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5 Psychological Master Keys That Will Open The Doors to More Sales
Last Updated June 12th, 2012

How great would it feel if you made one simple tweak to your business, and saw an immediate sales increase?

I know, silly question. It would feel great.

Now what if there were 5 simple tweaks… each of which could have that same effect?

You’d stop reading this article right now and use each of ’em.


Right! Who doesn’t want more sales?

Question is what are those 5 simple tweaks? I call them the “psychological master keys.”

But First, The Key to Unlocking the Vault of Higher Conversion Rates

Smart entrepreneurs who want to use the web to increase their conversion rates must master the fields of human behavior and psychology.

I may be biased… after all, I run the #1 blog about online marketing and psychology, but that’s neither here nor there. Understanding that simple insight has worked for me and countless other Social Triggers readers.

And despite what the “experts” say on other bogus “social media marketing blogs,” when it comes to using the web to generate leads and sales for your business, the tools you use have nothing to do with it.

Because, as time progresses, the tools will always change. The people you’re talking to, on the other hand, will remain people. And people are people are people!

And that’s why each of the following 5 psychological master keys are so powerful.

Each tweak is based off of proven psychological principles that have been proven today and will likely remain true for the foreseeable future.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in.


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Psychology Master Key #1: How to Increase Sales by Giving Your Customers “LESS” Options

By now you know that if you give people too many options, they often choose none because they slip into “analysis paralysis.”

But what if you can’t eliminate options from your business? If you’re selling 50 products, you can’t simply eliminate 47 of them. That would kill your business.

So how can you give people fewer options while maintaining your current catalogue of products and services?

That’s where you can take advantage of the process known as “chunking.”

Instead of telling people “here’s all of my stuff,” you say, “here are 5 categories of stuff.” Pick which category is right for you, then pick the item in that category that’s right for you.

Look at it like a Supermarket. When you walk into the store, you know there’s a deli, a fruit/vegetables area, a meat area, a dairy area, and so on. In each little section, there’s thousands of products to choose from. But they make the decision easy on you by “chunking” them into similar categories.

Online the same thing applies.

When you’re designing your site, don’t simply share 1 million different categories of what you write about. Instead, focus on the “main” areas of your site by building insanely specific resource pages like “List Building” and “Increase Online Sales.”

To learn more about how people make choices, check out the Social Triggers Insider master class I held with Sheena Iyengar, the world’s leading researcher on how people make choices.

Action item: How can you use this tidbit to get more sales? Instead of showing your customers everything you’ve got, funnel people to the right places. Use resource pages, and call outs that send people to smart groupings of products and services. As a rule of thumb, I’d use no more than 7 different “choice buckets.”

Psychology Master Key #2: Newsflash…People Actually Like Paying For Stuff

As you know, I sell software and digital training products.

And I’ve been doing it long enough to know that there’s always some guy that complains about “Why would I buy that when I can get the same thing… or something similar… for free?”


People don’t pay for information or software. They pay for results and convenience.

And it gets better…

When people pay for something, it gives those people a sense of accomplishment, pride, and ownership, meaning they’ll value the goods or services more and complain less.

Who doesn’t want satisfied customers who don’t complain?


Let’s take this back to the web.

If you sell software, information, or consulting, you may worry about your competitors… and whatever it is they sell… and however much they charge.

And while that matters, you shouldn’t sweat it.

You’re in the results and convenience business.

If you can generate more results or make it more convenient, it doesn’t matter what you charge. People will pay.

And they’ll happily pay because people like to pay for what they get.

To learn more about why people happily pay for things they can get for free, check out the Social Triggers Insider master class with Dan Ariely, NYT best-selling author, and one of the world’s leading researchers on behavior economics

Action item: Are you scared to sell what you’re already giving away for free? You shouldn’t be. Even if you give away your best information, chances are there are people who will happily pay you to implement that information for them. Remember, people pay for convenience AND results.

Psychology Master Key #3: Losses Loom Larger Than Gains

The sad truth about people is this:

People will fight harder to prevent losing a dollar than earning a dollar (this is known as loss aversion).

From a logical standpoint, it makes no sense.

A dollar is a dollar is a dollar.

But when it comes to human beings, we’re not that logical. We’re quite emotional, actually.

And when it comes to a dollar, a dollar that’s ours is more valuable than earning a dollar that isn’t ours.

That’s why when people sell their houses they often overvalue their house. After all, it’s THEIR house.

What’s this have to do with selling stuff online?

People respond better to telling them what they’re missing out on over telling them what benefits they stand to gain… because loss looms larger than gains.

So, not only do you need to tell people what they’ll get when they buy whatever it is you’re selling, you also need to reiterate what they’ll lose out on too… for maximum impact.

To learn more about how people make decisions, check out the master class I held with Jonah Lehrer, the #1 NYT Best-Selling Author of How We Decide. It’s linked here.

Action item: Just because losses loom larger than gains, doesn’t mean you should focus on loss. That’s a scarce mindset. However, you should intersperse both gains AND losses in your sales copy. Explain what people stand to gain… and what they stand to lose… for best results.

Psychology Master Key #4: The Secret to Growth is Earning Fans… And Enemies

Last week, while giving a presentation to a packed room, I made the snippy remark:

“I pin all my hatemail to my wall to remind myself to get more hatemail.” – Click to Tweet


When you’re running a website… a business… hate mail is evidence that you’re doing something right.

I’ll explain.

When you’re using the web to generate leads and sales, you have one main goal… and that’s to make your customers absolutely love you.

But that love comes with a price. When there are people who love what you do, there will be people that hate what you do, too. Even Apple has haters.

I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

And that’s why I happily tell people to unsubscribe from Social Triggers if they don’t like what I have to say.

I know changing peoples minds is damn near impossible, so instead of wasting time trying to “change” someone, I go after the people who already like me… and focus on making them happy.

What does this have to do with getting more sales?

That part is easy.

If you nurture your best customers and readers, they’ll turn into evangelists. They’ll turn into your street team of people who tell everyone to read and buy your products.

I mean, just look at Social Triggers. Chances are you found me because someone recommended that you check my site out, right?

Why do you think they did that?

It’s because I catered to them directly.


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To learn more about catering to the “Right” people, you should check out the Social Triggers Insider master class that I did with Ramit Sethi. In addition to finding the right customers, he goes into detail about how he charges 100x more than his competitors

Action item: Are you diluting your message to cater to everyone? Do you often “tone” down what you have to say… with hopes of pleasing everyone? That’s a mistake. You can’t please everyone. You can only please the right people. Instead of working to please everyone, cater to your evangelists.

Psychology Master Key #5: How “Mystery” Helps You Score More Sales

Back when I launched Social Triggers in 2011, Social Triggers grew from a brand-new website to one of the top marketing blogs… practically overnight.

At the time, I never told anyone how I did it… on purpose.

And what happened?

People started to write blog posts speculating about my growth. They’d try to reverse engineer how I did what I did because they wanted to know the answer.

This, in turn, sent more traffic and readers my way, helping me grow faster than ever before.

Why did people write those blog posts?

Because they were trying to solve “the mystery of Social Triggers growth.”

As another example, why are there loads of websites dedicated to speculating about Apple products, Apple features, and anything else that’s Apple?

It’s because Apple is one of the most secretive companies ever.

And their secrets create mystery… which in turn sparks speculation in the blogosphere… which leads to free exposure for apple… and later down the line, more sales.

Mystery = sales.

To learn more about how mystery leads to sales, look no further than what’s known as “The Pleasure Paradox.” (That link, of course, is a link to a Social Triggers Insider master class with Timothy Wilson

Action item: Where can you dial up the mystery in your business? Do you have a “secret formula?” Do you have a proprietary way of doing things? If so, instead of being forthcoming, withhold some information and watch your fans speculate… thus sending you more sales.

Why You Should Subscribe For The Free Social Triggers Insider Master Class Series

If you loved these 5 psychological master keys, you’ll love the FREE Social Triggers Insider master class series…

… And I’ll tell you why.

This article was merely an “excerpt” from the series.

The full audio / video sessions go into much more detail, cite awesome psychology studies, and most important, deliver you cutting-edge psychology insight from the world’s best psychology researchers and NYT best-selling authors.

And while it’s 100% free, the only thing I ask of you is this:

Subscribe to it on iTunes here… and then leave a quick review letting me know what you think about it.

There are currently 74 reviews, and with your help, I think we can get to 100 reviews.

So, if you can spare a few seconds, please do that now. Thank you!

Additionally, one note: When you subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, you don’t gain access to the video portion. That video portion can only be found on the Social Triggers website.

So, even if you subscribe on iTunes, you should also sign up for the Social Triggers newsletter right here. That way you can get both the master class series AND awesome blog posts.

Now I would love to hear about what you think about the 5 psychological master keys.

How do you plan on using them in your business?


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137 comments Leave a comment
Missy Cooke

Specifically on action item #4, I would be interested to hear how people do this in their writing I.e. the words they use to tone things down. For example, last night I wrote “It seems” instead of “I think”. I caught myself and changed it and the sentence was much more powerful and declaratory.


Psychology and business DO go hand-in-hand! Especially when ti comes to marketing and sales. You might also find the association between evolutionary psychology and marketing valuable! I liked this post: http://bit.ly/15Qw5uO


Great post Derek,

Can you please explain a bit more on Master Key #3. As a graphic designer how does one tell their potential clients what they’re missing out on?

Coach Comeback

I am convinced. Subscribed to the Podcast. I had never even used podcast before but this information got we to want to learn it.

I do not want to miss another master class

Richard Hennessy

Since 2008 I have only ever had one real hater. It damn near made me reconsider being self employed but I thought “No!”. Haters are going to hate and you are right Derek, there’s nothing you can do about them. My hater made me re-examine my business practices and what got that hater to that point and I tightened up on things and made my terms of service a lot clearer to myself and my customers. That was nearly 2 years ago but now because of your post I want a new hater! How times change!


Hey Derek,

Now that Jonah Lehrer has…

• Admitted to self-plagiarism when blogging for the New Yorker
• Admitted to fabricating quotes in his new book “Imagine”
• Admitted lying to Michael Moynihan to cover up said fabrications
• Resigned from the New Yorker in the wake of the aforementioned scandal

I have a couple of questions. Does this affect your professional relationship with Lehrer? Does this damage his credibility in your eyes? In the eyes of your readers? Will you be altering any of the content of Social Triggers as a result?

Maybe this could be the starting point for a future blog post…


    1. self-plagiarism is a big joke.

    2. he never admitted to fabricating quotes. He said “The quotes in question either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes.” I still give Jonah the benefit of the doubt and assume they were unintentional misquotations because I don’t see the motive behind why he’d fake it

    3. It was dumb to lie to Moynihan, but given the media flack he got over a BS claim known as “self-plagiarism,” I’m apt to think he panicked and wasn’t thinking clearly. He’s only human, and after getting nailed for something as stupid as “self-plagiarism,” I’m willing to forgive his slip up.

    4. I have no intention on writing a blog post about this because quite frankly, it doesn’t apply to Social Triggers. When I talked to Jonah we focused on the academic research, and how that applies to the world of online marketing. This research can be verified. While I enjoyed his anecdotes, when he was on ST I focused on the research.

    5. Even though Imagine was pulled from the shelves, the book was still a GREAT read. Aside from the Bob Dylan slip up, the rest of the book is still worth its weight in gold. Especially the analysis of the academic research… which is why I read him to begin with… To find new academic research… and see his analysis of older academic research.


Derek, your information is priceless! Thanks for your generosity!


Great Post Derek, very informative. Especially #4, no matter how many fans and followers we have there will always be haters. So our goal as online entrepreneurs should only be to please our target audience, because haters only pay attention to success. So in a sense, I guess the success formula is: duplicate haters and make more money!


I love learning about behavior and what makes us tick. So glad I came across this site.

Michael Belk

Your honestly is impeccable. I like your videos and your content is gold.

Adam Hart

Super stoked to be here and YES I was referred to your website. I look forward to using your information to help me strength my online strategy.

So much info out there, I am happy to cut out the confusion and use you as one of my main resources moving forward.

Thanks Derek

nancy fox

I just realized, Derek, why your content is so engaging vs. so many other online marketers. Yes, I too really enjoy the research and data you present from other experts to demonstrate the premises being made. But for quite a few years, alot of the “experts” and “gurus” online have been talking about mindset, mindset, mindset….yada. No data, just “belief.” I can’t think of anyone who talks about the psychology in doing business effectively in the online marketing world. The closest one is Malcolm Gladwell, and he is really using studies showing trends and human behavior not only from the business side. You have brought psychology and human behavior into actionable steps for us as business people. Well done! FYI I recently went back to a few of my old posts, did use some research done by other experts but now see how I could have done it in a more compelling, instructive, value-adding way. Thanks for doing the hard work so I can be more effective.

Charleen Larson

First visit here, doubt I’ll be back.

There’s no date on your post above, nor are there any dates on the comments. For all I know you wrote that post five years ago, have kept it on top and have been accumulating comments ever since to make it look like you have a large community.

Second, your point #1 has been known in ecommerce for years. Nobody I know presents all their products with no “chunking”; everybody understands the benefits of organization and cross-categorization. I disagree with your assertion about a limit of seven buckets; I had 60 on my site up until recently and when I removed them for maintenance, I found many customers had browsing bucket by bucket and missed them.

Feel free to classify me as a hater. I’ve been called worse.


    You are giving a lot of credit to people when anyone, in the world, at any age, with any level of education and any level of experience on the internet, can create a blog. For the first six months of owning a website I didn’t know anything about chunking. And after reading this post I immediately deleted 2 programs that hadn’t sold in a year. I needed to read the bit about limiting to feel confident enough to make that leap.
    Just as you advise not generalizing that he assumes people don’t know about point #1, perhaps you should recognize that your target market may vary from other’s target markets and your knowledge, as well as apparently the knowledge of the people you surround yourself with, may be on a different level than every other blogger in the world.

Joyce Glass

Taking Derek’s class & Yes it is worth every penny. Helps you get clarity on where you are going.

Thanks for challenging us to stretch beyond our comfort zone!


After I read this, I wiped out 3 of my programs that haven’t made money in about a year. What a relief! Thank you for the permission!


Hey Derick, one thing that you don’t share is how are you going about having a high page rank and literally driving traffic so your Alexa rank is 14,000. I visited all the links people leave in the comments section and mostly all of the sites are over a million on Alexa and with low page ranks.

I know of many sites that just keep blogging for with low traffic stats.

So what you should share with your audience is how are you doing SEO, and not a around in about way, just straight forward, do you use a service something like SEnuke, or do you really do it all yourself and if so how?

Are using Synnd for automated social rankings and blog comments, or do you really pursue the social game yourself and if so how much time do you spend and how do you go about it?

Jerrywhyte Obamwonyi

great post Derek, i got here to your blog from Pat Flynn monthly income newsletter when he laid so much emphasis on how to use tweetable effectively and how you are doing it.

Thumb up


Hi Derek
Thanks for sharing this valuable information!
As an artist, I’m building a new site. I did some research and found out that most artists don’t engage (through opt-in) with any of their prospects or fans. I would like to capture them, but still want to stay on the high-end style.I would like to implement your above 5 keys, but find it difficult to do. (beside less options key) Any suggestions? Thanks, Bianca

Grant Hensel

“People don’t pay for information or software. They pay for results and convenience.”

Great post Derek – I’m part of a startup helping niche experts build info products that deliver results (you actually know the success rate for the product’s stated claims) instead of just knowledge, so it was great to read that line.

Interestingly, the first time I heard about Social Triggers it was essentially described as having ‘mysteriously valuable’ posts. Mystery sells indeed.

Domenic Anthony

Just Joined your blog. Excellent tips. I am putting the finishing touches on my first blog site. I will be using the tip of giving them fewer choices. In my introduction will have the three top areas that will be focused on. Giving my audience fewer choices with the type of content was helpful to me in addition Great idea! Simple but effective. I pondered the thought about enemies or disgruntled subscribers. Great way to ignore the few and serve the many.
Domenic A Chiarella
7 of 7 BEST

Bruno A. Pradal

Well, hello Derek!

I just finished to watch your launch of “Blog that Converts” AAARGH! I’m so frustrated… I have no money to get in it. A few weeks ago I decided to invest in Ramit’s 1k course and there’s nothing left in the money bag.

But since I will get great results with the 1k course you can bet that with my savings of my freelancer career I will want to get the first spot in your training course. So I hope that in a few months from now you do a re-launch . You better do.

Shannon M. Howell

I’d expand on the “giving less” idea with one thought. It’s important that the categories make SENSE for most of your clients or target group. Using the grocery store example. It would make less sense to group the store by price, right? One packs of paper towels in row 3, multipacks in row 10, etc. It would drive people nuts.

This is, in my opinion, a common problem online. There are sites that group things, but annoyingly. The most common is the predetermined price brackets. Of these, the worst is when you can only pick ONE. They’ll be something like <$10, 10-25, 25-50, 50-100, 100+. Invariably, I'm looking for something covering multiple ranges like $20-$30. I'll have to individually search BOTH groups AND make sure to rule out things that are outside my range. I much prefer sites that let ME use the price brackets if I want to use price at all.

Other annoying groupings are brand (for things most people wouldn't know the brands of anyway – like hoses) and color (for things that are often multi-colored, like clothes, where patterned/solid would be a better choice).


I just got off a webinar today with you in which you talked about the ineffectiveness of list posting. Kinda contradictory if you read this post.

However still good content!
Gained another subscriber.

nancy fox

Great point that success breeds fans and “haters”. Being a biz owner takes a tough skin.
“What people think about me is none of my business” is a motto to be lived in biz
PS you can tweet me 🙂 @NancyFox

Thanks Derek – by the way, when I heard you on the webinar today, I knew you hailed from my neck of the LI woods – we have similar accents


I’ve been dealing with a severely under-converting website in one of my niches that promotes a service (I focus almost exclusively in promoting physical products at a much greater success rate).

I find it hard to believe why more people don’t buy as the people who do purchase rave about how “great it is” and “how much money it saves them”, etc.

I’ve been working on rewriting the copy to attempt to improve conversions and will implement and test your suggestions. I’ll be sure to report any amazing results from the changes I will make.

Here’s to your $uccess!


Ryan L

Great write up! I especially like tip #1 about limiting the options. Have never thought of that before. Keep up the great posts. Will be bookmarking for sure!!!

Jeff Goins

I like that you said people need less options. I live in a perpetual state of indecision, largely due to the fact that I’m overwhelmed with options and opportunities. I don’t need more choices; I need someone to help me decide.

    Alan | Life's Too Good

    Nicely put Jeff.

    Sorry I was skipping through some comments & had to just drop a note to agree with yours whole-heartedly!!

    Someone somewhere told me about 2 jam stalls at a craft fair – one with 25 jams for sale and one with 3. The first gets more traffic but the 2nd gets more sales (which is just about the perfect example in my view).

    “The confused mind always says ‘No'”…

    I reckon Derek pretty much ‘gets’ this & is mindful of the concept in just about everything he does.

    great comment,


Fantastic Post,
I am a fairly new blogger and studying the industry quite a bit. I am focusing right now on increasing my email list. I am running a lot of A/B split tests to see what works best. The data definitely shows that less is more. My forms with a bunch of details do significantly worse than my straightforward simple forms.

I am trying to figure out how to use the “loss aversion” concept with my aweber email forms. It might not necessarily apply here. I would to hear anyones thoughts on this.

Nate Riggs

Love your stuff Derek, and I’m actually in process of implementing a lot of what I’ve learned here and at your Blogworld talk for a new project I’m working on. When it’s live and in motion, I’ll come back and share some results here.

Have to call you out on this though, because I think it’s kind of ‘social echo-chamber’ BS. Your quote from above:

“And despite what the “experts” say on other bogus “social media marketing blogs,” when it comes to using the web to generate leads and sales for your business, the tools you use have nothing to do with it.”

Umm. Okay. Here’s my challenge to you then. Shut off Awebber. Shut off GoTo Webinar. Shut off WordPress (assuming that’s your blog CMS) –> THEN show me how you can make the money you’ve made online.

I do agree with you — don’t get sucked in or stuck on the tools. Tools are only as good as those who hold them and the combination of good tools and savvy humans will get dollars.

But you can’t make a blanket statement like that — knowing and using the right tools are what gives smart people like you the ability to make money from your ideas…

Agree or disagree? Willing to revise your statement (or was that simply a tactic to spark controversy?) ;0)

    Derek Halpern

    You took that comment out of context. The complete comment is as follows:

    And despite what the “experts” say on other bogus “social media marketing blogs,” when it comes to using the web to generate leads and sales for your business, the tools you use have nothing to do with it.

    Because, as time progresses, the tools will always change. The people you’re talking to, on the other hand, will remain people. And people are people are people!

    What was I saying? Ill tell you exactly what I was saying. I was saying that the tools I’m using does not matter. If AWeber announced that they were going out of business tomorrow, I’d be able to move to a new email service provider without skipping a beat. If WordPress blew up, I’d move to a new content management system, again, without skipping a beat.

    The exact tools don’t matter. As long as you have a tool that accomplishes whatever it is you want it to do.

    Good job on getting me fired up to respond to your controversial comment, though :-).

Leon Noone

G’Day Derick,
Really enjoyed that: thanks. I particularly related to #3 and #4. I’m quite obsessive about narrow, specific target markets. And I’ve long believed that it’s easier to sell to current clients than find and convince new ones.

Thanks again


Namita Patel

Excellent points Derek! I especially liked the point about loss and gain. I plan to use your strategies in my client’s web copy. Thanks!

L. Raquel Peterson

What’s striking about these triggers is I’m a fan of what Erika Napoletano calls “Unpopular Brands” – brands people really love or really hate.

You have to polarize your audience, because, as she said in an interview, nobody likes vanilla.

I wrote an book I self-published to Kindle last year. Without ANY marketing, it quickly became a topseller in its niche. I don’t have many reviews. I have 6…

2 – 5 Star
2 – 4 Star
2 – 1 Star

Oddly enough, one of the one stars is a copy and paste review that has NOTHING to do with my book.

The other did… what was so funny is the very things this person hated about my book were the things people emailed me to praise and ask for more information about.

I was initially raw and “butthurt” by this review, but ‘ve grown to love and be proud of it. The reviewer doesn’t realize it, but she helped me further refine my audience – and possibly give me more indirect sales to an unknown subaudience – men. (It’s mature content.)

Jen M.

Thanks very much for the great post. I had a nightmare last night that I had written the suckiest sales copy ever, so I needed this today!


Here’s what stood out to me…

Psychology Master Key #4: The Secret to Growth is Earning Fans… And Enemies

Action item: Are you diluting your message to cater to everyone? Do you often “tone” down what you have to say… with hopes of pleasing everyone? That’s a mistake. You can’t please everyone. You can only please the right people. Instead of working to please everyone, cater to your evangelists.

Yes, I’ve toned my message in the past. It’s no wonder that my personal development website and teen/parent website were stagnant. And, I was losing interest in these sites.

I look at people like Suze Orman, Dr. Phil, T. Harv Eker, and others like them, and they sure as hell don’t tone down their message. They tell it ‘how it is’ and still sell books, sellout seminars, and have great TV ratings.

Fear is the biggest reason why people tone down their message. When you’re raised in a culture that praises people for being liked by everyone, you become conditioned to think that it’s better to be ‘liked by everyone.’ Luckily, you can choose not to be liked by everyone and sell to your target audience who’ll appreciate you and your products/services.

Dan Green

Derek- “I know changing peoples minds is damn near impossible, so instead of wasting time trying to “change” someone, I go after the people who already like me… and focus on making them happy.” So true.

Why do we get caught up trying to convince and persuade ‘non-believers’ when there are usually loads of ‘easy sales’ staring us in the face? Do our own ego’s cause us to get sidetracked? I think I’ll blog about this one….

Ali Davies

Hey Derek,
Am fascinated by the psychology of peoples behaviour so found your points here really good food for thought. Especially as I am in the processing of learning how to move my predominantly offline business towards an online business.
I would love to learn more about the psychology of people’s behaviour, not just in a business sense but in other areas of life too – are there any books you would recommend to learn more about this subject


Its wonderful having you as a resource Derek. I’ve just launched a blog and had no idea how to market it to anyone. I’ve begun to use your stuff on my blog and its all gold. Please don’t stop posting! 🙂


Hi Derek,
Yesterday I bookmarked Pat’s site, today it’s you… Im in a full time job in a bank… & people like you constantly inspire me do follow my heart…

I would say… your all 5 tricks are killer… but the energy, motivation you & Pat provide me definitely makes me sit till 1 o’clock in night to figure out how do I…???

So I feel #6 is direct motivation a person gets associating with _ _ _ … for business you & Pat are my gurus :)…

Ohh you want hatemail… why don’t you share your bank details?? just like Pat .. show us where & how much you make?? And I hope you won’t say it’s mystery… 🙂


Awesome Derek

I have several free ebooks and video training that I have realized are valuable,
But have been scared ti start charging
Going to do it!
People value it more when they pay

Ps shot in the dark but do you still do
Website critiques?

Romi Tuano

Hi Derek,

I just subscribed to your newsletter last week, but I’m already getting a ton of value from this post. No wonder your blog is very popular.

Psychological master key #2 is what I particularly like. Just like what you said, people pay for convenience. They would rather pay for something than try to search for the free options online. People are lazy and they like things handed to them.

More power man!

All The Best,

Don Archer

Your ability to manipulate my mind is troubling and exciting at the same time. It’s crazy that we are motivated by loss more than gain. Not me in this area because I aint got nothing to lose yet. But I am stuck in a brick and mortar business that I don’t want to be in anymore because of the fear of loss. Man you are right. Thank you for the insights. Anything I can do for you let me know. What course would you suggest I take of yours? Check out my website please, I value your oppinion and I think you’ve got awesome energy.
Don’t worry I’m not some stalker, “We’re Not Worthy”


Derek, your articles are so great that it made me subscribe to your blog twice, hehe. These are very useful. I wish I have all the time to read them all. But I’ll start reading them one at a time.

P.S. I like Psychology. It really works.

Pam Brossman

Definitely got me thinking. There are a few strategies here that I am gong to try on my website thanks for sharing. Cheers Pam


Thanks, as usual. Curious, how would you apply mystery to the description of skin care products?

    Derek Halpern

    Every skin care product in the world has some secret ingredient they call ingredient X. Case in point.

Jari (King) Searns

You my new Friend are a screaming genius. It’s not that what you say is such a revelation, it’s the practical way you say it that makes me want to run (not walk) to try …well, EVERYTHING you suggest!!!

Thank you.


    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Jari. Really. It’s hard work making things sound simple, and I’m glad it makes you want to take action on it.

Pascale Dérose

Thank you for such a great post!
This was me before reading your post:
“I’m going to reveal all the steps I’m taking to launch my business. I’ll take people behind the scenes up to the launch. Maybe I”ll do it on twitter or maybe I’ll send out a newsletter. It’s kinda scary but hey, I’m sure I’ll get some good exposure. Oh yeah, what a great idea.”

This is me after reading your post:
Well no wonder I felt it was scary. It was a dumb idea!

Thanks for saving me from launching all backwards!

    Derek Halpern

    Focus on the email list my man!

Giga Jones

Awesome points Derek, especially #4. Niching down your target/message makes it more focused instead of wishy-washy jack-of-all-trades b.s. Looking forward to more!

    Derek Halpern

    Glad you’re here, Giga. Thanks!

Rivka Kawano

Derek – LOVE the quote about people being people being people. I often have clients ask if I have done any marketing in their specific niche. And I always tell them no (I work very hard to never have directly competing clients), but it doesn’t matter, because people are people are people. And in some ways being an “outsider” to the field gives me an advantage to be able to see how an average client sees things and their concerns, needs, etc. Has been working great so far and I absolutely follow Social Triggers as one tool in my tool box to be constantly learning more about people. 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    That’s what I like to hear Rivka. That’s why I created this site. To teach people about people.

Michael Chibuzor

“People pay for results and convenience, not for software or product” How did you enact those lines Derek? Sounds so powerful and it’s going to form my blog post this week.

This is my first time to comment on your post, but I’ve been a subscriber for a while. But I have a question though…

When you talked about haters – how then do I make my customers happy and make unsatisfied customers happy? Is there a way to befriend haters and make them buy from you?

Please throw more lights Derek.

    Derek Halpern

    I don’t know man. I’ve been told I’m good at one liners, and you’re right. That’s a good one.

Brock Taylor

Hey Derek,

Another great article. It pointed out a couple things that I can definitely incorporate into my work.

I definitely haven’t used #3 and #5 much in my strategy thus far. I could definitely strengthen my copy by incorporating the prospect of loss, as well as a little bit of mystery.

I’ll be trying to work those into my writing and strategy more! As always, thanks for the useful and actionable information!

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Brock.

    When you do implement them, would love to hear about specific results you’ve experienced.

Jamie Alexander

Knocked one out of the park again, Derek.

Amazing little tips I’m going to write down and implement.


    Derek Halpern

    You better implement. I’ll check up on you.


Ameena Falchetto

Hate mail? Love that Derek … Always go for love or hate … none of that crappy nicey -not nicey stuff in the middle!

I already applied fewer options when I heard your podcast with Sheena and have pushed many of my clients to do the same.

Off to listen to the Pleasure Paradox …. missed that one!

Thanks for great insights and yes, they make complete sense.

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome Ameena.

    Glad I got to meet John last week, too!

    Sorry you weren’t there.


This stuff is genius Derek! I love the one about making people fear losing something rather than gaining something – I think that goes down human nature and instinct. Also I totally agree with the one that people LOVE to pay for stuff – how else would Apple be in business? While they do provide innovative products, because their price is so high, people think that the products are even better than what they really are – me being one of them 😉

Great post man – keep it up! Definitely subscribing to your podcast 🙂


    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Thomas. Make sure you leave a review too, if you can. Those reviews help me out a ton!


I always enjoy your tops! I have learned so much from you and it all makes sense to implement it into my business. Thank You


    Derek Halpern

    Thank you Laurie!

Kimberly Houston

All the master keys here are killer, but I positively love Master Key #1: How to Increase Sales by Giving Your Customers “LESS” Options, and I’ll implement the suggestions here.
I’ve been struggling with this one on my site’s Services page. I know that “a confused mind always says no,” so offering too many choices is detrimental to sales. It’s a bit of a challenge though, with a new blog and just a couple of clients so far, to know what are the best services to offer, though I’m getting good intel from my current clients. : )

Thanks for an outstanding article.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Kimberly. Would love to hear how you break it down!


Please don’t take this the wrong way – I read your emails and posts because they consistently offer something valuable, and I’m all for tooting one’s own horn now and again (hell, in this biz – in any biz, really – you have to be comfortable with that to market yourself or your services). But I’m seeing a somewhat alarming and off-putting trend in your content lately. Routinely pointing out how popular you are is, honest to God, a turn-off. And you don’t *need* to do it. Your content speaks very persuasively and eloquently both for itself and for you, I promise.

    Derek Halpern

    Hi Annie, after talking with you on email, I know you’re referring to the comment about #1 blog about marketing and psychology.

    That’s not really bragging… Look at it like this: When you watch a commercial, and you see a Verizon advertisement, or a AT&T advertisement, they’re also touting that they’re the fastest… the largest… etc.

    The reason why you do that is because you have to. Especially when you’re working to impress random readers that never heard of you.

    Which leads me to an important point: No matter how large your site is, or what “credibility” you have, it’s up to you to share those points with your readers and fans.

    If you don’t say it, people will write their own story about you. If they write their own story, they may get the facts wrong.

    For example, just a few weeks ago, someone was telling me that they thought Social Triggers only had a few thousand readers a month.

    I took that as a sign of the fact that I wasn’t publishing my audience numbers and decided I may reveal them sooner than later.

    Now let’s flip it for a second.

    Let’s say I was a #1 NYT best-selling author. Would you expect me “NOT” to use that title? 🙂


      Annie makes a good point but at the same time I must admit that your blog is one of the very best out there and I find myself coming back everytime to read more of your stuff.

      Which leads me to another point for running a succesful business;
      be who you are!

      People don’t like it when their trusted blogger changes his tune. It destroys the image in their mind of that person being the reliable and steady peron that they have become to like.

        Alan | Life's Too Good


        I agree entirely with using your success as social proof and that you have Just the right balance.

        After reading your content and seeing you on video for the first time I must admit I was surprised, but in a good way. When I first read your blog I just thought you were into psychology and a bit of a geek, just like me. When I saw you I thought wow, cocky geek – awesome.

        The only thing I don’t like but I’m staring to see everyone do all of a sudden is ‘click to tweet’. Do people really need to be told what to tweet? To repeat little sound bites that you’ve picked out for them parrot-fashion?

        I like to hit the tweet button to share your great posts, but something in my head explodes somehow whenever I see ‘click to tweet’ ugh! What’s the psychology behind that? Is it just me?

        Just giving you some honest feedback – in my very humble opinion your awesome content, approach & brand just doesn’t need ‘click to tweet’ – it doesn’t fit.

        I also really hope it doesn’t catch on more than it already has…

          Alan | Life's Too Good

          OK Derek, I get it, but it still feels a little too much like spoon-feeding to me.

          I hope you don’t mind the feedback in any case,

          If this results in more people wanting to respond in the way you want, then there’s your proof…

          take care & best wishes,

          Derek Halpern

          The psychology behind click to tweet is this: people need something specific to act on, else they won’t take action.

          A tweet button is a general call to action, a click to tweet is a specific call to action.

          While I didn’t invent the strategy, you can probably blame me for this new widespread phenomenon. Once I started using it all of the time, I started seeing a bunch of other bloggers do it too ;-P.

      Jason Spencer

      Honestly Derek you wear the extra confident, borderline cocky, New Yorker personality very well. I would be disappointed if I didn’t hear you touting your status at least once a week either here on the blog or in the socialsphere. It’s a part of you, a part of your brand, and it keeps me smiling. 🙂

      Don’t change a thing.

        Derek Halpern

        Dude, never.

        I made that mistake before… Back when I started online, I’d tone myself down, and my friends would all rip on me for being a different person online.

        Once I decided to just act like me… take it or leave it… growth accelerated.

Chandler Turner

This is so darned good. But some people are going to overlook it as something that is so simple that everyone must be doing it. And they would be dead wrong. Please allow me to put a small psychological content spin on each point.

1. Giving less choices leads to more sales – psychologically, if we have too many choices, we make a choice not to choose. It is due in large part to confusion which is painful. What do we do when confused by website information? Click!

2. People love paying for stuff – they love feeling like they are getting a value by satisfying an emotion. In short it makes them happy.

3. Losses loom larger than gains – there is another way to say that and that is “fire your losers” and pay attention to your winners. Those who love you will tell others.

4. Earn enemies – if no one is complaining at all, you are not doing enough business because it is a fact that we will never please everyone even if we try. Try to learn from those who are unhappy, because you might be doing something wrong. But if you simply cannot please them, fire the losers.

5. Mystery – People are inquisitive and want to know more. If you give it all to them . . . well . . . what is left.

Very nice post.

    Derek Halpern

    This is the first time you’ve commented here in a while Chandler. Glad you’re back. And thank you for your elaboration.

Dan Sumner

Great stuff there Derek. I like the part about people actually liking to pay for things. I used to give a lot of stuff away, I still do. But when you find you are sacrificing an income things have to change.

You find more loyalty from the buyers than you do from the people who take the free stuff.

Thanks for another great article Derek much appreciated.

Dan Sumner

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Dan.

    And you’re right.

    When people pay for things they often are more grateful for what you provided to them.

Coffee with Julie

I’m just commenting to let you know that in the BWENY you were brazen enough to say we’d all be subscribing to Social Triggers after the session … and well, here I am … a new subscriber! This first email linking to this post did not disappoint! Thanks

    Derek Halpern

    Awesome, glad you’re signed up.

    And I hate to say it… who am I kidding… I told you so 😀

A Blinkin

I wish the restaurants I go to adopted the “less is more” menu. I would much rather have a selection of steak or chicken than 3 full pages of sales, sandwiches, pizzas, etc. It’s overwhelming.

    A Blinkin

    sales = salads (I credit your blog for this error)

      Derek Halpern

      I don’t know the name of the show right now… but on one of those shows where chefs remake restaurants to help make them more profitable… one of the first things they do is pare down the menu.

        Danny Cooper

        Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares


Hi Derek,

I love the idea of building mystery around your business, because I know it also works for dating!

Do you have any other examples of how online businesses can do this? I have neither a superfast growing website nor Apple’s fans, so other than updating social media with things like ‘working on my secret project’, I’m not sure how to build the mystery.

Thanks! And looking forward to hearing you speak at WDS!

    Derek Halpern

    there’s no hard and fast rule that EVERYONE can use to build mystery into their website.

    However, you should learn more about “information gaps.” I talk about that here:



      Thanks, Derek, for the link!

      That was very useful, and the templates are good for newbies like me.

      If you heard about a new remarkable commenting technique that could guarantee an answer from the blog author, would you be interested in learning more about it?

        Derek Halpern

        I don’t really comment on blogs…

Tom Ross

Awesome post Derek. I’ve reduced my blogging reading to a few essential blogs and yours is right near the top of the list!

What do you think about the idea of being transparent? I try to be very up front about what my own members area offers my customers. This seems to be at odds with your idea of mystery, get it does have it’s own benefits.

    Derek Halpern

    Near the top?

    What do I need to do to become THE TOP?

    I think you should be transparent… and I am transparent.

    However, leaving a little mystery does help increase sales.

    For example, let’s say you have a 7 step-process map for getting a specific result. What you do is say that there’s a 7-step process map… but you don’t tell them exactly what the steps are.

      Tom Ross

      Haha. Give me a free consulting session? 😛

      You’re right up there with Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr, so you’re in good company!

      I’m in the graphic design niche, so I do sometimes struggle to apply your principles, which I think often are more applicable to some offline niches and the online marketing niche. I totally understand that it’s all about adapting the principles, but this is where I can struggle at times.

      Thanks again for the help!

        Derek Halpern

        So, what you’re saying is that you’re a service based professional? Interesting. 🙂

Patrick Hitches

Best part is when you compare your mysterious growth to Apple. Loved it! You are the man … Keep the goodness coming Derek.


    Derek Halpern


Craig L.

I wrote my own sales copy for the sales page for my fitness product. I feel like hiring someones else to write my copy would be less effective. After all, who knows about my product and its benefits more than me?

However, when I read articles like this, it makes me think there are people out there who would do a better job of “selling” my product because they understand the marketing side of things better than I do.

What are your thoughts on this? If you feel hiring someone to write my sales copy is a good idea, do you have any suggestions on finding a quality, affordable writer?

I have a tendency to be hypercritical of my own abilities, but also love to receive constructive criticism, so feel free to be brutally honest.



    Hey Craig,

    Sounds like you’re in an ideal place for split testing your copy, it’s the perfect way for you to try and increase your conversations while also the greatest education you could ever get – “learn by doing”

      Derek Halpern

      I always love messing with split testing. Can be a waste of time, sometimes, but it’s worth it.

    Derek Halpern

    It all depends Craig.

    I’ve made the commitment to learn how to be a copywriter years ago, mainly because it’s not something you can really “hire” someone to do.

    Yes, there are pro copywriters for hire, but no one knows your product like you do… and if you learn how to write the copy yourself… you don’t have to share the revenue with one of the pro… top copywriters.

      Tim Archambault

      Good point about being able to copyright Derek. It’s not just that you are learning about copyrighting, I think its more comprehensive than that. It forces you to communicate in a consistent manner across channels: speech, text, etc. I’m am learning from your blog very quickly that I tend to communicate with waaay too much jargon and not enough simplicity. Thanks and I will continue reading all the great reference material in this blog post.

      Robert Stover

      Counterpoint: One can’t be good at everything. Someone who focuses all day every day on writing copy will be better than someone who runs a business/service most the time and writes copy occasionally.

      There have been a few business owners who were great at writing copy. . .very few. And several of those were first admen/writers.

      And there are some brilliant copywriters who were notoriously bad at running a business.

      If you don’t inherently enjoy writing copy, sub it out to someone that does. Do what you do best, sub out the rest.

      (I absolutely believe an entrepreneur should understand copy principles to avoid being suckered into realy bad copy as often happens)

      Just a view from out here in the bleachers… Opinions may differ.


        Yes, opinion do very.

        I agree with Derek on this one.

        I feel & think that as a marketer you should know & actively write your own copy. It is the most important skill you will EVER learn as a marketer.

        Great copy writers are not born, they are taught.

        This should not be outsourced, if at all possible.



        I love the concept of “losses loom larger than gains”. I have successful split test this concept, although I didn’t have clever way of articulating it 😉

        Pure benefit driven copy is not as effective as a 3 (benefit) to 2 (loss) split or about 40% “discomfort” style of writing. The conversion went up by almost 22%.

        I haven’t tried this style of writing with email titles yet.


          Derek Halpern

          Great data man. Do you have the specific results from that split test, though? Would love to see more.


        Couldn’t agree more, Robert. I’d also add there are some people who are incredibly skilled at a certain task – copywriting, say – but despise it nonetheless. Mastery does not necessarily yield joy. In either case, after achieving some basic understanding of the task (as you point out, to avoid being suckered, if for no other reason), cheerfully hand ’em on.

          Derek Halpern

          I agree , for sure. If you hate writing, you hate writing. But it’s still a good skill to have.

      Craig L.

      Any tips you can share on how I can start digging in and learning how to become a more effective copywriter?

        Derek Halpern

        I’d grab the book Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz.


          I think many people would would find a post with your recommendations for books to read for those who want to learn copywriting very valuable..

          Just saying.. 😉

          Craig L.

          Thanks Derek! I will check it out.

Paul Jun

Simple and to the point. Very educational as well.

Derek, I have a question and I thought it was best to ask you this: how does someone, a reader such as myself, differentiate the “experts” and “social media marketing blogs”?

It seems nowadays that many blogs that I read surrounding the topics you cover all use the same words like “experts” and “marketing blogs” in those quotations.

I hear this all the time, and although it would not be wise to call out specific names or organizations, I’ve been seeing these quotation-wrapped words too often.

    Derek Halpern

    It’s hard to tell, but here’s the short of it: The real experts use data to back up their claims.

    Or, they have real experience and real results.

    There are people out there who ‘pretend’ they’re experts, but they write blogs about blogging… and their blogs have no traffic… no interaction… nothing.

      Kurt Schmitt

      Hey Derek,

      This probably deserves a much longer discussion (elsewhere I’m sure), but one of the issues is that what applies to Home Depot (a “big brand”) doesn’t necessarily apply to a one person home improvement site. If Home Depot Tweets 15 times a day, and they report an increase in direct traffic from Twitter of X percent, does that mean a bear uses toilet paper? 🙂

      That data will probably end up on an infographic somewhere and people will point to it as “proof” that some formula “works.” People often have a hard time separating hype from reality.

      So what you have to learn to do is pluck out the actionable items (as they *might* apply to you) and test, test, and oh, yeah… test.


Great post as always. Found a typo in the section titled “But First, The Key to Unlocking the Vault of Higher Conversion Rates”

“…but that’s neither her nor there.”

    Derek Halpern

    Yea, I found it. Thank you!

Sarah Arrow

Well I have to say I was more interested in the pop-up and the “recommended for you” than the post, more relating to curiosity than content 🙂

I have something by Jonah Lehrer, will make an extra effort to read it now he’s been mentioned here.

    Derek Halpern

    You should read everything Jonah Lehrer writes. He’s one of my favorite writers in the neuroscience world right now.

Cristina Ansbjerg

Great post, Derek.

I’m surprised that Mystery = sales. Especially because the tendency online is to be as transparent as possible in order to gain trust.

But your argument makes sense to me.

Cristina Ansbjerg


    I agree! But soooo true!

    Derek Halpern

    You can’t be 100% mysterious… You just have to be mysterious about the right things.

      Ramsay from Blog Tyrant

      The mystery thing worked pretty darn well for me! 😉

      I think the key, if you do it, is to make sure you don’t confuse mystery with dishonesty. I never lied to people about anything and that helps build the relationship despite the lack of total transparency.

      Derek, I think the idea about loss being a bigger motivator than gain is a very inbuilt evolutionary mechanism. Jonah Lehrer talks about this sometimes. Makes logical sense to me when I think about losing a family/children/food/shelter vs finding more of those basic things.

      Great post bro!


Bobby Thomas

Hey Derek

Great tips as per usual, thank you.

I have to say I have implemented many things you have recommended and the results have been very impressive to say the least.

Thanks Derek


    Derek Halpern

    Would love for you to elaborate on that. What specific results have you achieved thus far?

      Bobby Thomas

      First of all you helped me really understand how important it was to building an email list, thank’s for that.

      As for specific results since implementing a lot of the tips you gave on the “site reviews” my email opt-ins have increased, although I have yet to add the Halpern header ;)… but when I do I’m sure they will shot up even more. My email open rate is also around 70% if not more.

      Not exactly specific results but I want to implement a lot more of what you share first, then I would love to send you an email with the specific results if that would be okay with you?


        Derek Halpern

        Sounds perfect Bobby.


Derek, great stuff man – going to add this to my ‘read before I do a new promotion’ bookmarks folder. I esp. like this line “People don’t pay for information or software. They pay for results and convenience.” I’d also add that they buy things that are parallel to their goals, what’s a major goal that your target audience has? Define it in-depth, and position your product running parallel to it – guess that’s what you mean with ‘they pay for results’- they also pay for the idea of moving their goals forward.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re right. Results are the same as goals. Except results are tangible… goals are kind of just out there… as desires.

      Robert Miller

      I always thought goals were dreams with deadlines

Sean Mal

Get more hatemail, haha. That’s the next strategy. 🙂

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks Sean.

    Love that you’re always one of the first commenters here.

    But going forward, instead of giving me praise, I’d love for you to write a more in-depth comment explaining more specific actions.




      Your site is inspiring and fresh! My pops always said business is based on relationships. While I’ve been studying the internet marketing industry for four years Im new to this whole blogging thingamajigee. However, I look forward to reading and posting on what you’ve written. I so believe in the power of persuasion. Keep it up dude and keep it coming.

      Pete H.

      Trent Dyrsmid

      Hey Derek & Sean,

      Ah…hate mail…such a wonderful way for sucky people to spend their time. I really like your idea about getting more and posting it on your wall, and here’s why: if you are vanilla boring, you wont’ get any hate mail…but you aren’t likely to inspire much in the way of readers either!

      When I first started blogging, I never got any hate mail. This is because no one read my blog. Now that it’s become so much more popular, I definitely receive my share…but, much to my surprise, when the commenter whines like a stuck pig, one, or more of my loyal readers jumps all over them.

      Suffice to say, I agree 100% that knowing who your audience is and catering to them is key. The rest can go piss off as far as I’m concerned.

      And lastly, I signed up for Derek’s blog that converts course and so far, its worth every penny of the $500 that I paid for it….and I already have a very successful and profitable blog!

      Thanks Derek!

      Trent Dyrsmid

      Lin E

      Hey Derek,
      new here! I’m learning to welcome the ‘haters’ too. Thanks for clarifying why it’s okay to invite them to stay or go. Ahhhhhhhhh….. this will help me continue to write freely.

      Sean Mal

      Cool; but, either 2 pages or 2 words, I write whatever is on my mind at that moment. Thanks Derek.

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