5 Ways For Writers to Make More Money
Make Money on Kindle: $345,000 in 5 Months?
Neuromarketing: Social Proofing on Landing Pages (Part 1)

5 Ways For Writers to Make More Money

They say when hiring, you get what you pay for.

Offer peanuts, you’ll get monkeys.

While this is true from a managerial perspective, it’s also valid for freelance writers.

If you write like a monkey, you better get used to peanuts.

Before I moved in to affiliate marketing, I was a prolific freelance writer who tore through 50,000 to 75,000 words per month.

I learnt several tricks of the trade, including the near universal habit of stretching 250 words in to 3 pages of dross. Like many, my output was shaped by webmasters who cared only for keyword density and having the longest How To guide on Google.

If you’ve ever taken on a writing project driven by volume, or a dissertation with a lofty word count, you know how to say less with more. It’s your blood.

Well, I have a brand new problem.

My work now requires that I hire writers.

Many of my writers simply haven’t been very good, for which I take full responsibility as the donut hiring them. You do get monkeys.

A bad writer doesn’t bother me. A lazy writer does.

Lazy writers who have the talent, but lack a high regard for their work, leave me wanting to gouge out my eyes with a rusty steak knife.

They could be making so much money, we could be making so much money.

Here’s how we both make more money:

1. Get to the point, always.

A lazy writer, when handed a topic, will find 3 or 4 interesting points and wrap them in lines of setup prose.

Don’t wrap what you want to say in fluff to meet a word count.

Take this passage I was handed:

If you’re still not sure when to get a divorce, then there are a couple signs that you may consider looking into so that you can ensure that your marriage isn’t something that you can save. One of the first signs that may help you as a husband to finally figure out whether to get a divorce or not is to simply look at your sex life. If you’re not having sex as much as you did in the past, or if the sex you’re having doesn’t feel the same, then maybe your relationship with your wife isn’t the way it was in the past.

That’s 105 words. What a little scamp.

I paid his fee, then set about editing it:

If your sex life is a distant memory, or a forgettable blur, your marriage may be tough to save.

19 words that cut to the chase.

I understand why capable writers rely on setup prose. It is a useful tool in academia where students are schooled to say much about nothing.

Unfortunately, it does not sell.

And it reads like a fist in the balls.

2. Find the right voice.

Read this piece I wrote for ProBlogger on finding your voice. Now ask the hiring manager, “Who am I writing as?

Here’s another passage from the same divorce article:

I personally think that the moment you’re being suffocated by your wife for absolutely no reason, that is when you should get out and leave her. However, you need to look at the things you will lose when you get a divorce and determine whether the advantages of getting a divorce outweighs the advantages of leaving your wife.

You personally think?

Of course you personally think! You wrote it.

Hiring managers can save a lot of time by addressing the voice of the copy.

  • Who is speaking?
  • What is his position?
  • Is he neutral?

A writer can make a lot of money by understanding the above.

There are times to be creative. But in choosing the voice of the copy, creativity is suicide. Mixing your voices is treason.

3. Up the pace.

Many of the web’s top blogs use high tempo content. They read fast.

Social Triggers by Derek Halpern is one of my favourite examples.

Look at his writing structure:

Social triggers

It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s effective for an audience with little time to spare.

Compare it to this piece I was handed:

boring writing

You don’t even need to see the content.

Those blocky paragraphs give the game away; somebody has been paid to write this. But you’d have to pay me to read it.

Chances are, if you are hired to write, you are also hired to sell.

Up the pace, trim the fat. You will retain readership and sell more.

4. Adverbs.

Until you know how to use them, don’t use them.

5. Never say more than you have to.

In Wartime Britain, Winston Churchill had little time to spare.

He despised wooly phrasing and would return reports that took up more than a single side of paper. His memorandums became as infamous as the rollocking that followed them:

Pray let me know by 4PM today on one sheet of paper…

Here’s a memo circulated by Churchill in 1940:

Churchill on brevity

The irony for writers is that projects routinely come with word counts, and essays with page requirements. Quantity is seen as a virtue.

You should not be disheartened by this.

The web is changing and a premium is emerging for writers who are capable of advancing a brand and engaging the audience. If you write an excellent 400 word piece and a blind fool turns it back for lack of padding, save the file and keep it handy.

You’ll sell it for twice as much to somebody who gets the price of quality.

A student taking a philosophy class once had a single question in his exam:

What is courage?

While the rest of the class splurged their souls in to essays, he wrote one word:


He took top marks, and promptly became a hero for anybody who gave a shit about brevity.

If this style sounds familiar to you, please get in touch. I’d be interested in using your writing.

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Make Money on Kindle: $345,000 in 5 Months?

About a year ago, I traded my overflowing bookshelf for an Amazon Kindle.

After charging the tablet for the first time, I felt a pang of guilt. Digital seems dirty for a traditionalist, but only for about 17 seconds. It then becomes a marriage of convenience.

I’ve always loved the feel and smell of fresh books.

I could spend an entire afternoon in Waterstones pawing my germs across the Marketing section. I still do, but only in the name of Showrooming.

When it comes to making a purchase? I usually land on Amazon, combing for rarities and loading up my Kindle with enough material to completely zone out and forget about London’s Central Line.

I am not the only one.

Book sales are shifting from print to digital at a frightening rate.

In August 2012, Amazon revealed that for every 100 hardbacks and paperbacks sold through their site, customers were downloading 114 ebooks. That was just two years after the introduction of the Kindle. Where might the publishing industry be in 2015?

Online, is the answer you’re looking for.

The Rise of the Ebook

A few years ago, if you told people that you had an ebook for sale, you would notice their claws sharpening in a reflex motion.

Ebooks were associated with Clickbank sales letters and products of the lowest calibre. If you had a secret to sell, or a magic formula to peddle, it belonged in an ebook.

Most reputable authors did not touch the format for fear of cheapening their art, but us Internet Marketers? We loved it.

Here’s why:

Make money from ebooks

Yes, before selling ebooks became artistically acceptable (or even widely accessible), it was all about making money.

The arrival of the Kindle, paired with the boom in tablet sales, has seen a revolution in how we consume the written word; from newspapers to novels, from University textbooks to Nuts magazine (all 14 words of it).

The ebook is no longer a vehicle for novelty products. It is the only format that makes your writing available to all corners of the world in the click of a button. That is powerful. Selling digitally cuts so many costs that, inevitably, the print book will soon become a novelty.

Showrooming has become epidemic. The High Street can no longer cope with bastards like me flicking through the shelves with a camera in one hand, and a laptop in the other.

They say that the consumer is ‘always right’. While I will admit that he doesn’t have to be such an arse about it, there is good reason why we showroom and then buy online:

Better selection, cheaper prices, user feedback, and so on…

What does this mean for marketers and writers? It means that the publishing industry is now fair game for the little man. Once protected by agents and publishers, anybody who can slap their keyboards for long enough can now come away with a bestselling hit.

Just ask E. L. James.

Kindle for Writers… and Marketers

What is it that makes the Amazon Marketplace such a lucrative honeytrap for writers and marketers alike?

Well, firstly, it’s the built-in audience.

Even for the lucky few writers who score publishing deals, the biggest challenge has always been marketing their work. How do you get book sales when your prized masterpiece is hidden behind four crates of Fifty Shades in a dark, forgotten corner of the shop?

Selling on Amazon evens the playing field considerably. Not only can we optimise our work to leap ahead in the queue, but we can get that work in to the hands of millions of customers who would never usually find it.

If you are a writer sitting on an ‘almost’ finished manuscript, perhaps one that has been gathering dust since 1997, there has never been a better time to drag your work over the finishing line. Once you’ve uploaded your file to Amazon, it is available to buy within 12 hours. All around the world.

While writing is my passion, marketing is my day job. As a marketing platform, the Kindle represents a unique opportunity to grow an audience while funnelling traffic through to your website. One of the most interesting hooks of selling on Amazon is the opportunity to enrol your work in the KDP Select program.

By joining KDP Select, you can make any of your books freely available for a maximum period of 5 days out of 90. You might be wondering, “What is the purpose of giving away my hard work for free? I slaved balls to the walls for some sales!

There are two main benefits:

  • Instant exposure – In my most recent trial run on a Non-Fiction Self-Help title, I made the book free for 2 days and it received over 1600 downloads. For an extremely niche title, this was more than I expected.

  • Free downloads affect the charts – Amazon doesn’t care whether your book was downloaded for free when it compiles the bestseller lists. Free copies means early momentum, and user reviews…

Once you get your books in to users’ hands, there’s also the chance of having the title appear in ‘Customers who liked this…‘ lists, which are invaluable for promotion if a user wouldn’t necessarily search out your title.

So, marketers, let’s say you have a website for a weight loss regime. You want to promote the course that goes with it, and you intend to use a mailing list to drive the sales.

Where do you start?

On one hand, you could invest a fortune in to paid advertising campaigns (the quickest and fastest way to gain traction, but usually the most expensive). Likewise, you could troll your own sanity by trying to crack Google for weight loss terms.

But what if you condensed some of the key points behind the course, repackaged it in to an ebook for the Kindle, and then gave it away for free on Amazon? You can use your ebook to deliver a cocktail of valuable tips, plus a subtle sales pitch for your further products.

Many titles are capable of scoring thousands of free downloads in their promotion days. This is music to the ears of a canny marketer. You don’t have to do anything to get your message out there. The audience devours it willingly.

While the money you make from Amazon on non-promotion days is unlikely to set your wallet on fire, it is a fantastic platform for getting your message in to the right hands.

Even once your 5 free promotion days are over (after 90 days, you receive 5 more), you can lowball the product at a measly $0.99 and attract an endless stream of spontaneous buys that would never have otherwise found your brand.

Note on royalties: Amazon uses a tiered royalty system. Ebooks priced below $2.99 earn a 35% royalty, while those priced over receive 70%. A book priced $0.99 will net you a $0.35 royalty, while a book priced $2.99 will get you $2.09.

How to Get Published on Amazon

It’s easy to get published on Amazon. The first step is to sign up on the Direct Publishing platform.

Once you’ve got an account, you are free to load your bookshelf with as many titles as you can muster from that abandoned folder marked ‘To Sort‘ on your desktop. (Speaking from experience here, but I’m sure many of you can relate…)

When you add a book to Amazon, you’ll be asked to provide the title, a description, the categories and some keywords to target.

  • The title – Self explanatory. Aim for clickbait with the name of your book. It needs to attract eyeballs. Check out this great resource from Copyblogger on how to create magnetic headlines. Much of the same logic applies.

  • The description – Your description is designed to read like a good blurb. It should draw readers in to what your book offers, without giving away the secret sauce (if you have any!). The description is also a great place to air testimonials and social proofing. For a new writer with a >$0.99 price point, these are deal clinchers.

  • Categories – You can only choose two, so choose wisely. Spend time researching similar books on Amazon to get a feel for where your book belongs.

  • Keywords – If a user was searching for the information/advice that is available in your book, what would that search term be? This should come naturally to SEOs.

After filling out your book’s details, you will be asked to submit a cover art. Now here’s where even the best writer has been known to get his panties in a twist.

Cover art is important. It’s more important than the 150 hours you spent crafting a masterpiece.


Because nobody is going to read a title that receives its final blessing from MS Paint at 4 ‘o clock in the morning.

Your book needs to stand out from the Amazon listings, which means studying two key variables:

  1. What colour is the eye attracted to?
  2. What typeface is easiest to read?

Choosing a colour requires that you explore the existing books in your target market and find a nice combination that stands out from the pack (whilst avoiding garish mutilations of yellow, green, sparkles and polka dots)

My advice for the typeface is to keep it simple. I don’t care if you’ve written a gothic horror thriller, or a Jimmy Savile memoir, Arial/Times beats splatters of blood where text is concerned. Here are some excellent pointers on designing your ebook cover.

I feel guilty for tempting you with a ‘How To’ guide where cover art is concerned. In nearly all cases, you will be better served outsourcing to a professional (or amateur) designer who is experienced in Photoshop.

I’ve read that it costs hundreds of dollars to get a good cover art. That’s BS. Try five bucks on Fiverr. You might not get a work of art, but you’ll beat your own MS Paint massacre.

Note: For a checklist of cover art requirements, see this article on KDP.

Once you’ve uploaded your work (remember to check it for errors, typos and all-round format butchery in the Kindle Preview tool), the only thing left to do is set your pricing.

This works on a per region basis. If you really wanted to be awkward, you could charge $0.99 in the United States while asking UK users to fork over £10. I generally don’t recommend being awkward. It is worth experimenting with a slightly lower price point in the developing nations though (Brazil, India etc).

How to Sell 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months

Back in June 2011, John Locke became the first self-published author to break 1 million ebook sales on Amazon. He did so in the space of 5 months by selling an ebook every 7 seconds.

Pow, pow. That’s fast.

Locke’s strategy involves pricing low (usually at $0.99), marketing well, and relying on the strength of his back-catalogue to deliver volume of sales.

It’s well established that one of the best ways to break in to the Kindle market (especially writing fiction), is to have a series. You can then give away the first book for free, whilst driving your new readership to the rest of the series. If you are a good writer, a reader will pay $0.99 for your additional work. It’s a spontaneous buy.

“I put (the most famous authors in the world) in the position of having to prove their books were ten times better than mine”
John Locke in the Telegraph on his pricing model

It’s a powerful strategy, and a dangerous one for the print publishing houses. They simply cannot compete in the basement bins with popular authors.

I often joke with my fiancée that I should write a bondage-themed vampire chic thriller, then call the main characters Kristan and Robart and be done with it. I joke, but then I think… maybe I really should.

There is huge potential on the Kindle for any writer with the self-discipline to get a series finished, particularly those with a marketing background and an eye for hot trends.

Through Fifty Shades, we have already seen that you don’t need to be a great writer to sell books. You need only have one eye for public sentiment, and another for good timing.

It is worth noting that selling 1 million ebooks, like John Locke, is no guarantee that you will become a millionaire. His books are mainly priced at $0.99, which means 1 million sales is only going to produce royalty revenue of $350,000.

That’s not small change, but it’s quite an underwhelming return for such a huge turnover of units. As marketers, we hope that selling a million of anything will be enough to make us millionaires.

Then again, these numbers were achieved in the space of 5 months during the first year of the Kindle boom. I’m sure there is no shortage of dinner on Locke’s table.

My Thoughts on Kindle

I am still experimenting with how to get the most out of the Amazon platform. Here are a few tips based on what I have learnt so far:

1. Learn to hoard social proofing

Affiliate readers of this blog will know only too well that social proofing sells. It cuts through decision fatigue like a knife through butter. If you can get an authority figure (or a relatable figure) to leave positive praise for your work, it might just be the dealmaker that persuades fence-sitters to buy. Use any public acclaim in your book’s description.

2. Promote every book with a mini-site

Amazon has a huge built-in audience, but we should be aware of the dangers in becoming platform-dependent. You don’t want your entire business to hinge on an Amazon product listing.

I recommend that for every ebook you publish, you should also create a standalone website complete with Facebook, Twitter and testimonials.

A great example of a mini-site that pimps its book well is this awesome effort from MJ Demarco, author of The Millionaire Fastlane.

Millionaire Fastlane book minisite

Now, that is how you build a platform for your audience. Buy his book, too. The second half is an inspiring read.

Note: If you are selling your product via Kindle, tell the reader so! The Kindle’s little ‘Click to look inside’ icon is an established visual cue that builds trust on the back of the Amazon brand.

3. Use pen names

From what we know about ‘return buyers’, it may seem counter-productive to use different pen names for your books. If a user likes one book and searches for more from the author, does it not make sense to have ALL of your work available to buy?

In my opinion, hell no.

I use various pen names for the different genres I write in.

If you are a non-fiction writer, readers expect you to be an authority in your field. So it makes sense that you would publish all of your neuroscience ebooks under one pen name, instead of blurring your perceived authority by also having chick lit, conspiracy theories and sci-fi available to download.

If you are going to cover multiple genres, you need to either:

a) Brand yourself like a Kardashian
b) Develop multiple pen names and brand them individually

Showcasing a diverse hodgepodge of amateur expertise under one name is not recommended.

4. Use social media but don’t be an arse about it

I’ve read a bunch of advice on how to use Twitter and Facebook to skyrocket your book sales. One of the worst tips I’ve seen is that you should schedule publicity tweets throughout the day in the hope that people will click through to buy your work.

This is stupid advice. Stupidly stupid.

It’s robotic, it’s soulless and it’s damn near ineffective for those of us without a million followers on Twitter.

Promoting your work on Twitter and Facebook can be very effective, but only if you take the time to embrace a two-way conversation. Posting link after link after link on auto-pilot is a primitive use of social media that should have expired 3 years ago, it’s akin to the boo boos of a content marketing moron.

Your audience does not want to be dictated to, especially with pleads of “Buy my new book! Buy my new book!” every 4 hours.

Social media: the clue is in the name.

By all means, tell the world about your new work. Just learn when to shut your cake hole.

5. Premium bitesize content is going to explode

One of the most exciting aspects of the Amazon platform – and the low pricing strategy – is that it opens the door for a new kind of ‘bitesize content’.

Think items like:

  • Reports
  • Whitepapers
  • Niche ‘How To’ guides
  • Short stories

These are formats that the publishing industry has typically shied away from. It doesn’t make sense to publish bitesize content on a grand scale in print form, but online distribution is a game changer.

Now that we can monetize small pieces of content at a low price to a very large audience, there is a whole new frontier of premium content just waiting to be explored.

The customers are willing to buy. Are you willing to create?

Final Thoughts

The current surge in ebook sales is not going to slow down anytime soon. This is a booming trend, and it is there for the taking.

By tapping in to the Amazon marketplace, you can leverage a huge audience that has scaling potential by the bucketload.

I’ve set myself a target of selling 200,000 ebooks this year. That’s a lot of sales, and there’s a long way to go, but I’m confident I’ll get there. I then hope to use the sales as a launch pad for a traditional book deal, which is a different beast altogether.

Are you looking to crack Amazon? Have you made it a part of your marketing strategy?

Neuromarketing: Social Proofing on Landing Pages (Part 1)

Neuromarketing is one of those buzz terms used to describe a recent infatuation with new technology. It’s promise is simple. Consumers make buying decisions based on unconscious factors that are out of their control.

The purpose of neuromarketing is to anticipate unconscious reactions and provide the ultimate sales platform: an emotional and logical boot in the direction of your checkout cart.

It is a study driven by the emerging field of neuro web design.

When I look at the challenges facing web designers in 2012, I’m grateful that I never made a career out of it.

I still remember when web design was the bastard child of HTML and Geocities.

Life was simple, hosting was expensive.

Geocities interface

The good old days, where hosting cost a kidney…

A decade has passed and still I have nightmares over my first website. It included football results, Angelina Jolie’s tits and the musings of my adolescence. Oh, and a guestbook.

The site was hosted by Freeserve with a CJB.NET domain. I thought it was the coolest shit ever. And so I vowed to become a web designer. Somehow I succeeded, for about 3 years.

Web development back then was simple. You learnt HTML, CSS and a programming language if you were feeling ambitious.

My, haven’t the times changed?

Just look at the new factors a designer must consider:

  • Usability
  • Accessibility
  • Search engine optimisation
  • Conversion optimisation
  • Load times
  • Bounce rates
  • Subscription rates
  • Sales

Perhaps the biggest headache of all is the emergence of neuro web design.

Designers are expected to cater visual aesthetics for unconscious decisions that the user doesn’t even know he’s making. Of course, the very best designers don’t need to be told. It’s an innate talent, their intuition.

Well, I am not a very good designer. And chances are, neither are you.

When I design a landing page, I want it to be powerful. I want it to drum my desired action in to the user’s head. And if there are ways to do this subconsciously, through neuromarketing, then I am all for getting my hands dirty.

I crave the blueprints to the ultimate ‘Venus Flytrap‘ Landing Page. The kind of sales pitch that gobbles you up whole, then spits you out minus your wallet.

This post (the first in a series) is as far as I have come in the quest for that landing page.

Some of the tips may seem like the hallmarks of a scumbag. Which is exactly what they are. Use them at your own discretion.

Social Proofing

You may protest that you don’t care what others think when making a purchase, but you do. It’s natural, and it’s healthy. I’ll go one step further. It’s evolution.

When we want to know how to behave, or how to act appropriately, we look to the crowd. If the crowd is glowing with praise, we are more inclined to look favourably on a product or service. If the crowd is standing still, or absent altogether, we are reluctant to make the first move.

Social proofing rule #1: Show the ball rolling. Whatever action you want the user to perform, make it clear that the action has been performed many times before.

Social proofing on the web comes in the form of reviews, testimonials and sharing metrics.

A hefty segment of the Fiverr ecosystem is built around webmasters like you and I trying to ‘seed’ their assets with fake fans, fake followers and fake comments. Why? It’s not for the sales. It’s for the implication to other real users that “Hey, Sherlock. There’s something going down over here worth knowing about.

Attempts at social proofing can be rather uninspiring. And that is a massive danger. Consumers are not stupid!

For social proofing to be effective, it has to skip by the conscious mind without a red flag being raised.

When might a red flag be raised? How about when you view a product on Amazon and the only review is 5 stars from a contributor with the same name as the author? If this is your marketing plan, forget it. You’ll get better publicity by trapping your head in a bin and phoning the Gazette.

Social proofing rule #2: Look authentic. A hundred 5 star reviews from family and friends is much less authentic than a handful of ‘positively mixed’ reviews. Here’s something I tell people all the time: the most powerful testimonials in the world are those that address a minor weakness wrapped lovingly in glowing praise. The presence of the minor weakness acts as a decoy for any major weakness that could kill the sale. Be the one to choose your product’s perceived weakness (and then fix the real issue, duh!).

If you’re going to use a testimonial (or a dodgy review), seek one that tells a story.

A study conducted by Peter de Vries in 2007 found that while products with positive reviews yield a 20% better return than those with no reviews, the most effective reviews are those told as stories with a photo of the individual concerned.

A good testimonial will reveal background information, a relatable character (preferably with a photo) and, of course, a desired outcome. Testimonials that allow the reader to substitute himself in to the story are by far the most effective. Think about this before you add a throwaway one-liner to your page. Detail catches the worm.

Relate to the world they know.

Affiliate marketers are aware that one of the best ways to ramp up the effectiveness of a testimonial is to play a geographical mindfuck on the unsuspecting reader.

“Glowing testimonial of awesomeness, lorem ipsum. Your product saved my life!”
– John Doe, The User’s Town Here

There are many geo-detection scripts that can do this, with varying degrees of efficiency. One of the more popular tools is Maxmind.

There’s a catch.

Geodetection works a lot better in America than it does anywhere else in the world. The United States is scattered and sparsely populated in comparison to Europe. When I view a page with the Maxmind script, it refers to my current location as Barnet.

The distance between Barnet and Ruislip, my hometown, is only 13.3 miles. An accuracy window of 13 miles is likely to produce targeted advertising in America (or most of it). However, in London?

13.3 miles is the difference between China Town, Chelsea and the Queen’s palace. Actually, that’s about 1 mile.

Is it ethical to manipulate users with an illusion of locality? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Social proofing rule #3: Get location specific, but only if the technology allows it. You don’t want an IP database billing you as Oxford’s Favourite Boat Manufacturer if your user is browsing from Cambridge.

Sharing is caring

Another popular form of social proofing is sharing metrics. You see them used, you’re aware of the potential abuse, but the anchor of perceived super-popularity is difficult to shake.

Mashable content draped in a thousand retweets somehow seems more valid than a forgotten essay from a university professor. And even if you can spot the human failure in this snap judgment, we both know which article you are more likely to read.

Social triggering

These social metrics create an illusion of popularity that will form the basis of your own opinion

Social proofing rule #4: Never share that nobody cares! If you are worried that people won’t share your sales pitch, you are probably right. It’s a social faux-pas. So include a separate page with ‘How to’ content. Aim to get this shared, then integrate it with the sales page. Never place sharing metrics on your sales page if the counters are set to zero. You are shooting yourself in the balls.

In the affiliate world, social sharing metrics are already being exploited. I’ve encountered dozens of ‘fake blogs’ where the content has been liked by 1000s of users. The Like counter is either forged as a JPG, or iFramed in from a genuine page.

As murky as the tactic is, it’s a symptom of a greater problem. Getting real customers to share and like your landing pages is not easy. In some verticals, the prospect sends a shiver down my spine.

Joe Bloggs is never going to publicise his fascination for ‘Fat Local Slags’ on Facebook. The gigantic elephant in the room is that many of the products we sell are not destined to be passed around and glorified virally.

I would suggest that different social metrics need to be used.

One of my favourite techniques combines social proofing with scarcity and a time constraint.

“There are currently [17] people viewing today’s offer.”
“[654] people have signed up since October 1st.”
“We have exceeded our capacity! The offer ends in X.”

If you’re too late, don’t worry. We’ll be reopening our doors in December.

It’s aggressive, bruising and you will no doubt lose a few fans. But you will sell.

The final line is a tribute to one of the most successful ad writers in history.

Colleen Szot has made a career out of badgering Americans in to parting with their credit cards. An infomercial legend, she has sold over $10 billion in merchandise. Her power to relate to the couch potato is second to none.

Perhaps Szot’s greatest stroke of genius – and certainly the most famous – was a subtle wording change in one of her scripts. The television producers could barely lift their jaws from the floor when half of America jammed the phone lines, as if pulled by puppet strings.

When we aim to increase sales, we tend to look outward. We look for celebrity endorsements, glowing testimonials. We add to the hard-sell in our copy. Szot noted something much smaller, much easier to fix.

She changed three words and shattered a home shopping sales record that had stood for 20 years.

Want to know what she changed?

Version 1: Operators are waiting, please call now.
Version 2: If operators are busy, please call again.


I can’t recall a better testimonial for the power of social proof.

Social proofing rule #5: The smallest change can produce the most remarkable returns. Especially when they are directed at the unconscious mind. Scrutinise every last pixel of your landing page to ensure that it’s projecting the right message.

Check back next week for Part 2 in this Neuromarketing Series. Subscribe to my RSS here.

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