Persuasion and Content Marketing

content marketing strategyBefore you roll your eyes and scroll further down your RSS feed to find something that’s less slimy, consider this: Every interaction we engage in has an effect on our thinking and emotions. In fact, way back in the 17th century, philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote “the art of persuasion has a necessary relation to the manner in which men are lead to consent to that which is proposed to them.” I interpret this to mean that your buyer personas don’t have to fall for your branded solution, but it’s in your best interest to try. Here are some fascinating and scientifically proven ways to drastically improve the persuasiveness of your content marketing strategy:

1. Start a Herd

Social proof is a powerful factor in persuasion, and it’s amazing what a few words can do to change someone’s mind. In the fantastic business book Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive, the authors cite a case of a hotel. It placed signs in rooms informing guests that many others had chosen to be more environmentally responsible and reuse their towels. When the wording was changed to say “most guests” reused towels, adoption of the practice jumped 33%.

2. Be Negative

Most of our millennial readers recall Steve Job’s 1984 Apple commercial, but some believe that the best advertisement of the 20th century actually was for the original Volkswagen Beetle in the 1960s:

content marketing strategy

“Lemon.” It’s a pretty bold and undoubtedly negative statement to introduce a new car. The copy below the ad went on to explain that the chrome strips on the glove compartment were blemished, and needed replacement. The result wasn’t just sheer brilliance, it propelled the bug to become one of the most recognized cars of the decade. Framing your content like a smear campaign can draw people in through the power of the negativity bias, and make them more receptive to what you really have to say.

3. Rhyme a Little

Your preschool teacher may have really been on to something. A study once asked people to rate the following proverbs:

a. Caution and Measure Will Win You Treasure

b. Caution and Measure Will Win You Riches

The group voted that the first option was more “practical and insightful.”

4. Reduce Your Options

While only your company’s blog marketing metrics can reveal whether list posts of 25 or 5 items resonate best among your audience, fewer options have typically proven to be better in product marketing. When Head & Shoulders shampoo reduced their total product options from 25 to 16, their sales improved 10%.

5. Use “Because”

The word “because” has this magical power to make almost anything rational, even if it really isn’t. In a major experiment, individuals attempted to cut the line at Kinko’s by saying “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” 60% of the time, it worked. When the request was rephrased to “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?” 94% complied.

6. Don’t Quantify Negatives

Just as statistics can be used to promote positive behavior, they can also reinforce the negative. The U.S. Petrified Forest National Park actually A/B tested some of its signs. The first stated that an estimated 12 tons of petrified wood are stolen each year, while the second simply asked people to avoid theft. Theft increased 300% in response to the first sign, because the high number subconsciously conveyed to visitors that stealing was acceptable.

7. Free Isn’t Valued

If you were presented with the following two options, which would you choose?

a. 98-page eBook on Expert Business Blogging, at no cost

b. Free Business Blogging eBook

If you’re anything like the majority of consumers, you’d pick the first option. People don’t want free things, they want value at no cost. We’re not saying you shouldn’t fill your sales funnel with amazing content, just that you should be sure to emphasize why it’s worth the download.

8. Personalize

If you needed any evidence that people really want highly personalized messages, consider that personalized notes have been shown to improve response by as much as 39%. If you’re still blasting off emails to your lists that start with “Dear Valued Friend,” recognize it’s not doing anything for your click-through-rates.

9. Use the Foot-in-the-Door Technique

Smart salesmen have been using a tactic known as a “foot-in-the-door” technique for generations. By eliciting an initial agreement from whomever you’re communicating with, they’ll be much more receptive to what you have to say. While content creators typically work behind a computer, not at a car lot, consider using your business blog introductions as an opportunity to establish common ground: “Social media would be a lot easier if we all had 100 hours a week of free time.”

10. Give a Gift

Amazing, free TOFu content, such as eBooks and webinars, aren’t just great inbound marketing practices and one of the best ways to execute modern lead generation. They also tap into the age-old principal of reciprocating niceness. One study revealed that people who received a gift from a stranger were twice as likely to purchase something from them.

11. Map Solutions

Here’s the thing: Prospects probably stumble on your website in the first place because they know they need a branded solution. They’re aware they have a problem. Emphasizing the severity of the issue might not help your company much. In fact, research indicates that spelling out the potential consequences of inaction is less effective than sharing solutions.

12. Assign Social Groups

I know I’m not alone in thinking that MINI Cooper’s commercials from last year were a little bit brilliant:

I mean, 1.5 million+ YouTube views don’t lie. Who doesn’t want to go out and buy a little tiny car from this brand that understands what it means to be an individual? Defining the social group or status of your audience—motivated young professionals, or creative self-employed professionals—has been shown to improve results around 15%.

How have you improved the persuasiveness of your content marketing strategy?

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