8 secrets of persuasive copywriting every marketer needs to know

Persuasion.

When you hear this word, do you associate it with negative connotations – as you would with words like manipulation or deception?

If so, it’s time to reframe it.

Because although tools of persuasion (in the wrong hands) can certainly inflict harm on others, when it comes to copywriting, they are essential.

In fact, when used responsibly, persuasive copywriting techniques are the only way to influence and motivate your readers – and inspire them to act.

The good news is you are likely already familiar with most of the techniques I am about to share with you – as many marketers use them instinctively. But, if you ever find yourself struggling to come up with a hook or angle for your next content piece, this post is sure to get your creative juices flowing.

So read on now. Or, if you’re short of time, bookmark it for later. You’ll be glad you did. 

1. Make it specific

Whenever possible, use concrete, specific language in your copywriting. Actual names. Real numbers. And genuine examples. Your reader will not fill in your lazy, ambiguous gaps.

Specificity in writing captures attention, delivers impact and conveys credibility. It also leaves no room for confusion – because the reader’s mind can only go where you direct it.

Before: Our award-winning service sets us apart from the competition.

After: Our SEO experts will get your business found. In fact, 88% of our clients’ websites appear on the first page of Google. In 2023, we won the SEO Supplier of the Year award and the BRW Best New Company award.

2. Say it with confidence

Do you sometimes wonder if perhaps your copywriting could be just a little bit more effective?

By using qualifier words like rather, quite, somewhat, probably and possibly – like I did in the preceding sentence – you are revealing a lack of confidence in your own writing. And if you don’t believe what you write, why should your reader?

So let’s try that opening sentence again:

Do you have a niggling hunch that your copywriting could be a whole lot more powerful?

Before: You’ll probably enjoy shopping at our eclectic store. You might also be a little bit surprised when you see the low prices on our specials rack.

After:  You will instantly adore shopping at our eclectic store. And wait till you see the specials rack. Our prices will floor you!

3. Be obsessively focused

Imagine you are standing on the opposite side of the room to your prospect. Now imagine you are about to throw them 10 balls at once. How many will they catch?

Probably none.

But what if you were to throw them just one ball? They’ll likely catch it of course.

I get it. Your product or service has endless benefits you want your readers to know about. But in today’s elusive attention economy, you cannot afford to overload your readers. They’ll simply switch off, and your message be forgotten in a heartbeat.

So, although it won’t be easy, keep your writing obsessively focused. On. One. Key. Message. What that key message is, is up to you. It could be:

  • Your strongest benefit
  • Your unique differentiator
  • Your most compelling argument

Before: Our friendly and experienced beauticians are up-to-date with all the latest developments and will keep your skin looking young and fresh. You will feel relaxed and comfortable in our beautifully-fitted out salon and we’re open every day of the week.

After: Our salon caters to busy, working women. We believe you can achieve beautiful skin without wasting your time. Our 20-minute express facials are available 7 days a week.

4. Perform the ‘WIIFM’ check

Whenever you review your words, always perform a ‘What’s in it for me’ check by asking yourself: Do my readers’ needs and desires take centre stage?

Writing with the WIIFM principle in mind involves putting yourself in your readers’ shoes and uncovering exactly what they can gain from your offer.

And this technique comes with an easy hack: Use the words YOU and YOUR your writing as much as possible!

Before: Our technical photographic skills are second to none. We have many years’ experience photographing weddings and producing beautiful albums for our clients.

After: If you’re looking to relive your wedding day with heart and authenticity, look no further. We’ll uncover every special moment of your big day – even the ones you missed.

5. Find the emotion

The most persuasive messages are those that speak directly to readers’ emotions. Emotional writing grabs attention, creates interest and inspires action.

There are many human emotions that you can tap into in your writing. In his book, Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples proposes four types of emotional appeals:

1. Love: We all want to be loved by our spouse, our children, our parents and our friends.

2. Greed: We all want to drive a nice car, earn a high salary and win Tattslotto.

3. Fear: We all fear being fired, losing a loved one, losing our rights, or failing to fulfil our dreams.

4. Duty/honour: We all feel obliged to our spouse, our children, our parents, our country, our employer, our community, the sick and the poor.

Which emotion should you incorporate into your copywriting? That will depend on your offer – and your ability to tap into your audience’s minds.

In the following example, we’ve gone with Duty/honour.

Before: I would like to propose the introduction of cooking classes in favour of extra computer classes. Cooking classes will give our students important new skills.

After: Our job is to prepare students for life beyond school. Computers are available to students in many ways. But if we don’t offer cooking classes, we are not doing our jobs.

6. Pre-empt your readers’ objections

What are the most common objections you face when dealing with your prospects?

To be truly persuasive, you need to alleviate fears and uncertainties – before they bubble to the surface. Once you know your prospects’ likely objections, don’t ignore them. Address them. Head on.

Before: We are excited to introduce small duct technology into the Australian market. (Objection: Hmmm. Not sure I want to be a test case.)

After:  Small duct heating and cooling systems have been on the market for over 40 years. The smart technology has been tried and tested time and again – and is enjoyed by millions of people across North America and Europe. Now Australians can reap the rewards too.

7. Admit your weaknesses

Being persuasive is about building trust. And to build trust, you need to be seen as genuine and transparent.

Because so many ‘flawless’ businesses claim to be amazing at everything, you can set yourself apart by being honest about your capabilities.

Of course, tell your audience what you can do. But don’t be afraid to say what you can’t.

Before: We strongly encourage you to fill out this survey. Mental health is an important issue in our society, and with your help, we can make a real difference.

After: We’re not going to tell you that filling out this mental health survey will be quick. In fact, it will take you around 25 minutes to complete. But for something this important, we hope you’ll agree it will be well worth your time and effort.

8. Tell a story

Storytelling is a powerful writing technique. Stories bring your values and benefits to life, entertain your readers, and convey key concepts in an engaging and memorable way.

Not-for-profits and charities are particularly effective at incorporating storytelling into their copywriting.

Before: We help to improve the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged Australian children every year.

After: Chloe has had a traumatic childhood. She came into our care at 5 years of age after years of physical and emotional abuse. Chloe’s father and her drug-addicted mother both had violent upbringings, and neither had the capacity to care for her. They became angry and frustrated. And the only way her parents knew how to deal with their frustration was through violence. Sadly, Chloe was often the subject of these violent outbursts. When she was referred to us, Chloe was suffering from hearing loss, and her speech was well behind that of a regular 5-year-old girl. Thankfully, we were able to place Chloe in a safe and loving foster home.

Want to turn your copy and content marketing team into powerful persuasive writers? Learn about our Copywriting Fundamentals course today.