Just because you can write content that grabs attention doesn’t mean it will convert.
What does it mean to create compelling content? It’s no easy task, especially in the age of instant gratification. As a byproduct of information-heavy times, many readers have shortened attention spans. Writing has to be leaner, sharper, and digestible.
That’s all well and good, but how exactly do you do that? The logical choice would be to do a quick internet search to find out. And sure, you can go to the countless numbers of websites that tell you about crafting content that prospects and customers can’t turn away from.
Notice my word choice there, though. I said, countless numbers of websites can tell you “about” creating good content. I didn’t mention that those websites don’t tell you “how” to create compelling content.
The advice I’m going to give here comes from copywriting legends. These are true masters of the craft. They have achieved success, made fortunes, and built legacies around this wisdom.
The Art of the Small Ask
Before I tell you the secrets the copywriting masters use to influence their readers, I should mention that these tips are generally grounded in psychology. And for all things related to the customer’s mind, I point you in Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s direction. He’s the leading expert in the science of persuasion.
In Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he outlines a set of psychological principles that can be used to persuade and influence people. According to him, people tend to agree to small requests initially and continue to accept these requests as the asks scale upwards.
For example, this would look like asking someone to join a free rewards program that values repeat purchases. Here, underpinning this practice is what Dr. Cialdini calls the Principle of Commitment and Consistency.
In this example, the principle works by making a small ask (i.e. join a free rewards program), and at the time of purchase, a card is usually marked to signify how many more visits are required (continuing to accept small requests) to unlock a free gift or purchase (scaling up).
Panera Bread did a similar program in the past with the more times you visit, the closer you’d get to a free coffee, donut, or pastry. Currently, the company offers a “bottomless” coffee cup subscription–that is, unlimited coffee–to members for a price.
The point in both cases is to keep customers coming back for more. If Panera customers return for unlimited amounts of coffee–that’s more time they may spend in the store. The more time they spend in the store, that means greater upsell and cross-sell opportunities.
This is a fantastic example of creating compelling content that converts. And you can translate the exact way Panera compels its customers to your marketing copy.
For instance, in The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, written by Bond Halbert, the son of renowned direct-response copywriter, Gary Halbert, claims you can keep prospects’ eyes glued to your words. This is done by making small promises to the reader:
Once readers think they know all they need to know they start looking for a good place to stop reading.
Even with novels, the readers look for a good place to take a break from reading.
Don’t give it to them!
It all starts with making the copy look easy to check out.
In practice, this would look like IKEA’s “Real Life Series.” In that campaign, IKEA recreated living room sets from famous television show sitcoms like Stranger Things or Friends. By connecting to a familiar idea (the shows), they made their content easy to check out.
The content is easy to check out because many are invested in these kinds of shows–they know the backdrop, plot, character arcs, etc. That’s less energy prospects have to spend on your content because the content topic is familiar to them.
The point is that if you wrap a familiar idea up in a digestible format, you make it easy for prospects to consume more of your content. Naturally, the longer prospects are exposed to your messaging, the more selling opportunities you have.
That said, you may have noticed I used a promise at the beginning of this section. I said, “Before I tell you the secrets…” The word, “before,” implies that the reader will get what was promised after something of equal value is received.
Returning to Panera’s unlimited coffee subscription program example, they explain on their website that your cup of coffee is “always full” before they mention the subscription needed to enjoy such benefits. That’s a reciprocal value exchange.
I just used a psychological method of persuasion on you (Principle of Reciprocity). Did it work? Did you continue reading to get to what the word, “before,” promised?
Deeper Dives Into Creating Content That Converts
There are a bunch of ways like the ones shared above where you can make small promises that lead to larger ones customers will accept.
For example, in The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, hyper-successful copywriter, Joseph Sugarman, details a list of small promises you can use:
- But there’s more.
- So read on.
- But I didn’t stop there.
- Let me explain.
- Now here comes the good part.
He calls this idea “seeds of curiosity.” Seeds of curiosity in action can be seen on television all of the time. For example, consider this practice as seen on the Ellen Degeneres Show or the Oprah Winfrey Show.
On those shows Ellen or Oprah will usually mention what’s coming next before a commercial break as a way to keep viewers interested. These talk show personalities might even use this as a technique to cultivate curiosity.
You can do the same thing in your marketing copy–use small promises–by leveraging the specific Sugarman suggestions above as a starting point. But it’s not enough to get your readership curious–you want them to hang on your every word. Sugarman gives ways to do that, too, including varying the sentence structure of your marketing copy:
[Copy rhythm] has no distinct pattern: a short sentence, then a long sentence followed by a medium sentence followed by a short sentence and then another short sentence and then one really long sentence…
And that’s the point of copy rhythm. Vary your sentences; vary their length to give your copy a rhythm.
More information about Sugarman’s copywriting techniques can be found here.
But the idea is that there are certain words and phrases you can use to create your copy’s rhythm. Persado is a company that does a good job with this. Air Canada, for instance, was a company that went to Persado for help in creating engaging copy.
In a Persado case study, Persado served Air Canada with copy that sparked a +48% rise in their email open rates and a 219% uptick in CTR.
Whether you use AI or come up with the words to drive curiosity and rhythm yourself, the main takeaway here is that you can make a large promise followed by a series of smaller ones at the sentence level to boost engagement with or without the help of AI.
More Ways to Create Compelling Content That Converts
And yet still there are ways to create converting content. For instance, your body, although instinctually hardwired to notice negativity over positivity, likes to hear the word, “yes”— to hear that positivity—and recent research proves it.
For example, take aging. Aging is seen by some to be a negative and undesirable aspect in life. Just flip on the TV to see commercials for female anti-aging products and male supplements for confirmation of this. I’m thinking of the Olay Regenerist anti-aging skin cream and Ageless Male testosterone booster, specifically.
What this means for your content creation efforts is that you should get your readers to see themselves in your product, nod their heads, and agree with what you’re saying. Arthur H. Bell has this down to an art form. He explains:
At least half of all letters and memos written in business carry good news to the reader: yes, we have the products and services you need…
The key to successful good news communications lies in using them to build goodwill. Readers are pleased, after all, to receive your “yes” message. What better time to nurture a good business relationship [than] through well-chosen words of goodwill?
In order to incorporate “yes” into your copy, and get your readers to say (or think) “yes,” you’ve got to address all of the reasons they would say “no.”
For instance, Amazon offers customers the ability to pay cash. Specifically, Amazon is targeting the segment of the population that doesn’t use banks, and they’re doing this in the form of their unbanked customers’ grocery shopping bills.
According to supermarket and grocery news website, Progressive Grocer:
Instead of using a credit or bank card to pay for online purchases, shoppers can instead choose the PayCode option at checkout on Amazon.com. They then receive a QR code they can take to a Western Union to pay for the items they wanted to buy. According to Amazon, 80% of Americans live within 5 miles of a participating Western Union.
When you have that large a segment of the US population with access to a payment method separate from a bank, you make the act of buying from you easy. You’re removing the barriers to purchase. You’re taking away all of the reasons your prospects and customers might say “no.”
Whether it’s using psychology to propel sales or adjusting the makeup of your writing to inspire curiosity, it’s undeniable the word “yes” is a compelling force. After all, a conversion cannot happen without a “yes” response. All you need to do to take advantage of this is to say “yes” to incorporating the spirit of it in your content. The rest will follow.
What tactics make writing compelling content easier for you? Send us a message in the chat below to tell us your successes and challenges!