The Emotion to Pocketbook Connection


“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie

To be a successful businessperson, you need to understand the emotions that move people to buy whatever it is you’re selling — and you need to know how to make those emotions work for you.

There are many emotions you can tap into. Vanity, guilt, pride, the desire for security, and the need to be wanted are a few of my favorites. But for most of your advertising, fear and greed will come into play. Let’s take a look at these two “hot buttons” that determine many (if not most) of the things people buy.

1. Fear

Fear is powerful. Fear of loss. Fear of failure. Fear of not being accepted. Fear of being duped. Fear of missing an opportunity. Fear of physical harm. Fear of death. Fear of being ridiculed. The list goes on and on. But you have to be careful when appealing to people’s fears. The fears you introduce have to be real. They have to be specific. And the product you’re selling must offer a solution. You would have no success, for example, trying to sell a car by saying, “Your friends will abandon you if you don’t buy the new 2003 Turb-o-Rama.” That’s not believable. It’s not appealing to a real fear. The fear must already exist in your prospect’s mind — and you must be able to dispel it.

Here’s a good example:

“Dear Friend,

“Your wealth is in imminent danger.

“Lots of people want your money. They’ve set their sights on you. They want your income and savings (even your retirement money) … everything that you’ve worked so hard to get.

“Who are they? Tax collectors. Creditors. Disgruntled employees or relatives. Former business partners. Government bureaucrats. Kidnappers. Ambulance-chasing attorneys. Or almost anyone with ‘an ax to grind.’

“It’s a real war.

“An attack could come at any minute … from any direction.”

The letter goes on to detail the threats — and provide proof that they really exist. This letter is powerful. Nobody wants to lose everything he’s made to forces he can’t control. So the prospect is hooked emotionally. And he keeps reading. He wants to know what more he has to worry about — and how he can ultimately put those worries to rest.

2. Greed

Greed has gotten a bad rap. That’s because most of us think of greed as an all-consuming obsession with getting everything at any cost, with no regard for anyone else.

That’s greed to the extreme. But most of us are greedy for much better reasons. We want to do well. We want to be happier. We want to be able to provide a more comfortable life for our family and loved ones. We want to be able to share what we have with our friends.

Without greed — without the desire to do better, live better, and improve our station in life — we would be a nation of lazy, contented nobodies with no ambition, no desire to succeed. So, you see, greed isn’t so bad. At least not in this context.

Fact is, greed sells. Always has and always will. Most people want to make more money, have more power, be more successful, and just generally have more than the next guy. It’s a natural instinct. As a result, mailboxes across the country are crammed full of direct-mail packages appealing to greed: how to double your profits in the stock market … how to make a zillion dollars from your kitchen table … how to beat the casinos … win the lottery … and so on.

That’s the emotion the following letter is appealing to:

“Dear Friend,

“Three months ago, I received a letter in the mail much like the one I’m writing you today. I nearly threw it away, just as I do so many solicitations that come my way.

“But I’m glad I didn’t. Why? Because I’m wealthier because of it. $45,000 wealthier, to be exact. That’s how much I made in my first three months doing something anyone with some spare time on their hands can do. Some have made more — up to $205,000 more! But I’m not complaining. There’s lots of money in this business to go around.”

Why does this letter work? Because it’s believable. First, the promise isn’t outrageous. It’s possible to believe you really can make $45,000 in a few months. Second, it’s written in the voice of someone who’s actually done it. And third, the writer addresses the prospect’s initial skepticism by saying that she, too, had her doubts when she first got the offer. (“But look at me now!”)

Don’t be afraid to appeal to several emotions throughout your sales letter. Just make sure you take a good, long look at your product and determine which emotion will be the primary one. If your product will make your prospect rich, for example, you will use greed as your primary emotion. If your product will protect him from loss or danger, fear is probably the way to go.

If you learn how to “use” these emotions effectively, your copy will have great power.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]