Persuasive writing is an incredibly important and influential skill in business. Is it time to supercharge the way you write?
In the digital age, we produce and consume a vast amount of words. Whether writing sales documents or pithy statements on social media, words are the oxygen of our business.
Words inspire clients to buy from us. They can lift the spirits and motivate a team. Words compel your audience to take action.
You’d think, then, that the ability to produce the kind of writing that commands attention would be highly valued. Yet judging by the poorly written emails and jargon-filled websites that plague the world of commerce, it seems like anything but.
Companies that prize the written word reap the benefits. Look at Apple. They began to dominate the market not just by creating products that people wanted, but also by communicating their message in a powerful, user-friendly way.
Gone was the baffling technical jargon. Instead, phrases such as “Think Different” and “Simplicity in the ultimate sophistication” won hearts and minds, and made people feel comfortable using new-fangled gadgets like the iPhone or iPad.
The science of writing
Most major advertising campaigns, of course, are written by professional copywriters – people who spend a lot of time thinking about which words to use in the right order, so as to persuade customers to buy.
Some of this is intuitive but the psychology of persuasion is uppermost in any good copywriter’s mind. Compelling copy doesn’t simply happen by accident. It is drafted, redrafted and then redrafted some more, until the copy is finely tuned and ready to beguile its audience.
While the means to communicate have evolved, the way our brains respond to information remains much the same.
Back in the 1960’s, marketing pioneer David Ogilvy wrote this:
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
Clever. Sells the quality of the engine by focusing on a fairly trivial feature. Shows but doesn’t tell.
Yes, you can
The good news is that anyone with the ability to construct a sentence can develop effective writing skills. Often, it is simply a case of changing your approach.
Here, then, are three simple steps you can take to become a more powerful writer:
- Define your purpose
A lot of writing is badly constructed because it hasn’t been properly thought through. Being clear about your objective/s before your write, and doing any necessary research, will make your writing stronger. And you are more likely to achieve the results you want.
- Keep it simple
Professional people often believe they must write in a ‘business voice’ in order to impress. The result is a mess of clichés and platitudes – lots of ‘customer-focused solutions’ and ‘innovative opportunities to leverage’. Clarity results in less confusion and more sales. From the humble email to the latest annual report, cutting out the jargon, the repetition, and the tired empty business rhetoric will make you stand out.
- Make it colourful
Adding colour to your writing draws attention and keeps your audience engaged. For example, instead of writing: “A few techniques to minimise the shortcomings in writing designed to persuade”, I could write: “Six simple secrets that will make your writing utterly irresistible – guaranteed.” People love to read about benefits, and if anything is ‘guaranteed’ they immediately have more confidence in it.
Of course, there’s much more to becoming an effective writer than this. But any time invested in brushing up your writing skills is certainly well worth the effort.