July 30

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How to use foreshadowing and future-scaping in sales copywriting

By Quentin Pain

July 30, 2022

foreshadowing, future-scaping

Last week we talked about enhancing desire using benefits (and just in case you’re thinking “duh!”, know this is only the tip of a giant iceberg of persuasion techniques).

The idea is simple – get the reader’s brain to work. Make it active instead of passive. Get them involved in the action, and even better, get them thinking about what’s to come, even if it’s only subconsciously (foreshadowing).

We started with the desire for a Jaguar, then enhanced it with the notion of colour. Now imagine what it would feel like to sit behind the wheel and hear the 4.2 litre Supercharged V8 roar into life as you turn the ignition for the first time (if you’re not into cars, this won’t hit the mark, but that’s fine, bear with me).

Imagine turning up to work and seeing the looks of envy on people’s faces. Or turning up at the golf club, restaurant, or yacht club (although a Bentley or Ferrari might be more appropriate for the latter).

Any decent car dealer knows this technique inside out (future-scaping). Get the customer to sit in the car and feel what it would be like to own it. Then take it for a test drive to feel the power and luxury of something they’ve always dreamt about owning.

It doesn’t matter if any of the above had no effect on you (or turned you off), if this was a real ad for a client, I’d only want to attract people with a strong desire to own a Jag. Everyone else would be a waste of advertising dollars.

That last paragraph is important. Every pitch you ever do must be aimed at the prospect’s desires. If you don’t know their desires, you’re going to fail, but when you get it right, and you explain how carefully you’re going to look after them (by not wasting their money), they’ll appreciate you a whole lot more and with any luck, you’ll win their business.

If we were selling a luxury watch, we’d want to describe how it felt on the wrist, how it peeped out behind the expensive suit and gold cufflinks, and how that fitted in perfectly with the environment in which it would be worn (leaving the prospect with only one correct decision – buy it now).

We could describe it overtly, or we could use images to get into the minds of our prospects (the alternative is to show the watch in a box, but who wants that? – well, collectors might, but that’s a whole other audience).

More on this next week.

Quentin Pain

About the author

It took me many decades before I realised the power of writing, but once I did, I understood the real value of words. My mission is to pass on all the skills I've learnt to those seeking advancement in the copywriting industry and beyond through the ICA.

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