Connecting With Your Prospects’ Dominant Emotions

When you set out to create a sales message that connects with your prospects’ dominant emotions, you have no choice. You have to begin with the prospect.

You begin by considering his most intense feelings about …

  • Himself relative to the subject at hand …
  • The benefits your product and premiums promise …
  • The medium through which your message is being delivered …
  • The offer — the price, payment terms, guarantee, and order process …

… And then, you devise ways to deal with each of these emotions in ways that get them working FOR you.

When you get it right, the attention-getting power of and response to your promotions skyrockets.

Check out this promotion. It’s a magalog titled “Retirement Wealth Builder” for Phillips Publishing’s Retirement Letter. Retirement Letter was one of Phillips’s flagship publications in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was edited at the time by my old friend Pete Dickinson. Pete’s photo appears on the cover of the magalog, with a caption reading “No more Mr. Nice Guy” Pete Dickinson: The Nation’s #1 Retirement Authority Hits Back. Here’s the headline:

“Not With My Life You Don’t”

“Here’s how to strike back at greedy congressmen, bungling bureaucrats and unethical brokers …

“… and win a richer lifestyle in retirement than you have now!”


What you need to know to set things right.

197,000 successful Americans over 40 have done it!

CENTER PULL-OUT SECTION: Retirement Lies That Could Cost You Everything You Ever Worked For.”

Here’s what it looks like in full color:

This promo could have simply led with a headline that said “Retire RICH!” That’s a big benefit, to be sure. But that kind of headline can lack credibility. Worse, it misses the opportunity to fully activate the prospect’s emotions about retirement.

Instead, this lead connects with prospects at a deeper level. And it accomplishes six major objectives …

1. It transforms passive emotions (guilt and frustration) into active ones (anger and the thirst for revenge). Most people begin planning for retirement too late in life. And whenever the subject is raised, the first feelings they have are (a) fear and (b) guilt.

By putting the blame on others (politicians, bureaucrats, and brokers), this lead instantly assuages the prospect’s guilt. It says “It’s not your fault!”

Plus, by making others responsible for the prospect’s predicament, this lead transforms his fear into anger — a far more actionable emotion. And it offers him a way to act on it.

Then it validates the prospect’s righteous indignation by having Pete express it in a personal “declaration of war.” That instantly makes Pete the unchallenged leader in this fight.

2. It eliminates the “salesman/prospect” dynamic. Recognizing how we all feel when confronted by a salesperson — uncomfortable, skeptical, guarded — is a powerful “dominant emotion” technique.

In this lead, Pete is not presented as someone who wants to sell the reader anything. He’s in the same boat as the prospect. He’s fighting for his own retirement. And he’s prepared to lead the prospect into a comfortable, financially secure future.

Pete is positioned as a powerful ally and champion. He is unapologetically on the prospect’s side. That’s the first step in making Pete and the prospect fast friends.

3. It offers the prospect an instantaneous emotional bribe for reading further. After activating the prospect’s feelings about the enemies of his retirement, he is offered the satisfaction of “striking back” and getting “sweet revenge.”

Again, a great dominant emotion technique. You deliver an emotional reward — completely free of charge. The prospect doesn’t have to buy a thing. Gratification is instantaneous.

4. It delivers Pete’s “Big Promise” as a USP (unique selling proposition). Pete’s vision for the reader is bigger and better than the prospect’s own vision — “a richer lifestyle in retirement than you have now!”

This promise works on two levels …

FIRST, it raises a fascinating possibility. Most of us assume that we’ll have to make compromises when we begin living on a fixed income.

Pete says, “THAT’S WRONG: You can actually live better in retirement than you are now.” Who in their right mind wouldn’t be eager to hear more?

SECOND, it speaks to the two major types of prospects for the Retirement Letter: (a) folks who are speeding toward retirement, and (b) those who are already retired. No matter which category you fall into, this message is for YOU.

5. It includes a powerful credibility element. Dominant emotion selling considers all the emotions the prospect is feeling. And in today’s overly advertised-to prospects, that includes skepticism. Especially after the presentation of a “big benefit” USP.

This magalog cover addresses prospects’ skepticism head-on: “197,000 successful Americans over 40 have already done it!”

Not only does this suspend the reader’s disbelief, it suggests that an elite group of people are living the life he only dreams about … and that this is his invitation to join them.

6. It includes a second bribe just for opening the package. Earlier, the prospect was told that Pete would deliver a powerful and instantaneous emotional benefit if he would just keep reading. Pete would help him get “sweet revenge” and “set things right.”

Now, Pete is also promising to deliver a tangible benefit right in the magalog — a “CENTER PULL-OUT SECTION: Retirement Lies That Could Cost You Everything You Ever Worked For.”

This banner at the bottom of the magalog cover does double duty by presenting the “horrifying alternative” — the consequences of failing to listen to what Pete has to say.

I count just 65 words of headline copy on this cover. And they cover the prospect’s most dominant emotions at every level …

  • His feelings of guilt regarding his own failure to provide for a more comfortable retirement …
  • His fear of poverty and dependence …
  • His disdain for politicians and bureaucrats who constantly seemed to be taking something away from him — never giving anything back. And for brokers who promise the moon but fail to make him rich enough to retire comfortably …
  • His yearning for justice to be done, and even …

His skepticism about claims made in direct-mail promotions and the pitchmen who make them.

Now, you gotta ask yourself: How could employing these principles ramp up the attention-getting power of and response to the ads you’re working on now?

[Ed. Note: Master copywriter Clayton Makepeace publishes the highly acclaimed e-zine The Total Package to help business owners and copywriters accelerate their sales and profits. Claim your 4 free moneymaking e-books — bursting with tips, tricks, and tactics that’ll skyrocket your response — at]