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Technique #10: Urgency in Copywriting - Seth Czerepak
There are two ways to create Urgency in Copywriting: external pressure, and internal pressure. External pressure is simple. All it takes is an irresistible limited-time offer. Internal pressure is more complicated, but also more powerful. In fact, if you create enough internal pressure, your limited-time offers will become much, much more effective. Creating internal pressure is all about leveraging cognitive dissonance.

Technique #10: Urgency in Copywriting

Article #10 (Final) from the series, 10 Persuasive Copywriting Techniques

Topics Covered in This Article

This article on Urgency in Copywriting was last updated Saturday, July 16th 2022.

Urgency in Copywriting

There are two ways to create urgency in copywriting: external pressure, and internal pressure. External pressure is simple. All it takes is an irresistible limited-time offer.

Internal pressure is more complicated, but also more powerful. In fact, if you create enough internal pressure, your limited-time offers will become much, much more effective.

Urgency in Copywriting

The Role of Urgency in Copywriting

Creating urgency in copywriting is all about leveraging what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance.” The term cognitive dissonance is routinely misused by the bobbleheads in the mainstream media and by keyboard warriors on Social Media. In most cases, they use it when they should be using the term “confirmation bias.”

The real meaning of cognitive dissonance is much more interesting. Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you hold contradictory beliefs, ideas, feelings, or values. It’s that uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize your behaviors don’t match your beliefs or values or that your present habits are out of sync with your future goals.

Cognitive dissonance theory states that people may change their attitude or their behavior to relieve themselves from this psychological discomfort:

“Cognitive dissonance is purported to be a powerful motivator for change. People find consistency comfortable and prefer to be consistent in their thoughts, beliefs, emotions, values, attitudes, and actions. When inconsistency exists, an individual feels an imbalance or dissonance. To reduce this feeling of imbalance, individuals may change their attitude or behavior to regain the feeling of consistency.”

SOURCE: Cognitive dissonance theory and motivation for change: a case study

This is the scientific secret to creating internal pressure and urgency. For example, let’s assume you give a speech about the value of sobriety one Saturday morning. That night, your friends invite you out drinking. You say yes, but as you arrive at the bar, you feel a twinge of guilt. You worry that someone might see you there and recognize you as the person who gave the speech that morning.

You order a beer, but when the bartender brings it, you feel so uneasy that you excuse yourself and leave the bar without taking a sip. That twinge of guilt you felt is cognitive dissonance. In this example, it motivated you to change your behavior to match the beliefs and values you had professed while giving your speech on sobriety. 

However, cognitive dissonance can also motivate you to change your beliefs or values to match your behavior. For example, let’s assume you’d stayed at the bar and had several beers. Let’s also assume that you were scheduled to give another speech on the value of sobriety the next Saturday.

If you were to continue this habit of drinking and speaking on sobriety you would eventually either cancel your speaking schedule or build a complex rationalization to excuse or even romanticize your behavior. If you do neither, you will continue to feel guilty about your drinking, or your speaking, or both. Soon, you will either drown out this physical anxiety through more drinking, or you’ll change your behavior and stop drinking.

This motivation to change either your beliefs, your values, or your behavior is the psychological principle behind urgency in copywriting. If your message makes a clear and compelling contrast between the pain of staying where they are, and the imagined pleasure of using your product or service to solve their problem and change their life, your prospect will only have three options.

  • Change their behavior by taking action
  • Bury their cognitive dissonance in rationalizations

You can’t control which choice they make, but you can create enough internal pressure that they have to do one or the other.

Cognitive Dissonance in Copywriting

If you get your Buyer Persona and your marketing channels right, and if your product or service solves a real problem, and your message is clear and compelling, you’ll get plenty of responses using this persuasive copywriting technique. That’s the role of urgency in copywriting. Now let’s look at some examples. 

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Examples of Urgency in Copywriting

The secret to creating cognitive dissonance is to contrast your reader’s most basic emotional needs with their polar opposites. I introduced these three basic emotional needs in article #7 of this series (On Emotional Copywriting):

  • Validation: the need to feel important.
  • Excitement: the need for variety and stimulation.
  • Security: the need for comfort and safety.

I also introduced the negative polar opposites of each need:

  • Shame
  • Boredom
  • Fear

You can call them by other names if you don’t like mine, but the needs are universal and transcend language. Some people value excitement over security, and others value security over excitement. Some people seek validation through achievement, others through praise. But the needs themselves are timeless and universal.

Your job is to identify how your Buyer Persona relates to each need, and which need(s) are most relevant to the problem that your product or service solves. You’ll then create a contrast between the positive emotional experience of solving their problem, with the negative experience of staying where they are.

This way, your reader isn’t just choosing to buy or not. They are choosing between validation and shame, excitement and boredom, or security and fear. In the following three examples, I’ll share three versions of an excerpt from a video script selling a mastermind coaching program. Each version targets one of the three needs mentioned above and was written to target a different psychographic dimension of the Buyer Persona. 

Urgency in Copywriting: Example #1 (Validation)

In this example, our reader is a business coach who is making an average of $5k a month. They want to break the six-figure mark, and go beyond to build a seven-figure income. However, they feel stuck because time saturation is keeping them from doing the things necessary to grow their business. 

Which Type of Entrepreneur Do You Want to Be?

In the world of entrepreneurship, there are winners and losers. Some business coaches will tell you that anyone can win. [CONTRAST >]What they won’t tell you is that only a small percentage of entrepreneurs ever break the six-figure mark. Even fewer become millionaires. The others remain stuck chasing these goals until the most productive years of their lives are over.[< CONTRAST] 

Having helped hundreds of entrepreneurs break the six-figure mark and more than a dozen become self-made millionaires, I can tell you that life is much, much better for those who win.[CONTRAST >]It’s better to be paid what you’re worth than to haggle with clients over price. It’s better to wake up every morning to a coaching calendar than to spend half your time chasing new business.[< CONTRAST] 

[HOPE >]It’s better to have the freedom to invest your energy into meaningful projects, to choose who you’ll associate with, and to choose where, when, and how you’ll do business while the most productive years of your life are still ahead of you.[< HOPE]  

[REVISITING PRESENT PAIN >]Now that you’ve seen the first step to making this dream real, this is all you’ll think about. You’ll remember this every night when you lie awake wishing you had the time and money to finally break your income plateau.[< REVISITING PRESENT PAIN]

[CONTRAST WITH HOPE >]Or, you can join this program now, get unstuck, and join the small select group of entrepreneurs who are living the kind of life most people only get to dream about.[< CONTRAST WITH HOPE] Book first your call now, and let’s start winning. 

Notice how this copy appeals to their need for validation by drawing a contrast between winners and losers. This contrast is connected to my reader’s need for validation and its polar negative. These contrasting emotions will drive them to move away from the pain of the present, and toward the hopeful picture I’ve created in my copy. 

You’ll also notice that I planted a “splinter in their mind,” with this statement:

“Now that you’ve seen the first step to making this dream real, this is all you’ll think about. You’ll remember this every night when you lie awake wishing you had the time and money to finally break your income plateau.”

This is a powerful technique for making sure that people who don’t buy right away are still haunted by your message. If you have a robust follow-up strategy using email, SMS, or retargeting, this is a powerful way to prepare them to take action and buy later.

Urgency in Copywriting: Example #2 (Excitement)

In this example, our reader is a business coach who is already making more than six figures a year. They want to go beyond this and build a seven-figure income. However, they feel stuck because they’ve run out of ways to attract more traffic, leads, and sales. They’ve spent money on ads and are willing to spend more in the future, but they can’t get their paid ad traffic to convert.

Isn’t It Time to Break Your Income Plateau?

You want to scale from six to seven figures. By now, you know that there are only two choices left:

  • [BOREDOM >]Keep burning yourself out hoping to “go viral.”
  • [EXCITEMENT >]Learn to convert cold traffic into leads, sales, and revenue.

[CONTRAST >]Forget all the boring theories about delegation, systemization, and building “scalable business processes.” None of that matters until you can attract a flood of brand new, ready-to-buy inbound traffic.[< CONTRAST]

[REVISITING PRESENT PAIN >]Your warm network will only get you so far. It takes time, energy, and attention to build it. Cold calling and cold emailing have their limits. Same with writing SEO content and with every other non-scalable lead generation method. You’ve burned yourself out doing it this way.[< REVISITING PRESENT PAIN]

You’re running out of warm contacts, and you can only invest so much time into finding new ones.

Want to get unstuck and explode your income?

[CONTRAST >]It’s simple. Join this program, and learn to convert cold traffic into leads, sales, and repeat revenue. Your business will never grow to seven figures without it. You’ll burn yourself out trying.[< CONTRAST] 

[CONTRAST WITH HOPE >]Once you crack the cold traffic code, you can happily invest money into buying traffic because you KNOW it will bring you more customers, more revenue, and the kind of life most entrepreneurs only get to dream about. It’s that simple.[< CONTRAST WITH HOPE]

But it’s not easy. That’s why so few marketing “experts” dare to talk about this subject. They don’t know how to make it work. [PLANTING A SEED >]Now that you know this, you’ll remember it every time you’re struggling to find new business.[< PLANTING A SEED] 

[CONTRAST WITH HOPE >]It’s time to break past your income plateau so you can create the explosive growth you’ve been dreaming about.[< CONTRAST WITH HOPE] Book your first appointment now, and let’s get started. 

Notice how this copy appeals to their need for excitement by drawing a contrast between their present burnout and the growth they’re hoping for. This contrast is connected to my reader’s need for excitement and its polar negative, boredom. These contrasting emotions will drive them to move away from the pain of the present, and toward the hopeful picture I’ve created in my copy. 

You’ll also notice that I planted a “splinter in their mind,” with this statement:

“Now that you know this, you’ll remember it every time you’re struggling to find new business.”

This assures that my message will stick in their mind, even if they don’t buy right away. If you have a robust follow-up strategy using email, SMS, or retargeting, this is a powerful way to make sure you can reengage your reader and close the sale later.  

Urgency in Copywriting: Example #3 (Security)

In this example, our reader is a business coach who is already making more than six figures a year. They want to build a seven-figure income. However, they feel stuck because they’ve run out of ways to attract more traffic, leads, and sales. They know they need to start buying traffic, but they’re afraid their ads won’t convert and they’ll lose their money.

Take the Guesswork Out of Growing Your Business

You want to scale from six to seven figures. By now, you know that there are only two choices left:

  • [BOREDOM >]Keep rolling the dice on new ad ideas.
  • [SECURITY >]Learn a proven system for turning cold traffic into leads, sales, and revenue.

[CONTRAST >]Forget all the unproven theories about delegation, systemization, and building “scalable business processes.” None of that matters until you can attract a steady and predictable flow of inbound business.[< CONTRAST]

[REVISITING PRESENT PAIN >]Your warm network will only get you so far. It takes time, energy, and attention to build it. Cold calling and cold emailing can be unpredictable and waste time. Same with writing SEO content and with every other non-scalable lead generation method. You’ve already lost a lot of time and opportunity doing it this way.[< REVISITING PRESENT PAIN]

You’re running out of warm contacts, and you can only invest so much time into finding new ones.

Want to take the guesswork out of buying new traffic?

[CONTRAST >]It’s simple. Join this program, and learn a proven system for turning cold traffic into leads, sales, and repeat revenue. Your business will never grow to seven figures without it. You’ll risk your money trying to do it on your own.[< CONTRAST] 

[CONTRAST WITH HOPE >]Once you crack the cold traffic code, you can confidently invest money into buying traffic because you KNOW it will bring you more customers, more revenue, and the steady and sustainable growth you’ve been looking for. It’s that simple.[< CONTRAST WITH HOPE]

But it’s not easy. That’s why so few marketing “experts” dare to talk about this subject. They don’t have a tested formula for making it work. [PLANTING A SEED >]Now that you know this, you’ll remember it every time you’re thinking about risking money on paid ads.[< PLANTING A SEED] 

[CONTRAST WITH HOPE >]It’s time to break past your income plateau so you can create the steady growth you’ve been dreaming about.[< CONTRAST WITH HOPE] Book your first appointment now, and let’s get started. 

Notice how this copy appeals to their need for security by drawing a contrast between their fear of spending money on ads and the certainty that comes from having ads that convert. This contrast is connected to my reader’s need for security and its polar negative, fear.

These contrasting emotions will get them out of their present fear and set their focus on the certainty that will come from having a predictable stream of inbound business. 

You’ll also notice that I planted a “splinter in their mind,” with this statement:

“Now that you know this, you’ll remember it every time you’re thinking about risking money on paid ads.”

This assures that my message will stick in their mind, even if they don’t buy right away. If you have a robust follow-up strategy using email, SMS, or retargeting, this should help my message remain fresh in their mind until they finally decide to buy.

Most importantly, notice the subtle difference in word choices between the above example, and the excitement example. This is a demonstration of Dog Whistle Language. Notice the subtle differences in my word selection from the excerpts below (I’ve bolded them to make them more obvious):

The excitement example says “…keep burning yourself out hoping to ‘go viral,’” while the security example says “…keep rolling the dice on new ad ideas.”

The excitement example says “…keep burning yourself out hoping to ‘go viral,’” while the security example says “…keep rolling the dice on new ad ideas.”

Urgency in Copywriting

The excitement example says “…None of that matters until you can attract a flood of brand new, ready-to-buy inbound traffic,” while the security example says “…None of that matters until you can attract a steady and predictable flow of inbound business.”

The excitement example says “…you’ve burned yourself out doing it this way,” while the security example says “…you’ve already lost a lot of time and opportunity doing it this way.”

The excitement example says “…You’ll burn yourself out trying,” while the security example says “…You’ll risk your money trying to do it on your own.”

The excitement example says “…It’s time to break past your income plateau so you can create the explosive growth you’ve been dreaming about,” while the security example says “…It’s time to break past your income plateau so you can create the steady growth you’ve been dreaming about.”

Notice how the security words contrast the fear of risk and loss with the promise of steady and predictable results while the excitement words contrast the fear of more boredom and burnout with the promise of big, explosive, results. These minor differences in word selection will make a big impact on how your reader responds to your message. The question is, how will you know whether to craft your message to target the need for Validation, Excitement, or Security?

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How to Apply Urgency in Copywriting

The secret to applying urgency in copywriting is to combine the Ladder of Abstraction technique from my article on Hypnotic Writing and the techniques in my article on Emotional Copywriting with what you’ve just learned in this article. If this sounds like a lot of work, that’s because the payoff is HUGE if you get this technique right. The first step is to define your Buyer Persona so you can get crystal clear on three things:

  • Their present experience of the problem you promise to solve for them.
  • The emotional need that’s driving their desire to solve the problem.
  • A description of what their life will be like after solving the problem.

Once you know these three things, you create a message that contrasts your reader’s present experience of the problem (Semantic and Emotional Relevance) with the promise of what their life will be like after you’ve helped them solve it. You can use this message in your headlines, your openings, in the body of your sales copy, just before your first and/or your final call to action. 

The examples in this article came just before the final call to action. This is the ideal place to crank up the internal pressure and push your reader to take action. The previous articles in this series and in my content marketing articles show you how to answer the above three questions. You would then use words and phrases that appeal to your primary need, and its negative opposite. 

Here’s a list of such words that I’ve collected over the years:

Positive: ace, achieve, baffle, be a part of, beat, believe in yourself, command, command respect, accepted, craft, dictate, dominate, emerge, erase, empower, exclusive, select., happy, join, love, make jealous, money, sexy, order, power, powerful, redeem, seize, success, take charge, unite, win.

Negative: bullied, chastise, chuckle, creep, ditch, door matted, giggle, snicker, hound, insignificant, isolate, jealous, jeer, laughed at, like a nobody, meddle, mock, mourn, nag, nibble, overpowered, plead, pander, pout, provoke, ramble, rejected/rejected, repel, repulse, scold, shun, smear, snitch, snoop., snort, snub, subdue, submit, surrender, taken advantage of, taunt, tear, tease, terrorize, thread, harassed, trained, needle, walked on.

Positive: accelerate, ace, act, amass, expand, banned, bolt, breeze, brink, bubbling, burst, buy, catch, charge, chased, clip, clutch, covert, dance, dash, dart, dash, dash, enjoy, dazzle, deal, descend, dip, dive, domino, earn, echo, eject, emerge, energize, enjoy, erupt, erupting, escape, exciting, explode, explosive, expose, exposed, undercover, fascinate, free, fresh, fruitful, gallop, giggle, happy, healthy, hidden, hidden, revealed, hurl, hurry, hurtle, ignite, illegal, invent, leap, jam, launch, leap, lick, love, boost, lurch, money, new, on a whim, opportunity, pack, penetrate, submerge, pile, plunge, positive, action, profit, profitable, project, propel, pry, pull, pump, punch, push, quiet subculture., race, rally, rave, redeem, refresh, renew, restore, results, reveal, revitalize, rock, roll, rub, run, rush, scaled, scoop, score, screw, scribble, secret, secret master key, unlocks the door, seize, sexy, shinny, shock, shoot shout, shower hurry, single, sizzle, skid, smoke, spike, spread, spray, spring, sprint, stagger, stoked, stunned, sucked, summon, sway, sweep, sweeten, brilliant, swoop, taboo, thrive, tuck, tug, tumble, twist, surrender, unite, vibrant, vibrate, unleash, want, yearn, zap, zip.

Negative: banal, bloat, bore, boring, dragging, dull, flapped, flat, flaunt, flinch, fling, flip, flit, gripe, gripping, grunt, groan, gurgling, lounge, mumble, caked, numb, routine, routine, tedious, scribble, skid, slink,, slug, lobbed, slurping, splatter, sprawl, stale, stumble, sucked. flick, swerve, swollen, trip, trudge, waltz, wander.

Positive: breeze, compassionate, don’t risk a penny until, ease, easy, endure, escape, examine, exhale, expert, results, free, gentle, thrive, guarantee, happy, hug, inspected, kind, lazy, love, massage, money, no room for guesswork, proof, protect, prove, proven, tested, relax, resist, restore, results, risk free, safe, satisfaction, save, seal, secure, sharpen, shield, shut, simple, simplify, strengthen, strong, survive, test, guarantee, tested, thoughtful, unconditional, understanding, your card will never be charged..

Negative: burden, claw, close, closing, clutch, collapse, cower, crush, devastate, disappear, panic, dread, risky, end, end, trap, ensnare, epidemic, fear, fight, froze, grisly, hoard, hopeless panic., hound, enslave, hover, hurry, invade, isolate, lecture, limited time, paralyze, risk, rob, scamper, scare, scatter, scavenge, scramble, spread, scrounge, scurry, shell, shiver, shock, shriek, shut, snub, startle, steal, stick, stiffen, stranglehold, subdue, submerge, suffocating, terror, urgent, weight burden, yell, scurry, yelped.

Positive: breakthrough, create your own legacy, desire, discovery, distant destinations, dream, dream like lifestyle, envision, happiness, imagine, soaring, longing, love, overcome, revolution, revolutionize, rippling, shatter, unfathomable wealth & riches., unlocks the door, vision, you have not found this ___ by coincidence.

Negative: caught, clashed, collapse, wiggle, cram, crawl, crawling, weakening, crouch, crumble, domino, drag, drain, enslave, fail, fall, faltering, flail, flatten, floored, flounder, going nowhere, live work and die, grope, grovel, hobble, insignificant, jammed, cram, like a nobody, limp, pile, pin, pinch, pitch, powerless, quit, resign, reel, retreat, sap, saw, scramble, scratch, slave, slip, smothered., snap, soaked, sopping, squash, stagger, struggle, stuff, swallow, tangle, trample, unleashed, weaken, wrestle, wrench.

To recap, start by defining your Buyer Persona. Then, you use the Semantic Relevance and Emotional Relevance techniques from earlier in this series to identify their present experience of the problem your product or service solves.

Then, you identify the need behind this problem. You then use words, phrases, metaphors, and stories that contrast their present experience of the problem with the hope of what their life will look like after you’ve helped them solve it.

This is a simple formula for applying urgency in copywriting. It’s powerful, which is why it’s not easy. Just remember that the payoff will be big if you learn and master this final persuasive copywriting technique. 

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Mastering Urgency in Copywriting

The secret to mastering urgency in copywriting is to stop selling products and services and to start selling experiences. In fact, this is the secret to mastering all the persuasive copywriting techniques in this series.

You sell an experience by creating such a clear and vivid picture of what your reader’s life could look like that they’re compelled to take action and make that experience real. You then contrast this with a clear and vivid description of their present experience with the symptoms of the problem that your product or service solves. 

If you do this right, your reader’s desire for your product will persist for days, weeks, or even months until they finally buy your product. Most marketing messages fail to do this for one simple reason…the prospect forgets how they feel about the product or service. Think about all the people who have seen your marketing message and who never bought. What happened? 

At some point, they were interested enough to take a look at your website, read your content, watch your videos, or subscribe to your email. But as time passed, they simply lost their perceived value of your product. They didn’t so much forget about it as they forgot how they felt about it. 

Can people really remember how they feel about a product? Don’t you have to build their desire back up every time you market to them? Scientifically speaking, no you don’t. 

But rather than bore you with a lecture on emotions and human memory, let me appeal to your intuition and personal experience to make my point. Have you ever really wanted something? I have. Hell, I still remember how badly I “needed” my first guitar. I’d wanted to play the guitar since I was seven. But I didn’t get to buy a guitar until I was 17. Still, my burning desire to own a guitar never waned.

In fact, it got stronger every year. I could almost feel the damn thing in my hands every time I heard a song by Bon Jovi, Journey, or Poison. When I was seventeen, after my first two weeks having a job,  that feeling made me run to the gas station with my first paycheck (that’s where we cashed checks back then), hurry to my local music store, and dump every penny of my check into putting my first guitar on layaway. 

Ten years dammit! And I never once lost the desire to feel that guitar in my hands. Have you ever wanted something this badly, and for this long? Maybe you had to save up the money for it. Maybe you needed to shop around for a few weeks. But that giddiness to drive the car, live in the house, take a vacation or play with the new toy never left you. My point is, that when you really want something, you can’t help but remember how you feel about it. 

I remember my first kiss. I remember my first time catching a large-mouthed bass without my dad’s help. I remember the first time I shot a gun, the first time I lifted weights, the first song I wrote, and my first-time playing rock guitar with a band. I remember my college graduation ceremony, the first time I voted, my first day working a job, and my first car accident. I remember vivid and specific details about my first three dates with my wife, Alexis. 

I’m sure you have your own list of memorable experiences. You remember where you were when they happened. You remember who you were with. You probably remember the song that was playing. Most importantly, you remember how you felt. You remember these things because you relive them every time you think of them. That’s the difference between a “high-definition” memory, and a bland, black and white mental record of raw facts.

Urgency in Copywriting

So don’t settle for this myth that your prospects will eventually respond to your ads if they just see enough of them. They can see your ad dozens of times and still ignore it.

Likewise, some prospects will see your ad once, and it will stick in their mind so much that they’ll actively search for your product and buy it. 

It all boils down to whether you create an intense and persisting desire for the experience that your product or service promises to deliver. The persuasion by repetition mindset is a fossil of the industrial age. Modern marketers who rely on it will always be scrambling to stay ahead of their competitors.

Good marketing messages gradually build up emotional “buy-in” with every blog or article your prospect reads, every video they watch, and every email they open. This desire builds until they finally can’t take it anymore and they happily pay top dollar to make their imagined experience real by purchasing your product or signing up for your service. 

When done right, copywriting can create imagined experiences that will make your prospect giddy to do business with you. Rubber Chicken marketing lacks the proper emotional context required to form one of these “high-definition” connections. This is why even qualified prospects can see your ad several times (or more), and still not respond.

This is why some prospects land on your website, read a few pages, and never come back. This is why they subscribe to your email list, but never open your emails. Most importantly, this is why they end up leaving your site and buying from a competitor with an inferior product.

The good that news is, you can make your copywriting messages so emotionally compelling that your prospects will relive that emotion every time they see your brand or read one of your messages. This is how you create urgency in copywriting and make your messages irresistible. Not by external pressure through limited-time offers, but through an internal pressure that can only be resolved by a decision to buy RIGHT NOW.  

-Best



           
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