The relationship between copy and psychology has always been clear-cut. 

Changing as little as one word has been said to improve conversion rates by as much as 161%. 

In the context of high-converting CTAs, we are told to remove all barriers, use action-orientated language, and make it as easy and seamless as possible to make the user click that button. The basic criteria tend to remain somewhat the same.  

It’s not that we, as humans, are predictable (that would certainly make the life of a marketer a whole lot easier), it’s just that our cognitive decisions are so intrinsically linked to language, that one tiny word can trigger an entirely new thought pattern. If anything, we’re worryingly volatile.

As a copywriter, how do you make the best linguistic decisions to generate the responses we want from our prospects?

In B2B, it’s often more complicated than the colour of the button (although this can have an astounding impact).

Recently, I rediscovered my love of TED Talks, and I happened to stumble upon this brilliant talk by neuroscientist Tali Sharot. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript here.

Sharot looks at the key motivators in changing human habit and behaviour and why so many industries fail when employing scare tactics and warnings to encourage behavioural change. Think about graphic images on cigarette packets, for example, which were said to have little to no impact on smokers quitting. Science has actually proven that warnings have a very limited impact on behaviour.

Sharot is a well-known advocate of optimism as a behavioural motivator and explains that threats and warnings simply do not generate the same results as promising and positive rewards.

Think of it this way: rather than telling a curious adolescent, “Smoking will give you brown teeth and lung cancer!”, something along the lines of “If you give up smoking, you’ll be able to perform better at sports” would be far more effective. 

I thought about how this concept can be applied to conversion copy.

So many B2B services are contingent on a long-term relationship with the supplier and a commitment to the product. Results are rarely immediate, and often the results lie on the other side of a big financial ‘threat’. But landing pages are a perfect opportunity for the marketer to list the immediate ways in which they can remove the prospect’s ‘pain points’ - the entire reason they’ve landed on your page. 

Similarly, Sharat advises on the role of social incentives (or social proof, as we also know it), and how people are more likely to act in a compliant manner.  

She uses an example from the British government: how after employing this principle in a tax collection letter, they saw an enhanced compliance within the group of 15%. This was all down to one sentence: “Nine out of ten people in Britain pay their taxes on time.” That sentence is said to have brought more than £5.6 billion into the British government. 

Simply put, people are more likely to conform to a behaviour when they see how other people (competitors benefitting from your product, perhaps) are acting. 

This subject is widely explored within the copywriting world. So I’ll leave you with this as food for thought - is optimism an effective avenue for optimising your conversions? 

It could well be a good starting point. 

Ultimately, a basic understanding of human psychology is essential if you are to discerningly construct copy that converts. 

You can watch Sharat’s other TED Talk, ’The Optimism Bias’ here.