Marketing Beyond The Lizard Brain: How to Avoid Using Fear-based Language in Your Copy

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Copywriting | 0 comments

Ep. 24: Medium for Business with Bingz Huang

by Krista Bauer | The Business By Intuition Podcast

In mainstream marketing, we’re taught that if you sell to your potential client’s “lizard brain”, then you’re more likely to convert them into buyers.

For many ethical entrepreneurs, this assumption doesn’t sit right.

The lizard brain refers to the oldest part of your brain, known as the reptilian brain. It’s the part of your brain that’s responsible for survival and instinct and dates back over 500 million years.

Whether you believe the reptilian brain is a real thing or not, I’m referring to the psychological tactics used in mainstream marketing in the context of this post. Techniques that grab your consumer’s attention by playing on their fears, guilt, shame or primal instinct to avoid pain for survival.

So what’s lizard brain language?

It’s a carefully-crafted language that’s written to get someone to take action. Using things like hype, FOMO, urgency, persuasion and fear to get people to:

  • Book a discovery call with you
  • Buy your products
  • Sign up for your coaching program
  • Enrol in your course, etc.

It’s often written with an aggressive edge that guilts, rushes or fears people into thinking that if I don’t work with you now, I’m going to miss out on some critical information that’ll make me a failure in my life, business or relationships if I miss out.

It aims to strike an emotional chord with your audience to get them to buy your programs, services or courses because bad x, y or z thing will happen if they don’t. It’s playing on their human desire to avoid pain as a means to make a sale.

For example:

How many times have you bought a course you didn’t need out of fear or a false sense of urgency?

The fear you’ll miss out on insider secrets and fail in your life or business if you don’t get “said” course.

The fear you can’t make it on your own without expert guidance.

The fear you’ll remain stuck as a lowly 5-figure business owner if you don’t sign up now!!!!

Or whatever problem you’re trying to solve — you get the point.

Sadly, this language works.

But, what they don’t tell you is that it also damages the relationship you‘re trying to build with your clients long-term and diminishes your credibility with the people who may have been a great fit otherwise.

When someone feels pushed or coerced into signing up for your services, it’s unlikely they’ll rave about you to their friends or share your content on social media. They’ll feel worse about themselves because they still haven’t solved their problem, and to top it off — they’ve been duped into taking action they weren’t ready for or didn’t need to take (at least that’s how it feels).

Do you want your clients to feel “sold to” or do you want them to make an informed, conscious choice about whether your offer aligns with their priorities right now?

If you’re reading this, I know you’d prefer the latter.

Is it possible to write website copy that aligns with your values?

Of course.

There are plenty of examples of authentic, ethical entrepreneurs writing sales copy using straightforward language that clearly articulates their offer and who it’s for without pouring salt on their potential new client’s wounds.

Here are a few for inspiration:

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, you’ll notice if you study their sales pages—they’re not screaming for sales or forcing you to act out of fear or urgency.

A good sales page, in fact, should do the opposite. It should filter out the people who aren’t a fit so you can focus on the folks who are.

How can you avoid using lizard brain language in your sales copy?

1. Be clear about your intentions.

The intention behind the words you write is the biggest differentiator between conventional and heart-centred copywriting.

Don’t use hype, fear, FOMO, urgency or persuasion to sell your offers online.

It’s that simple.

Just know that if you do, your prospective clients will feel sold to. They’ll feel coerced or pushed into taking an action they weren’t ready to take, which is damaging in the long run for your relationships with good people.

If you’re trying to persuade people by hyping up your offer or making it sound more exciting than it is to drive sales, then you’re prioritizing conversions over connections.

When you write highly persuasive copy intending to convert as many browsers into buyers as you can handle (aka taking anyone’s money regardless of fit or feasibility) — you’ll attract the wrong people.

What’s worse is you’ll miss out on making genuine connections with the right people — and turn off the ones who are the BEST match for your work.

2. Accept that you’ll make fewer sales.

As I’ve said, reptilian brain language works. You’ll get more sign-ups, clients and course enrolments if you use language that fears people into working with you.

But remember, creating and growing a sustainable business that nourishes you spiritually and financially is a marathon, not a sprint.

When you market to your ideal client’s lizard brain, it works because you’re playing on their deepest fears and trying to strike an emotional cord that pushes them into action.

Unfortunately, simply using straightforward language to articulate what you do for the people who’d benefit most will result in less engagement — that’s the nature of the beast.

The benefit, however, is when someone chooses to work with you from a conscious, heart-centred place, they’re making a decision that aligns with a genuine desire versus rushing into a purchase because they’re afraid of missing out or seeing their worst-case scenario come to fruition.

If you make people feel doomed for failure or screwed if they miss your “limited, one-time offer “(we’ve all seen those), you’ll attract scared, manipulated people — not the kindred-clients you’re truly meant to serve.

3. Think about the person on the other end.

As online business owners, we forget we’re talking to real humans because of the lack of face-to-face interaction. This limitation makes it easier for people to play to others’ insecurities because we can’t see how our words affect them.

Bring that to the forefront of your mind and remain sensitive to the fact that you’re marketing to real people with real problems.

Ask yourself, is this how I’d speak to someone if they were here in front of me?

If you’re using fear-based language to make someone feel bad or pour salt on their wounds to agitate the problem — would you feel comfortable doing that to their face?

If not, then it’s a good indication that you’ve gone too far with your marketing copy, and it’s time to channel the in-person energy you’d have if you were sitting at a riverside cafe sippin’ a hot, lemon tea together. In other words, hone in on a relaxing, natural tone that puts your audience at ease without striving to activate their nervous system.

Key Takeaway

As ethical entrepreneurs, we bear a responsibility to use conscious language that doesn’t force people into making decisions they’re not ready to make.

Lead with empathy, compassion, and sensitivity. Do this, and you’ll be well on the path toward making authentic connections with the people who’d genuinely benefit from your work.

Hopefully, this post inspires you and gives you permission to write heart-centred copy despite what most conventional marketing experts teach.

Article originally published on Medium.

Prefer to watch it?

To catch the replay on a recent Facebook Live video I did on this topic, check it out below.

I’ll leave you with a new thought to ponder:

How can you consciously choose to market beyond the lizard brain and shift toward greater authenticity in your copy?


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