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Riffs on marketing and writing and life ––

Persuasive writing techniques that work like witchcraft.

In 1839, a gentleman named Edward Bulwer- Lytton wrote, The pen is mightier than the sword, leaving his mark on history for creating arguably the corniest line of all time.

Give a man a sword and give his foe a pen and we’ll see who lives to write (or fight) another day.

But, corniness aside, Edward was onto something. Perhaps, not where it concerned violence. But, rather, how writing has the power to spark action in the reader.

Better yet, to spark this action, the reader doesn’t have to read the writing the exact moment a writer writes it. She can read it a week later, a month later and even a decade later and still feel herself being pulled to do something.

Timeless books like Think & Grow Rich that have stood the test of time, serve as testament to the fact that good writing can almost have infinite and timeless power.

In this regard… writing is like witchcraft.

When done well, writing (and more specifically persuasive writing) can get someone to do something anytime, anywhere. I know, because I’ve been dabbling with this black magic for a few years now over at Honey Copy, my creative writing shop that works with brands on writing words that read like poetry and sell like Ogilvy.

Persuasive writing can give someone the courage to divorce their emotionally abusive husband.

Persuasive writing can give someone the tools and the confidence to shed 50 pounds of fat.

Persuasive writing can give someone the belief they need to spend 10% of their savings on a cherry red Corvette.

While it takes years to hone your persuasive writing chops, there are a handful of techniques you can begin applying immediately to give your writing a stronger persuasive flair. And, if you keep reading, I’m about to share some of the most powerful ones I know personally, with you.

3 persuasive writing techniques every marketer should be aware of.

If writing is like witchcraft, persuasive writing techniques are the specific spells writers cast in their novels, articles, ebooks, emails and sales copy to spark action in the reader. If there was some magical persuasive writing spell-book, the first chapter would be dedicated strictly to storytelling.

1. Storytelling, a persuasive writing technique that creates a sense of ownership around your products.

In the mornings, my alarm clock will blare and I’ll be wrestled awake from a dream. I’ll lie there for a moment. Only for a moment, before rolling out of bed. If I stay put for more than sixty seconds I’ll drift back off to sleep.

When my bare feet hit the hardwood, it’s off to the races. In ten minutes, I’m out of the house and racing to a coffee shop to get words to paper.

Brushing my teeth, downing some water, throwing on some clothes and making my bed takes me about seven minutes, lacing up my Red Wings requires three.

No. It’s not practical to spend three minutes putting on your boots each morning, but the process has become somewhat of a warrior’s prayer for me –– a ritual of sorts.

It’s my way of preparing myself for the serious work I have ahead –– writing and marketing –– two crafts I believe in like religion.

My great grandfather and my great grandfather’s father were blacksmiths, they wore a thick clunky pair of leather boots every day they stepped foot in the forge. And, while my work as a writer isn’t nearly as taxing as wrestling fire and manipulating steel, lacing up my boots prepares me for a good day’s work…

I’m no Hemingway. I’m certainly no Hemingway. But, you just read a story and if my intuition is correct (and it normally is)… you paid more attention during the past twelve sentences than you have at any other point in this entire article.

That’s the power of storytelling. And, like so many subconscious triggers that exist in the human mind, the power of storytelling is something primal.

Humans have been sharing stories since 15,000 B.C. to connect, entertain and pass along important information like… Rick got eaten by a big orange cat with stripes the other day so if you ever see one, don’t try to pet it.

We've been telling stories for so many years that it has become ingrained in our DNA... evolution has literally wired our brains for storytelling.

Now, how is storytelling a persuasive writing technique?

Well, since we’ve been telling stories for so long and since they’re literally ingrained in our DNA… humans actually think in stories.

So, when they watch Superman or Indiana Jones or The Wolf of Wall Street… they aren’t just watching but they are actually placing themselves in the shoes of the character(s) in the stories.

This is the very reason storytelling can work so well for brands hoping to sell whatever it is they’re selling. If you can tell a story about a man driving a cherry red Corvette, it becomes more than just a Corvette, it becomes the reader’s Corvette.

Got it? Good.

The bottom line is that when in doubt or lost for words, think of some story you can tell to kick off your emails, sales pages and articles. It will snag the reader’s attention and will create a sense of ownership around your product or service.

If your customers feel like they own what you’re selling, they’ll eventually buy whatever it is you’re selling.

I wrote an entire article on how to tell a damn good story, here. And, if you’re looking for real-world examples of master storytelling in marketing, take a look at any of these articles.

2. The Cliffhanger, the persuasive writing technique that leaves your readers hanging and makes them want you more.

If you were to scroll back up to the beginning of this article, you’ll find a two sentence excerpt I wrote right before diving into introducing the three persuasive writing techniques every marketer should be aware of.

It read something along the lines of…

“While it takes years to hone your persuasive writing chops, there are a handful of techniques you can begin applying immediately to give your writing a stronger persuasive flair. And, if you keep reading, I’m about to share some of the most powerful ones I know personally, with you.”

In copywriting, this little persuasive writing technique is called The Cliffhanger… it’s what writers use to keep their readers reading.

No matter how talented of a writer you are, you’re always going to lose at least a few readers as they work their way down the page.

So, think of your writing like a hit Netflix series. How do you get the teenager with ADD to choose to continue watching your screen over the dozen or so others in her home?

You do so by keeping them hooked at the end of each episode.

You fire a bullet at the main character and cut the episode before the viewer can see if he has time to dodge it.

While marketing is generally less exciting than action-packed lead-slinging blockbusters, it doesn’t mean that cliffhangers can’t be crafted to keep the reader watching or reading.

This is why big brands don’t just release a new product or service out of the blue… they flirt with their audience to build anticipation.

As you write your emails and landing pages and articles, remind yourself of The Cliffhanger… and perhaps think of it like lovemaking… not everything has to happen all at once.

3. Obliterate Objections, the persuasive writing technique that gives your readers fewer reasons not to buy.

Objections. They are what is standing in the way between your brand and more sales. Yet, not many marketers are focusing on them.

For those unfamiliar with the term, objections are essentially the conversation the customer is having in her head to keep from buying whatever it is you’re selling.

In marketing, we’ve been taught to focus on the “benefits” of a product or service –– which is obviously important –– but to really persuade someone to cough up their hard earned money we need to obliterate their objections.

For example, let’s say we’re Red Wing selling someone a $300 pair of boots… that’s not an easy sell. Instead of focusing strictly on the benefits, we should ask ourselves how the customer will try to talk himself out of making the purchase. They might raise objections like…

  1. $300 is way too expensive to spend on a pair of shoes.

  2. They’re a bit clunky.

  3. They’re uncomfortable when you first put them on.

  4. I don’t have time to take care of a leather boot of this quality.

Now, here’s how Red Wing might obliterate these objections in their copy before the customer has a chance to talk himself out of the purchase…

  1. Red Wings run about $300 a pair, that’s 3x times the cost of most other boots out there. The difference is that our boots last 10x longer than most others. So, if you ask us, it’s a bargain.

  2. We charge more for our boots because they are bigger and stronger than whatever you have on right now –– we craft them out of leather cut from the thickest hides we can find. Folks will know when you’re wearing a pair of Red Wings. The world will hear you coming down the hallway.

  3. With that said, you’re gonna have to earn them. Red Wings are like a wild horse, to break them in you have to have a little fire in your belly. They’re gonna give your feet hell for a couple days, but by day three you’re never gonna want to take them off.

  4. And, don’t you fret, we’ll be there with you along the way –– anytime you need your Red Wings oiled, run them by one of our retail locations and we’ll service them for you free of charge.

By this time, your customer should be throwing wads of cash at you… because not only did you give some kick-ass benefits but you completely obliterated any objections they might have.

Sometimes, selling is simply eliminating reasons someone shouldn’t buy something. By using the persuasive writing technique of Obliterating Objections, you can make a purchase blatantly obvious for your customer.

And, that’s that.

While fully unpacking the spell-book of persuasive writing techniques requires a lot more than a single blog post, the three techniques I shared with you today should immediately add a more persuasive flair to your copy. Give them a try and see what you find. And, as always, if you ever need some help from this good for nothing word slinger, I’m one email away.

By Cole Schafer.


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Cole Schafer