How to Pitch With Copy: Psychology of Numbers

At Content Equals Money, our business is making you money.  Heck, we’ve even got the word “money” in our name.  While the business of copywriting is generally thought to focus more on, well, the words, let me turn the subject on its head and invite everybody’s favorite Romans into the conversation – numerals.

If you’re looking to write copy that converts, you’re likely going to be wondering how to play the numbers game at some point.  Assuming that your company is actually selling a product, you need to get the price across to the consumer at some point.  After all, if you’ve got compelling content and have created a relationship of trust with the customer… they’re going to want to know how much to pay for your services at some point!

So let’s break open the psychology books for a moment and take a look at how the introduction of numbers influences copy.

Count on It

Figuring out how best to pitch the price of a good or service to a customer has been a subject of intense interest since the beginning of time.  After all, it’s not an easy game to separate individuals from their money.

First of all, you need to be sure that the products and services you’re offering are appropriately priced.  There are quite literally tens of different ways that you could come up with ways to price your products – from the traditional “keystone” method of pricing (which doubles the production/acquisition cost of an item) to “markup on cost” (where a pre-set profit margin is added to each item).  The internet goes on ad nauseum with this sort of advice: Meyla explains how to price your products effectively here, and this post by Company Capital Inc focuses on how to price products without harming your brand.

Welcome back!  Assuming that you’ve figured out how best to price your products, you’re probably interested in how to best couch those products to get necessary information to the consumer without running them off.  This is where the psychology of numbers applies in relationship to copy.

Don’t Go Crazy

The psychology of numbers really started to be explored back in 1997, when the Marketing Bulletin released a landmark study entitled The Widespread Use of Odd Pricing in the Retail Sector.  To pull out the relevant bits, the study found that over 60% of all prices ended with the number 9.

For those who think about it, this is actually incredibly common: how many products do you see that you can purchase for “three easy installments of 19.99”?

Why do retailers do this?  Well, a lot of it is mind games.  A study that was done by the Journal of Consumer Research found that many consumers would interpret a price ending in .99 to be lower than one ending in a flat number.  That is, when the brain sees “2.99,” there’s a high liklihood of the consumer disregarding the “.99” and thinking “two dollars,” rather than “three dollars.”

Clearly, this is a subject that has a considerable amount of scholarly thought behind it.  But what does it all mean for your copy?

For some incredible information about how to combine numbers and copy, make sure to check out Cathy Goodwin’s Copywriting to beat Price Resistance with the Cappuccino Effect.  For something a bit sneakier, check out Pro Copy Tips’ Copywriting Number Tricks.  For even more information, stay with me and check out my strategies for blending numbers with words and ending with conversions.

Consider writing out your numbers. This won’t work all the time, but writing out the number ten as “ten,” rather than “10” de-emphasizes it in the copy, since our brains are automatically drawn to numbers as symbols denoting an amount.  Go ahead and pick a random paragraph from any text and skim it – don’t the numbers stick out?  Also, check out this short video by Sales Influence which follows a Cornell University study on prices being listed out on a restaurant video.  When consumers were given menus that listed prices three different ways ($12.00, 12.00, and twelve dollars), the menu that wrote out the numbers in words convinced people to spend more money.  Crazy, but true!

Consider using numbers to highlight quantities. On the other side of the equation, using numbers can work out to your advantage when you are trying to draw attention to value.  For example, “buy 1 get 1 free” would be better than “buy one get one free.”  The numbers grab your attention and point it to the value of what is being offered.

Don’t forget about cents. Using cents at the end of pricing can make a serious impact.  For example, would you rather save “$100,” or “$100.00?”  The addition of the .00 at the end of the second number makes it appear “bigger” to the customer.  If you’re trying to minimize the number, omit the final cent marker.  However, just beware not to get too creative with this – decide whether emphasizing savings or de-emphasizing cost is more important to you and then stick with the same format throughout your copy.  If you use numbers irregularly, it looks unprofessional.

Take advantage of the fact that shipping and tax are considered extras. To lower the number of a price on your selling page, don’t include shipping or tax.  It’s generally been accepted by the world that these things are “added” at the end of the equation, so keeping them quiet until the end will reduce the upfront price on your page.  Of course, you don’t want to be sneaky – if you do use this method, make sure that you indicate on the selling page that shipping and tax are extra.  This keeps you honest and keeps those high price points off your page!

Beware of the $. Adding a dollar sign to the beginning of a price just reminds the customer that you’re, you know, trying to separate them from their money.  Where possible, try to avoid using the dollar sign.  This goes hand in hand with writing out numbers rather than using symbols – our brains are trained to recognize the symbols as having more meaning than individual letters.  It helps make lowering the boom on cost that much easier.

With these tips, you should be ready to start slicing up a number salad to go alongside your copy.  Do you have any tips on how to best ease a consumer into buying?  Let me know below!

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Laura Hancock is a co-owner of She has also been a long time writer for us. She writes with a passion for accuracy and flow. While her administrative duties have grown, she is a still a big piece of our content writing services team! Currently pursuing a certification in Technical Writing at the University of Washington. She lives in Seattle. +Laura Hancock

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