Use persuasion in your writing

Contributors

@paul-boag


Business Benefits

Make your content more interesting and persuasive.


Research your customer base and ideal customers to understand what they want and need from your product.

Do you know your audience? Before sitting down to write compelling content, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is my reader?
  • What drives them?
  • What are their hopes?
  • What are they trying to accomplish?
  • What are they struggling with?
  • What is their biggest fear?
  • What do they worry about?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What are their objections and questions?

If you don’t know the answers, you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. All you need to do is ask your customers. Don’t assume that your audience’s needs and wants are the same as you.

Gain the trust of your readers by building rapport and credibility, and writing in detail on the topics they care about.

To build rapport, tell a story, either your own or that of your customer. The hero of the story starts where your readers are, they have a problem, and things are not working. Then they try different things, still no luck. Then, finally, they arrive at the solution that you are sharing now.

Now is the time to pour in the value. Do research, interview people, and share the most valuable insights with the reader. It becomes obvious to them that you’ve done your homework and you really know what’s going on. It is not enough to talk about the benefits of what we are offering. We need to talk about our readers’ problems in excruciating detail and really drill down on the negative effects on their lives. We can’t be afraid of tension, we have to create it. We have to agitate the problem.

Use a conversational style and tone over a formal one, and employ the same words that your audience uses in describing your product and its benefits.

Sit down and record yourself saying what you want to convey to your audience. Then transcribe and edit it, but keep the relaxed tone. Your best friends are the words your readers use to describe their problem and their ideal solution. Surveys, interviews, and on-site polls are great ways to learn what those words are.

Besides high-value words specific to your audience, some words are influential in general, like the 21 words identified by Dr. Frank Luntz in his book Words that Work. Here are the top 5:

  • Imagine.
  • Hassle-free.
  • Lifestyle.
  • Accountability.
  • Results.

This article offers detailed guidance on how to apply Dr. Luntz’ discoveries in your writing.

Use good grammar and spelling, but choose sentences that are clear and understandable over formal grammar rules.

We are not writing to get a good grade, we are writing to get ideas across, get them understood, and get the reader to take action. It’s ok to bend the language a little if that’s what it takes to get the job done. Make things as clear as possible. Stick to short words and sentences.

Introduce bite-sized ideas and separate them into paragraphs. If a sentence gets longer than 10-15 words, use punctuation to make the ideas distinct. Make paragraphs short so the piece will look less intimidating. Hemingway App is a useful free tool that will tell you if your sentences are too complex.

Be concise. Cut all unnecessary words. If a detail doesn’t add to the message, chop it out. If you ever find yourself putting any filler into your writing, stop and take out that section.

Let your personality, or that of your brand, shine through your writing to make the content more memorable and motivating.

Remember that even the most serious of customers is a human being and like to feel like they are interacting with another human, not a faceless corporation. As a rule of thumb, imagine you saying your copy out loud to another person in a coffee shop. Does it sound natural and friendly?

It might help to think of your brand as a person. Who are they? How would they speak? Speak in the first person, for example, “We believe in…” rather than “At Acme, we believe in…”. Refer to the reader as “you” and not in the third person.

Use a framework to structure the content.

If you are new to frameworks, start with Why? > What? > How? > What if? A favorite of Eben Pagan, creator of best-selling information products. Why? > What? > How? > What if? framework speaks to the 4 learning styles all people fall into:

  • Why? people want to know: Why am I doing this? What is the outcome going to be? They need a clear picture of the outcome to get motivated.
  • What? people want to know: What are the concepts behind this? What is the data? They want to see how it all fits together. They need intellectual comprehension of the whole thing before they can take action.
  • How? people want to know: How am I going to get to the outcome? They want a specific set of steps.
  • What if? people want to know: How do I put this into action? They want to translate what they are learning into immediate action.

Make the content scannable by adding scannable elements that will catch the reader’s eye and communicate key messages.

  • Informative subheadings
  • Bulleted lists
  • Relevant images, charts or graphs.
  • Captions

These hooks can help get your message across in a punchy and memorable way.