Thursday, November 8, 2007

What a C.I.A. Black Ops Officer Taught Me About Copywriting

By Eric Graham

When I was in the Air Force, I had the opportunity to attend a very "special" training course taught by very "special" instructors.

One of my instructors was a former Navy S.E.A.L. who had left the Navy to join the C.I.A. as a special operations officer. This guy had seen combat in several different theaters of operation, during many public (and some not so public) conflicts.

One of the things he taught us during this "advanced" training course was a highly specialized shooting technique called the "Mozambique" (also known as the double tap failure drill.)

This is the primary handgun shooting technique used by all elite U.S. military units, such as the Navy SEALS, Army DELTA Force, C.I.A. Black Ops and a few others I won't mention by name...

The basic technique is to fire two rapid shots (called a "double tap") to the targets center of mass (middle of the chest) and then raise your weapon up in a straight line, just a hair and put another round in the center of the head.

Two in the heart... One in the head...

In a real life scenario, this technique is devised to provide a guarantee of eliminating your target even if the bad guy is wearing body armor; and thus the two rounds in the chest are ineffective.

We trained on this technique for days. Against stationary targets, moving targets, simultaneous engagement of multiple targets, from prone position, crouching position, behind barricades, single handed firing, firing with our weaker hand (to simulate an injury to your primary shooting arm), under low light conditions... Every scenario you (or some sadistic ex-SEAL, C.I.A. spook) could imagine.

The entire time our instructor is yelling... "Two in the heart, one in the head! Two in the heart, one in the head! Two in the heart, one in the head!" Over and over and over...

One of the other "students" in my class asked a good question during our training. He asked, "If this technique is designed to take down terrorist wearing body armor, why don't we just take the head shot first? Why not always take head shots?"

The instructor's answer made the wisdom behind technique clear, "Unlike what you may see in the movies, a headshot is a very difficult shot to make. Particularly in a high pressure situation, where the "target" is shooting back at you. The first two shots to the body are the most important, because they help get your sights centered and focused on the target, making the headshot much easier. It's simply a matter of raising your sights in a straight line and firing."

Okay... So you are probably wondering what in the heck all of this has to do with writing copy.

Let me try to explain...

The problem with most copywriters is they keep taking "head shots" first. They focus on "logical" reasons to buy and the features of the product, rather than going for the heart with multiple strong emotional appeals.

But this style of "head first" copy demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of the buying and selling process.

Your prospects make decision to buy based on emotion (heart) and then justify those decisions with logic (head).

All buying decisions are emotional.

Emotion is what causes people to take action. Because of this your copy needs to hit them straight in the heart. It needs to use powerful, emotionally charged words to link your products benefits directly to your reader's deepest emotional wants and desires.

Now this doesn't mean that you can avoid weaving the logical arguments into your copy. As I mentioned, people still need the logical side to help justify the purchase decision. Without giving them the logical reinforcement they need, buyers remorse will set in and you will have a higher rate of refunds and returns.

However, for each logical reason you give, you need to make a minimum of two emotional appeals.

Just like the C.I.A. training drill you should shoot for two thirds-heart (emotion) and one third-head (logic).

By maintaining a balance between emotion and logic, your copy will have the emotional power to sell them and the logical arguments to help them justify the buying decision.

So to write effective copy you need to remember the ratio... Two in the heart, one in the head.


Eric Graham is the CEO of several successful online companies. Internationally recognized as a top authority on eCommerce, Website Conversion and Internet Marketing, he's an in-demand speaker and consultant.

Just visit Eric's popular blog @

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