Volume 132: 6/12/06

How Verbs Help You Convert

There's nothing quite like a verb! Verbs represent action and movement; they are about doing. Even more important, they allow you to see yourself doing.

We've talked extensively about how you must connect your customers to an emotional reality in which they can see themselves enjoying the benefits of what you have to offer, and in which they can see themselves taking the action you want them to take.

None of us takes action until we can grab on to a mental image of the consequences of taking that action. The fastest verbal way to tap into the emotional, imaginative abilities of our right brains is through verbs. No doubt about it ... verbs can be your most powerful persuasive allies.

Beyond action

The author Joseph E. Wright writes,

Verbs are great words. They enable us to describe actions or states of being or feelings we'd be hard pressed to convey without them. ... Still, if verbs are indispensable in our speech and in our writing, why do we neglect them so? ... You can blame it on the nouns and adjectives. ... Adjectives we can sometimes live without, but for the most part we have been brainwashed ... to use adjectives. As writers, we use them extensively, carefully choosing, then eliminating, then choosing again, until we feel we have the perfect adjectives to describe our protagonist, our settings, our emotions. I suspect much of your time as a writer is devoted to being so very particular in the adjectives you use.

Adjectives don't really help us create compelling, persuasive mental images. They can suggest a state of being, but their function ultimately 'tells' us more than it 'shows' us. You can tell me about a mango: it is luscious and delicious and juicy. Or you can show me a mango: the juice escapes and drizzles down your chin; your tongue explores the complex taste; the flesh caresses your mouth.

My buddy Anthony Garcia describes the difference between adjectives and verbs as "the difference between a paint roller and an artist's brush - adjectives good for painting the walls, good for background, but verbs solidify an image in a person's minds."

Beyond boring

Verbs do more that injection action and presence into your writing. They can also define the quality of that action.

He looked at the woman.

His eyes pierced the woman.

His eyes undressed the woman.

His eyes contemplated the woman.

See how different a look can be?  See how a verb can communicate more than a common action?

Why use 'walk' when I might amble, trudge, toddle, pace, stroll or mince? I could "walk with difficulty." But that communicates less information than if I said I "staggered" or "hobbled" or "limped." These words draw you not only into the circumstance, but also the emotional dimension of my walk.

Why use 'make' when, depending on the situation, I could fashion, craft, beget, construct, create, knock out, whip up, forge or arrange?

Verbs in hyperlinks

One of the most important uses for verbs in online writing is in hyperlinks. Verbs are the essence of your calls to action (as opposed to your points of resolution).

When you pair an imperative verb with a meaningful implied benefit, you help maintain persuasive momentum. NEVER (yep, that's a shout) settle for the useless and hackneyed "Click Here" when you could offer encouragement like "Read the whole article" or "See our diamond settings" or "Locate the store nearest you."

Don't just hope folks will click. Use your verbs and give them a reason to click!

Verbs in product descriptions

Read this:

Logitech Freedom 2.4 Cordless Joystick from www.dell.com: The Freedom 2.4™ Cordless Joystick allows you to enjoy the performance of a corded joystick without the cord. With the strength of the 2.4 GHz cordless technology it delivers top gaming performance plus a 20-foot range. The cordless joystick features 10 programmable buttons including a durable metal trigger, eight-way hat switch, twist handle, and a precise throttle. Fly your plane, drive your car, and then kick the ball around without being frustrated by controller configuration. The included Logitech Profiler software lets you easily manage and switch between your Logitech game controllers. The software includes profiles for hundreds of popular games and you can also download new game profiles. Plus, its cool design featuring brushed aluminum and metal highlights gives the Freedom 2.4™ a winning look.

Now read this:

X-Arcade Joystick from www.xgaming.com: Install your X-Arcade™ and instantly relive those adrenaline-pumped moments in the arcade, battering the joystick, pounding the buttons, grinding your teeth, and tasting the thrill as you make your mark as the arcade game's top scorer. ... Yank back on the joystick and mash away at the fire buttons. Get lost in the rush of the game just like you would on a real arcade game.

X-Arcade™ is a line of bulletproof industrial quality arcade game controllers and gaming products that inject the ultimate arcade game experience into your PC, MAC™ or game console.

With your X-Arcade™ Joystick, you can reverse time and play the classics ... the only thing missing is a place to drop in your quarters.

Which of these product descriptions has you imagining the experience of a joystick in your hands?

More than any other online copy, product descriptions suffer from an over-reliance on adjectives. Too much telling about the product rather than showing how it can be used. At the moment your customer has navigated your system and found a product, you need to set the hook and start reeling with your verbs.

Instead of droning that your backpack is lightweight, you could instead convey the same fact and put the customer in the picture by writing, "Fling it onto your back. You'll barely notice it's there! And your shoulders will thank you."

Instead of saying your Indispensable Little Black Dress is wrinkle-free, fuss-free and takes up no space whatsoever, say, "Crumple it in a ball and stuff it in a corner of your suitcase. Slip it on at a moment's notice to amble through the market or promenade at the opera."

Fear not the noble, mighty verb. Start making it the focus of your copy, bask in its utter glory!

And while you are thinking about re-verbilizing your copy, think about joining us at our next Persuasive Online Copywriting Workshop, July 10-11, 2006, for our unique perspective on writing that truly earns its keep!

Train to Increase Your Conversion Rates

New Services

We've been busy bees over the holidays.  Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!

New Publications

You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page.  We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently.  We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.

Are You Still Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?

When Pavlov trained his lab dogs to salivate on command of a ringing bell, he inadvertently set the stage for over a century's worth of conditioning-based consumer messaging. In the early decades of the 20th century, characters such as J. B. Watson and Edward Bernays "proved" that when businesses rang the right bell the right number of times, they could conjure desire and action in their audience through branding alone.

Even fifty years ago, media outlets were inherently limited by geography and scope. Because consumers lacked broad exposure to alternative experiences, need-based behavioral marketing held sway. Indeed, response in the baby boom-era - folks really did buy the most heavily marketed goods and services - seemed to prove that customers could be conditioned to salivate on command.

Yet the close of the 20th century has been a boiling point for media fragmentation. The advent of the Internet and wireless technologies gave everyone access to information anytime and anywhere. The blossoming of media placed an unprecedented amount of information in the hands of customers, rendering geographic barriers moot. Most importantly, this sea change empowered customers to focus on what's relevant to them and ignore the rest.

The consequence to marketers has been frustrating and confusing. As media fragments, so does the "mass" in mass-marketing. What's a marketer, a sales manager, an entrepreneur, a CEO to do?

Emerging Media, Branding and Customer Experience

The emerging media market is shattering behaviorist marketing assumptions. Businesses are no longer in control of the strings; they can neither evoke desire nor elicit responses like they used to.

The window emerging media has opened reveals a personal experience economy in which customers are in control and brand is defined in their minds by the experience itself. And those customers behave more like cats - notoriously self-motivated and generally not biddable - than like Pavlov's dogs.

In today's increasingly fragmented, always-on media landscape, customers are no longer passive. They voluntarily participate in every exchange and overlook messages that don't interest them. Online and wireless technologies are becoming the glue that binds these customers, offering new ways to communicate and new avenues for researching their buying needs. The exponential development in search marketing and consumer-generated media demonstrates the powerful roles customers have in shaping the nature of voluntary engagement - in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer markets.

Marketers Face New Challenges

Interactivity has changed the nature of marketing by extending its reach into the more intimate world of sales and customer relations. Marketers increasingly are required to go beyond their traditional roles of raising awareness and driving traffic; they must now create powerful persuasive systems that anticipate and model customer needs, personalize information and processes to meet those needs, and then measure the return on investment for every discrete process in that system.

The best companies have always listened to their customers. However, simply listening is no longer sufficient. All too often, the customer doesn't even know the true complexity of what technology makes possible. Businesses may think of themselves as multi-channel, but in customers' minds, channels are irrelevant and non-existent.

In the past, marketers presented the view they wanted customers to see; today the customer is choosing the angle from which they want to view the product. These angles of engagement reflect different motivations and different buying modes, and occur at different stages in the buying decision process.

Marketers are not accustomed to accounting for the angle from which the customer frames the want or need. However, the growing abundance of alternative information resources provides customers with multiple avenues for researching products or services. Marketers are not in control of this information, but they must anticipate the implications of its availability and incorporate that understanding into the persuasive system.

Information has become the packaging for every product and service. Marketers may design intentional communications suited to their goals, but those communications all too often miss the mark of customer relevance.

Beyond Personalization: Persuasion Architecture™'s "Persona"-lization

How customers frame their wants and needs in their various modes of information-gathering and decision-making defeat superficial attempts at personalization. So how do marketers function in a "pull" marketing environment where pin-point relevance and context are no longer optional?

In our new book, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?, we describe the ins and outs of Persuasion Architecture, which provides a six-step, Six-Sigma process for creating highly relevant and delightful personal experiences. Persuasion Architecture™ identifies audience segments based on demographics, psychographics and business topologies. It then allows management to set goals and objectives for segments based on an understanding of what drives and motivates each segment. This gives marketers the opportunity to market to customer segments in terms that are meaningful to customers.

"Persona"-lization, the centerpiece of the methodology behind Persuasion Architecture, allows businesses to unify their marketing messages, shape their merchandising, communicate with manufacturers and suppliers, train call center and in-store staff, and, ultimately, choose which products to carry and wrap services around. Marketers will be most effective in a post-mass-market environment when they model interactivity based on personas. These archetypes represent audience segments in various buying modes. Personas allow businesses to empathize with and speak to customers' needs across all communication channels.

By aligning the selling process to the customers' buying processes, Persuasion Architecture makes it possible for businesses to integrate their multiple channels of influence, strengthening the coherence of both their message and their brand.

Marketing, media, advertising and communication professionals, as well as management, entrepreneurs and business owners will discover that applying the principles of Persuasion Architecture leads to increased customer sales, increased customer retention and expanded word of mouth marketing. In addition, Persuasion Architecture makes it possible for businesses to measure and optimize every piece of the system effectively.

The most challenging problem facing business today is planning and optimizing complex persuasive systems. While technological possibilities for managing the dynamic of human exchange are evolving rapidly and changing the landscape of marketplaces, the nature of the "human operating system" remains same - the road may have changed, but those traveling on the road haven't. Customers are not, and have never been, the metaphoric equivalent of Pavlov's dogs.

The rewards will go to businesses that can anticipate what it takes to delight their customers. Instead of suggesting businesses find better ways to ring better bells, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? provides a context for celebrating meows.

Start making a difference in your business's future: snag your copy June 13 at Barnes&Noble.com/bark (special bulk pricing available), Amazon or Booksamillion!

Volume 132: 6/12/06

Contact Us

Bi-Monthly Online Conversion Rate Marketing Newsletter:

We Value Your Privacy!

  • Cardscan
  • ProFlowers
  • GE
  • Leo Schachter Diamonds
  • Overstock.com
  • SAS
  • Disney
  • Gatelys.com
  • NBC Universal
  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers
  • Volvo International
  • Southern Company
  • BuyTelco
  • Allegis Group's Thingamajob
  • WebEx
  • CafePress
  • Elance