The Psychology Of Words

I always wonder, when writing this column week in and week out, if anyone is on the other side reading. I especially wonder if anyone bothers reading this during a holiday week like Thanksgiving. My guess is that Wednesday morning, when this goes out, most of you will be on your way somewhere or at least stuck in an airport hoping you'll be going somewhere soon. It is always a challenge what to write in these instances; you don't want to waste your good stuff on a down week. So, I usually just write something that pleases me, and hope those of you crazy enough to be reading this enjoy it.

So rather than any practical advice around email marketing, let's talk about the whole idea of written communication. That is, after all, what email is. Television is visual as are, for the most part, print ads and banner ads. Radio is auditory. Mobile marketing is more of a haiku, as far as I can see. Email marketing, especially in the age of blocked images, is primarily the copywriter's realm. It is about stringing words together in a way that makes an impact.



Starting with the subject line, the marketer's skill in the field of word psychology determines, to a large degree, the success or failure of that campaign. It seems here is an area that is almost never written about: the impact and psychology of words. Having studied magic in my past, I can tell you that there are books upon books dedicated to the subtleties of words and how one word over another can direct the mind into thinking what you want.

The use and study of "power" words is a ripe area of study for today's email marketer. There are a number of pseudo-sciences like Neuro-Linguistic Programming that have delved deep into the study of words that change people's motivation. Telemarketers understand this intuitively: They have only a few seconds to keep someone on the phone. Just as email marketers only have a fraction of a second to encourage someone to open their email.

Without an understanding of word psychology, you may be making blunders that are hampering your email marketing efforts. As an example drawn from the telemarketing world, for some reason folks who call me in order to sell me something say the exact same thing to me: "How are you doing today?"

When someone asks me "How are you doing today?," my guard goes up and I'm seconds from dropping the receiver. What a ridiculous way of starting a conversation. Better would be to get right to the point. If you have something to sell me, let me know right away why I would be interested.

Take for instance a phone pitch I received one time: "Mr. McCloskey. My name is "blank" and my company helps find you leads. We've been in the business for 20 years and have over a thousand clients we've helped find leads for. If you would like to talk about how we can find you leads, please give me a call."

Great: to the point. Something I'm interested in. The only problem is, he forgot to give me his company name and phone number!

So, the conclusion is: Get their attention. Study the psychology of words. Oh, and don't forget to tell them who you are.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

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