Should You Use NLP Techniques in Your Copywriting?

Back when I was a wet behind the ears “copy cub,” one of the projects I tackled was a script for a short, explainer-style video.

The product in this case was a supplement designed to boost energy and fat-loss.

During the initial interview with the client, I picked up on some MAJOR red flags.

The client started going off about how great his offer was, and how he just needed us copywriters to sprinkle in some magic “open loops” and “nested loops” and “future pacing.”

If you’re not familiar with those terms, they’re borrowed from a practice known as NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).

A lot of people attach this mystical power to NLP—they literally believe that merely uttering a few choice words will cause people to fall into a hypnotic spell and buy whatever you tell them to.

For me the jury’s still out on whether NLP works.

I suspect there’s *something* to it. And that in some cases, these techniques MAY increase response when used skillfully.

But usually when I hear someone spouting this linguistic hocus pocus it’s because they don’t know jack about marketing or copywriting.

Case in point:

I recently saw a scientific study where a group of researchers tried to determine whether subtle wording changes in a get-out-the-vote message could increase the likelihood that people would actually turn out to vote in an election.

A small previous study had found that subtle “language cues” in the message could increase the number of people who actually went to the polls.

This time the researchers expanded the study to cover multiple states and thousands of people.

And when they crunched the numbers, they found that a few sentences spoken over the telephone by a total stranger four days before an election were not that influential after all.

In fact there was NO difference in voter behavior based on how the calls were scripted.


Now I’m not saying that word choice doesn’t matter.

It certainly can make a difference at times.

And tools like open loops and future pacing have their place in a pro copywriter’s bag of tricks.

But the effects of those small changes are minor league when compared to the major factors…

Like your offer, and who sees your offer, and your headline, your pricing and your guarantee.

The time to experiment with NLP and other blackbelt-level tricks is AFTER you nail the basics, and your tests have proven that your marketing funnel is humming along.

By the way—that client I mentioned?

Even though he was “hip” to all that NLP lingo, he turned out to have a real tin ear when it came to copy.

He wound up making my life miserable with 4-5 rounds of revisions, then doing a couple of rewrites himself that totally muddied his message.

But at least he got his “future pacing”!