Advertisers used to be derided as ‘the hidden persuaders’. It’s a phrase with a long history, but today it’s being acknowledged within the marketing industry that the more direct – ‘buy from me now!’ – approach is too blunt.

Persuasive copywriting is about convincing someone that they want to click on your ‘buy’ button rather than bombarding them with straight-ahead ‘aren’t we great’ messages.

The key principles of persuasive copywriting include, urgency and scarcity, authority, consistency, consensus and reciprocity.

Here are some copywriting tips that go beyond those concepts, and should have a measurable impact on your conversion rates.

  • Identity
  • Try to think of your customers not as a group of people who behave a certain way, but who are that behaviour.

    A poll of American voters tweaked just one question, asking some respondents if they were ‘going to vote’ and others if they were going to ‘be a voter’. After the election there was a 13.5 percentage point difference in voting levels between the two groups, with identity trouncing behaviour.

  • Story telling
  • Forget numbers and statistics and tell a story. Research from 2007 on charity donations for African famine relief found that telling the story of one suffering child garnered donations twice the size of those inspired by statistics on the suffering.

  • Options and honesty
  • People are very cynical about marketing, they think they’re being lied to.

    Show a bit of honesty about any shortcomings with your offering and you’ll get people on your side. Don’t indulge in a feast of negativity and present the upside too, but don’t imagine that if you don’t mention something no-one will think it. Honesty is an attractive character trait and balance is more persuasive than propaganda.

  • People like saying yes
  • Start your copy with a question that elicits a positive response. Research on a Toyota ad found that Democratic voters found the ad more persuasive after watching Barrack Obama speak. Know your audience and get them to say yes.

The people who use persuasive copywriting, reckon that using techniques like these will push your conversion rates towards the 10-15% that giants like Amazon aim for.