This post is based on Mark Joyner’s talk “Business as Asymmetric Warfare” at Project Persuasion Goes Dark 3.0.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” – Sun Tzu
Plucking away on a keyboard may not feel like an act of war.
But one day a client will come along who’ll want to weaponise your words.
They’ll want to turn your copy into hand grenades and psychological WMDs they can launch at competitors to win market share.
Because you see, “co-petitors” quickly turn into bitter rivals when markets get squeezed, shareholders have to be pacified, and salaries paid.
Should asymmetric warfare break out, it will be your marketing skills clients seek to deploy to dominate their opponents.
When you get the call, you may want to refuse or go AWOL.
But if you step aside and allow the competition to steal your client’s customers, it will be YOU who’s the bad guy.
Sometimes you just gotta stand and fight.
Here are 3 ways you can use your copy skills for waging war:
1. David vs Goliath
People always love a good underdog story.
Particularly when you can portray larger competitors as cold, uncaring, and chasing profits at the expense of the customer experience.
So if your client is the smaller dog in the fight, use that to your advantage.
Promote your client as the little guy who still believes in treating customers as friends, puts product quality above profits, and always has their customers’ best interests at heart.
2. Find their weakness and exploit it
One of Gary Halbert’s key lessons was never to reinvent the wheel.
Instead, find out what people are buying already then create a better version.
Start by finding out what the top selling products are in your niche. Then check reviews, popular questions, and forums to find out what’s grinding people’s gears about current solutions. Then present yours as the upgrade.
3. Steal customers with emotion
Framing the “reason why” your product exists can instantly give it a powerful USP that positions it superior to the competition.
For Harley Davidson their ‘reason why’ is the freedom of the open road.
For Apple it’s creating creative tools for people that think different.
While Nike has the founding story of an athletics coach who made his own rubber soled track shoes in his garage to reduce ankle injuries.
Another advantage of having a “reason why” is that if it resonates with your target customer it can get them to open up to you emotionally. And when an emotional bond is formed, desire and loyalty soon follow.
Is psychological warfare ethical?
If the idea of writing copy that stamps on a competitor’s toes makes you uncomfortable, you’re not alone.
But think of it this way…
If your product is the superior option, don’t you think you have a moral duty to convince people to buy it over a competitors’?
If it’s something that can improve their lives, isn’t it right to get in a customer’s head and prod their emotions so they take action?
If you feel so guilty about “selling” you can barely write a word… maybe it’s because the product isn’t any good?
In which case, you need to rethink the clients you’re working with and attracting.
The ethics of selling is just one of many internal debates you’ll face in this psychologically charged career.
Because, just as every religion teaches, the greatest battle is in yourself.
And your success at winning internal struggles comes from expanding your knowledge, self awareness, and taking consistent action towards your goals.