Steven Pressfield’s Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit is loaded with great marketing lessons.
One passage, in particular, has been burned into my brain for weeks.
Apply this lesson to your sales page, and you can override your reader’s logical objections. You can make a stronger, more effective pitch without coming off like an aggressive salesman.
I’ll show you how to apply this lesson in a moment, but first, here’s the passage:
“My first paying job in Hollywood was writing scripts for director Ernie Pintoff. We worked side by side at a big oak table in Ernie’s kitchen.
Everytime we got stuck, Ernie said the same thing:
Have a body hit the floor”
Fiction writers kill characters to keep their story compelling. Game of Thrones has proven the effectiveness of that strategy over and over again.
Why? Killing characters raises the stakes. When that first major Game of Thrones character died, the story was no longer just families angling for power. It became life or death.
High-stakes is why the Super Bowl gets higher ratings than a random week 4 game. It’s why poker becomes riveting the moment someone says “All-in”. As Pressfield says:
“High stakes = high emotional involvement by the audience”
So how does this apply to you?
You already know the importance of using story to sell on your sales page. Your story may not involve characters being killed off (at least I hope not.) But you can still raise the stakes to that life-and-death level — without being obnoxious or salesy.
Heck, you’re already raising the stakes to some degree. When you go beyond features and highlight the benefits of your product, you raise the stakes.
A weight loss product promising more energy, confidence, and to fit into those old jeans is raising the stakes. It’s not just about losing weight, it’s about looking good and feeling proud of yourself.
But can we go deeper and hit harder? Can you get your readers choked up and teary eyed, so they feel the importance of what you’re selling rather than superficially understanding it?
Absolutely. Let’s look at an example:
The Fat Diminisher is one of the top selling weight-loss products on Clickbank (impressive considering how competitive that niche is.)
Early in the sales page, they touch on the benefits you’d expect any weight-loss product to cover: lose weight, feel confident, etc.
Then, halfway through the sales video, they raise the stakes.
They share a story of a 40-something woman who, all of a sudden, felt severe chest pain when running.
It kept getting worse, so she went to the doctor the next day. There she learned that, because of her weight, she was at risk for heart disease.
But that’s not all.
After her visit, they share a specific moment from the next morning. She stood on the front porch as her daughter left for school and she asked herself “How many more mornings do I get to enjoy this sight?”
This story raised the stakes. This is no longer about confidence or feeling great. It’s about a little girl growing up with a mom or without one.
And this is why selling through high-stakes stories is genius. You’re not telling your audience “If you don’t buy this you’ll die of heart diseas and your daughter will be abandoned”. You’re saying “Wow, look at this mom who had a close call but found a way out.”
You leave it up to the reader to connect the dots and see themselves in that scenario. This allows you to have an incredibly effective pitch without coming off as overly aggressive. You’re simply sharing a compelling story.
Why businesses don’t do this
It’s not always immediately obvious how to raise the stakes. Sometimes it takes some digging.
This is great news for you. It means you can carve a bigger piece of the pie simply by doing the detective work others are too lazy to do (or don’t know they should do.)
For example, let’s say you’re selling a greenhouse. It may seem like that’s not an emotional product — it’s just a little building. But can you find stories of people getting dangerously ill from eating bad food from the grocery store? Or getting serious disease from years of a “traditional American diet”? From there, you can share how your greenhouse helps people get out of that dangerous lifestyle.
So before you or a copywriter tackle your sales page, make sure you’ve done your homework. Dig around. Talk to your past buyers and get their stories. Check news articles for inspiration.
Keep asking “How can I raise the stakes?”
The stories are out there, it’s simply a matter of finding them and connecting them to what you’re selling.
If you have any immediate thoughts on how you can raise the stakes for your own product, share them below.