Persuasion 101: All About Action

Get your pens and notebooks ready. I’m about to go into Teacher Mode.

In a past life, I taught public speaking to university students. While we wrote and gave all kinds of speeches throughout the semester, the last half of the semester was dedicated solely to persuasive messaging. For the month of December, I want to run a short blog series about the basics of persuasion.


Why is persuasion important for your web copy?

Because your website is your best salesperson and its job is to persuade people to give you their business. Your website is there to turn visitors into leads or customers. If you don’t understand the basics of persuasive writing, then there’s really no point in having a website. It just becomes a fancy business card.

What is persuasion?

When I talk about persuasion, I may be using the term a little differently than you’d expect. Often, we think of persuasion as getting someone to agree with us, like a debate. But just getting someone to agree with you is stopping short of actual persuasion.

True persuasion means moving someone to take action.

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When I taught public speaking, it wasn’t enough for my students to have their audience agree that driving without a seatbelt is dangerous, or that riding a bicycle is a better environmental choice. If you stop there, how do you know if you actually persuaded anyone?

Communication is a two-way street, after all. You need feedback to know if you’ve done your job.

Students had to suggest an action that would SHOW that the audience had been persuaded. My students actually had to tell the audience, “Make sure you check that your seatbelt is fastened the next time you get in the car,” or “Sign this petition to have the city designate bike lanes to make our city more bike-friendly so that we can reduce our carbon footprint.” If the audience members take those actions, then that’s evidence that they received and were persuaded by the original message. You may have heard of this concept when reading about better website copywriting: it’s called a call to action (CTA).

Without a clear CTA, your message fizzles.


So how do I do that on a business website?

There are a few different ways to structure a persuasive message and the CTA that should follow. Later this month, I’ll be briefly outlining the various organizational patterns you might consider using. But for now, I want to concentrate on what makes for a CTA that actually engages your readers.

CTAs are important because people need to be told what to do. Really. When we’re left to our own devices (especially in the vastness of the internet), we tend to drift away. Maybe someone finds your website and thinks everything sounds great, but they aren’t sure how to get started or what to do once they’ve decided they’re ready to give you their hard earned cash. And to be honest, a lot of readers are actually looking for a reason to NOT do that… so don’t give them that chance. Make it foolproof. Take them by the metaphorical hand and tell them what to do next.

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Otherwise, they end up like this.

The best CTAs…

  • Use simple and clear language
  • Are easy to do and don’t take a lot of time
  • Can be  completed right away by anyone
  • Stick to ONE task
  • Use active verbs

Some examples of CTAs you might see on a website are things like:

Fill out the form for a free quote.

Click here to see what others are saying about this product.

Check out our most popular packages.

Read more about the benefits of our program on the Investment page.

Enter your email address for exclusive discounts.

See? Nothing fancy. But they’re super effective. 

(Note: All of these would have something clickable… either a link within the text or clickable images or a fillable form right after.)

Compare the above to a weaker CTA like “I’d be so happy if you followed me on Instagram and also liked the most recent post on my Facebook so that I know you came to visit my site. Also, please fill in your email address to get on my newsletter’s mailing list so you can get member-only discounts and updates about the events we’ll be attending this season!” …It’s all over the place, it’s too long, it’s not an active voice that inspires confidence, and it doesn’t encourage meaningful interaction that will turn visitors into leads or customers.

Which page is the best place to put my CTA?

This is a trick question. The correct answer is “Every. Single. One.”

Think of your website like a road map. You need to lead people around the site and give them a chance to interact with you at every turn. So each page needs its own call to action.

For example, on your homepage, you might have a “Let’s Get Started” button that sends them to a contact form, or you might have a header that says “Check Out Our Latest Designs” with clickable images that take them to product descriptions.

Your About page might encourage readers to get in touch, followed by a simple contact form. Or you might encourage them to read more about your vision or mission statement by linking to a separate page. Or maybe you send them to a portfolio or investment page to amp up their interest in working with you.

Your portfolio page might link back to a contact form or a page of testimonials.

Products may have a “buy now” button.

The moment you forget to give your readers the next step, you risk losing them altogether.

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😦

Now it’s your turn to take some action.

No lecture is complete without some homework. (By the way, homework can also be a call to action.)

So here’s your assignment: Check your website. Right now.

Do you have a clear CTA on every page? If not, work one in.

Next week: We’ll be talking about simple problem/solution organization to make your CTA more effective. 

See you then,

Prof. Lauren

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6 thoughts on “Persuasion 101: All About Action

    1. Lauren Patton says:

      Definitely! I’m glad it was useful. Keep in mind that each page’s CTA will probably have a different goal. The point is to keep them moving around and give them ample chances to get back to The Big One (buying or contacting). Thanks for reading!

      Like

    1. Lauren Patton says:

      Content is definitely important, but if you can’t get down to the nitty gritty at the end, you definitely lose steam. Thanks for giving this a read!

      Like

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