Big Ideas Bulletin:
Getting Past The Mental Barriers

by Binnie Perper

Big Ideas for promoting your business.

Each of us sees or hears hundreds of advertising and marketing messages every day. We hear them on the radio, see them on TV or the web, read them in magazines and newspapers, see them on the highways, on busses and even on shopping carts!


You can easily see why breaking through the mental barriers has become more and more difficult! But you can do it! Here's how.


Emotion is stronger than intellect. Most of us would much rather indulge a desire than fill a need. Our yens far outweigh the influence of logic. For proof, look at yourself. You make the many of the most important decisions of your life emotionally - the decisions to get married, buy a home, chose a place to live and work, buy a car, have children (or not). Sure, there are many practical considerations involved, but in the end you make those choices more with your heart than your head.

So aim your message at the emotional side of the consumer's brain, the back that up with solid features and benefits. These help your customers justify the decisions they want to make anyway.

Also, use emotional words. The words on the left are "cool" words, while the counterparts on the right are warmer, friendlier and more emotional:

Accelerate - speed up 
Aid - help
Beneficial - good for
Completed - finished 
Explain - help
Furnish/provide - give you
Intelligent - smart, savvy, in the know
Learn - find out, discover, uncover, get the secrets behind 
Omit - leave out
Purchase - buy
Receive - get
Repair - fix
Reply - answer
Wealthy - rich



Yes, business people make emotional buying decisions, too. However, they have a tougher audience to please. Every businessperson--from executives to entrepreneurs, production workers to presidents--needs to justify the buying decision to the board, the boss, the CFO or to themselves. 

In addition, when we're on the job, we want to show the "powers that be" how diligent and smart we are, and how we can use our initiative to make money- or time-saving decisions or recommendations.

So when aiming at a business person, go first for the strong need, then tie it up with the emotional appeal-for example, the satisfaction of a job well done, what you can buy with the savings, or the praise you'll earn by getting more for the money.


We do business with people we like. That "person" can be anyone from Ford Motor Company to Joe Fordham at the local pharmacy.

Every sales or marketing message is one more step of your courtship, one more cornerstone of your long-term relationship with your customers. Focusing on the customer helps you forge and strengthen that relationship-that's why "you" is the single most important word you can use. And focusing on benefits shows that you have the customer's interests at heart. What you want or need is irrelevant. What the customer gets is paramount.


  • Avoid "The Green Valley Company provides"-instead say "we bring you"

  • Avoid "there is"- instead say "you will find"

  • Avoid "... can be used"- instead say "you can use"

  • Avoid "we offer"-- instead say "you get"


Remember, it's emotion that carries the day. So go ahead - flatter the customer! Whether you're talking to the Director of Information Services or Dick Smithfield the hiker/biker/camper, you probably can't go wrong appealing to your customer's status -- as someone who is smarter than others, works for a particular company, has achieved a certain rank or position, belongs to a special group, lives in a unique place, or has some other advantage over the rest of the folks. 

Some words that heighten this impression are:

  • Available only to ...(a select group)

  • A smart choice for (boaters, hikers, CFO's)

  • (Topic)-smart people like you ("Health-smart," "money-smart" etc.) ...

  • Be the first ...

  • Get ahead of ... (OR stay ahead of ...)

  • A (group or category of people) like you recognizes ...

  • Only (people in this group) are eligible for ...


The sooner the better as far as response is concerned--out of sight is out of mind, as you well know! And we all have better things to do than respond to magazine or newspaper ads, mailers, web site appeals and broadcast commercials. So not only do you need a strong call to action. You also need, whenever possible, a compelling incentive so your prospects don't procrastinate! 

How can you propel your prospect to action? Try some of these strategies and phrases:

  • Limited time bribe (gift, booklet, bonus with purchase, 2-for1, etc)

  • Limited time offer or savings

  • Limited quantity offer 

  • Limited opportunity at a certain price

  • End of season (hence will soon be unavailable)

  • Close-out (same as above)

  • Deadline, or reward for reply before (date)

  • Reward for response method (order online, etc.)

Besides inspiring immediate action, there are some overall tactics you can use to boost response rates. You can test timing, season, mailing lists or customer segments, a variety of offers, a mixture of publications, and other variables. 

In addition, there are direct response guidelines established by various industry studies over the years that can help you both in direct marketing and media or web advertising. These studies have generally shown that:

  • Complete direct mail packages for higher-end or more complicated consumer products (over $100-ish) get a higher response than self-mailers or post cards-e.g. more detail is better than less.

  • Fill-in-the-blanks coupons or order forms can increase your response rate in almost anything printed--direct mail, ads, newsletters, etc.

  • A toll-free number can triple response rate versus pay-to-call - use the words "toll-free" in addition to "1-800" or "1-888."

  • You'll sell more if you accept credit cards.

Breaking through mental barriers is never going to be a slam-dunk. No matter how much money you spend, how strong an offer you make, how well-worded or well-designed your material is, or how carefully you monitor and evaluate results, you will always struggle to stand out in the crowd. 

And even when you succeed, you are only "renting" your customers' attention 3 seconds at a time! Make the most of that time with the tools above to forge a loyal bond and build growing sales.

To find more tips, tricks and techniques to make your advertising work harder for you, read next month's BIG IDEAS BULLETIN right here. 

Visit the Writing By Design web site -- -- for back issues. There you will also find the Big Ideas, Ink SMARTBOOKS store where you can gather intelligence and ideas to super-charge your advertising, marketing, copywriting and design. 

(C) Copyright 2000 by Writing By Design. All rights reserved.

BIG IDEAS BULLETIN is a monthly publication of Writing By Design. All rights reserved.
Author: Binnie Perper
The Writer 4U, Writing By Design, Ferndale, WA. 
Binnie Perper's writing experience started after her mother said "You ought to be a writer." Mom meant novels, but instead Binnie pursued copywriting. Fascinated by human nature, she has never figured out what makes people tick, but she knows a lot about why they buy. For years, she has put this knowledge to work for clients ranging from neighborhood retailers to international corporations. Her motto is "Write to the rescue, on time and on budget." And yes, she can come "write to the rescue" for you. 
For more information (including rates), visit the Writing By Design web site. 
Phone 360-384-1444

Free small business newsletter
Get great business ideas and advice like this sent to you in email twice a week.
Subscribe to the free Business Know-How newsletter. 
Enter your primary email address below


Follow Us and Share