The most powerful and effective website contents are those that can persuade. They rake in traffic, call readers to action and boost sales, and influence every person enticed to read them. Obviously, not all sorts of website content are meant to be overtly persuasive, but most would benefit from being more persuasive than, say, passive. And then there are those articles that really need to convince their readers.
A sales pitch is by nature persuasive — or at least it’s supposed to be. If you use sales pitches that aren’t persuasive, you’re defeating your own purpose.
Sales pitches achieve persuasion in different methods and through different tools. From the excitement an article generates (low to medium to high excitement) to the selling techniques employed (soft or hard sell), sales pitches should always, always endeavour to be persuasive. In retrospect though, website content of different types have some form of sales pitch within them — be it invoking readers to act on something or click a link, persuading them to agree on an opinion, or the simple act of (even passively) convincing them that the article they are reading is useful, informative, and authoritative. You see, the very effort — the research and skill — you put into website content and copywriting is there in an effort to persuade people. To persuade them to visit your website. To persuade them to see you as an authority or a reliable source of the information they need. To persuade them to see your brand as a leader or innovator.
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Unfortunately, the art of persuasion and the science of infusing sales pitches into everyday website content are challenging subject matter. Let’s delve into some pointers that can help:
Selling Features through “WIIFM”
It might sound funny, but that acronym is a powerful reminder of empathy and putting yourself in your readers’ (and potential customers’) shoes. WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” It’s the question that’s inside every potential customer’s head even when they’re not thinking about it. It’s what makes them decide to purchase or not — consciously or not. It’s the question you need to ask yourself, putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Let’s try and put it to action. Say you have a product or service with a ton of features you know will benefit your customers, so you want to tell them about each and every one. Now if at the back of your mind you’re actively reminding yourself of WIIFM, you can instantly see the difference in such situations as:
- Explaining the technical specs of features versus telling your audience what the features do for them
- Highlighting functions instead of using them in real life examples
- Outlining the best features versus their benefits to customers
If you were the customer, WIIFM. “What’s in it for me?” What’s in those technical specs, those functions, and those features for me?
The Case for Questions
If you typically read journalistic opinion pieces (and not just personal blogs) or enjoy a lively debate or two, you’ll notice that the journalists or debaters often ask questions, and regularly employ rhetorical ones. The case for questions is simple: questions engage the audience’s cognitive functions and causes them to think — it causes them to focus on the problem, the question posed. Rhetorical questions are extremely persuasive because their answers are known, you simply have to use them to support your pitch. Beware, however, of your use of rhetorical questions. As mentioned before, questions force audiences to think and focus on something. If you use rhetorical questions sparingly within an article of website content, your audience will focus more on your main message. If you use them heavily, the focus will shift to the sender of the message — you, or whatever you represent, such as your own name or your business. The focus shifts from the message to the messenger.
One way to leverage this fact to increase persuasion is to use rhetorical questions heavily for website content targeting repeat visitors — like a blog post updating a previous one. This is because your target audience trusts your business, your website, and your brand, and your heavy use of rhetorical questions forces them to focus on you — something they trust. This increases your chances of persuasion. Of course, the opposite is applicable to a new readership: use rhetorical questions lightly so they focus on the message, given that your message is solid and well-formed, of course.
Statistics and References
Another trick you can use for persuasion is a general psychological bias towards statistics and references. While you may earn part of your profit from taking advantage of the gullibility of your audience, remember that to position yourself as a trusted, reliable, and authoritative business in your niche, you need equally trustworthy, reliable, and authoritative information. Citing statistics from undisputed references achieves this. Not many readers will be interested in checking each reference, but rest assured that the psychological effect, though subtle, supports and reinforces your website content’s persuasiveness. And of course, when readers do check on your sources and find them to be legitimate and impressive, you still get points for that.
In an opinion column or formal debate, relying on logical fallacies spell doom for your argument. In everyday life, however, persuasion rests upon 5 somewhat underhanded, quite effective, and often fallacious tricks to achieve subliminal foundation. These are:
- Saying your audience is right
- Calming their fears
- Telling them it’s not their fault
- Giving them hope
- Helping them overcome their problems
Think about it. Will you be more inclined to believe someone who dismisses your suspicions or someone who tells you you’re right? Someone who tries to convince you coldly, or empathises with you by calming your fears, telling you it’s not your fault, and giving you hope? Someone who tells you what the problem is, or someone who seems to go to your side ready to fight the problem with you?
This last pointer is the culmination of our discussion because it exemplifies the powerful truth behind persuasion in website content, but also the challenge in applying such techniques as mentioned above to wield it.
With practice, however, and a touch of creativity and imagination, anyone can pull it off. So try to apply some of these pointers to your website content or your calls to action. You might be surprised how many people you persuade.