TRANSCRIPT Ep. 295: Power Words for Selling


Miriam Schulman: The word ‘free’ packs a huge punch because we, as humans, have evolved for survival. Anytime we’re avoiding risk, that’s a good thing. So, minimizing a risk will help convert your sales.

Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Hey friends, this is Miriam Schulman. Welcome to The Inspiration Place. I’m your curator of inspiration, and you’re listening to episode number 295. I’m getting a little tired because this is the third episode that I’ve recorded in one day, and perhaps they’re getting shorter and shorter. So, my first episode that I recorded, it took me two hours to write and almost an hour to record. I was like, okay, there’s no way that’s going to fly. And then last week, I think it was a 20-minute episode. You know, the length of the episode does not equal the value, by the way. We both get that, right? Okay. So, I think last week is a little shorter because I didn’t chit-chat in the beginning, and the reason is well I just said that. But to you guys, you’re waiting a whole week in between, and you want to know what’s new with me. And really, I’m recording it on the same day, so there’s nothing new with me. So, I’m still getting ready to go to Israel. That’s where I am right now. By the time this comes out, I will be happily and safely back in New York City. That’s the plan. But right now, I’m planning to go to the West Bank in the middle of the war because I want to see my son, and I’m making the decision to do that.

I’m making the decision to be with him. I’m not staying in a bougie hotel. I’m flying economy. I mean, I’m legit in row 44, and I’ll be taking the midnight flight out of Newark. I’ll be taking the midnight flight out of Tel Aviv to do this. So it’s going to be quite a trip. I’ll be packing a lot of books, which will be useful because coming up on this podcast, I’m going to be interviewing a lot of authors who’ve had books come out, and I had to push back a lot of their interviews, which is probably a good thing because I hadn’t finished all their books yet. So just so you know what’s coming up this year on the podcast in 2024, we have Tracy Otsuka. We’re going to be chatting about her brand new book, “ADHD for Smart Ass Women.” We’ll link to that in the show notes. I’ll be chatting with my good friend Ben, who just came out with a book about being simple in messaging. I feel like there’s one other author, oh, you know, the other author I’m having is Michael Schein, but I actually already read his book but I may even read it again. It was a really good book. That was the Hype Man book. So if you want to be up to date on all these books so you’re prepared for the podcast, you can actually go to — I have something called a book club.

So, or it will be linked in today’s show notes episode 295. But that is actually a good segue into today’s topic. So one of the books that I’ve been reading myself is by Nancy Harhut. Now, I don’t have her scheduled to come on the podcast yet, but I probably should invite her. This book was really good. I mean, like, really, really good. It’s called “Using Behavioral Science in Marketing,” and the subtitle is “Drive Customer Action and Loyalty by Prompting Instinctive Responses.” I learned quite a bit. I’m not going to go over all my takeaways from the book because that would take several episodes. It’s a pretty long book, and it’s pretty complete. But what I do want to talk about is her chapter number 14, which she calls “Maximizing the Impact of Your Marketing Copy in Language.” Now, I have something that’s somewhat similar in my book, “Artpreneur,” where I have a list of power words. It’s page 168, 169 and 170.

And I have a list of words and power phrases to use, why to use them, and a list of words to avoid and words to use instead. It’s very interesting because there are some words in this book by Nancy that I didn’t know about. So we’re going to talk about that today. I’m going to talk about some things that I wish I knew before I wrote my book, but just like I talked about last week with the Sleeping Beauty Complex, we will be learning our whole lives. Not everything is going to make it into the book. That’s why I have programs like the Artist Incubator, and that’s why I have things like this podcast. So let’s get started for today.

Words matter. Sometimes it can be very tempting to think that your art sells itself. But if you just put your art up there, no matter how good it is, it’s not going to connect with people unless you’re conveying a necessary message to go along with it. And that usually means the words. Now, what some artists also make the mistake of is that maybe they give some facts about their art, but they are not giving the words that sell, the power words, the words that are really going to matter.

And sometimes, a cinnamon here or there or a modifier here or there is going to make a big difference. So that’s what we’re talking about today. Now, that’s not about being flowery with your language. In fact, sometimes if your language is a little bit too high level, it can be a turn-off and it doesn’t connect with people. So what we’re shooting for is something that’s like Hemingway, maybe slightly below Hemingway level. Yes, we don’t want typos. Yes, we don’t want to have inaccuracies. But you also want to use the right words. Definitely make sure you get my book, whether you get the Kindle or the paperback, so that you have that list of words available to you and which ones to avoid.

One of the ones that both Nancy and I agree with is making sure that you make all your marketing copy about them and how they would benefit, not about yourself. I think the number one problem I see when I’m reviewing artists’ websites is they make it all about themselves and how the painting or creating makes them feel. Unfortunately, our customers don’t care how we feel about it; they care about how they feel about owning it. That’s going to be the key distinction that you really have to focus on. Okay. So let’s go with some of her key takeaways.

The first one she has is that when you do rhyming and alliterations, it’s going to be more memorable, and it will help people connect. So, for example, “woes unite foes” is more powerful than “woes unite enemies.” Here’s another one: “What sobriety conceals, alcohol reveals” is more powerful than “what sobriety conceals, alcohol unmasks.” Or the other example which the author gives in her book: “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” That was Johnnie Cochran, who was famous for defending in the ’95 O.J. Simpson trial. The thing about rhyming phrases is that it helps really move people to do something because it’s more memorable. So those of you who have online classes or other art classes, some of these catchy phrases—if you can rhyme the name of your course, if you can rhyme your subtitle, if you can use an alliteration to make it catchier, it’s going to result in more sales for you. So the research that this author cites is that rhyming phrases take advantage of a concept known as cognitive fluency. What that means it’s easier for our brain to process rhyming phrases. Now, some of this may not be helpful to you, especially if you don’t sell online classes. You might be thinking, “Well, what does it have to do with me as an artist?” Another thing that Nancy and I, you know, I’m going to just keep calling her Nancy because I’m not sure how to pronounce her last name.

So another thing that Nancy and her book pointed out was that the way people process information, um, the way people process fonts can really make a huge difference. So how does that affect you? Well, if your website is written in a brush font or a script font or some other weird font or a colored font, it’s going to be harder for people to process. I made a big, big change on my last boot camp because I was reading this book at the same time that I was about ready to launch my boot camp. Because I read this whole thing about cognitive fluency in your font choice, I actually went back and edited as many slides as I could to change it from my signature font, which is this really lovely Londrina font, to either Arial or Montserrat because those were a more simple sans-serif font. And for those who don’t know, serifs are like little extra pieces of a thing or a script font or something like that. And guess what? People really loved my boot camp this week. Now, I don’t think that was the only change that impacted them, but it definitely helped. And in fact, every slide I had where I didn’t simplify the background, like make it just black and white, black text on a white background, or it was like the old font, my fancier font.


I actually felt myself getting a little irritated and realizing, oh yeah, the black text on a white background is easier for people to read, and many artists have processing issues, including myself. I’ve said on this podcast before, I have audiological processing; I have a processing problem. People have other kinds of processing problems. Artists are very creative people, but we’re also a little neuro-spicy. So where we are more advanced in some areas of our brain, we could be less advanced in others. And both that kind of combination of strengths and weaknesses, that’s what makes us better artists. But as somebody who is teaching to artists, I have to be very mindful of this. Now, you as an artist, what you need to know, even if you’re not doing PowerPoint or slide decks, what is the font on your website? What is the font on the copy that accompanies the art on your wall? Or if you’re a sculptor, what is the font on the little plaque right underneath your art, your sculpture? What fonts are you using in your marketing materials? Make sure that they are easy to read. Legibility of type is not just a function of the font. Also, the contrast between the color of the type and the color of the page makes a difference. The difference in readability can impact your credibility too because studies show that things that were easier to read made them more believable.

Another thing you need to keep in mind in terms of selling your art is to avoid jargon. I see so many artists do this with their website. They talk about their encaustic and their mixed media and blah, blah, blah. And really, only other artists know what you’re talking about. For the collector, they don’t always know the difference between an encaustic or an epoxy finish or collage or whatever. So try to avoid these types of jargon that your collector doesn’t use in their everyday life. You really want to focus more on emotional words, words that are going to help them be in an emotional state? Okay, so this was something I found very interesting in this book. She talked about homophones. So she was talking about the result of homophones. And this was something I’ve learned recently with neuro-linguistic programming. And I learned this from one of my fellow marketers, Susie Moore. She was telling me that in her emails she does things like she’ll say “buy now,” you know, and “buy now” meaning “B-Y” and “O-W.” But what we might be processing is “B-U-Y by now.” And I was thinking about that.

And in this book, there was research between people ending reading a blog post that ended with so long, and other people reading a blog post that said bye-bye. The researchers found that people were more willing to shop after hearing the words bye-bye than the words so long. So people who read—though in this experiment it was in a blog post. So in this experiment, people who read the blog post that ended with so long spent on average 30 bucks, people who read the same post that ended with bye-bye spent on average $45. In other words, 50% more. So the researchers found that the word “bye” -B-Y-E prompted people to think of the word “buy” B-U-Y by making them more willing to pay. So interesting. And that made me think of a popular podcaster who ends every podcast with bye for now. Hmm.

Another power word that makes marketing messages more effective is the word “new”. And yes, my friend, I do have that on my list of power words. I’m looking at my chart right now, so I have “new”. I also have “best”. These are words that demonstrate value, but they also satisfy the human desire for esteem because people love getting products first. That’s why I actually tell my artists, don’t date your paintings. Because in 2023 it’s fine to sign it 2023 and then it goes to sale and people see 2023 and they know it’s new, but now it’s 2024. And what are you going to do? So date your paintings on the back of the painting if you want to be an art historian about it and you want to be archival or whatever, keep track of when things were done. But this is the death knell for selling for customers to think this has been sitting in your studio for more than a couple of months. People are attracted to new. Brand new.

The other thing that people love is hearing the word “imagine”. I’m pretty sure I talk about this in my book too. I’m just like, double-checking. Oh yeah, thank God I have that because I use this all the time. You’ll hear me say this on my boot camps. “Just imagine what it would feel like to be learning a cut. Just imagine what it would feel like to be earning a sustainable living from your art.” Do you remember two weeks ago in my Rocks podcast, I talked about the power of imagining something, how it’s almost the same as experiencing it happening. Your brain can’t tell the difference. So what you want to do is future pace your customers. Now, if you’re offering something like an artwork, then you want to talk about having them imagine the pleasure that they’re going to derive from owning your product. So in other words, “imagine what this would look like in your home.” This is a process known as future pacing. So you’re mentally rehearsing your art collectors to imagine what it would feel like to have it. What Nancy says is, using the word “imagine” helps your prospects create a mental picture. Because once they can envision themselves doing something like using your product or owning your artwork, those are my words, not hers. It paves the way for them actually doing it. Using the word “imagine” helps them move away from the reality of the here and now and opens up the possibilities of the future.

Now, the final marketing power word that Nancy talks about in her book is the word “free”, and that packs a huge punch. Like, I’m going back and forth between her book and my book to see if I talk about “free”, and I do not. Okay, “free” is not on my list. Oh wait, I have “free demo” but I don’t have “free” as a word all by itself. So you know what I did is I kind of grouped “free” into “Safe”, “Easy”, “Trust-proven”, “Has you covered”, “Guaranteed”, “No risk”, “Cancel at any time”, “Free demo”, “See for yourself”. So I kind of grouped it in there. Because we as humans have evolved for survival. And any time we’re avoiding risk, that’s a good thing. So minimizing a risk will help convert your sales. “money back guarantee” things like that. So our fear based brains, we are repelled by risk. So these words put our minds at ease. Here’s an example that you can use in your marketing copy “Packed safely.” But let me get back to what Nancy said about the word “free.” So she said that it’s going to really help your open rates more than something like complimentary. And this is something that I question a little bit, because I’m not sure if the word “free” triggers the spam mechanism. Uh, so yeah, people love the word free. But I’m not sure with emails if that pushes things more likely to be pushed into your spam folder. But I definitely use free a lot on my ads on my things that wouldn’t be in a spam folder. So something to keep in mind. “Free shipping” is something another way you can use it. You’re always “free” to choose.

Okay. So to sum up, I want to just share with you some of the key takeaways that we talked about today. Number one, your customers will find rhyming phrases more memorable and believable. Two, people prefer things that are, quote, cognitively fluent, and this will make them feel more confident in their ability to make decisions, which means you have to pay attention to the fonts and the colors to make sure things are easy to read, rather than being pretty. Number three, watch out for your jargon. Watch out for your technical terms. You’re not speaking to other artists when you are selling your art; you’re speaking to art collectors. Number four, homophones can prompt people to think of the other word in the pair. That’s why “bye-bye” or “goodbye” can prime someone to buy. Number five, power words that you should use include “you,” “imagine,” “free,” “new,” and “discover.” Also, make sure you check out my complete list, which includes many more words than what my friend Nancy has here. It’s on page 169 of the book Artpreneur if you have that.

I forgot what number we’re up to, but I think this is… That’s it. So those are the most important things. So to sum up. The words you choose to describe your art, to describe your art classes, to describe what you do, is going to influence your prospect’s response. So use rhymes, use alliteration, use repetition, use metaphors, use homophones, use power words. They all are going to have an impact on your messaging, and it’s going to make your art more noticeable, more credible, more motivating, and more marketable. Alright, my friend, thank you so much for joining me here today. I’ll see you the same time, same place next week. Until then, stay inspired. Bye-bye.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course, on


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