Archive for June, 2008

Writing to persuade readers to act is not pure logic. Sometimes this raises suspicions. What are those manipulative writers up to? Why not just make the case and be done without all that emotional rhetoric and red type? (I’m just being hypothetical without implying anything good or bad about red type.)

So here is a true story. I know a man who had a job interview involving a weekend trip to meet his potential supervisor and get acquainted with the workplace. He had a great time and, after he returned, he quickly sent a thank you note to the boss. The boss responded to him that he seemed like a great candidate and had performed well in the interview. Nevertheless, since the candidate had signed the note, he took it upon himself to do some lay handwriting analysis. And he decided on that basis that the candidate was completely unfit for the job.

This is an extreme example, but it is an example of something that happens all the time.

I suppose in some sort of strange society where everyone was trained to only respect strict syllogisms, sales writing might be able to restrict itself to a logical argument with nothing else. But in the actual world, you can’t escape the presence of factors that our outside of logic. The “irrational” is always there to subvert your logic and bypass your arguments.

No writer can afford to ignore this fact–not when he or she is writing for human readers.

If you read the literature in books or on the net, you know that people claim there are all sorts of tricks to sales writing.

But a recent visit to Branson, MO on the part of some friends of mine reminded me that it depends on how you define “trick.”

When you are a writer, you have great limitations. You can’t keep people in your presence for three hours, when you promised they would only have to listen to a two-hour presentation. You can’t watch a couple and find the weaker “link” in the chain of resistance and work on that person. You can’t develop strategies of deception so that, when a couple seems resistant to your initial offers, your partner suddenly comes into the room claiming that some new properties have unexpectedly opened up and, even though it is their normal practice to only offer these to members, they’ve decided to give the prospects an opportunity to buy in.

Writers don’t have tricks–not like those possessed by salesmen with a captive audience in a resort sales presentation. They share techniques in order to be as persuasive as possible. But they have nothing compared to salesmen with real tricks.

Writers never have a captive audience. Even the guy writing copy for the placard over the urinal knows that anyone using it can simply space out and not read the words in front of him. He can’t force the urinating man to stand there until he reads it. There is no way to obstruct his exit from the restroom in order to make a second offer “that just became available.”

Writers don’t have tricks. They either persuade you first to read and then to make a decision, or else they don’t do one or the other.

Writers leave their prospect free to choose. No tricks. Just persuasion.

I was reading a book on business by one of the more famous freelance writers (while the book was on starting a writing business, the section could apply to any small business start up). The author was giving guidance for how to network at meetings and generate leads. One of his first points was this:

Do not try to sell services or products; that is not why you are there.

If you are using or starting or thinking about starting a corporate blog, you should keep this advice in mind. It applies as much to blogging as it does to networking.

Blogging is not like making a sells pitch. It is like going to an event, a meeting of some kind, and trying to meet people. Blogging is networking. You have your business card to give away; that’s your sidebar. But people do not come to your blog or leave comments because they have made an appointment with you to receive a sales pitch. They come for the conversation, the entertainment, and the information.

Naturally, you want your blog to generate leads. Who doesn’t? But trying to sell stuff will kill any chance of that happening. Just like it will be self-defeating when you try to meet people and network. No one will converse with you if they feel pressured to buy something from you every time you open your mouth. You generate leads from networking by being conversational, entertaining, and informative. That is what makes people interested in you and willing to take your business card.

Posted also here.