How to use anxiety in your sales letter landing page copywriting
Someone once reduced all human motivation to the simple pleasure/pain principle.
“You either want something you don’t have, or you have something you don’t want.”
It’s Psychology 101. We either seek pleasure or we avoid pain. Those are the two principal motivators.
Based on that simplistic summary of human behavior, and with inspiration from small business management expert Michael Gerber, we’ve developed two basic models for structuring a sales letter landing page. There are lots of variations, but these two models generally get the job done.
The five-part outline for each model is summarized in the main headline and in the subsequent sub-headlines that appear in the letter.
The Big Promise sales letter landing page copywriting model
In the first sales letter landing page copywriting  example, which we call the Big Promise model:
- The headline grabs the reader’s attention.
- The first subhead provides a promise.
- The second subhead expands on the promise.
- The third subhead describes how the previous promises can be fulfilled, and includes a satisfaction guarantee.
- The fourth subhead, sometimes used in the sales letter post script (P.S.), repeats the satisfaction guarantee and the call to action with greater urgency.
An example of the Big Promise sales letter landing page headline and subheads
1. Headline attention grabber — Are you getting your share of the good life?
2. Subhead promise — You could be getting a lot more of the good life.
3. Subhead promise — We can show you how to get more of the good life than you ever imagined.
4. Subhead fulfillment — Here’s how to get more of the good life right now — guaranteed.
5. Subhead call to action — Order our product today and get more of the good life than you ever imagined — guaranteed.
The Big Promise model has been used successfully since the invention of advertising. It can work very well for persuading lots of customers, but there’s an even more effective strategy.
The Anxiety/Relief sales letter landing page copywriting model
In the second sales letter landing page copywriting  model, which we call the Anxiety/Relief sales letter:
1. The headline grabs the reader’s attention by creating anxiety.
2. The first subhead provokes additional anxiety.
3. The second subhead ratchets up the anxiety.
4. The third subhead describes how the anxiety can be relieved by ordering the product, and includes a satisfaction guarantee.
5. The fourth subhead, sometimes used in the post script (P.S.), repeats the satisfaction guarantee and the call to action with greater urgency.
Hypothetical example of the Anxiety/Relief sales letter headline and subheads
1. Headline attention grabber provokes anxiety — You’re probably not getting your share of the good life!
2. Subhead adds more anxiety — And you’re a loser, so what little you get of the good life really isn’t very good, right?
3. Subhead ratchets up the anxiety — Wow, you really are a stinkin’ loser, aren’t you? No wonder you’re not getting much of the good life!
4. Subhead describes how the anxiety can be relieved — Here’s how to be a winner and get more of the good life right now — guaranteed.
5. Subhead call to action — Order our product before it’s too late and get more of the good life — guaranteed.
Real life examples of the Anxiety/Relief copywriting model
The following sales letter landing page headline and subheads were translated into German for a publisher of a German/English language secretarial guide:
Avoid the most common mistakes of telephone etiquette.
Be in control. Learn exactly what you’re saying and what it means in business English — otherwise, you could create an international incident.
(Anxiety increased. World peace threatened!)
For many Germans, the potential for an embarrassing breach of telephone etiquette, a linguistic misunderstanding, or confusion and embarrassment when speaking business English, is greater than ever.
(Anxiety ratcheted up even higher.)
Forget your worries about telephone etiquette and business English. Act now to get immediate access to Telephone Guidelines and English Language Idioms.
(Anxiety relieved. Call to action.)
Here’s an example of using anxiety while offering a free report in order to capture an email address:
Don’t take unnecessary chances. Learn to trade options with confidence.
(Anxiety-inducing, attention grabbing headline. Who wants to take the unnecessary chances?)
Should strategic option trading be part of your overall investment portfolio? Are you curious about the options trading strategies used by successful investors? Or are you content to plod along and achieve only mediocre results – or worse, lose your entire investment?
(Subhead piles on anxiety, anxiety, and more anxiety.)
In this free special report, you’ll discover the biggest mistake options traders make and how to avoid it.
(Subhead offers relief from anxiety.)
When you create anxiety, you unleash a very powerful motivator. Generally, people are more motivated by fear and anxiety than by other emotions.
Politicians and professional propagandists know this technique well and exploit it at every opportunity. If this kind of manipulation makes you uncomfortable, then you know it’s working by fomenting restlessness and agitation from which you want relief.
Whether or not you’re comfortable using it, the Anxiety/Relief model is in every successful online copywriter’ s toolbox.
Editor’s note: This article is was originally published in 2010 and has been updated.