It turns out that writing conversationally can get a prospect to like and share stories with you.
What does it mean to create conversational copy? For some, it can be a tough balance to strike. It certainly sounds easy enough—just write how you talk.
But with the advent of new technologies, like chatbots, transforming the business landscape, the way you communicate with clients and prospects has changed as well. In fact, 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, if that’s any indication of the dramatic shift in communications.
Keep Conversational Copy Current
Just as new technology transforms how you do business, so too, does writing copy change. Traditionally, copywriting has been defined as “salesmanship in print.”
But “salesmanship” isn’t exactly conversational, and arguably America’s top copywriter, Robert W. Bly, would disagree with that traditional definition.
In The Copywriter’s Handbook, Bly mentions that you must be careful to avoid excluding language. For example, the idea of salespeople being referred to as a “salesman” excludes females working in sales.
So part of what it means to write conversationally involves keeping up with the times. For example, if you were suddenly trying to sell your product conversationally in the era of the hard sell, your efforts may not go over too well.
In another example, the way people speak shifts dramatically with time. Imagine a person from the 17th century trying to have a conversation with someone from the present day.
Whether it’s adapting copywriting to technological trends or meeting cultural standards, writing conversationally also means talking to your prospects as people, not prospects.
The carnival barker sideshow appeal is a turn-off for many because nobody likes being sold to. This means you not only have to be conversational–you’ve got to be subtly persuasive.
Conversational Copy is Persuasive
In fact, writing compelling and conversational copy runs parallel to the art of persuasion—of commanding attention. Few writers know that better than Arthur H. Bell. He says in his book, How to Write Attention-Getting Memos, Letters, and E-mails, that there’s a difference between enthusiasm and being like a carnival attraction:
Your appropriate enthusiasm for your products or services can be contagious for the reader. There’s a fine line, of course, between upbeat enthusiasm and “step-right-up” carnival behavior. Demonstrate the energetic, optimistic spirit of a winner in your sales letters to motivate your reader to say “yes” to your sales appeal.
That’s key right there. “Upbeat enthusiasm.” Conversational copy is upbeat. If you do conversational copy the right way, it becomes a way to get people to like you. For example, take one of the most positively spun brands out there: Coca Cola.
In its iconic marketing campaign, “Share a Coke,” the idea was to distribute bottles of Coke with personal names on them. That way, when you buy a Coke, you can share it with a friend of the same name.
The point here is that the copy of the campaign was conversational–nowhere else do you hear (or in our case, see) your own name more often than in a conversation. In fact, Dale Carnegie wrote in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People
“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Simply put, if you say a person’s name often enough, you create a connection, and in marketing, connections can be the difference that gets you over the finish line. Once again, Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign reigns supreme here with their personalized bottles.
And if people like you, that’s a surefire method to begin persuading them. A leading expert on the science of persuasion, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, identifies six tactics of psychological persuasion that you can leverage in your marketing efforts.
Listed in Dr. Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is the Principle of Liking. Under this principle, a variety of factors can influence a sale. Such factors include:
This can be observed in the example of a job interview. Candidates who are dressed appropriately for the job appear to perform better in interviews than those who aren’t.
You tend to be drawn to those that are similar to you. That’s why personalization is so popular today. One of the best examples of personalization is Walmart.com. They track what you buy in-store online to provide relevant recommendations when you visit the website.
We like people who pay us compliments. For example, Gatorade ran a marketing campaign that emphasized what their audience–athletes–was good at to inspire a greater liking of their brand. Put another way, Gatorade complimented their audience– and consumers looking to emulate them–to get them to like it.
Using the same Gatorade example, because Gatorade ran an ad campaign emphasizing what athletes and wannabe athletes were good at, it created a sense of familiarity the audience had with the brand.
For example, imagine you’re taking the bus, and there are only two seats available. One is next to a complete stranger, another is side-by-side with someone whose name you know, but not much else.
Based on the Principle of Liking, it’s more probable that you choose the distant friend than the complete stranger. It’s the same way for brands.
Conditioning and Association
Recall Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. Not only does it create a personal connection using your name, but it also activates a psychological phenomenon called conditioning and association.
Conditioning and association is, more or less, having a favorable attitude toward something that’s associated with something else you like. For example, Jay-Z owns alcohol brands. Your attitude toward Jay-Z may influence how you feel about those brands, regardless of whether you even try them or not.
The whole controlling purpose of striking a conversational tone is to induce familiarity with your prospects. This is a roundabout way of saying: “Hey, I’m just like you.”
You understand by now why the conversational tone is important—the carnival sideshow is annoying to consumers and implies that they can be hustled. The next step is to figure out how to adopt that conversational tone in your copy. One way is to tell a story. Telling a story may get your conversational juices flowing.
This resource includes more information if you are interested in learning more about persuasive copy.
Tell a Story, Get a Story
While a web search may turn over results that tell you to just talk like yourself, more actionable advice comes from Sell With A Story, by Paul Smith.
In that book, Smith gives you some valuable advice for getting whatever you want from clients—be it feedback, stories, a “yes,” you name it:
If you want buyers to tell personal stories about where they grew up, you tell a personal story about where you grew up. If you want them to tell you a story about a problem they’re having with their computer, you tell a story about a problem you’re having with your computer. You know this works because it works on you. When people tell you a story, the most likely thing running through your head is “Hey, something like that happened to me once.”
Again, by sharing a story of your own, you prompt a story from your audience and activate the psychological Principle of Liking. In turn, your audience will be conditioned to associate your brand with the experiences inspired by the story.
The act of giving information—that’s what a story is: information—and receiving it in return calls to mind Dr. Cialdini’s research once more. According to Influence, this mutual exchange is called the Principle of Reciprocation.
Under that principle, you will go to great lengths to avoid being seen as someone who just takes and doesn’t give anything in return. You can leverage this by using something Dr. Cialdini calls “Reciprocal Concession.”
Basically, that’s the act of making a large (but reasonable) ask. When that’s (probably) turned down, you make another one as a concession. Those are more likely to be accepted, as concessions are things that are granted as a responsive action.
It’s in response to a no.
It’s a repayment to your client for making such a large ask.
For example, you see this all of the time in contract negotiation. You set the bar high so when it’s negotiated down, you end up getting what seems like less to the other party involved, but is actually what you wanted all along.
All said, liking is a complex phenomenon, and not just something you do with a trackpad click. It can be inspired by a variety of factors, such as similarity, a story, or compliments. But the key to selling conversationally is to write conversationally and using stories is one way to reach that goal.
At the end of the day, just write like you talk.
Have you tried using a conversational tone with your customers before? Message us in the chat below to tell us about what you found to be the hardest and what was the most impactful.