Remember when your friends persuaded you to try a cigarette? Do a crazy stunt? Streak at a football match?
Well they were using some classic copywriting techniques. The good news is, they still work when writing marketing copy. The better news? You won’t damage your health, worry your parents, or get arrested this time. Because this time, these persuasive powers will be used for good (to sell your product and create happy customers).
In this episode I’ll be covering:
- How to write a unique story of persuasion.
- ‘Combination Uniqueness’ – how to stand out even if you think you are the same as everyone else.
- Symptoms – what are they and how can you use them to drive sales.
Using persuasive techniques can seem unnatural and uncomfortable but all it takes is a sight change in perspective and you’ll see how simple it can be to sell your product or service without cringing at all!
Transform your copy by following the steps outlined in this podcast. Put your story first and you will see results fast.
Please feel free to post any comments or queries below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can always find me on Twitter @HarrisonAmy, I always reply.
- Write with Influence course https://writewithinfluence.com/course/
Hello and welcome to another edition of the Write with Influence podcast where I share persuasive techniques for making more sales in your business.
Today I want to talk about how to get over two major blocks people face when writing copy. The first is all about getting too hung up on specific words and the second is about getting too hung up on the idea of selling.
First of all, getting hung up on specific words – what do I mean by this? I love copywriting, but I know that not everyone does and a lot of people get stuck when they face their blank page and think, I’ve got to create these great headlines, some amazing bullet points. . . where do I start? Well, a great persuasive piece of copy doesn’t start with the specific words such as the headline or the bullet points, it actually starts with your story of persuasion.
So, before you write your landing page copy or your sales page copy, you need to know what story you want to tell your visitor. I see people struggle when they focus too much on what particular word or phrase should go where on the page or in an email before they have a full picture of what it is that they want to say. Now, I originally trained as a screenwriter for film and TV and one of the theories that we learned was that there are supposedly only seven main story plots in the world. These are:
- Overcoming the monster
- Rags to riches
- The quest
- Voyage and return
So, take a film like Jaws for example, that would fall into the classic ‘overcoming the monster’ story plot, but you could also take a film like James Bond and say that that falls into the same story plot – even though the actual story is very different in both plots, there is a monster or an evil presence that needs to be defeated. Now, think about the hundreds if not thousands of films you’ve seen in your life. They all seem distinct, even though most of them share very similar story elements within these different plots. Often there’s a conflict, a villain, a hero etc, but they seem very different to us and the way we remember them because a lot of the specific details (the type of monster, the particular hero) will change again and again. Copywriting is very similar to a movie; sales pages, for example, all share similar components – they have headlines, subheadings, button copy, testimonials, bullet points, etc, but each sales page would tell a different story because it would be for a different product or service or industry and that’s why you really need to know your story first.
You don’t just want to copy what works for someone else, and this is very tempting to do when writing copy. Don’t get me wrong, looking at case studies is valuable – looking at other people’s examples of calls to action, headlines, etc, is all great for ideas and inspiration, but you need to know your unique story of persuasion first and above all else. It’s a little bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. I love jigsaw puzzles and I can see a similarity to copywriting because you’ve got a box full of pieces that, when you put them together, creates an overall picture and story and when you approach a puzzle you don’t say, OK, I’m going to do the top right hand corner first and then try and find the bits that go there, you look at the pieces and say which goes together . . .which makes more sense putting these together? And that’s what it’s like to tell a really good sales story. You want to have all the pieces to hand before you write (this will be your research or the information you have about your target market), and you need to know what makes you unique, what the benefits are, why people love what you have. If you start to try and write without this to hand, without those pieces fresh in your mind, even if you think you know your product inside out, it’s going to be really difficult. I often find that if you don’t have something nearby in note form that reminds you of your different story elements, you risk repeating the same phrases just to sort of fill in a piece of your sales page or your landing page or your email etc. The flip side of that is that you miss out key elements because they seem obvious to you, but then they’ve just slipped your mind. Or you can find yourself relying on the same kind of language and phrases that your competitors are using. It’s much better to take some time and think about your story first before writing any content. So instead of looking at a space on a page and thinking, what do I write here? You want to be thinking, OK, here’s the whole story, here’s everything I want people to know . . .where should I place the most important pieces so that the message is clear?
This brings me on to the next major mental roadblock that people have when writing copy, which is how to build this story of persuasion. The idea of selling can feel very uncomfortable. Persuading someone to do something can feel like you’re pushing someone to do something. Then you might think, I’m not a salesperson. A lot of business owners that I work with are passionate about the service they offer, they know that their customers will benefit from using their products, but they feel very uncomfortable writing anything that they feel is sales copy, for example, making an offer in an email or writing a sales page or launching a product. However, persuading someone to do something is probably more natural than you might think. I want you to think about a time perhaps when you were younger and you wanted to persuade a friend to do something, or think about a time when your friends were persuading you to do something – I find that young children and teenagers naturally employ persuasive techniques without thinking too much about it. So, your friends might have wanted you to, I don’t know, try a cigarette or jump off the garage roof or do a daredevil stunt on your bike. I’m not saying it has to be something that’s bad or dangerous because obviously that’s not what you’re trying to persuade prospects to do! It might have been that your friends were trying to get you to go on a night out or something like that. Whatever it was, they or you probably used a persuasive argument that, first of all, went something like this:
- Hey, here’s something new or different that you should know about.
- It’s perfect for you.
- Everyone’s doing it!
- You are going to love it!
- It’s really easy to do.
Let’s say your friend is trying to get you to go on a night out. So first of all, they might say:
- Hey, you’ve got to try out this new club. It’s very different to the ones we’ve been to. It’s the only place with a rooftop bar in this area.
- You are going to love it because you’re a big fan of disco music and that’s what they play all night long.
- All of our friends are going, everyone that you know is going to be there and you’re going to have a load of fun hanging out.
- You’re really going to love the fact that the rooms are all designed differently, the service is super-fast and they have these great drinks promotions all night long.
- It’s so easy to get to – it’s downtown, right next to the bus stop so getting there and getting back is easy.
Now, if we were trying to get our friends to come out with us on a night out to this new club, this type of persuasive argument would come to us quite naturally but for some reason when we think about selling a product, we can feel a little bit more uncomfortable because we feel like we’re pushing someone to do something rather than encouraging someone to do something that we know that they will love.
So how can you apply these different steps when thinking about your own story of persuasion? Well, let’s run through each one quickly. . .
Number one was, ‘Here’s something new or different.’ When you’re writing copy, not only do you want to show that what you have is valuable, you want to show why what you have is different to the competition. Now, telling a unique story doesn’t mean you have to be unique. What I mean by that is, I know that a lot of people struggle to carve out this difference – you might be thinking, I’m a real estate agent, or I’m an accountant and what I do is pretty standard or, we sell industry analysis reports – what we have is a commodity so how do we sound different when we’re trying to sell what we have? One way to do this is by what I call ‘Combination Uniqueness’. What I mean by that is; whilst you will have similar traits to your competition, when you put the most important elements together, there’s a good chance there will be a unique angle that you can focus on just as lots of people share similar characteristics, but overall have a unique personality.
So where can you look for unique angles? It could be anything from the particular target market you serve or the services you focus on, or even just the way that you work, for example, you might be an accountant that only works with pet stores. Niching down to an industry is one way of carving out that difference. Or you might be a copywriter that only writes sales pages, so it may be that the product you serve makes you a little bit different. But it can also be the way in which you work and your actual personality might become part of what makes your service unique. Perhaps you’re very bubbly or you’re known for being very hands-on and practical. What’s important to remember is that you can blend a number of different things to make your offer sound new and different rather than thinking that you need one specific thing to stand out.
Number two in our story of persuasion was, ‘It’s perfect for you.’ You need to let your customers know that what you have is ideal for them specifically and we do this by using what I call ‘symptoms’. I’ve talked about this before – symptoms are vivid situations that occur in your customer’s life as a result of the problem you solve. These are things that they can identify and recognize. In marketing it’s very tempting to focus on the cure and to just talk about your product and the solution that you offer but the problem with this is that your customer may not realise what solution they need and they may not even recognise that they have a problem. I worked with a property management firm and we used symptoms to get some great results from a direct mail postcard campaign. My client had a postcard that had been designed for a direct mail campaign and they weren’t happy with it so they asked me if I would take a look. I noticed that it very much focused on the solution and the result, for example, promising great rental income, expert service, etc. And this was language that a lot of other competitors were using as well. So, I decided to experiment with using symptoms instead. I asked my client to give me some ideas about some of the frustrations that landlords may have with their current property manager and they flagged up a few key concerns, for example, communication would often be slow and the need for maintenance wasn’t always communicated clearly so landlords were often worried and thinking, I just got this bill and isn’t really necessary etc. There was just the lack of visibility into how the property was being treated. So, we listed those symptoms on the front of the postcard and then on the back we simply addressed how my client was best served to solve those frustrations and eliminate those symptoms. So, we weren’t criticising the competition, we didn’t even mention the competition. We were very much focused on our customer and saying, ‘Do you recognize these things in your life? If so, and if they are frustrating, we can help you solve them.’ And it worked really well. Within three days someone had called them saying, ‘Yes, I’m ready to switch because this is exactly where I am at the moment and it is a serious frustration for me.’ So, symptoms can be very effective, not only at getting the attention of your ideal client, but also establishing empathy and building trust with your business.
Number three on our list was that ‘Everyone is doing it.’ So, this is where you would be gathering your social proof points e.g. testimonials, social media shout-outs, any relevant numbers you have such as how many customers or subscribers you have etc. Any numbers that you have that show other people are doing what you want your customer to do are very effective at building trust and making new people more confident in trying out your service or buying your product.
Number four was, ‘You are going to love it!’ Now, in the last episode of the podcast, I went into this in much more detail so I won’t spend too much time on it here, but what you’re really focusing on when you’re telling someone that they’re going to love what you have, is some kind of transformation. And what I encourage people to think about is: what can your customer do differently once they start using what you have? Think about the before and the after picture and really spend time describing that contrast.
Finally, point number five, ‘It’s so easy to do.’ People have a tendency to procrastinate. We’re very good at talking ourselves out of doing something, especially if we think it’s going to take a bit of effort so one thing you always want to include in your story of persuasion is a reminder of how easy it is to accept your offer. You can be explicit and say, this is really easy – complete the short order form and within two clicks we’ll ship your product, perhaps you could list the steps that they need to take and tell them how quickly they’ll be done with the process – anything to encourage momentum so that procrastination doesn’t set in.
So, to recap, your simple story of persuasion is:
- Here’s something new or different you should try.
- It is perfect for you.
- Everyone’s doing it.
- You’re going to love it!
- It’s so easy to do.
That wraps things up for this episode!
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Until next time, keep believing.