Who was it that said, “Modesty is a virtue”? Whoever it was, I’m sure they weren’t referring to the field of sales and marketing, where self-promotion is the name of the game … or were they?
Take a good look at anyone who is a roaring success in sales, in copywriting or in marketing and you’ll see that one of the secrets of their success is in being able to really connect with people one-on-one, on their level. Sure, that means developing a great rapport with them, being a great listener and being a great communicator and more. But there’s one factor that separates these greats from the wannabes.
It’s called the “Modesty Maxim”. The people who master this element of rapport, achieve mastery.
Here’s how it works in copywriting. It can be used in a very similar way in sales too.
When you’re writing to (or speaking with) a prospect who has a certain problem that they want to solve, chances are they are feeling a little insecure about a certain aspect of who they are.
With that, it’s important that your copy starts by coming down to their level, where they are now at emotionally and then bring them up to the level where they want to be.
Here’s a story of Mary Bryant. Mary is a 42 year old mother of four from Atlanta, Georgia. She was 25kgs overweight and had been that way since her youngest child was born about 10 years ago.
Mary looked in the mirror everyday and hated the image that stared back at her. She felt ugly. She hated those extra rolls of fat around her waist. She hated her double chin. She hated the saddle bags under her arms.
She desperately wanted to lose weight. She wanted to be able to look in the mirror and like what she saw.
One day Mary decided to visit a weight loss centre. The weight loss consultant was friendly and asked her questions about herself, but as she did that, Mary felt about an inch tall.
Mary was embarrassed by her weight. What made it worse was the weight loss consultant was reed-thin and looked like she had never had an inch of fat on her bones in her entire life.
‘She thinks she’s better than me,’ Mary muttered to herself. ‘She is probably thinking to herself, “That fat slob. How could she let herself go like that?”
On and on went Mary’s mind chatter then after about 15 minutes, Mary was fed up with the “high and mighty attitude” of the weight loss consultant, so she left.
Because Mary was so entrenched in her own problem, she was in a very emotional and not very rational state. In fact, her emotions were clouding her judgment.
After Mary left she recognized just how irrational she was being, so she decided to visit another weight loss clinic and try again.
Again, she was greeted by a ‘reed-thin’ weight loss consultant with a smile. Again, she was asked about her goals and her personal situation.
But what happened this time was that this weight loss consultant told Mary her own story of how she was a mother of five and just 18 months ago she was more than 30 kilograms overweight … and how she had tried diet after diet and nothing was working … how she hated looking in the mirror everyday … how she just didn’t want to get out of bed at all.
Mary’s eyes lit up. Mary looked at this blonde, waifish woman and finally realized that just maybe she really could be like that too – that maybe if that weight loss consultant could lose 30 kilograms, maybe she could lose 20 kilograms.
See the difference?
The weight loss consultant in the second example shared her story with her and doing that achieved two things:
First – Mary no longer felt inferior to the weight loss consultant because the weight loss consultant had once been in the same situation that she is in now.
Second – Mary felt that getting results was now achievable because she was talking with someone who had been in her situation and won.
Here are some other situations where the Modesty Maxim applies …
If you’re a multi-millionaire who wants to teach the “Average Joe” how to get rich, it’s important to show how rich you are now, but it’s also vital that you tell them how you were like them once. For instance:
“How a lazy high-school dropout went from dead broke to $10 million in assets in 7 years”
Some Classic Headlines that Employ the Modesty Maxim:
“The Man with the Grasshopper Mind”
Anyone who has loads of mind-chatter can instantly relate to this headline and subsequently the man mentioned in the ad.
They want to know …
How much is his situation like theirs?
What did this man do to fix the problem?
What is his life like now?
“How a new discovery made a plain girl beautiful”
Again, a great example of “before and after”.
Most women want to look more beautiful but many feel that it’s something you need to be born with. This headline promises that beauty is available to even “plain girls”.
“They laughed when I sat down at the piano but when I started to play”
Many people who want to play the piano don’t learn for fear of looking ridiculous. This headline resonates with those people.
See how these examples connect with the reader?
What other examples can you think of?
How can you apply the Modesty Maxim in your marketing efforts?