â€œThe more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.â€ – David Ogilvy
As any lawyer knows, it’s not the strength of your words but the strength of your arguments that wins.
The same rule applies to persuasive writing.
Dazzling the reader with your use of a thesaurus or adopting a pushy tone isn’t the best way of convincing them to respond the way you want.
Persuasive writing is thinking on paper and salesmanship in print, rather than clever wordsmithing.
The aim isnâ€™t to impress the reader with stylish prose, but to present your case as clearly and logically as possible. And this takes planning.
Before you go near the keyboard you need to know what your points are so you can organise them into a cohesive structure that takes the reader along a clear path of thought and leaves them enlightened and pulling out their credit card at the end.
And trust me, taking the time to plan what to write before you start saves a lot of time in the long run.
When composing your points, you need to answer:
- Why am I writing?
- Who am I writing to?
- What action do I want them to take?
Why am I writing?
Why should someone agree with your point of view or buy your product?
If you donâ€™t already know the answer to this then youâ€™ll need to research your product in depth.
Tenacious research is crucial for shaping your argument, and you should have more information than you can use before you start writing.
Itâ€™s only through developing a thorough understanding of your product or service that youâ€™ll work out how to make it sound enticing.
Crucially, you need to know:
- What does my product do?
- Why is it better than the competition?
- What problems does it solve?
- How can I prove its benefits?
After compiling your notes, write an ordered list of the points you need to make to persuade a cynical reader that agreeing with you is the smart thing to do.
Who am I writing to?
After your product the most important element of writing persuasively is your reader (although some copywriters would say itâ€™s the other way around).
Different people have different motivations and aspirations in life.
So you need to understand what makes your target reader happy, annoyed and what keeps them awake at night.
- What motivates them?
- What are they afraid of?
- What do they want to gain in life?
- What do they want to avoid?
- How can you offer to make their lives easier?
- What style of language appeals to them?
- What counter arguments would they have to your proposal?
It’s through getting inside the head of your target reader that you’ll understand what triggers will propel them into buying your product.
People make decisions based on two types of triggers:
1. logical motivations e.g. saving time, money or being more productive
2. emotional feelings e.g. being more successful, popular or wealthy
So when structuring your writing you need to identify how you can appeal to both.
How can you make them feel that buying your product will make them more popular or successful, and what are the practical reasons why it’s money well spent?
Emotions can be powerful buying motivators, so use them responsibly.
What action do I want them to take?
Whether you want them to visit your website, signup for your newsletter or buy that instant, you need to be clear on what it is you’re ultimately asking your reader to do.
Because the action you want the reader to take gives you an indication of how much youâ€™ll need to write. The higher the cost of taking action the more youâ€™ll need to say to convince them of the benefits of doing so.
And itâ€™s vitally important that you’re writing about benefits rather than features, which Iâ€™ll be discussing in my next post.
9 thoughts on “Writing Persuasively 2 – Planning Why You Are Writing, Who To And What Action You Want Them To Take”
good stuff, man… I always think writers block, or ineffective copy, comes more from a lack of planning than from poor execution. you gotta have a good foundation to build a good house.
however, I will say this – words (both big and small) are an important part of constructing the message you talk about. I agree that the goal is not to impress readers, but sometimes, using impressive words can serve your purpose.
Thanks Brian, glad you liked the post.
The planning part is often overlooked and crucial – the essence of persuasive writing is clear thinking. Another key benefit of clear thinking is avoiding the “kitchen sink” pieces – trying to sell all things to all people.
I agree: clear thinking is a prerequisite to clear writing, and different people respond to different triggers and emotional appeals. In the planning stage it’s crucial to clarify your thoughts about what you’re trying to achieve and who you’re targeting your writing at.
Thanks for your comment,
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