This article was originally published on Forbes

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“Send it,” said Kelsey, my fiancé.

I pursed my lips.

“It’s ready,” she said.

I was writing an email, an article-submission pitch to Ginny Soskey, the former editor of the HubSpot Marketing Blog, one of the most visited and well-respected blogs in the industry. Her opinion mattered.

“It’s good,” said Kelsey. “Press the button.”

I pressed it.

And I’ll tell you what happened next in a moment, but first ...

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How to Write Copy That Sells

The trick to writing compelling copy — copy that garners attention, engagement, and sales — is triggering an emotional response in your audience. Make her smile. Make her wince. Effective copy creates a feeling.

Emotional reactions are key to inciting action because people rarely make rational buying decisions. That is, it takes discipline to stop and think logically about a purchase. Most people buy with their gut and their heart, not their brain.

Hence the selling adage, People buy on emotion and rationalize with logic.

The best copywriters know this about the human condition. They know that emotions sell. So they make it a point to draw out those emotions when writing an article, crafting a landing page, or scripting a TV commercial or radio spot. When creating any copy, really.

But how do they do it?

How to Trigger an Emotional Response

Think of it this way, every emotion is born from either a carrot or a stick.

You’ve heard it before: dangle a carrot in front of a horse’s face and it will move toward it. Strike the horse with a stick and it’ll move away from it. Either way, the horse moves; action takes place.

People, like animals, are also programed to move toward pleasure and away from pain.

From a marketing standpoint, the “carrot” is a pleasant story, one filled with optimism and resolution. The “stick” is a painful story, one that evokes disgust, fear. A painful or pleasant story will thrust the reader into the experience, forcing her to empathize, drawing out emotions that trigger a guttural reaction — an emotional response — which spurs action.

But that begs the question …

Whose story should you tell?

Can't find any inspiration? It could be that you don’t know where to look.

In that case, you can:

1. Tell your customer’s story.

Every customer you’ve ever served has a story.

The reason they came to you (i.e., pain) is one story. What happened next (i.e., pleasure) is another. Use your customers’ experiences to create material that speaks to prospects who are going through similar pains and seeking similar pleasures.

Insurance copywriters do this all the time …

Geico, for instance, back in 2006, ran a Real Customers campaign in which policyholders told personal stories that were then interpreted by celebrities. Farmers, more recently, employed a similar strategy with its We Know From Experience campaign.

Point being, your CRM holds a wealth of story fodder. You have a selection. Be selective.

2. Tell your future customer’s story.

You know your space and your audience, right? Of course, you do.

So when you don’t have the actual event on record, make it up. But be realistic, believable. Give your prospects a chance to see themselves in an emotional scenario, something painful or pleasant.

To use another insurance example, Allstate’s Mayhem campaign personifies dangerous situations people should protect themselves against. And while these scenarios technically didn’t occur, they could — and that's all that matters.

Point being, fiction is compelling, too.

3. Tell your own story.

Getting personal enables a copywriter to forge a deeper connection with his audience, a strategy that drives action on its face. After all, action calls for trust. And trust demands familiarity.

If you want to quickly earn credibility with strangers, tell them a private story. It can be a carrot or a stick, as long as it’s relevant to their beliefs, needs, or goals:

“Okay,” I said. “I pressed it.”

“Good,” said Kelsey, she was smiling at me.

“I’m nervous,” I said. “She might hate it.”

“Then you’ll write something else,” she said. (I’m so glad she said Yes.)

“Yeh,” I said, closing my laptop. That night we made dinner and watched a movie and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up to an email from Ginny:

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You can read that article here.

Its publication bolstered my confidence, credibility, and career, changing my life for the better.

It was the first of many copywriting articles I’ve written for HubSpot. Articles that went on to garner tens of thousands of shares, evoking countless emotions along the way.


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