How To Convert Like A Banshee


Recently, I’ve seen a stream of articles, (curiously, from respected copywriters) discussing the use of emotions in copy.

All of them had something to contribute. All offering creative insight into how they’re able to rack up incredible conversions.

However, based upon their articles, I believe they all unknowingly encourage…

Leaving MAJOR Money On The Table…

Now, before I get started I’m going to give these copywriters the benefit of the doubt and say they were probably trying to be politically correct, or because they were trying write to their market (and rack up “likes” and shares) they deliberately decided to hold back.

Heck… I never turned down a “like”. If you want to share this blog post that’s fine and I appreciate it, but what I’m about to reveal won’t change the facts of the matter one iota because…

Human nature doesn’t change.

What I’m about to discuss is not opinion, it’s fact. It’s human nature you can use to create incredibly compelling, incredibly motivating copy.

Getting Into the Head of the Prospect

Usually the copywriters’ article will talk about getting into the heads of your prospect.

Copywriters writing articles will post up an image similar to this:


Now, if you’re a copywriter and you’re reading this, this graphic looks reasonable. You may even say it’s pretty insightful.

But I believe it’s missing a little something.

And if that’s all you took away about the general use of emotions, your optin pages would suck, your emails wouldn’t get the click and your VSLs would be quickly abandoned.

This my friend, used as a basis to write copy, is not enough to get the job done.

There are THREE emotions which have been left out.

For whatever reason, I don’t know, but we’ll discuss them now. From least useful to most helpful, I advocate tapping into these three reservoirs liberally and often…


To be able to motivate, I love tapping into someone’s fears.

Now, you may say tapping into fear is over the top, uncalled for and the sign of an amateur.

I disagree.

If that’s how you feel, I strongly recommend staying out of the health, supplements and survival markets. You simply won’t be able to compete against someone trying to scare the crap out of the prospect to get them to take action.

Your Prospect’s Secret Fear

And, for the record, when I’m writing copy, and the reason I do so much research, is I’m looking for A SECRET FEAR.

For instance, I was recently commissioned to write a VSL for a diabetes info-product.

Now you can scour the internet for all sorts of scary facts about diabetes. Pictures, too. Those are good. We can do better.


Wickedly scary, huh? That’s a foot of a diabetic.

What is a diabetic’s SECRET fear?

Now, I’m not going to reveal that today because frankly that piece I recently wrote is converting up to 4% on cold traffic and it would compromise my royalty payments (speaking selfishly), but imagine if you knew the secret button you could press to get a diabetic to take action.

Research enough and you can find the secret fear(s) of every market. This little used copy strategy is one of the reasons my copy doesn’t sound like every other copywriter’s.

So using fear is good, and occasionally we can do even better…


Now, juxtaposed with the emotion of fear, fear and suffering kind of sound like the same thing, don’t they?

Close, but they’re not.

The emotion of fear is because of something totally made up in someone’s head. Technically, there’s no such thing.

The prospect is afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet. (Which creates all sorts of wonderful opportunities to paint very realistic scenarios.)

Fear is about the future.
Suffering is in the present.

Magnifying a person’s current suffering, amplifying the thoughts in their head, intensifying the emotions, will motivate someone to action.

Again, as long as the scenarios you magnify are realistic.

The more real, the more global the suffering among your target market, the more you’ll compel people to action.


What are your prospects silently suffering with?

So there’s fear, their secret fear, suffering and the last one…


When I say pain, I’m talking about real physical pain.

The pain of pricking your finger and drawing blood three times a day to get a glucose reading for the rest of your life.

No fun. You never get used to the pain.

The pain of daily insulin injections.

The constant pain of fire, walking on glass, and electrical shocks running up their legs like lightning bolts–which is what diabetics feel when their nerves start to die.

Yes, I’m being dramatic here. But I’m also being 1000% accurate.

And you can bet, a person with peripheral neuropathy will do anything they can to get out of it.

Very motivating, wouldn’t you say?

On Being Heavy Handed

Now you could say “Matt, you’re being heavy handed.”

And my reply would simply be “you don’t know diabetics and what they go through”.

You see, once you really understand your market, you know what their life is like. And the things I’ve just described are a daily occurrence for them.

These things haunt them.

And that’s what you want to do. You want to haunt people until they do whatever it is you ask.

Trust me, your prospect won’t see it as being heavy handed. They’ll see it as you knowing what their life is REALLY like.

Be Sure to Mix It Up

Instead of clumping all the negative motivational emotions together, vary it with the good, positive emotions.

Think “death by a thousand cuts”

I do this a lot in my copy. Why?

  • Because I want to create contrast between the good and the bad, one right after the other…
  • I don’t want the prospect anticipating what he’s going to read next…
  • I want to shock them…
  • Like a good horror movie, I want to create an emotional roller-coaster ride, lots of highs and lows…
  • And here’s something sneaky: In NLP, there’s a tactic called “fractionalization.” As you lead people from one idea to the next, from one story to the next, from one emotion to the next, (sometimes abruptly) they’ll be more and more inclined to follow you.(Insider tip for copywriters:  be sure to let your Client know you’re using fractionalization in a sales piece.  Otherwise they may view it as a rambling mess, unaware of the compelling effect it can have on a prospect.  Ask me how I know.)

Don’t Forget the Positive Emotions (They ARE Critical!)

Just for the record, I’m not advocating writing about all doom and gloom stuff. I’m NOT talking about fear mongering.


My Updated Version 😉

Fear, pain and suffering are just tools to me, to be deployed strategically within the copy.

There IS a time and place to use them.

Remember, if you HAVE done your research, the fear, pain and suffering your prospect reads about from you is something they’re already experiencing.

You’re just drawing attention to them. Subtly but directly, putting them under a microscope.

And as long as you have your prospects’ best and highest interests at heart, I believe you should use every tool at your disposal.

Inside My Copywriter’s Toolbox

copywriter's toolbox

UPDATED: June 2020

As a young boy, I remember my father was Mr. Fixit around the house.  He could mend anything.

And his carpentry skills were not to be sniffed at.  It was only years later I realized that, my family being short of cash one Christmas, he hand-built a huge doll’s house as a present for my sister.

(Confession:  if I have any kind of DIY challenge around the house, I STILL call my old man for help)

And he has this big toolbox.  A toolbox he guards with his life, often padlocked when he’s not around.

I can vividly remember on more than one occasion getting a whuppin’ because I took something from his toolbox and left it laying around the garage.

My bad.

In my dad’s mind, I didn’t RESPECT his tools. (Which forestalled the day when I’d be able to openly use them.)

One of things that impressed me growing up was the level of organization of his toolbox.

“Every tool has its place.” I remember hearing on more than one occasion.

These days, I have a copywriting toolbox. And I am fanatical about it.

Though most of it resides in my head. Tools, strategies, and ideas I’ve picked up over the years.

Obviously, there are thousands of task-specific tools, but most of them can be filed into just a few main categories.

So here are mine…

The marketers I collaborate with are always eager to add to their knowledge base and appreciative of this mental filing system.

So today, let me open up and
give you a peek inside my toolbox:


Ways to better know your market, your prospect, your competition, etc.

You want to know who really “gets” research? The Scientology folks.

Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. But, whatever you think of L. Ron and his ‘religion’… they know their markets better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

In my book, their surveys are practically works of art.

What am I searching for when I research?

Lots of things, but there are three things I’m always looking for clarity on:

  1. What SECRET emotions are they wrestling with?
  2. What are their SECRET fears?
  3. What SECRET desires do they harbor?

These are things they won’t tell a soul.

Overall Knowledge of the Market:

Whenever possible, I want to be IN the market, participating in the give and take of information, commerce, etc.

I’m always learning what it’s like, through meetups, interviews, lively discussion at the local pub, even my wife when I’m looking for a female perspective.

For instance, I know this sounds paradoxical but did you know in the personal development market people DON’T want to be successful?

It’s true. I’ve tested this, time and time again.

The reason? Success sounds like too much work.

They just want the money or the fame or the fortune.

It’s distinctions like these in health and fitness, survival, weight loss and finance that give me an advantage.

Copywriting/Persuasion Strategy and Tactics:

There are zillions of ways to persuade people through your words and formatting.

It’s knowing what to use when that makes all the difference, doesn’t it?


Of course, words! Mark Twain was fond of saying:

“The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”Rodale

My favorite tool in this part of my toolbox?

Rodale’s Synonym Finder. I use it everyday.

You can find it here. 

It’ll ratchet up your copy immediately.

Go ahead, grab it.


Learning to write compelling stories is such an important copywriting tactic, it deserves its own category.

There is a big difference between writing fiction, or biographical stories and using stories to help convince someone to buy your product.

Still, there are devices which can be imported, making your stories even more compelling.

My favorite book on the subject? Storytelling Made Easy by Michael Hague is a good one.

Clear, Compelling Writing Tactics:

I’m a perpetual student of writing regardless of the domain, whether it’s scriptwriting, comedy writing, poetry, journalism… even arcane writing such as medical writing.

My favorite is screenwriting.

The dialogue is so succinct, so concise, so pared down, every word counts.

James Cameron is a genius at this. Check out this scene-setting from the movie Aliens for an example:

        FADE IN

        SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE - SPACE                            

        Silent and endless.  The stars shine like the love of
        God...cold and remote.  Against them drifts a tiny chip
        of technology.

        CLOSER SHOT  It is the NARCISSUS, lifeboat of the
        ill-fated star-freighter Nostromo.  Without interior
        or running lights it seems devoid of life.  The PING
        of a RANGING RADAR grows louder, closer.  A shadow
        engulfs the Narcissus.  Searchlights flash on, playing
        over the tiny ship, as a MASSIVE DARK HULL descends
        toward it.

        INT. NARCISSUS                                            

        Dark and dormant as a crypt.  The searchlights stream
        in the dusty windows.  Outside, massive metal forms can
        BE SEEN descending around the shuttle.  Like the tolling
        of a bell, a BASSO PROFUNDO CLANG reverberates through
        the hull.

        CLOSE ON THE AIRLOCK DOOR  Light glares as a cutting
        torch bursts through the metal.  Sparks shower into the

        A second torch cuts through.  They move with machine
        precision, cutting a rectangular path, converging.  The
        torches meet.  Cut off.  The door falls inward REVEALING
        a bizarre multi-armed figure.  A ROBOT WELDER.

Beautiful, ain’t it?

Ways to Build a Better Offer:

I’m always focused on creating an irresistible offer, turning it into an unconscious “impulse buy.” 

Please understand, I’m NOT saying irresistible equates to free or even inexpensive. 

For instance, today I just tested doubling the price of a weight loss program and I’ll be darned if it didn’t more than double conversions as well.

I believe creating an irresistible offer is an art in itself.

Graphics Design:

Your graphics design and packaging telegraphs a lot about your promotion, even before your prospect reads a word. You goals is to make every pixel count.

I’m no designer, but I am asked for my feedback on a lot of projects. You’d be amazed how just changing a couple of elements can have such a dramatic effect on conversions.

Marketing Strategy:

It’s been said a mediocre strategy will always trump great copy. And it’s true.

Your sales funnel, your email, followup sequence, your lead generations strategy are “big rock” tools which can leave your competitors scratching their heads in the dust, wondering what just hit them.

While there are a number of services promising to decipher/decode a strategy, the best ways to learn is to experience them yourself.

Go ahead and buy a ClickBnk product just for the sake of learning the psychology as you go through your competitor’s funnel. The money is well worth it.

Conversion Optimization Tactics:

There are simple things you can do that have gotten me as much as a 13X boot in results. That’s 1300%! Whether that’s optins, or leads, or sales or customers.

Again, this takes on going study, analysis and testing, but the rewards from just on going A/B split testing can be lucrative 

You just have to keep driving the traffic, keep testing and things will work out.

Platform-Specific Strategies and Tactics:

Email tactics, PPC tactics, cold traffic tactics, ClickBank marketplace tactics. A copywriter who his unfamiliar with the platform he is writing for will have his lunch eaten time and time again.

Honestly, as a copywriter, you can spend 40 hours a week just keeping up to date with platforms like Facebook. It changes constantly. Adwords is the same. 

These days, I’m spending more and more time write compelling articles that lead to video sales letters. These native ads on these platforms like Adblade and Taboola are tricky but they can be mastered.

Trade Secrets:


Yes, of course I have my trade secrets.

Things I rarely share that give me, as a copywriter, a decisive advantage.

 These things have made my Clients and I as much as $10 million a year from a single product launch.

(Keep checking in and paying attention to this blog and I’ll be revealing some of my secrets from time to time. You just never know when.)


Now that I’ve shared the major elements of my copywriter’s toolbox, here’s the big distinction:

I treat these categories as SKILLS to master.

Not just tools, or devices or things to be collected, every category has become a subject of ultimate Mastery.

Now, I’m not saying I AM A MASTER of these skills, what I am saying is my intent, my commitment is to master these areas.

Like the Zen koan, I’m always a student. 

Yet, I bring what I know about these eight categories to every project I’m involved in. No matter how big or how small.

So go ahead, open up evernote and start creating some notebooks and collecting ideas, strategies, swipes, whatever.

Of course, I’ll be sharing my experience too in these pages. So y’all come back now, you hear?

PS: Feel free to borrow any of my tools. You don’t even have to worry about putting them back. 😉

How to raise your freelance copywriting rates

raise your freelance copywriting ratesYou know it’s time.

You’ve gathered some great case studies. You have fantastic testimonials. You’ve studied your craft, taken classes and honed your skills.

So, why is it so hard to tell your clients, “I’m raising my freelance copywriting rates?”

I get it. I really do. The good news is – your clients (probably) won’t tell you to jump in a lake. The bad news is – you may lose some folks, especially if you don’t raise your rates the right way.

How to raise your freelance copywriting rates

Mapping Content to Conversion Is a Winning Content Marketing Strategy

Mapping Content to Conversion Is a Winning Content Marketing StrategyBrands today are creating content that’s tailored to the position of a buyer in his or her journey toward a purchase or conversion. Such content, which focuses on consumers’ varied needs and concerns as they progress through the “buyer’s journey,” is the product of a new content marketing strategy that looks a lot like a conversion strategy, according to Conductor’s Director of Research Nathan Safran.

Mapping Content to Conversion Is a Winning Content Marketing Strategy

Raise the Bar NOW! Intelligent Copywriting Tactics That Lead to Maximum Conversions

content-marketing-copywriting-tipsIf you are “content”
with great content,
Please reconsider
So you won’t repent!
Now is the time
to get discontent.
As 2014 is the year of…

Raise the Bar NOW! Intelligent Copywriting Tactics That Lead to Maximum Conversions

4 Copywriting Tips to Boost Your Landing Page Conversions

When an average of just 1-4% of B2B landing page visitors convert to leads, it’s not hard to get discouraged (BrightInfo). If you’ve designed a killer landing page, clearly defined your value proposition, and created a form, you may wonder why your conversion rate isn’t higher. If this is the case, make sure you’re not overlooking the importance of effective landing page copy. On a webpage with one clear purpose, every word must count. Fortunately, we’ve rounded up some simple tips you can use to optimize your landing page copy and drive more conversions.

4 Copywriting Tips to Boost Your Landing Page Conversions

How to Report on Conversion Tracking in AdWords

If you work in the paid advertising industry, reporting on conversion tracking should be like lacing your states before a hockey game (sorry for the Canadian-ism), it’s prep work for the later goal.Reporting is instilled into advertisers’ DNA as a way to confirm whether or not orders are being placed or contact forms are submitted to justify the ROI, but somewhere along the way things have gone backwards.

How to Report on Conversion Tracking in AdWords


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