Hello, and welcome to my first blog post on this new website. To mark this special occasion, I wanted to write about something relevant not only for copywriters, but also to life in general.
A brief aside for a moment to ponder something…
What have you got to offer the world that nobody else has? The thing that sets you aside from everyone else is, well: you. There’s nobody else on this earth who is made exactly the same way as you are. Your qualities, mannerisms and style of communication are unique and individual to you. You’re special. Pretty amazing, in fact. Never forget that.
I find there’s a certain power in this realisation: we all have different hopes and dreams, but we all deserve the right to pursue things that make us happy (which is why I think it feels bad when we don’t have them). Yes, perhaps we’re greedy. But hey, life’s too short and there are opportunities for everyone, so why not?
So how can you use these special qualities that only you possess to help you get what you want; not only when using the written word for a commercial goal, but in everyday life? Want your customers to do what you ask? More money? Extra holiday? Contrary to the old adage: ‘you can’t have everything you want’, I’d like to demonstrate that by employing your own unique charm (which always goes a long way) and using a few of the communication tricks and tools below, in most cases you can indeed get what you want.
There are a few words and phrases that hold more power over the decision-making process than others. They’re simple, but you might be surprised at just how effective plain English can be. Here are five ways to show you how to communicate more persuasively:
1. Speak plainly
Or, plainly speaking: ask for what you want. In this world, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But, there’s a caveat to this one: you should give a reason for your request. People like to have reasons for what they do; they like to rationalise their decisions, whether that’s buying something or simply helping someone out. So when you ask someone to do you a favour, you’ll be more successful if you provide a reason. Even giving a weak reason is more persuasive than giving no reason at all.
To give a business example, when you are focusing on writing sales copy, your writing will only have the power to sell if you show your customers what’s in it for them. In other words: state the benefits. Use the benefits to make the product relevant to your audience, and to create an incentive for people and customers to do what you ask. Using ‘because’ when pointing out these compelling reasons gives the decision-maker a reason to act on your suggestion. Whether it’s making a sale or a receiving a favour, it’s yours.
2. Make it personal
We instantly become more engaged and trusting of a message that is addressed personally to us. Using ‘you’ is fine, but using someone’s name is a whole lot better. Whenever you can, always personalise your written communications with a name. If this isn’t possible, then make sure your writing is directed towards the reader, and never focussed on yourself (general rule: nobody wants to hear about you; your audience is only interested in how things are going to affect them). Your communication should contain at least three ‘you’s to every ‘I”.
Conversations can sometimes sound contrived if you’re constantly using the other person’s name (although peppered mentions help), so use with caution or it’ll sound rehearsed. But always consider the other person’s stance on your request, and if possible make it beneficial for both parties. Involve their feelings as much as possible, and it’ll add weight to your request and stack the odds in your favour.
3. Give something for nothing
People love free stuff so much they’ll actually change preferences if offered something free instead. Most of us are aware of the acronym FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out which, incidentally, I suffer from frequently!). The rule is simple: people like to have what others have access to. This trick is amplified if you impose a time limit on the offer to give an impression of limited supply.
If you need to ask something of someone, try to offer them something in return: e.g. “If I can have time off during this week, that mean’s I’ll be free on X occasion to help you out with Y.” OK, so technically this doesn’t make it free, but you’re still ‘giving’ somebody something they wouldn’t otherwise have had.
From a business point of view, you need to be careful when offering free things. Having something for free will attract more people, but that will include a fair share of bargain hunters who aren’t likely to turn into the loyal customers you need to grow your business. However, imposing a small charge on some of your services, for example: a course or workshop, will convert some of the customers who subscribe to your free stuff into a faithful and profitable following. If used in the right context and when it makes sense, giving something for free can be very persuasive.
4. The pursuit of all things new
We are all fond of new things: treats, shoes, friends, etc. There’s no doubt that having new things in our lives keeps it fresh and moving forwards, so it’s unsurprising that new things are such a huge driver in business.
In commercial terms, novelty plays an incredibly important role in keeping us happy with products and returning to buy from the same brand or business. The important things to consider here are which parts of your business generate trust, and which parts make money. If a brand creates trust, then ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
With products, it’s far easier to excite customers with new developments to show you are innovative and moving with the times. New features or design, or new ways of getting your message out there are all essential for keeping your customers’ interest.
In everyday life, new products can be the treats we deserve after working hard, or doing something difficult. Having something nice in store when a job’s been done can give us just the motivation we need. A great way to get stuff for free is to offer to test that new phone or pair of shoes, and write a review or testimonial in return. That way, both parties benefit without the exchange of any money. Whatever it is that you want, there is usually a way to get it if you look hard enough.
5. Make the most of ‘now’
From a commercial point of view, offers that give something instantly are great for making us take action. Telling customers that they will receive their product quickly (for example, free next day delivery) can give them the gentle push they need to buy. For downloadable products such as music or ebooks, offering something now works brilliantly to convert more prospects into customers.
In day-to-day life, offering to do something for someone when they ask will show you’re helpful, reliable, generous and considerate. If you’re willing to give time, work, or general favours as soon as someone asks, most will be willing to accommodate you when you ask for something. This is one of the areas where your own personal qualities and charm matter the most. It pays to have credit in the bank…