Copywriting is all about using the power of words to persuade the reader to take action.

That may be to buy your product or service, visit your website, sign up to your newsletter or something else.

But how do you get inside that person’s mind to know exactly what they are thinking and convince them to do what you want them to?

There are four key theories that you should apply to help shape a person’s behavioural decisions:

1) The feather on a see-saw

The feather on a see-saw theory was coined by Max Sutherland in his book Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer.

Essentially, the theory is that people are persuaded to buy one product over another because of one small difference that shifts the balance in their decision-making.

By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and understanding their thought process when it comes to purchasing that particular type of good, you can find the “feather” that tips the see-saw in your favour.

The feather needs to be your unique selling point (USP) that the buyer won’t get with any other product.

2) Nudge

Behavioural scientist DR David Halpem presented the nudge theory in his book Inside the Nudge Unit.

Halpem heads up the first government institution that uses behavioural economics to examine and influence human behaviour, and nudge people into making decisions.

For example, adding a crucial line to a tax reminder brought in millions in extra government revenue; refocusing the questions asked at the job centre helped an extra 10% of people come off benefits and back into work; and prompting the public to become organ donors while paying their car tax added an extra 100,000 donors to the register in one year.

By applying the acronym EAST, you can nudge people into making a decision.

That’s achieved by being Easy to understand and do; seeming Attractive; being Social by getting good reviews from other people; and Timely in terms of when the message is delivered and received.

First you have to make the customer think about the action they are being asked to take and then you have to nudge them to take that step, such as calling you or clicking on a call to action button on your website.

3) Science of persuasion

In his book The Science of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini outlines six key principles that underpin persuasion in order to give your customer the best and quickest shortcut to making a decision.

They are:

a) Reciprocity – If you give something away you’re more likely to get something back. People are more likely to use you if they owe you something. If you are the first to give it away and personalise it and it’s unexpected, you’re more likely to get a return.

b) Scarcity – If people think they are going to lose something they’re more willing to pay for it. When you’re writing copy it is about the benefits and USPs, but it’s also about what people will lose if they don’t get it. For example, a discount for the first 10 responses. Only do it if it’s authentic.

c) Authority – Making something seem simple is actually a high-level of authority. It’s the amount of thinking, preparation and research that you do before you get the output. Showcase your qualifications and awards and present yourself professionally to give confidence to the customer. What makes you credible enables you to be successful. People are more likely to believe what you are giving them is credible. People believe more what someone else says than what you say, for example, from case studies, testimonials, reviews and ratings, etc. It’s a powerful carousel for customers.

d) Consistency – People like to feel as though they are consistent in their decision-making. Start by getting them to spend a little money. Be consistent in your blogging. Use a three-step process. Sell them the website first, then the blog and newsletter and finally social media content. Show them the results in traffic, leads and conversions.

e) Liking – If you are similar, give people genuine compliments and co-operate on mutual goals and you are more likely to get reward.

f) Consensus – Social proof technology. People look at what others do to decide what they’re going to do. It’s a way of getting people to do what they want to do. Point people to the bestseller. Get them to buy your products or services or get their customers to buy from them. Any shortcuts you can put on your website to help people make their decision are going to help. Use testimonials with graphic calls to action, and client lists and logos.

4) Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

American psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced the concept of a hierarchy of human needs.

Presented as triangle, essentially, it means that the most pressing need at the bottom must be satisfied before the person can move up and give their attention to the next highest need.

Each need is put into five categories:

a) Physiological – Air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing and reproduction.

b) Safety – Personal security, employment, resources, health and property.

c) Love/belonging – Friendship, intimacy, family and sense of connection.

d) Esteem – Respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength and freedom.

e) Self-actualisation – Desire to become the most that one can be.

By targeting these specific needs, you can appeal to people who may require a specific products or service that you sell.

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