Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is credited for having identified the most important part of any project: The end.
In children’s books especially, and in some old movies, those words appear prominently at the conclusion of the story.
To “begin with the end in mind,” as Covey put it, is exactly what you must do if you are to write persuasive copy.
If you’re going to persuade anyone to do anything, then you have to start where you plan to finish.
And if you don’t, then you’ll have trouble answering this age-old question: “If you don’t know where you’re going, then how will you know when you get there?”
The goal – the destination – is always to get to where you intended to go; and when you write something, whether it’s in school, or in college, or in business, it’s usually to take your audience on a journey with you that leads to a specific conclusion – one that you decided in advance.
In academia, you want your peers to arrive at the same conclusion as you do. That could be in an essay, a book, or a peer-reviewed article. They may not agree with you, but they’ll be able to follow your argument.
In business, and especially in the IM-world, the goal is to get people to buy your products; but before that can happen, they have to believe that you’re capable of helping them.
That’s where articles/posts, emails, PDFs, recordings, etc. come in.
We call it content.
Each bit of content that you create has to gently, but consistently, prove that you know what you’re doing. This is why simply copying what everyone else is doing doesn’t work. It doesn’t sound genuine. Instead, it sounds artificial. It makes you sound like a fake.
When your audience is convinced that you’re who you claim to be and that you can help them, then they’ll take an interest in what you have to offer them.
So how do you do that?
You start with the end.
Ask yourself this: “What is the goal of the article, ebook, recording (or whatever it is) that I’m about to create?”
Another way to look at this is to ask, “What do I want people to do as a result of reading, listening, or watching this?”
If the goal is simply to inform, then structure the information accordingly.
Start with the general and work towards the specific.
News articles are written like this. The first sentence in each paragraph introduces what follows, and each paragraph adds a little more detail to the story.
If it’s to establish you as an authority, then decide what the one thing is that you want people to learn.
The title of this article does that. The goal is to explain how to write persuasively.
If your content is intended to make people buy, then there is something of a set “formula” for doing it.
You have to be able to write compelling headlines, for example. If the headline doesn’t draw in your audience, then they’ll never read the rest of what you have to say, even if your product is perfect for their needs.
That’s because they’ll never find out that it’s available.
You have to pinpoint the problem that your readers face.
You have to be able to empathize with them. This is made easier if you’ve had the same problem and are speaking from experience, but a sensitive writer will be able to imagine how it feels to have this problem.
You have to deal with all of the psychological objections that people have; and they are psychological. All of us are prone to buy with our hearts and justify with our heads, no matter how logical we claim to be.
And then you have to present the solution to their problem in a way that makes it sound like a no-brainer. That’s so that they won’t hesitate to buy from you.
And the hardest part about doing all of this – not just with sales copy, but will all persuasive writing – is that you have to do it from inside the mind and emotions of your audience.
Your readers or listeners have to feel that you’re thinking their thoughts as they are thinking them.
This is an extraordinary skill.
Not many people have it.
Of those who do, the very best got that way through years of study and practice.
Could you learn to do this?
Everyone who does it now had to learn it.
But that’s really not the right question.
The right question is, “Should you learn how to do this?”
And that takes us back to the beginning.
What’s your goal?
What’s the end you have in mind?
Is your goal to become a writer?
If so, then devote yourself to it.
If not, then find a problem that excites you, and then devote yourself to solving it.
Then find someone who has the skill to persuade others to buy that solution from you.
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