“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
Growing up I was a bit of a fanboy of Carl Sagan. Although clunky by modern standards, Cosmos was a ground breaking TV programme and opened my eyes to the wonders of the universe. Later in life I found inspiration in “The Demon Haunted World”.
One of Sagan's most famous sayings was “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (although the concept was originated by Pierre-Simon Laplace back in the 18th century).
Sagan was talking about scientific and paranormal claims. But it's equally applicable in today's world where we're bombarded by advertising messages and claims promising us everything from younger looking skin and 6-pack abs to success with the opposite sex, a fulfilling career, a secure retirement, brainier kids and untold riches.
And one of the dominant phenomena of the current era is that we've just stopped believing all these claims.
The problem is even worse on the web. Internet marketers have become obsessed with louder, shoutier headlines with claims that you can make millions in a few months “at the push of a button” or with just a few hours work a week.
And after the initial rush of excitement, most of us look at those claims and think “if they really could do that, why are they trying to sell me a $37 ebook?”.
Of course, the same applies to our own marketing too. We may firmly believe our coaching will help our clients find an amazing new career, or become a great leader, or double their business profits in 6 months. But from where our potential clients are sitting – in a boring job, or failing to motivate their team, or struggling to get by – those claims seem awfully bold.
So we need to prove them.
Lengendary copywriter Gary Bencivenga focused on this. While others were obsessing about clever headlines and hooking-in readers emotionally, Bencivenga stressed that the most important factor in an advert was unquestionable proof – and yet it's so rare.
How can we prove what we say?
- We can give a “reason why” – a logic to our claim. In Bencivenga's case he talked about an advert he created as a kid to sell worms to fishermen. His headline of “Local worms catch more fish” gave a plausible logic as to why you should buy his worms.
- We can give evidence: testimonials, case studies, notarized statements of income.
- We can give strong guarantees.
- We can demonstrate what we say. If we're promoting consulting, training or coaching on a specific area where we claim to be an expert we can prove that expertise in our presentations, seminars, articles and blog posts.
- We can give results in advance: share ideas that help our clients improve before they even work with us – so that they'll believe our claims about how they'll improve once we're hired.
And the bolder our claims, the stronger our proof needs to be. As Sagan said:
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence