TIME_person_of_2006Want to get every visitor hoping to prove you right?

Want to have those same visitors actively searching for just enough substantiation to hang their hats on before rushing off to your shopping cart/checkout process?

Of course you would.  Once your reader wants what you say to be true, once she hopes you’re “for real,” she’ll be routing for you the whole time she’s reading your substantiating copy/proof.  And that’s the kind of audience you want.

So even before you think about how to prove your claims, establish credibility, or anything else, you’ll want to focus on establishing your readers’ emotional desire. Here’s how to do that…

A Seductive First Mental Image

“The core of a successful trick is an interesting and beautiful idea that taps into something that you would like to have happen. One of the things we do in our live show is I squeeze handfuls of water and they turn into cascades of money. That’s an interesting and beautiful idea.

The deception is really secondary. The idea is first, because the idea needs to capture your imagination.”

– Teller (of Penn & Teller fame) describing the neuroscience of magic

While all copy shares the challenge of capturing readers attention, the best headlines and openers move past gimmicks and shouting in order to intrigue and seduce readers with a mental image that the reader hopes to be true.  Or wishes to make true.

Infomercials mastered this technique decades ago.  They always open with a striking image or clip functioning as a seductive “proof of concept”:

  • The Ginsu knife that cut through the tin can and could still finely slice the tomato
  • The OxyClean that magically evaporate stains out of a white carpet
  • The ShamWow leaving not a trace of water on the counter and soaking up 20 times its weight in water, every last drop in the tray

Only after the image captures the viewer’s imagination does the pitchman reveal the “secret” of how the product works.

Similarly, Lifelock.com first captures visitor’s imagination with the CEO brazenly publishing his SSN on the homepage.  It’s only on the second or third page that visitors learn HOW LifeLock works to keep your identity safe.

And for many Web 2.0 sites, the opening page has become home to the quick 1-3 minute video showing you how easily you too can kick butt with their software/product.  This screenr homepage video is a perfect example of that.

Why it Works

hottiedrewAs it turns out, we’re really good at bending logic to suport out desires, because, really, does anyone really read Playboy “for the articles?”  Our minds also suffer from anchoring bias and the effects of emotional priming.

Basically, an emotional image affects how we “see” or interpret the rest of the copy.  Here’s an example: when test subjects were shown a video of a car accident, half of the test subjects were asked how fast the two cars were going when the “crashed” into each other, and half were asked how fast the cars were going when they “made contact.”  On average, the “crashed into” group’s estimated speed was 10 mph faster than the “made contact” group.  That simple phrase colored the entire memory of the film clip.

In a similar manner, your readers’ desire for a product can color their perception of your substantiating content.  In other words, if you present a striking and seductive enough image, your readers will actually look to convince themselves with whatever logical proof you provide.

And isn’t that the way you want it?

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