||In cyberspace the right stuff means the right
words. Read what the success doctor has to say about words.
challenge for many webmasters and Internet marketers is certainly that
of ensuring a site communicates effectively to its audience --
especially when communication is at the heart of making profitable
online sales. Of course, less than a decade ago the need to communicate
in a language that the vast majority of people can understand was not an
important element -- "technolese" was commonplace since the
web was mostly used by programmers.
Today, however, things have changed. The population that surf the
Internet and shop online is growing by leaps and bounds. And a good
portion of newbies are, to some extent, computer-illiterate as well. In
other words, the web catered mostly to innovators and early adopters
during its introductory stage. But now its growing population consists
of segments of the marketplace that would, for one and in large part,
have never used computers otherwise.
You Ought To Be in Pictures
I once took a media communications course
in which I discovered an interesting example of the way the mind works.
As part of a given lesson, a videotape was shown of a televised newscast
during which a journalist was about to give a live report on a forest
fire that was devastating the midwest. The news anchor in the television
newsroom said: "We now take you to Sally -- she's in the station's
helicopter flying above the scene of the fire."
He then turned around to face the background screen, which gave a live
bird's-eye view of the raging fire, and asked: "Sally, how big is
the fire?" In a voice partially drowned by the whizzing sound of
helicopter blades, Sally reports: "John, it's so big it's covering
well over 140 acres of land -- if I'm not mistaken, for you and me
that's about 200 football fields back-to-back."
As you can sense from the above example, people think in pictures -- not
in words and certainly not in numbers (unless it is told to do exactly
that). The mind is a simple organ and it hates confusion. It will
naturally translate words or phrases into their visual equivalent. For
instance, if I told you to think of a garbage can, you're not going to
think "G," "A," "R," "B," etc.
Your mind will automatically visualize some sort of garbage can.
Why do you think Microsoft Windows and the MacIntosh computer dominate
the marketplace in operating systems? It is because, rather than having
to type an elaborate command for your computer to execute, you can
simply use your mouse, point to an icon, and click. Icons basically
represent programs or a string of numerous commands, which are in fact
translated into a language (or code) that the computer can understand
once they are clicked.
The mind works in almost the same way a computer does. Like a
microprocessor, the brain instantly translates what it is being told to
do into something it can easily understand and execute. Some people who
know little about computers may have a hard time understanding the
various written commands, scripts and codes that the computer needs to
process. But on the other hand most people can easily identify the icons
that symbolizes them.
Use "Upwords" To Move Upwards
Therefore, because of the growing cyberpopulation (which
consists more and more of people new to the web let alone to computers
or technology in general) it is important to communicate using a
language that most people can easily understand. It is Mark Twain who
once said, "Numbers don't stick in the mind; pictures do."
Consequently, use upwords in your web copy. "Upwords" is an
acronym that stands for "Universal Picture Words Or Relatable,
Descriptive Sentences." Stated differently, upwords are words and
phrases that help messages to be easily interpreted by the majority of
people to whom the message is targeted, such as with the use of
examples, analogies, metaphors, symbols, stories, picture words,
For example, a challenge among cosmetic surgeons is the fact that people
will call for a quote over the phone when obviously the doctor needs to
see the patient beforehand. Obviously, cosmetic surgery is an uncommon
process. Doctors will therefore use a more common approach, such as
cosmetic dentistry, as an analogy.
Unlike surgery, most people have had their teeth done at some point in
their lives. So doctors will say: "Like a dentist, I can not give
an estimate over the phone without any x-rays of your teeth let alone
the knowledge of how many cavities you actually have." People who
call a cosmetic surgeon for a quote now understand not only the reason
but also the importance of seeing the doctor, in person, in order to
obtain an accurate estimate.
Online marketers are certainly in a similar position. Many tend to
communicate in a language that only a mere few will fully understand.
For example, if you're a computer programmer trying to sell your
services to clients who have recently connected to the web, and your
copy is laced with complex technical data in a language that only
veteran surfers could understand, you will obviously do very poorly. You
must therefore mold your message in a way that it can be easily
understood by your target market. Speak their language, in other words.
If your market consists of artists, use art examples. If your market
consists of managers, use business analogies. If your market consists of
florists, use metaphors that florists can understand -- such as
"email messages from your clients are like fresh-cut roses; they
need to be handled efficiently and, if handled improperly, can prick you
and hurt your business."
Of course, there are many more ways of applying upwords. Here are some
brief examples of how to mold your online message in order to
communicate more effectively to your market.
1) Repetitious Words
As the adage goes, "Repetition is the parent of
learning." Repetition aids comprehension especially of complex,
critical or important ideas. However, the key here is not to repeat the
same words over and over but to use different examples to illustrate
To that end, substitute certain words with synonyms and add new pieces
of information each time the idea is repeated. For instance, in order to
drive the message "privacy policies promote purchases" home,
it can be repeated with the following:
- "Privacy statements increase sales,"
- "Confidentiality is a key to online success,"
- And "respecting visitors' privacy is profitable"
2) Emotional Words
Again, words are not messages in themselves -- they are merely
symbols. As such, they have different meanings to each of us and
therefore can be interpreted differently. While many words can be used
to communicate a single message, your choice of words can actually alter
the emotional impact of your message. For example:
- Instead of saying "cost," say "investment,"
- Instead of saying beautiful "teeth," say beautiful
- Instead of saying "skinny," say "slim" or
- Instead of saying "products" or "services," say
- Instead of saying "cost-effective," say "return on
- And instead of saying "house," say "home."
3) Positive Words
As copywriter and IMC
Private Site <IMC/> contributor,
Rachel McAlpine <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1877161365/thesuccessdoctor/>,
often says, "Avoid using negative words -- say what it is, not what
it isn't." Cosmetic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, who wrote the
bestselling book "Psycho-Cybernetics
states that the brain is a goal-seeking organ -- it needs a goal in
order to function. For example, if I told you *not* to think of a white
carnation you will have hard time since your brain needs a goal -- it
will naturally picture what it is supposed to avoid because the mind can
not function when blank.
On the other hand, if I told you to think of a pink carnation, you will
naturally think of a pink carnation -- I gave your mind a goal. As a
result, by stating what something isn't can actually be
counterproductive since it is still directing the mind, albeit in the
opposite way. If I told you that dental work is painless for instance,
your mind will still focus on the word "pain" in
"pain-less." Here are some examples of using positive words:
- Instead of saying "inexpensive," say "economical,"
- Instead of saying "this procedure is painless,"
say "there's little discomfort" or "this procedure is
- And instead of saying "this software is error-free" or
say "this software is consistent" or "stable."
Nevertheless, one of the most negative words we often use in the English
language is surely the word "but." "Buts" can turn
any message, which in essence may be positive, into a negative. In
addition, a statement followed by the word "but" often subtly
communicates to others that what was said up to that point was really a
lie and what follows is the truth. Do you remember when a former
girlfriend or boyfriend dumped you? They probably said: "You're a
really nice guy and I like going out with you, but..." (You know
Consequently, leave the "but" out -- instead, use
"and" and focus on the positive. If you're a web site designer
for example, then instead of saying "it's a great web site BUT very
expensive," say "it's an excellent web site AND worth every
cent." Instead of saying "it's a versatile web site BUT it's
going to take at least a month to put it together," say "it's
a versatile web site AND it will only take thirty days to get it up and
Keep in mind that the online population is diverse. We all come from
different backgrounds -- our education, experiences and environment help
to condition our thinking over time. Therefore, in order to be
understood by your target market, use analogies, metaphors and picture
words that will make your message easier to understand by their personal
set of circumstances -- because, as Jack
once said, "A word is worth a thousand pictures."
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to turning businesses
into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com
<index.htm> for a free copy of his
book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also
the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine
delivered weekly to 100,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/
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