Why Parents Write More Persuasive Copy

Persuasive Parent

I have kids. Maybe you do, too. The more I parent them, the more I realize how similar they are to the people who visit our web sites and blogs. That’s not to say that our site visitors are big babies — far from it.

But site visitors do have needs, questions and worries. And your copywriting is the guide that helps them feel comfortable, happy, and in tune with your site.

Welcome to parenting, Copyblogger style.

“Are we there yet?”

Visitors land on your site today with a purpose in mind. It might be to be entertained, to be informed, to learn, or to buy. But if you make their journey from landing to goal too long, they’re going to start to wonder if you’ll ever give them what they wanted.

You know, the good stuff.

So out with it, already. Don’t ramble on about yourself or fluff your site up with content that isn’t relevant. Get to the point. Your copywriting should be a fast journey right to the good stuff. Make it short, snappy and concise.

Tell people what they’re going to get, then give it to them.

“I said, come here!”

You may want your readers to head over to the Buy Now page or the Hire Me form. They might have different ideas. They may well be running all around your website clicking on unrelated junk or getting distracted with stuff that doesn’t matter.

It’s frustrating. You want people to take action, but most of the time, they don’t even know you want them to do something.

Each page of copy you write should have a purpose, and that’s to get a reader to take some specific action. Your copy is the tool that convinces them to do so.

Plan the route your potential clients should follow, the action they should take at each step. Then write your copy to be the clear, simple path that leads them right to becoming your customer.

“Do you want an apple or an orange?”

Have you ever walked into a toy store with your kids and asked them to choose something? Good luck with that. They’re overwhelmed by the options and run about, touching everything and totally unable to make up their minds about anything.

Your site visitors feel the same way. Give them too many links, too many options, too much to do, and you’ll lose them to option paralysis.

They do nothing. Which means you get nothing.

Good copy gives readers clear direction and limited choices. More isn’t better; fewer options and simple choices help people make a decision. If you present no more than two or three options, you’ll hugely raise the odds that one of them will be chosen.

Don’t ask site visitors to make complex decisions. Stick to a simple either/or and everyone wins.

“But whyyyyy?”

Anyone who’s ever been within an earshot of a kid knows this one.

With kids, everything needs a reason. It’s a never-ending dive into the “Why” black hole that eventually reaches, “Because I said so!” That’s not a very satisfying answer, though.

Your site visitors have a few more years under their belts. They aren’t kids anymore, and they aren’t stupid. They’ll ask why, too. In fact, they’ll demand to know why they should do something, and you need to give them solid, convincing and compelling reasons.

Every person in the world wants that type of knowledge. No one likes uncertainty. It makes us feel hesitant — and when we feel hesitant, we don’t buy. A potential customer who doesn’t have his questions answered is going to avoid clicking the button even if he really wants the product, and you just lost a sale.

Site visitors who feel good about their choice and feel they’re making the right decision for them are going to take action — and confidently so.

That’s why long copy works well — it covers all the answers and potential arguments. Then it gives solid reasons why this decision is the right one for your site visitor to make.

“Are you listening to me?”

You’re talking and talking to your kids and nothing happens at all. That’s when you realize . . . no one’s listening. You might as well be talking to the wall.

If your copy has the same reaction with site visitors, then you’d better start thinking about how you’re talking to them.

Are you talking at them? They won’t listen. They care about themselves, not about you.

Talking too much? Boring. Shut up already, and get to the point.

Talking a different language? Don’t use fancy words and jargon to try and impress. People want to be spoken to their way, not your way.

The secret to great copywriting — and great parenting — is simple: keep the connection. Hook their interest, hold their attention, give them good reason to listen to you, guide them well, and feel proud when they do exactly as you’d hoped.

About the Author: James Chartrand is a copywriting dad who treats his clients just as well as he does his two beautiful daughters — except he doesn’t make his clients eat their oatmeal. Catch more of James’ great advice at his blog, Men with Pens.

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Comments

  1. Really good one. Just to add further – as referred in the book “Made to stick” we all have the curse of knowledge. We don’t know how it feels to not know what we know.

    As parent, teachers, colleagues We try to answer questions with a state of mind that already has an answer and hence cant realize how to join those bits and pieces to make others understand.

    If we win at this we have already won half the battle. Whether its copy writing, blogging or communication in any sense. Hope you too will agree on this :)

  2. Loved the analogy!

  3. This is such a funny, but oh so true post. Great way to hit home some keys to super copy :-)

  4. Like this post a lot. I’m always looking for tips on how to make readers more interested in our blog and I’ve tried several of these and it’s definitely worked. Short and to the point while entertaining copy does the trick. Thanks for the advice!

  5. I can totally relate, and now that you’ve made the connection it’s both ingenius and hilarious at the same time.

    Great insights, thanks!

    -Craig

  6. Great post James. I especially enjoyed the part about getting straight to the point. In these days of micro-blogging and low attention spans, that becomes increasingly important by the day.

  7. Wow – what an amazing blog post – hilarious! As the mother of twins I can completely relate! Don’t forget about the bright shiny objects too!

  8. @ Lizzie – I thought the ‘must chase bright shiny’ syndrome was just one of my personal adult flaws… ;)

  9. Wow. I never made that connection, but it is very true. As a parent I have had to learn the proper way to talk to a child to get them to understand what I am saying. Cryptic language doesn’t work, just like it usually doesn’t work in writing. Clear and simple as the truth… always a good rule of thumb.

  10. I’m not a parent yet, but boy do I know what you mean!

    – get to the point,
    – give specific action,
    – use either/or,
    – give a reason why,
    – talk with (and not talk at),

    Awesome analogy! “But whyyyyy?” LOL… I love it, thanks!

  11. I like the kids running around in the toy store analogy. When a site is first launched, start with the bare minimum number of options. Just remember to make the options very clear. Down the road, you can allow your site to grow in a flexible way, based on what your community wants.

    Thanks for the tips!

    Dave

  12. I think we can add teachers to the list too. After 7 years in the classroom, my brain is now hard-wired to find at least 10 potentially idiot-proof ways of saying the same exact thing. Nice post, James. :)

  13. “Do you want an apple or an orange?” … This is one thing Copyblogger does better than any site I’ve ever seen. At the end of the article, you have one option, to ReTweet. And I do, almost every article.

    Too many sites offer 10+ ways to share their articles and it’s often too hard for me to make that seemingly simple decision.

    Great article, James!

  14. While reading your post, my brain kept intruding with thoughts like-“Isn’t that the truth” and “Don’t you wish you’d thought of this already”. It also kind of made me glad that my kids are older, but that’s another story. This was a great post that sent my thoughts in directions I haven’t explored yet.
    Thanks.

  15. To me I doesn’t really care is long, or short copy, as long as it’s still relevant to what I want to know about in the sales page. Just had to keep it straight and simple, if you complicate them up, sure no one will buy, is the same as the kid wouldn’t even care about what you said.

  16. @Chanda, that’s such a good point. It’s so hard to remember that not everyone knows what we know.

  17. I really like this rundown on what effective, persuasive copy accomplishes.

  18. Outstanding post, James.

    I’m a single mom with four daughters, including a set of twins. In a total of 28 years, I have yet to find a way to PERSUADE any one of them to keep their room clean, replace the toilet paper roll when it’s on empty, or put their shoes in the closet … not under the coffee table. :-)

    Everything resonated with me here except for one point. Personally, I don’t care for “long copy”. I really dislike having to read lengthy sales letters, for example. My life is super busy and I just wish more marketers would get to the doggone bottom line. I skim and scan through long copy and rarely read every word on the page.

  19. @ Melanie – I raise my hat to you for being on your own with that many to care for. I’d give you an award if I had one.

    You mentioned:

    My life is super busy and I just wish more marketers would get to the doggone bottom line. I skim and scan through long copy and rarely read every word on the page.

    That’s actually part of the reason why long copy is long. :)

  20. Thanks for the compliment, James. You’re one of the rare birds that respond to commentary. If anyone deserves a reward, it’s YOU.

    I guess I should view long copy, then, as the proverbial “trail of bread crumbs”. Even if you don’t pick up every crumb along the way, you’ll still reach your desired destination.

    Am I on the right track (trail)?

    I’ve had a genuine love of language arts since the first grade and it just seems to me that there’s so many precious words going to waste on a sales page. :-)

  21. @ Melanie – I’d love to reply to every comment, if I could!

    And you’re on the right track, I’d say :)

  22. Seeing as I don’t have kids, can I tell my readers to; Sit!, Siiiiit! Stay. Good readers!

  23. Pure brilliance. I love it when I come across posts that make very creative and clever connections. Kudos. Here’s to the patience of parents.

  24. Don’t we have an internal contradition between “make it short and snappy” and “that’s why long copy works”? I’ve read the studies about long copy and I still hate it.

  25. Yes, there is an echo… Great article! Clean and concise… and OH>> so true. I teach Seniors, and they appreciate Handouts to repeat what we’ve gone over.. (no memory, you know..) That’s when I have to be especially clear, with nothing to confuse.
    Now, I need to apply it to my websites!
    I’ll be looking for more from James..

  26. From one father to another, nicely said. It’s funny, sometimes even the choice between an apple and an orange is too much. Last week I asked my 4yr old, “Do you want chicken tenders or roast beef?” His response was, “I want macaroni and cheese.”

  27. @Jean, you can always do “sideways” long copy, and deliver a sequence (via email, blog post, or both) of short, snappy responses to objections, descriptions of benefits, and answering questions.

    White papers and special reports are also great “stealth” long copy.

  28. We forget that needs are the most important reason for purchasing a product/service. Kids and buyers are needy. We need to satisfy their needs quickly and with as little confusion as possible.

  29. James,

    Thanks for this excellent article. As a mom and grandma, every metaphor was apt and easily applied to blog writing. You emphasized exactly what bloggers need to remember as they write.

    Your children have taught you well.

  30. @ Flora – No no, it’s supposed to be the other way around, me teaching THEM!

    (*cries* but it’s not working…!)

  31. Funny how much we learn from our children. My son is an endless fount of creative content.

    You’re so right about “getting to your point.” If I visit a website and don’t get an immediate sense of direction, I just don’t feel like sticking around.

    I want to know the point, now. I don’t want to read through huge paragraphs of meaningless twaddle to get there, either.

  32. Great points. As usual, simple is better, and less is more.

    I don’t have kids, but maybe I can imagine I’m writing for my cat. :)

  33. Saying “interesting” to this article would be an understatement… I’d say, double thumbs up

  34. Fluff aside, what you’re basically saying is:

    1 – write good copy
    2 – don’t give too many options
    3 – use a call to action
    4 – embed indicators of trust
    5 – change according to feedback

    Forgive me, but this is not exactly groundbreaking advice. Is this what we can now expect from Copyblogger? The same tired (and obvious) advice dressed up with a new analogy?

    Oh wow treat your readers like dogs – insert weak connection.
    Not a dog person, then treat your readers like kids!
    Don’t have kids? Then treat your readers like it’s a first date (I made that one up, no doubt it will be a future post).

    That being said, I guess you can’t assume there isn’t a market for useless content that is geared towards selling the dream (and thesis) to aspiring bloggers rather then actual useful information.

    Much like creating a cult really. Talk in vague generalisations rather then specifics so it’s easier for people to keep deluding themselves and accepting your ‘opinion’ rather then thinking for themselves.

  35. I absolutely love the creative way you used everyday life as a parent to bring it home on using copy to market and speak to your readers. I’m the mother of four and can appreciate all of the above situations. Thanks for helping me see things from a parenting eye!

  36. This has to be one of the best analogies I have read in a long time. This is so very true and I probably like many are slapping their hand to their head like “Geez why did I not think of this?” My answer to that is that the separation of work and home. I view my son as this sweet little 4 year old who is learning something new each day instead of taking a minute and looking at his needs and fast forwarding them into the needs of clients, customers, etc.

    Great, great post – thanks for sharing.

  37. I enjoyed reading this post immensely. How you express your points in the form of a parent and child situation makes perfect sense and applies to every blog writer. Thanks for sharing this with everyone, I think you’ve made a big impact.

  38. Wow..very well said. I guess parents are really good at persuasion because they personally experienced it on their family. And yes although it is a very different scenario, but lessons could be applied to both.

    I guess with all that you said, I like most “Giving Limited Options”. It will be much easier to earn from giving 2 options than showing more.. :-)

  39. Great thoughts James- It’s so difficult to transform a blog into a business, much like the interaction I have with my 4 and 2 year old at times. Great analogy. Thanks.

  40. Love the post. So often traditional copywriters get caught up in “concepts” that they forget that websites are an invited form of communication. Thus no need to “gain attention” just help the person fulfill their need.
    @TomMartin

  41. they takes their kids, hooo!

  42. Loved the kids-clients metaphore.
    “But Whyyyy” nailed it!

    Igor

  43. We’re expecting our first any day now. Which leads to another tip: “Just get it OUT of me, NOW!”

    [insert clever advice about how you shouldn’t beat around the bush when you write; just get to the point and move on!]

  44. This posts really posted great articles which really helps in understanding more of the situation of being a parent and a blogger.This really an interesting post!

    Brilliant.

  45. I agree with E Foley (Geek’s Dream Girl). Years of teaching as well as parenting means being hardwired to use as many ways as you can to pass something on. Every visitor to a site has different needs and ways of taking stuff in. Just as every kid has a different sensory learning preference, some readers resonate with the writer’s ‘voice’ or audio links while others respond better to images and charts. Not everyone wants short, snappy lists or posts so streamlined and simplified that there’s nothing interesting left in them. Some folk enjoy a good read and taking time to absorb and extrapolate by themselves.

    Can I add to your analogy? Kids learn from what we do, not from what we say.

    Thanks, James -I really enjoyed this!

  46. Being a parent sure must be frustrating at times. Wow, thank god I’m still a “kid”, and don’t have any of my own just yet.

    BTW: this could probably help new parents understand parenting a little bit better.

  47. @Jason, laughing, nice one.

    @Janice, those are nice points, and agree totally about learning from what we do and not just what we say. (They also pick up a lot of emotional resonance from the way we say it.)