The toughest approach you can ever take is to try to change the reader’s mind.
In fact, within the context of writing sales copy, it is pretty much impossible to change someone’s mind.
Let’s look at an example – trying to sell cheese that is made from raw milk.
Out of all the people who are in a position to buy this cheese, there are two groups.
The first group believes that raw foods are good for you, and that the various bacteria found in raw milk are also good for you.
The second group believes that raw milk is dangerous, and that the bacteria could make you sick, or even kill you.
Out of that first group, you have a very good chance of making some sales.
Out of the second group you will likely make no sales at all.
In fact, you could write the best copy of your life to that second group, and still not make a single sale.
How come? Because however persuasive you are, however many scientific studies you quote, however much proof you offer, your reader will resist you because of the hugely discomforting effect of cognitive dissonance.
What is cognitive dissonance? It’s the discomfort you feel when you try to reconcile two conflicting ideas or thoughts in your mind.
For example, someone who doesn’t believe raw milk is safe might feel uncomfortable reading about all the scientific studies that say it is safe. To alleviate the discomfort, that person might then decide that the studies are bogus, or fabricated by the League of Raw Milk Lovers.
Another example might be the good kid who gets angry with his brother and breaks one of his toys. Ouch. He feels cognitive dissonance because he felt justified in breaking the toy, but also knows it was a bad thing to do. To alleviate the discomfort he might decide that his brother asked for it, or started the argument. Once he has decided it’s all his brother’s fault, the discomfort is relieved.
Cognitive dissonance is a hugely powerful force in our minds and our lives.
We need to make sense of our lives and our beliefs, so we avoid ideas and beliefs that contradict what we already think is right or true.
Try convincing a gold bug that the price of gold isn’t being manipulated. Try changing the mind of someone who doesn’t believe in global warming. Try persuading someone in a bad relationship that it isn’t the other person’s fault. Try telling a Mets fan that they should cheer for the Yankees.
You won’t succeed, because your listener will go to any length to justify their current belief. To even consider the alternative is just too uncomfortable.
This impacts selling and copywriting, because you will almost never be able to change your audience’s current beliefs.
As you write your copy, your reader needs to be nodding his or her head.
In practical terms, this means researching your audience, digging deep and unearthing one or more of their deeply held beliefs. Step two is to find a way to present your sales message in such a way as to support or endorse that belief.
For example, I might write different messages to sell the same product to three different audience types.
If I were selling a Fair Trade coffee to health food lovers, I would put the emphasis on the fact that the coffee is organic.
If I were selling to gourmet coffee lovers, I would emphasize the quality of the beans.
If I were selling to people concerned about social justice, I would talk more about the fair payment made to the coffee growers.
I always try to be in concert with my audience’s beliefs, and absolutely avoid disagreeing with or challenging those beliefs.
This may sound obvious, but all too many copywriters interpret “persuasive” copywriting as meaning that one persuades a reader to change his or her mind.
Not going to happen.
Your job is to persuade the reader to do something they are already inclined to do.
About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…