What Are Your Prospects Feeling?

Before you can write an effective piece of marketing copy, you have to know what your prospects are feeling — understand what we call their “resident” or “dominant” emotions.

How do you do it?

There are several techniques I use. But one of the best is to put myself in their shoes.

As I sit down to write, I simply close my eyes and let the people I’m about to speak to speak to me first.

I did exactly that with my first Health & Healing promotion. I leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes, and mentally inserted myself into the shoes of our target demographic — a 50- to 70-year-old man with chronic health problems… enduring endless doctor visits… taking fistfuls of costly prescription drugs every day… suffering horrific side effects from those drugs… and never really getting any better.

I saw myself showing up at the doctor’s office on time, cooling my heels in the waiting room and reading magazines for an hour until my name was called.

I vicariously experienced being ushered into the exam room. And then, being made to wait even longer.

Finally, I saw the doctor hurriedly burst through the door, ask me a cursory question or two, make a few chicken scratches on a prescription pad, and vanish as quickly as he had come.

As I saw myself experiencing what my prospects experience every day, I started to feel the emotions they were feeling: Frustrated by health problems their doctors couldn’t seem to cure. Afraid of the consequences of failing health. Worried about the cost and side effects of conventional medicine. Embarrassed by the intrusive poking and prodding. And disgusted with doctors who never seemed to take a personal interest in them.

Wow! Did that exercise ever bring my copy to life!

Being the prospect is even easier when writing for the investment and finance markets. You don’t even need an imagination. You can experience precisely what your prospects are feeling every day of the year.

Here’s what I tell every young copywriter who’s eager to break into the investment field — before we even begin talking about the writing process or the principles of great direct-response copy:

“The first thing you do, open a brokerage account. Take all the money you have in the world and put it into that account. No fair using a few hundred bucks you wouldn’t miss if you lost it. You’ve got to have enough at stake so that you’ll be thrilled when your principal grows and crushed when it declines.

“Then, start investing.

“Get advice from a broker and follow it with some of your money. Subscribe to a couple of investment advisories, and follow their gurus’ advice with another chunk of your money. Do some research on your own, and put the rest of your money into stocks and mutual funds that you like.”

That’s it. I don’t have to say another word. Nobody who takes that advice, and follows it to the letter, ever again has to wonder how investors feel.

Suddenly, CNBC is the most riveting channel on TV, and the thrill you get from reading Forbes makes Playboy seem dull by comparison.

The announcement of a quarter-point interest rate hike sends chills down your spine. A half-point hike gets you quaking in your boots.

When someone talks about an investor who struck it rich, you hang on every word. And you have an irresistible urge to knock on wood when you hear about someone who was taken to the cleaners.

And the rumor of soaring earnings at a sexy young company gets you almost excited as… well, I’ll leave it up to you to fill in your own metaphor.

Then, things really get interesting. You get your first monthly brokerage statement. How does that make you feel?

Are you eager to open it? Or do you feel like hiding it quickly before your spouse sees it?

You open and read the thing. How does that feel?

Are you thinking that plastering Xerox copies all over your bedroom walls will get you lucky tonight? Or would burying it along with Rover’s droppings in the backyard be a better idea? Or, do you just feel disappointed — like you took a huge risk, suffered through intense emotional highs and lows, wasted a whole month of your life, and have nothing to show for it?

Now, imagine that you have all these feelings and you’re just a few short years from retirement. Every month that flies by brings you 30 days closer to having to live on income generated by the paltry balance on that brokerage statement.

How do you feel?

How do you feel about your broker? Is he a saint? Or a bum?

What do you want to do to those gurus whose advice you followed? Kiss them? Curse them?

Does this experience — whether good or bad — leave you wanting to find other investment advisories and give them a try? Or does it convince you that you could do better on your own?

Whatever your answers, chances are they’re the answers the vast majority of your prospects would give, too.

Since they were investing in the same markets you were, at the same time, odds are many, if not most, of them shared similar experiences — and have similar feelings about those experiences.

Because I write mostly for the health and investment markets, I drew the above examples from what I know. But no matter what you’re selling — no matter who you’re selling it to — the process is the same.

Putting yourself into your prospects’ shoes can get you a long, long way toward connecting your product’s strongest benefits with their most compelling emotions.

[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 rates — at MakepeaceTotalPackage.com.]