3 Secrets of Super-Persuasive Writers

By Nancy HarhutAugust 8, 2017

Do you want more people to read your content? Pay attention to your ads? Respond to your marketing messages instead of your competitor’s?

Of course you do. Every brand does.

The problem is, with over a million words in the English language, and Merriam Webster adding hundreds more each year, choosing the ones that will work can seem like a crap shoot.

But the truth is, not all words and phrases are created equal. Some are more likely than others to grab the attention of your prospects and incent them to act.

So if you want to stack the odds in your favor, do what the most persuasive copywriters do: tap into the power of behavioral science. This emerging discipline continues to uncover fascinating facts about how people behave – including some of the decision-making shortcuts humans rely on.

The truth is, despite our best intentions, we humans don’t always make well thought out, rational choices. Very often we respond emotionally, instinctively, and automatically. We default to hard-wired behaviors, giving them little to no thought.

And while some marketers may see that as disheartening news, others recognize the inherent opportunity.

Knowing that particular prompts typically produce given responses can be extremely helpful information in the hands of a copywriter who wants to attract eyeballs or trigger action.

Following are three of my favorite “persuasion secrets.” With these and others like them, I’ve helped clients lift response and beat benchmarks.

1. Discover the allure of the little known. Behavioral scientists have found that people are more persuaded by information they believe is not readily available.  We tend to think there is some hidden way to become richer, sexier, smarter or a better version of ourselves – and if we could only just find it, we’d be all set.

And it’s not just in the B2C world. B2B targets also think closely guarded information is what makes some companies more successful, more productive, or more profitable.

So when you’re writing copy, use words and phrases like:

  • Secret
  • Sneak peek
  • Confessions of
  • Behind the scenes look
  • Little known
  • An inside look at what really happens
  • The truth behind

Each of these promises information that’s not widely available. And that promise will prompt action.

2. See how quickly restrictions lift response. People are funny. Often, we want we cannot have. And we’re not all that interested in what we can.

Social scientists refer to this as the Scarcity Principle. And it has two sides: Exclusivity and Urgency. If something is restricted to a select group of people (exclusivity), or if it’s only available for a limited time or in limited amounts (urgency), this makes us want it more.

In fact, sometimes it makes us want something we’d ordinarily not want at all.

How do you put the Scarcity Principle to work in your marketing and advertising? Use words and phrases like:

  • Only for members of
  • Not everyone will receive
  • Reserved for people who
  • Be among the first
  • Before the general public
  • Sold out item back in stock
  • Offer good through (date)
  • Temporarily available
  • Only (x) left
  • Last chance

Each of these telegraphs that your product, service or offer can’t be had by just anyone — or at any time. And that makes people want it.

3. See why a little information can go a long way.  Neuroeconomist George Loewenstein found that what motivates people is their need to know. He proved that if there’s a gap between what someone already knows and what that person wants to know, they will take action to close that gap.

So as marketers, we need to pique people’s interest.  Pose a question your target can’t answer, but wish they could. Or offer a superlative on a topic that’s important to them. Make them want to find out.

How can you do that? Choose words and phrases like:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How
  • The best
  • The worse
  • The most
  • The only

You now possess three of the persuasive writing secrets that have the power to increase readership and response.  Remember, focusing on your targets and the reflexive behaviors they often default to can make the difference between their choosing you or your competition.

So select your words and phrases carefully. And watch as people think success follows you automatically!

For more insights on writing for success and incorporating these principles into your marketing, be sure to register for Connect to Convert and join Nancy as she leads the "Content MasterClass: Everything You Need to Know about Phrasing Copy, Framing Offers, and Fighting for Eyeballs". Register today!


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