, you’ll need to buy ProductX. ProductX is your guarantee of sales success on the Internet. Imagine what you can do with all the money you earn using ProductX, which for today only is on special offer at ….

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(Photo credit: launceston_lad CC on flickr)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tom Bushnell February 5, 2008, 9:55 pm

    Very interesting, I really like the part about Story Telling…I know that is the case. I’ve been lulled in many a time by a good story sales letter.

  • Simon February 6, 2008, 11:48 am

    Tom, sales letters are where you’ll find these techniques used the most.

  • Paul | SameTrafficMoreSales.com February 10, 2008, 6:17 pm

    Yep. You pretty much nailed it. Although to be fair to people like me who use some of that stuff, I only sell things that I genuinely believe are useful and important.

    Oh, and I wouldn’t use “buy now” five times in two paragraphs… that’s just too obvious 🙂

    Paul Hancox | SameTrafficMoreSales.com

    • Richard Hennessy November 4, 2012, 11:41 am

      I agree Paul but you could say “by now…” instead. It will be read differently but will still have the same impact.

  • Hypnotic Dreams December 25, 2008, 5:07 am

    Story telling is a great way to induce a hypnotic trance. I have several examples of hypnotic audio stories on my web site, http://www.hypnoticdreams.com

  • seo packages January 24, 2010, 9:16 am

    I am in two minds whether to use this copy or to ban it from my canon forever!

  • lyndon at seo packages March 21, 2010, 7:08 pm

    I passed this to my copywriter and the quality of her work jumped. Thanks

  • Bill in Detroit June 8, 2010, 10:05 pm

    You’ve been Stumbled. Good focus on a single aspect of copy-writing. Certainly there is a lot more to know, but this post was definitely worth-while.

    • Simon June 9, 2010, 9:46 am

      Thanks Bill, appreciate the stumble

  • Rob June 22, 2010, 1:09 am

    Imagine the peace and calm you would feel if you visited my website. I know, you say you are busy, but take just a moment to sit back, relax and BUY STUFF FROM ME.

    Really enjoyed this post!

  • Matt Davis August 19, 2010, 7:54 pm

    Too bad sales copy’s not required to include statement like “These are actor’s portrayals” or “Results not typical” on the malestrom of TV ads. In TV’s case you just want to buy it if it will just make them zip it or you’re brainwashed by the 50th showing of “ShamWow”. I’m a newby, but some writers definitely have a knack at showing sincerity and convincing you to believe in their product. In my youth I knew Earl Nightingale and Zig Ziglar well soon after my dad was brainwashed. I tripped over their books and tapes often in his office! Good marketing.

  • Simon August 20, 2010, 2:47 pm

    Zig Ziglar? I know the name from somewhere, but can’t place him, I don’t know Earl Nightingale at all. Being from the UK, I may have a different set of cultural references.
    I know what you mean about sales copy, although there have been moves in the USA recently to insist on sales copy on websites becoming a little more accurate, and only showing ‘typical’ results. There’s still plenty of hype around, and I suspect there always will be. Unless we all learn to live without money, of course, which a way off yet.

  • Stephen Monday May 2, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Good post.

    However, “hype” is dead. It went the way of the T. Rex. because too many Internet marketers
    used overblown claims such as “flood your bank account with sales orders overnight.”

    How many readers “switch on” their B.S. detectors when they read this kind of drivel? This kind of copy worked 15 years ago…but today it simply “turns off” readers.

    They will not hesitate to go elsewhere!

    Very Best Regards.

  • Al August 7, 2012, 10:24 pm

    Good article, a few clarifications:

    A ‘nominalisation’ is when a verb takes the place of a noun in a sentence. In language this makes actions appear as ‘things’ which gives them more reality than they actually have. You mean ‘non sensory predciates’ which are descriptive words that are not attached to any particular sense – these cause you to go inside and attach your own experience.

    I hope I have been suitably anal.

    Cheers, Alistair

  • Gerry November 15, 2012, 7:08 pm

    Funny, by alerting the people about this type of copy, I, myself a copy have learned new ways to sell my products, which of course is the intention of the article, right? Or have I been hypnotised to believe otherwise?

    • simon November 15, 2012, 7:27 pm

      Gerry – the reverse, really. I’ve taken information on how to write hypnotic copy, and spun it around to make people aware of what is being done. Of course, you could spin it back again, for sure.

  • simon October 28, 2013, 11:15 am

    You don’t need to code with HTML to run a blog. I use WordPress, which is a blogging platform – the biggest and most popular, though there are others. No coding required.