How Trigger Words Can Give You A Leg Up On The Competition

Kim Wallace

Twenty years ago I was astonished to read that 80% of adults don’t read body copy in ads. At best, they’ll notice a headline and a visual. It’s gotten worse today due to our crunched digital lifestyles. (Consumers are reading less, and white papers are now one of the least effective assets in B2B versus more time-efficient infographics and video clips.)

Microsoft recently released research findings that the average adult’s attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2002 to eight seconds now, less than a goldfish’s nine seconds. Further, Tufts University neuroscientists report that due to “time famine,” people have developed a new brain function called “data skimming.” This helps explain the decline in readership, quality leads, conversions, and closes.

We first realized the power of emotional triggers over a decade ago when our rudimentary analysis of Christmas Tree Shops’ customer comments revealed that the key reason women shop there is the fun of finding bargains, not to save money.

The chart below shows recent test results in B2B and B2C that indicate that trigger-infused statements elicit a 24% preference versus existing (plain) ones.

So, the next time you create a sales or marketing piece, try to create one that embeds the trigger words that resonate best with your customers. Create a brief, powerful message with researched words, and don’t just guess what they are. You’re probably too close to be objective. Do some homework. Don’t ask people what they “think.” Find out how they “feel” about your product or service. Last of all, don’t forget that today, more than ever, less is more.

For more information, or a complimentary 20-30 minute telephone/online discussion about how trigger words can help increase your sales and marketing effectiveness, don’t hesitate to contact me at

For more marketing insight, read How to Weave Social Media Into the Fabric of the Business.

About Kim Wallace

Kim, co-author of the highly acclaimed book, "Why People Don't Buy Things" is partner and chief strategist at Wallace & Washburn LLC. The Boston-based firm has pioneered global marketing research to uncover the emotional triggers which influence over 50% of B2B and B2C purchase decisions. Kim is an emeritus faculty member at Radcliffe Seminars located at Harvard University.