How is it that some emails can sell x100 times more than others? Or that certain sales pages can bring in millions of dollars, while others struggle to breakeven?
In an era of audiovisual exuberance, many believe that persuasive writing is a decayed instrument in business, a ‘thing of the past’.
Evidence, however, suggests the contrary.
In this article, we will discuss techniques developed by influential businessmen who became highly successful multi-millionaires with the sole use of their outstanding writing skills.
Words that Sell
Persuasive writing can be used for anything, from landing a business deal, to attracting the attention of a busy CEO with a cold email.
The main thing to understand is that words are much more than just a series of symbols on a 2-D paper. Behind every language there is a history, with its own music, flavor, smell and temperature.
Mastering communication means reaching your audience’s heart and relating with them on a deeper level.
This talent was mastered by some of the most influential men and women in history, from charismatic politicians to inspiring war leaders.
There is no harder thing to sell than the need to die. And even that can be sold.
Psychological Insights Behind Persuasive Writing
Persuasive writing is an art as much as it is a science. This means that there is a methodology to it. Copywriting techniques were developed and perfected by men like Robert Collier and David Ogilvy, who proved how a series of basic principles could be applied to reach astonishing results.
The principles Collier and Ogilvy established were based on some of the most universal psychological grounds applicable today, a thousand years ago, and in millenia to come:
1. Your Customer Doesn’t Care About You
Way too many businesses make the mistake of thinking that customers care about them or their products. They don’t. What customers care about is knowing what a business or product can do for them.
Let’s look at the example of 2 industrial machinery businesses. Both are offering the same products but are using 2 different strategies. While one focuses on their business, the other focuses on clients.
Industrial machinery has complex fastening and assembly requirements. This includes securing functional parts, wires, and tubing to structural components to prevent damage without restricting movement. The structural components must, in turn, be able to withstand forces from inside and outside the machine. ARaymond has been working closely with industrial machine manufacturers for many years, resulting in innovations that respond to these and other challenges while making assembly processes simpler and more cost effective.
“Connecting buyers and sellers of used machinery. Sell your machinery with us”
The difference is so huge that it is almost absurd to comment on it. While the first text is long, hard to read, and says nothing about the company’s services, the second is clear, direct and relatable.
Key Advice: If a customer cannot understand what they can get from you in the first 3 seconds, you should rethink your persuasive writing. The basic 3 second rule should be applied with the KISS strategy: Keep It Simple, Silly!
2. Guide Customers Where They Want to Go
It doesn’t matter how good your message is, it will never create an impact if you do not know who it is destined to. The second key advice is: know your audience!
The single, most effective way of selling is understanding your customer’s psychology, in order to provide a reliable, trustworthy solution to their current problems.
The main questions to ask yourself as a service/goods provider are:
- How could I help this person?
- What can I give to them that they don’t have?
- Why should they buy from me instead of another?
A great case study to understand this aspect of sales is given by the plastic surgery industry.
The main factor keeping patients from undergoing surgery is: fear. To deal with this issue, MCAN Health puts forward its expertise and eases patients about the operation. For their nose job treatment page, they write:
This operation represents one of the most popular plastic surgeries, commonly undergone to reshape nose defects such as asymmetries.
While displaying their medical expertise, MCAN Health calms patients by stating that a nose job is a “popular” surgery. If many people have undergone it, it mustn’t be dangerous.
MCAN Health also writes related blog articles to attract wider audiences. In a blog about types of noses, they write:
“the nose is one of the parts of the body that sheds the most light on the mysteries of our past, and the aspects of our history that have been blurred by the passage of time. Noses proof that our ancestors survive in our physical traits, telling the story of who we are and where we come from.”
The reader is intrigued to discover more about his/her ancestors while at the same time knowing what type of nose he/she has. That makes an easy read. At the end of the article, MCAN redirects its patients to the rhinoplasty page, increasing website traffic and sales.
3. Humans are not rational
Another key insight is that customers do not make decisions based on a rational basis. Most customers buy due to personal liking. Something about the firm or the seller strikes a chord in them, they feel identified with a brand, they feel a connection.
This principle is widely applied in politics. Voters do not choose a party, they choose a candidate. For example, it is clear that Americans chose Obama because he represented hope. His famous “yes we can” was a way to convey such a fundamental human emotion in 3, very powerful, simple words.
Hope is a basic human need, linked to our longing for security and meaning. Obama knew this very well, and exploited it electorally.
Similarly, Trump appealed to another key emotion: nostalgia. “Make America great again” was feeding on the Golden Age myth, the promise of bringing back better times.
Influential politicians surround themselves with marketers and persuasive writers for a good reason.
Don’t Make me Yawn
In a time of distractions, when marketing and selling techniques have been developed to attract the attention of audiences with as short as a 3-second attention span, the most important thing is NOT to bore your audience.
If you fail to entertain customers, they will leave your store, website, email, or restaurant in the blink of an eye. And why wouldn’t they? The XXIst century is full of alternatives.
In this sense, marketers have a lot to learn from artists. You want people to remember you with a smile on their face, with a feeling of intrigue. More than ever before, people are looking for great experiences.
Give your customers a roller-coaster of emotions and you’ll stick in their brains like a dry chewing-gum.
They won’t be able to get enough from you.