Don’t kid yourself into thinking that your viewers believe your testimonials are real and genuine. Any website that hosts its own testimonials has the opportunity to molest and curate its own testimonials and every viewer knows it. There are three rules to make testimonials more persuasive that you can start using today.

If everybody knows you can alter and curate your testimonials, is there any point in having them in the first place? Probably not, but if you are dead set on having testimonials on your website, then you need to make testimonials more persuasive.

Before you hire a bunch of writers to create a set of positive testimonials for your website, take a look at these three unusual tactics for making testimonials more persuasive.

Use A Long-Form Testimonial That Goes Into Intimate Detail

Long testimonials make testimonials persuasive

Long testimonials make testimonials persuasive

The very idea that a long testimonial is more persuasive than a shorter one seems silly because most people would assume that a longer testimonial is more likely to have been written by the company’s marketing department rather than a genuine customer. However, there is a form of cognitive dissonance that occurs when people read larger testimonials.

Despite the fact that the user probably believes the longer testimonial was written by a member of the website’s own staff, the fact is that the user is still more likely to read the longer review than any of the shorter reviews. This is especially true if the testimonial has headings, and things such as lists, alternative purchases, and pros & cons sections.

Look at Amazon book reviews. The longest reviews are almost always the ones with the most “This was helpful” votes. Even if the review looks like it was written by the author’s friends, it is still more readable and attractive than the hundreds of smaller reviews/testimonials on Amazon.

It is better to have a semi-convincing review that is long and read by the user, rather than a series of smaller very-convincing reviews that are not read by the user.  

Name All The Bad Stuff And Convert Them Into Selling Points

Convert bad stuff into selling points make testimonials persuasive

Convert bad stuff into selling points make testimonials persuasive

When most people shop online, they do not read the hundreds of positive reviews. They search out the negative reviews. People do this because most people are aware that reviews and testimonials can be bought.

We have all seen the list of positive reviews on Amazon that were written by a marketing department, and then the several recent ones that are negative because they are real. You can use the fact that people search out negative reviews by using negative reviews/testimonials to sell your product or service.

There are two ways you can do this, you may do it by giving negative points and making them illogical, or you may answer negative reviews with selling points. Let’s start with a few examples of negative testimonials that you have added to your website that are actually illogical.

This book on “Sixteen Ways To Cook Beef” was full of tasty ideas, but I was very disappointed that they didn’t offer vegetarian alternatives.

The plumber turned up on time and had the problem fixed in ten minutes, which means there was very little wrong. I should have taken a look at it myself before calling.

Do not use this taxi service. Why is this taxi firm charging per mile? They should charge for the time it takes to get places. I am paying for a taxi’s time and not for how far it takes me.

Alternatively, you can allow negative reviews and then offer replies that create selling points. If done correctly, this can be a very powerful way to sell your product.

Do not make the mistake of asking the reviewer to contact your company via the replies because that is what all of the worst companies say.

Here are a few examples of negative testimonials and their replies that turn negatives into positives.

Testimonial – I received the second-hand DVD and it is scratched. It only works on my PC and not on my DVD player.

Reply – Thank you for letting us know, we will issue a refund right away. Also, we have invested in DVD cleaning machines. Every second-hand DVD we sell will now be cleared of scratches prior to being sent out.

Testimonial – Your writing service doesn’t cover formatting and setting styles. I hate having to set out my essays and I always get it wrong. You should at least offer a paid service so that people like me don’t have to suffer.

Reply – Quite right! We have instituted a new policy. All student customers will now have their essays set out and formatted free of charge whenever an essay is bought or an essay is proofread. Please return your essay and we will format it for free within 24 hours.

Allow Anybody To Leave A Testimonial And A Reply And Have It Post Immediately

A big part of making a testimonial believable is less about what is written and more about how the testimonial came to life. If you can prove to people that what regular people are writing is what is coming up on your testimonial page, then you may be able to convince people that your testimonials are real.

That is why it is important for you to make the testimonial process very easy. Any visitor should be able to leave a testimonial without having to sign in and without having to buy something. It should be clearly obvious to the user that he or she may start writing a testimonial right away, and that the user doesn’t need to have an account.

What is just as important is what happens after the user clicks to submit the review. If the system says that the testimonial is awaiting moderation, then the user will give up on the website and probably continue to believe that the testimonials on the website are curated. However, if the testimonial appears right away on the web page, then the user will have a hard time denying that genuine testimonials must exist on your website.

Many webmasters will not allow people to post directly to their web pages for a number of reasons. The most common reason is that it allows spammers to add content right away, but you can use spam catching software to stop that.

The second most common reason is that it allows users to add troll messages or negative messages into an area where potential customers may see them, but this doesn’t matter.

If your product or your service is a good one, then the troll messages or the negative messages will be dwarfed by the many positive messages. Plus, every Monday there is nothing stopping you from going through your testimonials and deleting a few of the most damning ones. After all, it is not as if your users are going to return every week to see if their testimonial is still there.

With the use of social media and web access at all-time highs, it’s more important than ever to create powerful content that converts and makes sure that you engage with your customers. With the 2018 marketing trends in mind, leads and potential customers are looking for a personal touch. They want an account of how your product or service works, what people are happy with and what challenges they face in using it. They do not want a marketing funnel.
This is where using your customer’s voice comes in. When used right, your current customers’ voices can be used to create powerful content that actually converts leads!
For the purpose of this post, you can all but forget fancy terms and processes. Conversion funnels, influencer marketing, engagement – these all have a place in business, but it’s not necessarily here. Instead, this post is all about why interacting with current customers is so important and how you can use this interaction to create authentic content. This is the kind of content customers are looking for – and it just so happens to be the kind of content that converts.

The Importance of Leveraging Honest & Authentic Reviews

At the base of using your customer’s voice to create powerful content is a preliminary step; encouraging and gathering honest and authentic user reviews. Without customer reviews, you won’t have much to go off of when it comes to incorporating customers’ perspectives into your content planning!
Thankfully, there is no shortage of review sites available to B2B and software companies. Do your research. Take the time find one or two that fit your business and your customer profile. Then take the time to invite (and maybe even incentivize?) your customers to submit reviews about your software, your service, your product. This will have more than a few benefits for your company, including:

  1. It gives credibility: Content plan or not, opening up your service or product to authentic reviews is just a good idea – full stop. Instead of having to convincing leads with marketing language, you can rely on informative and positive feedback from current customers to help potential customers make their decision.
  2. More leads: More customer reviews means more exposure and a better ranking, which means more leads. It’s as simple as that.
  3. A pool of content: Of course, this is the focus of the post. Encouraging reviews gives you a pool of customer feedback to incorporate into your marketing content! Positive reviews can be translated into featured website content, blog posts, social media content, and more.

Using Your Customer’s Voice to Create Content That Converts

Of course, it’s not enough to simply open up your company to authentic customer reviews and leave it at that. You can take the time to translate your customer’s voice into marketing content! There are a few ways to go about this.

#1: Manage Your Potential Customer’s Expectations

You can use reviews to help potential customers understand what your service, product or software looks like in practice. Instead of imagining everything they could do with the features, customer reviews give leads the chance to explore how your product will truly work for them.
For example, sharing customer reviews that highlight specific features of your service or product will speak more specifically to a smaller target audience.

#2: Customer Experience Speaks Louder Than Marketing Language

This is absolutely the main benefit of customer reviews; you can use all of the positive quotes you want in developing a content strategy! You can incorporate reviews (especially specific and helpful reviews) into blog posts, landing pages, social media content, and even demos!
For example, try replacing the headline copy on one of your landing pages with a quote from an authentic user review. Run an A/B test and see how that page compares to others.

#3: Listen to What’s Important

If your current customers are focusing on technical support and price in their reviews, then you shouldn’t really be spending that much time on something else. Look at what features customers focus on in their feedback, and spend time developing content around those features.
For example, if most reviews focus on the quality for the price, you can use that in your marketing language for paids. Similarly, if customers are highlighting your customer service, home in on that for attracting new customers.
This should get you started on using your customer’s voice to create content that converts going into 2018!

About the Author

Brooklin_Nash-167x250Brooklin Nash writes about the latest tools and small business trends for TrustRadius. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (with guilty pleasure) and cooking.

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

Note: The following conversion copywriting tricks are reprinted from the ebook 21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions.

You just lost some potential revenue.

There goes some more.

A poor conversion rate will pick your pocket day after day. That’s why you’ll love these 7 conversion copywriting hacks. They’re quick and easy. And you can start using them today.

REPEAT YOUR CUSTOMERS/PROSPECTS

You may have heard that you should write like your customers speak. It builds rapport and credibility. Readers are more likely to think to themselves, “This company gets me and my issue.”

But rather than just guess what your target audience would say, use their actual words.

That’s what Sarah Peterson did when promoting her Etsy course.

The highlighted phrase stood out among responses to a survey she sent to prospects.

A key phrase from survey response

A key phrase from survey response

She used that exact phrase to resonate with prospects in her sales email.

The key phrase inserted into marketing email

The key phrase inserted into marketing email

There are several ways you can do this same thing.

  1. Speak with your customers and prospects. Pick up the phone and have a quick chat. Do more listening than speaking, and write down what they say. Or, if the person gives you permission, record it so you can transcribe it later.
  2. Survey your audience. This could even be as simple as a one question survey that you put on your website. Make sure that it’s open-ended.
  3. Search reviews and forums. See what people are saying not just about your offering, but your competitors as well. This can be a great way to uncover pain points.

SWAP YOUR HEADLINE AND SUBHEAD

It’s amazing how many times I see a landing page where the subhead is stronger than the headline. Maybe the writer is trying to be clever or creative. Perhaps they think the headline shouldn’t be more than a few words long.

Whatever the reason, it’s killing conversions. If it’s not immediately clear what you’re offering me, why should I read on?

Fortunately, the subheads usually have this information. So an easy fix is to just make the subhead your headline.

Here’s a good example:

The subheading is the value proposition

The subheading is the value proposition

A stronger converting headline

A stronger converting headline

See how much clearer this page is when the subhead and headline are switched?

CUT YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH

This is a hack that goes back to the heyday of direct mail. It’s designed to help you get right to the point.

Getting to the point quickly sounds pretty obvious. But you’d be surprised how many marketing pieces waste words trying to introduce themselves or state the obvious.

People don’t care about that. They care about themselves. What is it your offer is going to do for them? Tell them right away why they should care.

If your first paragraph doesn’t do this, scrap it and start with the next one.

ADD ASSUMPTIVE PHRASING

Here’s a nifty little psychological hack.

Write your copy as if the conversion is a foregone conclusion.

Simply look through your copy and add phasing like this to some of your statements:

“When you start your trial…”

“You’ll love how…”

“As you’ll see…”

The power of this hack lies with the endowment effect, a phenomenon where we value what we already own more than something we never had. By writing as if your prospect already owns what you’re selling, he or she imagines that situation.

Presuppositions are another type of assumptive phrasing you can use to add persuasive power to your copy. These statements infer something else is true. For instance, if I ask, “Which of these copywriting hacks are you going to use first?” that infers that you are indeed going to use them.

You must accept the inference to be true in order to avoid incongruence within the sentence. We’re wired to avoid incongruence because it requires more brain power.

Use this to your advantage by creating presuppositions with words such as:

Finally. “You can finally get in shape without spending hours in the gym.” (Presupposes that you had to spend hours in the gym to get in shape.)

Start. “Start earning the income you deserve.” (Presupposes that you aren’t currently earning what you deserve.)

Stop. “Stop wasting time on diets that don’t work.” (Presupposes that you are wasting your time.)

Again. “This car makes driving fun again.” (Presupposes that you once enjoyed driving but now find it to be a chore.)

Anymore. “Getting your kids to do their homework won’t be a battle anymore.” (Presupposes that getting your kids to do their homework is a battle.)

How will you use assumptive language in your marketing? (See what I did there?)

USE THE WORD “BECAUSE”

We like to think that we’re rational. That’s why we like to have a reason for doing things people ask of us. But here’s the interesting part. Simply having a reason is often more important than the reason itself.

Consider this famous social experiment:

In 1978, researchers approached people in line for the copier machine and asked to cut in front. They tested the effectiveness of three different phrases.

  1. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” was successful 60% of the time
  2. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” was successful 94% of the time
  3. “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” was successful 93% of the time

It’s not surprising that people let the researchers cut in line more often when a reason was given. What is surprising is that whether that reason was valid or bogus had no significant impact.

Look at that third phrasing again. Of course, they had to make copies. So did everyone else in line. That’s what a copier is for.

So why did that excuse work?

Often with small requests, we take a mental shortcut. Instead of processing the actual request and reason, we recognize that a reason was given, and we comply.

It’s important to note that the reason for the request becomes more important as the request gets larger.

When the researchers repeated the experiment with 20 pages instead of 5, giving a bogus reason had the same effect as giving no reason. Both were successful only 24% of the time compared to 42% when a valid reason was given.

To use this in your marketing, look for areas where you want the reader to do something and add a “because.”

“Act now because this offer expires in 10 days.”

Because you’re the type of person who…”

“We’re giving away free samples because we want you to see for yourself.”

USE PATTERN INTERRUPTS

Attention spans are short these days. Even if your copy is great, most readers will start to lose interest if you don’t shake things up a bit. Pattern Interrupts are a great way to do just that.

Pattern Interrupts are a neuro-linguistic programming technique designed to break the expected pattern of thoughts or behaviors. There are a couple of ways to use it in your marketing.

The first is to keep readers engaged. In a long-form piece of marketing, the reader expects paragraphs to follow paragraphs and on. This familiar pattern allows the brain to go on autopilot. You don’t want this. You want readers’ attention.

Break the pattern by adding testimonials, sidebars, callouts and other devices that temporarily interrupt the narrative of your text. Take a look at these examples.

Interrupting the pattern and flow

Interrupting the pattern and flow

Interrupting the pattern and flow

Interrupting the pattern and flow

You can also use a Pattern Interrupt to disarm readers or refocus their attention. People don’t like to be sold to. As a result, they reflexively put their guards up when they expect a sales pitch.

But what if your copy doesn’t start off as expected?

Use a Pattern Interrupt to disarm readers or refocus their attention.

Readers expecting a typical sales pitch will probably have a different mindset when they read something like this:

Shift the mindset

Shift the mindset

REMIND READERS OF THEIR FREE WILL

A team in France first proved how effective the “But You Are Free (BYOF)” technique is with this social experiment.

One of the experimenters would stop people in a mall and ask for change to ride the bus. In half of the instances, he or she added the phrase, “But you are free to accept or to refuse.”

Significantly more people gave money when the BYOF technique was used. Not only that, but the amount they gave was twice as much.

Follow-up studies have proved BYOF effective in requests for donations to a tsunami relief fund, participation in a survey, and many other situations.

It works by combating something called psychological reactance. Wikipedia describes it this way:

“Reactance occurs when a person feels that someone or something is taking away his or her choices or limiting the range of alternatives.

Reactances can occur when someone is heavily pressured to accept a certain view or attitude. Reactance can cause the person to adopt or strengthen a view or attitude that is contrary to what was intended, and also increases resistance to persuasion.

With this one simple phrase, you remove reactance and open your prospect’s mind to your persuasion. “

Note: The specific wording doesn’t matter as much as the sentiment. You can also use variations such as:

  • The choice is yours
  • It’s completely up to you
  • You may do as you wish
  • But obviously do not feel obliged

When you see how well these techniques work you’ll wish you started using them sooner.

Download the full ebook for all 21 copywriting hacks.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

FREE: Click to Download

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The power of Three

We all want to be influential.

We want our words to carry weight. We want our presence to be felt. We want our existence to be significant.

And we want it to be natural.

We don’t want to be pushy or salesy. We don’t want to be overly self-promotional.

We just want to be persuasive.

Today, we’re going to learn how to persuade people without trying. We’re going to look at 8 ways to be naturally influential no matter who we’re with or what we’re doing.

We’ll be analyzing these both from a personal and a marketing perspective, but at the end of the day, they are highly effective in any sort of interpersonal engagement, from networking, to making new friends, to managing complex family relationships… basically any scenario where there are two or more people involved.

Let’s get started.

Related Reading: 21 Fascinating Persuasion Techniques for Conversion Optimization

1. Use Mirroring To Establish Subconscious Agreement

One of the quickest and easiest ways to establish a position of influence with an individual is mirroring.

Mirroring is the act of copying a person’s body language, tone, volume, and rate of speech. It’s essentially just reflecting the other person’s behavior back to them, like a mirror reflects an image.

According to studies by Stanford University Professor Jeremy Bailenson and his colleague Dr. Nick Yee, the act of mirroring one’s behavior demonstrated an increase in social influence over the person they were mimicking. In the studies conducted, they found that individuals who mirrored were more persuasive and were rated more positively than those who didn’t mirror.

In the context of typical interpersonal connections, mirroring a person’s behavior tends to put them at ease and can significantly increase the chance of building rapport with the individual. It can put people at ease, break through subconscious resistance, encourage trust, and more.

Like most items we’ll discuss today, mirroring will need to be consciously learned until it become a subconscious part of how you interact with people. The simplest way to begin is to match the person’s stance and conversational tempo. When practicing, a good rule of thumb is to wait 5-10 seconds before attempting to mirror someone’s stance, so as not to be too obvious.

On a note of caution, mirroring can backfire if you are mirroring highly negative postures like crossing both your arms and your legs or turning your upper body away from them.

2. Interweave Pauses & Silences To Dictate Listener Rhythm

Silence makes many people uncomfortable. There is no denying that.

For a lot of people silence is so powerful that they cannot resist filling it. Filling the void for them almost becomes second nature.

Naturally influential people are aware of the effect silence has on people and use it as a persuasive tool in everyday conversation.

From a strategic perspective, they understand that whoever fills the void of silence is more likely to disclose too much information, give clues to the influencer, or even make a mistake that might advantage the listener.

From perhaps a less calculated perspective, people who aren’t afraid of silence – who are deliberate and unhurried in their actions and conversations – elicit a feeling of control and confidence. It can be a bit of chicken and egg situation, but even if you don’t feel confident, you can project confidence by being patient in your discourse.

Additional advantages to silence and pauses include a better ability to listen and process information, a chance to decide on the most articulate and effective way to communicate a thought, the ability to better understand the speaker and make a more personal connection.

The bottom line here is that silence is powerful, and if you want to learn how to persuade people without needing to try, mastering the art of silence should be at the top of your priority list.

3. Surround Yourself With Other Influential People

Jim Rohn You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with

Who do you spend time with?

Jim Rohn famously said, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with”.

This saying aligns with the law of averages, which is a theory that “the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.”

While on a daily basis we may interact with lots of people, in reality very few of them have a great impact on us. Very few people actually influence our decisions the way we think.

When you surround yourself with the people you aspire to learn from and emulate, you will naturally rise to their level. Spending more time with influential people will put you in a position to absorb their knowledge, mannerisms, and general outlook on life, all of which contributes significantly to their success.

Influential people aren’t afraid to reach out to other influential people for help and for advice. They understand the value of connecting with social influencers, successful entrepreneurs, and connectors, as Malcolm Gladwell on “Are You a Connector”.

We all get to choose who we spend our time with, and one of the best ways to become naturally influential is to spend time around naturally influential people.

4. Encourage People To Talk About Themselves

People love talking about themselves.

Renowned Princeton Psychologist Diana Tamir found in one study that between 30-40% of our speech is focused solely on ourselves. In that same study Tamir noted that when people talked about themselves, their brain scan showed signs of activity in the areas of the brain most closely linked to motivation and value. That same area of the brain associated with talking about oneself is also associated with the thrills of sex, money, food, and drug use.

When you are meeting someone new, the best way to establish rapport is to encourage them to do what they already want to do: talk about themselves.

Start with a bit of small talk but then ask or two meaningful questions and really listen to the answer. Turn the answer into a follow up question that signals to the speaker you find their comments interesting and encourages them to go deeper.

Not only will the speaker feel valued by your attention and inquiries, but they will also give you a broader look into who they are, provide you with numerous opportunities to establish common ground and make a personal connection.

If you want to gauge how well you do this already, think back on a recent conversation and determine what percentage of the time you spent speaking versus listening. The more time you spend listening, the more influence you tend to have on the person involved.

Some people are quiet or passive and let others do the talking because they aren’t confident or simply have nothing to say. This, of course, is NOT what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is intentional and incredibly active. By encouraging others to speak about themselves, you can naturally make them gravitate towards you, regardless of the context.

5. How to Persuade Someone: Give Something Before You Ask For Anything

You’re probably familiar with the concept of reciprocity.

When you give someone something, it encourages them to return the favor and give something to you as well. In the marketing world, the most common example of this in action is the lead magnet:

A lead magnet example from Conversion Sciences

A lead magnet example from Conversion Sciences

But reciprocity isn’t limited to marketing funnels, and it can be used to make you a naturally influential person in every context.

They key is simply to be a generous person. What you are generous with is up to you. It could be your time. It could be your money. It could be your influence. People want to help those who are helpful to them, and regardless of what you give, when you are a giving person, you naturally become an influential person.

Stop right now and think of the most influential people in your life. I guarantee you aren’t thinking of “influencers” you’ve never met. You’re thinking of people have given a lot to you personally, and the reality is that in a world of increasingly “remote” people, the threshold for what constitutes personal generosity gets lower and lower.

If you’re skeptical, run an experiment. Spend a month going out of your way to be generous, and see what types of doors it opens and relationships it builds.

6. Understand the Difference Between Persuasion and Negotiation

Persuasion and negotiation are often thrown into the same category. This is a mistake. Negotiation and persuasion are nearly exact opposites and knowing the difference can naturally make you more persuasive.

Negotiation by design involves getting straight to the point and often includes making concessions to the point where both parties have a similar benefit.

Persuasion on the other hand is slow and subtle. Typically, persuasion makes no concessions and requires a bit of finesse.

Unlike negotiation, you can’t jump right in. When persuading someone you are likely going against core beliefs and values that have been ingrained for many years. Persuasion is playing the long game. The object is to chip away at those footholds and open the other person up to the possibility of being influenced by you.

Unlike persuasion, negotiation can often be done in one sitting, sometimes in less than an hour. One person will typically take the lead and say something like “we need to work this out” or “what would it take to resolve this?”. From there, concessions are usually made until both parties are satisfied.

90% of concession making is done in the last 10% of time spent negotiating.

Typically this happens because of a time constraint on one party.

An example of this might be negotiating with a car salesman at the end of the month. The buyer may not be under pressure to buy today but the salesman may not get his monthly bonus unless he sells you that car today. The best thing the buyer can do in this example is to slow things down. If the buyer is calm, deliberate, and patient, they will likely give you a much greater deal then if they pushed hard immediately.

7. How to Persuade Someone to Buy Something: Use Scarcity To Prompt Immediate Action

Often times you can speed up the persuasion process by adding an element of scarcity to your offer or pitch. Make it crystal clear to everyone that your product is not only valuable but also rare and uncommon.

Marketers know the value of listing not just what their product or service does but also how it benefits the end buyer. Where they tend to fall short is in explaining what the buyer or user stands to lose if they don’t purchase your product or service.

Not only does this help differentiate among everyone else vying for customer attention but it also adds an element of scarcity or #FOMO to the offer.

Some examples of scarcity are:

  • Black Friday sales. People understand they only have short amount of time to cash in on these uncommonly big discounts on their favorite items.
  • Displaying a limited amount of stock on your website. Amazon lists “Only 4 left in stock” which lights a fire under the buyer to jump on it now
Black Friday early access. 1 Day Only. Use free store pickup and get real Black Friday deals now.

Black Friday deals are built around scarcity.

Moderation is the key when applying scarcity to your process. If for example you own an eCommerce store and are constantly running “Today Only!” specials than your customers won’t feel compelled to purchase because they know another sale is only right around the corner.

To apply this outside the marketing world, think about the people you know who are super busy and how meaningful it is when they choose to make room for you in their schedule.

8. Get Rejected Purposely To Acquire What You Really Want

Mom, can i set fire to my bed mattress? No Calvin. Can I ride my tricycle on the roof? No Calvin. Then can I have a cookie. No Calvin. She's on to me.

Calvin’s mom is well versed in the psychology of persuasion.

Getting hung up on or having a door slammed in your face is never fun. However, that failure can be used to leverage an ulterior motive.

This compliance method is aptly named the Door-In-The-Face (DITF) technique and is a well known method used to influence others to get what you really want.

How it works is the persuader will attempt to convince the respondent to get something that they know the respondent will likely say no to (slamming the door in their face). Then the persuader will come right out immediately and ask for something more reasonable. The reasonable request being what they really wanted all along.

This technique works well when followed in this sequence because in isolation the second request (what they really want) has a higher chance of being turned down. But combined with the higher request it seems as though the persuader is making concessions so the respondent will likely feel inclined to do so also.

In a study conducted by Dr. Alexander Pascual, a professor at the University of Bordeaux, several dozen men and women were split into groups at a bar. In one group a female subject asked a male subject to buy her a drink because her boyfriend left without paying the bill.

After the male subject refused, the female subject requested he give her a few coins instead.

A second group had a female subject ask for a few coins without initially asking them to buy her a drink. The results of this study showed a dramatic increase in compliance using the door-in-the-face technique.

Not only did the DITF technique increase compliance but it also increased the average amount of the donation.

How to Persuade People: Conclusion

If you want to learn how to persuade people, you need to understand what makes people influential.

Hopefully, our discussion today has given you some pointers and strategies for become a naturally influential person. It starts at a conscious level, but the more you put these strategies in action, the more they will become part of who you are.

Now it’s your turn to share. Why common traits do you see in influential people, and which ones have you attempted yourself?

Let me know in the comments!

Powerful communicators employ these persuasion techniques when designing online experiences that convert.

Do you want your website to be more persuasive? The ability to persuade is a skill coveted by orators, writers and online marketers alike. This ability is based on an ancient–but non-obvious–understanding of human nature.
Selecting one or more of these persuasive techniques for your website puts you in control of your conversion rate.
Here are the 21 most fascinating and compelling persuasion techniques psychology has to offer.
With these techniques, conversion optimization will be in your control. Let’s dive right in.

#1: Leverage Reject-Then-Retreat

The reject-then-retreat technique is based on a phenomenon the contrast effect.
When someone declines to do task, they become more likely to say “Yes” to a smaller follow-up task. You might find the research behind it is fascinating, but let’s dive into how you can use it. A visitor to your site declines to purchase by leaving. Exit-intent technology allows us to detect this, and offer a “smaller follow-up task”.

  • Offer a one-time special discount. This offers a smaller task because it’s easier to buy when the cost is lower.
  • Offer a less-expensive, alternative product. This is a great tactic if you don’t want to be pushy with price.
  • Offer to save their choice. Save the rejected selection for their future consideration. You might ask for an email. Even though you don’t get the sale, you will get that person’s email and a chance to do business with them in the future.

You may be thinking about inflating your prices in the hopes of grabbing more people with this tactic. While you can do that, be sure to keep the price at least within the realm of reason – too high and this tactic will backfire.

The Tactic in Action

Behappy.me takes quotes and puts them onto posters, mugs, and more. They use an exit-intent popup to offer a discount to their customers trying to leave. They’ve also started testing something a little less in-your-face: a popup asking you to save your cart for later.
be happy discount popupsave cart to email

#2: Let Customers do the Work

The IKEA effect shows that people have a tendency to believe something is better if they had a part in creating it, even if it is measurably inferior.

For example, if you build a desk from scratch or paint a painting, you’ll be biased to think it’s better than it actually is.
IKEA asks customers to assemble the products they sell, and have enjoyed amazing success. Here’s how to use the IKEA effect for conversion optimization:

Let your visitors have a hand in creating the product you want them to buy.

If you’re selling a product, provide opportunities for people to customize their order.

Additionally, ask your visitors for feedback on how to make your product or service better. They will feel like they are participating and you’ll come away with ideas for improving things. If possible, let them know if their suggestion does make a difference.

Online service businesses have an advantage: their customers can start using their account immediately. Get the customer to use your service right away to engage this persuasive technique.

The Tactic in Action

Buffer and Canva both do a great job of this – as soon as you create an account, they encourage you to schedule a social media post or create a graphic immediately.
canva getting started

#3: Mimic Your Customers

According to psychology, mimicry is our tendency to mimic other people’s behavior, often subconsciously. When others mimic our behavior, we tend to like them more.

Mimicry is an excellent persuasion technique for face-to-face sales, but it can also be used to improve your conversion rate.

  • Use the same verbiage your customers use when describing your product or service. While you can’t reflect a person’s behavior through a web page, you can reflect their language. Learn the tone and vocabulary of your readers by reading reviews, studying chat transcripts and observing them on social media. Create and send a survey to customers and use open-ended questions.
  • Show users when their friends have purchased something. You likely need data from Facebook for this one, but if you can get it, your visitors will tend to mimic the behavior of their friends and buy.

The Tactic in Action

Amazon lets you to sign into Facebook to see what kinds of products your friends have saved and purchased.

Amazon lets their visitors get the crowd involved.

Amazon lets their visitors get the crowd involved.

Here’s another example, this time of using customer language: WebEx is a company that provides “VOIP and video conferencing” for long-distance online meetings.

But, they don’t say that on their homepage. Rather, they use the exacts words their customers use to describe them: “Connect with anyone, anywhere, any time.”

webex homepage

WebEx uses the language of their customers.

#4: Be Easy to Remember

When we use humor in our advertising, we are trying to be memorable. We inadvertently apply the availability heuristic. It states that people place importance on information they remember, simply because they’re able to remember it.

We also tend to place importance on new information, just because it’s fresh in our minds.

To capitalize on the availability heuristic:

  • Use case studies from familiar clients. If your visitors recognize your client, it will increase the chance they’ll remember you when they see that person again – and the chance that they’ll see you as important.
  • Use memorable anecdotes and humor on your landing pages and in your copy. This will also increase the likelihood of being remembered and, thanks to the availability heuristic, of being deemed important. Making your customers laugh increases their level of trust in you.
  • Tie your offer to an emotion. This can be difficult to do, but emotions are remembered longer and more vividly than facts.

This Tactic in Action

Where most sites simply drop SEO terms on the page, Shinesty.com uses them as an opportunity to be memorable.

Shinesty: Humor in marketing makes you memorable

Shinesty: Humor in marketing makes you memorable.

#5: Group Your Product With Others

The cheerleader effect plays on our subconscious belief that people are more attractive when they’re in a group.
How the heck does this apply to conversion optimization? Because, it also applies to products and services.
To utilize the cheerleader effect for persuasion:

  • Get your product on comparison shopping blogs and lists. When you’re among a group of competitors, your product actually looks more attractive! This is especially true if you’re not as well-known as they are.
  • Group up with non-competitors in your niche. Give away their ebook or a free trial to their tool with a purchase from your site. This is a win-win-win: People will see your product as more attractive and the overall deal as better due to the bundle, plus you get to develop a strong business relationship.

The Tactic in Action

A great example of the cheerleader effect in action is EOfire’s partnership with Organifi, a green superfood powder. If you buy Organifi’s powder, you get EOfire’s Freedom Journal to go with it (the journal is meant to help you accomplish your no. 1 goal in 100 days).

Groups of anything can increase receptivity.

Groups of anything can increase receptivity.

The combination makes a lot of sense (eat better and accomplish a goal of being healthier) and makes the overall package more attractive.

#6: Give People a Trivial Extra Choice

Hobson’s +1 choice effect found that people want the autonomy and freedom of having choices, but any more than two choices can cause anxiety and negative feelings.

What does this mean for conversion optimization?

  • Offer another choice beyond simply buying a product. For example, you could give them the option to share it instead. When presented with these options, the brain must go through the choices: Buy, share, or don’t buy. By the time they get to the third option (don’t buy), they’ll have more mental fatigue, increasing the chance they’ll say yes to one of the first two options.
  • Offer two related products in a pop up window. If a visitor chooses not to buy, present them with further options which will continue to increase their decision fatigue, meaning they have a lower chance of saying “no”.

Pro Tip: Make sure the choices are trivial, and preferably lead to the same outcome. For example, share on Facebook or Twitter? Checkout with a credit card or PayPal?

The Tactic in Action

The Wheel of Persuasion ran an a A/B split test on an energy company called Essent. They found that adding social sharing buttons to their landing page increased conversions in new visitors, but decreased conversions in return visitors.

Adding the option of social media sharing pushed the "don't buy" decision back.

Adding the option of social media sharing pushed the “don’t buy” decision back.

They believe it was because return visitors are more focused on the goal, so the sharing buttons distracted them rather than helped them make the choice. If you can, find a way to only display the extra options to new visitors.

#7: Use the Scarcity Effect

You’ve likely already heard of this technique, as it’s well-documented and known to be highly effective. Scarcity states that people place more value on limited resources.

We’ve already covered scarcity in-depth in another post, but I’ll give a few highlights here:

  • Set a countdown timer for a sale to end. Like, “50% off ends tonight at midnight!”
  • Show the limited quantity you have available. If you only have 10 left in stock, highlight that fact.
  • Give a deal to a limited number of customers. Something like, “First 50 purchases get a free doo-hig!”

Pro Tip: If you’re going to use scarcity, stick to your word! People aren’t stupid, and they’ll find out (and take advantage) if you’re bluffing. Lying could ruin your rep, as well.

The Tactic in Action

Booking.com is an online hotel booking company. They use scarcity brilliantly by alerting visitors when availability is low or certain rooms are in high demand. They even further prod visitors to action by telling them they can always cancel later, a tactic called risk reversal.

Scarcity is a tactic that booking.com uses liberally.

Scarcity is a tactic that booking.com uses liberally.

#8: Incentivize – But Not Too Much

The Yerkes-Dodson law states that arousal increases performance, up until a certain point where it hurts performance. If the task is very simple, arousal can continue to improve performance, but it will likely plateau.
Here’s a chart to help you understand it:

Push the arousal, but not too much.

Push the arousal, but not too much.

To use this persuasion technique on your website:

  • Add incentives to physical product purchases. Since most physical purchase decisions are simple tasks, anything you can do to increase arousal will improve conversions.
  • Offer fewer incentives with information-dense or complex purchases. If you’re selling a course, for example, offering too much information or too many bonuses will lower conversions. Test the number of incentives to find what’s right for you.

Pro Tip: To come up with bonuses to offer with product purchases, ask yourself: “What’s something that my customer could find extremely useful after using my product? or “What are the next steps after they complete the purchase, or finish using the product?” Give them that!

The Tactic in Action

Neville is the creator of Kopywriting Kourse, an online course that teaches you how to write damn good copy. He uses incentives to draw people in and show the full value, but also doesn’t go overboard. Notice he also lists the monetary values:

Adding valuable bonuses increases arousal.

Adding valuable bonuses increases arousal. To a point.

#9: Take a Page From Poker’s Book

Have you ever seen someone continue to gamble after they won in the hopes they’ll win again? That’s the Hot-Hand Fallacy: The belief that by succeeding at a random outcome makes you more likely to succeed again, despite the outcome being random.

How do you use this technique?

  • Have your visitors complete a simple, impossible-to-fail task when they reach your site. For example, have them click a button to see if they won a prize (and make it so they always win a prize, even if it’s just a 1% discount). Or, give them a quiz to fill out.
  • If you sell an info product, highlight your successes. Show off PR, upcoming speaking engagements, major clients, etc. Due to the hot-hand fallacy, visitors will believe you’ll continue to be a successful company due to your recent success.

The Tactic in Action

Zennioptical’s You’ve Been Framed quiz has generated over 31,000 leads and over $1 million in revenue!

Giving visitors some small winning hands may keep them at the table.

Giving visitors some small winning hands may keep them at the table.

#10: The PAS Formula

PAS stands for problem, agitation, solution. It works like this:

  • Identify a problem your reader has.
  • Agitate that problem.
  • Provide the solution (with a CTA, of course).

It all comes down to great copywriting. Let’s look at an example:

Are you suffering from no blog traffic? You’ve tried everything to get people to read your content. You’ve shared it on every social media platform. You’re wondering, “does my blog suck?” Well, it might suck. But, you’ll never know until you learn the effective promotion strategies to make that sucker visible. It all starts by watching our latest video.
Notice the bold text. It starts with the problem – no blog traffic. Then, it aggravates the problem – saying the blog might suck. Finally, it ends with a solution – learn effective promotion strategies by watching our latest video.

The Tactic in Action

Basecamp literally uses this exact tactic on one of their landing pages:

Basecamp uses the classic Problem-Agitation-Solution persuasion technique.

Basecamp uses the classic Problem-Agitation-Solution persuasion technique.

#11: Label Your Customers

You don’t want to put labels on people, right? Well actually, you might.

One study found that adults who were randomly labeled as “politically active” were 15% more likely to vote than those without labels. It likely has to do with the consistency bias. We want to appear consistent with how others view us.
This means that by labeling your customers as environmentalists, for example, they’ll be more likely to purchase your eco-friendly products.

You can do this using case studies, by tagging people on social media, and through your emails. Say things like, “Hey, I know you’re a puppy lover. I can tell by the photo you shared on Instagram. As a puppy lover, I think you’ll really like this.”

Even if they didn’t originally see themselves as having that label, they are likely to believe it if you can prove it’s backed by their actions.

The Tactic in Action

Apple, the titan they are, uses a whole slew of persuasion techniques. They label their customers as “high-tech”, “quality-focused” and “cutting edge”. It’s working well for them, don’t you think?

#12: Don’t Use Faces (Unless They’re Well-Known)

Facial distraction is a real thing. We have a tendency to look at and identify faces before anything else. The implications?
Faces can distract our visitors from the copy we worked so hard on.
That said, there are three ways to use faces on a landing page that may be beneficial:

  1. Using well-known industry authorities. Seeing well-known people backing up your brand will build customer trust. You would consider people like Neil Patel if you’re talking about internet marketing, or Brian Dean if you’re talking about building backlinks and SEO.
  2. Putting faces near a call-to-action. Because our eyes are drawn to faces, we can use them strategically to draw those eyes to our CTAs. If a person is seen on a page looking away or pointing, we are compelled to look that direction.
  3. Putting faces in your videos. Putting them on a page can be distracting, but faces affect us in videos as well! Use faces for engagement, but take them away when you want the customer to buy.

Avoid stock photography of smiling, pretty people.

The Tactic in Action

Noah Kagan, creator of SumoMe, uses testimonials a lot. On the landing page for his headline optimizing tool, he uses a testimonial from entrepreneur Brian Harris to increase conversions.
bryan harris testimonial
Eye-tracking studies show the power of a gaze.

This eye-tracking study show how our eyes follow the gaze of another face.

This eye-tracking study show how our eyes follow the gaze of another face. Source

#13: Stand for Something

A study on people who have a strong relationship with a single brand found that over 64% said it was because they had “shared values” with the company in question.

In other words, people like being associated with brands that share a common goal. This isn’t groundbreaking news, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly, either.

In order to capitalize on this, start showing your values through your company. Here’s how:

  • Pick a charity you’re passionate about and donate a portion of sales. Heck, it doesn’t have to be money – donate goods, instead.
  • Create your own charity work. Get involved in your community to help clean trash, paint over old parks, or fix fences. Just be sure to tell people about it on your website to get the benefit!

Of course, doing this kind of charitable work should be done out of a genuine desire to help, but doing good for the world brings dividends back to you.

The Tactic in Action

By December of 2016, eye-wear site Warby Parker claims to have donated one million pairs of glasses prescription glasses to those in need through its Buy One, Give One program. It seems to be working based on their growth.

Warby Parker matches your purchase with a donation.

Warby Parker matches your purchase with a donation.

#14: Disruption Through WOW

This particular idea is backed by the reciprocity principle. Basically, you disrupt your customers by providing them with an incredible experience.

Truly WOWing a customer is a foolproof way to earn their trust and return business.

In fact, a study done by psychologist Norbert Schawrz found that something as little as a dime can improve a person’s mood significantly. If 10 cents can have such a huge effect on us, imagine what a truly great experience can do!

Here’s what to do:

  • Provide excellent sales support for your products. Be ready to answer people’s questions using phone, email, or a live chat app such as Formilla, as they browse your landing page. Be prompt to respond and thorough in your answers. Try to entertain them as well!
  • Give customers a surprise bonus at checkout. This could be a free guide, surprise discount, or welcome video to help them get started.
  • Run high-value webinars. Webinars are conversion machines, but to do them right, you need to provide massive value. Give away some of your best stuff for free.

The Tactic in Action

Zappos, a shoe company known for their incredible focus on customer service, frequently surprises their customers with free overnight shipping. While it may not increase their initial conversions and costs them extra, it brings dividends in return customers who will come back to them for life.

#15: Don’t Be Ambiguous

According to Ambiguity Aversion, we prefer known risks over unknown risks.

In other words, if given a choice between a path where we know the exact outcomes and one where we don’t, we’ll usually pick the former.

To use this to your advantage:

  • Be specific and detailed about what, when, why and how. Your customers should know exactly what they’re getting, when they’re getting it, why they need it, and how it works.
  • Highlight your guarantees. If you have a return policy or guarantee, make it big and bold. Make sure your customers know about it.
  • Review your site for uncertainties. Go through the buying process and see if there’s anything not obviously clear to you about your product. Get someone else who didn’t create it to do this as well, to get an extra perspective. Fix those uncertainties.

The Tactic in Action

Any business that offers free shipping or flat-rate shipping is removing ambiguity. Sure, the customer may feel that they are getting a discount, but the elimination of the ambiguity of shipping is a powerful motivator.

Bombfell ships clothing to you to try and buy. Shipping is removed from the equation. They cover it both ways. They remove all ambiguity when they ask for your business.

Four sentences remove the ambiguity from the this offer.

Four sentences remove the ambiguity from the this offer.

#16: Be Cheesy

According to the Eaton-Rosen Phenomenon, people tend to remember and believe things that sound good, like rhymes or antimetaboles.

(In case you’re wondering, an antimetabole is a literary device in which you repeat a phrase in reverse order, like “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”)

So, yes – be cheesy! Come up with funny yet memorable lines using rhythmic poetic verses. It will make your copy, your brand, and your offer, more memorable (and more fun).

Remember: If it rhymes, conversion climbs!

The Tactic in Action

Animoto used a rhyme on their landing page:

This little rhyme tickles the brain.

This little rhyme tickles the brain.

#17: Use Generic Personality Descriptions to Draw People In

According to the Barnum Effect, people tend to believe that vague personality traits that apply to a lot of people actually fit to themselves.

For example, a generic personality test might tell you something like, “You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.”

Nearly every person in the world fits these traits. But, people don’t pick up on the generality of them, and tend to agree with and fit themselves to them.

What does this mean for your landing pages?

  • Use general questions that apply to most of your target demographic.
    “Do you hate losing money?”
    “Do you want to spend your time wisely?”
    “Do you want to be happy?”
  • Describe your product as a perfect fit for the average of your target market. “Perfect for people who are highly critical of themselves.”
    “Perfect for people who are tech-savvy and entrepreneurial.”

The Tactic in Action

Buzzfeed continually uses the Barnum effect really well with all of their online quizzes.

Buzzfeed uses personality tests take advantage of the Barnum Effect.

Buzzfeed uses personality tests take advantage of the Barnum Effect.

#18: Show People How Your Product Makes Them Sexy

Sex & Signalling is the idea that everyone wants to be perceived as a great mate. They want to be perceived as being well off financially, smart, conscientious, physically fit, agreeable, etc.

Tell people how your product will improve their ability to attract a mate.

Of course, you don’t want to actually tell them you’ll help them find a “mate”. Instead, explain how your product’s benefit will make them smarter, wealthier, or more fit – They can connect the dots to being a better mate themselves.

Conduct research to find out what people associate your brand with.

Send out a survey to your email list, and simply talk to your customers to see what they feel your products do for them. If it’s not helping them be a better person in some way, you may want to change your image.

The Tactic in Action

Manpacks, an “essentials” delivery service, takes the sex & signalling effect literally with this landing page:

Manpacks signals that customers will be lucky in love.

Manpacks signals that customers will be lucky in love.

#19: Go With the Status Quo

People fall prey to the Status Quo Bias, any change from “business as usual” is perceived as negative. The phrase, “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” means that the best choice is the safe choice. Every industry has it’s IBM.

So, make your business seem as though it’s a safe part of the status quo. You’re communicating that, “Everyone’s using it.” Tell people how many customers you have, if you’re a leader in your marketplace. You can do this by showcasing big names using your product, or by using language that shows you’re part of the status quo.

Additionally, make the purchase process as frictionless as possible. Pre-fill login information for them. If you can’t, allow them to log in using Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail.

If you are the status quo, you must know how to take someone’s money.

The Tactic in Action

Granify makes themselves look like the status quo with their counter.

Granify makes themselves look like the status quo with their counter.

#20: Catch Them in The Right Environment (Or Remind Them Of It)

The Context Effect states that cognition and memory are related to context. For example, work-related information is easier to access when you’re at work.

  • Do your best to advertise to people when they’re in the environment that makes the most sense with your product. If you sell software to help them with their work, sell to them at work. If you sell fitness equipment, get to them at the gym or in their ear through a podcast while on a run.
  • Since it’s not always possible to get people at the right time, you can also use wording and imagery to remind them of that context. If you sell fitness equipment, show images of people working out and talk about working out.
  • Remind customers of a time when they purchased. “Hey, remember buying our widget this time last month? Time to reorder!”

This persuasion technique gets visitors in the right state of mind and the right context to buy.

The Tactic in Action

Startup Weekend is a conference that helps people begin their startup journey in a few short days. On their landing page, they bold certain words like developers, coders, designers, and marketers. They talk a lot about business and startups to get you “in the mood”, so to speak.

Startup Weekend creates a context with their copy on this page.

Startup Weekend creates a context with their copy on this page.

#21: Apple’s Ancient Secret Weapon

Apple is a pretty successful company, right?

Their success lies in a persuasion technique that’s over 100 years old. What is this ancient technique?

They show the detailed manufacturing process behind their products.

This tactic persuades people of the quality of their products. Apple did this with their video about the new unibody MacBook.

Apple showed the process when it went to a unibody design.

Apple showed the process when it went to a unibody design.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GPcUSnKdK4

This works well if your customer is quality-centric. If they’re not, choose another persuasion technique from this list.

Conclusion

There are many persuasion techniques you can use for conversion optimization. Some of them are more effective than others. Some will work for you and others will not.

When it comes to finding which is which, A/B testing is key.

Keep trying things and you’ll eventually find the optimum combination of images, text, and calls-to-action. Always be trying new things.

What persuasion techniques would you add to this list? Leave me a comment and let me know!

billBill Widmer is a freelance writer and content marketer. With over two years of experience, Bill can help you get the most out of your content marketing and blog. 

Your customers’ brains are guarded against “sellers”. Direct response copywriting helps you get past the bouncers in their brains and tap into their emotional triggers.

Today, we’ll be talking about the power of copywriting.

Every sale you make online is driven, at least in part, by direct response copywriting. Either your copy is a trained assassin, sneaking past defenses and cutting to the heart of your customer’s psychological triggers, or it’s a lumbering drunk ready to be rejected at the door.

In this article, we’ll show you what makes bad copy fail and teach you how to write copy that sells.

Would you rather watch a webinar than read an article? Click here to watch the Bouncers In Your Brain Webinar!

But first, a story…

The Power of Compelling Copy

Betabrand started with one product and what most would consider a weak value proposition. They offered a pair of corduroy pants on which the wales were positioned horizontally rather than vertically.

Betabrand example

That’s it.

You can see from the picture that the pants are pretty stylish, but is horizontal whales really enough to build a business on?

Instead of just sitting back and hoping customers would say “yes”, Betabrand used copywriting to create a tongue-in-cheek branding campaign to that turned their product into an humorous conversation piece.

Betaband described their “Cordarounds” as follows:

Friction-Free: Unlike vertical courduroy, which produces friction that can heat your crotch to uncomfortable, potentially catastrophic levels, Cordaround’s horizontal vales mesh evenly, lowering the average wearer’s crotch heat index (CHI) reading by up to 22%.

The company even went as far as to create diagrams, demonstrating the “data” behind their crotch heat lowering pants.

Betabrand example

And of course, the data on this revolutionary pants technology was presented by the Betabrand Supercomputer, a “sentient machine with aspirations of overthrowing the human race.”

All of this, of course, is complete bullcrap.

BUT

It’s humurous.

It’s interesting.

And it’s just believable enough to make think, “Wait, is this real?”

As Betabrand’s CEO Chris Lindland said, “If you create something with a hook, you can experience dramatic results.”

In this case, unique branding, driven by irreverant, humurous copywriting, propelled the company to 432% growth over 3 years. They have since expanded to numerous products, each designed to be conversation starters, like the “Bike To Work Pants” or the “Pinstripe Executive Hoodie“.

They’ve created something really successful, and I would argue it’s more because of how they’ve used the copy to brand themselves than the fairly unremarkable products themselves.

On that note, let’s look at how you can utilize compelling copy within your own business.

What Is Direct-Response Copywriting?

Direct-response copywriting is writing designed to elicit an immediate, emotional response from the reader. It’s purpose is to compel a “direct response” – what we would refer to as a conversion.

Unlike informative or educational copy, direct-response copy has only one purpose in mind: optimize the reader’s emotional state and then close the sale.

This usually looks like arousing an emotional response to a problem the reader is facing.

For example:

If you are attempting to sell skills assessment software to a business, you might be tempted to focus on how advanced the software is or how many unique features it has versus your competitors. As a business owner, this type of stuff is what you think about the most, and it’s easy to assume your customers will see things the way you see them.

In reality, your customers don’t care about your product. They care about solving their own problems and achieving their own goals. In this example, they care about finding talented people who will accelerate their company’s growth. They are scared of wasting time and money only to make a bad hire and lose more time and money.

When writing the copy, your job is to tap into that frustration, pain, and fear. You want to talk about how much money companies waste on bad hires. You wan’t to discuss how challenging it is to know whether a candidate will perform for you based on past experience. You want to tap into that fear and then offer your product as a solution.

With your assessment software, businesses can ensure they hire the right people. They can assess a candidate’s personality for team compatibility and assess the candidate’s skills for job competence. They can know EXACTLY what they are getting when they make a new hire and skip the nasty surprises that come from unexpected revelations.

Now you aren’t selling a product. You are selling a solution and you’ve painted a picture of life with that solution all of your prospect’s mind.

The Bouncers In Your Brain

So the question has to be asked, why not simply say things to people in a straightforward manner? Why shouldn’t we just lay everything out on the table and trust consumers to make a rational decision based on available data?

Ignoring the fact that your business might not actually be the best choice, let’s assume it is the best choice. Let’s assume that you have the best product on the market.

Why do we need to go out of our way to try to tap into a customer’s psyche?

The answer is that the psyche is already in play, whether you try to tap into it or not! Your customers’ brains already have “bouncers” standing guard at the entrance. If you want to have a chance, you have to first get past these bouncers.

Roy H. Williams, founder of the wizard academy introduced them to me. Let’s meet them.

Bouncers In Your Brain

The first thing we see here is Brocca’s Area. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for taking words, translating them into their meaning via the verbs, and then casting that meaning onto the visual/spacial sketchpad that is in our brain. Brocca’s area allows us to visualize taking some future action, which is a prerequisite for us to actually take that action in reality.

Next we have Wernicke’s Area. This part of the brain has access to our memories, and it’s primary job is take nouns that we hear and connect them to the relevant memories. So for example, if we hear or read the word “car”, Wenicke’s area connects that word to our memories of cars, helping us give meaning to the word.

These two areas are the gatekeepers for our Motor Cortex, the area of the brain that initiates physical action. We don’t want messages we hear to be automatically turned into action, so Brocca’s area and Wernicke’s area serve as bouncers to filter what messages get through to the motor cortex.

Getting Past Brocca’s Area

Brocca’s area evolved to help us prioritize what we process versus what we can ignore. This area keeps a sort of cache of familiar things that no longer need to be processed, like the sound of wind blowing, the computer humming in the background, or the driving route you take from work to home every day. It helps free our brain to focus on things that need to be consciously processed or monitored.

In order to register our message in Brocca’s area, we need to present something that is not familiar – something that is:

  1. Unexpected
  2. Unbelievable
  3. Or just plain wrong

Our goal when it comes to Brocca is to “wake it up” so to speak. When we hit Brocca with something unexpected, it has to focus in and send the message down to Wernicke in order to find out what it means.

Delphiis

As you can see in the example above, the page that breaks away from “business as usual” has as significantly higher conversion rate than the page that looks like what you’d expect to see on every website you’ve ever been to.

In perhaps the most extreme example of this, Ling Valentine sells over £35 million worth of car leases each year through what any good CRO expert would tell you is an absolute disaster of a website.

Lease From Ling

As you can see in the right-hand image, there is a method to the LingsCars madness. Everything Ling does is designed to grab attention in a market where differentiation is a challenge. Whether it’s the insane website, the outlandish speaking outfit, or the missile launcher with her branding on it, Ling’s marketing is all about waking up Brocca’s area and commanding attention in an industry where you’d rarely look twice.

So how can you apply this to your own business?

One of the best way’s to utilize this strategy is on a page’s headline, since the headline’s sole purpose is to compel people to start reading. Say something unexpected or unbelievable. You can even same something that is objectively wrong – something the reader KNOWS is objectively wrong – and then follow it up with an illustration that turns it into a symbolic point.

The main takeaway here is that we need to present people with something unfamiliar in order to grab their attention.

Infiltrating Wernicke’s Area

So if our goal is to shock Brocca awake, why doesn’t marketing simply consist of doing the most shocking things we can imagine?

The answer is that Brocca is only the brain’s first bouncer. There’s more to the story.

Once we’ve grabbed Brocca’s attention by presenting something unexpected, our message is sent along to Wernicke’s area. Wernicke has an entirely different set of criteria for what’s noteworthy and what is simply novelty.

In order to get past Wernicke, our message needs to incorporate at least one of the following:

  1. Relevance
  2. Emotion
  3. Storytelling

Remember that Wernicke’s area is attached to our memories, so in order get past this bouncer in the brain, our copy needs to connect to the reader’s memories in a meaningful way.

For example:

One business that offered help for addicts and their families started their copy with an appeal to a better future, calling themselves “A Place of New Beginnings.”

But vague references to a better future aren’t nearly as powerful as speaking directly to painful, existing memories. Those memories are real, they are emotional, and they drive behavior. That’s why changing the copy to “Addiction Torments Addicts and Their Loved Ones” increased conversions by 184%.

Tormented

When people who feel tormented by their addiction (or who have seen the negative effects of their addiction on loved ones) read this copy, it resonates with them. They can relate. It’s relevant to their lives, and it’s tapping into a place of pain and problems that need to be solved.

Your copy should do the same thing.

Let’s learn how.

How To Write Persuasive Copy

Writing persuasive, direct-response copy is more science than art. Here at Conversion Sciences, we follow a step-by-step process:

  1. Understand Your Audience
  2. Solve Their Problems
  3. Show The Damned Offer
  4. Keep Your Promises
  5. Get Geographical

Each of these steps enhances our ability to evade the brain’s bouncers and provoke a response.

1. Understand Your Audience

Who are you speaking to?

This is the first and probably the most important step. If we don’t understand who we are speaking to, we can’t talk about what is important to them. We can’t be relevant. Alternatively, if we have a thorough understanding of our audience, we can bumble our way through the rest of the steps, and we’ll probably still manage to get through to a few of them.

A consumer can typically be classified in one of four ways.

Classification

You will likely have consumers in all four of these categories visiting your site, however, you might be able to determine that most of the traffic coming from a given marketing channel is in one quadrant and optimize accordingly.

Here at Conversion Sciences, we like to primarily focus on another, simpler classification system: Transactional vs. Relational

Transactional buyers #1 fear in life is spending a dollar more than they have to. These are the coupon hunters and deal finders. They aren’t necessarily looking for the cheapest option, but they are absolutely looking for the best deal. They are going to visit 10 websites and 4 physical stores before making the purchase.

They get a big dopamine rush from saving money on purchases, and they will actually convert at a higher rate if you give them obstacles like coupon codes. They see themselves as the experts and shopping is part of the fun.

You can appeal to these buyers in your copy by focusing on the savings.

Laithwaites Savings

Relational buyers #1 fear is choosing the wrong thing. They are not looking for the best price, and they are happy to pay a premium if it ensures they get what they’re looking for. These buyers want an expert to help them make the right decision, and they see shopping as the part of the expense.

You can appeal to these buyers in your copy by focusing more on the quality:

Laithwaites Quality

Once you have identified and learned everything you can about your audience, it’s time to solve their problems.

2. Solve Their Problems

In many cases, it’s easy to identify the problems your customers face because your product was designed explicitly to solve them. But what happens when your product isn’t really a solution? What happens when your product is a pair of pants, like in our original Betabrand example?

There are two strategies we can take here:

  1. Dig deeper and find the need
  2. Create the need

Continuing with our Betabrand example, when we are talking about $100+ pants, we aren’t talking about an audience with legitimate problems or a product designed to solve legitimate problems.

They’re just pants.

But why do people pick a particularly pair of pants to purchase? When you are able and willing to spend $100 on a pair of pants, what are the deeper needs that influence your decision making?

Once we start digging, there’s a lot we can find:

  • Some people will pay a premium on fashion to emulate others and be accepted
  • Some people will pay a premium on fashion to differentiate themselves from others
  • Some people will pay a premium to get higher quality materials that are more comfortable
  • Some people will pay a premium simply because they think something looks cool and they can afford it

Solving the problem is as simple as speaking to this core purpose driving the reader’s behavior.

Alternatively, what some people do (and what Betabrand is doing for their cordarounds) is go out and create a need. In other words, they convince the customer that he or she is experiencing a problem that needs to be solved.

The most humorous examples of this come from the infomercial industry, where the characters are fundamentally incapable of performing the most basic activities:

https://youtu.be/3eMCURWpNAg?t=8s

Does anyone really struggle THAT much with cracking eggs? Probably not, but the visualization of failed crack attempts can resonate with the most extreme memeories a person has and make them feel like, “Meh, it might be worth it to shell out a few bucks for this product.”

Betabrand uses a more subtle example in it’s own marketing:

Betabrand subtle example

Do normal corduroys really make a dude’s gonads feel like “the fiery eyes of Satan”? Obviously not. BUT if a guy reading this has noticed feeling hot in his corduroy pants in the past, this “fake” need will jump out at him and potentially influence his decision making.

3. Show The Damned Offer

On the more straightforward end of things, it’s important to actually show your audience your offer. It should be VERY clear what is being sold and every benefit should be clearly demonstrated, via the copy and page images.

Are you selling roofing paint that reflects sunlight and maintains a cool temperature. Show it in action!

Real World Example

Images like these are a thousand times more beneficial than stock images or other generic page elements. Stock photos can actually sabotage your conversion rate in a hurry.

Make sure you are clearly showing your offer to readers.

4. Keep Your Promises

Your sales process isn’t a single moment of decision. It’s a funnel.

Your visitors clicked on something to arrive at your landing page and when they click on your Call to Action (CTA) they will see a followup page of some sort. It’s VERY important that you deliver on your promises and meet customer expectations at each stage of this journey.

Don’t be like Zumba and follow-up an advertisement with a completely unrelated webpage.

Zumba Unexpected Link

Make sure that the landing page for every click meets the expectation of the person who clicked through to it.

5. Get Geographical

Our final step might not apply to every business, but if it’s relevant for your business, you can see major results.

Geographic segmentation and personalization offers a massive opportunity for increased conversions. The business pictured below was able to increase conversions by 27% simply by allowing users to select which region they were in.

Geographic segmentation

This is just one of many, many examples of businesses using geographic segmentation to optimize their conversion rates.

When a reader sees their local area mentioned in the pitch, it scores major relevance points in Wernicke’s area.

How To Get Great Copywriting For Your Website

If you have read this far, it means you probably aren’t a copywriter by profession. You are looking to utilize the power of direct response copywriting, either by writing it yourself or hiring a copywriter.

If you aren’t bringing in a CRO agency to improve your site’s conversions, we typically recommend you do the following:

  1. Hire a great copywriter
  2. Measure their work

The reality is that copywriting is a very specific skillset, and while you can certainly improve your site’s copy just by following the principles in this article, you are going to get much better results when you hire a freelance copywriter with a proven portfolio.

That said, you should never simply be paying someone to write something for you and then calling it a day.

Working with a copywriter is a great opportunity for AB testing. Instead of simply throwing up something new and hoping it works… test, test, test!

Create several different variations of your landing pages and run a statistically sound series of split tests to identify actual winners and improve your overall conversion rate.

Webinar And Followup Q&A

After my webinar on this topic, there were some questions asked.

Good questions.

Probing questions.

Important questions.

We just didn’t have time (e.g. Brian went on and on and on).

 

With the help of our host, SiteTuners, I’ve been able to collect these questions and have provided thoughtful answers to them for you.

If you didn’t get to attend the Webinar —  and I assume there was a very good reason you missed it – you can watch it via the form below. It’s absolutely worth an hour of your time!

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Watch the Recorded Webinar >>

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Let’s take a look at those questions!

Is there a place for Profanity in Copy?

Andres asked if there was any “data on the use of profanity in the conversion copy? See last example: heat reflection paint ‘kicks ass’. Is this an attractor or offender?”

Profanity can be a part of your voice. Gary Vaynerchuck famously uses profanity in his videos and presentations. It’s part of his “no BS” approach. I used some profanity in my presentation, including the caption that with “kicks ass,” another with “get laid” and my term “Business Porn.” However, I’m not typically profane in my writing.

When I use it, it can have impact. But I don’t have to be profane to have impact.

Roy H. Williams says,

“If you’re not pissing someone off, then you’re not communicating.”

Good copywriters take chances, but they know if those chances are contributing to the bottom line. Good copywriters are measurable.

In fact, I think I’ll toss in a little profanity right now.

What if my company has a stick up its butt about professionalism?

Lainie asked, “Any recommendations for a nonprofit that demands professionalism and no hint of humor?”

Kyle wanted to know if I had any “suggestions for encouraging an employer to take chances with their copy.”

If “professionalism” means “business speak” then there is little hope for them, at least online. Many a copywriter suffers from PESD (Post Editorial Stress Disorder). They create a body of copy that has Broca-busters, metaphors, similes and double entendre. Then the executives review the copy, editing out all color and controversy.

The result is what I call Styrofoam copy. Lifeless. Tasteless. Brittle.

No wonder it’s so hard to find good copywriters. They’ve all been broken down by PESD.

Data may be your only hope. We didn’t hand the headline “Are you tired of lying?” to our addiction center client. We proposed it as part of a test. Once they saw the upside, they had to make a decision: stay safe or take the extra business.

Offer to test more daring copy. But don’t test anything that won’t be accepted, no matter how many donations it generates.

Copy is more than Words

Jerome ask, “Is there a time/place for elegant banners with no copy?”

On a page that is meant to make an impression these banners are appropriate. This is a branding and image approach. On a site designed to entice action, the elegant banners must extend the value proposition or they are taking up valuable space.

The question to ask is, “Am I designing for me or for my visitors?”

parallax home page

This looks cool, but doesn’t help someone who is on a mission to find a solution.

Sites that use parallax techniques are often designing for themselves. They win awards, but they don’t make it easy to find what I’m looking for.

Do Broca and Wernicke Get Old and Cranky

Lori asked an interesting question about the aging brain. “Does the aging brain perceive copy differently than the younger brain. In other words, does the brain change its perceptions?”

I wish I could answer this with the results of studies. The answer is, “Yes.” Older visitors respond differently than a younger crowd. But each audience is different.

Older visitors come with poorer eyesight. So, your copy design should take this into account.

Balancing SEO-targeted and Human-targeted Copy

Tabatha asked, “How do you balance SEO and these copywriting techniques?”

Landing pages are rarely targets of SEO. Landing pages more frequently serve ads, emails and affiliate links. There are exceptions.

On an ecommerce product page, however, the two intersect. Product pages are often landing pages and need good SEO copywriter.

Good SEO copywriting is also good human copywriting.

If there is a conflict because your SEO copywriter wants to stuff keywords into every headline and subhead, you should probably find a better search optimizer.

How is the Web Different?

Katy asked, “Does the same methodology about engaging copy needing to get past Broca apply to direct mail pieces also?”

Much of what I’ve learned about copy has been taken from direct response mail copywriters. But, the writing for the web is different. Web visitors are seekers and searchers. They have a specific agenda and need to know they are on the right path toward solving a problem.

If you want to learn how to apply direct response tactics to web headlines, I recommend the book Great Leads by Michael Masterson and John Forde.

Images of the Invisible

Cynthia is involved in continuing education and asked, “What kind of images do you use for services that all have the same value proposition but doesn’t just show happy business people?”

I recommend real people in place of stock photography. Your teachers. Your students. The human eye can tell the difference between a stock photo and a real photo.

The human eye can distinguish between stock photos and photos of real people.

Jan wondered if we “use client logos with permission.”

We do ask permission to use client logos. It’s in our master services agreement. You might ask your lawyer to add a paragraph to your agreements like this one:

CONVERSION SCIENCES may retain copies of all work products and retains the right to use the work products for CONVERSION SCIENCES’ promotional purposes, including, but not limited to, showing Projects to prospective Clients, using the work products in company “demos.” By entering into this Agreement, Client hereby consents to CONVERSION SCIENCES’ use of the Client logo and testimonials for promotional purposes, unless other arrangements have been outlined in the Statement(s) of Work.

Are You a Tease?

Jeffrey asked if I had any “thoughts about lightly teasing the reader?”

A tease is a bona fide Broca-buster. Tease away.

This is especially effective when you tell a story, but withhold the ending while you build your value proposition. Brains hate to be teased because it makes them pay attention.

Search eBook Cover Landscape Redesign 3D 200x186

Psych! This eBook is just a PDF.

Creating Book Alikes

Deanne asked about the tool I used for creating eBooks renderings in 3D.

The tool that allowed me to create all of these wonderful 3D images from nothing was BoxShot4.

And a question from the Brainiacs

Dawn piqued my interest by asking, “Where does cognitive dissonance play out in this?”

In all truth, I had to look “cognitive dissonance” up.

In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. – Wikipedia

When I am promised one thing in an ad, and then sent to a home page, I will experience cognitive dissonance.

If the one specification that I believe is important cannot be found on a product page, I will experience cognitive dissonance.

If I don’t like to read, but the only images on a page are business porn, I will experience cognitive dissonance.

Good copywriters know how to create a moment of cognitive dissonance and then unite the expected with the unexpected like the punch line to a joke. This creates cognitive sonance, I guess.

Tim Gets Some Extra Credit

One final note. In the Webinar, I failed to credit Tim Ash as the originator of the term “Big Fat Bouncers in your Brain” during an interview several years ago.

Thanks Tim.


21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks to Skyrocket Conversions

FREE: Click to Download

21 Quick and Easy CRO Copywriting Hacks

Keep these proven copywriting hacks in mind to make your copy convert.

  • 43 Pages with Examples
  • Assumptive Phrasing
  • "We" vs. "You"
  • Pattern Interrupts
  • The power of Three

Here are fourteen persuasive writing techniques that will trigger a response from your visitors.

Have you ever wondered why nobody is responding to your offers?

Why do people read your landing pages and then leave?

Why do people see your ads and keep scrolling?

You have a great product. You are offering an in-demand service. So why does nobody seem to be interested?

The answer boils down to psychology. Simply put, you aren’t being persuasive.

You aren’t managing to trigger that little thing in your visitors’ brains that snaps them to attention, gets the heart rate pumping, and compels them to keep reading.

14 Persuasive Writing Techniques That Trigger A Response

Today, we’re giving you a handful of tools that marketers and advertisers have been using for decades to captivate audiences and compel a response.

1. Focus on resonating with emotional problems

Everyone has problems, and your product or service is designed to help people solve one or more of those problems.

A lot of businesses simply dive into explaining their solutions. One of the most powerful persuasion techniques, however, is to start by resonating with your readers around the emotional problems they are facing. When people see someone describing something “painful” they are experiencing, it pulls them in and prepares them to buy into the solution.

Another word for this is “empathy”. People want to feel like you empathize with their problems and that it drives the mission of your business.

US President Barack Obama once said this about empathy:

You know, there’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit – the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us – the child who’s hungry, the steelworker who’s been laid-off, the family who lost the entire life they built together when the storm came to town. When you think like this – when you choose to broaden your ambit of concern and empathize with the plight of others, whether they are close friends or distant strangers – it becomes harder not to act; harder not to help.

That’s how empathy works. When you put yourself in your readers’ shoes and let them know you understand what they are going through, they’ll be more inclined to listen to you. When you resonate with them on their problems, they will resonate with you on your solutions.

For instance, let’s say you want to write copy to sell a tool that solves the problem of content managers having to host their marketing tools on several different platforms. You could make your copy all about that problem and then introduce your tool in the end.

Here’s a great example.

Persuasive Writing Techniques That Trigger A Response: Focus on resonating with emotional problems

In this example from Entrepreneur Alliance, the product is a monthly subscription to a group where real entrepreneurs help each other out. As you can see in the copy above, which appears just below the fold, the company quickly addresses some of the common pain points many new entrepreneurs experience when trying to get started. They also address the frustration people feel when they are constantly assaulted by new people trying to sell them something.

If you are reading this copy and you too have experienced this frustration, than you are far more likely to be intrigued and even compelled by the solution that the Entrepreneur Alliance then proposes to you.

Of course, in order to legitimately resonate with your audience’s pain points, you have to first understand your audience.

Understanding Your Audience

Michael Port offers the FESP model for understanding an audience that you will perform for or write for:

  1. How does the world look to your audience Financially?
  2. How does the world look to your audience Emotionally?
  3. How does the world look to your audience Spiritually?
  4. How does the world look to your audience Physically?

In our example above, the marketing person may see the world like this:

  • Financially, she’s spending too much on multiple tools.
  • Emotionally, she’s struggling to manage a “Mississippi of tasks.”
  • Spiritually, she feels obligated to deliver value from these expensive tools.
  • Physically, she struggles with the stress of managing content effectively.

This FESP copy should speak to her needs right out of the gate.

In the context of a landing page, it’s usually best to dive into these needs and problems using your value proposition or immediately following your value proposition.

2. Incorporate facts, data, and other analytical information

While point #1 is very emotionally driven, selling isn’t all about emotion.

  1. Certain segments of your audience might be more analytical.
  2. Certain products or services aren’t geared towards emotional problems.
  3. Even when you can utilize emotion, backing it with hard data strengthens the pitch.

One of the best ways to sell is to demonstrate “irrefutable” evidence that your solution is the best possible option for the prospective customer.

Legendary advertising creative director William Bernbach once said, “The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” In the digital age, “truth” looks like facts, statistics, case studies, etc.

We employ this in our own marketing here at Conversion Sciences. We can talk about our experience and expertise all day long and even resonate with the problems our clients have dealt with, but at the end of the day, what prospective clients really want to know is:

  1. Have you had success with past clients?
  2. Aka do you have the track record to prove you will succeed with my business?

Since we drive an average conversion lift of 15 to 25% with our clients and have a 90% retention rate, we like to include that information in our copy whenever possible.

Persuasive writing techniques to boost conversions: The Conversion Catalyst

This is about as soft as it gets in terms of analytics, but since it is true, it serves as a powerful signal to clients considering our services, demonstrating that we aren’t just talking about AB testing. We are actually getting results.

Do the same in your own copy as often as possible.

3. Demonstrate social proof at key junctures

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

In other words, monkey see, monkey do.

When we are making a decision, we want to know that other people consider it to be the right decision. Who are these “other” people?

  1. Specific people we respect
  2. People who are in a similar situation to us
  3. Large quantities of random strangers

In 2017, social proof often takes the form of influencer recommendations, customer testimonials, and social share count.
For example, CoSchedule asks visitors to click TRY IT FOR FREE on their homepage. Visitors are then taken to a page that contains a testimonial and highlights the company’s most recognizable customers.

Demonstrate social proof at key junctures | Persuasive writing

Be specific in your case studies and testimonials

Customer stories and testimonials have been shown to improve sales online. Customer stories work best when they are specific. See how Unbounce does it on of their pages:

Testimonials are more compelling with details. Unbounce persuasive writing techniques.

Testimonials are more compelling with details.

The best customer stories and testimonials will offer the customer name, company, title and a picture. When appropriate, add the city and state of the speaker as well. Also consider things like age when appropriate.

Favor testimonials that avoid judgments, like, “We loved working with this company!” Instead, focus on a specific result. The more specific your numbers are, the more believable they are.

These stories answer the question, “What did people like me experience?”

4. Use tone to add emotion and keep things interesting

What does it mean to use one’s tone in writing? Basically, it means writing like you would talk in real life. Your tone can breathe life into your copy. It can make your writing a lot less boring for prospects to read.

David Ogilvy once said “Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”

When I asked Sam Hurley (founder of OPTIM-EYEZ) to share his number one advice on persuasive writing techniques, he said, “It has to be tone. A sentence that equates to the same meaning can be written in 10 different ways…Each variation will evoke 10 unique reactions — and the difference can ultimately mean conversion or exit.”

In other words, you can rewrite a sentence in several different ways using your tone to effectively pass your message across to prospects and make it sink in their minds.

Take this post from Derek Halpern, for instance:

Tone is as important as meaning for persuasive writing.

Tone is as important as meaning.

See what he did there?

Derek used three different sentences to ask just one question: “Do people read long sales pages?” Why? He wanted to sound like a normal person in his tone; not a company trying to sell something.

If he was going to ask the same question in a real life setting, he wouldn’t just ask Do people read long pages?, would he?

No, he’d naturally ask follow-up questions just like he did in the example above. And those (follow-up) questions will mean the same thing as the original query. But they’ll make his message sink in his readers’ minds.

Your tone is important. It helps you talk like a fellow human being, not a business trying to make sales. It helps you build trust. And because your readers are also humans, they can very well relate with your tone when they see it in your copy.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”― Robert Frost

In other words, people react according to what they see in your copy. If they see you shedding tears, they’d be moved to tears. If you crack jokes, they’ll laugh (or at least give you a smile). And so forth. That’s how it works.

Be careful with your tone

Can anyone actually insult their prospects (or readers) deliberately? I’d love to answer that question with a no, but it happens. I recently found this while doing research for one of my clients:

Does it really pay to call your prospects mediocre?

Does it really pay to call your prospects mediocre?

This form saying I’m a mediocre content marketer if I don’t sign up for the whitepaper. It that true?
But does that slur really convert better than being polite? Did it get me converted? Heck, no! I actually got pissed off! I don’t know about you, but I cringe when I see Calls to Action like this.

There are several polite words that you can use to persuade people to do something. This CTA, for example, got Career Advice 261 sign-ups within 24 hours from a single guest post on The Muse:

This button copy is probably too safe. "Submit" is a tone-def word.

This button copy is probably too safe. “Submit” is a tone-def word.

Yet, it contains no word that could potentially insult anyone.

5. Take time to bring up and cover objections

You should never begin writing copy with a pre-determined word count. It doesn’t matter if your copy ends at 400 or 3000 words. What matters is that you say everything that needs to be said.

More specifically, what matters is that you cover all the key objections.

An objection is an argument that tends to come up from the customer’s end to justify saying “No” to your pitch.

For example:

If you are selling me a productivity app and I say, “Well, I don’t think I need an app to be productive,” that’s an objection. If I ask, “Why would I pay for an app when there are 30 other productivity apps that are free?” that’s an objection.

In an interpersonal sales meeting, the power of the objection goes to whoever brings it up first. If I ask you about all the free apps and then you respond, it tends to sound like you’re justifying a problem. Since I brought up the objection, and I think I’m pretty smart, I give it more weight than your response.

On the other hand, if you bring up the objection first, you win. If you introduce the cost and then immediately begin talking about how free productivity apps either utilize distracting advertising or have a low budget and thus numerous technical problems, both of which defeat the purpose of a productivity app, suddenly that potential objection has now become a selling point.

With online copy, the customer never speaks, so you have time to address as many objections as you feel is necessary. There may be just a few or there may be numerous objections that need to be covered. The important thing is that you give yourself time to cover them all.

6. Draw attention to your points with rhetorical questions

Rhetorical questions draw attention. They’re not meant to be answered, which means that they shouldn’t have an answer. If your question can easily answered with a “yes” or “no”, it won’t invite the visitor to read on.

Instead, pose questions that make the reader think, “What does this mean?” or, “How will you do that?”

What if we had one single solution that can perform all these functions?

Life would become extremely easy for content marketers, right?

We had a significant increase in leads for one of our addiction center clients using the rhetorical question, “Are you ready to stop lying? We can help.”

Of course, I didn’t expect answers to them. But if you’re a content marketer, you were probably answering those questions in your mind, agreeing to my point of view that an all-in-one tool is the best option for content marketers.

That’s how rhetorical questions work. They pull attention, get readers’ attention and lure them to keep reading your copy.

7. Use hyperbole to communicate value

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to make your point to readers. Hyperbole should be used carefully. If you claim to be the biggest, best, or leader, your persuasive copy must deliver proof very quickly.

For example, take Contently:

Really? Does the world’s best content marketing actually run on Contently?

Really? Does the world’s best content marketing actually run on Contently?

There are certainly other companies out there that get more ROI from content marketing than Contently’s customers. But, their exaggeration is immediately backed up with the logos of some of the biggest companies in the world, the implication being that they use Contently to run their content marketing.

Another example here is Campaign Monitor’s “Send email your customers can’t ignore”.

The headline makes us ask, "How do you do that?"

The headline makes us ask, “How do you do that?”

In this case, the hyperbolic claim makes the reader ask, “How do you do that?” Will all customers read your emails just because you sent them using Campaign Monitor? Probably not.

Unfortunately, the hyperbole isn’t backed up by proof. Only more claims are offered. This page goes on to invite the visitor to watch a video to get the proof.

The link between the hyperbolic claim and the proof is stretched thin, requiring the visitor to watch a demo.

The link between the hyperbolic claim and the proof is stretched thin, requiring the visitor to watch a demo.

The longer the distance between your hyperbole and the proof, the more tenuous your persuasive argument becomes.

But you get the message they’re trying to pass across, right? Campaign Monitor helps you send emails that get opened and replied.

8. Open your first paragraph with a hook

Once readers move past your headline, the next phase they’ll be meeting with is your opening paragraph. It tells them if they should keep reading your copy or head out to somewhere else.

There are a couple of ways to create a hook in your copy. You could start with a question like this one:

Open your first paragraph with a hook
That very first line (After all, that’s the dream, right?) will spring up a question in the mind of most readers. They’ll start wondering what the dream might be. And they know they have to keep reading to find out. That’s the hook right there.
Another way to create a hook would be starting out with an eye-catching phrase. This could be anything that has the potential of making your readers pay attention. For example:

Starting out with an eye-catching phrase.

9. Start small and utilize escalating agreements

Avoid hitting the nail on the at once­­––especially when you’re writing on a complex topic or for an audience that’s pretty tough to persuade. Begin by beating about the bush a little and give your readers simple valid points to agree on before they get to the complex parts of your copy.

This will help you persuade them to read your copy with ease no matter how complex the topic is and have them nodding their heads in agreement as they read on.

For example, calculating the Net Present Value of a sum of money is mostly a complex topics for folks who aren’t finance-savvy. I mean, it was pretty much a really tough topic for me in my first year studying finance in University. But see how the guys at Maths Is Fun made it look so simple by implementing escalating agreements:

Persuasion technique: utilize escalating agreements
See how they start their exegesis with a set of simple, valid opening sentences that virtually anyone would agree with? Notice that when readers agree that money now is more valuable than money later on, they’ll mostly move to the next line because they agreed with the previous sentence? That’s escalating agreements work. And that’s how to use it to persuade readers.

 10. It’s OK to use technical details

Part of resonating with an audience is speaking in their language. When you use relevant jargon or communicate in technical terms only your target segment understands, you help position yourself as an authority in your space and build a community of people who use the same terminologies as you.

So how do you write with simplicity and still use jargon to show that you are a guru?

See how Apple uses a mix of both waffles and plainness in their copy for iPhone 7:

“iPhone 7 dramatically improves the most important aspects of the iPhone experience. It introduces advanced new camera systems. The best performance and battery life ever in an iPhone. Immersive stereo speakers. The brightest, most colorful iPhone display. Splash and water resistance. And it looks every bit as powerful as it is. This is iPhone 7.”

Notice how all that contains no single jargon even though the copy is about a technical product? Yes, that’s simplicity. Virtually anyone would understand it.

Now see how they used technical terminology on the same page––after enticing readers with jargon-less copy:

Apple's use of jargon to build credibility.

Apple’s use of jargon to build credibility.

Now some readers might not know what an optical image or f/1.8 aperture means. That’s certain. But they’re most likely going to stay with the copy because it’s interesting to read and not stuffed with too much technical mumbo jumbo.

Veteran copywriter Robert Bly said the following in a recent newsletter:

“…almost without exception, virtually every successful direct response promotion is written in clear, concise, conversational copy. It’s the style used by John Forde … Clayton Makepeace … Richard Armstrong…Ivan Levison…Paul Hollingshead …Steve Slaunwhite…and just about every top six- and seven-figure copywriter I know. Why? Because it is plain English that virtually always gets the best response — proving that when it comes to communicating, simple writing is the best writing.”

11. Use short and to-the-point statements

Short, concise statements can be memorable, fun and persuasive. They help to reduce cognitive overload, the need for an excessive amount of mental effort to understand things.

See how the folks at Fiftythree do it on their jobs page:

It's difficult to condense messages into persuasive bites, but it can be very rewarding.

It’s difficult to condense messages into persuasive bites, but it can be very rewarding.

Copy doesn’t have to be wordy all the time. Just straight to the point and you’d have passed your message across in a split second.

12. Focus your headline on the biggest benefit you’re offering

Irrespective of how many benefits your offerings can provide, you need to figure out what your biggest benefit is and make your headline focus on. Too many websites “bury the lead.” This means that the most powerful point of the page is relegated to a subhead or the body of the copy.

A typical example here would be SumoMe. They offer several tools but the biggest benefit they provide is traffic and customers:

SumoMe doesn't "bury the lead."

SumoMe doesn’t “bury the lead.”

Traffic and customers are what SumoMe’s prospects care about the most, so they put that in their homepage headline. David Ogilvy once said this about headlines:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”

13. Tell stories

There has been a great deal written about stories. This is because they are proving to be so effective. Stories suck people’s attention into your copy. They make even the busiest people pay attention to whatever you’ve got to say or sell.

As an example, see how MAG International uses the art of storytelling to describe the havoc that landmines wreck:

Stories quickly help the reader relate to a situation

Stories quickly help the reader relate to a situation.

Stories are most effective when:

  • Readers don’t know about the problem.
  • Readers may know about the problem, but haven’t considered finding a solution.

Stories may not be effective for readers that are frequent buyers or are very familiar with your solution to their problem.

14. Flaunt your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Of all these persuasive writing techniques, this one is the most effective in our tests. Your unique selling proposition (USP), could be anything that entices visitors to stay and read. It can be that you have low prices, superior quality or anything helps your readers rationalize reading on. For an eCommerce company, the USP includes your positioning, return policy, shipping policy and guarantees.

First, your selling proposition often doesn’t necessarily need to be unique. It just needs to be communicated. Rug Perfection offers hand-made rugs made of natural materials. They offer free shipping and pay shipping for returns as well. Would you know that from the copy on their website?

Rug perfection doesn't flaunt its amazing story or its fantastic shipping and return policy.

Rug perfection doesn’t flaunt its unique value proposition, such as its fantastic shipping and return policy.

Your USP doesn’t have to be complex. Persuasive writers are able to summarize your place in the market in just a few words. This is true of Kissmetrics.

Kissmetrics clearly defines their unique position in the market by referencing Google Analytics.

Kissmetrics clearly defines their unique position in the market by referencing a competitor.

If calling out your competitor like Kissmetrics seems a little too aggressive for you, you can simply flaunt your unique value without mentioning any rival’s name. See how GoDaddy displays their unique 1-month free trial on their homepage:

The free trial is unique to the hosting industry.

The free trial is unique to the hosting industry.

There’s virtually no other web host provider that allows a month free trial. So that’s a USP for GoDaddy.

Check out more value proposition examples here.

Start Using These Persuasive Writing Techniques

People are getting smarter year-by-year. Each time we want to shop for anything online, we mostly prefer to check out a number of options and choose who we’d like to do business with.

So a smart move you can (and should) make now is to ensure your web copy and content is focused on enticing, engaging and ultimately persuading prospects to pay attention to your brand and offerings.

Co-authored by Victor Ijidola

Victor Ijidola is a content marketer and freelance business writer. He runs Premium Content Shop where he offers premium writing services that drive leads, and has been featured on sites like Inc.com, The Next Web, Kissmetrics and many more.

One of my webinar attendees asked the question, “What are some of the best headlines you’ve tested?”
Of course, most of the best headlines I’ve found were the ones I’ve written. Well, that’s not completely true. They were the best until I tested them. Often my favorites didn’t win.
Nonetheless, headlines are one of our favorite things to test because

  1. They move the needle on the conversion rate.
  2. They tell us something about our visitors.

We learn what words get past the bouncers in our readers’ brains.
[pullquote]Some of the best headlines we’ve tested were emotional, abrupt and unexpected.[/pullquote] In one of our more famous tests for an addiction treatment center, we found that a conceptual headline such as “Ready to start healing?” performed poorly compared to “Speak to a Compassionate Rehab Specialiast.” The latter delivered a 32% increase in phone calls.
What could beat that? It was “Ready to Stop Lying? If so, we can help,” which delivered a 43% boost in calls.
Testing is the only way we have found to improve headlines, but a few guidelines can keep you from starting with stinky headlines.

  1. Never ask a question for which the answer is “Yes” or “No.” Neither entices the reader to keep reading. The proper response a reader should have to a headline question is, “Whaaaat??” or “How will you do that?”
    Your question headline shouldn't elicit a "Yes" or "No" answer. It should never make the readers say, "Um, I don't know."

    Your question headline shouldn’t elicit a “Yes” or “No” answer. It should certainly never make the readers say, “Um, I don’t know,” or “Let’s not take a look.”


    “Ready to Stop Lying?”
  2. Don’t try to carpet bomb with headlines. Pick one. Your subheadlines should follow from one strong headline.
    Three headlines that don't seem to follow each other. This is headline carpet bombing.

    Three headlines that don’t seem to follow each other. This is headline carpet bombing.

  3. Your headline should echo the promise made by the link, ad or email that brought the visitor to the page in the first place.
    The promise of a Web Trial seems broken by an ignored landing page headline.

    The promise of a Web Trial seems broken by an ignored landing page headline.

  4. If you’re goal is to get a visitor to call, put the phone number in the headline.

[sitepromo]

  1. “Welcome” is not a headline.
    If "Welcome" is in your headline, you've probably "buried the lead."

    If “Welcome” is in your headline, you’ve probably “buried the lead.”

  2. Specific headlines generally outperform conceptual headlines.
    Transform my lecture into what? Conceptual headlines lose the reader from the start.

    Transform my lecture into what? Conceptual headlines lose the reader from the start.

  3. If you are not a copywriter — a professionally trained copywriter with a proven track record of generating sales — don’t try to write a cute headline.
    Cute. If I was a bolted assembly technician, I still doubt I would find this headline intriguing.

    Cute. If I was a bolted assembly technician, I still doubt I would find this headline intriguing.

  4. Your headline should not be complete without the following sentence or sub-headline.
    I've got to keep reading to find out what 40,000 NRA members know that I don't.

    I’ve got to keep reading to find out what 40,000 NRA members know that I don’t.

  5. Just because your boss owns a copy of Microsoft Word does not make him a copywriter. Be ready to defend your headlines from executive bloat.
    A strong premise, but poor execution make this headline a stinker.

    A strong premise, but too many words make this headline a stinker. The question is, “Would you invest one day to avoid a law suit?”

  6. Write 20-25 headlines for every page. Keep one.
    Concise headlines don't have to be cute. They are the result of iteration after iteration.

    Concise headlines don’t have to be cute. They are the result of iteration after iteration.

  7. Test your headlines. Be ready to be disappointed at the winners.
  8. Have someone outside the company read your headlines.
    NEBOSH IGC? IOSH? This from a company who teaches Mars safety. They sound like they're from another planet.

    NEBOSH IGC? IOSH? This from a company who teaches Mars safety. They sound like they’re from another planet.

  9. If you’re having trouble coming up with a headline, it’s can probably be found buried in the copy.
    Why bury the most compelling reason to use the software?

    Why bury the most compelling reason to use the software?

  10. Study the rules of grammar for the language you’re writing for.
    Is it "a great customer experience," or "great customer experiences?" And who cares anyway.

    Is it “a great customer experience,” or “great customer experiences?” Not even the editor made it past this unexciting headline.

These rules will get you started, providing the best headlines you can write without testing.
What rules would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.
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Feature image by woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

Tim Ash coined the term “Big fat bouncers in your brain” during an interview on his Landing Page Optimization podcast that he and I were on.
I love the image that phrase draws to mind, because it’s true.
The bottom line is this: If you want your message to affect and influence your readers and listeners, you must get past the big fat bouncers in their brains.
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Writing Killer Copy: Getting Past the Bouncers in Your Brian

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I’ve introduced you to these two bouncers and telling you how to write copy that gets past them.
Why register now?
Find out how Betabrand achieved 432% growth for products nobody was looking for.
Get my real definition of “copy”.
See revealing brain scans. We all love brain scans.
Discover my fool-proof method for great copy.
Find out what business porn is and how to create compelling images.
As always, we have FUN doing these.
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Writing Killer Copy: Getting Past the Bouncers in Your Brian

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There are two broad categories of visitors to your site. Understanding them will make you a better at conversion copywriting. You’ll deliver copy, offers and landing pages that perform.
By “better” I mean “money generating” or “lead generating.” Interested?
We recently completed a test for one of our clients that generated a 42% lift in leads for them simply by analyzing the kind of buyer that was coming.
We can find these kinds of wins for your business. Do you want our help?
Roy H. Williams of the Wizard Academy introduced these two buyers to me: Transactional and Relational.
Transactional buyers are those whose greatest fear is paying one dollar too much for something. They are the competitive shoppers. They love the shopping experience and will visit many stores and sites in search of bargains.
They want to be the expert.
They aren’t loyal to any brand or outlet, but seek the best price du jour.
On a landing page, these buyers are enticed by offering coupons, deals and discounts.
Relational Buyers’ greatest fear is buying the wrong thing. They see shopping as part of the cost of the purchase.
They seek out expert help, and will pay a premium for trusted guidance.
They rely on brands to help them make choices.
These buyers are drawn to assurances of quality, ratings and reviews, and information to help them choose.

Does Your Audience Lean Transactional or Relational?

Like Republicans and Democrats in the US, your visitors may naturally lean to one side or the other. You may even have an extreme “Tea Party” transactional audience or a “Bleeding Heart” relational audience. Testing is one way to find out.
Here’s an example. Laithwaites sells wine online. They did a test that took the exact same offer and presented it in relational and transactional ways.

Relational buyers care more getting a good wine than getting a good deal on wine.

This split test shows that more wine buyers prefer a good wine to a good deal on wine. They are relational buyers.


In their case, they found that the transactional message, leading with “Save $100 on 12 World-Class Reds” didn’t perform as well as the relational message that started with “Enjoy 12 World-Class Reds…”.
Laithwaites apparently has a relational audience, or the ad that drove traffic here made an offer with relational appeal.
Roy Williams makes another important point. Transactional shoppers are the least profitable of them all. They hunt relentlessly for your lowest price and don’t come back if they find something cheaper. We prefer not to optimize for these “LMLLV,” or “Low Margin, Low Lifetime Value” visitors.
If most of your advertising offers discounts, deals and coupons, you may be leaving your most profitable buyers behind.

Simple Copy Changes Can Make All the Difference

Our client sells home furnishings, and the offer was an on-site visit and consultation.
The best performing search ads for this client offered discounts, like “Now 20% Off – Save up to $100 on Advanced.”
However, the landing pages featured reasons to buy the product and benefits of the brand. This is a relational approach. The highest performing ads, however, are clearly transactional, offering discounts and savings.
Our hypothesis was that the landing page copy wasn’t appealing to the transactional shoppers the ad was drawing. The page didn’t keep the visitor on the scent.
To test our hypothesis, we created a “Transactional” landing page that emphasized the savings, and reinforced that the consultant would be able to offer even more savings.
The headline was changed from

FREE Design Consultation and Installation

Take the stress out of shopping

to

In Home Manufacturer Discounts

Our Certified Designers can offer you $100 off each unit you purchase.

This shifted the headline from a relational consultation to inviting someone into your home who can dole out the savings – very transactional.
We also added some additional copy touches that appeal to transactional shoppers. “Combine Discounts,” proclaimed one bullet. “Limited time only,” chirped another.
These changes gave us a 42% jump in conversions.
Let us design some tests for your business and draw more revenue from your existing traffic. We offer a free strategy session to help you map out our own optimization roadmap.
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