6 Psychological Triggers to Make Your Copy More Persuasive

When I tell people I’m a copywriter they respond in one of two ways: 

  1. “So, you do, like, legal stuff?”
  2. “So, you don’t make the website. You JUST do the writing? And people actually pay for that?”

Rude? Yes. But I get it.

A Google doc with a few thousand Arial size 11 words isn’t NEARLY as impressive-looking as that gorgeous new logo. 

But it’s what’s behind those words that *really* matters. 

Because each and every one of them is selected to pull on certain psychological triggers that make the message more persuasive — and the reader more likely to buy. 

This is what copywriters’ clients pay for, and it’s something you can use even if you’re writing your own copy. 

Here are 6 psychological triggers you can use to make your copy more persuasive.

Before we start, most of these principles were identified by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. If you’re interested in learning more about the psychology of persuasion, it’s a fascinating read that will help you with everything from writing copy to speaking about your offers.

1. Authority 

This is the idea that we are more likely to follow the lead of, or be influenced by, someone we perceive as an expert. 

Whether it’s through experience, qualifications or a uniform, if we consider someone to be more knowledgeable than us on a subject, we’ll listen. Providing we trust them, that is. 

As a teacher, your students will likely see you as an authority on your subject. But you still want to highlight your expertise to prove it. 

You can do this by including logos of qualifications you have on your website, mentioning how long you’ve been teaching in your bio and highlighting how many other people you’ve worked with. 

Just be careful not to lead with your credentials in your bio, on your sales page or your website. People aren’t going to care that you have a qualification before they know what you can do for them.  

2. Reciprocity 

The law of reciprocity refers to the human need to give back when something is given to us. 

I’m sure you’ve experienced it multiple times throughout your life. If someone does you a favour, no matter how big or small, you feel compelled to pay them somehow. 

The most obvious example of this in marketing is offering a freebie in exchange for an email address. I’ll give you this, if you give me that. 

But the law of reciprocity isn’t always so transactional. 

Whether you know it or not, ALL the free content you share — your Instagram, blog, podcast, etc. — is one giant ‘favour’ to your audience. 

And the more valuable they find it, the more they’ll want to explore your paid offers. 

So, rather than trying to make your audience feel indebted to you, you can use this powerful principle to make them feel excited about taking action because everything you do is so darn good. 

3. Commitment and consistency 

Have you ever noticed how sales pages and emails often start with yes/no questions? 

This isn’t just used as a technique to make the copy conversational and engaging. That’s a bonus, for sure. 

But what this handy trick is actually doing is getting us used to saying ‘yes’ to the writer early on.

Because according to the rule of commitment and consistency, we humans need to stay true to our word – even if that word is muttered under our breath. 

So, by taking small positive actions like this, we’re much more likely to commit to bigger ones later on. 

You can use this technique in different ways at different stages of the student journey. 

The above example is perfect for opening a sales page or preceding a call to action. Because if a student says YES to your question, why wouldn’t they take the next step?

Other early-stage commitments include signing up to your email list, taking a quiz or signing up for a free event. 

You can gradually dial your ‘asks’ up as they move further along their journey with you. From booking a discovery call to joining a low-cost membership to purchasing your course. 

4. Specificity 

If you’ve ever attended any of my workshops, you’ll have heard me say this word a LOT. Here’s where you find out why.

Firstly, specificity makes your message more relatable. The more detail you can add, the more the right students will resonate with you and what you’re saying. 

This all comes back to the idea of choosing a ‘niche’ — a small group of people you want to serve. Once you know who they are, you can write copy that speaks directly to them, which WILL increase your sales. 

Because the more connected we feel to a business and an offer, the more likely we are to choose it. Simple. 

The second reason is because specificity equals believability. 

It’s very easy to claim you have the ‘best’ or ‘fastest’ or ‘easiest’ solution to a problem. But unless this has been tested and proven somehow, it’s nothing more than an assumption, and your students will see right through it.

Long story short: the more detail you can add, the more believable and trustworthy you and your offer seem. 

5. Social proof 

Social proof is basically a fancy way of saying ‘reviews’ or ‘testimonials’. It’s the idea that people are more likely to take an action if they see others doing the same. Like how we’re more likely to choose the restaurant with a queue than the empty one next door.

This is an incredibly powerful technique you can use in all your copy. It’s not only great for proving you know what you’re doing, but also for saying the things you’re too modest to say. 

For example, if you know your personality is what makes you the perfect teacher for your ideal clients but you don’t want to say it, use a testimonial instead. 

They are also ideal for subtly overcoming potential students’ objections to your offers by showing that other people had the same concerns and explaining, in their words, how they overcame them. 

But social proof doesn’t just mean nice reviews. 

You can also use student exam results, case studies, the number of students you’ve taught, partnerships with high-profile people in your niche, logos of companies whose employees you’ve taught or endorsements. (Aaaaand breath.) 

6. Urgency/Scarcity 

A funny thing happens when we’re suddenly told we only have a few hours left to get something at a certain price — or at all. 

Even if we weren’t *that* interested before, the rapidly closing time window makes us see it as more valuable and desirable, which increases the chances we’ll make a rash last-minute decision.  

The same thing happens when something is in scarce supply. If we see there are only a few spaces left and they’re being snapped up, we’re more likely to take action. That’s why hotel booking platforms often tell you how many people are looking the same room as you.

This is especially powerful when used in conjunction with social proof – because if we see people like us getting something we want? We want it even more. 

Now you know the psychology behind these two techniques, you might feel a bit gross about them. But know this: they’re necessary if you want people to buy. 

Because without that pressure, people who are PERFECT for your offers may never hop off the fence. 

Before you ask, you can use urgency and scarcity ethically when you make sure they are real. In other words, only sell the number of spaces you say are available and close the doors to your offer when you say they’re closing. Easy!

Psychology is the key to writing effective copy. 

And these psychological triggers are fundamental to your message’s success. Keep them in mind the next time you’re writing a landing page, sales page or email sequence so your words don’t just speak to the right people, but persuade them to take action.

If you want to learn MORE about the psychology of copywriting, then get yourself on my email list to hear about my brand-new offer coming NEXT WEEK! 

November 27, 2023

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