Everything you’ve ever read that made an impact on you probably used trigger words.
Trigger words are words that are short, precise, and most importantly, packed with emotional resonance. These words derive their power from both their familiarity and all of the positive connotations they develop as a direct result of seeing them again and again.
Trigger words aren’t the most complex or sophisticated words: Instead, they are those that cut through the clutter, sparking instant mental connections with things that are universally desirable.
Arguably, many different fields have their own trigger words. As marketers and as consumers, however, we are most familiar with the trigger words related to buying, selling, and the unique satisfaction that can arise from making the right choice among a host of solutions.
These commercial trigger words are just as emotive and powerful as anything in literature. They furnish the reader with the emotional dynamite they need to take that crucial first step toward a decision: The emotional impact they’ll use to forge their logical rationale for a purchase.
The judicious use of trigger words, especially in headlines and calls to action, can make Web copy more magnetic than ever before. When you master the use of trigger words, you’ll have the tools you need to take any scaffolding of text and build it into something truly compelling.
Let’s look at 40 of the top trigger words, their deeper meanings, and how to use them.
“Free” may well be the most powerful of all trigger words. Everyone wants more money and not spending it is one of the best ways to get there.
Including something “free” will make any offer more valuable and interesting, increasing email reads and click-throughs.
Humans are predisposed to seek out novelty – just look at the smashing success of social media for the biggest example of our time.
“New” solutions are naturally thought of as better in any future-looking, progress-focused society: They have potential to be better than anything yet.
On the other end of the scale, there’s “proven.” Proven implies stability and a long history of success.
It also implants the idea of social proof – after all, something can’t be “proven” unless a lot of other people have used it. This may be the best route in more conservative industries.
Marketers have known for a long time now that directly addressing the reader as “you” is the way to go.
It helps bring you into the world of your prospective customer so you can have a one-to-one conversation with them. This may be the biggest key to effective marketing copy.
In addition to stoking that love of novelty, “secret” gives your reader the opportunity to be one of the few: An insider who knows things others don’t.
This can be the basis of a magnetic online offer or even help spark the creation of a tight-knit mastermind-style community.
If you find something you like, odds are pretty good that you want more of it. “More” can also be used to affirm social proof and draw comparisons within your target demographic.
More is a word with positive connotations in most situations and a basic driver of decision-making.
Studies have shown that when people are briefly shown a photo, then asked what was in it, they are more likely to remember – or think they remember – items referred to as “the” (like “the car” or “the tree.”) The makes something singular, distinctive, and relevant.
Yes is perhaps the most essential “positive” word in any language. It is a statement of possibility and personal investment.
In body copy, it can show readers you’re on their side by “agreeing” with their thoughts. In headlines, it can even stand alone as an exclamation.
Things that are instant are effortless, and anything that makes a challenging part of life truly effortless is worth buying.
Be judicious in how you use instant, however: It can be emotionally refreshing (“instant gratification”) but sometimes implies cheapness (“instant rice.”)
“If” is a statement of possibility that opens up a whole new world to your reader. Think about it: If things were different, if things were easier, their goals might be within reach like never before.
This is the word to use when positioning your solution as the key to all that potential.
Generally speaking, people prefer things that are easy rather than hard. Easy things are, well, easy.
Most people give up on solving a particular problem when they become frustrated and conclude that it’s simply not possible to win. “Easy” puts the ball back in their court.
Convert has won a place as one of the most used (and overused) words in marketing, but it also has a deeper meaning that harkens back to the idea of a profound personal change.
Converting has a potent spiritual dimension that can speak to the fierce urgency of a situation.
People won’t move toward a goal they can’t imagine. And when the going gets tough, it’s easy to reach a point where you can’t imagine things ever improving.
Imagine gives you the chance to paint a picture of that new world using vivid, colorful language that will awaken prospects.
There are lots of things your prospects wish they never had to do. If you can seize on just one of those things, you can furnish them with a solution they’ll never want to be without.
Never almost always appears as the first word in a headline, underlining its definitive nature.
Discover is great for any situation where your prospects have probably tried out many possible solutions before they even heard of yours.
They may be weary of trying and wary of new ideas. “Discover” is inspirational, a one-word pep talk that points to something they need to see.
Stop is a word that sparks a visceral reaction. Most of the time, when people are told to stop, they sit up and take notice (and hopefully, they stop.)
There are many things prospects might want to stop doing, but losing money is probably #1 for the average B2B buyer.
Because is an interesting case. It draws comparisons and distinctions: It shows what’s more pertinent than something else or why something is the way it is.
This makes it one of the most versatile trigger words around. Consider, for example, “Because you deserve the very best.”
When you want to stoke some anxiety, worse helps you point the finger of blame.
It can be used to emphasize how dangerous or undesirable a situation is or call into question the motivations of a person or organization.
Today can be used at the end of a headline to create a sense that action needs to be taken right away.
It can also be the first word, setting up a contrast between the improved situation today and the bad old days of how things used to be – even if that was just last week.
How is an enticing way to dangle a hook for your prospects by asking a question they’ll hunger to know the answer to.
Everything from “How you can ...” to “How 20,000 other dentists like you have ...” is possible with the power of how.
Like new, “now” implies something that just arrived on the scene and is poised to change things forever.
“Now” is arguably even better than “new” because it’s instantly in the realm of the attainable – something you can have now is, by inference, easy for you to get.
They say nothing succeeds like success. People aren’t usually very impressed by the chance to “win” a car or other item with long odds, but they want to “win” at work, in love, and ultimately, in life. Winning emphasizes competition and the ability to be the best.
As food for thought, few things beat a direct question that starts with “want.” It give readers the space and permission to think about what their goals are, not just what they need to do to get by. Wants are aspirational and feel good, unlike many needs.
Fix can be technical – as in “fix these common computer errors” – or it can be personal, as in “fix dandruff now.”
In a world that’s full of problems and solutions, fix is the bridge between the two. It’s more direct than solve and more versatile than cure.
The only thing better than fixing something is fixing it ... forever. Nothing else in the English language asserts enduring value like “forever.”
It tells your prospects that something only needs to be done once, whether that’s paying for software or resolving a challenge.
Destroy may be a bit hot-headed for some industries, but it speaks to a visceral urge to compete and excel.
You can destroy the competition or destroy your sales quotas, for example. (And, yes, you can destroy something forever ... but be careful about making this claim.)
One step above “destroy” is crush. It has developed its own separate connotations closely intertwined with the world of sports and anywhere 20-something frat brothers can be found. It’s also common in hip, youth-skewing industries (like digital marketing!)
Deadlines are a reality most of your prospects will be used to dealing with, and announcing a deadline at the start of your headline might cause them to tune in and pay attention.
It’s one in the family of urgency-producing words for making a given action a top priority.
Scarcity is one of the common factors that makes anything appear more valuable. You can have a limited inventory, a limited number of spots at your event, or offer something for a limited time. In all these cases, the underlying message is to act now.
Some people are early adopters, and the word revolutionary is for them. If you have a product that’s truly disruptive, you can use this as a watchword to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Be alert to live up to your claims, though, as this implies a big promise to fulfill.
In B2B contexts especially, people have two basic drives: To save money and to make money. In most cases, time is just as valuable as money and can be a good substitute.
Of course, you can also “save the date” or “save your sanity” (or some other valuable, limited commodity.)
When a headline includes unlock, it implies that those who respond will be among the few to get their hands on some super-secret or beneficial resource.
It’s also another winner for situations where you know prospects have been through adversity or many different options.
Amazing is heard less often than epic these days. That’s why we recommend it as an intensifier over its more common cousin.
It’s ideal for introducing content that will surprise or delight your prospects or equip them with knowledge they can use within minutes.
34. How To
Probably the most powerful single variation of “how,” how to defines the whole purpose of the B2B Internet in a nutshell: Solving problems, answering questions, and finding solutions that work. Everyone wants to know how to do something – you just need to figure out what.
Elite is another word that, while used more often than it used to be, still retains a lot of its power. People who are motivated and success-oriented are most interested in being part of the elite.
This can be a good lifestyle-oriented hook – it’s how prospects want to define themselves.
Sooner or later, prospects will go in search of whether you have a guarantee. Why not make it easy for them and put it up front?
“Guarantee” is probably the most powerful safety word in any market: It shows you have your prospects’ back in a way that’s legally enforceable.
The evil twin of “want,” need is for situations that are more desperate and dire. A need is something that must be fulfilled – the alternative is some serious loss you want to avoid – so it has its own built-in sense of urgency, unlike want.
Tired of reading trigger words? In our fast-paced and under-rested society, many people are tired of many things, and being tired (in the literal sense) is one of the most common problems your prospects suffer with. The word itself taps into that deep well of resentment.
Everyone wants to feel that, if they just make the right decisions, they will reach their goals. Overcome is the epitome of that desire, calling to mind heroic stories from Beowulf to The Avengers. There’s a certain quality to it that praises the reader as a capable person.
Boost is a word that’s great for connecting with metrics – like sales or conversions – or with personal traits that are vital to how prospects see themselves, such as vitality, memory, or charisma. It’s a solid, unpretentious choice that helps put benefits front and center.
So ... what about all the other epic words out there?
There are dozens more trigger words to discover – possibly hundreds more. But: If you stray away from words that offer a true and instant emotional connection, their power will evaporate.
Lots of common words (like “epic”) can seem like trigger words, but when you think about it, they fall flat. The same thing is true of jargon words: They have their own specific meaning, they’re useful in the right context, but it’s not easy to get excited about them.
If you’re wondering whether a word is truly a trigger word, close your eyes. Think of that word. What mental image – or, even more importantly, what feeling – do you get as soon as you hear it?
Trigger words are all about emotions, the content of our ever-shifting inner world. When your copy consistently evokes emotions aligned with prospects’ needs, you’re halfway to success.