No.9/ November 19, 2005

The Corporate Muse


Hello. Welcome once again to The Corporate Muse! As you know, we mentioned our trip to the Big Seminar a few weeks ago. In the coming months, we'll be sharing much of what we learned there. We hope you'll benefit from it as much as we have. And as always, we welcome suggestions and/or questions. 



   Evidence of Social Proof

Ever hear of Social Proof? In his fascinating book, Influence, Robert B. Cialdini calls it the "principle of determining what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. We view behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it." Most of the time the crowd is right.  

While in LA for the Big Seminar, we watched (and participated) as two of these scenes played out. 

The first came in the baggage claim area of LAX. Like dutiful sheep, we followed the signs and the throng to carousel #2 as the flight attendant had instructed us. After waiting about ten or fifteen minutes, about half of our fellow passengers walked over to carousel #1. We stood our ground. 

Shortly afterwards, the circular device began to move. None of our bags appeared. Then we heard someone close by say, "Kansas City's been moved to number one."

We diehards scooted to the next carousel over and retrieved our luggage. 

In this case, those who moved were correct. Never seeing an authority, we weren't sure how they came to the conclusion to go, so we only watched as they progressed en masse. 

Uncertain joiners jerked their heads back toward carousel #2 and stood slightly between the two apparatuses. This way, had their decision to go along with the dissenting group turned out to be wrong; their mistake wouldn't look so obvious. But it was those of us who chose to stay that ended up looking the fools.

The second incident - an example in reverse - happened at the Big Seminar.

We finished our first meal and headed back toward the conference room. The group ahead of us walked slower than we did, so we fell into line at the end.

In front of them, three or four small clusters lead the way. But when they came to the small anteroom before the escalators an odd thing happened.

Instead of walking straight toward the exit, they circled around both of the thick pillars in the center of the room. Everyone (including us) followed dutifully behind.

Andy and I laughed as we hopped onto the escalator realized what we'd just done. There was no obvious reason for this action.

At some point prior to our arrival, the room must have been overcrowded making it necessary to form a long line around the two posts. When the congestion thinned, the stragglers didn't bother to change course, but instead continued in the preset pattern.

This is Social Proof in action. What everyone else was doing seemed to be right, so we followed.

For years, marketers have used this strategy to promote their wares. As Cialdini points out, "Advertisers love to inform us when a product is the 'fastest-growing' or 'largest-selling' because they don't have to convince us directly that the product is good; they need only say that many others think so, which seems proof enough."

One of the most effective applications of this strategy is the use of testimonials and referrals. By including testimonials from typical customers in your sales and promotional materials, you strengthen the believability of your offer. And if you've ever benefited from an enthusiastic referral resulting in a call from a new prospect, you know just how powerful this form of social proof is.

Whenever possible, use testimonials in your written copy and on your website. And don't be shy about asking for referrals. You provide a valued service or product and people need to know about it. Use every weapon in your arsenal to make sure they do. (SKC) 

         © QuickSilver Copywriters 2005 - Andy & Shawn Catsimanes;; mailto:; Sign up for The Corporate Muse:




The other day, we received one of the best pieces of direct mail we’ve ever seen.

It arrived in a crisp 5 ¾ x 8 ¾ ivory colored envelope, hand addressed with a return address label in the upper left corner. I ripped into it and pulled out the heavy ivory paper folded in half. Looked so much like a greeting card it was uncanny. 


                 "Happy Thanksgiving"  


It read below a picture of a cornucopia filled with pumpkins, grapes and Indian corn. Then inside - the pitch: a car dealership in our area is having a big sale.

For us, they were about a month too late. But this clever approach worked in several ways. First, it lookedlike it could be from a friend. And although they had my name wrong (I've been remarried about five years now - more on that later), it made me curious enough to open it first. We even stayed in the car while I did.

Secondly, while I couldn't think of anyone I knew in Chicago, as I tore into it, I kept hoping it was from someone I knew. We discussed this prospect as I emptied the contents onto my lap and stared at the picture on the front of the card inside. Not until I flipped it open did my heart sink. Just an advertisement after all.

Thirdly, it was addressed incorrectly, but even that worked in their favor. Why? Because my thoughts continued that it could be from someone I knew - perhaps a long lost friend. The Internet makes it easy to find old contacts. My former name is registered at the Post Office because we moved to KC just two months after we were married.


The great thing about this tactic is it intrigued me immediately. It looked personal. I bit and although my mind told me it was a piece of junk mail, my heart held out for something better.


The lesson to be learned here is simple. The more you appeal to your prospects emotions, the more likely you are to get them to at least look at your offer.


That’s why handwritten, lumpy and/or unusual packaging is essential. Post it notes on the outside of the envelope. A typed address with a scripted P.S. A highlighted phone number to an automated message giving them more information. Use everything at your disposal to draw attention and make it sing, "This is special - open me now." 


Like a present under the tree with the big, shiny bow, bells and tiny reindeer that beckons to be opened, the allure of the wrapping can make all the difference.




Sometimes it comes down to the basics. Writers know instinctively if you don't grasp your reader's attention in the first few seconds, they'll put down your prose and never return. But like other things in life - knowing and doing can be two different things.


What's called the "Hook" is crucial to any kind of writing. John Carlton, a renowned and respected copywriter, said, "Job #1 is to be a sales detective." Find out what motivates your clients. Be a sleuth. Check out their Website. Read any newspaper clippings written about them. Gather any information you can and create an irresistible lead they wouldn't dare walk away from.


Carlton suggests reading the tabloids. "The incongruous juxtaposition of compelling elements make the best headlines," he told us at Big Seminar IV.  Makes sense. How many of us stand at the checkout counter and sneak a peak at the outrageous claims on the front page of The Globe or National Enquirer?


Humans are curious folk. If that weren't true, E! True Hollywood Story, VH1 Behind the Music, and Oprah wouldn't exist. When something stirs our interest, we'll read or watch until the end.


The Hook is just as important when writing fiction, creative non-fiction or even memos. Most Americans are busy. They don't have time to read everything put in front of them. Not only that, studies show a significant number of adults are inflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder.


If you can prove in five to seven seconds why they want or need to read your story, you have them hooked.


Whatever kind of writing project you're working on, examine it and whittle it down to its bare essence. As Carlton explained, "Sometimes it only takes one word." Use words that "pack a punch." Say things in a way that make it hard for the reader to turn away and he'll come back to listen to you time and time again.


If you're interested in hearing more from John Carlton, you can read samples of his newsletter, The Marketing Rebel Rant, at

Thanks for reading. See you next month!

  Andy & Shawn Catsimanes

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"With Andy & Shawn's help, 'Snapshots from the Soul' became a reality. They demonstrated great sensitivity and compassion and we enjoyed working with them very much."

~Dennis E. Chapman, Associate Executive Director, City Union Mission, KC, MO


“Andy and Shawn are copywriters you can count on to understand your business and your customers. I couldn’t be more impressed with the copy they provided us. Their work is excellent. I look forward to working with them again soon.”

~Kevin Fryer


"A book would not be enough room to compliment Shawn on her work. Her professionalism comes first even if it means staying up late at night to answer all your question. She works tirelessly to get the best results possible. Her attitude, caring, and devotion are unique and I'm thankful I had the chance to work with her."

~ Olga O'Mara


"Andy is a no fluff wordsmith with high direct response, long copy talent. His work will lift interest in your website. His ability to get up to speed on your unique business model is impressive. He is persistent to completing projects and takes personal pride in the quality of his work. He is honest and knows what drives sales. If you are lucky enough to get him, you will get above average copy for a fair price. I'd use Andy anytime."

~ Christopher Hebard
Pruett Media