How do you sell something to someone who isn’t even aware that they need it, let alone what it may be?
How do you write your content and copy in a way that speaks to people and persuades them with answers to questions they weren’t even asking?
Writing sales copy is challenging enough, right? So how do you sell your story to an entirely new audience who doesn’t even know you exist?
Sometimes, what we need to hear is not the latest tactics. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of what has always worked.
With that in mind, here are five persuasive sales copy tactics – and why they still work.
1. Convince Your Audience With Credibility
Nine out of 10 dentists agree… daily flossing reduces decay.
Few people reading this will be old enough to remember the days before sticky tape. Back in the day, you wrapped your parcels for posting with string. But we just don’t need string anymore (we barely need the sticky tape either).
How do you sell string to a string-resistant society?
You find a need it can meet and then you build credibility.
While many marketers manage to get some early runs on the board with viral tactics, few go the distance without credibility.
What do your colleagues say about you?
Credibility is built on a myriad of unspoken factors. Two of the more persuasive trust or credibility factors are:
- Independent authorities. An example of an independent authority would be the dentists mentioned above.
- Peers. Peer endorsement is of particular importance, with peer reviewed copy being the clear winner.
Being able to quote a likable authority is of enormous value in giving your copy a persuasive edge. If you can find a legitimate advocate of your brand, service, or product who’s also an authority, you’re onto something.
2. Use Feelings to Persuade People
Victor Schwab, perhaps one of the better known and admired mail order marketers of the last century, was an expert in emotive drivers. He compiled a list of 40 emotive drivers used in marketing, which are finding a whole new audience among SEO and content marketing agencies.
Emotive drivers play on our fears, desires, and passions. They are reputation and status markers that bring a rush of endorphins.
For example, people want to be healthy and popular. They fear time and public humiliation. Schwab used these drivers in his sales copy with great success.
Take a fresh look at your product or service.
- What fear or anxiety does your product overcome?
- What longing might it satisfy?
- How can these emotional drivers be built into your copy and content marketing strategy?
3. Spark the Imagination
Imagine if…… this drink gave you wings.
Persuasive copy is content that sparks the imagination. It brings to life the fanciful, the brave, or the delightfully absurd.
Even if we know some marketing claims simply aren’t possible, we enjoy the momentary detour into fantasy.
I love the world we live in. I love the capacity we have for creating something new. Just when you thought we had all our bases covered and that there was no more room for a new idea, up pops a new idea.
Persuasive copy is the means by which we spark the imagination with what we have to offer. Persuasive copy asks you to wonder, “What if…”. It takes you to another place for just a moment.
It might inspire you to imagine a fitter and healthier lifestyle, like this example from Zensorium:
Or it might intrigue you with mixed feelings of guilt and curiosity.
It might raise the question, “Where are you taking me?”
Or, it might just let you imagine — even briefly — that you had wings.
4. Simplify Your Copy
When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
Short, sharp, packed with promise.
“Simplicity,” Leonardo da Vinci once said, “is the ultimate sophistication.”
Simplicity, brevity. The power to be concise. These are the truly gifted writers.
I still remember the television ads of my childhood. One was a promotion for a healthy lifestyle. The catch phrase: “Life, be in it.”
As a piece of persuasive writing, it is brilliant. It plays on my emotive drivers. Who wants to miss out on life? Who wants to be regarded as a “deadbeat”?
It was simple. It was succinct. It was energizing.
Focus on singularity.
Do one thing well. Sell one thing to one person really well.
The big winners in marketing are those who can focus on the singular — own it, kill it, or take it home to eat.
Amazon owned and monopolized book sales online before it branched into other products. eBay started by selling Pez Dispensers before selling cars.
People become anxious when I tell them to drop certain markets. They worry that they will miss out on a larger piece of the pie. But that sort of thinking is backed by a false economy. You only have two hands.
Specialization is the name of the game. A singular purpose. We not only see this in the retail industry but also in the service industry. Entire websites are stepping out with a single product — and killing it.
Think Google. A hugely successful company built on one idea: collating the world’s information. And consider for a moment their numerous flops. Their attempt to enter the social media game has largely failed. Why? It ain’t their gig.
Here is a test for your copy: Can you sum up your business in a single sentence? If you can, would it contain any compelling or persuasive meaning? Does it reach an emotion, my need for simplicity, or my trust-ometer?
5. Appearances are Everything
Credibility can be shattered on the first encounter or established for life, and much of that has to do with the way things look.
It’s that simple.
Regarding the text of your content: Write for those who are going to scan the page.
That’s most of your audience, by the way.
Just as you should be auditing your content strategy, so too your design, which we hope was built with strategy in mind.
People don’t usually like to mess with the default settings. This holds true for a site visitor’s expectation of you also.
People are persuaded by herd mentalities. They want to go with the flow.
Your job in design is to be predictable as a measure of reliability and trustworthiness.
I once built a website selling sports tickets. For sports news, my menu item read: Sports Guff. For ticket news, my menu item read “Ticket Guff.”
Not exactly what my audience was expecting. It made them think. The thinking hurt. They left.
Design elements that improve persuasion include predictability, simplicity, and anticipation. You need to anticipate your reader’s next move and intercept — or move with — them.
Clarity, visual hierarchy, and concise calls to action are all part of a winning web design. If you aren’t sure if your sites’ layout is compelling, time to call in a few objective bystanders and start getting some honest feedback.
Featured Image: Created by David Trounce using Pixabay CC0 License and Canva.
Screenshots by David Trounce. Taken June 2017.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!