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10 secrets of persuasive copywriting

This may come as a shock to you at first, but guess what?

Not everyone will agree with your point of view. What’s more, not everyone will do what you want – simply because you ask them to.

Persuasion is too often viewed as a manipulative exercise. But it shouldn’t be.

Persuasion can be an effective means of achieving a positive outcome for all parties. It’s simply an opportunity for you to present a case that others may benefit from hearing, understanding – and ultimately, embracing.

The good news is, certain techniques can help make your writing more persuasive. Although this list is not exhaustive, here are 10 strategies that can help you become a more persuasive writer. From today.

1. Write it clearly

Before you can begin to persuade someone on a subject, you first need to persuade them to read and understand your message.

Everyone is busy and overloaded with information; you’re lucky to be getting someone’s attention in the first place. So don’t blow it.

Don’t ever assume anyone will bother re-reading your message a second or third time to better grasp what you’re trying to say.

When you write clearly, you also gain credibility. It tells your audience that you are professional, intelligent and easy to deal with.

So how do you make your writing clear? The key is to be clear in your own thoughts first. So before you sit down to write anything, clarify your offer, your arguments, your evidence and the actions you want your audience to take.

2. Write simply and succinctly

I know this is not a particularly new or earth-shattering concept, but less really is more.

Big words, long sentences and drawn-out paragraphs make your message less engaging and less compelling.

Complex, overly formal language screams hard work.

Before: We are endeavouring to develop our employee’s basic writing skills, which are undeniably very poor. It has been unquestionably very demanding, but we are extremely relieved to announce some very small advancement after months of really rigorous work.

After: We’re working hard to improve our employees’ writing skills.

3. Be specific

Whenever possible, use concrete, specific language. Actual names. Real numbers. And genuine examples. Your reader will not fill in your lazy, ambiguous gaps.

Specificity in writing captures attention and delivers impact. It also leaves no room for confusion – because the reader’s mind can only go where you direct it.

Before: Our award-winning service sets us apart from the competition.

After: Our SEO experts will get your business found. In fact, 88% of our clients’ websites appear on the first page of Google. In 2012, we won the SEO Supplier of the Year award and the BRW Best New Company award.

4. Ditch the qualifiers

Qualifiers are words like ratherquitesomewhatprobablypossibly, and so on.

Including these words weakens your message and reveals a lack of confidence in what you’re saying. If you don’t believe what you write, why should your reader?

Before: If you have an eye for fashion, you’ll probably enjoy shopping at our store.

After: If you have an eye for fashion, you’ll enjoy shopping at our store.

5. Be obsessively focussed

If you throw 10 balls at someone, chances are they won’t catch any. But if you throw just one ball, they’re likely to catch it.

Your product or service probably has many benefits that you want to share with your audience. And you probably have many reasons why your audience should adopt your point of view.

But be careful not to overload your reader. Keep your writing focussed on one key message, such as:

  • your strongest benefit
  • your unique point of difference
  • your most compelling argument.

Before: Our friendly and experienced beauticians are up-to-date with all the latest developments and will keep your skin looking young and fresh. You will feel relaxed and comfortable in our beautifully-fitted out salon and we’re open every day of the week.

After: Our salon caters to busy, working women. We believe that you can achieve beautiful skin without wasting your valuable time. Our 20-minute express facials are available 7 days a week.

6. Perform the ‘WIIFM’ check

Whenever you review your work, always perform a ‘What’s in it for me’ check. Ask yourself: do my readers’ needs and desires take centre stage?

Writing with the WIIFM principle in mind involves putting yourself in your readers’ shoes, and uncovering exactly what they can gain from your offer.

BeforeOur technical photographic skills are second to none. We have many years’ experience photographing weddings, and producing beautiful albums for our clients.

After: If you’re looking to relive your wedding day with heart and authenticity, look no further. We’ll uncover every special moment of your big day – even the ones you missed.

7. Find the emotion

The most persuasive messages are those that speak directly to readers’ emotions. Emotional writing grabs attention, creates interest and inspires action.

There are many human emotions that you can tap into in your writing. In his book, Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples proposes four types of emotional appeals:

1. Love: We all want to be loved by our spouse, our children, our parents and our friends.

2. Greed: We all want to drive a nice car, earn a high salary and win Tattslotto.

3. Fear: We all fear being fired, losing a loved one, losing our rights, or failing to fulfil our dreams.

4. Duty/honor: We feel obliged to our spouse, our children, our parents, our country, our employer, our community, the sick and the poor.

Before: I would like to propose the introduction of cooking classes in favour of extra computer classes. Cooking classes will give our students important new skills.

After: Our job is to prepare students for life beyond school. Computers are available to students in many ways. But if we don’t offer cooking classes, we are not doing our jobs.

8. Pre-empt your readers’ objections

What are the most common objections you face when dealing with your prospects?

To be truly persuasive, you need to alleviate fears and uncertainties – before they bubble to the surface. Once you know your prospects’ likely objections, don’t ignore them. Address them. Head on.

Before: We are excited to introduce small duct technology into the Australian market. (Objection: Hmmm. Not sure I want to be a test case.)

After:  Small duct heating and cooling systems have been on the market for over 40 years. The smart technology has been tried and tested time and again – and is enjoyed by millions of people across North America and Europe. Now Australians can reap the rewards too.

9. Admit your weaknesses

Being persuasive is about building trust. And to build trust, you need to be seen as genuine and transparent.

Because so many ‘flawless’ businesses claim to be great at everything, you can set yourself apart by being honest about your capabilities. Of course, tell your audience what you can do. But don’t be afraid to say what you can’t.

Before: We strongly encourage you to fill out this survey. Mental health is an important issue in our society, and with your help, we can make a real difference.

After: We’re not going to tell you that filling out this mental health survey will be quick. In fact, it will take you around 20-25 minutes to complete. But for something this important, we hope you’ll agree it is worth your time and effort.

10. Tell a story

Storytelling is a powerful writing technique. Stories bring your arguments and benefits to life, entertain your readers, and convey key concepts in an engaging and relevant way.

Before: We help to improve the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged Australian children every year.

After: Chloe has had a traumatic childhood. She came in to our care at five years of age after a years of physical and emotional abuse. Chloe’s father and her drug-addicted mother both had violent upbringings and neither had the capacity to care for her. They became angry and frustrated. And the only way her parents knew how to deal with their frustration was through violence. Sadly, Chloe was often the subject of these violent outbursts. When she was referred to us, Chloe was suffering hearing loss and her speech was well behind that of a regular five year old girl. Thankfully, we were able to place Chloe in a safe and loving foster home.