How to write persuasively

Over the years, millions have been spent on research to identify the persuasive words and ideas in business communications to write persuasively.

Here’s a brief guide on what that research and our experience tells us. Like so much of what lies behind success in life, some of the answers are exactly what your common sense would predict.

First, choose the right style to write persuasively

If you’re addressing a nuclear physicist on a non-scientific matter, do you have to write differently than you would to a fine artist or to someone who fixes roads for a living?

The short answer is no. A clear, concise writing style works for everyone. Dropping in complicated words when simple ones do the job just as well is irritating and unnecessary. It marks you down as a poser who is trying hard to impress.

Write persuasively with the person in mind

We make no apology for repeating this advice frequently. One of the most persuasive words in English (and probably many other languages too) is you.

You’ll notice that advertising copy relies on this word to establish an instant connection to the reader. To say “…we are bringing you this special offer…” creates an intimacy that makes the prospect feel they have a valued relationship with the advertiser.

Where a message can be personalized, the persuasive power increases tenfold. Through research, we know of many cases where personalized promotions have enabled marketers to charge more for a product than when broadcasting to a mass audience.

It’s free. Want it?

Of course you do. We all want something for nothing. But be careful: this is a loaded word that can sometimes work against you.

If you have regular customers and you offer them a free gift you know they’ll want, like extra product for example, this helps to sustain their loyalty.

But it also attracts bargain hunters who search the internet and supermarket shelves for free gifts and discounts. They have no loyalty and will simply hop from one special offer to another.

Free stuff that relates to the context of your product or service is always going to perform best. If you’re selling a food product, a free recipe card in the pack is always going to help boost sales.

If you’re in a business where you can offer free courses, newsletters or guides these will always create interest in what you have to sell. With the scale of online shopping in certain product categories, free items like these are expected.

But avoid overdoing the free offers or your brand or company will develop a discount image and, as we know, low price is not a sustainable business model. There’s always be somebody ready to undercut you.

Why? Because

Anyone faced with a purchasing decision, especially if the price tag is on the hefty side, is going to ask themselves why they’re choosing on option over another. Mostly, the genuine reasons will be emotional but they will be justified with logic. Or what passes for it.

Why do you choose a BMW over a Mercedes or a Jaguar? Your justifications will be practical issues like comfort, safety, fuel economy, warranty, easy access to the dealership for servicing, resale value, maintenance costs and so on.

All fine and wonderful. And all nonsense. There’s hardly any difference between the cost and practicality of comparable models from these three manufacturers. So you’ll choose the brand you feel most closely reflects the real you.

Knowing this, always find a balance between emotional and practical justifications to write persuasively. Tell them what it is you want them to do and why it’s in their best interests to do so.

What’s new?

Something new or unexpected has the power to excite our curiosity. While consumers stick with brands they trust, they’re also seduced by something that might do the job better or simply has some sparkling new features they can brag about.

Like free things, new things should be carefully controlled. Brands that proudly announce a great new pack without mentioning that the only difference is it contains less product are likely to be jeered and scolded relentlessly on social media .

Keep your news announcements to only those changes that represent a positive additional benefit.

We want it. And we want it now

In this age of instant gratification, our brains are wired to get excited by immediate rewards. Web-based marketing is fuelling this tendency at an alarming rate. You can buy and start reading an e-book just by shuffling your mouse.

As long as you have a credit card, you can buy almost anything you want without leaving home. Companies like Amazon were onto this very quickly, which is why they’ve expanded their business beyond music, books and toys to include groceries and…well by the time you read this who knows what else they’ll sell you.

If you’re in the business of selling physical products, you’ll want to emphasize how easy it is to buy and how quickly it will be delivered. Some marketers allow customers to track their purchases from the factory to their doorstep.

Phrases like these add urgency and encourage customers to make decisions:

  • Fast relief
  • Works quickly
  • Now available
  • Instantly improves or reduces
  • Today’s offer
  • Ready in minutes
  • Immediate response or access
  • Rapid delivery
  • In a flash
  • Your order will be processed straightaway
  • No waiting
  • No unnecessary paperwork

Above all, don’t over-promise

To remain competitive, we’re all under pressure to deliver on or before deadline. To be better, quicker, cheaper and more effective.

When you introduce powerful, persuasive words into your work, use them sparingly and always justifiably. Don’t be tempted make claims you can’t substantiate or live up to.

Because, above everything else, the most persuasive quality of all is trust.

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