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Saying Something Powerful with Signaling Theory

Posted By Jeff Sexton On January 8, 2009 @ 5:27 pm In Customer Insight,Persuasive Copywriting,Persuasive Online Copywriting | 15 Comments

[1]A couple of thoughts came to mind after reading Seth Godin’s brilliant post on “The power of smart copywriting. [2]

1) The best way to reveal the real substance (or lack thereof) of your message is to strip it down.  Remove all the wordsmithing, jargon, self-applied labels, ad-speak, etc and you’ll get down to the core message.

The process of stripping “Unlike any coffee you’ve ever had before” down to “The Best Coffee” reveals the rather empty content of a slogan that, at first blush, doesn’t sound too bad.

2) If you get down to the core message and it turns out that you’re not saying anything compelling and/or you’re making the same claim everyone else is, you will NOT be able to fix this with copywriting alone.

“Better than Starbucks” is a more powerfully worded claim than “The Best Coffee” because it evokes a definite standard and a concrete mental image.  But it’s still an unsubstantiated and un-persuasive claim.  Copywriting alone can’t fix this.

3) Just because what you’re saying is true doesn’t mean people have to believe you.  You may really have world-changing, you’ll-never-settle-for-anything-less-again coffee.  It may be true that you have “The best coffee,” but that doesn’t mean it’s anymore believable when you say it than when anyone else says it.

4) The best way to substantiate claims like this is often through Action / Signaling Theory [3].  You really believe that you’ve got the best coffee?  Prove it! Offer a free taste, put a money-back guarantee on the taste of your coffee, hold public taste-offs against all comers, etc.

There’s something very compelling about a company willing to give you a free taste on the conviction that you’ll want more.  Or to allow you to try it on the condition of a full refund.  I’ve seen it work to sell everything from frozen custard, to hamburgers, to sales training.  If you’re stuck for a way to substantiate your claims or differentiate your company, give this some consideration.


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[1] Image: http://www.grokdotcom.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/powerful-signal.jpg

[2] Seth Godin’s brilliant post on “The power of smart copywriting.: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/12/the-power-of-sm.html

[3] Signaling Theory: http://www.marketingbeyondadvertising.com/blog/2008/8/13/the-six-currencies-that-buy-credibility.html

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