Persuasion is an art. Hardly an arguable statement, however, as any successful copywriter will tell you, there’s more than a bit of science involved as well. To write truly great copy for a product, website, sales pitch, or what have you a basic grasp of human psychology is imminently necessary. Not only that, but you also need to understand the important formulaic criteria for putting together a persuasive page of text. More comes into play than you would ever believe; whether it’s a conspicuous headline designed to capture consumer attention, or a carefully crafted Call to Action entreating you to “Click the highlighted text to increase visitor volume and easily monetize your blog with custom WordPress Templates” Regardless of your intent, there’s always a method behind the madness.
There are several important psychological factors go on here, and they all start with understanding the human brain.
Psychology, Persuasion, and Copywriting
To grossly oversimplify an extremely complex organ, there are 3 distinct layers to the human brain.
Each is responsible for a relatively self-explanatory cognitive process. Your rational mind is what works out problems in a logical step by step manner. The Emotional mind reacts to empathetic stimuli and produces our feelings. Then the decisive mind is the oldest, most reptilian, part of our brains which controls our involuntary responses and split second decisions.
An effective copywriter must appeal to all three, but focus most on the decisive mind. After all, a decision is what we’re really after. The science comes in when we discover what works on each layer of the mind. From our observations of what is and isn’t effective, we get our formulaic approach to writing persuasive copy.
To begin with, the Decisive mind reacts to bold and striking imagery and examples. Likely because during our early beginnings as a species, it was very helpful to catch on quick to bright and attractive colors, so as to gather the ripest fruits or avoid the scariest predators. Whatever the reasons, it’s been shown time and time again, that people will react to something that grabs their attention.
This is the reason why you see so many red highlighted headlines at the beginning of squeeze pages or at the tops of sales letters. We can further imitate these evolutionary reward systems through the advent of language. To do this, it’s necessary to come up with an eye-catching and an intriguing hook for your first sentence.
It’s a common mantra among copywriters that every sentence has one goal: to get the reader to read the next sentence. Crafting an effective hook, is just the first step in this process. Doing this brings the deepest level of the brain, the decisive, into full attention, and allows you to appeal to the other two in order to make the sale.
The other two parts of the brain won’t be so easily ensnared. Keeping attention is much more difficult that initially capturing it. The most effective way to keep attention, is by drawing the reader in with a relatable feeling.
Emotionally Persuasive Copywriting
Persuading a reader on the basis of emotion means making them feel empathy for a described difficulty. Have you ever read a bit of text that made you physically react? A story of heartbreak that caused you emotional distress? A particularly descriptive bit of phrasing that caused you to cringe?
The idea is to describe a common problem or scenario that presents a problem for the reader. This is where the art takes over for the science. You know it is your scientific objective to show an emotionally distressing dilemma, but it’s the artist that relates the problem in beautiful textual reality. Once you’ve appropriately described the pain or difficulty your readers are struggling with, you’ve opened the door to a rational appeal.
Your product or service should solve the problem.
Rationally Persuasive Copywriting
Now you get back to the science. Concrete problems require concrete solutions. Logically and comprehensively explain the solution to your reader’s problem. You do this with authentic claims, and back those up with sufficient supporting details as well as hard evidence.
For example, let’s say you’re selling lawn equipment. You describe the difficulty of removing leaves in the fall season with a rake. The solution: a powerful backpack leaf blower. One that has 35 horsepower, adjustable settings, is environmentally friendly, and is guaranteed to shorten the amount of time you spend in the cold trying to clear off your driveway.
You would then support these claims with illuminating and flattering facts about your product, as well as with testimonials from satisfied customers. That last part is very important. Direct observation of a human being doing the things you’re saying can be done is a powerful motivator.
Psychological Quirks of the Decisive Mind
This brings us to our final point. The human brain, and specifically the decisive layer, has a few back door entries which can affect the decision making process. Here are a few psychological quirks that can help you master the art of persuasive copywriting.
A common misconception is that people will buy things based on low prices. When in fact, direct price comparisons often lead to unfavorable results in most marketing campaigns. As it turns out, people are more interested in saving time than money. Make your offers based on convenience and quality rather than on savings or prices. It’s almost always more effective.
Verbs work better than adjectives. A product can be quick, easy, and powerful. But it’s a bit more impressive if the product speeds through tasks, relieves stress, and produces results. Adjectives describe, while verbs do. People want a product or service that does. So make sure you provide them with one.
Tell a story. People react to stories. They get to imagine themselves as the protagonist, they better appreciate difficulties, and more fully grasp solutions when they are engrossed in a thrilling tale. There’s a reason that we all learned Aesop’s fables growing up. It’s easier for us to grasp a point, when it’s couched in the language of a story.
Don’t overcomplicate it.Simpler is better. Complex ideas can confuse, and confusion is not the ideal state of mind to put a consumer into. The easier it seems, the faster the dollars will flow forth.
Remember that it’s important to appeal to each layer of the human mind if you want a sale. Begin with a bold and attention getting statement, set apart in an easily recognizable headline to grab attention. Proceed with an emotional appeal designed to be relatable, and then with logical arguments as to how your product or service addresses the issue. Finally, utilize some of the various psychological quirks of the human brain to penetrate the decisive mind’s innate sense of apathy.
If you can follow this simple formula, you’ll be writing persuasive copy like a scientist. A rock star scientist who rides a motorcycle. It doesn’t get much cooler than that!