4 Psychological Hacks to Improve Your Copywriting

5 minute read

Upland Admin

If you’re looking to improve the impact of your content marketing, you need to understand the power of behavioral psychology.

These four copywriting techniques are designed to improve communication between brand and customer. They harness the quirks and idiosyncrasies of our unconscious minds, in order to remove some of the typical barriers to engagement that limit your sales and marketing.

1. The Serial Position Effect

Bullet-point lists allow you to communicate key features and benefits in an immediately accessible way, working with your reader’s fleeting attention span while still getting your message across.

However, not all bullet points are created equal. In a list of three or more items, readers are drawn to the first and last points—relegating middle-of-the-list items to obscurity. This is known as the Serial Position Effect: your brain’s subconscious decision to prioritize the first and last pieces of information you read, often at the expense of other list items.

Thankfully, you can use this psychological quirk to your advantage. Whenever you write a list, make sure to prioritize its contents. Place the items that promote a desired action, or your own business, in first and last position. Highlight the most crucial parts of your copy and maximize the chances of your reader remembering your words of wisdom.

Serial Position Effect: the brain’s prioritization of the first and last pieces of information you read

2. The Power of the P.S.

The postscript (P.S.) is the last element of any content you create, and the final part of your copy that readers will engage with. It’s an eye-catching oddity at the end of your pitch, and thanks to the Serial Position Effect, it can be leveraged to great success in content marketing.

Whether you’re writing a case study or a sales email, use a postscript to promote your most important call to action (CTA) at the very end of your copy. Your reader is about to click away from the email—by adding a CTA with a direct link to a landing page, you can use the P.S. to turn a bounce into a conversion.

Use a postscript to promote your most important call to action (CTA) at the very end of your copy.

3. The Illusory Truth Effect

Our everyday lives are filled with competing marketing messages. If we tried to assess the validity of each of these claims, we’d be too busy to make any decisions.

To combat this, our brain is hardwired to use shortcuts in the decision-making process. Instead of performing intensive research and comparing every facet of competing products, we’ll turn to the judgments of other people. This is known as social proof.

Social proof is no secret—most businesses already leverage testimonials or reviews to endorse their products. Crucially though, social proof isn’t the only shortcut our brains take when making a decision.

The more we hear or read a statement, the more inclined we are to believe it, even when it’s being repeated by a single person or business. This is known as the Illusory Truth Effect: the subconscious idea that repetition is correlated with accuracy.

By writing copy that repeats particular claims, like “the most popular SaaS product” or “the B2B marketer’s favorite SaaS tool,” you’re encouraging your audience to believe and trust subjective information.

While this technique will never have the same impact as genuine social proof, it can be a hugely valuable tool for encouraging trust in industries where social proof is hard to come by—particularly white-label businesses.

Illusory Truth Effect: the subconscious idea that repetition is correlated with accuracy

4. The Justification Effect

In The Psychology of Persuasion, psychologist extraordinaire Robert Cialdini recalls an experiment centered on the queue at a Xerox machine. Several justifications were used by a would-be line-jumper, and the success of each was recorded:

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Success rate: 60%

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” Success rate: 94%

Obviously, the justified reason was more successful than the unjustified one. This is understandable, given the legitimate reason offered by the line jumper, until we compare the results from question three:

“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?” Success rate: 93%

Despite offering a weak justification, the third approach still achieved a massive success rate. In other words, the presence of a reason (even a bad one) can be enough to encourage people to take a desired action.

When you’re writing copy to persuade a reader to download a whitepaper or buy a product, structure your copy around the reasons why they should take action, and don’t forget to highlight the magic word: because.

In your copy, don’t forget to use the magic word: because.

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