How To Be A Persuasive Writer (Without Studying Copywriting For 10 Years) [Part 2 of 3]
Learn 6 principles that drive people to take action
You don't need to be a copywriter to write persuasively, and you don't need years of experience or training (although it helps). Here's your crash course on how to be a persuasive writer.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series.
(In case you missed it, read part 1 first as it gives you important context for this edition)
In this part we cover:
- How people make buying decisions
- Logic comes second to emotion
- 95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind
- The psychology of persuasion - 6 principles that drive people to take action
Class is now in session!
How people make buying decisions
Any attempt at persuasive writing will fail if you fail to understand how people make buying decisions.
Think about the last time you made a considerable purchase (let's say something worth a few thousand dollars or more). How did you approach that decision? Hold that thought, as we'll circle back to it later.
Here are five critical factors to keep in mind about the way we make decisions:
- Our brains are designed to automatically categorize things.
- The more time we spend thinking about a decision, the less confident we feel about it.
- We tend to follow the crowd more often than we like to admit.
- 'Logic' comes second to emotion
- 95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.
I'm going to go in-depth into these five elements in a future newsletter, but for now, let's focus on #4 and #5, as the biggest mistake I see on sales pages, email marketing, and ads is related to these points.
'Logic' comes second to emotion
We're usually missing the mark when we try to appeal to someone's rational side to sell them something.
The fact is, people, don't make decisions based on logical reasoning (at least, not entirely). We like to think that we do, but studies show that emotion significantly influences buying behaviors.
Let's use a real life example to illustrate this point.
Do you remember the photo I shared (in part 1 of this series) of me on the scooter here in Vietnam?
Well, what you don't know is how I decided who to rent the scooter from in the first place.
C and I actually went to someone else initially to try and rent a scooter. They were conveniently located at the end of our apartment's street.
So we went and said hello to the woman at the bike rental shop. She asked what kind of model I was after and what my budget was, and I was forthcoming with this info. I was after a motorbike rental for 3 months, an automatic 125cc for around 1.2 million VND per month (approx. $80 AUD).
She opened up a book filled with photos of bikes they had to rent, pointed out a bike that would cost way more than my budget, and told me that it was a much more powerful bike.
I said, "that's outside my budget," so she flipped over the page and showed me bikes closer to my budget. The shopkeeper pointed at one in particular and said that the bike was out, but she should have it available for me to rent in a few days. This bike was a little more than I wanted to spend, but I said, "that's fine, can you call me when it comes in?"
She agreed and took my number.
As she was doing that, the woman told me yet again that I should go with the more expensive bike because it's a newer and more powerful model. She added that it was ideal for me because I'm a big guy.
I gotta tell you, that put me right off doing any business with her!
As it turns out, the woman didn't end up calling me as promised anyway. I rented the scooter from another shop that was recommended by someone in the Da Nang & Hoi An Expats FB group.
Can you see the woman's mistake?
She was clearly trying to sell me facts about the higher-priced product and failed to give me what I cared about most.
Takeaway: To influence somebody to make a particular decision and action, you want to join the conversation they already have in their heads.
You don't want to try and introduce a new concept, idea, feature, or function and pull them away from where they're currently at. This almost always fails.
95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind.
According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, the subconscious mind accounts for 95 percent of our purchasing decision-making.
So what does this mean for how people buy things?
It means that people make buying decisions based on their emotions and values and not necessarily on logic or facts.
For example, somebody might buy an iPhone instead of a cheaper Android phone because they want to be seen as trendsetting and cool.
Or, someone might buy a pair of shoes from a particular brand because they want to be associated with the luxury and status that the brand represents.
In both of these examples, logic takes a backseat to emotion.
Of course, this doesn't mean that logic is completely out of the equation. People still need to justify their purchase decisions to themselves (and sometimes to others).
How can you then, as a persuasive writer and marketer, ethically tap into the subconscious emotions of potential customers in a way that benefits your company?
Zaltman suggests three approaches:
- Double-check stated beliefs with actual behavior. For example, just because someone says they're environmentally conscious doesn't mean they'll actually pay more for green products or switch to veganism.
- Use physiological or response latency measures. In other words, our bodies give away signals that indicate when something we say is in alignment or not with our subconscious thoughts. For example, someone might say they're not interested in a product, but if their pupils dilate when they see it, that's a physiological response that indicates they actually are interested.
- Study the metaphors buyers use to express their thoughts and feelings. During in-depth, one-on-one interviews, you can probe for hidden meanings that may be contained within their metaphors.
Takeaway: To write persuasively, you must first understand what motivates your reader to buy on an emotional level.
This requires going beneath the surface to understand their subconscious desires and fears. Once you know these, you can craft persuasive arguments that speak directly to them.
Actionable tip: If you want to understand the emotions that drive people's behavior, start by conducting in-depth, one-on-one interviews with your target audience.
The 6 principles of persuasion
One of the most important things you need to know if you want to be a persuasive writer is the psychology behind persuasion. According to social psychologist Robert Cialdini, in his popular book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (over 5 million copies sold), there are six principles of persuasion:
- Reciprocity - when you give something of value, people feel obliged to return the favor
- Commitment & consistency - people would rather be consistent with their arguments/decisions (even if they're bad ones) than to deal with a logical reason that causes them to lose hope or be judged as flaky/inconsistent.
- Social proof - we typically believe something is good when we see evidence that other people like us have tried it first and have said it worked for them.
- Liking - we are more likely to buy from people who we deem similar to us.
- Authority- information from a perceived authority can give us a shortcut for deciding how to act in a particular situation.
- Scarcity - opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.
If you can master these principles, you will be well on your way to becoming a persuasive writer.
In fact, these principles are used all the time in marketing and advertising - and there's a reason for that - they WORK.
The key is to use them ethically and responsibly.
I highly suggest staying away from using unethical tactics like false scarcity. Some dodgy internet marketers claim things like "only 10 spots left!" or "this offer is only available in the next 60 minutes," when that's obviously not the case. That's just manipulative and unethical.
Much like a well-meaning parent trying to "trick" their kids into eating more veggies (instead of all that sugar they love to dig into), persuasive writing is all about finding the right mix of logic and emotion that speaks to your reader's needs.
Takeaway: Focus on providing value and using these 6 principles of persuasion in your writing to sell your products or services ethically.
Now, remember how I asked you about the last time you made a considerable purchase worth a few thousand dollars or more?
Did any of the 5 buying factors or 6 principles of persuasion play a role in that purchase? Chances are at least one or more of them were involved, right?
So that's a wrap for Part 2 of How To Be A Persuasive Writer (Without Studying Copywriting For 10 Years)!
In Part 3 of this series, I'll cover 5 techniques master copywriters use in their writing to hook their readers in, keep them engaged, and generate more sales. Look out for it in your inbox next Friday.
Before you go, please take one second to click on the poll below to give me some feedback:
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What's new this week
1/ I'm piloting a new monthly coaching program starting in Oct where I'll help solopreneurs focus on the activities that will get them more clients and sales. Want more info? Reply with "Accelerator" in the subject.
2/ I published 2 blog posts:
3/ My article on finding your authentic voice was mentioned in the Freelance Jungle Sept newsletter. Bek Lambert also wrote a thought-provoking piece (as she normally does) on why we seek out negativity and what we can do instead. It's worth a read.