How do you write persuasive copy without coming across as a sleazy salesman?
The key is subtlety. The best persuasive copywriting techniques work at a subconscious level. Although the reader undoubtedly knows you’re trying to sell them something, they don’t see how you’re doing it. And then, before they realise, they’ve been convinced and they’re ready to convert.
There are different ways to influence and motivate people and encourage them to buy. Some are supported by findings in psychology and social sciences. Others are just plain common sense. All are about getting people to take action—whether that’s making a purchase, giving you a call, or subscribing to your newsletter—and they start by showing the customer what’s in it for them.
15 Tips for Copywriting That Will Make Your Reader Say Yes
Speak Their Language
As with all copy or content writing, you need to know your reader. You need to write to them and for them. This means putting yourself in their shoes. What are they thinking about? What do they want? What do they worry about? What matters to them?
Conduct buyer research to gain insights into who your potential customers are. Make sure you always have them in mind when you’re writing your copy.
You should also consider where your reader is in the sales funnel.
- Awareness – they’re just learning about you.
- Interest – they know about you and they’re interested in your products and services.
- Desire – they’re beginning to consider you as an option.
- Action – they’re ready to buy.
Tailor your writing depending on where your reader’s at. Are they only just becoming aware of you and your products? Your copy should be informative and tell them what they need to know. Are they in the middle of the funnel? They may need an extra push or incentive, perhaps with some social proof or persuasive statistics. Or are they at the end of the funnel? Then all you need is a strong call-to-action.
And not only do you want to talk to your readers directly, but you also want to sound like them too. We naturally trust people who are like us so speaking the way they speak will make you more relatable.
To find out how your customers talk, you may need to conduct client interviews. Or you can go on forums or subreddits where your target customers are posting to see what kind of language they use. In most cases, you’ll want to stick with a light-hearted conversational tone—like people use when chatting with friends. This should also match your brand’s tone of voice—the style of language that captures who you are and what you stand for.
Start with a Yes Question
For example, When was the last time you treated yourself to something indulgent? Or Ready to discover a better way to convert customers?
Most likely your buyer is going to find themselves nodding as they read these questions. This creates a positive and affirmative mood. It shows you understand and identify with them. And if the customer agrees with you from the outset, they’re more likely to be persuaded later on.
Using the word you is also particularly powerful, addressing your reader directly and creating a connection that keeps them engaged.
Talk About Benefits, Not Features
Listing the features of your product or service is informative but it’s not particularly persuasive.
To really engage customers, you need to make the features relevant to them. How does this particular feature serve them? Why is this particular feature meaningful? How might it change their lives?
Basically, you want to explain why a particular feature is such an advantage.
For example, if you’re selling an air purifier, as well as listing the specifications, you need to explain why they’re useful. Does its extra-large capacity mean you can use it in big open-plan spaces? Does the high-quality filter mean you won’t need to replace it so often, therefore saving money? Does the auto-off function mean it won’t keep you awake at night?
Show why a feature might matter for your specific reader, knowing what you know about what they want and need.
Tell a Story
Humans love a good yarn. In fact, our brains are programmed to recognize patterns in abstract information and assign them meaning. This is what stories are—recognizable patterns. Plus, our natural empathy means that when we hear a story, we put ourselves in the shoes of the protagonist.
And so telling a story to potential customers is very effective at planting certain emotions and ideas in their minds and persuading them.
The best way to do this is to get them to imagine themselves using your product or service. Paint a clear picture. Use phrases like imagine…or picture this. Describe it in detail using sensory images and words to make it vivid and compelling.
Another option is to tell a real (or semi-real) story or anecdote. Is there a case where your company or service solved a major problem for someone? Or an anecdote by one of your customers whose life was transformed by your product?
Make it specific and personal. We can often relate more easily to human drama than objective facts.
Make it Emotional
As much as we like to think that we’re logical creatures, we make a lot of our decisions based on emotion. In fact, those suffering from injuries in areas of the brain that generate emotion often have difficulty making decisions.
And so using language that is charged with emotion can be incredibly effective at engaging and persuading your customer. It creates a certain mood, making people feel something.
Certain emotions are more powerful than others. Generating enthusiasm and excitement, for example, will work wonders at hooking your reader. For example, words that suggest affluence, prestige, or power, like luxurious, glamorous or lucrative. Or words that are very positive, such as celebrate or thrive. Anything that suggests saving money—such as bargain—is also exciting for people.
Then there are words that spark curiosity, such as mind-blowing or miracle, or words that are particularly reassuring, such as guilt-free, effortless, all-inclusive, or fail-proof.
Check out our article on power words for more inspiration on how to use emotion in your copywriting.
Tap into a Fear
People don’t like to be scared so don’t go overboard when instilling fear in your readers. However, creating a sense of either urgency or scarcity has been proven to persuade customers. After all, we don’t want to be left behind and we don’t want to be left out either.
Phrases such as in short supply, for a short time only, limited, or running out all stress the need for haste. But even words like today or now—which readers will barely register—can gently push them into acting sooner rather than later.
You could also talk about all the people already enjoying your services or benefiting from your product. Even better, get direct quotes from them. This could generate some serious FOMO in your readers (fear of missing out).
And if you’re a B2B company, mention how competitors are succeeding or getting ahead. This is always likely to get your reader to sit up and pay attention.
Give Them a Reason to Feel Special
We all like to think that we’re getting special treatment and so readers can be excited by the idea of exclusivity.
Promise potential customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at something or access to secret or insider information. Get them to sign up for your newsletter by telling them they’ll be the first to know about future sales and offers.
You can also talk about waiting lists, deadlines, and limited sales. Exclusivity goes hand in hand with scarcity and urgency. Something is valuable if it becomes harder to attain. And so creating a sense of rarity or shortage will build a mood of exclusivity and make people act fast.
And Tell Them Why You’re Special
What makes you unique? What’s your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Compare yourself to your competitors and explain why you’re better. This will help you to distinguish yourself in a competitive market, giving customers a reason to choose you over someone else.
For example, Most window repair services charge by the hour. But we offer an upfront quote so you know exactly what you’re in for.
The best USPs are incredibly specific, identifying a clear advantage that no one else can offer. Some even turn their weakness into their USP. For example, when Avis was the second-largest car rental company in the US after Hertz, it used this to its advantage with the slogan:
We’re number two. We try harder.
However, if in doubt, you can always talk about your prices (you’re more affordable or offer free shipping or bulk discounts) or the quality of your products (artisan, handmade, superior materials, better quality control, and so on).
Back Up Your Claims
When you’re trying to persuade people, sometimes you need to call in backup. If they don’t trust you, they’ll almost certainly trust anyone who’s considered an ‘expert.’ So if you can get quotes from established figures in your industry, this will help support any claims you make.
Similarly, you can use statistics and facts from authoritative publications to establish your credibility. Phrases like Evidence shows…or According to a study…can be incredibly persuasive.
Whenever you make a claim, try to make it precise and specific. Rather than simply describing a product as best-selling, say we’ve already sold 2,300. Or 88% of our customers have given our service 5 stars.
Offer Social Proof
People trust other people more than they trust businesses. After all, they know you’re trying to sell them something.
We rely on other people’s opinions and tend to follow their behaviour. In fact, according to Nielsen, 92% of people trust a recommendation from a peer and 70% of people trust recommendations from people they don’t even know.
Also known as hive mind or herd mentality, social proof is a term used to describe the idea that we tend to copy the actions of others. In marketing, it means using case studies, testimonials, reviews, and user-generated content (UGC) to show that other people value your products and services, therefore persuading your customers.
Using quotes from real-life reviews in your product descriptions is one way to incorporate social proof. Or you could have a quote from an expert or influencer in your industry. Or simply refer to your large number of happy buyers i.e., 300,000+ people can’t be wrong.
Use Rhyme and Repetition
The idea here is that catchy language stays with us and is more persuasive.
For example, rhyme makes a message more memorable. It’s pleasant to hear and sticks in a reader’s head.
And, in the case of repetition, when we consistently hear something, we start to think it must be true. So choose your main message and rephrase and repeat it for emphasis. Just don’t make it too obvious and don’t overdo it.
On a sentence level, you can also repeat certain phrases to draw attention to them i.e. No hidden fees. No hassle. No stress.
Preemptively Solve Their Objections
A door-to-door salesperson has the advantage of being able to speak to a potential customer face-to-face and address any of their concerns there and then.
You don’t have this luxury. So, you have to anticipate any worries they might have and provide answers beforehand. This means admitting to any potential downsides to your product—and providing a solution.
For example, a customer might be thinking But I can find something cheaper elsewhere.
So, you could write something like Sure, cheaper fencing exists. But higher prices mean higher quality. This means these fence posts will last for years to come without degrading or falling down. Another option, of course, is to offer a money-back guarantee.
Another common customer objection is that they’ll think about it and maybe get it in a few weeks. Or that it’s a luxury, not a necessity.
Use case studies and testimonials to address these worries specifically, showing how a previous client had their concerns resolved by your product or services. Stress the benefits of your product in relation to the customer, talking about how it can help them specifically.
Make it Quirky
Humans love novelty. Just look at children. They naturally gravitate towards new toys. And brain research has shown that a rush of dopamine accompanies new experiences of any kind.
You can capitalize on this by making your copy stand out from the crowd with original language and intriguing references. You might also use colloquialisms or slang.
And why not add some humour? For example, the brand Oatly, whose product section on their website reads More than you would ever want to know about our products.
Or Innocent Smoothies, who encourage people to follow them on social with the text:
We write a lot of nonsense on social media. Some of it’s even about our drinks. Give us a follow and there’s a 32% chance you won’t regret it.
While you don’t want to overdo it, adding a funny anecdote, joke, or even a GIF can keep readers engaged. Just remember to make it accessible and avoid any humour that others might find insulting.
Use the First-and-Last Rule
This is a simple one. All you need to do is ensure that you put the most important information at the beginning or at the end of the page or bulleted list.
In what is known as the Primacy or Recency Effect, people remember what they saw first or last but almost never what they saw in the middle.
Optimise for Readability
Readability is essentially how easy it is for people to read your text. And writing that’s hard to read is less persuasive.
Here’s how to ensure your writing is readable:
- Make it scannable. This means short sentences, short paragraphs, and plenty of white space to give people’s eyes a break. Using bolding to highlight salient points.
- Think about the font. Keep it simple rather than fussy and not too small, ideally around 16 pixels. Sans serif fonts are usually the best options, such as Arial, Helvetica, and Lucida Sans.
- Keep it concise. Don’t ramble. Stay on topic. Use language that’s accessible and straightforward.
- Check for errors. Text peppered with mistakes is hard to read and won’t convince readers. Either take the time to carefully proofread your own writing or employ the services of a professional proofreader.
- Use online tools. The Hemmingway App, for example, can give you a readability score and highlight sentences that are hard for people to process.
Persuasive Copywriting: How Words Sell
Convincing, encouraging, motivating, enticing—whatever you want to call it, copywriting is about getting people to say yes. This is what makes persuasive copywriting one of the most important skills in marketing.
And it’s not just a question of telling readers about your product or service. You need to connect with them, engage them, and show them that what you’re selling is exactly what they’re looking for.