What Makes Copy Persuasive?

So what exactly is it that makes copy persuasive to an audience? And what efforts can you make to facilitate greater persuasiveness?

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By Timothy Carter

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Persuasive copy can benefit your business in a number of contexts and situations. It could help you win more conversions on a landing page of your website. It can make your direct mail campaign more effective. It could even help you win back a customer on the verge of canceling their subscription.

So what exactly is it that makes copy persuasive to an audience? And what efforts can you make to facilitate greater persuasiveness?

The goals of persuasive copy

Persuasion is a complex field of study. If you assume we're all perfectly rational and that we all think and experience the world the same way, persuasion could be reduced to winning a logical argument. But it should be perfectly apparent by now that we're not such rational creatures.

Related: Here's How to Improve Your Business's Content Marketing

Accordingly, if you want your copy to be persuasive, you need to do three main things:

  • Grab attention. First, you need to get the attention of the people you want to persuade. The world is a big place, and it's crowded with advertisements. If you want any hope of persuading someone with a written message, you need to stand out.
  • Be trusted. Would you be persuaded to buy a brand new car for $400? That's a good deal, but something's fishy — why would someone sell a new car that cheap? Before you can convince anyone of anything, you need to establish trust and authority.
  • Convince the audience to take action. This is arguably the biggest factor considered in conversion rate optimization; you need to compel your readers to take action. By getting attention and trust, you might convince a reader that your product truly is beneficial or practical. But if they don't take the next step and buy it, your efforts will be in vain.

Let's take a closer look at each of these.

Grabbing attention

For starters, we have to grab attention.

We can do that with:

  • Prominence. There are more than 4.2 billion web pages on the internet, with more added every day. If you don't make your copy obvious, prominent and easy to read, it's not going to get noticed.
  • Brevity. People don't have the time, patience or attention span necessary to read an exhaustive treatise on the subject. If you want your copy to be persuasive, it has to be brief. That's why bulleted lists and snappy headlines work so well.
  • Originality. If you rip off someone else's marketing copy or write something lazy and clichéd, your users are going to notice. You must strive to write copy that's fresh and original.
  • Aesthetics. Aesthetics are important too, though it's less about your core content and more about your presentation. Use a clean, easily readable font, and stay true to your brand image.
  • Entertainment/humor. For some brands, it's also helpful to have copy with an entertainment factor, such as a bit of humor worked in. It makes your copy noticeable and instantly more relatable.

Building trust

Building trust with copy alone is difficult, since much will depend on your existing brand reputation. Still, you can improve trust with:

  • Sincerity/authenticity. People crave authenticity. If you write like every other company, or if you're slinging tired, familiar phrases, people won't take you seriously. Instead, inject your personality and be honest.
  • Authority and knowledge. You'll stimulate more trust if you can demonstrate more authority and knowledge on the subject. What can you say to convince people that you know what you're talking about, or that the science is on your side?
  • Other trust signals. Little touches can be powerful signals of authority. Mentioning brands you've worked with in the past, describing your partners or noting the combined experience of your team can all help here.

Convincing the audience to take action

Finally, you'll work to convince your audience to take action.

To do that, focus on:

  • Simplicity of action. Remember, people have short attention spans and limited patience. If you want them to do something, it has to be quick and simple. Your forms should have only a few fields and your requests should be immediately actionable.
  • Driving action words. You'll get more conversions if you use strong action words and commands. For example, say "Save $500 by filling out this form," rather than "Did you know you could save $500? All you have to do is fill out this form."
  • Logical benefits. Though most of us make irrational decisions regularly (and don't think you're exempt), it can help to explain the logical benefits of taking action.
  • Urgency. Combat permanent procrastinators by stressing the limited time nature of this offer (or imply urgency in some other way).

Related: How You Should Be Evaluating Your Content Marketing Success

Persuasion isn't a perfect science. Even if you follow all the recommendations in this article and nail all the right persuasive elements, there's a chance your copy won't be convincing to your target audience. Keep studying the nuances of your target market and experimenting with new techniques; eventually, you'll find the proper balance.

Timothy Carter

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Revenue Officer of SEO.co

Timothy Carter is the CRO of the Seattle digital marketing agency SEO.co. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & digital marketing leading, building & scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and driving growth from websites and sales teams.

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