James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

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The Art of Copywriting: How to Tap Into 95% of Your Prospect’s Brain

James Carbary

Founder at Sweet Fish Media

Full Profile »

Wanna learn the art of copywriting? First you have to get inside people’s brains.

One of the primal concepts in the behavioral sciences is that human beings function 95% subconsciously. If you’re going to get people to perform a desired action (e.g., act on a lead-gen message), you’re looking for a behavior. If people behave 95% subconsciously, it makes sense to direct your lead-gen toward the subconscious mind.

We recently interviewed Erik Luhrs, the “Bruce Lee of Sales and Lead Generation.” His background in behavioral sciences enabled him to tap into the brain of his prospects—and he shared his methodology with us.

Erik has studied sales messages and saw a lot of appealing content for the conscious mind, giving logical reasons to pay attention: we’ll save you moneyyour quality of life will improve. That’s great, but that messaging is not going to activate a prospect’s subconscious. If their subconscious mind isn’t activated, they’re not going to take action.

This methodology applies to almost any lead-gen message you send: ad copy, website copy, email copy, etc.

We’re going to be looking at how B2B companies can use the subconscious within three sections of their message: the openingbody, and closing.

1) Opening

You only have one chance to make a first impression. Same thing applies to your messaging. When you put out things that people have heard before (save moneycheapest widgetbest service, etc.), they gloss right over the message because their brain has heard it before.

Instead of trying to say something you care about, talk to the prospect’s subconscious mind. The first thing to do in a message is set the context. Context is the answer to the question, “What meaning does this message have for your prospect?”

What normally happens is that a prospect gets a message, but it has no meaning to them and doesn’t connect with them as a person.

Instead, you have to know their internal dialogue and, in some shape or form, touch on it. Your linguistics have to make their subconscious mind go, “Whoa . . . They’re talking to me.”

Ol’ subconscious mind is used to sitting in a corner talking to itself; it’s not used to hearing those same conversations initiated from outside the body. When that happens, it has to pay attention.

The enteric nervous system in the body is the nervous system that surrounds the throat, stomach, and a few other parts. It’s what gives us a “gut feeling.”

Your goal, when you send a message to prospects, is to create what’s called a “somatic impact” (“soma” = body). You want the enteric nervous system to be activated with a feeling through your message. That way, the person’s body is literally pulling them toward the message.

For example, imagine if I said the words, “carbonated beverage soft drink.” In your brain, some synapses fire off and you conceptually know what I’m talking about, though you don’t feel anything.

But if I put up the Coca-Cola symbol or just say “Coca-Cola,” all of a sudden, if you know what Coke tastes like, the taste buds on the back of your tongue start to tingle. You’re having a somatic response.

Then let’s say I do the same with Pepsi. If you know what it tastes like and you’re a fan, the taste buds on the front of your tongue tingle.

And if you know what they both taste like, your tongue is having a tug-of-war. Surprise! You’re having a somatic response.

As another example, let’s say I want to get the attention of my Coke fans out there. What would happen if I put out a headline that says, “Hey, all you Coca-Cola fans, they’re thinking about screwing with the formula again. Click here.”? (Remember the ‘80s, when they created the wretched “New Coke”? Yikes.)

Every Coke fan is going to be clicking. Why? Because something that they enjoy has been triggered by a somatic response, and on top of that, it’s being threatened.

They’re going to be jumping all over that.

2) Body

If you get someone past your opening, you’re very lucky. According to Erik, we lose 82% of people just based on what we say in our headline.

We lose an additional 15% of people based on what we say in the body. So at the end of any normal message, we have 3% of people left to decide whether they want to respond to our message. With these numbers, it’s no surprise that the industry average is a 0.5% response rate. We obviously want to shoot past this measly average.

Normally, in the body copy, people go into a testimonial or mission statement. Or the benefits their product or service offers: gain weightlose weightincrease productivity, etc.

If you do that, though, you can lose people in multiple ways. You can lose them through confusion (e.g., you talked about Abraham Lincoln in the headline, but the reader is two paragraphs in and you haven’t said anything about Lincoln. Boom, they’re gone).

Or you inflict interest-death-by-article-length. The person might actually be interested, but you decide the email should be 15 pages long. And they think, “This looks interesting, but I don’t have time for it. I’ll put it in my to-do pile.”

Which means they’ll never get to it.

The solution to keeping people’s attention from beginning to end lies in the logical progression of content. Make a point to guide people through your message.

Content in lead generation has two purposes:

  1. To hold attention from beginning to end. This is its primary job.
  2. To tweak a person’s mind over the course of a message. At the beginning of content, you want to talk in some way about the pain or problem that they have, and by the end you want to tweak their brain just enough for them to say, “Maybe I’m interested in this company.”

Remember, the job of your lead-generation message is not to sell everything. Its only job is to get that person to stay to the end. Each stage of a message has a job, and it should only try to do that job.


An Example

A while back Erik worked with a pricing strategy firm based in California. They were blast-emailing 100,000 people a week. For their efforts, they were struggling to talk to one or two prospects a month and to reach $400,000 a year. Six guys, you do the math—not very good.

Erik helped them do some research, they chose a target market—CEOs of mid-market companies—and they decided that the “big thing” for their audience was legacy. That was the most important thing to them. (Remember, that’s what you should be leading with.)

The whole point of the email they designed was to take CEOs from legacy to pricing strategy consulting. They connected the dots: you care about legacy, legacy is driven by performance, performance is driven by revenue, revenue is driven by sales, sales is driven primarily by price, price has to be strategic in your marketplace: if you don’t have a strategy, you need one. Boom: you need us.

Six weeks later, instead of this company only getting one to two leads a month, they literally had to stop marketing themselves because they had a several-month backlog of people they had to get back to.

Where Does Length Factor In?

Obviously, message length is a key issue.

In the movie Get Shorty with John Travolta, there’s a scene where Travolta has to go to an Italian mobster and ask something from him. His friend asks, “What are you gonna say to him to get him to do this?” Travolta responds, “Only what I have to—if that.”

So how little can you say to get your prospects to do what you want? The message is like a part of a rocket. The boosters for space shuttles have got to come off at a certain height because after that they’re a drag.

Your messages are just like that. You’ve got to get them from this stage to that stage to that stage.

Be very specific. Don’t try to fit 20 messages into one. Instead ask, “What is the next step I want this person to take?” and design your message only around that.

3) Ending

The end of the message is a call-to-action.

You often hear people say, “For more information, call 1-800-MORE-STUFF,” or “To have one of our representatives contact you, fill out this ‘convenient’ form on the website.” Or there’s the guy who says, “Hey, you don’t know me but I’m going to be in your area next week. Would you like me to come to your office and bother you?” Very compelling stuff.

These are normal calls-to-action, what Erik calls “lame calls-to-action.” Instead, you should create a desire-based call-to-action. This type of CTA invites a person to say, “Yes,” to not ponder, but take the offer right now.

And of course, the CTA has to be in alignment with what you’ve been talking about up to that point.

The example story Erik tells is one from when he started out as a business coach. In the beginning, he had a lot of clients, but they weren’t paying him much money, he was spending 12 hours a day on the phone, and he couldn’t think straight.

He ended up saying, “Okay, I want more clients, but I need to jettison some of the clients I already have for better-paying clients so I can work less and make more.” He jettisoned them so fast that suddenly he was scraping nickels and had to bust it to get enough appointments.

When he was doing that, reaching out and saying, “Let’s have a phone call,” nobody was responding. He went to one of his mentors. She looked up what he was doing—and laughed.

“Look Erik,” she said. “You’re calling people all day long saying ‘meeting or phone call.’ They have meetings and phone calls throughout the day already with people they already know for reasons they already understand. Why should they talk to you?”

He had no response.

The next day, instead of offering a phone call he offered a money jumpstart session. “Money” because these were small business owners who wanted more money, “jumpstart” because it was an action word, and “session” because it sounded better than “meeting.”

He offered to point out the holes in their business and identify at least one strategy that they could use in the next 90 days or less to increase their business.

He’d fallen well below six figures when he dropped his first batch of clients, but within three months he was back up over six figures, and he never looked back.

It wasn’t because he changed anything he provided; it was simply about how he positioned his call-to-action that made all the difference.


The mind is truly the heart of the matter.


Spend all your efforts appealing to the conscious awareness of prospects, and your messages will fall flat. But tailor your copywriting to appeal to their subconscious minds, and you’ll strike a note they didn’t know could be played.

Or less poetically, you’ll get them to give you money. Which is pretty cool, too.

Anyone who’s interested in knowing your target market inside and out can use Erik’s free gift, an “Ultimate Qualified Lead Profile Tool Kit.” If you’re interested, contact [email protected] and let them know you want it.

This post is based on an interview with Erik Luhrs, Founder of the GURUS Selling System.

You can find this interview, and many more, by subscribing to the B2B Growth Show on iTunes. If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode by clicking here.