Herschell Gordon Lewis: 2014 Represents the Height of Immediacy

Herschell Gordon Lewis
Herschell Gordon Lewis

I’m counting on your saying as your response to the question I’m about to ask, “That’s a dumb question.”

The question: What year is this?

OK, OK, it isn’t aimed at you. It’s aimed at direct marketers who without justification append response-murderers such as “Allow six to eight weeks for delivery” to offers that haven’t made a prior reference to variations from immediacy.

The year 2014 represents the height (so far) of immediacy. Our targets want what they want now. Tell them they have to wait, and click – they’re off to a vendor or supplier whose reality may not differ but whose lesser informational brutality does.

So what do you do if the customized furniture or original work of art actually does demand a time-gap?

As the current cliché-positive goes, no problem. Tip off the prospective responder, in positive language, as part of the description.

In sync with this column’s title

Choice of words can be intellectual; choice of words can be emotional; choice of words can be involuntary, based on the writer’s personal experiential background. That third one can be a killer, because words that blather out automatically, ignoring differences that prevent synonyms from being synonymous, exclude consideration of what motivates an individual you’re trying to motivate.

That circumstance needn’t be fatal. We all lapse into it. But…

Lapsing into auto-talk isn’t as unprofessional nor as results-damaging as using words we, as professionals, should eschew.

Got that? You just saw one of the words. What does “eschew” add to any sales pitch?

Add “paradigm” and “24/7” and “proactive” and “your partner in…” and “when it comes to…” and you’ve started what could be a useful “Don’t say that” list.

A commentator on CNN or somewhere lards his comments with “At the end of the day,” followed by an opinion. I’ve gradually reached such a negative conclusion that by the time he’s “at the end of the day” my own automatic response kicks in and I reject whatever might come next. His potential profundity is drowned in a sea of sameness.

A huge selling weapon

Have we ever, in the pages of this distinguished publication, discussed what might be one of the most significant imperatives we can have at our fingertips?

In that previous sentence you just saw the key, cleverly-stupidly used to describe itself. Our imperative is imperative:

Imperatives outpull declaratives.

Warning – we’re moving beyond the basics here. In those naked three words, perception doesn’t leap out at us. Now, suppose we propel the notion earthward and word it this way:

Tell the viewer/reader/listener what to do.

Ah, it comes clear. We position ourselves as salespeople, not as clerks. A clerk tells a potential responder what it is. A salesperson tells a potential responder why it is, for that prospective responder, a specific for him or her.

As primitive psychologists, we should know how to maximize the imperative without generating, even subliminally, any resentment. We aren’t an army top-sergeant berating a recruit. Ours is a craft carved carefully from the difference between a student observing latent power and a professional generating a response that wouldn’t be there if that power lay there unused in a pile of descriptive rhetoric.

Which means what?

Easy! We take “If…” out of the mix. It’s a done deal. “If you…” is the deadly enemy of immediate positive response. We emasculate that enemy by adherence to a basic: The purpose of an effective direct response message is to cause the recipient of that message to perform a specific positive act as the direct result of exposure to that message.

Accepting that basic – and for us, as force-communicators, it’s a truism – we toss “Mad Men” junk such as “Act now” and “You must” into the rhetorical wastebasket. Oh, sure, “Act now” and “You must” are imperatives, but as selling weapons they’re infected with turnoff elements. “Act now” is no more specific than “Do something,” and “You must” is loaded with the unholy seeds of resentment.

We’re in command, but this is the second decade of the twenty-first century. Our prospects are pre-armed with skepticism. We disarm with a medley of relevance and benefit. That combo hasn’t changed since the days of Socrates.

(Here’s a useful “If”: If the relationship between seller and sellee may be dicey, a question is a useful and potentially dynamic surrogate for a positive instruction. A question aimed at someone who doesn’t know you implicitly has a higher emotional content than a statement.)

Enough of this diatribe? Yes, for this dose. More to come, though, unless Multichannel Merchant, with ultimate veto power, asks the ultimate question: “Why the *&^%$ are we printing this?”

Herschell Gordon Lewis is the principal of Lewis Enterprises, Pompano Beach, Florida. Author of 32 books, including the recently-published Internet Marketing Tips, Tricks, and Tactics;Catalog Copy That Sizzles;On the Art of Writing Copy(fourth edition recently published); Asinine Advertising; and Creative Rules for the 21st Century, he writes copy for and consults with clients worldwide. Web address is herschellgordonlewis.com

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