Obvious uses of NLP in copywriting

One reader asked if I recommended a specific resource on NLP.

As far as I can tell, Harlan Kilstein is the only one teaching NLP copywriting well. There are a number of people who are practicing it covertly but not teaching. There are a number of NLP practitioners who are teaching the spoken variety thinking that the same rules apply to copywriting. They don’t. At least not without some adjustment.

As an example, I’m going to point out a few things I see in the sales letter at http://www.nlp-techniques.com. I’ll quote the relevant sections in case the owner decides to rewrite it later on. It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

The headline: "NLP Language Patterns for Advertising: How adding clever twists to language is making some companies’ response rates climb. "

The main headline doesn’t promise any benefits. That’s copywriting 101. I think the author chose the title of the product to be the headline. It also scores 105 with Glyphius. Normally you’d want to be scoring at least 500. The subhead scores 202. The word "clever" negatively correlates to profitable copy. Switching "ordinary" for "clever" makes the score 295.

The subhead attempts a few things. It includes these major presuppositions: 1) there are clever twists that can be added to language, 2) these twists can be added intentionally, 3) you’d be in good company if you bought whatever is being sold because it’s working for others, and 4) adding these twists will make your response rates climb.

Where it could improve is that to a skeptical reader (i.e. no rapport built yet), "some companies" could mean that for some companies, these twists aren’t making their response rates climb and they may even be making them fall. For all the reader knows, it might be a shot in the dark.

Also, "response rates" are pretty vague. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve seen me talk about how sometimes being vague can be effective because people will fill in the blanks. That only works if the words you use are anchored to something in the reader’s experience. If your reader doesn’t deal in "response rates" on a regular basis, they’ll be confused rather than interested. If the audience is online business owners looking for sales, the term is usually "conversion" rather than "response."

The writer then launches into a short therapeutic metaphor which tries to pace the frustration of not making sales and following the internet gurus. Whether the reader makes the effort to read through that or not will most likely depend on how interested the headline got them. I’m not sure the story is fleshed out enough to be effective. You want to be concise but not so brief that by the time the reader finishes wondering who Derrick Gossman is, the story is already over.

As you can see, there’s a lot to chew on here. I’ll point out a couple more obvious uses and wrap it up.

The use of embedded commands seems most obvious to me. You can scroll down the page and pick them out because they’re emphasized one way or another. See if you can scan quickly and find, "you buy," "you’re ecstatic," "order," "ACT," "ACT NOW," "get prospects [i.e. you] excited," and "immediately." Not very elegant. In case the page has been changed, those words are either highlighted, underlined, in bold, or in all caps. There’s probably more but that’s what I saw in a quick scan.

Here’s one thing I recommend you not do. Richard Bandler talks about being able to say anything to another person as long as it’s quoting someone else. I’m not certain exactly how it works but evidently your subconscious identifies with whatever is going on. That’s what makes therapeutic metaphors so powerful. I think the writer inadvertently does this while instead trying to pace the reader in this sentence:

You might have thought, "How can these people be so stupid? Can’t they see the benefits of what I’m offering? "

Instead of pacing the feeling of frustration, the writer has just told all the readers that they’re stupid for not seeing what he’s offering. Who knows though. Perhaps that’s not what just happened. I wouldn’t want to chance it if it were me. Get a multivariate tester like MuVar and find out what converts better.

Generally speaking, you want to avoid using questions anyway because they send the reader off into their own mind to find an answer. They may come back and continue reading or they may not. All us internet users are pretty ADD after all.

I couldn’t resist the irony of this last point. The owner has come up with some script writing software that will spit out bits of NLP gibberish to use in your copy. I wonder if that’s what he’s done in this sales letter as well. There’s one component of the software that generates presuppositions. The paragraph ends:

"These presuppositions will cause your readers to automatically believe what you want them to believe."

Hmm. What a claim. Somehow I’m not automatically believing it. And, I laughed out loud once I realized that a presupposition right here would have been perfect. Instead, the writer chose to bludgeon me over the head with an overt hard sell without even attempting to provide proof.

There are some uses of NLP type patterns scattered throughout the letter, no doubt about that. Hopefully you can see that if you’re obvious about it, it could backfire on you.

Stay tuned for more on NLP copywriting.

2 Responses

  1. Louis this gold dust! I love to hear the way you analyze copy and give creative and constructive NLP-inspired feedback. I look forward to future gems 🙂

  2. I’ve just looked at the website you critique.

    It’s terrible. Laughable, in fact.

    The funniest thing is the box at the bottom: “page protected by Copyscape. Do not copy”.

    Um… who the hell would want to?

    — Jon

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