4 min read

The Art of Persuasion: How to Write Compelling Copy that Sells

The Art of Persuasion: How to Write Compelling Copy that Sells

Persuasion. It’s one of those terms that seems almost cliche to bring up in conversation around copywriting. 

Of course, we want to persuade readers. 

Whether it’s getting them to hand over their personal details or explore your service, persuasion plays a critical role in developing copy that sells.

But how can we, as copywriters, master the art of persuasion?

Back to the Basics of Influence

If you’re like me, your copywriting journey started with fevered edification. 

While some might have the privilege of getting their information straight from the experts, many of us just Googled “How to become a copywriter” with eager eyes and an open mind.

Amongst the questionable courses, poorly written sales pages and overwhelmingly amateur guides, we probably all ran into a commonly shared reading list for aspiring writers.

In that list? Well, a bunch of old-school books on copywriting plucked right from an episode of Mad Men.

Not to say there's no value in re-reading magazine ads from the 1960s, but these books made it seem like the art of copywriting was simply that: an art form.

But, there was one required reading that stuck — at least for me. One book that was rooted more in science and psychology than anything else. This book is Influence by Robert Cialdini. 

Originally published in 1984, Influence uncovers the tactics and strategies used by “compliance professionals” and utilizes empirical studies conducted in the fields of psychology, marketing, economics, anthropology and social science to back up its claims. 

If you really want to master persuasion in copywriting, Influence is a must-read. 

So, as I sit here with my yellowed and worn copy of the book, let’s dive into a quick crash course on Dr. Cialdini’s teachings.

How We Make Decisions 

One thing that stands out in the book is the approach it takes to defining how we, as humans, make decisions.

While you might think every single choice goes through a rigorous analysis in the brain, that’s just not the truth. In fact, our brains are on a constant lookout for shortcuts — ways the subconscious mind can fill in the gaps without wasting too much energy.

Called fixed-action patterns, we all have these pre-programmed sequences in our heads.

Take something as simple as asking for a favor. 

According to Cialdini, and social psychologist Ellen Langer, humans need to know the why behind an ask.

Makes sense, right? But here’s where it gets interesting. 

The reason behind the ask doesn’t matter at all. In Langer’s study, people waiting in line to make copies at a library were asked by researchers if they would mind them cutting ahead.

When asked just to skip ahead, only 60% complied.

When asked to skip ahead along with the reason, “I’m in a rush,” 94% said yes.

When asked to skip ahead with the reason,”Can I skip ahead? I need to make copies,” the results were nearly identical, with 93% saying yes.

The reason behind the ask didn’t matter. As long as there is one, our brains will fill in the gaps and lead us to a common conclusion. 

How can we use this to our advantage? 

Well, as Cialdini puts it, “much of the compliance process can be understood in terms of the human tendency for automatic, shortcut responding.” With this “click, whirr” understanding in mind, let’s start looking at some of these influence and persuasion patterns outlined in Cialdini’s book.

Reciprocation: Give a Little, Get a Lot

Who doesn't love a freebie?

Whether it’s a sample at a store or an alluring eBook, when we get something for nothing, we’re wired to want to return the favor.

That’s reciprocity in action.

When writing, you can lure readers in with a juicy carrot (like an eBook or exclusive offer), and boom! They’re more likely to purchase or spread the word.

When we talk about lead generation strategies, we’re talking about building reciprocity.

Consistency and Commitment: Nudge, Nudge, Win

Most of us want to seem consistent with our words, beliefs, attitudes and deeds. 

Have you ever made a bad commitment but doubled down to save face? Well, that’s a pretty universal experience.

To inject this strategy into your writing, start with a small favor. This could be a share, a click or an easy like. Then, with a sprinkle of persuasion, they’re geared up for the next bigger ask.

It’s as easy as saying, “You shared and liked our last article; why not subscribe to the blog?”


Social Proof: What Everyone’s Doing

Remember buying those brand-new shoes during your high school years just because everyone else was wearing them? They could have been the ugliest, most uncomfortable clogs, but it didn't matter; you were hypnotized by social proof.

Show that others are drooling over your product, and the crowd will likely follow.

That’s why testimonials are so powerful. We don’t have to do the hard work of analyzing the quality of an offer ourselves. We can look to our peers, friends or just random strangers on the internet to shortcut the decision-making process.

Authority: Flaunt it if You’ve Got It

We’re hardwired to respond compliantly to authority figures. But, for our purposes, we also look to them for wisdom and advice.

Let’s say you’re out to eat. 

Whose opinion will you go with, the chef or the Uber driver who dropped you off just a few minutes ago? 

While you might be the adventurous type and go with the driver, most of us will fall back on the opinion of the professional. We can use this to our advantage in our copy.

If you’re working with subject matter experts (SMEs), use their words and opinions as much as possible. 

It’s not coming from you; it’s coming from the expert. 

Mastering Persuasion in Writing

When it comes to persuasion in writing, hopefully, you have a little bit more insight into the mechanisms of influence.

Of course, this is only a small glimpse into Ciadini’s work and the science of persuasion in general. To really get it right takes not only an understanding of these concepts but plenty of practice.

If you want to get ahead and make waves, why not go with the pros?

Here at Hire a Writer, we’re experts in the written word. Our team has helped hundreds of businesses just like yours craft compelling copy that sticks and converts.

If you’ve gotten this far in the blog, why not connect with the team to learn more about your options?

To get started, reach out online today.

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