People don’t read online; unless they’re about to spend money—then they scrutinize each word.
Design, SEO, and advertising can only get you so far. If you want to accelerate sales online, you need persuasive copy. According to Harvard Business professor Gerald Zaltman, 95% of our purchase decision occurs in the subconscious mind. Most marketers ignore how our brains work and fight against human psychology.
With a few persuasive writing techniques, you’ll be able to write compelling copy and sell more products.
“The principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.” Claude C. Hopkins
This is a mammoth post, so I added links to sections for you TL;DRs out there.
- Use Repetition To Make Your Claims Believable
- Use Maslow To Match Search Intent
- Turn Shoppers Into Buyers With Benefit-Focused Copy
- Use Forum Research To Get Inside Your Buyers’ Mind
- Use Sensory Words To Connect With Your Buyer’s Subconscious
- Use Scarcity To Boost Sales
- Use Micro Commitments To Turn New Customers Into Big Spenders
- Use The Blemishing Effect To Increase Trust
- Amplify Your Top Pages With Power Words
- Improve Ad Performance by “Borrowing” from Tested Copy
- The Disrupt and Reframe Technique (DTR)
- Use Buyers’ Words to Build Brand Preference
- Use the Endowed Progress Effect To Build Customer Loyalty
- Sway Buyers On The Fence With A Rhyming Sequence
- Be Ultra Specific
- Use Social Influence To Lift Conversions
- Use Mini Stories to Fascinate Readers
- Improve Message Recall with The Serial Position Technique
- Use The Priming Technique to Make Your Marketing Their Idea
1. Use Repetition To Make Your Claims Believable
Repetition is one of the easiest persuasive writing techniques. The more someone hears your message, the more believable it is. This psychological concept is known as the ‘illusion of truth‘.
This technique is most effective when people are least attentive. Since the average online attention span is 8 seconds – you better be repeating your benefits throughout your product page.
Step 1: Determine The Biggest Benefit Of Your Product
Hopefully, you’ll take me up on Tip 3 and create a feature/benefit list for your product. If not, don’t overthink it. Go for the most obvious benefit.
The most obvious benefit for a jacket is weather resistance.
Step 2: Repeat The Biggest Benefit 3-5 Times
Most people will scan first before reading. So make sure you include your #1 benefit throughout your page layout. Include it in your headline, intro, subheads, bullet points and conclusion.
Macy’s is using the illusion of truth and the serial position technique to make their product page persuasive.
Take a look at this Calvin Klein jacket. Macy’s wants you to believe this jacket is weather-resistant. The product page gets the point across, without mind-numbing repetition.
2. Use Maslow To Match Search Intent
Remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from college? Maybe you forgot because you didnt get enough good sleep. Every time your prospect uses Google search it’s out of a deep psychological desire.
Your job as a marketer is to understand that need. Your copy will be much more persuasive, and it will rank significantly better in a Google search.
Step 1: Determine The Psychological Need Of Your Product
Your job here is to address the primary psychological need behind a search for your product. Some products can meet two. But we want to keep it simple and actionable, so pick one.
- Are you selling make-up or jewelry? Esteem.
- Are you selling organic food? Physiological.
- Are you selling antivirus software? Safety and security.
Step 2: Use Words Suited For That Mental State
Tone matters a lot in writing. Once you are through with step 1, add some words from this article to your product page.
Step 3: Anticipate Questions About Your Product
Use the keyword research to find questions about your products. This will help you match search intent from a potential customer.
- Plug Your Product Page Into Google Keyword Planner
- Include When, Where, Why, What and How As Required Words
- Look for Concerns You Can Address On Your Product Page
People have questions about cleaning leather jackets.
Your goal with step three is to find concerns related to your product that you can address on your product page. If you still can’t find real product questions try this Twitter research trick from Ann Smarty.
Step 4: Connect Questions to Product Features
Some shoppers might be concerned about cleaning a leather jacket before buying. Your sales page should briefly address that concern. The solution is easy. Add a simple bullet that turns the question into a benefit.
Ex: “Top-grain leather that cleans easily with a microfiber cloth.”
Your updated page meets psychological, emotional needs and overcomes objections a buyer might have. Sounds like a slam dunk to me. 🙂
3. Turn Shoppers Into Buyers With Benefit-Focused Copy
No matter what product you are selling, the benefit to your customer is a better version of themselves. This is why it is so important to understand who your ideal customer is, what questions they have, and how you can help them. You’ll be wasting your time if you jam persuasive tricks into your copy. Even worse, you might come off like a manipulative idiot.
Here is a 3-step process to write benefits-focused, persuasive copy.
- Make a list of your product features.
- List actual benefits of using the product.
- List out how those benefits make your customer’s life better OR avoid problems.
Here is a real example of a “boring product” (metal fuel cans) that I am working on
Henneke Duistermaat has an entire ebook that goes into more depth about writing benefits-focused sales copy. You can grab a copy .
4. Use Forum Research To Get Inside Your Buyers’ Mind
Would you be able to sell more products if you knew someone’s thoughts before they buy something? Of course you would!
You don’t have to do exhaustive primary research to find the right words to use, but you do you need to find out why people buy your product and use that language on your product or category page. Here’s how:
Step 1: Find Conversations about Buying Your Product
There is an online forum for just about any topic. A lot of times you, can find people who just bought a similar product, and you can see who they are and what they are chatting about. Type the following searches into Google. Just replace “keyword” with your product and “niche” with your industry.
- “keyword” OR “niche” “just bought” inurl:forum
- “keyword” OR “niche” “should I buy” inurl:forum
- “keyword” OR “niche” “should i buy” “because” inurl:forum
- “keyword”OR “niche” “just bought” “because” inurl:forum
- “need help with” “keyword” OR “niche”
The search term, “racing tires” “should I buy” inurl:forum surfaced 455 car enthusiasts talking about buying racing tires. This is like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. No focus group needed. How’s that for marketing research?!
Step 2: Read The Threads and Create a Quick and Dirty Persona
In this step, your goal is to create one (yes, only one) buyer persona.
- Open up a forum thread from Google search.
- Click on a commenter’s profile link.
If you can’t find info about their age, location, hobbies and profession take an educated guess. Your persona should also have a name.
We’ve learned a lot about James from researching forums.
Step 3: Collect Answers To The 5 Questions Below:
As you research the forum threads copy and paste answers to these questions.
- Why did they buy?
- What are their pain points?
- What concerns did they have before buying?
- What is important to them when buying this product?
- What do they use the product for?
Step 4: Update Your Pages
It’s easy to forget that you are writing for a person when writing on the web. Understanding the mental state of potential buyers is the most powerful market research you’ll ever do. As you update your product pages, keep James Holley in mind. He is probably anxious to burn some rubber after a long week selling insurance.
5. Use Sensory Words To Connect With Your Buyer’s Subconscious
I’m not talking about fluffing your copy up with phony adjectives. Meaningless words like “high quality” or “state of the art” send your reader’s brain into glazed state. Sensory words describe and create a feeling.
Our subconscious collects sensory data (taste, smell, sight, hearing, touch). When information is registered, sensory areas of the brain are activated.
Step 1: Observe Your Product And Create A List Of Concrete Words
Create a table in Excel with sound, sight, touch, smell and taste as headers. Observe the sensory details of your product. Don’t overthink this. If you can’t imagine it, it is not concrete. You don’t need to appeal to all five senses, and you don’t need a mega list.
After two minutes of examining the Crocs on my feet, I came up with these sensory words. Not brilliant, but it’s a start.
Step 2: Read Customer Reviews To Find Sensory Words
In this step, you are looking for words that describe your product and the environment of how it’s used. While reading reviews, I noticed people use Crocs at the beach and inside their house.
You don’t have to make this a grind. To combat information overload, sort the reviews by most helpful. Spend a few minutes on this step, no more. After reading the first two pages of product reviews, you’ll be able to add some words that you hadn’t thought of.
Step 3: Add Sensory Words To Your Product Description
When you tackle this step, give context to the words you use. For example, “blisters” is a very concrete, sensory word, but it is also negative. So your copy could say “A flexible sole helps avoid foot pain and blisters from walking on hard tile floors.”
Compare our quickly crafted sentence with Kohl’s product description: “Crocs shoes are great for outdoor adventures.” (Yawn). No one buying shoes is looking for an “outdoor adventure.”
Abstract marketing words like “Croslite” don’t engage the brain.
6. Use Scarcity To Boost Sales
Cialdini’s principle of scarcity states that desire to obtain something increases when there is a perception of limited availability. Research shows that scarcity increases impulse buying.
Don’t burn bridges like CoffeForLess with fake scarcity. Use this technique when you actually have a limited time offer or limited quantity.
Step 1: Create A Time Sensitive Sale
Select high margin or popular products. Install a countdown timer plugin, email your list and run a sale. There are a lot of plugins that can do this. Here are a few of them:
Scarcity Works Best When Someone Is Already Interested In The Product
Step 2: Add A Limited Quantity Alert On Product Pages
Use a plugin to show visitors a message when your inventory is low. Phrases like “Hurry! Only 1 left!” can help move customers to action. People get a thrill when they snag the last one. I know I do 🙂
If you like this jean jacket, you better buy it now. There is only one left!
Never pressure people to PUSH them into purchasing. Instead, use pressure to PREVENT them from procrastinating. There is a fundamental difference between the two. – Michel Fortin
Thinking about using scarcity tactics on your product page? Check out this in-depth article and be sure to take a non-scuzzy approach.
7. Use Micro Commitments To Turn New Customers Into Big Spenders
A high dollar sale on the first visit can be a big ask. Instead, use theprinciple of commitment and consistency. People want to be consistent. Once someone commits to something small, they are more inclined to continue the process.
How can you use this to increase sales?
Step 1: Ask New Customers if They Are Likely to Buy from You Again
Customers love getting an order confirmation emailed to them. Turn it into a marketing opportunity. Use automated email software like Klaviyo to add this question to the bottom of the order confirmation email:
“Are you likely to buy from us again? Yes No.”
Make the responses “Yes” or “No” hyperlinks so you can track if they are clicked. You don’t want to set up a complicated survey, work it into your regular workflow and make it as easy as possible.
Step 2: Send a Coupon/Promo Code
Customers who responded positively to your first email are likely to follow through with their original commitment. Incentivize them to be consistent by sending them a coupon to save $10 when they spend $150. The actual numbers will depend on your store. The goal is to turn them into a big spender.
You can even word the email like this:
A few weeks ago you said you would like to buy again from mystore.com. We wanted to send you a quick thanks for your recent order with a promo code to save on your next purchase. You can save $10 when you spend $150. Here are some of our most popular items (show images of products over $150). Promo code is good for 30 days.
When someone publicly declares they will do something, they are likely to carry through with that statement. This is also called the “mere-measurement effect.”
Tip: Send the same email to people who also said no. Just remove the first sentence.
8. Use The Blemishing Effect To Increase Trust
Trying to hide the negative features of your product? Researchers from Stanford suggests you shouldn’t.
Customers can tell when you write a product description that’s 100% positive fluff. Adding in a small dose of negativity can make your product more attractive.
We find that as long as the negative information about a product is minor, your pitch [to a consumer] might be more persuasive when it calls attention to that negative, especially if consumers have already learned some positive things,” –Baba Shiv
9. Amplify Your Top Pages With Power Words
A lot has been written about the psychology behind persuasive words. Here are “must have” words for your ecommerce site.
- You:Using this word forces you to focus on how customers will benefit from doing business with you.
- Free: Our brains are hardwired to respond to “FREE.” Don’t overdo it.
- Because: Giving your reader a reason will make your copy more persuasive. Using because helps you trigger action by giving them a specific reason.
- Imagine: Research suggests that imagining using or owning a product increases the desire to own it.
- New: Using this word activates the brain’s reward center and makes products seem more attractive.
Now that you know the words to use, it is time to put them to work for you.
Step 1: Use Google Analytics to Find Your Top Landing Pages
Don’t try to update all your pages at once. It is too tall of a task. Use Google Analytics to find your top 3-5 product landing pages.
- Log in to Google Analytics
- Click on Behavior
- Click on Site Content
- Click on Landing Pages
Step 2: Update the Copy To Include Those Power Words
Chances are your home page is a top landing page. Be sure to include power words, like “Free Shipping” in global elements like headers.
Use power words at the beginning and end of your product page. Include them in bulleted lists too.
Boring product? Ask your reader to imagine the benefits.
10. Improve Ad Performance by “Borrowing” from Tested Copy
When you’re writing persuasive copy, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees. If you don’t analyze competitor ad copy, you’re missing out on insights from tested copy.
Step 1: Find Out Who The Big Advertisers Are In Your Niche
Type a keyword from your niche into SEMRush along with (adwords_historical). In the example below, I used “work boots” (adwords_historical) to see all the companies advertising for that keyword. Look at their ads traffic price to get an idea of how much they are spending each month.
Stick with companies spending more than $10K per month. These companies are smart enough to test their ads and use the best performing ads the most. Avoid megastores like Amazon or Overstock.com. You’ll get too much data to analyze. You want to write persuasive copy, not analyze data.
Step 2: Review Their Ad Copy
In SEMRush type in the big spenders domain with (by uniq_ads) to see all of their ads. In the example below, I typed in workboots.com (by uniq_ads). SEMRush will show you the ads that have the most keywords. For a company spending $10K + on PPC, you can bet that their best ads get the most keywords. Look for common themes within the ads. Pay extra attention to any benefit-focused ads.
Workboots.com is banking on new styles and slip resistance in their ad copy.
Step 3: Update Your Copy
Your competitors spend a boatload of cash figuring out which ads sell the most products. People who shop for work boots care about new styles and slip resistance. Focus on those points when updating your copy.
11. The Disrupt and Reframe Technique (DTR)
If you want a fast and effective method for influencing people, DTR is it.
Most of us go into auto-pilot mode when surfing the web. By disrupting your readers’ understanding on a typical phrase, you can knock them out of auto-pilot and reframe their thought process to give new meaning to the confusing phrase.
Apple’s entire marketing strategy is based on DTR.
Here is how you can do it:
- Add a bizarre or confusing statement in your copy: “Retina re-envisioned”
- Reframe it to give new meaning: “The moment you open the new MacBook, its gorgeous 12‑inch Retina display with edge-to-edge glass brings everything into focus. Every photo leaps off the screen in rich, vibrant detail.”
12. Use Buyers’ Words to Build Brand Preference
Have you ever bought a product because your friend told you it was “high performance” or “innovative”? No.
This is why you need to eliminate marketing speak and write for your ideal buyer.
Professional copywriters know that the most persuasive language comes directly from the customer (see Tip #28). But why?
According to the Kellogg Marketing Faculty at Northwestern University, consumers seek comfort and self-expression in the brands they choose. By using your customers’ own words you can shortcut the persuasive writing process and help readers self-identify. Joanna Wiebe explains how to do this in her post, but here is the gist:
- Search for customer reviews for your product on Google, Amazon or forums.
- Copy memorable phrases directly from customers.
- Paste them into your product pages.
Don’t copy entire paragraphs. You’re looking for emotionally charged phrases to leverage into your copy. Here are some examples from racing tires:
- “quicker acceleration, better braking, smoother ride, less wear on shocks”
- “Lower weight is important, but traction is more important”
- “meaner tire, they have great wet traction, they stick, lots of dry traction”
- “Some people whine about them on wet roads, but I had zero hydroplaning issues and I drove them through winter here in the metroplex”
- “with fresh rubber”
- “I love spirited driving”
You want to sound like a customer, not a marketing company.
13. Use the Endowed Progress Effect To Build Customer Loyalty
You’ve worked super hard to get a customer, use the endowed progress effect to keep them buying from you.
Reward programs give your customers a sense that they are working towards a goal. By giving them a few extra free points, they will be more likely to buy from you again. Check out this study from USC.
To create an effective program you need:
- Reward program technology. Like a plugin or points system.
- A persuasive autoresponder email chain to let customers know they’re close to a reward.
Please don’t just use the boilerplate copy from the plugin. Be sure to cater it to your audience.
14. Sway Buyers On The Fence With A Rhyming Sequence
Research suggests that rhyming phrases are more believable. I am not suggesting that your product pages sound like nursery rhymes, but the “rhyme as reason” effect can help persuade people who are on the fence.
Johnny Cochran, O.J. Simpson’s lawyer, knew about this cognitive bias.
If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.
Rhyming makes copy easier to remember and ideas easier to digest. This concept is also known as the fluency effect. Rand Fishkin has an excellent white board on this topic.
Beauty.com Woos with Rhyming
Here is how you can incorporate rhyming today:
- Boil your product or benefit down to the simplest word (ex. Weather Proof Jacket = rain)
- Go to Rhymer.com
- Find a word that rhymes with your product or benefit (ex. main)
- Add the rhyming phrase to the start or end of your product description (ex. The Calvin Klein hooded windbreaker will be your main jacket to project against the rain.)
This exercise can be a lot of fun, and it will make your benefits more persuasive. Don’t overdo it, Mother Goose.
15. Be Ultra Specific
Copy has to be credible to be persuasive. We are all bombarded with generic marketing claims all day long. Precise details turn your ho-hum headlines, taglines and slogans into believable messages.
When it comes to selling products, details about problems or benefits make your copy trustworthy. Notice how the details describe the benefits of the raincoat material.
Constructed with durable, water-resistant, urethane-coated nylon taffeta and rustproof snaps; watertight bound seam construction. – REI
Ask yourself these questions to help you pull out the relevant details for your product page:
- What is your product made of?
- Where is your product made?
- How is your product made?
- How many people have used it?
- Are there quantifiable features?
- Are size dimensions relevant?
Gucci nails all the questions above.
When you start adding irrelevant details like the number of grooves on a pen grip, you’ve gone way too far.
Online shoppers are skeptical. Adding details helps people understand you are telling the truth.
16. Use Social Influence To Lift Conversions
As we saw in Maslow’s pyramid, belonging is a basic psychological need. This is why peer pressure works. Our ideas are validated when similar people share them: this is especially true for shopping online.
71% of online shoppers read reviews before buying.
Here are two surefire ways you can use social influence on your ecommerce site:
1. Add Product Reviews
Reviews help validate your claims. It is one thing for you to say “This backpack is durable.” It’s more impactful when a customer says the same thing. By simply adding a reviews widget, Express Watches increased conversions by 58%.
It is not enough to add a widget; you have to be proactive about getting them. Once you add the widget:
- Email customers who purchased your top selling products
- Offer them a discount or points for leaving a review
- Add an automated email asking people for a review a few weeks after receiving the products
2. Add a Recommended Products Widget
When people get stuck on a decision, they look to see what other people do. This is why a recommended products widgetcan help lift conversions. When people don’t find what they want, they leave. Providing additional suggestions to them might persuade them to check out other products.
17. Use Mini Stories to Fascinate Readers
Stories that relate to your audience strengthen your brand position. If your story doesn’t, your copy will come off cheesy.
Do you remember James Holley from Tip #4? He will probably appreciate a mini story about peeling out in the office parking lot on a Friday night. This story works because it’s:
- Relevant to our ideal buyer and product
- Simple and concise
- Imagery is concrete and vivid
This mini-story would be a huge turnoff to Donna, 57, in New York City. She values safety and style when buying luxury tires. Burning rubber would run her off your site. You’re job is to tell an unexpected story that will entertain your ideal customer. Something they won’t read on an Amazon product description.
Retailer J. Peterman is known for their unique product descriptions. Check out this one.
18. Improve Message Recall with The Serial Position Technique
People remember what they saw first (primacy effect) or last (recency effect). Use this to your advantage. Put your best copy where it matters most.
Don’t Bury Your Persuasive Messages in the Middle
Step 1: Begin with an Ultra Short, Benefit-Rich Product Summary
When you write copy for product pages, you have to consider the design. Once you see how the information is layered on the page, make sure to put your most persuasive copy right at the beginning. Keep it short and uncluttered.
Bonus SEO tip: Use your, ultra-short persuasive intro as the meta description to improve your click-through rate from searches.
Step 2: Rearrange Your Bullets
Readers love bullet points. Don’t rattle off a bunch of product features. Make sure that your bullets are a list of benefits. Give extra love to the first and last two bullets.
Step 3: End Your Product Description with a Persuasive Message
If someone reads your entire product description, chances are they are almost ready to buy. Don’t fizzle out at the end. Give them one simple, memorable reason why they should buy this product.
19. Use The Priming Technique to Make Your Marketing Their Idea
Priming is similar to the principle of commitment and consistency Both are used to influence subsequent behavior. The main difference is that priming is the process of tapping into the subconscious mind.
Numerous studies show the priming effect in action. For example, three groups were primed with different words (rude, polite, and neutral). The group shown rude words were most likely to interrupt the interviewer. In another study, people who were shown sad faces 🙁 preferred mood-enhancing content.
Because people are influenced subconsciously, primes are perceived to be their own ideas. Remember the movie Inception? Same thing. When people think they are being “marketed to”, all bets are off.
Here are two ways you can use priming for your ecommerce site:
- Use homonyms to influence buying
- Use price priming to position your best products
Using Homonyms To Influence Purchase Behavior
A study from the University of Miami revealed that adding the words “bye-bye” in the web copy increased sales. This is because the word sounds like “buy.” You can use this on your product pages easily by using a sentence formula: “Say bye-bye to [problem] with [feature] that [benefit].”
Fuel can example: Say bye-bye to spilled gas with the locking nozzle that won’t leak.
As HubSpot points out, you can also say “Good-Bye” on your order confirmation page to subconsciously influence that a “good buy” was made.
Don’t go overboard. If you use this on every page, it will lose its effect.
Using Price Priming To Sell More of Your Popular Products
This is not really a “copy writing” technique, but it can improve your sales. You can influence customers’ value perception by placing your top products next to super expensive products.
A $600 watch seems less expensive when placed next to a $2500 watch. This subconsciously influences your visitor to think the $600 watch isn’t that expensive. This is the reason why the default price setting on many ecommerce sites is “high to low.”
Another strategy is to implement a “featured” area on your category page.
New Egg’s default sort option is “featured” allowing them to use price priming easily.
You can also use colors, images, and metaphors for priming.
Ready for More Sales?
Persuasive writing means marketing to the subconscious. This is where purchase decisions are made. We’ve gone through a long list of persuasive writing techniques. You don’t have to tackle them all at once. Pick one technique, and you’ll be on your way to improving product sales. Remember, moderation is key.
Enjoy this article? You’ll love my free ecommerce marketing course.
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Filed Under: SalesTagged With: copywriting, conversion rate optimization, product marketing
Here are fourteen persuasive writing techniques that will trigger a response from your visitors.
Have you ever wondered why nobody is responding to your offers?
Why do people read your landing pages and then leave?
Why do people see your ads and keep scrolling?
You have a great product. You are offering an in-demand service. So why does nobody seem to be interested?
The answer boils down to psychology. Simply put, you aren’t being persuasive. You aren’t managing to trigger that little thing in your visitors’ brains that snaps them to attention, gets the heart rate pumping, and compels them to keep reading.
Today, we’re giving you a handful of tools that marketers and advertisers have been using for decades to captivate audiences and compel a response.
This post is part of the Conversion Short Course. Signing up on the right earn points for reading valuable articles and getting prizes.
1. Focus on resonating with emotional problems.
Everyone has problems, and your product or service is designed to help people solve one or more of those problems.
A lot of businesses simply dive into explaining their solutions. One of the most powerful persuasion techniques, however, is to start by resonating with your readers around the emotional problems they are facing. When people see someone describing something “painful” they are experiencing, it pulls them in and prepares them to buy into the solution.
Another word for this is “empathy”. People want to feel like you empathize with their problems and that it drives the mission of your business.
US President Barack Obama once said this about empathy:
“You know, there’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.”
That’s how empathy works. When you put yourself in your readers’ shoes and let them know you understand what they’re going through, they’ll be more inclined to listen to you. When you resonate with them on their problems, they will resonate with you on your solutions.
For instance, let’s say you want to write copy to sell a tool that solves the problem of content managers having to host their marketing tools on several different platforms. You could make your copy all about that problem and then introduce your tool in the end.
Here’s a great example:
In this example from Entrepreneur Alliance, the product is a monthly subscription to a group where real entrepreneurs help each other out. As you can see in the copy above, which appears just below the fold, the company quickly addresses some of the common pain points many new entrepreneurs experience when trying to get started. They also address the frustration people feel when they are constantly assaulted by new people trying to sell them something.
If you are reading this copy and you too have experienced this frustration, than you are far more likely to be intrigued and even compelled by the solution that the Entrepreneur Alliance then proposes to you.
Of course, in order to legitimately resonate with your audience’s pain points, you have to first understand your audience.
Understanding Your Audience
Michael Port offers the FESP model for understanding an audience that you will perform for or write for:
- How does the world look to your audience Financially?
- How does the world look to your audience Emotionally?
- How does the world look to your audience Spiritually?
- How does the world look to your audience Physically?
In our example above, the marketing person may see the world like this:
- Financially, she’s spending too much on multiple tools.
- Emotionally, she’s struggling to manage a “Mississippi of tasks.”
- Spiritually, she feels obligated to deliver value from these expensive tools.
- Physically, she struggles with the stress of managing content effectively.
This FESP copy should speak to her needs right out of the gate.
In the context of a landing page, it’s usually best to dive into these needs and problems using your value proposition or immediately following your value proposition.
2. Incorporate facts, data, and other analytical information.
While point #1 is very emotionally driven, selling isn’t all about emotion.
- Certain segments of your audience might be more analytical.
- Certain products or services aren’t geared towards emotional problems.
- Even when you can utilize emotion, backing it with hard data strengthens the pitch.
One of the best ways to sell is to demonstrate “irrefutable” evidence that your solution is the best possible option for the prospective customer.
Legendary advertising creative director William Bernbach once said, “The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” In the digital age, “truth” looks like facts, statistics, case studies, etc.
We employ this in our own marketing here at Conversion Sciences. We can talk about our experience and expertise all day long and even resonate with the problems our clients have dealt with, but at the end of the day, what prospective clients really want to know is:
- Have you had success with past clients?
- Aka do you have the track record to prove you will succeed with my business?
Since we drive an average conversion lift of 15 to 25% with our clients and have a 90% retention rate, we like to include that information in our copy whenever possible.
This is about as soft as it gets in terms of analytics, but since it is true, it serves as a powerful signal to clients considering our services, demonstrating that we aren’t just talking about AB testing. We are actually getting results.
Do the same in your own copy as often as possible.
3. Demonstrate social proof at key junctures.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.
In other words, monkey see, monkey do.
When we are making a decision, we want to know that other people consider it to be the right decision. Who are these “other” people?
- Specific people we respect
- People who are in a similar situation to us
- Large quantities of random strangers
In 2017, social proof often takes the form of influencer recommendations, customer testimonials, and social share count.
For example, CoSchedule asks visitors to click TRY IT FOR FREEon their homepage. Visitors are then taken to a page that contains a testimonial and highlights the company’s most recognizable customers.
Be specific in your case studies and testimonials.
Customer stories and testimonials have been shown to improve sales online. Customer stories work best when they are specific. See how Unbounce does it on of their pages:
The best customer stories and testimonials will offer the customer name, company, title and a picture. When appropriate, add the city and state of the speaker as well. Also consider things like age when appropriate.
Favor testimonials that avoid judgments, like, “We loved working with this company!” Instead, focus on a specific result. The more specific your numbers are, the more believable they are.
These stories answer the question, “What did people like me experience?”
4. Use tone to add emotion and keep things interesting.
What does it mean to use one’s tone in writing? Basically, it means writing like you would talk in real life. Your tone can breathe life into your copy. It can make your writing a lot less boring for prospects to read.
David Ogilvy once said “Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”
When I asked Sam Hurley (founder of OPTIM-EYEZ) to share his number one advice on persuasive writing techniques, he said, “It has to be tone. A sentence that equates to the same meaning can be written in 10 different ways…Each variation will evoke 10 unique reactions — and the difference can ultimately mean conversion or exit.”
In other words, you can rewrite a sentence in several different ways using your tone to effectively pass your message across to prospects and make it sink in their minds.
Take this post from Derek Halpern, for instance:
See what did he do there?
Derek used three different sentences to ask just one question: “Do people read long sales pages?” Why? He wanted to sound like a normal person in his tone; not a company trying to sell something.
If he was going to ask the same question in a real life setting, he wouldn’t just ask Do people read long pages?, would he?
No, he’d naturally ask follow-up questions just like he did in the example above. And those (follow-up) questions will mean the same thing as the original query. But they’ll make his message sink in his readers’ minds.
Your tone is important. It helps you talk like a fellow human being, not a business trying to make sales. It helps you build trust. And because your readers are also humans, they can very well relate with your tone when they see it in your copy.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”―Robert Frost
In other words, people react according to what they see in your copy. If they see you shedding tears, they’d be moved to tears. If you crack jokes, they’ll laugh (or at least give you a smile). And so forth. That’s how it works.
Be careful with your tone.
Can anyone actually insult their prospects (or readers) deliberately? I’d love to answer that question with a no, but it happens. I recently found this while doing research for one of my clients:
This form saying I’m a mediocre content marketer if I don’t sign up for the whitepaper. It that true?
But does that slur really convert better than being polite? Did it get me converted? Heck, no! I actually got pissed off! I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I see Calls to Action like this.
There are several polite words that you can use to persuade people to do something. This CTA, for example, got Career Advice 261 sign-ups within 24 hours from a single guest post on The Muse:
Yet, it contains no word that could potentially insult anyone.
5. Take time to bring up and cover objections.
You should never begin writing copy with a pre-determined word count. It doesn’t matter if your copy ends at 400 or 3000 words. What matters is that you say everything that needs to be said.
More specifically, what matters is that you cover all the key objections.
An objection is an argument that tends to come up from the customer’s end to justify saying “No” to your pitch.
If you are selling me a productivity app and I say, “Well, I don’t think I need an app to be productive,” that’s an objection. If I ask, “Why would I pay for an app when there are 30 other productivity apps that are free?” that’s an objection.
In an interpersonal sales meeting, the power of the objection goes to whoever brings it up first. If I ask you about all the free apps and then you respond, it tends to sound like you’re justifying a problem. Since I brought up the objection, and I think I’m pretty smart, I give it more weight than your response.
On the other hand, if you bring up the objection first, you win. If you introduce the cost and then immediately begin talking about how free productivity apps either utilize distracting advertising or have a low budget and thus numerous technical problems, both of which defeat the purpose of a productivity app, suddenly that potential objection has now become a selling point.
With online copy, the customer never speaks, so you have time to address as many objections as you feel is necessary. There may be just a few or there may be numerous objections that need to be covered. The important thing is that you give yourself time to cover them all.
6. Draw attention to your points with rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical questions draw attention. They’re not meant to be answered, which means that they shouldn’t have an answer. If your question can easily answered with a “yes” or “no”, it won’t invite the visitor to read on.
Instead, pose questions that make the reader think, “What does this mean?” or, “How will you do that?”
What if we had one single solution that can perform all these functions?
Life would become extremely easy for content marketers, right?
We had a significant increase in leads for one of our addiction center clients using the rhetorical question, “Are you ready to stop lying? We can help.”
Of course, I didn’t expect answers to them. But if you’re a content marketer, you were probably answering those questions in your mind, agreeing to my point of view that an all-in-one tool is the best option for content marketers.
That’s how rhetorical questions work. They pull attention, get readers’ attention and lure them to keep reading your copy.
7. Use hyperbole to communicate value.
Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to make your point to readers. Hyperbole should be used carefully. If you claim to be the biggest, best, or leader, your persuasive copy must deliver proof very quickly.
For example, take Contently:
There are certainly other companies out there that get more ROI from content marketing than Contently’s customers. But, their exaggeration is immediately backed up with the logos of some of the biggest companies in the world, the implication being that they use Contently to run their content marketing.
Another example here is Campaign Monitor’s “Send email your customers can’t ignore”.
In this case, the hyperbolic claim makes the reader ask, “How do you do that?” Will all customers read your emails just because you sent them using Campaign Monitor? Probably not.
Unfortunately, the hyperbole isn’t backed up by proof. Only more claims are offered. This page goes on to invite the visitor to watch a video to get the proof.
The longer the distance between your hyperbole and the proof, the more tenuous your persuasive argument becomes.
But you get the message they’re trying to pass across, right? Campaign Monitor helps you send emails that get opened and replied.
8. Open your first paragraph with a hook.
Once readers move past your headline, the next phase they’ll be meeting with is your opening paragraph. It tells them if they should keep reading your copy or head out to somewhere else.
There are a couple of ways to create a hook in your copy. You could start with a question likethis one:
That very first line (After all, that’s the dream, right?) will spring up a question in the mind of most readers. They’ll start wondering what the dream might be. And they know they have to keep reading to find out. That’s the hook right there.
Another way to create a hook would be starting out with an eye-catching phrase. This could be anything that has the potential of making your readers pay attention. For example:
9. Start small and utilize escalating agreements.
Avoid hitting the nail on the at once––especially when you’re writing on a complex topic or for an audience that’s pretty tough to persuade. Begin by beating about the bush a little and give your readers simple valid points to agree on before they get to the complex parts of your copy.
This will help you persuade them to read your copy with ease no matter how complex the topic is and have them nodding their heads in agreement as they read on.
For example, calculating the Net Present Value of a sum of money is mostly a complex topics for folks who aren’t finance-savvy. I mean, it was pretty much a really tough topic for me in my first year studying finance in University. But see how the guys at Maths Is Fun made it look so simple by implementing escalating agreements:
See how they start their exegesis with a set of simple, valid opening sentences that virtually anyone would agree with? Notice that when readers agree that money now is more valuable than money later on, they’ll mostly move to the next line because they agreed with the previous sentence? That’s escalating agreements work. And that’s how to use it to persuade readers.
10. It’s OK to use technical details.
Part of resonating with an audience is speaking in their language. When you use relevant jargon or communicate in technical terms only your target segment understands, you help position yourself as an authority in your space and build a community of people who use the same terminologies as you.
So how do you write with simplicity and still use jargon to show that you are a guru?
See how Apple uses a mix of both waffles and plainness in their copy for iPhone 7:
“iPhone 7 dramatically improves the most important aspects of the iPhone experience. It introduces advanced new camera systems. The best performance and battery life ever in an iPhone. Immersive stereo speakers. The brightest, most colorful iPhone display. Splash and water resistance. And it looks every bit as powerful as it is. This is iPhone 7.”
Notice how all that contains no single jargon even though the copy is about a technical product? Yes, that’s simplicity. Virtually anyone would understand it.
Now see how they used technical terminology on the same page––after enticing readers with jargon-less copy:
Now some readers might not know what an optical image or f/1.8 aperture means. That’s certain. But they’re most likely going to stay with the copy because it’s interesting to read and not stuffed with too much technical mumbo jumbo.
Veteran copywriter Robert Bly said the following in a recent newsletter:
“…almost without exception, virtually everysuccessful direct response promotion is written in clear,concise, conversational copy.It’s the style used by John Forde … Clayton Makepeace … RichardArmstrong…Ivan Levison…Paul Hollingshead …Steve Slaunwhite…and just about every top six- and seven-figure copywriter I know.Why? Because it is plain English that virtually always gets thebest response — proving that when it comes to communicating,simple writing is the best writing.”
11. Use short and to-the-point statements.
Short, concise statements can be memorable, fun and persuasive. They help to reduce cognitive overload, the need for an excessive amount of mental effort to understand things.
See how the folks at Fiftythree do it on their jobs page:
Copy doesn’t have to be wordy all the time. Just straight to the point and you’d have passed your message across in a split second.
12. Focus your headline on the biggest benefit you’re offering.
Irrespective of how many benefits your offerings can provide, you need to figure out what your biggest benefit is and make your headline focus on. Too many websites “bury the lead.” This means that the most powerful point of the page is relegated to a subhead or the body of the copy.
A typical example here would be SumoMe. They offer several tools but the biggest benefit they provide is traffic and customers:
Traffic and customers are what SumoMe’s prospects care about the most, so they put that in their homepage headline. David Ogilvy once said this about headlines:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”
13. Tell stories.
There has been a great deal written about stories. This is because they are proving to be so effective. Stories suck people’s attention into your copy. They make even the busiest people pay attention to whatever you’ve got to say or sell.
As an example, see how MAG International uses the art of storytelling to describe the havoc that landmines wreck:
Stories are most effective when:
- Readers don’t know about the problem.
- Readers may know about the problem, but haven’t considered finding a solution.
Stories may not be effective for readers that are frequent buyers or are very familiar with your solution to their problem.
14. Flaunt your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
Of all these persuasive writing techniques, this one is the most effective in our tests. Your unique selling proposition (USP), could be anything that entices visitors to stay and read. It can be that you have low prices, superior quality or anything helps your readers rationalize reading on. For an ecommerce company, the USP includes your positioning, return policy, shipping policy and guarantees.
First, your selling proposition often doesn’t necessarily need to be unique. It just needs to be communicated. Rug Perfection offers hand-made rugs made of natural materials. They offer free shipping and pay shipping for returns as well. Would you know that from the copy on their website?
Your USP doesn’t have to be complex. Persuasive writers are able to summarize your place in the market in just a few words. This is true of Kissmetrics.
If calling out your competitor like Kissmetrics seems a little too aggressive for you, you can simply flaunt your unique value without mentioning any rival’s name. See how GoDaddy displays their unique 1-month free trial on their homepage:
There’s virtually no other web host provider that allows a month free trial. So that’s a USP for GoDaddy.
Check out more value proposition examples here.
Start Using These Persuasive Writing Techniques
People are getting smarter year-by-year. Each time we want to shop for anything online, we mostly prefer to check out a number of options and choose who we’d like to do business with.
So a smart move you can (and should) make now is to ensure your web copy and content is focused on enticing, engaging and ultimately persuading prospects to pay attention to your brand and offerings.
Brian Massey is the Founder and Conversion Scientist™ at Conversion Sciences. He is the author of Your Customer Creation Equation. His rare combination of interests, experience and neuroses were developed over almost 20 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker and writer.
Co-authored by Victor Ijidola
Victor Ijidola is a content marketer and freelance business writer. He runs Premium Content Shop where he offers premium writing services that drive leads, and has been featured on sites like Inc.com, The Next Web, Kissmetrics and many more.