“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection” — Brene Brown
If you want readers to lay down their swords and see you as a friend who can help them — not some scam artist hoping to make a quick buck — then vulnerability is your ticket.
This isn’t breaking news. Vulnearbility is all the rage these days. But knowing “I should be vulnerable” and using it in sales copy are different things.
A lot of copy out there uses “token vulnerability”. They’ll say “I used to be broke” or “I used to be afraid of speaking in public”. Which is a fine start, and can be all you need on say, a landing page.
But if that’s as deep as you go, you quickly blend with everyone else. Your emails, your sales pitch — ignored like the rest of them.
This article will show you how to avoid the “token vulnerability” trap by using “unspoken moments”. These are stories you won’t hear at dinner parties but have a powerful impact on your readers.
Because these stories are like land mines buried in your client’s brain. They’re sitting below the surface, overlooked and ignored. But step on them, and you trigger powerful emotions that go a long way in building trust, connection, and closing sales.
Let me prove it with real-life examples, including:
- How the Art of Charm inadvertently used it to sell a $6,000 workshop
- How one company used it to ethically get their sales page to the top of Clickbank
- How the top woman’s life coach in the world used it to skyrocket her career
Oh, and you can even use this technique to create deeper connections in your personal life. More on that later.
Let’s dive in. Here are 3 ways you can use vulnerability to create deeper connection with your audience.
1) Share the “untold stories” your customer is currently living
Before paying the Art of Charm thousands of dollars for their week-long workshop, I thought they were scam artists.
The turning point, which is still seared into my brain, came when someone on the podcast talked about his life before he got into the self-improvement/dating world.
He talked about how he’d go out to bars to meet women, only to end up spending the night sitting with his friends “waiting for something to happen”. Then he’d go home alone, without having talked to any women at all.
My reaction to hearing that was “Yes! That’s exactly what weekends are like! These guys get what I’m going through!” A few months later, I forked over thousands of dollars for their workshop. Then talked a friend into doing the same.
Now let’s break down why that story was so effective.
Tapping into the inner world of your reader
First, this is an experience many of their listeners at the time would be familiar with. It’s something they lived over and over but don’t talk about.
Almost everyone, including the people you’re trying to reach, has some version of this. They have experiences, beliefs, and fears they don’t share. Maybe they’re afraid of how they’ll be perceived. Or they don’t want to burden people with their baggage. Or one of a million other reasons.
When you tap into that story — the one they live over and over but don’t talk about (except maybe to a close friend or therapist) you become a trusted confidant.
You, after all, understand their deeper feelings. You are the rare person who “gets” the thing they’re afraid to express to anyone else.
Proving you understand them better than anyone
The other thing that makes this effective is the use of descriptive language.
The “token vulnerability” version of that story would have been something like: “I used to be frustrated meeting women and never knew what to say”. That’s fine, you see that in men’s dating copy everywhere.
But he painted a detailed scene of him sitting at the bar with his friends. This detail made it more real, more believable. It also gave the listener a chance to feel it because they could see themselves in that situation.
Which brings me to my third point.
Becoming their trusted guide
Sharing these untold stories allows you to tap into the pain of your reader without being a jerk about it.
Business owners I talk to don’t want aggressive copy that makes the reader feel bad. They don’t want obnoxious opening lines like “Is your love life a disaster?” And for good reason, that kind of copy is off-putting. It’s not the friendly, conversational tone that leads to sales.
By telling your own story of how you experienced the exact pain your reader is in now, you’re giving them space to say “Yes! That’s me! Someone else gets it!”. You’re not making them feel bad. Just the opposite. You’re helping them feel normal and not alone. You’re giving them hope that there’s a way out.
2) Share the “untold stories” of a future they don’t want
Another way to use vulnerablity is to paint a picutre of a scene your reader is afraid of. Something looming in the future that they would want to avoid.
Top copywriter Chris Haddad did a version of this in a sales video that went to the top of Clickbank.
He shared a story that you’re not going to hear at dinner parties. One of a man feeling helpless as his young daughter was freezing and he couldn’t do anything about it.
I’m a 47 year old Dad from Minnesota and I bet you can imagine how awful I felt, in the middle of the winter one day, when the lights went flickering off in one of the worst storms we’ve ever had – and my beautiful little daughter came padding into the room, her lips almost blue. Looked up to me with her little eyes and said “Dad, I’m Cold”
Again, notice how descriptive the language is. How he paints a picture of this scene that no father would not want to be in.
Some business owners think you can’t show your flaws or mistakes. That you’ve got to look like you have it all together to win trust. But the opposite is true. Show how you’ve failed, the struggles you endured, and what you did to overcome them. That shows the reader what kind of person you are. It shows your human and that you understand their pain.
3) Share an “untold story” that’s 10X worse than anything they imagine
Rhonda Britten is one of the top life coaches in the world. She’s got an endorsement from Oprah, had her own TV show, and been featured on darn near every major publication a life coach could hope for.
In her Copy Chief podcast, she talks about how finally sharing her “horrible, ugly story” led to “a line of people around the block” hoping to work with her.
It doesn’t feel right summarizing her story. But I highly recommend you give it a listen, (you can skip to the 16-minute mark if you’re in a hurry). I heard it on the way to work and stopped with my mouth open, unable to go into my co-working space until she was finished.
Her story is so intense and horrifying that listener’s can’t help but hear it and think “if she can get through that, my troubles aren’t so bad”. If you’ve experienced pain or struggle far worse than that of your reader, share it! It gives them hope and proves you are the person who can guide them through their difficult time.
Taping into your vulnerability
So you know vulnerability is good, but how do you do it?
You already know the importance of using descriptive language (you can download my free report on Dream Copy to the right of this blog for tips that’ll help you do that.)
But what if you don’t know what story to tell? How do you tap into that vulnerable story that will resonate?
There are a few ways.
First, if you went through the same struggles as the people you’re helping, think of your own low points from that time. In particular, the turning points where things were so bad you finally said “That’s it! No more!” and took serious action to make a change.
Another trick for finding that vulnerable thing that’ll lead to deeper connection is to finish this sentence:
Something I don’t want my audience to know about me is…
Now once you come up with something, you’ll probably think: “Woah, no way I can say that…”
Guess what, that’s the point! If it doesn’t feel vulnerable then it doesn’t count. That’s why so many people wind up with “token vulnerability”. It’s why so much copy is hypey and generic. People are afraid to lay themselves out there. Vulnerability easy to talk about but inherently scary to do.
Beyond selling: Deepening connection in everyday life
It’s often the things we’re afraid to reveal about ourselves that lead to the deepest connections. It works in business and life.
I’ve done connection workshops where we went around filling in a version of the sentence stem I just shared. We went from not knowing each other to feeling super connected real quick.
Then there was the other workshop, where I broke down in tears in front of 30 people as I shared the thing I thought for sure shouldn’t be shared. Turned out, people found it brave and felt closer to me. An ex-girlfriend hid the fact she smoked from me for months and when she finally shared it the connection blew open.
Then there’s the ex-girlfriend who hid the fact she smoked because she thought I’d reject her. When she finally shared it we instantly felt closer.
Those are just a few examples, the list goes on. How about you? When you shared that-which-must-not-be-shared, how’d it go? I’m not going to ask you to comment below, just something to think about.