There’s one thing us marketers all have in common: We use the written word to encourage someone to buy a product or service. The question is which words actually make people want to swipe their credit cards.
Of course, we don’t condone unethical marketing here, so we’re not talking about putting people under trances, sharing misleading information or anything of the like. We are, however, interested in the psychology behind communication, and how we can be clever with our use of words.
Naturally, that interest extends into curiosity about the words that make people spend money. Here’s what we know:
Simply put: words matter
The language you use to promote your brand has a direct impact on sales, namely because words drive consumer interactions with your company. From direct conversations with sales reps to casual encounters with social posts, the way you deliver messages has a significant impact on buying decisions.
Word associations and connotations are partly responsible for such influence. Using an insulting, negative or easily-misinterpreted phrase can turn someone off a brand entirely, while the right conversation can have audiences clinging to every phrase.
What’s more, marketing copy must align with the target audience to have any chance of resonating with them. It’s similar to the noticeable difference between how you talk to your boss versus your friends, or how geographical phrases and subculture lingo can create connections between groups of people.
The words you use will help paint a picture of your product or service that you want customers to see. The written word helps you connect with them, grab their attention, play on curiosities, address pain points and, ultimately, convince them that you’re worth the money.
The $$$ words
Before we dive into the words that make money, let’s start with some general pointers:
- Use strong verbs to encourage action (and by action, we mean spending money).
- Appeal to the senses with sensory words that tell a more engaging and persuasive story.
- Evoke emotional reactions to influence buying decisions.
- Choose positive connotations, always steering clear of words and phrases that may inspire negative thoughts or feelings.
- Remember that context matters; only use these words when they make sense and complement your brand voice.
Ready to boost your sales with the written word? Here are the words to know:
You know what they say: If it’s free it’s for me. Yes, “free” is used a lot. But the reality is that people love free products and services. It may feel counterintuitive initially, but people are generally more willing to spend money if they feel like they’re getting optimum bang for their buck. For most consumers, it’s easier to justify a $500 purchase when there’s $100 worth of add-ons thrown in for free. Business leaders may also be more willing to partner with agencies that offer “free” services as part of the package.
If you have the means to give something away for free, seriously consider doing so. It’s a great way to grab attention and provide potential customers with a taste of what your company has to offer. There’s no pressure on their end, which makes them feel like they have nothing to lose by trying it out. The win for you is when they love the free item so much, they’re willing to come back and buy more.
This is essentially a fancy way of saying “free” – but the same principles apply. People love a great deal – and complimentary has an especially alluring ring to it.
Oh, the power of a great bargain. Make it clear that they’re saving money, and people are more likely to make the purchase. It’s the reason why many of us never ignore the sale rack.
Impress people with how your product or service can create value for them and the price tag won’t matter as much. It’s about telling a story they can envision themselves in, whether it’s showing them how their business will be more profitable with your product or service on their side or explaining how the combo plan is a greater value than buying individual ones. It works because it makes people feel like the purchase is worthwhile.
This word can be effective when it’s followed by a compelling reason to take action. There’s a study from the late ‘70s that’s still referenced today to make a compelling case for “because.” Social psychologist and Harvard University professor Ellen Langer conducted the study to test the impact of phrasing on people’s response to her cutting in line. She tested three versions:
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”
- “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?”
While about 70 percent of people let her cut them in line when she asked the first way, the following versions had over a 90 percent success rate. All thanks to that “because” – and of course the reason that followed it.
The point is this: You can’t expect people to spend money if you don’t give them a valid reason to do so.
Do you know that feeling of wanting what you can’t have? Well, making your product or service available to only a select group of people can ignite a similar desire. Such exclusivity appeals to our sense of community, as well as the guilty pleasure of being specially chosen from the crowd. Others simply enjoy the benefits – and bragging rights – of being a member.
The same effect applies to words and phrases like:
- Members only.
- Exclusive deal for members.
- Become an insider.
- Get it before everyone else.
- Be one of the few.
- Only available here.
You may even go for a double-whammy: Complimentary when you join the mailing list.
Of course, this doesn’t appeal to all audiences, so make sure you have your target customers in mind when using these words and phrases in your marketing copy.
This adjective implies that something is better than average, if not the best of the best. People are willing to spend more money if they believe they’re getting the best product, service, deal or outcome because of the extra splurge. You might even use words like “premium,” “premiere” “deluxe,” and “elite” to name different levels of your products, services, packages or membership club.
Your customers are the stars of the show, so make them feel that way. Tailor your copy to make it about your audience, giving them convincing reasons why they should invest in your product or service.
No one likes a company that’s obsessed with itself, but we do love a company that genuinely cares about what they can do to improve our lives. Answer the questions they really want to know: What’s in it for them? How can they benefit from the product or service? How will they feel after using the product or service?
Answer the questions your customers and prospects really want to know: What’s in it for them? How can they benefit from the product or service? How will they feel after using the product or service?
Even better than talking to your audience in the second person is addressing them by name. Our names are intrinsic to our identity, which means they’re virtually guaranteed to engage us. To put it bluntly, we pay way more attention to personalization. Of course, using names isn’t possible in all marketing copy, but you can certainly try it out via email, social or direct mail channels.
The FOMO is real, people. Give customers a reason to make a purchase by instilling a sense of urgency that they might miss out on a deal, experience or product if they don’t buy soon.
This works with phrases like:
- Limited time offer.
- Limited supplies.
- While supplies last.
- Limited edition.
This is similar to “limited” but it’s even more direct in creating urgency. Get to the point: This great deal is only going to last so long, so act now before the chance is gone. This is the kind of language you’ll want to use when you’re pushing flash sales, coupon codes or other limited time offerings.
This phrase also adds a sense of urgency to the message, so you can use it in follow-up messaging that gives consumers one last nudge to make a purchase.
You can communicate the same idea with words and phrases like:
- Last chance to save.
- Only a few left.
- Sale ends soon.
- Don’t miss out.
We want it – and we want it now! Modern audiences are accustomed to instant gratification, which means you can use words like “immediately” or “instantly” to attract attention and encourage purchases. Think about how much more appealing overnight shipping is than waiting two weeks to receive your latest purchase. Or how convenient it is to start enjoying the benefits of your new service on the same day you submitted the payment.
When there’s no waiting involved before they can experience the value of a purchase, people are much happier about the idea of spending money on a product or service.
This action word really hits people on a psychological level, preparing them to take action to receive the result. More often than not, that result is a benefit of a product or service. Think about phrases like:
- Get sustainable products delivered right to your door.
- Get accelerated results.
- Get toned in six weeks.
You can inspire the same kind of action with other verbs, such as:
People love stories. They help communicate the value and benefit of products or services in a relatable, engaging way. Using “imagine” in your marketing copy prepares your audience to start visualizing before they even read what comes next. Rather than simply reading the features and benefits of your products or services, they begin to picture themselves experiencing those features and benefits. This kind of vision can be a powerful selling tool.
Along with word of mouth, scientific or research-based evidence can increase consumer confidence in a company. If you have the facts, share them. Customers will be more inclined to make a purchase when there’s less risk involved in spending money on your product or service.
No ifs, ands or buts about it. You’re making a promise to your clients and you’re sticking to it. If you can confidently use “guaranteed” without being misleading, it can reassure people that your brand is trustworthy and authentic. AKA worthy of the investment.
If you can confidently use “guaranteed” without being misleading, it can reassure people that your brand is trustworthy and authentic. AKA worthy of the investment.
Everyone wants the latest and greatest, so don’t hesitate to let people know when you’re unveiling a new product or service. Using “introducing” or “new” in copy gives customers the sense that there is something fresh and exciting to discover. This is especially effective for repeat business, as those who already invested in your brand will be excited to buy your latest offering.
The simple life is appealing to most, which is why using “easy” in your verbiage can impact sales. Make it clear that your product or service is easy to use, simple to set up and capable of introducing stress-free bliss into your customers’ lives. That is if it’s true, of course!
The forbidden words
As you’re boosting your copy with the words that make people spend, it’s also a good idea to avoid the words and phrases that could kill the sale. A lot of them are obvious, such as offensive language or profanity in the wrong settings. Plus, you’ll want to avoid overused words and phrases that have lost their effectiveness over time. If you’ve seen it a lot, chances are your audience has had similar exposure.
Here are a few forbidden words to note:
- But: This implies something negative is coming.
- Unique: This overused adjective has essentially lost its meaning.
- Revolutionary: Unless your product or service is truly the first of its kind, don’t lie to your customers.
- Miracle: Again, don’t oversell your product or service. If you can’t meet expectations, you’ll have frustrated customers who aren’t willing to spend money.
- Better: You want to be the best, not slightly above average.
While there might be room for these everyday words in blogs and other long-form content, you’ll generally want to avoid them in headlines, social posts, CTAs and ads written to generate sales.
Be smart with your words
There you have it: The words you use can influence buying decisions. Of course, there are many elements at play. Simply using these words won’t make wallets fly open – but when combined with savvy content strategies and distribution methods, they certainly can’t hurt.
Keep this list of words that make people spend money in mind as you craft the content that might just bring a wealth of sales to your company.