How to Overcome Pervasive Consumer Skepticism and Write Ads People Actually Believe

I want to give you some tips today so you can write better advertisements.

They don’t require much work on your end.  But they win over prospects because they’re grounded in human psychology.  You can use them a few different ways to win people over and gain their trust.  (Hint: people only buy from you after they decide they can trust you… at least a little bit).

I won’t hype them up too much, though.  You see, I’m trying to avoid the very thing that’s been making us sick for a long time now.

And that thing is:

Ridiculously Overblown Advertisements That Promise You the Cure for AIDS, Cancer, and World Hunger (All at Once) if You Just Turn off Your Consumer Skepticism and Buy Their $1200 Product!

Ugh.  Writing that made me throw up in my mouth a little.  But I will persevere ONLY for your educational benefit.

Anyways. did you get my drift?  I’m sure you did.  You’re tired of seeing “sensational” ads like the one I spewed out above.  And you aren’t alone.  Your prospective customers are just as tired tired of these hyped-up, unrealistic ads (the ones that make the product or service being offered out to be saints) as you are.

Worst of all, this kind of carnival barker talk reminds us of the last time we “played a game” tried to knock over all those damn milk bottles got ripped off on the midway.  We flat out don’t believe it.

And when we don’t believe something, do you think we’ll “take our chances” with our hard-earned money on some random stranger peddling his wares?  Do you think we’ll throw caution to the wind and hope things work out?  Do you even think we’ll bother to read the rest of the ad?  Right.  I didn’t think so…

Remember this: consumer skepticism is at an all-time high.  Maybe it’s because of the (unprosecuted) fraud on Wall Street involving mortgage-backed securities.  Or the bailouts that rewarded said fraudsters with good ole’ taxpayer money for their deceit.  Or the cesspool of internet marketing “gurus” out there promising “no-work, no-risk, high-reward” moneymaking formulas to their desperate prospects (despite NOT using the formulas to become wealthy themselves).

Whatever.  What I’m trying to say is: people have good reasons… and plenty of them… for being suspicious.  If you want to create effective ads, you need to approach your prospects with the mindset that:

Your Prospect Starts out NOT Believing A Word You Say.  It’s Your Ad’s Job to Win Them Over by Earning Credibility As You Make Your Sales Pitch.

Gone are the days where you could assume you had a little credibility to start with.  That worked in the Golden Age of advertising, when people were more optimistic (and trusting of strangers).  And also when people weren’t so accustomed to advertising with bold, miracle-cure type claims.

But those days are over now.  People are more savvy.  They’ll still allow a bit of good old “puffery,” but the second they sniff out any outright exaggerations or unwarranted claims, they’ll chomp your ad to bits.  They’ll toss it in their wastebaskets instead of letting it into the front of their minds (right where you want it).

So, is there anything you can do to turn the tide against this massive consumer skepticism?  Don’t despair!  I said people are more savvy now.  I didn’t say they were immune to human psychology.

Easy, tiger.  There’s still hope for you yet.  You can still gather enough credibility to convince your prospects to give your product or service a shot.  If you’re willing to abandon the assumption that you had any in the first place.

And only if you take the following advice to heart.  Ready?  Here goes…

Use Specific Language in Your Headlines and the Body of Your Copy
to Describe Your Product’s Features and Benefits.

The more specific the explanation of your product’s features and benefits, the more likely your prospects are to believe the explanations.  It’s as simple as that.

What’s more:  belief in the veracity of your specific claims spills over into a general boost to your overall credibility as the author of the advertisement.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say you want to hawk a brand new ebook.  This ebook can turn losers into studs who can pick up a bevy of gorgeous women… if they simply read it and apply the secret info.  You have no doubt this sucker will sell like hot cakes.

So you sit down and write a headline: “Underground New Book Transforms Losers into Casanovas Who Have to Swat All the Gorgeous Women Away!”

Now, how do you feel about that one?  Sounds like a lot of hype, right?  This kind of language doesn’t win you any credibility points.  And you know how to write headlines better than that anyway!

What if we rewrote it using specific language: “New Book Gives You the Confidence You Need to Land a Date Within 30 Days (and How to Ask for One if You Don’t Know How)”

Much better.  People are far more likely to believe you if you’re painstakingly specific when you talk about your features and benefits.

Freely Admit the Minor “Flaws” of Your Product or Service.

This one’s my favorite.  It’s so easy to do.  And crazy effective.

Look: your product or service isn’t perfect (as much as you’d like to think it is).  Now’s the time to take an honest assessment of your weaknesses.  As painful as this might be, you’ll gain new insight into how you can improve… and it can really help your advertising, too.

How do I mean?  Let’s jump back to our dating book.  Say our book goes on at length about where a guy can meet a woman, how to get her attention, and what to do to make her attracted enough to go on a date with him.  But this book is sorely lacking in what the guy’s supposed to do after he gets the girl.  You recognize this.  So you write up a headline or a bullet point in your copy.  Something like: “Shows You Everything You Need to Know to Get a Woman to Agree to Go On a Date With You (but the Rest is Up to You)”.

See what I mean?  It’s o.k. to admit that your product or service isn’t flawless.  People understand that, and they respect it too.  Best of all, it boosts the credibility of all of the other claims you make about what your product can do.

Joe Karbo (R.I.P.) really nailed this idea in his classified ad (scroll down) to sell a Cadillac.  Check it out for yourself to see how he uses “copywriting Aikido” to turn a potential weakness – an ugly green paint job – into a credibility boost.

Don’t be Afraid to Make an Iron-Clad Guarantee.

There are a lot of 10 and 15 day guarantees out there.  The marketers responsible for them might think they’re being generous by offering them, but prospects view something like as a sign of weakness.

The prospect’s thought process goes something like this: Geez, this guy must not be very confident in his product if he’ll ONLY let me try it for a couple of weeks before I’m stuck with it for good.  Hmm, I wonder if I’ll even get my product, or if it will do what it says it does?  What kind of operation is this anyway?

You can avoid this.  When you offer a product or service, make sure you believe in it enough to include a generous guarantee.  By offering a 90 or 180 day guarantee, you show an unspoken confidence in the quality of your offer.  The longer the refund, and the fewer hoops the customer has to jump through to get it, the higher the sales.

Not only that… but you minimize the financial risk to your prospective customers.  And for anyone who’s ever been ripped off before (raises hand), this is HUGE.

Don’t be afraid to offer a solid guarantee.  The increased credibility (and sales) will more than make up for the value vampires out there who pick up your product ONLY to take advantage of your generous guarantee.  Let’s be honest: these people probably planned to take advantage of you and not pay for anything from the get-go.

One final thing about credibility (though it’s more a philosophy than an action step):

Never Take Your Credibility for Granted.  You Can Destroy it in One Bad Advertisement and it Will Make Your Long-Term Profits Suffer.  Guard it With Your Life.

Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”  And he’s right, too.  Your credibility and your reputation in business are one in the same.

Be careful NEVER to expose your credibility to undue risk.  If you want to make a claim about your product, but you haven’t done the necessary testing or R&D to support it, refrain.  Your long-term customers will thank you, and your wallet will thank you too.

One more thing: now that you’ve got all these prospects believing you,  don’t screw it up.  Make sure your product or service delivers on the promises you do make.  People have been ripped off too much as it is.  Remember to treat your customers like the “golden geese” that they are.  They’ll repay you… time and time again.

P.S. What are some other ways you can improve your credibility and increase your chances of making sales?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.