The overlooked art of reassurance in copywriting

January 7, 2014 | By | 7 Replies More

Reassurance isn’t a term that’s widely used in copywriting.

Have a quick scan through the index pages of Cialdini’s Influence, Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell is Human or even Ogilvy’s On Advertising and you won’t find any special preference given to the word.

reassurance sign copywriting

Even a stop sign needs a little reassurance sometimes.

Does that make it redundant?

Does the fact that late greats and modern thinkers alike haven’t targeted the concept of ‘reassurance’ mean that it isn’t something to think about?

No way.

I mean, the word reassurance itself is defined as “the act of removing someone’s doubts or fears.”

When it comes to selling, that’s exactly what you want to do, right?

Imagine if you could remove someone’s doubts or fears about buying your product or service?

That would be incredibly usefu—

“Hang on, Fisher!” I hear you shout.

“That’s something I already do in my writing. I spend plenty of time overcoming objections and providing proof as to why someone should buy the product I’m selling.”

Yes. You’re right. You got me. Tackling objections in a direct response sales letter should be done as standard. And providing proof! Well, that’s one of the Four Ps, right? Any copywriter in their right mind would provide proof in their sales argument.

Fair play.

But one minute, let me just ask you this…

In attempting to overcome objections in your current copy, do you look to overcome the objection AND reassure the reader?

Perhaps you consider them one in the same? Many do.

Personally though, I think there’s a very subtle difference.

For example…

If you were overcoming an objection about how long the product you’re selling takes to use, you might say:

“Don’t worry; the wonder pump only takes ten minutes to work. You’ll be pumped up in no time.”

Sounds fine, right? (Although I’m not sure what a wonder pump is or what it’s used for? Let’s just run with it for now.)

Here you’ve overcome the objection on a very technical level. You’ve established that the wonder pump is quick to use. Great.

But hold on… you see, there’s still a doubt in the reader’s mind. EVERYONE always says things only take ten minutes.

Damn it.

OK. OK…

To further overcome the objection you go on to explain the step-by-step process of using a wonder pump.

You include a video of it in action, showing that it can be used in exactly ten minutes.

You even throw in a few testimonials about how quick it is to use!

This is some SERIOUS proof.

The objection is crapping itself and running for the hills. Surely now it’s well and truly overcome. The reader is sold, right?

‘Fraid not.

The reader watched the video, saw the guy using the wonder pump, saw that it took ten minutes, saw the testimonials and is almost ready to buy, BUT…

Somewhere at the back of their mind is this little nagging doubt: Will it take ME ten minutes?

You see, even showing stone-cold proof doesn’t necessarily reassure a reader.

The subtle difference between overcoming an objection and reassuring a reader

Reassurance is a much more emotional thing. Our need for reassurance arises from deep anxieties that we often aren’t even conscious of.

So reassurance is a personal thing – it doesn’t really have anything to do with the product or service that’s being sold.

Do you see what I mean?

Think of something you’ve spent a lot of money on. I’m talking about a really high ticket item: a top-of-the-range computer, a car or even a house.

I’m sure you went through all the possible objections on a technical level. You reasoned why the specs of the Mac were better than the PC, you had an MOT and service done and went for a test drive, you paid through the nose for solicitor fees and various structural surveys.

Still though – despite having overcome all your objections on a technical level – at some point I bet you sought reassurance from a loved one or someone you trust.

Despite the fact that we have all the proof we need, we still look for reassurance on an emotional level.

That’s the difference.

And it’s that kind of reassurance that I’m suggesting you aim to offer your reader in your sales letter.

How?

Well, you have to almost turn your back on the product or service. It’s essentially irrelevant.

Instead you need to focus your attention entirely on the reader. Specifically you have to focus in on the anxieties they might have about the very act of buying your product or service.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s difficult. As I say, it might be that their need for reassurance has nothing to do with the product itself and arises from the fact that they’re worried what their partner might say.

If you think that’s a possibility: tackle it – remember you’re talking one-to-one, the partner isn’t there right now, so reassure them. Give them the answers to the objections that the partner will surely come up with when they get home.

Or maybe your reader needs reassurance that they can afford it. So deal with that. But don’t just say it’s cheap or that they’re getting a great deal – turn your attention away from the product and towards the reader. Reason the pros and cons of spending the money full stop, not just spending it on your product.

Truly reassuring your reader will make a huge difference to the success of your sales letter, so make the effort…

Think hard about the difference between overcoming an objection with proof and providing reassurance to someone on an emotional level.

In fact, right now, to get yourself thinking about the difference, in the comments below I’d like you to write down the last big thing you had to make a buying decision about and what (or who) reassured you that it was the right decision.

It’ll be interesting to see if your reassurances tie in with the product itself or your concerns about your own circumstances.

Best,
Glenn

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Category: Emotionals

About the Author ()

Glenn Fisher is a professional copywriter, founder of AllGoodCopy.com and author of Write Better Copy. He is an expert in long copy sales letters, having written copy that has so far generated more than £10 million in revenue. Born in Grimsby, he now lives in London.

Comments (7)

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  1. You’ve drawn a crucial distinction here, Glenn.

    We all know (or should know) that features trump benefits, but in making this argument, we sometimes lose sight of the most important thing.

    We put our focus on the product rather than the person who we want to buy the product.

    Reassurance makes you “turn your back to the product or service” and speak to the heart of the reader.

    Good stuff.

  2. Richard Potter says:

    Donnie, I’m sorry… did I misunderstand: “features trump benefits”? Didn’t you get that backwards?

    Glenn, as for this article: there’s a lot of huffing and puffing, but precious few examples of how to provide reassurance. I think a better word might be “rationalization.” That is, help the reader with any “excuses” he or she might need to “explain” this purchase to someone else and, in so doing, justify this purchase to themselves. For example, if someone buys a Mercedes-Benz, he or she may emotionally want the prestige of driving a fine car. But they’ll rationalize it by saying it’s (for example) a safer car that will help protect their family. Maybe _that’s_ how they reassure themselves that this purchase is right for them. Or, do you have a different take on this?

    • Glenn Fisher says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Richard, but I’m not sure about the negative vibe. I want this website to be a positive place where people share ideas.

      That said, you do make a fair point about examples and I will think of some specifics to include. But it’s a very subtle idea and a difficult one to get across.

      I do think you have a point regarding rationalisation, but I’m trying to make a slightly different point here.

      When someone rationalises something, it’s an internal decision. Reassurance is something we seek from others to support our own rationalisation. Does that make sense? I’m suggesting that in your copy you become that person who offers reassurance.

      Hope that clears it a little.

  3. I DID say that backwards, didn’t I? Benefits trump features.

    Goofy me.

  4. Karleen says:

    Good points here Glenn. I think I get what you’re saying. Basically, you want to put yourself in your potential buyer’s shoes, look at what you’re promoting from the “other side”, determine what might keep you from buying it and then address those issues.

    I can see how it would be difficult to explain exactly. You just have to sort of get a feel for your customer and go from there.

    Recently, my largest purchase was actually for an online course. It was going to cost $3500 that I didn’t have and would have to borrow from my mom’s account, which I have control over since she is elderly and has dementia. It was a very difficult decision because I hated borrowing so much with no guarantee of being able to repay it. However, I think for me what made my decision was the optimistic attitude from the sellers and their conviction that if I stick with the course and follow their instructions, I will make back much more than that initial investment in the course. That, and the fact that they really seem to want their students to succeed. They eliminated my fears of not succeeding and therefore gave me the reassurance I needed to make the jump.

    • Glenn Fisher says:

      Think you’ve got what I’m saying perfectly there, Karleen. And that’s a great example of good sales copy providing you with the reassurance you needed. I hope the course, whatever it may be, lives up to the good copy. Thanks for sharing.

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