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Two incidents in one week got me thinking about an ingredient in persuasion that we don't often hear about.
In the first incident, an accomplished copywriter asked for feedback on a letter he intended to send to members of the local Chamber of Commerce that he'd just joined. The letter was technically excellent.
It contained all the ingredients that a sales letter should have, in the right proportions and in the right places - except for one. The letter came across as cold and mechanical. The tone was distant and impersonal. Inevitably, the reader would be conscious that the writer was trying to make a sale, not trying to help out new friends and by doing so, to make a sale.
In the second incident, a woman in my copywriting training program showed me an email she sent to an entrepreneur who was looking for a ghostwriter for a collection of spiritual stories. My trainee had no ghostwriting experience and had never been published. Without any nod toward the usual credentials someone might expect in a ghostwriter, my trainee's letter expounded on other reasons why she would be perfect for this assignment. She opened with a paragraph on the power of stories and created further rapport by mentioning involvements that would show how in tune she was with the spirit of the project.
From beginning to end, the second letter showed a sincere desire to connect with its audience. The entrepreneur wrote back that of all the responses she received, the one from my trainee "spoke to her heart." They arranged a meeting. This letter persuaded because it made a connection.
A third incident came to mind as I continued to ponder the element that the second letter had that the first letter lacked. Three or four years ago, a personal coach asked me to review his web site, and I told him that he had done a masterful job of coming across as different from all the other coaches whose sites I had looked at. His site breathed with uniqueness and life, as few web sites do.
So when another coach or consultant asked how it would be possible to position himself as distinctive in such a crowded industry, I wanted to refer him to the site that had impressed me so much.
But when I went back to look, the site had changed. The wording now had a slick, remote veneer. Instead of sincere enthusiasm and confidence, the site projected a self-conscious and somewhat formulaic attempt to attract coaching customers.
"Uh-oh," I said to myself. "He's been knocked off center. He's trying too hard. He's going for polish and professionalism instead of, rather than on top of, who he is and what he really does for his clients. Too bad!"
Unlike most of the other ingredients in persuasive copywriting, this one is pretty elusive. It has to do with presence and animation and a whole-hearted desire to connect with readers. Sometimes there's playfulness in it, and other times it's plain, straightforward earnestness personified. In either case, the voice has no fakery in it. The impact of this element resembles that of charisma, but here the connection occurs through words and without in-person contact.
I cannot prove that the full-blooded verbal magnetism I am writing about sells more products and services than lifeless or mechanical wordsmithing. But I know that it attracts ideal clients, and that it can enable someone who's new in business to outshine someone with many more years of experience.
The way to get it into your writing is to communicate with a confident desire to connect. Before sending or posting your text, smooth away most of the rough edges. I also know that it's sometimes very easy to capture the right spirit, and other times it takes crumpling up a draft and trying again time after time after time.
When Ingredient X is there, I feel it. Customers eager for something real feel it, too. They read this kind of copy with interest and attention. And they respond.
:: Find out more about Marcia Yudkin's Six Weeks to Masterful Copywriting Course
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