The persuasive way to use numbers
Louis XI "The Spider King" of France (from 1461 to 1483) was a super superstitious man and he had a thing for astrology.

One day an astrologer came to court and predicted that a lady of the French court would die in 8 days.

8 days later that lady died.

Louis XI was furious.

Louis XI was in love with that lady and he believed the astrologer's prediction was THE cause of her death.

So Louis XI orders his guards to throw the astrologer out of a castle window as a punishment.

But before giving the order to kill the astrologer Louis XI asks, "Tell me, you pretend to be so clever and such a learned man, what will your fate be?"

The astrologer suspected the King was going to order his execution. So he replies, "Sir, I forsee that I shall die three days before your Majesty."

Then Louis XI changed his mind.

Instead of ordering his execution, the King did everything he could to protect the astrologer's life.

The astrologer saved his life, all thanks to a simple persuasion rule.

Numbers, when used right, are powerful persuasion tools. But to persuade with numbers you have to frame them from your audience's perspective.

That's why using numbers is a smart way to make your copy more persuasive.

Because numbers are like chocolate. If someone offers you chocolate, it's hard to say 'no'. Numbers have the same kind of persuasion power.

They have this special power that words alone, sometimes, don't have. Because numbers clarify things. They give your readers' a quick mental shortcut to understand whatever's your message.

Fact is, it's 10 times more persuasive to say "saves you $234/year" than "saves you hundreds of dollars per year" or "saves two hundred and thirty four dollars per year".

Takeaways for your business:

1. Numbers are a shortcut for your readers' brain (because numbers are easy to scan). So, before you start writing copy, do some detective work. Try to uncover insights, product facts and unique qualities you can communicate numerically.

2. Statistics, figures, specifics and product facts position you as an expert. Because cold, specific, hard facts are always, ALWAYs more effective than vague claims.

When Porsche says "The car that Car and Driver tested from 0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds" that's 10 times more effective than saying "Porsche 911 is the fastest car in the World".

3. If there's math involved, do the calculations for your reader. Make it easier for the reader to read than to ignore your message. Let's imagine you're promoting a Black Friday offer. Don't just say "20% off", say "20% off (and save $36)". Tell the reader exactly how much $$$ they'll save.

4. When presenting statistics, frame them in terms of people, not in percentages. For example: Say 20 out of 100 coffee lovers. Don't say 20% of coffee lovers.

Slovic, Monahan, and MacGregor (2000) presented these two messages to two different groups of clinicians:

  • Message 1: "Patients similar to Mr. Jones are estimated to have a 20% chance of committing an act of violence."

  • Message 2: "20 out of 100 patients similar to Mr. Jones are estimated to commit an act of violence."

Message 1 and 2 mean EXACTLY the same thing.

But surprisingly, clinicians who were presented with the "20 out of 100 patients" frame (message 2), 41% refused to discharge the patient.

Clinicians who were presented with the "20% of patients" frame (message 1), only 21% refused to discharge the patient.

Your pal,

Miguel Ferreira
Founder & Chief Copywriter, Teardwn + Nishi + Copy Ipsum

(Because most of your competitors don't have access to a good copywriter. Work with me).

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed reading this story, you'll also enjoy my newsletter. It's called Creative Samba and every week I share stories like this. Always packed with actionable insights about copywriting, marketing and how the human mind works. This post was originally posted in Creative Samba.

Who is this guy anyway?

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Nice things my clients have said…

"Miguel was the key for us to level-up our marketing. Previously we had only been iterating on our same tired messaging. I was impressed with how little work it took on our part to get a comprehensive review from Miguel. Then, making the changes was as simple as copy-and-pasting, and we saw a categorical improvement we would have never got to with our A/B testing. I've since then recommended Miguel to many of my similarly-minded friends who tend to focus on the mechanics of a feature rather than the emotionally resonant messaging that actually sells it!"

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"Creating a brand from scratch was incredibly overwhelming for us. We knew we needed help with copywriting, but we were afraid that someone from the outside might not 'get us'. However, Miguel was incredibly quick in understanding our tone of voice, our jokes and what we wanted to communicate. Resulting in a webpage that is simple but still funky!"

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