Compel your audience with these trigger words

By Ben Fitton, Wednesday June 10, 2020

Imagine you want a stranger to do something for you. It could be to vote for your local election candidate, attend the opening of your new restaurant or click through to your website from an email. How would you get them to do it?

Short of begging on your knees (never a good look), the chances are you’ll use persuasive language to entice and encourage, emphasising what will be in it for them should they choose to do as you wish. Your marketing communications are no different. You want someone to do something and you need to use language to persuade them that it’s in their best interest to do so. And one of the most important aspects of this language is the use of trigger words. 

What is a trigger word?

A trigger word entices someone to perform a desired act. It can be used to grab attention, to play into the desires of your audience and/or to clearly represent what’s intriguing about your offering. 

So, that new restaurant you’re opening? How about a free starter for all diners? Or that email newsletter you want your readership to subscribe to? Perhaps they’d be intrigued with a secret prize for doing so?

Trigger words generally do one of the following:

  • Tap into your audience’s emotional desires
  • Generate intrigue, excitement and drama
  • Create a sense of urgency

Of course, most marketing messaging should do this. But you should pay extra attention to your trigger words because they work hardest of all to draw people in, convince them that you’re the right service for them, and convert them into buyers. 

How to decide which trigger word to use

Your choice of trigger words should be defined by what you want your audience to do and feel. It’s useful to think of trigger words sitting in genres so that you can first ask yourself what genre your message fits in and then work out the kind of trigger words that would be appropriate for it.

Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of genres and related trigger words followed by a few examples of how they might be used. Note that some words, like ‘free’, ‘new’ and ‘secret’ fit across different genres.

‘Belonging’ trigger words

These trigger words are useful for when you want your audience to feel part of an exclusive tribe. These words say, ‘We’re just like you, leave the rest behind and come and join us.’ 

  • Secret
  • Exclusive
  • Join
  • Club
  • Elite
  • Revolutionary
  • Never
  • Be part of
  • Be among the first 
  • Welcome

Examples:

  • Welcome to the UK’s number one elite dating network.
  • Join our exclusive travel club and never pay full price for your flights again.
  • Your revolutionary new way to get fit and stay fit. But, shhh, keep it a secret.

‘Exciting’ trigger words

Use words like the below for when you want your audience to be as passionate and excited by your products as you are, whilst also impressing upon people the need to act quickly before they miss out.

  • Wonderful
  • Delightful
  • Ultimate
  • Don’t miss out
  • Seize
  • Best ever
  • Only
  • Deadline
  • New
  • Don’t forget
  • Countdown
  • Imagine

Examples:

  • The countdown has started. You’re just three days away from the ultimate shopping experience.
  • Don’t miss your chance to take part in our one-time-only 51%-off sale.
  • Ever dream of living mortgage-free? Enter our amazing new competition and the dream could become a reality.

‘Sharing’ trigger words

Just like Prometheus, that pesky titan who stole the knowledge of fire from the gods and gave it to humans, you might want to be seen as the sharer of forbidden knowledge. In which case, give these words a go:

  • Unlock
  • Secret
  • Learn
  • Share
  • Mystery
  • Professional
  • Limited
  • In the know
  • Exposed
  • Unveil
  • Discover
  • Forbidden

Examples:

  • The 5 biggest mysteries of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs unveiled.
  • Discover the secrets of movie-star make-up from an industry insider.
  • Learn how you can easily take photos like a professional.

‘Transformative’ trigger words

The promise of almost any marketing is transformation, from making it easier to do something to changing your appearance. People had their life before they used your product and they have their life after it. It’s this transformative power that you’re selling with these words:

  • Transform
  • Turn
  • Become
  • Easier
  • More
  • Before
  • Grow
  • Wish
  • Better
  • Make
  • Dream
  • Change
  • Quicker
  • Stronger

Examples:

  • Our virtual gym classes make it easier than ever for you to be fitter, stronger and healthier.
  • Dream of taking pics like the pros? Here are 5 ways you can take better pictures with your Leica camera.
  • Our time-saving vacuum cleaner will give you more free time than ever before.

‘Greedy’ trigger words

Sometimes it’s all about unashamedly giving the customers what you know they want: the chance to have cheaper (or, even better, free) stuff right now.

  • Free
  • Cheaper
  • Instant
  • Today
  • Easy
  • Limited
  • Just
  • Simply
  • While available
  • Now
  • Win
  • More

Examples:

  • Grab your free cup of coffee right now with this printout.
  • Want instant quotes for cheaper car insurance? It’s easy. Just click this button.
  • You don’t have to buy this lawnmower today. But it’ll be 50% more expensive tomorrow.

Don’t be trigger happy

While it’s tempting to use a bucketload of extreme trigger words to sell your stuff, using trigger words that are patent exaggerations will see you lose faith in the eyes of your audience.

So, your guide to becoming a successful vlogger that leads with the headline “Our amazing vlogging guide will transform anyone’s salary into a seven-figure sum within a fortnight, guaranteed will do much more harm than good. People aren’t stupid. If you cram your messaging with tabloidesque trigger words, they won’t trust you – and they certainly won’t download your guide. Which, if it’s actually helpful, will be doing both you and them a disservice.

You still want to sell your wares, of course. You still want to dial into their desires and show them how you can help achieve them. But you don’t want to act like a Texan snake oil merchant from the 1850s. The effectiveness of what you’re selling has to pay off the trigger words you use to sell it. If your product isn’t amazing or transformative or free, then you’ll piss your audience off, lose their trust and gain a whole lot of negative chatter.

So, knowing that our imaginary vlog guide writer wants to tap into the transformative nature of their products, we can consider the alternative: “Ditch the rat race, do what you love and earn more money. Learn how to become a vlogger today.”

Trigger words to avoid

In highlighting potentially harmful trigger words, it’s worth noting that using them is a subjective art. Just because we think these words will do more harm than good, doesn’t mean they can’t work or haven’t worked before. That said, in our opinion, you should treat the following words with caution:

Guaranteed

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that times are uncertain. From COVID-19 to the economy, from Boris to Brexit, very little in our lives seems rock-solid. Which is why the temptation to use the word ‘guaranteed’ is understandable (there’s nothing we want more in uncertain times than surety) but potentially damaging. 

Why? Because people won’t believe you. There’s no such thing as a guarantee these days (if ever there was). And even if your product was 100% certain to give people a million pounds by next Tuesday, people are too jaded to believe you. 

Trust

If the word ‘guaranteed’ feels like a stretch these days, the word ‘trust’ is a similarly hard sell. 

We live in a world that, thanks to the sometimes fraudulent behaviour of politicians and corporations, has earned the right to be cynical. It’s not that people don’t trust businesses anymore, it’s that businesses have to earn it like never before. And you don’t do that just by telling people you’re trustworthy – in fact, doing so is likely to have the opposite effect. 

Now if you can back your trustworthy credentials up with an award or certification, then great. But if you can’t, be careful. There are few things people trust less than a person who says they can be trusted. 

Don’t delete

One for the email marketers among us, ‘don’t delete’ is the equivalent of saying ‘Please please please read our email, we’ll be your best friend!’ It’s a little desperate, it’s clichéd and, because people don’t like being told what to do, it’s a good way to get someone’s back up. 

In fact, if you want a sure-fire method for people to delete your emails without opening them, start your subject line with ‘Don’t delete!’ 

The ultimate trigger word: You

As a final piece of advice, it’s worth remembering that one of the best trigger words of all is ‘you’. Using ‘you’ and ‘your’ brings your audience into the conversation. It makes your writing less about your business, which is boring, and more about your audience, which is exciting. (After all, everyone’s favourite topic of conversation is themselves.)

So, when you’re next trying to get someone to buy from you or fill in a contact form or set up a meeting with your sales team, try dropping in some trigger words and see how you get on. And, of course, if you’d rather the experts do it for you, get in touch and we’ll talk trigger words. 

Or maybe that should be: Transform your copy and win more clients than ever before by contacting us today

(Well, we did say you could overdo it.)