Modesty be Damned! The Psychology behind Shamelessness

Recently we took a risk and started using a certain word as a growth hack method, and (SPOILER ALERT!) to date it has worked marvellously. We chanced upon this word accidentally and found that people were five times more willing to talk to us just by adding this one word to our emails.

The word is ‘shamelessly’

We started using it after Ben, the founder of EMERGE App, received a cold email from an advertiser. Although it was a mass spam email, he remembered it being about something silly like selling coconut trees in India and shared it with us. Although the content was irrelevant, it got my attention right away. The fact that I still remember the contents of the email just shows the power of this word to activate something basic in all of us.

Here are some examples of how we used it:

We approached investors on Linkedin, inserting the word in our cold outreach.

It worked! To be fair, not everyone replied us even with ‘shamelessly’ inserted into the copy, but the number of investors that took the effort to reply and find out more is stunning.

We also ran the same experiment without the word again, and responses were nowhere near the levels of response we got earlier.

Next up, we repeated the same experiment with journalists, people who are often inundated with emails and press releases all day long. This was also done on the Linkedin platform. (Sent on the Sales Navigator module hence why the formats look different. Here are screengrabs of the sent messages.)

An important point to note here was that the word worked way much better as a follow up tool rather than an opener, and our guess is that it evokes an emotional response rather than a logical one, and makes people do a double take at what you’re saying.

Finally, we sent out an email blast just detailing what we’ve learnt to a segment of our mailing list. Actually, to make things a little harder, we sent this email blast to our INACTIVE users, who had lost any form of engagement with us since a while ago. Here are the results :

Seeing such numbers stunned the team, and so I went to read up further on the phenomenon.

What’s going on?

What’s the psychology behind this? How can just one word make people move to hit that reply button, or to engage in conversation out of the blue?

First up, Psychology Today reminds us that shamelessness is used to describe behaviours, and it has to do a lot with human interactions. Shamelessness brings to the forefront your ambition, and it shows that you’re dead serious about chasing it. People respect that, and you can use that to turn your shamelessness into an admirable trait.

The next step is to take action, or as The Economist puts it, ‘brown-nosing ahead’. By using certain triggers it is possible to make the sender feel ‘obliged’ to read on or to reply. If they do so, they make a ‘micro-investment’ into you by hitting that reply button or responding in kind.

Now, the ball’s in your court to keep them interested in your message, by whatever means you have. Clearly, the content of the email matters as well, but inserting this word has gone against the commonly accepted perception that people just scan through what you might take hours to write.

If you’ve read it till here, give yourself a pat on the back. Try the experiment out yourself today, and I’m shamelessly asking you to hit that share button and let us know if it works. 😉

Originally published at on November 21, 2016.

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