17 of The World’s Most Powerful Written Persuasion Techniques

by Lou

They who influence the thoughts of their times, influence all the times that follow. They have made their impression on eternity.

 

Influence and the psychology of persuasion. Whether you are writing an advertisement, an email to a friend, an inter-office memo, hoping to change a family member’s actions, or trying to convince a group of people to come over to your way of thinking, you need to know the methods top persuaders use to change people’s thinking and get them to take action.

 

Here is a collection of the most persuasive techniques used by politicians, advertising copywriters, spin-doctors, propaganda writers, lawyers…anybody who has to change an individual’s mind–or groups of people’s minds–quickly.

 

A person could use these techniques to get people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do, change their beliefs, get them to change their minds, get them to take action.


I’ll give some short examples for each technique in an advertisement using the fictitious Special-J Dog Food. I’ve tried to sum up each technique with a sentence or two, but you could expand each one into a few sentences or paragraphs. That would make the techniques you are using much more powerful.


Here we go:

 

1. Appeal to Their Identity. Who a person is and how they see themselves is an incredibly important influence tool, maybe the most important of them all. If you can tie in what you want with what their identity would do in a similar situation, you’d have a very good chance of getting him or her to do it. As a matter of fact, if you’re convincing enough, you would cause inner conflict that would compel them to act in the way you want.

Of course people have more than one identity. They combine with their roles in life and how they see themselves. Many of these are fairly universal: being a good parent, a good friend, a good manager, being interesting, honest, etc.

Another use of the Appeal to Their Identity is the use of Labels. What positive label could you put on the person(s) you are writing to? Here are some frames you can use for labeling someone:

* You’re a natural _______. (“You’re a natural entrepreneur.”)

* You’re not the type of person who _______. (“You’re not the type of person who would lie .” The label here? Honest.)

* One thing I really like about you is _______. (“One thing I really like about you is your open-mindedness.“)

* Unlike other ______, you’re ________. (“Unlike other managers, you’re generous.“)

The above frames are very useful in buttering a person up before asking them to do something for you. You would use one of the above frames and then make a request that would cause a conflict with the label you gave them. So, if I used the, “Unlike other managers, you’re generous, ” I would then, later on, ask for a raise or a loan of some sort.

Here are a couple of examples I might use when selling to dog owners:

Pet parents always serve their dogs Special-J Dog Food.

Caring pet owners feed their dogs Special-J Dog Food.

While you’re writing, ask yourself, “Who is this person?” Who does she think she is?” “What roles are important to him?” “What positive, complimentary label can I apply to him or her?”

2. Use Their Hierarchy of Values. This technique can tie into the one above. People place a value on practically everything. And that includes time, goods, ideas, people, etc. But they do have priorities. They will compare the characteristics of one thing to another to determine which one is more valuable to them, especially if they have to make a choice. How can you tie in what you’re offering with one or more of their highest values?

Some of the fairly universal values (at least here in the west) are these: love, health, attractiveness, security, safety of family, pleasure, impressing others, happiness.

Think of something fairly expensive you bought recently. Why did you buy it? What value(s) of yours made it appeal to you? What would have stopped you from buying it? What would have had to happen for you to pay twice the money for it? Whatever your answers to these questions, they show the values you applied to your purchase.

An example:

What’s more important to you, saving a few bucks or your dog’s health?

Questions to ask yourself while writing: “What’s important to this person?” “How can I make my offer just as valuable?”


3. Invoke Emotions. As any professional advertising copywriter knows, you sell something by getting the prospective customers’ emotions involved. Propagandists and spin-doctors know this too. Positive emotions like hope, anticipation, love, and negative emotions like anger, loneliness, disgust can spur people into action.

You also need to use emotionally charged words that add impact to your writing. Try to pull out bland words and head to a thesaurus to find words that have a punch.

An example:

Show the love for your dog that he or she shows you.

Ask yourself, “What emotions do I want to invoke, and how can I do it?”

4. Motivate Your Reader. Why should they do what you ask them? What’s in it for your reader? What do they get? What’s the incentive? What are the major benefits of doing what you are asking them to do? Make big promises. Promises you can keep if you don’t want major fallout later. A great way to get your readers motivated is to use a list of benefits, just pile on all the great benefits of what you are offering or what they will get when they do what you are asking.

Here’s an example:

• When you feed your dog Special-J Dog Food, you’ll notice your dog will :

* Be more content and happier

* Sleep better

* Have a shinier, healthier coat

* Be less likely to get sick

* Recover from injuries faster

* Have cleaner breath

While writing, ask yourself, “How can I motivate my reader(s) to act now? How can I light a fire under them? What are all the benefits they will get if they act?”

5. Show Them the Consequences. How will your readers lose out by not doing what you suggest? Paint a word picture for them. What pain will they experience if they don’t do as you ask. This doesn’t mean make threats. That will set up resistance. Just tell them some of the negatives of not doing what you want, choosing an alternative to what you are offering…or doing nothing.

An example:

Many dog foods are not nutritionally balanced, especially imported dog food. The last thing you need is for your dog to get sick, start losing his or her hair, becoming listless, just because you have been serving your dog canned food that isn’t as healthy.

An important point when using this technique is to NOT dwell on the negatives for too long. People are exposed to negative news all day long. If you spend too much time on the consequences, you might lose them. Keep it short.

Ask yourself, “How will they lose out if they don’t act now?” “What pain will they experience if they don’t do as I ask.?”

6. Ask Questions. When you ask lots of questions of your readers, you get them involved. And once they are involved, you can lead them where you want them to go. One old time use of questions in sales and copywriting is to ask several questions in a row that get the prospective customer to say “Yes”. This will, more often than not, get them into a positive mood and more receptive to your request.

Another good way to use questions in your writing is to make suggestions rather than orders.

“Why not order now while you are still on this website,: instead of just using “Order now!!”. Questions are an ideal way to insert embedded commands.

Some examples:

How do you know your dog is getting the proper nutrition heshe deserves?

Why not treat your dog to Special-J Dog Food today?

When writing try to put in a few questions to get your readers involved.

7. Reframe Possible Objections. What would stop someone from doing what you want them to do? What possible anxiety could they feel about doing what you ask? Write down all they could possibly reject about your offer or request. Then take your list of possible objections and reframe them. Put a spin on them or change their perspective.

Example:

Special-J Dog Food contains micro-capsules to release nutrients into your dog’s body all throughout the day, keeping her immune system running at peak levels, lessening the chance she will get sick. (THE POSSIBLE OBJECTION IS: “All dog food is the same.”)

What you DON’T want to do is ignore any possible objections. By not bringing them up, you risk looking like you’re hiding something, or you are making your offer sound too good to be true by leaving those objections out.

Ask yourself, “What would stop this person from doing what I want?” “How can I put a more positive spin on this objection? “”What else could this mean?” “What’s not apparent to them?”

8. Use Quotes. Authority and Social Proof are incredibly convincing ways to persuade. Just by quoting an expert or a celebrity (in the form of quotations), or satisfied customers (in the form of testimonials) you ramp up the persuasive content of your writing quite a few notches.

Another benefit of using quotes in your writing is that they attract the eye when put inside quotation marks.

Example:

• “Nine out of ten veterinarians feed their dogs Special-J Dog Food.”

• “My dogs love Special-J Dog Food. They’re healthier, happier, and look great!” ~ Marlin Perkins

When writing your piece, ask yourself where you can find quotes and testimonials that will support your case.

9. Employ Metaphor. The use of metaphor (and analogies and similes) have been used to influence, persuade, educate, and convince for thousands of years. Most of the Bible and other religious books are written in metaphor. It’s another powerful technique. How is what you want them to do like something they love to do? What are the parallels between the two?

If you are selling a product, how is your product like something else very desirable? The classic advertising positioning statement “ABC is the Rolls-Royce of printer inks” uses metaphor for this effect.

Here are some examples:

Special-J Dog Food is like an immunity booster shot for your dog.

It’s the canine Fountain of Youth!

Ask yourself, “What is my offer like?”

10. Compliment and Flatter. If you can pull it off, make your reader feel special. This technique might be a bit transparent when writing to cold audiences (people you don’t know), but if you know them or you know the type of people they are (like a certain car owner), you should compliment them, especially if you have something negative to tell them.

If you can’t think of anything nice to tell your reader (C’mon!), you can always do what Joe Gerard (Guinness Book of Records’ World’s Greatest Salesman used to do: mail them cards that said “I like you!” inside. He swore that this technique worked miracles.

It also ties in quite well with Technique 1 (“Appeal to Their Identity”).

Ask yourself, “What do I appreciate about this person?” “What do I like about this person?” “How can I compliment them with sounding like a brown-nose?”

11. Show No Gray Area. Point out to your readers that there really isn’t any choice in what you have to offer. They have only a very positive outcome if they do as you say or a very negative one if they don’t. Which one are you going to choose?

You can (or will) do/have/be (POSITIVE), or (NEGATIVE).

An example of this technique:

You can give your dog nutritious, balanced meals, or you can take him to the vet every month.

When you are writing your piece, ask yourself how your readers don’t have a choice. It’s only black or white.

12. Belong to a Special Group. Because of our tribal nature, we almost always seek out people who are similar to us. Veterans, collectors, artists, even people who have the same illnesses are all groups that come together in rapport.

There are a few variations on this technique that you can use alone or in combination:

a) people who already belong to a special, desirable group

b) people who don’t belong to a special group…BUT WANT TO

b) having a mutual enemy

c) getting on the bandwagon or being left out

Each one would require a different approach.

Here are some examples using each of the variations above:

a) To all you pit bull owners out there….

b) Here’s how you can become a pit bull terrier lover too

c) The State wants to take your pit bull away!

d) If you own a pit bull terrier, this is your last chance to join Pit Bull Owners of America.

A sharply defined enemy is a far stronger argument for your side than all the words you could possibly put together.” ~ Robert Greene

Of course this technique works well with Technique 1 (“Appeal to Their Identity”) because when you are part of a group, it’s also a party or your identity or a role you take on.

When using this, ask yourself, “What groups of people does my offer appeal to? What are their interests and desires? What group of people would my target want to belong to?” “Can I start a desirable group of my own?”

13. Have Them Make a Commitment. When people make a commitment to an idea, they tend to find it very difficult to change their minds without creating conflict or anxiety (called, Cognitive Dissonance). This is a little more difficult to do in one-way writing (say an advertisement or a sales letter), but it can be done.

For an advertisement, You would first ask your readers a question where they would most likely say yes. Then you’d continue with your writing. Finally, you’d remind them of what they said yes to.

For example:

Do you love your dog? (THEN I’D CONTINUE WITH THE BODY COPY OF THE AD.) Earlier in this article (letter/ad), I asked you if you loved your dog. What better way to show your love for her by giving her a delicious and nutritious meal...

For a more personal correspondence, say an email, online chatting, or a letter, you could ask one of these questions:

I thought you said you were….,

“I thought you said you were a Conservative. That’s not what a Conservative would say.”

Didn’t you say you…,

“Didn’t you say you loved animals? Why would you eat meat…”

Don’t you think (UNDESIRABLE TRAIT or TYPE OF PERSON) is (NEGATIVE LABEL)? IF THEY AGREE…LATER FOLLOW UP.

YOU:Don’t you think being a cheapskate is a horrible?

HE: Yeah, sure.

…LATER…

YOU: Hey, can I borrow twenty bucks?

When writing your piece, find out how you can get your reader to make a commitment, even a small one: donating a little money, trying something, even saying “yes” to something, etc.

14. Change their life. Most people are unhappy with their lives…or at least a some aspect of it. Many of them want change. But they don’t know how to change, or if they do, they are too afraid or lazy to do so.

How can what you are offering change your target’s life for the better? Your offer must do more than change lives though, it has to change lives with the least amount of effort. What many people are looking for is the Magic Pill. Something where they wake up and their lives are magically different.

As you know, your dog’s life affects your whole family. You, your spouse, especially your kids are affected by the health of your beloved dog.

Your offer can probably change your readers’ lives for the better someway, somehow. How?

15. Overcome Inertia. The first rule here is to simplify the steps they need to take. Don’t go into too much detail as to what they have to do. Narrow their choices or options down. It’s been proven that people won’t take action if they have too many choices available to them.

It also helps to show them the consequences of not acting now (See Technique 5 “Show Them the Consequences”).

Top persuaders often create urgency by telling their readers how scarce their offer has become. You can use a time deadline, a limited quantity, a limited supply of a freebie/bonus/premium, or a soon-to-arrive price increase to get your readers off their butts.

Some examples:

Get a 25% discount of Special-J Dog Food before November 10th.

Receive a bottle of Special-J Puppy Shampoo with every case of Special-J Dog Food. But please hurry, we only have 53 bottles left.

Ask, “How can I increase the urgency of my offer?” “How can I add a deadline?”

16. Add Presuppositions. These are compelling ways to put thoughts into people’s heads without even verbalizing the thought. You can find more on presuppositions and what they are here. Here’s a quick way to incorporate presuppositions into your writing: Use questions. This requires a little more thought than Technique 6 (“Ask Questions”) presented above. Just think of what you want your readers to believe about your offer or product. Then put it into a question form.

Some examples:

Do you know of any other dog food that makes your dog healthier than Special-J Dog Food? (NOTE: Whether they answer yes or no, by answering the question they imply that Special-J Dog Food will make their dog healthy.)

How are you going to handle your dog’s newfound vitality and playfulness?

When writing, ask yourself how you are going to imply your claims.

17. Use Rhetorical Questions to Make Claims. This one is used a lot by the mass media. Why? Because it lets claims slip into readers’ minds without resistance. If I say, “XYZ tablets let you lose weight while you sleep,” you probably won’t really believe it; you’ve heard claims like this all the time. But if I ask, “How has XYZ tablets helped thousands of people across the USA lose weight while they sleep?“, it has a better chance of being accepted without resistance.

Take a claim that you want to make, and try out different types of questions to frame it in.

Example:

How does Special-J Dog Food help your dog live a longer, healthier life?

When you are writing, ask yourself, “How can I put some of my claims into question form?”

There you have seventeen ways to influence and persuade….

…When working on your project, keep sentences fairly short. One mistake I see quite often in ads and other forms of persuasive writing is sentences that are too long. The longer your sentences, the more difficult they are too read, and the more likely they will be ignored.

You can mix and match these techniques depending on your project. The US military’s Psychological Operations (PSY-OPS) has had a lot of success with leaflet drops over enemy territory. They are often quite small in size and need to get the job done quickly. They tend to use Technique 3 (“Invoke Emotions”), Technique 4 (“Motivate Your Reader”), and Technique 5 (“Show Them the Consequences”). For something like a billboard, demonstration placards, or bumper stickers, you could use Technique 6 (“Ask Questions”) or Technique 9 (“Employ Metaphor”).

You now have a ton of power in your hands. You’ve turned your pen (or keyboard) into a formidable weapon. Please use this power ethically. I don’t know if you’ve already begun to notice how great you feel because of this power.

Thanks for reading this post. Clearly, you are an incredibly intelligent person. And I like you, I really do.

It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.” ~ Clint Eastwood

In the next post, I’m going to be turning this article into a free PDF workbook that includes about 10 more powerful persuasion techniques.

2 comments on “17 of The World’s Most Powerful Written Persuasion Techniques

  1. nlp tecaj on said:

    Awesome article. I`m reading it again and again. Thanks

  2. Best straight forward article on NLP that I’ve ever read. Thank you!

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