Copywriting – Persuasive Format
There are two approaches to presenting our product—informative and persuasive. After an informative presentation, the prospects say, “Thanks for the info…” as he is heading out the door to continue his research. After a persuasive presentation, the prospect asks, “How much is it,” which is a buying signal—he has seen enough information–that is presented convincingly–and he is now considering purchasing.
The informative approach gives him information, of which he still has to make sense of to convince himself to buy. We shouldn’t make it so hard for a prospect. The persuasive format convinces him while informing him–that’s what we want. So, how do we convince someone? We use the “Persuasive Format.”
The Persuasive Format
There are three formats for persuading that we should be aware of–the credibility approach, the psychological approach (Maslov’s theory, etc.), and the logical or rational approach. Research shows that the logical approach has a more lasting effect. In addition, the easiest rational structure to apply uses inductive reasoning—thesis, main point, sub-point, sub-sub-point, main point, etc. These are the proof points to solidify our argument.
Following are the steps of the persuasive format that uses the most effective and logical approach:
- Attention. Get the person or audience attention
- Credibility. If you are not a credible source, then nobody listens.
- Problem. Demonstrate a need
- Solution. Show how the product fills that need
- Best solution. Detail how it is the BEST product to fill the need
- Objections. Overcome all objections to the product
- Visualize. Help the dealer visualize benefits the product will bring
- Step to Actuate – Close. Actuate the dealer to order the eval & stock the product
If you’re in marketing you should memorize the persuasive format, since you will use it constantly. The persuasive format maximizes “Persusavity.” (new word). When do we use this format? Almost all of the time. For example:
- PowerPoints. We use it in our PowerPoint to train sales (since we need to model “how” to sell the product). They use the same PowerPoint to present and sell the product.
- Websites. We use it on our website to persuade the prospect to contact us and buy.
- Collateral. We use it in our product slicks and brochures to persuade a prospect to find out more.
- Demo Scripts. We show features that validate and “prove” our persuasive argument.
- Press Release. We use the outline of the persuasive format to persuade the press and readers to investigate our claims.
- Product Packaging. Elements of the persuasive format are ALL covered within different panels of our product packaging (see Chanimal packaging guidelines).
- Advertisements (print, TV, direct response, display). All ads use this format to maximize response.
We would use the informative format for technical documentation and other content that is not designed to sell (by engineering, documentation, legal, etc.). However, most material coming out of a marketing department must persuade.
The persuasive format is used to create our “Persuasive Document.” This is the FOUNDATION document that is used to create every other collateral piece. This ensures that all of our collateral contains consistent messaging and it is all designed to SELL. In contrast, most collateral that we see is disjointed. Some are created by product management, or by sales or marketing communications and seldom does it contain the same talking points, the exact same messaging or even consistent positioning—it is a mess.
Instead, we should use the Persuasive Document as the basis for ALL other copyrighting—duplicating it exactly when possible (why not—if there is a “better” approach to present your product benefits then we would use it, otherwise it shouldn’t be modified). For example, I’ll see a PowerPoint that is almost identical to the Persuasive Document. So is the collateral, the website and even an ad will have almost every element of the persuasive document (usually tightened, but using the same points whenever possible).
If we start to see better approaches to present our argument, we would use them in ongoing collateral—but we would also go back and edit the original Persuasive Document since this will be used by everyone else on an ongoing basis as they create additional collateral.
Following is additional information about each of the steps (it uses CodeWarrior development tool as an example):
Attract favorable interest from the audience and direct their attention toward the main ideas in the presentation. Examples include the following:
- Rhetorical questions that identify the problem.
- A story visualizing a typical day of programming–it could be used for the visualization step afterward:
“Now, let’s take the previous example and see how your day would go with (your product name)…”
- An example or illustration.
- A humorous anecdote that makes a point:
If we are introducing a new book about Economics we might begin with, “We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ ‘But I say, if you’ve got bread, man, you won’t be alone.” This brings up the issue, “How do we teach our students the economics of making bread—the green stuff, used to feed our families, run our governments, pay the national debt, and most especially pay our teachers!”
- A quotation from an easily recognized personality or source that expresses a concern or issue:
Comments from Bill Gates regarding the need for… (some relevant issue that shows the need for a solution).
Problem, Need or Issues
Develop a general problem and relate it to the desires of the audience. This is accomplished through the development of the following steps:
- State the need
- Illustrate the need
- Develop the need
- Relate the need
The following approaches may help draw out the need:
- A series of leading questions designed to draw out the most critical issues affecting the immediate audience.
- A direct statement or illustration that describes problems and an undesirable situation. For example, “Most of us have had a compiler blow up mid-way through the process corrupting the entire file…
- Examples, statistical data, and testimonials that illustrate how serious and widespread the problem is.
Note: Some problems are self-evident, in which case they are either assumed or merely introduced. In some collateral, like a white paper, almost half of the document might be used to develop just the problem—with the understanding that if the prospect can’t agree that there is a problem, no solution is even needed.
Solution, Satisfaction or Thesis
The objective of this step is to show how the problem can be alleviated. We would typically identify our product as the solution (or hero) and suggest three main ways it can address the issues (problems).
For example, if software developers acknowledge that their main challenges are a) keeping their projects organized, b) developing for cross-platform, and c) completing their projects on time, then you might use a similar dialogue:
“I’m glad this group is facing some of the same issues that so many other developers are facing. Especially since Metrowerks has created the perfect new IDE, CodeWarrior 7.2, the world’s first fully integrated, award-winning, IDE specifically designed to:
- Keep your projects completely organized
- Allow you to write for one target and easily reapply for another
- Complete your projects on time—this time, and every time
We may have a truckload of additional ammunition. However, we only need to solve the most important issues that come up the most often in the prospect’s mind—the product itself doesn’t address every issue, neither should we. We can inform the prospect about where they can find additional product benefits. This forces us to concentrate on the specific features that will make the most difference.
The three main issues used as an example may or may not be the most important strengths for your version of CodeWarrior , but you get the idea.
In this step, we would elaborate on one of the three “need” areas–essentially proving by reason and inductive logic that our product is the best option to help solve the agreed-upon issues. For the sake of space, we won’t fully develop a topic here (just an initial outline) but this is the area where most of the information resides.
The following sequence could be effective (these examples use CodeWarrior for Windows–you’ll need to imagine your own respective product):
- Main Point. First, let me explain how this new program will help developers keep their complex projects organized. CodeWarrior is exciting because it is graphical project manager that allows you to see all of your projects and subprojects at a glance.
- Sub-point. As you can see on the screen, there is a graphic representation of the main project
- Sub-point. Extra example.
- Sub-point. Extra example
- Trial Close. With the visual project manager, it’s easy to see how developers could keep track of their projects. Isn’t it?
- Main Point. While we’re within the main menu, let me address the second issue, how to develop on one platform, and easily deploy for others. You’ll notice that CodeWarrior supports multiple development platforms such as Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. If you look at this menu item, you can see the multiple targets that you can write to.
- Sub-point. Example
- Sub-point. Example
- Sub-point. Example
Notice that we slipped in a “trial close” and even a “tie-down” (Isn’t it?) after covering the main point. This is a persuasive technique that helps secure eight yes’s (the number that statistically results in a sale). The trial close also helps cement agreement with our thesis–that our product really is the best solution.
We address this topic all at once, although most objections should be handled throughout the presentation. The general consensus is that major objections, that come up most of the time, should be handled in advance, in the presentation, in a positive way. For example, with Windows product, we may know that our lack of RAD for MFC comes up most of the time. Within the presentation, the lack of RAD for MFC could be pointed out as a positive feature:
“One distinct difference you’ll notice about CodeWarrior for Windows is that, unlike Dev Studio, it does not currently include RAD for MFC. However, you will notice that it includes a very strong RAD for Java. Based on our research, only 2% of developers use MFC RAD, while over 67% use RAD for Java. Of course, you don’t mind if we concentrate on the features that you actually use, do you? (smile when you say this… to avoid the bricks).
Now, assuming CodeWarrior includes feature1, feature2, and feature3, can you see anything standing between you and the success you’ll enjoy with this exciting, award-winning program?”
The question often arises; do we bring up rare objections? Absolutely not—we should hopefully be prepared for them, but we should not introduce them. The key to handling objections is that, if we know a specific objection will usually come up, we should be candid and bring it up first, deal with it positively with a well-rehearsed approach, trial close to ensure the objection is handled and then try to secure another yes–then move on. Does this approach always work? No, but it works enough of the time to eliminate most resistance to a smooth close.
At this time, it is also appropriate to discuss the competition and any competitive issues with the prospect. You could review a competitor’s product, a comparative matrix, etc.
The function of this step is to intensify the emotional desire of the prospect to move ahead with the proposed solution. It is well known within sales that “Emotion closes sales; logic keeps it sold.” We need to ensure that our presentations and logic bring the prospect to the edge, so we can easily carry them over to the other side with emotion—intensified by visualization.
Visualization is the process of vividly describing members of the audience actually enjoying the security that comes from doing as we propose. People are more inclined to adopt a new course of action when they are imaginatively carried into the future where they can visualize conditions when the action is carried out. The most powerful and credible method for visualization is with third-person testimonials:
“Now, remember that story that I explained about a developer’s worst nightmare, let me paint a new picture of how that could change if you had our new…”
“Now let me read what one programmer said about CodeWarrior, ‘The program was incredible. No longer were my projects getting lost, forcing me to waste countless hours looking for one missing link—CodeWarrior eliminated this problem entirely. I can now get over four times the work done in the same amount of time. Thank you, CodeWarrior!”
With the sales force our visualization step may go like this:
“Now, hear the crinkling, and the crisp, cold, fresh almost-wet touch of a wad of hundred dollar bills jammed in your pocket. You’re out of breath as you dash to the jewelry store on the icy cold day just before Christmas. Your eyes glisten as the jeweler pulls out your quest of a dozen years, the item you knew would please her, would dazzle her, would warm her heart with gratitude and re-kindle the softness you fell in love with. The item is now in your hand. There is no guilt. Because, finally, you can actually afford to buy something… so bold, so desired, for such a one as her.
What changed? You blew waaaayyyy past your quota and got the biggest dang blasted bonus this side of Kansas. Why? There’s no foolin’ anyone—you sold truckloads of the new CodeWarrior for Linux, so much more than was expected and… it finally paid off. Congratulations.” (of course, this would change for a female)
The more emotionally appealing, the better (although this specific example sounds a little corny). However, when the audience is almost in tears… it is time to close.
Conclusion & Actualization
It is within the conclusion that we urge the prospect to take the action we propose—buy our product, or in the case of a sales rep, sell our product! There are hundreds of close techniques to entice action: the physical action close, the 3 step close, the assumptive close, the subordinate close, the “my mother told me” close, and the list goes on. Following are two examples:
- Summary and challenge. Make a short restatement of the main points or arguments and include a direct request to take action. Example: “So, as we can all see, CodeWarrior helps a) organize your projects, b) write once, and re-deploy for multiple targets, and c) hopefully, help you to always get your project done on time.” Assuming we could fit it into your budget, can we count on your support when selecting the company’s development toolset? (nod your head).
- Inducement to buy (or sell). To properly leverage our gratis as part of the close we may say something like the following after our summary and challenge: “Oh. One last thing. Did I mention all the FREE items that come with the program? If there is any way you can consider getting the program during this month (impending event), let me show you what I might be able to throw in.” With our sales reps, we may create a special bonus for the first confirmed sale, or increase the quota value amount for select products, etc., and announce it with a similar approach.
Each collateral piece will have a different close. Ads get people to the website landing page, PowerPoints attempt to close right then, Videos may ask them to call, etc.
Steps To Create the Persuasive Document
Following is an optimized process to write the persuasive document. I recommend that you follow the steps in the prescribed order.
You must first understand the positioning of the product. You will need to identify three to five areas why someone would be a “fool” if they didn’t at least consider your product.
- Create the competitive matrix (see Chanimal competitive matrix).
- Create the positioning grids – shows how your product compares against the alternatives
Based on what you learned from the two prior exercises, you should identify your five primary reasons someone MUST buy your product.
Writing the Document
- Start by creating an outline by putting each of these topics on your paper (put a few lines between them since you will start to fill in the holes):
- Best Solution
- Overcoming Objections
- Step to Actuate
- Next, put your product name as the solution (it is always the solution).
- Compose a sentence that goes in a paragraph below the product name, “There are five reasons to consider (product name),” and then list the five reasons.
- Create a heading for each of the five reasons to buy under the “Solution” section
- Now, above each heading, list a problem that is SOLVED by each of the specific reasons to buy that you listed. You are “reversing” into the problem/solution argument. We usually don’t solve all the problems. So we list the ones we do solve–but they are correlated to our solution.
- Now move the problems you listed to the problem section. This ensures that you have linked the problem to the later solution. It seems an odd way to do it, but it makes writing the document quicker and ensures the connection.
- Next, list 3-5 “FEATURES” of the product that supports each of the five main reasons to buy.
- After listing the features, you can write the feature copy.
- List the feature
- Describe the feature (short), and
- Tell the benefit. Do this for each feature.
- Under the “Overcoming Objections” section you will now list the top 3-5 objections that you get (or anticipate) and write your response.
- Re-label the Overcoming Objections title to, “What’s Holding You Back?”
- Under the Visualization section, you can write a few sentences that show how the product will benefit them (see examples). This is part of “roller-coaster” closing (see Chanimal section under “closing techniques.”
- Under the Step To Actuate, list the things you want them to do. Following are typical examples:
- Check out the product video
- See the Features & Benefits
- Download the white paper
- Attend a free webinar
- Download a FREE Trial Version (fully functioning!)
- Get the Price
- Give us a call at 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx
- Change the title of “Step to Activate” to “What Next?”
- Now go back and list items that establish credibility. Usually awards–see samples
- Finally, come up with a few “attention” items that demonstrate the MAIN problem
You’re done with the first draft.
By far, the best direct response copywriting I have seen comes from Ivan Levison. While heading up Marketing at one company, I used Ivan to help with the copy, but also to train a new internal copywriter. After every session with Ivan, my copywriter came to me and expressed her excitement about all of the exciting information she was learning.
Her first direct mail piece, under Ivan’s guidance, had a 43% response rate–so great and unexpected that we ran out of inventory! No wonder he is used by Adobe, Apple, HP, and Microsoft and is so highly recommended from all the marketing greats, including Geoffrey Moore, author of “Crossing the Chasm.”
For this reason, I have asked Ivan if I could use his content directly by providing direct links to his site (remember to come back!). He graciously agreed. Enjoy!
- How to use e-mail to fire up sales (without getting flamed)
- How to use advertising to promote your web site
- How to draw crowds to your seminars
- Be sure you make the right offer!
- How to make big profits from small mailings.
- How to create a winning offer. A quick look at three instructive software ads
- How to make your ads make money – A case history
- How to upgrade your upgrade Part 1: three ways to improve your sales letter
- How to upgrade your upgrade Part 2: creating a winning envelope
- Six ways to create better brochures
- Three easy ways to improve your writing
- Secrets of powerful fulfillment mailings!
- Nine ways to write headlines that make money
- If you want to write a killer web site, don’t whisper.
- Five easy ways to improve your self-mailer.
- Fifteen things you can put on the back of an envelope.
- Bingo! How to get the most from reader inquiry cards.
- How to increase registration card returns – A guide to capturing precious user names.
Neil is well known for SEO and eMarketing. Most of his content is research-based–not unsubstantiated opinion. Following is content that may prove helpful:
- 10 Types of Email Subject Lines That Always Produce Clicks. 35% of recipients open emails based on subject lines alone. 69% report bad subjects as Spam. Peak curiosity, create urgency, include free offers, personalize, provide news, plus more.
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