The art of persuasion is an ancient study most notably used by great men in history, from Socrates to Martin Luther King Jr. In essence, we hold a similar vocation to those renowned persuaders who have studied or used rhetoric to their advantage — we’re communicators.
The following 12 best practices of persuasion (split into a two-part series) should be used in many of your Internet marketing tactics, especially those with a call to action. These calls to action are in the emails we send out, the PPC ads we create or even just on the client’s website.
In the rush of agency life with a long running list of high demanding clients, the art of persuasion often gets swept under the rug. Here’s a quick refresher on the best practices to persuade your reader to follow the call to action.
Know Where Your Audience Stands
Before you can persuade your reader to do anything you have to know where they are in the customer’s journey. The context and timing of your call to action can make all the difference between a conversion and a bounce.
Take the time to create personas for each of your consumer types and the path they take to make a purchase. In order to convince them to follow a call to action you have to understand where they stand in each of these categories: knowledge of your business and products, why they would be interested in purchasing your products or services, background and previous experience with the type of products you sell, and their beliefs or feelings toward your brand.
The Simpler, the Better
In his TED talk “The Paradox of Choice,” Barry Schwartz explains how consumers are unsatisfied with their purchases because of too many choices. They second guess whether their choice was the right one. This is why when it comes to a call to action, make the choice simple and clear.
However, Schwartz calls it a paradox for a reason — people like choices. Offering product choices is a good thing but keep in mind when you are trying to persuade a consumer to follow the call to action, simplicity is always best.
Trust is a major factor for consumers. Especially since many of the purchases consumers make today are online and, hence, they can’t examine the product or have absolute assurance that they will get what they paid for. To reduce their skepticism, which is born from the fear of the unknown, we need to make sure our calls to action clearly explain what the customer will receive. While calls to action should be simple and to the point, don’t neglect the details. You can even add a link for FAQs or one that explains the terms and conditions if that seems to be a turning point in the consumer’s decision.
The Rule of Reciprocity
There are six principles of persuasion, I’ll be covering the three most applicable for calls to action. The reciprocity principle is similar to the golden rule, if you want to get something you need to give something. Consumers will be more willing to purchase your products or services if you do something for them first. It can be as simple as giving them advice or complex like the Pinterest campaign Kotex implemented.
Reciprocity should not be seen as a “you now owe me” tactic but a way to foster brand loyalty and positive feelings toward your company. One of the basic calls to action we see using this principle is “Sign up and we’ll send you this [content] for free.” The company offers free information in return for a consumer’s contact information.
Photo by Boost Blog Traffic
A great benefit of providing free content for the rule of reciprocity is the chance to build the company’s authority. Authority is the second principle of persuasion. With the ever growing amount of content and products on the web, consumers will purchase from companies they trust. People trust experts. Therefore, positioning your company as a thought leader and expert in your field will grow your consumer base.
Displaying awards, high profile interviews with the media, and providing helpful information for consumers will aid in persuading them to follow the call to action.
Providing Social Proof
Another principle of persuasion is social proof. For a variety of reasons, consumers often don’t trust companies but are willing to trust a complete stranger’s review or third party endorsement. This is why it’s so important to encourage loyal customers to write reviews on Google+ and other review sites for your company. Social media, from Pinterest to blogs, also plays a major role in third party endorsements.
If possible, on your call to action page include positive reviews, tweets or other forms of endorsements from happy customers. For example, Renewal by Andersen does a great job putting on display their 200+ client testimonials on their social media, landing page and website to encourage new customers to go with their company.
These six best practices cover the groundwork of persuasion. In the second part of this series, I’ll go more in-depth into specific tactics you can use to persuade your reader to follow a call to action.
Alicia Lawrence is a content coordinator for WebpageFX and blogs in her free time at MarCom Land. Her work has been published by the Association for Business Communication, Yahoo! Small Business and Muck Rack. Her last article for SEMrush was “How to Use Skyscraper Content to Boost Your SEO.”