Through the Power of Psychological Triggers
by Joseph Sugarman
A desire to buy something often involves a subconscious decision.
In fact, I claim that 95% of buying decisions are indeed
Knowing the subconscious reasons why people buy, and using this
information in a fair and constructive way, will trigger greater sales
response -- often far beyond what you could imagine.
I recall a time when I applied one of these subconscious devices by
changing just one word of an ad, and response doubled. I
refer to these subconscious devices as psychological
"triggers." A psychological trigger is the strongest
motivational factor any salesperson or copywriter can use to evoke a
There are 30 triggers in all -- many of them are very subtle, and
many of them are the exact opposite of what you would expect.
I will reveal a few of them to you in a moment. Each trigger, when
deployed, has the power to increase sales and response beyond what
you would normally expect.
There are triggers, for example, that will cause your prospect to feel guilty
if they don't purchase your product. Let me give you an example.
Whenever you receive in the mail a sales solicitation with free
personalized address stickers, you often feel guilty if you use the
stickers and don't send something back -- often far in excess of the
value of the stickers. Fundraising companies use this method a
great deal. You receive 50 cents worth of stickers and send back a
Another example are those surveys that are sent out asking for you to
spend about 20 minutes of your time filling them out. Enclosed in the
mailing you, might find a dollar bill included to encourage you
to feel guilty, and entice you to fill out the survey. And you
often spend a lot more than one dollar of your time to do that.
Guilt is a strong motivator. I have to admit that I've used guilt
in many selling situations, in mail order ads and on TV -- with great
success, I might add.
I call one of the most powerful triggers a "satisfaction
conviction," which is a guarantee of satisfaction. But
don't confuse this with the typical trial period you find in mail order,
i.e., "If you're not happy within 30 days, you can return your
purchase for a full refund." A satisfaction conviction is
different. Basically it takes the trial period and adds something
that makes it go well beyond the trial period.
For example, if I were offering a subscription, instead of saying,
"If at anytime you're not happy with your subscription, we'll
refund your unused portion," and instead said, "If at any time
you're not happy with your subscription, let us know and we'll refund
your entire subscription price -- even if you decide to cancel just
before the last issue."
Basically you're saying to your prospect that you are absolutely certain
that they'll like the subscription, that you are willing to go beyond
what is traditionally offered with other subscriptions. This in
fact gives the reader the sense that the company really knows it has a winning
product and solidly stands behind the product and your satisfaction.
Is this technique effective? You bet. In many tests, I've
doubled response -- sometimes by adding just one sentence that conveys a
good satisfaction conviction.
I received an e-mail from a company, a subsidiary of eBay,
requesting my advice. They had an e-mail solicitation that wasn't
drawing the response that they had expected. What was wrong?
Looking over what they had created, I saw several mistakes, many
of which would have been avoided if they knew the psychological triggers
that cause people to buy. Let me give you just one example.
In the subject line of most e-mails that have solicited me, I have been
able to tell, at a glance, that the solicitation was for a specific
service or an offer of something that I was clearly able to determine.
Examples such as "Reduce your CD and DVD costs 50%," Or
"Lose weight quickly," pretty much told me what they were
selling. Was this good or bad?
The problem with those subject lines is that the reader was able to quickly
determine: 1) that it was an advertisement; and 2) that it was for some
specific product or service.
Most people don't like advertising. And most people won't make the
effort to open their e-mail solicitation if they think they are getting
an advertising message -- unless they are sincerely interested in buying
something that the advertisement offers.
The subject line of an e-mail is similar to the headline of a mail order
ad, or the copy on an envelope, or the first few minutes of an
infomercial. You've got to grab somebody's attention and
then get them to take the next step. In the case of the envelope,
you want them to open it. In the case of an infomercial, you want
them to keep watching, and in the case of an e-mail, you want them open
up the e-mail and read your message.
The key, therefore, is to get a person to want to open your message by
putting something into the subject area of your e-mail that does not
appear to be an advertising message -- one that would compel them to
take the next step. And the best trigger to use for this is the
trigger of curiosity.
There are a number of ways you can use curiosity to literally force a
person to take the next step. You can then use this valuable tool to put
a reader in the correct frame of mind to buy what you have to
Once again, all the psychological triggers apply to every form of
communication -- whether it be advertising, marketing or personal
selling. And to know these triggers is the key to more effective
communication, avoidance of costly errors that waste time and money, and
most importantly -- extraordinary sales results.
Joe Sugarman, the
best-selling author and top copywriter who has achieved legendary
fame in direct marketing, is best known for his highly successful
mail-order catalog company, JS&A, and his hit product, BluBlocker
Sunglasses. Joe’s new breakthrough book, “Triggers,”
reveals 30 powerful psychological triggers that influence people
to buy what you're selling.