…AND WHY YOU SHOULD BE USING THEM
Now for a change of pace.
For the last few weeks I have focused on content marketing strategies, levering social media and blogging benefits for business. All these tactics have one key objective: monetising your audience. The tips and tricks contained within my recent blog posts all have one key objective: increasing your sales.
Guess what other common denominator all these topics have in common?
Whether it’s your blog, or a landing on your website, your copy must be persuasive. The whole point of copy (within a marketing / advertising / promotional context) is to persuade your audience to do something. To sign up to your newsletter. To buy your product. To request an online quote. To pick up the phone. To schedule a meeting.
Your copy must be persuasive enough to make your audience act. You have to use persuasive words.
So, for a change of pace, I’m going back to basics today. I’m going to take a look at language use, at English in its purest form. Today’s post is a cross between etymology and linguistics, for the purposes of marketing.
What is persuasive language?
Persuasive language encourages the reader to think or act in a certain way, to change their opinion. It is often used in editorial pieces and academic essays to espouse a convincing argument. For extreme examples, take a look at propaganda; persuasive language is often used to indoctrinate the intended audience.
There are a few types of words that you can use if you want to make your copy more persuasive.
Emotive words: these conjure immediate overtones, making the reader experience a specific emotion: happiness, fear, guilt, joy, sadness, terror. Emotive words are particularly useful if you are trying to influence or change the opinion of your audience.
Exaggeration: employ exaggeration if you want make whatever it is that you are discussing seem much better, or much worse, than it really is. This can be useful if your audience is comprised of tweens. For example, “You might…like…die if…like…you don’t buy the…like…most wicked 1D poster eva”. If your audience is slightly more discerning, you do risk being called out as a fake.
Repetition: this device is extremely useful to reinforce your message. Repetition helps your audience remember your key message. Repetition can help your audience overcome goldfish syndrome (ie. memory loss after three seconds).
Data and statistics: embed your persuasive copy with authority by including statistics and factual data. It’s nearly impossible to argue with imperial evidence.
Imperatives: give your audience an authoritative command (like I just gave you!). Imperatives encourage your audience to do something quickly, urgently. Imperatives make your audience feel like they have no choice but to do what you are telling them to do.
Literary devices: these include tools like similes, alliteration, rhyme and assonance. All these devices make an idea or a phrase that little bit more memorable.
Generalisations: depending on your audience, broad sweeping statements can be quite effective at first glance. Generally, if your audience isn’t overly discerning, they won’t scrutinised for accuracy.
Puns and clichés: according to industry experts, puns and clichés can build rapport and grab attention, by using humour. I suggest that you err on the side of caution when it comes to clichés. Littering your writing with trite, tired, tacky puns can backfire. It’s boring. It’s been done before. If you want to use humour, be witty and original. Build rapport that way.
So, are specific words more persuasive than others?
In 1970, syndicated American columnist L.M. Boyd wrote:
“The 12 most persuasive words in the English language are: you, money, save, new, results, health, easy, safety, love, discovery, proven and guarantee. Or such is the claim of researchers in the Yale psychology department. No salesman should forget this.”
The problem is, no one is too sure whether that research actually exists. It has been credited to Yale, to Duke University, to the University of California, and even to a ‘big advertising agency’. Not only that, sometimes the list shrinks to 10 words or expands to 14 words.
Regardless of the validity (or existence) of the Yale study, there are certain ‘power’ words that make more of difference to the decision making process than others. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn what these ‘power’ words are. I was. Some of them don’t seem powerful at all.
But they are all efficient. They are all simple. Their message is crystal-clear.
After reading them, your audience knows exactly what you are trying to say. And, more importantly, exactly what it is you want them to do.
So, here are the 10 most persuasive words in the English language
1. You: this personal pronoun makes your reader feel personally involved, personally attached, personally responsible. By using ‘you’, a rapport is created between the writer and the reader; the copy is speaking directly to each and every audience member.
2. Free: who doesn’t love a freebie? I’ve seen punters hip and shoulder family members to the ground, just to get their mitts on a free taste test in the supermarket. Apply that logic to your product or service. Offer something for free, and then duck while the seagulls swoop. Once the seagulls are hooked on your superior product or service, send them a dirty great big invoice.
A word of warning on the use of ‘free’: it does carry with it an inherent danger. ‘Free’ will attract plenty of seagulls. The problem with seagulls is that not all of them will morph into superstar customers. So, only use ‘free’ if it makes sense for your business, and if you are willing to give without return (in some instances).
3. Save: closely related to ‘free’. Everyone likes to save money. Everyone likes to save time. Demonstrate, through compelling copy, how you can deliver on one or the other.
4. Because: give your audience a reason. Answer that all-important question: WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?) Emphasise the features and the benefits of your product or service. Tell your audience what they will get if they hand over their hard-earned cash. What results will you deliver?
5. Instantly: avoid delayed gratification. Use words like ‘instant’ or ‘immediate’ or even ‘fast’ to get your audience excited and on board. If you run an online store, remind your customers that their purchase will be delivered quickly, or even the next day. If you’re peddling services, promise your clientele that someone will call them right away. The idea is to imply that you can relieve their headache fast. This is a reliable tactic, as long as you always deliver (or, where possible over-deliver) on your promise.
6. New: this is important when it comes to products (you probably hate your ‘out-dated’ two-year old i-phone) but not quite so important for experiential purchases (memories of that relaxing island escape you took ten years ago have probably aged like a fine wine). With this in mind, it’s important to dazzle customers with new product lines, or new features on an old product, or a new design.
7. Proven: slight contradiction I realise. Proven is the opposite of ‘new’. Proven will be more suited for particular brands and specific products and services. Proven assures your audience that they are not taking risks. It’s important to back this one with data.
8. Guarantee: closely linked to ‘proven’, use of the word ‘guarantee’ makes people feel safe. By using the word ‘guarantee’ you are eliminating the possibility of risk altogether. There is nothing more to fear.
A word of warning on the use of ‘guarantee’: if you cannot actually guarantee something, then don’t use the word. If you’re a moving company, don’t guarantee that you can deliver every item in pristine condition unless you are 110% sure you can. Otherwise, when you arrive with a family heirloom smashed to smithereens, you might have a lawsuit on your hands.
9. Easy: everyone is time-poor these days. Everyone wants an easier life. A simpler life. A life without worries and stress. Demonstrate how you can deliver this life. Demonstrate, through persuasive copy, how your product or service will make the life of your audience easier.
10. Love: love makes the world go round. It can also be a very persuasive word when you know what it is that your audience loves the most. Do they love their family? Their job? Money? Whatever the object of their affection, make sure you appeal to it through persuasive copy.
For a limited time only, we have a free CHEAT SHEET – THE 100 MOST PERSUASIVE WORDS. To get your hands on our free CHEAT SHEET, all you need to do is subscribe to our newsletter. Once you’ve got our CHEAT SHEET, you’ll be able to sell ice to eskimos!
P.S. If you’re wondering what an old school combi van has to do with persuasive language, let me enlighten you…not a thing! Rather than relying on boring stock imagery, we’ve decided to go with beautiful photos. Photos that inspire. Photos that make us smile. And, as the sun sets on Melbourne’s summer, this sunny photo certainly made us smile.