Effective Content Marketing: Using Language to Persuade and Sell
Effective content marketing isn’t just about what you write, but how you write it. Your copy, wherever it sits on your website, landing pages or blog is your key customer communication tool. But writing persuasive copy is an art. It’s not easy to master, and even accomplished copywriters can get it wrong.
As 9 out of 10 startups fail so the odds aren’t favourable from the beginning. At the very least, you should ensure your copy is as effective as possible.
“How hard is it to write copy that persuades and sells?” You may think. “I wrote essays at uni, a white paper, and an article for the Huffington Post, damn it!” Ok, nice. That’s impressive. But it’s naaaat the same thing.
We can all construct sentences, but it’s the skill, practice and psychology behind great copywriting that counts. I mean, if you were going to an important interview, would you let your 8-year-old dress you because they can tell a shirt from a dress? No, didn’t think so.
If that didn’t sway you, and you must try your hand at copywriting, fine. I’m going to offer a few simple “persuasive copy 101” tips that might (but I can’t guarantee) help you.
Persuasive copywriting 101
To make copywriting more persuasive, you need to tap into psychology. In particular, consumer behaviour and purchasing patterns. Tap into your customers’ secrets, desires and fears. Figure out what drives them to buy your product.
We may like to think we have complete free will, but our purchasing can be emotive rather than logical. It can be subconscious. Even if we’re buying something for a logical reason, like food, our choice of food or brands isn’t always rooted in logic.
Consider how shops place sweets, chocolates, offers and discounts on the aisle you walk through before paying. Sneaky. But it works.
Even the subtlest changes in your copy can help you become more persuasive. Let’s take a look at where to start…
Active, not passive
Use active rather than passive voice because it makes your copy feel more alive, immediate and urgent. It just sounds better in this kind of copy.
Examples of active and passive voice:
“The founder murdered the CEO in cold blood” = Active
“The CEO was murdered by the founder in cold blood” = Passive
“Our crackers are baked light and crispy with fragrant rosemary for a versatile snack” = Passive
“Baked light and crispy with fragrant rosemary, our crackers are a versatile snack” = Active
Even better… cut out the obvious.
“Baked light and crispy with fragrant rosemary for a versatile snack”
You shouldn’t need to point out your selling crackers. The imagery and name should do this for you.
The saying goes… “Tell your audience something, then tell them what you’ve said.” Don’t repeat what you’ve written verbatim. But, say the same thing in a different way. Why? Because it reinforces the message. Keep your copy fresh whilst continually emphasising the value.
See what I did there?
Here’s an example of four ways to say the commonly stated benefit, “save time”.
- We’ll give you back your day
- Time to spend doing what you love
- More free time
- Get more me-time
Use metaphors and similes
Metaphors, similes and rhetoric are very useful. They can also help you repeat yourself (see above) in more creative ways. They paint a picture for your reader and can be very evocative.
Forgo boring or obvious words. Instead of “comfortable” could you say “like laying on a bed of clouds”? For example.
Think about the samey words we read all the time in relation to products and services.
How can you convey the essence of these words using metaphors, similes or rhetoric?
- Unique = “You’ll never look at meals the same way again” – implying that your meals are so tasty and unique, they’ll change your idea of what a meal should be.
- Reliable = “Your new best friend” – Who do you turn to when you need help from someone you can rely on? Your best friend, of course!
- Accurate = “Laser-like precision” – Don’t this make you think of a sharp, bright laser beam?
Try and make people relate to what you’re saying. Allow your writing to be playful because it breathes life into stale, sale copy.
Concrete claims build trust
You can be playful and creative with your writing, but back up what you say with concrete claims. Generic claims are meaningless, and readers often take them with a pinch of salt.
Instead of “we reply fast”, can you say something like “we reply within 24 hours”?
Stating “our customers love us” doesn’t have the same impact as, “100% of our customers say they’d recommend our product and service”.
Get specific and dig out your most impressive statistics.
Percentages are often used by businesses to present data in order to impress or convey key information.
I call percentages faceless statistics. They often inspire feelings of “meh”.
Instead of using a percentage, bring the statistic to life. Charities often use this tactic. For example, replace:
“20% of us will be diagnosed with cancer at one time in our lives”
“1 in 5 of us will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in our lives”
With the second statement, you feel closer to the implications of the statistic. You think about yourself and your own family and friends.
If, however, the statistic you’re disclosing isn’t flattering, it may be best to keep it as a percentage!
The secret of bullet points
A common mistake with bullet points is to put them in order of importance. Don’t do this.
- Put the core message at the top
- Start the sentence with the most important bit
- Highlight the first word or sentence in the bullet point
- Make the first word in each bullet point a verb or adjective
- Repeat the core message at the bottom
When people scan bullet points they usually pay more attention to the top and bottom ones. The ones in the middle are important, but keep the core message where it’ll get noticed.
Create a sense of urgency
Scarcity and urgency create FOMO – fear of missing out! When something is scarce, it seems more valuable. If it’s urgent, customers are less likely to delay their decision to purchase.
How many times have you purchased a ticket after reading “there are only two seats at this price left” message on an airline website? I know I have!
Don’t lie because lying erodes trust between you and your customer. Instead, think of what you can tell your customer to persuade them into action before they miss out. Appeal to their FOMO!
“A limited number of tickets available, avoid disappointment and book now” – Limited numbers tell customers that this is exclusive, and once they’re gone – that’s it! And no one likes to be disappointed.
Use limited-time offers if they’re genuine. And as long as you don’t repeat the offer too often (like DFS, for example, who always seem to have a sale on).
“Recieve 15% discount if you purchase in the next 24 hours!”
If your business is quiet at this time of year, why not tell your customers and make the most of it? “During colder months, there can be a two-week wait time for appointments. Book early & get your radiators ordered and fitted before the winter rush!” This gives people a reason to pick up the phone because we all hate waiting and like to get in first. It appeals to customers who have been putting off getting in contact.
Don’t use time and availability scarcity at the same time though – it’s spammy and can be confusing.
When it comes to using language to persuade and sell, there are various tactics you can use to improve your copy. These are just a few of the most effective ones. Good copy isn’t an island but coupled with facts and incentives, it’s one of the surest ways to improve your website, landing page, email and blog performance.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can improve your business’s performance, we’re waiting for your call.