What a C.I.A. Black Ops Officer Taught Me About Copywriting
When I was in the Air Force, I had the opportunity to attend a
very “special” training course taught by very “special”
One of my instructors was a former Navy S.E.A.L. who had left the
Navy to join the C.I.A. as a special operations officer. This
guy had seen combat in several different theaters of operation,
during many public (and some not so public) conflicts.
One of the things he taught us during this “advanced” training
course was a highly specialized shooting technique called the
“Mozambique” (also known as the double tap failure drill.)
This is the primary handgun shooting technique used by all elite
U.S. military units, such as the Navy SEALS, Army DELTA Force,
C.I.A. Black Ops and a few others I won’t mention by name…
The basic technique is to fire two rapid shots (called a “double
tap”) to the targets center of mass (middle of the chest) and
then raise your weapon up in a straight line, just a hair and put
another round in the center of the head.
Two in the heart… One in the head…
In a real life scenario, this technique is devised to provide a
guarantee of eliminating your target even if the bad guy is
wearing body armor (and thus the two rounds in the chest are
We trained on this technique for days. Against stationary
targets, moving targets, simultaneous engagement of multiple
targets, from prone position, crouching position, behind
barricades, single handed firing, firing with our weaker hand (to
simulate an injury to your primary shooting arm), under low light
conditions… Every scenario you (or some sadistic ex-SEAL, C.I.A.
spook) could imagine.
The entire time our instructor is yelling… “Two in the heart, one
in the head! …Two in the heart, one in the head! …Two in the
heart, one in the head!” Over and over and over…
One of the other “students” in my class asked a good question
during our training. He asked, “If this technique is designed to
take down terrorist wearing body armor, why don’t we just take
the head shot first? Why not always take head shots?”
The instructor’s answer made the wisdom behind technique clear,
“Unlike what you may see in the movies, a headshot is a very
difficult shot to make. Particularly in a high pressure
situation, where the “target” is shooting back at you. The first
two shots to the body are the most important, because they help
get your sights centered and focused on the target, making the
headshot much easier. It’s simply a matter of raising your
sights in a straight line and firing.”
Okay… So you are probably wondering what in the heck all of this
has to do with writing copy.
Let me try to explain…
The problem with most copywriters is they keep taking “head
shots” first. They focus on “logical” reasons to buy and the
features of the product, rather than going for the heart with
multiple strong emotional appeals.
But this style of “head first” copy demonstrates a basic
misunderstanding of the buying and selling process.
Your prospects make decision to buy based on emotion (heart) and
then justify those decisions with logic (head.)
All buying decisions are emotional.
Emotion is what causes people to take action. Because of this
your copy needs to hit them straight in the heart. It needs to
use powerful, emotionally charged words to link your products
benefits directly to your reader’s deepest emotional wants and
Now this doesn’t mean that you can avoid weaving the logical
arguments into your copy. As I mentioned, people still need the
logical side to help justify the purchase decision. Without
giving them the logical reinforcement they need, buyers remorse
will set in and you will have a higher rate of refunds and
However, for each logical reason you give, you need to make a
minimum of two emotional appeals.
Just like the C.I.A. training drill you should shoot for two
thirds-heart (emotion) and one third-head (logic.)
By maintaining a balance between emotion and logic, your copy
will have the emotional power to sell them and the logical
arguments to help them justify the buying decision.
So to write effective copy you need to remember the ratio… Two
in the heart, one in the head.
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