As an online retailer you have many advantages.
You can offer your products 24/7 without the staffing cost, you do not pay for bricks and mortar overhead, your audience can be global, and you can know more about your purchasers than any bricks and mortar retailer can possibly discover. That is wonderful and you probably know a lot about how to exploit those benefits already.
On the downside, you do not have a flesh and blood buyer standing in front of you, so you can not get an immediate feeling for them, for example by looking at how they are dressed or how much eye contact they are willing to make. You also can’t change your message based on the responses you receive in your personal interaction. This means:
1. You have to know your target market very well, because you are removed from the personal interaction.
2. You need to make your communication count, because you have limited ways and time to communicate information and inspire action.
Point one has a great deal to do with how you are gathering and analysing data. Point two, the focus of Part I of this series, is about how you communicate information and persuade people to buy your products.
Websites communicate with colour choices, fonts, graphics, video and text. Many business owners feel much more confident choosing colours and photos than they do writing content to persuade, so let’s look at that issue in more depth. We will look at how to focus your writing on your customer.
Appeal to your target audience
Before you can master persuasive copywriting, you need to master point one, know your audience; your writing needs to identify with that audience. For example, if your audience is teenagers, you need to use flashier, more edgy language that is absolutely current. If your audience is business people, you need to write succinctly, avoid loose language habits, and use industry specific words where it makes sense.
Remember ‘What is in it for me?‘
One of the major downfalls of people writing about their products or services is that they know too much about the subject, and they want to convey all that good, helpful information to their reader.
Unfortunately, more often than not, the reader, at least initially, does not want all of that information. They want to know how your product is going to help them.
That means that, instead of writing a laundry list of your products features, you need to write about how those features benefit the purchaser.
That is easy to figure out if you are selling the energy drink with the highest caffeine content. Your energy drink user is looking for an energy boost, obviously. If that is your claim, use this benefit as a headline to draw attention to the superior way you will solve the user’s problem, such as:
- The energy kick that keeps on kicking., or more to the point;
- XYZ delivers the most powerful energy rush in the marketplace and we have got the caffeine content to prove it.
Or, if caffeine is a negative read, just leave that part out of the phrasing.
It is possible to make this benefit more targeted as well. What if you know that your product attracts a lot of younger women because it has fewer calories than other, more sugar laden brands? You could say:
- All the energy without the calories or
- Get the most energy and leave the calories behind or
- XYZ delivers the most powerful energy rush in the marketplace without the extra calories
Demonstrating benefit may be harder if you are selling a commodity such as office supplies. You are not likely to talk about the notion that your paper clips are stronger or your glue is stickier.
Again, you need to know your audience and the benefit your products are providing. If your audience comprises businesses, your benefits may have to do with price or service.
For example, maybe you offer the customer the opportunity to create a standard office supply list with the stationery sizes and brands they prefer. When they arrive on your site, their preferences pop up and they can just choose the quantity of presentation folders, because your site already knows that they want glossy white folders with two pockets and a business card holder.
- Just tell us once and we remember your office favorites or
- Faster supply purchasing starts here
The primary message is, be sure that your copy leads with the benefits to the purchaser.
A Tip about Headlines
One interesting way to find out more about which word or headlines people in your target user group respond to is to go to the website Digg.com. Digg is an information sharing site where people submit material from the Web that they think is worthy of sharing, and other people vote on the value of the content.
Try searching the Digg site for the keywords related to your product, then review the subject lines of the material found. This exercise will give you a sense of what kind of headlines attract the people interested in your products.
How To Be Effective In Your Persuasive Writing – Part II
In Part II of How To Be Effective In Your Persuasive Writing we will explore how to make your writing more persuasive by voice, tense and more to increase your sales conversions even further. Now that you have established a benefit to your reader, you have to persuade the reader to believe you. There are a number of ways to engage and persuade with your writing.
Facts and evidence Your next challenge is to establish credibility and provide evidence. In the earlier example of the energy drink with the greatest caffeine content:
- You can simply lay out the facts, e.g., create a chart of the most popular energy drinks and report the caffeine content (and possibly the calorie content or whatever else makes your brand superior).
- You may want to explain why caffeine is a better stimulant than the sugar, herbs or enzymes that other manufacturers use in their drinks.
- If you worry that readers may think you have too much caffeine in your drink, you might want to quote the Food Standard’s Authority’s or FDA’s recommendations for safe levels of caffeine for consumption in a single dose.
Depending on your product, you may want to establish yourself as an expert in order to assure people that your advice is credible. If you sell professional grade construction tools, you may want to say that after 25 years in the construction business, you know which tools trades people rely on to get the job done.
In our earlier office supply example, you may want to quote a study (if there is one) that discovered that even though there are 400 types of pens available on the largest office supply sites, most offices typically purchase one to five types consistently. Your site captures those preferences to save the purchaser the trouble of wading through all of the options to get to their preferred models.
Customer ratings and testimonials are a wonderful form of evidence about the value of your product. You can say that your approach saves office managers time in the ordering process but the impact is greater when Doris from PQR Industries says, I cut my ordering time in half by using ABCs preferred purchaser system. Always use the original testimonial from your customers, you can take snippets from the original testimonial to portray a summary of the testimonial, thus reducing the amount of text your customers have to read.
Writing Style Your writing style is a very important element of producing good copy. There are some easy and some not so easy ways to make your language pop for the reader.
Active Tense Try to keep as much of the writing as possible in the present tense. Instead of saying, The research showed say The research shows. The past is dull; the present is interesting and more vibrant.
Personal Speak to your reader as much as possible, as long as it makes sense. That means using you and your instead of the or other impersonal references. The same goes for references to you or your company. Talk about we or our to make a more personal connection with your reader. For example, in the phrasing above, The research shows, if it makes sense, say Our research shows. Instead of saying, ABC Company is committed to customer satisfaction, try All of us at ABC Company commit to keeping you satisfied. Or, if that is a bit too much for you, try We are committed to satisfying our customers.
Active vs. Passive Voice Many, many writers revert to passive language and in doing so; reduce the impact of their writing as well as adding unnecessary words. Passive language makes content sound like a dry technical treatise. For example, instead of Research has shown that 95% of ABC Company’s customers were pleased with their purchase try 95% of our customers say they are satisfied with their purchase.
Hit the nail on the head with language This approach is sometimes difficult for people and it really does take some time and thinking to get it right. When you are writing, do not settle for the most convenient verb or adjective when there is something better or more to the point that you can use. For example, is the finish yellow or canary yellow? Does your new foam pillow let you sleep just better or more peacefully or soundly? Resist the temptation to jump off a cliff with this technique. It makes good sense to use a thesaurus to look for more fitting words but do not choose the most esoteric just for show. In fact, if the best fitting word is very esoteric, it still may not be the right word because too many people will miss the meaning.
Do not sensationalise Lots of exclamation points and words like killer features or best on the Web can be credibility busters unless you can in fact prove that you are right. Best on the Web, for example, is a pretty tall order.
Say it with a twist Try to use interesting and unusual ways to make your point. If you have a teen audience and you want to describe how much better your calculator is than anyone else, you can say, You will be able to calculate the trajectory of a projectile way faster than your physics teacher. Awkward! maybe but mostly way cool.
Writers Block With all of these rules and guidelines, you may find it hard to even begin to sputter any words out. Pause for a second, and try to think about your audience and what they need to hear to understand the benefit of your product and business. Dive in and write something. Now step back and begin to compare what you have written to the advice, piece by piece. Do not do a massive rewrite.
Instead, change passive to active words. Then challenge the verbs and adjectives to see if you can do better. Remove any sensationalising language. Change impersonal language to personal language and so on. Once you have done that, step back and see if you have accomplished your goal. Even if you are not 100% there, you will be a lot closer to producing persuasive copy.
Proofread. Use the spell checker on your computer to check the spellings of the words (if applicable). Also check your paper twice for yourself to make sure the content makes sense. Have others check your paper. The more the essay is checked, the easier it is to find mistakes.
- Be aware of the possible counter-arguments that would go against what you are trying to say. You need to plan ahead for oppositions. Therefore, list some common oppositions and have counters for them.
- Use synonyms. Having the same word over and over will place a toll on the reader’s nerves. Mix it up a bit. Also, do not use boring words, such as “big” or “cool.” Instead, try “enormous” or “compassionate.”
- If you already have writer’s block, take a break for a couple days and keep yourself occupied with ideas. Look for inspiration.
- Don’t make the essay too long. Long papers are not always impressive and can be plain boring.
- Avoid the use of personal pronouns such as “I” or “you”. This takes away from your writing’s professional touch.
- Use facts or statistics.
- Make sure you know your audience. Stick to a certain tone, whether it is formal, informal, funny, pleading, etc.
- When restating, do not duplicate any sentence. Your audience will not skip over any part, so there isn’t a need for stressing the same point over and over.
- Use a persuasive statement
- Use similes and metaphors. Say things like, “She was as graceful as a butterfly.” Or “He was like a tiger, always hungry.” Use ‘like’ and ‘as’
- Make each sentence count. Adding extra sentences will not drive your point home. Keep the essay clear and concise.
- You can also write three paragraphs for the body, and instead of minor points, write logical, supporting reasons for the topic.
- Don’t plagiarize people’s work, you could get kicked out of school for that.
- If you get writer’s block easily, try to find a topic you are really interested in.
- Try to hook your audience in your first paragraph, then slowly draw them in throughout your entire essay, until the last paragraph, where you let them go (a lot like fishing).
- Try not to restate what you’ve already said.
- Be sure to keep your deadline in mind if you’re having issues brainstorming!
- Be sure to have a clear side on the argument; Don’t switch sides or contradict yourself.