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Infographic: The Ultimate List of Words that Convert

Tools and Tips

November 5, 2019

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by: Danielle Hammond

Marketing Manager at Social School

Words are powerful.

There’s a reason the expression says ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ Words have the power to alter meaning, feelings and motivation. They give context and can help make sense of difficult situations.

As marketers, we try to use as few words as possible to convey a message. We strive to evoke emotion in order to influence decision-making processes. To successfully influence our target, we must first know and understand the words that have been scientifically proven to convert readers into customers.

That being said, a list of words is just that. Context, audience and intent need to be considered when using these words. If they are thrown into content haphazardly without proper planning, these words appear ingenuine and sales-y.

David Ogilvy published a book in 1963 called “Confessions of an Advertising Man,” in which boldly lists “words and phrases which work wonders” at persuading, influencing and selling.

In addition, several studies have researched human motivation and psychological principles. Why we do what we do, and how the chemicals in our brains react if/ when a certain word or phrase is used.

Research shows that the five most persuasive words in the English language are you, because, free, new and instantly.

These words seem rather anti-climactic before understanding what, in our human nature, makes them so persuasive.

You

At the end of the day, we are all selfish beings. We want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ Personalization, like hearing your own name, makes us feel like we’re one in a million and triggers significant brain activity.

The word “you” is also important when thinking about pain points. As marketers, we want to be solving our customers’ problems. Using verbiage like “you” can help readers see themselves in a particular situation (ideally using our product or service.)

According to recent research examining brain activation, few things light us up quite like seeing our own names in print or on the screen. Our names are intrinsically tied to our self-perception and make up a massive part of our identity. No surprise then, that we become more engaged and even more trusting of a message in which our name appears.

Because

Justification. Plain and simple. It is cientifically proven that we are more likely to comply, even if the reasoning is non-sensical. Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard published a study in 1978 that put this concept under the microscope.

In short, research subjects were sent to a local copy store (remember those?) three times and given a task and new sentence each time.

  • The first sentence, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

  • Second time, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”

  • And the third time, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

The study focused on other customers’ compliance with the request.

  • First sentence, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

    • 60% compliance

  • Second time, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?”

    • 93% compliance

  • And the third time, “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”

    • 94% compliance

Simply using the word “because” elicited significantly higher compliance with the request. As previously stated, the reasoning doesn’t necessarily have to make sense, “because I have to make copies.” Obviously! We all do, that’s why we’re standing in line. Alas, the customers complied with the request.

Whatever the logic, giving people a reason to take a certain action has nearly 30% more potential than not saying anything at all.

Free

No matter how much money you have, the word “free” will still make you feel like you’re the king/ queen of the world. Free things can make us push aside our quality product expectations, (ie: This water bottle is terrible and leaks in my gym bag – but it was free, so whatever.)

There are some caveats while using the word “free,” however.

  1. Giving away “free” stuff can be detrimental, as it will likely attract bargain hunters, rather than your golden die-hard tribe that will stick around for the long-haul.

  2. Giving away “free” things too often can potentially devalue your product or service.

New

We. love. new. We all want to be the first to do/ find something. How many people have told you they found Justin Bieber on YouTube before he was famous? We are all searching for something new that will get us the recognition we so crave.

Note: Don’t produce new products or services for the heck of it. If you have a loyal target market, changing anything too drastically could have the opposite desired effect and push them away. Rather, fix old problems with new solutions or add new features and designs.

Instantly

We are living in a world of ‘now.’ Instant messaging, instant experience, Instant Pot, instant gaming. We want our communications, cooking and experiences to be immediate. With the development of technology, we are being trained to want things.. well… yesterday.

The current human attention span is 8 seconds, which is now shorter than a goldfish, and has declined drastically in recent years. We can’t wait more than 4 seconds for a website to load before we get frustrated, we want our Uber driver to be at our door as soon as we click the button and we want to see progress in our tasks immediately, or else it doesn’t feel ‘worth it.’

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