Back in 2007 I reviewed this book for Professional Marketing magazine but I have mentioned it to a couple of people during recent promotional skills courses and I thought I’d look it up again in advance of a business development writing course I am presenting next month.
“There are few great books on copy writing – those by David Ogilvy and Drayton Bird being amongst the best – and as this one draws on psychology and selling (an irresistible combination) I was keen to see what secrets it offered.
It starts with a promise: “increase ability to communicate and persuade” and lists campaigns where 100% response rates were achieved. It suggests that “throughout the book you will find yourself going into a light hypnotic trance” – Mmmn. Not sure about that, although I did find myself getting a little sleepy…but maybe that was the repetition (another key to hypnotic writing).
There is a short overview of the history of hypnosis where people used words to create spells, the work of Franz Anton Mesmer (the father of “mesmerism”) and that of Milton Erickson. The author says “my definition of hypnosis is anything that holds your attention”. He elaborates “it is irresistible, spell binding and filled with embedded commands”. He then offers a further definition: “Hypnotic writing is intentionally using words to guide people into a focused mental state where they are inclined to buy your product or service”.
The book looks at how you move from English to emotion, from words to power: “Every time you state a fact, describe how that fact will benefit the other person” – pretty elementary features and benefits sales stuff. In his favour, the author draws on an incredible array of psychological, advertising, scientific and creative writing sources: from Aristotle to Shakespeare to Alan Carr (of Stop Smoking fame). There is also mention of a scientific study of Agatha Christie’s writing that shows she used words that evoked chemical responses in her readers’ brains.
The book is about writing technique – the process by which you write sales letters, emails, or web copy. It encourages you to read great writing – and then to copy it out. There is a plea for personality – “readers want a new voice, from a trusted new friend”.
Some of the key messages are: use words to create mental experiences (paint a mental picture), intimacy (sense the personality behind the words), answer all the readers’ questions and get the reader into a “yes” mindset.
Concepts from the Inner Coach are used to warn you about your inner critic. There is encouragement to use metaphors, similes, analogies, quotes and other comparisons that surprise.
The value of storytelling (with turning point messages) and the power of a good headline (with a list of 30 tips on creating great headlines), dialogue and format are discussed. Great quotes included “Don’t write to impress – write to share a feeling” and “The vitamins in your writing – the facts”.
The book is a great antidote to all those who insist that web copy should be short. He comments: “I am disgusted by all the self-indulgent blogs on the Internet” and continues “People will read any amount of words on a web site, as long as they are interesting”. He notes that web sites with long copy tend to do better than web sites with fewer words. The principal advocated is that the higher the cost, the more copy you will need.
It became tough to keep reading towards the end – the “American” hype became a bit tiring and there were almost too many different ideas to remember. He uses one of his techniques – “keep readers hooked by not giving them an ending to something they want to see resolved” – to keep you going. But at the end he does draw things together with his three biggest secrets, the five secret laws of hypnotic persuasion, his five stage process for writing and a checklist for improving your copy.
Whilst possibly more relevant to those in the consumer market than in professional services, the book does contain a huge amount of useful advice and ideas. There are lots of valuable references too. I was left with an ethical question – is it right to produce copy that generates 100% response rates if the product isn’t 100% fabulous? But I guess any marketing technique poses the same dilemma”.
I subsequently summarised the key points I use in training sessions:
- Three biggest secrets
- I don’t do the writing (I command/request it from unconscious)
- I dialogue in my mind (Imagine I am speaking to someone)
- I plug in hypnotic language (Replace phrases with hypnotic phrases)
- Five secret laws of hypnotic persuasion
- Create relationships
- Practice karmic marketing (give now, it will return later)
- Write hypnotically
- Share your personality
- Get out of your ego (think about the reader)
- Five secret laws of hypnotic persuasion
- Five stage process
- Intention – Directing your mind
- Research – Feeding your mind
- Creation – Unleashing your mind
- Rewrite – Sharpening your mind
- Test – Training your mind
Published by Wiley £13.99 ISBN 0-470-00979-9