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Rev Up Your Writing

There's an easy answer to the question you are asking ("What's the Number One Secret to increasing my conversion rate?"): sell more to the people who have already bought from you. Establish relationships with your customers, create loyalty, inspire trust, encourage viral marketing. You plant the seed through the effectiveness of your conversion system - principally in your website's ability to go beyond merely satisfying your customers to delighting them.

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"What a wonderful site! You know how to put the powerful academic principles of marketing and sales into practical language. A great asset for getting past the current day hype in marketing."
Professor Allen Weiss
, Marketingprofs.com

But you must sustain and nurture that relationship through the use of powerful words. You gotta know by now that I believe a word is worth a thousand pictures! Relationships are built through communication - your website's copy, your automated email responses, your email marketing campaigns. You won't woo your customers with drabness; you'll woo them with skillful wordsmithing that penetrates their souls, captures their attention and speaks to them.

Roy Williams, editor of the profoundly enjoyable Accidental Magic, provides valuable strategies for creating memorable copy. Their purpose is to "surprise Broca" - to nudge that part of the human brain (Broca's Area) that makes comprehensible order of input (see A Pair of Ears Beats a Pair of Eyes). "[The reader] uses Broca to anticipate and discount the predictable." In other words, if humans read exactly what they expect to read, it doesn't impress them - it doesn't capture their attention. "To gain Broca's smiling approval and win the attention of the reader … you must electrify Broca with the thrill of the unexpected."i

So how do you surprise Broca? Here are some of Roy's magical techniques.

“If you will illuminate the mind, win the heart, inspire the public, and change the world, steal a few moments each day to quietly walk the path of poetry.”ii Roy suggests, when we seek to persuade effectively, we should communicate a new perspective in an economy of words… and who does this better than the poet? "Poetry … is about unusual combinations of unpredictable words that surprise Broca… gain the voluntary attention of the [reader and persuade him to feel the way we want him to feel]. It is about transferring a new perspective."iii

Frosting, after Robert Frost, is one of the simplest techniques you can tackle to bring light and life to otherwise dull writing. Take what you have written, "and without changing the message structurally, replace all the common, predictable phrases with unexpected, interesting ones."iv Make word combinations that bring very bright, vivid and unforgettable images to mind. Go on … dare to be creative!

Why say:

"All of us commoners" (a defrosted version of what follows)

when you could say:

"We people on the pavement" (from "Richard Cory")

Franking, derived from the photographic style of Robert Frank, requires you to select your details sparingly and use them suggestively rather than blatantly. The critical element in Franking is to choose an unexpected perspective from which you reveal your message, an angle that puts your reader directly in the scene. When photographing an opera, Frank eschewed the conventional "photo op" locations and took his pictures from the orchestra pit! As the viewer, you are drawn into the thick of the experience and presented with a far more compelling interpretation of a predictable event that engages your interest and excites your imagination. So what intriguing vantage points can you come up with?

Seussing, named for the mischievous and whimsical Dr. Seuss, surprises Broca by demanding first the attention of the illogical, nonjudgmental right brain before conquering the rational left hemisphere of the brain. It emphasizes verbs over nouns and adjectives (see Pump Up Your Verbs) and uses unofficial, fanciful words - the reader instinctively knows their meaning, even though he has never heard them before. It's not to be over-used, "like pepper sauce … a tiny bit adds zip to even the blandest of dishes."v But used judiciously, it can make your copy leap off the page and settle delightfully in your prospect's brain.

Why say:

Are you actively utilizing Brainbench?

when you could say:

Are you Brainbenching yet?vi

Other structural suggestions for creating evocative copy include crafting strong opening and closing mental images, excising all the black words - those that contribute nothing to the imagery - from your writing, and never telling your reader something she already knows or can figure out for herself. There's Frameline Magnetism and Being Monet. But I'll let you learn about these from Roy's book. Check it out … I promise you'll find it unlike any other business book out there. Talk about surprising Broca!


i Accidental Magic. Roy Williams. Bard Press, 2001.

ii Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads. Roy Williams. Bard Press, 1999.

iii Accidental Magic.

iv Accidental Magic.

v Accidental Magic.

vi An example of Seussing Future Now suggested for its client, Brainbench.


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P.S. The next issue of GrokDotCom will be published 1/3/2002.


I am Grok
Grok I am
I do not like Green Eggs and Ham
(But I LOVE Dr. Seuss!)

My friend Lisa showed me a Dr. Seuss book the other day. Wow! The guy (Theodor S Geisel, aka Dr Seuss, and inventor of the word ‘nerd’) was a genius for communicating powerful principles in a fanciful, fun, toe-tapping way. Got me groovin' around the kitchen table trying to imagine what he'd have to say about lots of those web businesses out there. You can guess what happened next, right?

One link two link, red link blue link,
Oh my gosh here comes a new link.
This click that click, here click there click
Huh? click HELP! click Who knows where click?
New rules new day, how you must play.
Who say? You say! I squeal "Oy-vey!"

Shockwave, Flash until I drop
When all I want to do is shop,
And when I decide this is absurd
I stumble across help written by a nerd.
My brain must not be made like yours;
Perhaps I shop the wrong web stores.
Sorry guys, I did my best
To pass your little website test.
I sought to find a rocking horse
And wound up in an obstacle course.

I'm gibbly-eyed, my brain is fried
And heaven knows how hard I tried
But cannot find the thing I seek.
I could not find it in a week.
All I want to do is buy,
Yet the chaos only makes me cry,
"I do not like this mahoooky stuff
I think I've had more than enough."
I do not like this Internet,
This Internet I do not get.
So to my real-world car I'm bound;
I’ll search on terra-firmer ground.
Hey … what's with the tomatoes? Okay, so Dr. Seuss I'm not. But you get the lesson, right? (chuckle)



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They'll appreciate it.

GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledge and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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The Grok his esteemed self will choose a winner randomly every month for the next 6 months from the list of equally esteemed GrokDotCom subscribers. He then will notify his personal friend, Nick Usborne, who will inscribe your copy of the book and send it to you personally. Good luck!