Let’s be real. Content may be king, but businesses don’t invest in content just to wear a crown. Businesses need content that will influence their audience to take action – whether it’s to click a button to buy a product, subscribe to emails, or download content.
Influencing an audience is the primary job of marketing, sales and training copy. Yet too often, none of these succeed at the job they were created to do. The result? Boring sales and training decks, click-less websites and marketing materials that fail to convert prospects to customers.
Particulars of each project may differ, but the main reason I’ve observed that copy fails to “do its job” boils down to one issue: it isn’t effectively gaining buy in from its audience.
Want to Influence? Gain Buy In First
I first learned about buy in writing sales proposals for a consulting firm that did big enterprise software projects. In that role, I learned a lot about why a software project succeeds or fails. It turns out that software projects and marketing copy often fail for the same reasons: lack of buy in from users and customers.
When you implement a software tool, you’re relying on users to engage with the tool, learn how to use it, change processes that they are familiar with, and take a risk on trying something new. It seems like a small ask, but the challenge is that most people are resistant to change and prefer to avoid risk. They’ll continue to do what they’re familiar with, even it doesn’t work that well. Thus the old saying that the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
One of the things that often keeps people from taking action is when organizational goals and individual goals aren’t aligned. The same occurs with marketing. We want customers to “buy in,” to be inspired to make a change, but there’s a disconnect if they feel that their motivations and the marketer’s aren’t aligned. It will only happen if they believe that what we are offering will improve their life in tangible ways that they – not we – care about.
It seems so simple, yet, I see people making the mistake all the time of selling the wrong benefits to the wrong audience (i.e., features instead of benefits, or organizational benefits instead of individual benefits), using the wrong language, without establishing trust. And those mistakes practically ensure that you won’t get buy in.
So how do you obtain buy in and write influential copy that rocks your audience’s socks?
5 Tips for Gaining Buy In With Copy
- Understand your audience’s wants and needs – To write influential copy, you must be crystal clear about who you’re talking to and what motivates them to take the action you want them to take. What do they want (what are their stated goals?), what do they need (what are the underlying reasons behind that want?) and – in a world full of choices – why should they buy any of it from you? One of the best ways to get clear on this is to create buyer or user personas that allow you to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and align your offer with their desires and requirements. And remember that you may have multiple audiences, therefore multiple motivations that you must address.
- Sell benefits, not features – The next tip is to make sure that you don’t mistake the features of your product or service with the benefits that it will provide to your audience. This is a struggle for many businesses, particularly those who sell technology or related products. Fortunately, this is something a good copywriter can help you avoid. Keep in mind that on the other side of the screen is a human being who wants their life to be easier or better. How can you do that for them?
- Write with authority – In order to influence people, they have to trust you. What causes audiences to trust what they read, see or hear? There are a number of things that influence this, but a few of them are:
- Voice – Using language that enables your audience to understand what you’re saying.
- Expertise – Well researched content and subject matter expertise that connects what you’re selling and what your audience wants to buy.
- Consistency – Producing content regularly demonstrates longevity and commitment, while a theme that carries throughout your content – a story, if you will – lends authority to your copy.
- Be authentic – Audiences have to believe you, in order to take the action you want them to take. Believing you means believing IN you. Audiences believe you when they trust that you are who you say you are, that you will do what you say you will do. You convey this through copy by aligning your voice and messaging with your brand culture and values. Style plays into it as well: humor and connection engage audiences. Bottom line: real sells better than fake so don’t be afraid to be human.
- Talk at their level – Your audience is smart but they’re also busy. Respect their time and intelligence by not forcing them to wade through overly technical copy. Make sure your copy is easy to understand: avoid jargon, geek speak, insider terms, etc. A good rule of thumb is that the more technical your subject, the simpler your language should be. As Oscar Wilde said,
Don’t use big words. They mean so little.”
As marketers, our goal isn’t to write the most copy. There’s no crown for using the most or biggest words. Our job is to understand our audience and gain their buy in. By following these 5 tips, you’ll be better able to connect with audiences at their level, gain their trust and inspire action.