Persuasive writing without cheese

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. Persuasive content is not brightly coloured, bold, italicised or a combination of all three. All that does is to create a look that’s cheesy, unprofessional and downright stupid.

The power must come from the words you use and not the form that they take.

Another thing to remember is that readers are inherently lazy. They are on the hunt for information. They are not going to waste their time hunting for what they want; it has to be directly in front of them, simply written and easily understood.

Now we’ve got that out the way, let’s talk about what makes content persuasive.

Write for scanners, not readers

I mentioned earlier that readers are lazy, which is why your content must be scannable.

No writer wants to believe that their lovingly crafted prose isn’t going to be read word for word. However, in the world of marketing, that is precisely what happens. Readers scan content and pick out the bits that are important to them.

Therefore, the trick is to create content that’s interesting, powerful and scannable – a piece of cake!

It begins with the headline

Your headline is the make or break of your content.

If it’s weak, no one will read it. If it’s overly sensational, no one will read it. If it’s too cryptic, no one will read it.

It has to be compelling; something that promises to solve the issue the reader is facing. But be warned – whatever your headline implies, make sure you deliver on it. If you don’t, your credibility will swiftly head down the tubes.

What comes next?

Next, you must use the power of language. Here’s a rather lengthy checklist of techniques you can use in your writing:

  • Create a strong opening paragraph to draw your readers in
  • Use subheadings to structure your content
  • Keep your sentences short, your language active and straightforward
  • Address the reader directly by writing in the second person (i.e. lots of ‘you’)
  • Stay away from jargon, gobbledygook and empty buzzwords
  • Be credible – don’t use terms like ‘marketing leading’ if you can’t prove it
  • Facts, figures and statistics add weight to your content
  • Use bullet points to emphasis important information
  • Create memorable soundbites that are easily quotable
  • Storytelling techniques will help you convince your reader
  • Use the rule of three to add power to your words
  • Use the word ‘because’ – because it gives your readers a reason why they should take action
  • Anticipate and overcome objections
  • Plant the seeds of curiosity to keep them reading – such as not only that…but here comes the best part…
  • Sell real benefits (things that will transform lives)
  • Don’t assume your readers have the same level of knowledge as you
  • Blend logic with emotion (use facts and stories)
  • Create a natural, conversational tone
  • Understand your audience

Probably the most important item is the last one – know your audience. If you don’t understand their issues and motivations, you won’t know how to use the other techniques to reach them.

Every audience is different, so every approach will be different. So, if you want my advice, that’s where you need to start.