The Most Powerful Persuasive
Element of Blogging

Blog Triggers

As a content marketing strategy, what’s the most powerful aspect of blogging? Which psychological trigger is most likely to inspire the click, whirr purchase decision you’re hoping for?

Is it reciprocity, social proof, or authority? What about scarcity or commitment and consistency?

Well, it’s all of those combined. But the most powerful additional thing about blogging is an aspect of human nature that doesn’t require a psychology degree to understand.

Blogging allows people to like you, and people like to do business with people they like.

Sounds simple, huh? Well, to some degree it is simple, especially if you’re the type of person who’s naturally likeable to your ideal audience and can communicate that likeability with your content.

But there are also some time-tested copywriting techniques that allow for a stronger bond between blogger and regular readers. Let’s look at five of these below.

1. Relationship First, Sales Second

It may sound like some hippy dippy social media thing, but any smart direct response copywriter will tell you to sell the relationship before you try to sell anything else. With blogging, you’re not confined to a static sales letter, so you have the luxury of building credibility and trust with your audience over time.

When you consistently deliver valuable content that informs while demonstrating your expertise, people naturally learn more about you and feel an actual bond. But don’t forget that what others say about you is more important than what you say about yourself.

2. Use a Passionate Voice

Passionate content sells, because it combines an emotional response with desired information. When your content is delivered in a voice that clearly shows your enthusiasm, it’s infectious, and strengthens the bond between writer and reader.

And don’t be afraid to show when things get you upset. As long as you’re in tune with your audience, there’s a good chance they feel the same way. You might not need to be Gary Vaynerchuk, but you’ve got to show you care, and that you’ve got a pulse.

3. Emphasize Similarities

It’s funny, but in our quest to be authoritative experts, we often place distance between ourselves and the audience. This may be one of the best benefits of blogging when compared with other content marketing strategies—you get to demonstrate common interests and beliefs with your audience over time.

Revealing mistakes and faults makes you more credible, not less, and letting people know you’re more like them than not can only strengthen the relationship. That’s why microblogging services like Twitter are exceptional supplementary marketing tools, since they allow you to find common ground with readers while keeping your blog content focused on building authority.

4. Maintain Regular Contact

Psychological studies show that the more a test subject becomes familiar with a person they haven’t met, the more they end up liking that person when they do meet. The more people come to like you, the more influence you have with them… it’s that simple.

People begin to feel as if they know you through your content if your voice resonates with them, and this increases the liking response. Sure, subscribers come to you initially for the value you provide with regularly-published content. But eventually, something more emerges beyond simple self interest and a bond develops as you become more familiar to them.

5. Have a Common Enemy

Sharing a common enemy may be the most powerful strategy for bonding with your audience. It kicks in the innate tribal instincts we humans still carry, and provides a voice of opposition that your readers want to join with.

Dr. Robert Cialdini calls this the “Good Cop/Bad Cop” phenomenon in Influence: Science and Practice, and you’re likely familiar with the strategy. By having a common villain, you’re dramatizing the problems your audience faces in a way that naturally aligns you with them. The enemy could be Google, the IRS, trans fats, the liberal media, evil corporations, procrastination, cellulite or celebrity culture. Just make sure you pick an enemy that your audience shares, or your results will head in the other direction.

What do you do to strengthen the bond with your audience? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Teaching Sells and Lateral Action. Get to know Brian better by following him on Twitter.

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  1. A lot of what you’re saying here, Brian, is the stuff I’ll be teaching people in Gateway Blogging, but your copywriting depth really comes through here. This is absolutely the way to go. Copywriting is not just for sales and landing pages. It’s one of the main points (if not the entire point) behind blogging when running a business. And what you have described is exactly how it works. The majority of my clients were readers of my blog first–usually for a couple months. So I can vouch for this from my own experience.

    This whole “common enemy” thing is something that I just ran into myself for the first time the other day, so thanks for pointing out Cialdini–I’ll have to check that out. I have to laugh at myself a bit, here. I’ve been reading your blog forever, it seems, and only in the last couple months do I feel like I’m finally “getting” what copywriting is really about.

  2. For me, #1 is answering “their” questions, as opposed to just rambling about whatever comes to my mind, is the thing that establishes a more direct connection.

    It’s more about what they want to hear than it is about what I want to say.

    Coming in at #2, for me, is using some type of audio event to cement the bond between them and I. Teleseminars and recorded interviews seem to be the easiest to create and seem to be the most asked for type of content.

  3. These are absolutely great tips, especially in the age of social media. Great break down.

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  4. Great posting. In essence, create massive value for the reader. I teach my clients to always be a resource before you are a vendor. In other words, build trust, credibility and rapport before asking for the sale.

    Kathleen Gage
    The Street Smarts Marketer

  5. Thanks for reintroducing Blog Triggers. It’s always been one of my Copyblogger favorites.

    In my opinion, building a relationship starts with having something interesting to say. You figure out what problems your audience is having, and then articulate the solutions to those problems in a way that grabs their attention. Otherwise, you won’t have time to do show them your passion, emphasize your similarities, contact them again, or build a common enemy. They’ll just leave.

    … which brings us to another Copyblogger favorite: http://www.copyblogger.com/magnetic-headlines/

    The relationship starts with the headline.

  6. I listen. It is not so much showing what I know, but knowing where we intersect.

  7. I loved your thoughts about using a passionate voice. I never struggled with that on my personal blog, but once I created a new blog that was meant to be more professional, I struggled. In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten more/better responses on the posts where I’m using my natural writing voice not a contrived one.

  8. Lynne Homeyer :

    Thanks for the great article today. It helps me defend my first rule in the Web Style Guide I made for our company: “Be positive. We’re a positive, helpful company, and our Web style needs to reflect this.” I remember an Ad Club presentation back in the 80s by The Richards Group (creators of the Motel 6 advertising campaign featuring Tom Bodett, “We’ll leave the light on for you” – which, BTW, he ad-libbed). The presenter said the same thing: “I like that ad. I like that company. I’ll give that company my business.” I remember how some of my fellow copywriters pooh-poohed the idea. I bet they’re still trying to move dollars using Web banner ads and dancing gorillas ….

  9. I respond to reader comments and ask them to share their thoughts. I know some comments slip through, but I try to respond to every one of them. I’ll ask questions in posts and comments as well.

    Something I don’t do enough, but have been trying to do more of lately is generating posts from reader comments. Other than the obvious helping with post ideas, I think it lets readers know you’re paying attention to what they’re saying and it’s also a way to show them a little special attention, by quoting them, linking to their comment, or linking directly to their blog if they have one.

  10. Great tips, Brian. I’m relatively new to professional blogging (I used to work on the other end, for Blogger at Google, reassuring bloggers that their content was safe ;) ). These are fabulous pointers, and plan to refer to them often. I noticed that certain commenters (or customers, as it were) seem to have it out for you. Is this a blogger bait strategy? Eg., if they engage you, you’ll pay attention to their blog? Naturally, I refuse to admit they have a point, and consider that perhaps I have indeed produced drivel…

  11. Thanks for the insights…where content remains king of web site seo, relationships are the royalty of the blogs.

  12. “Revealing mistakes and faults makes you more credible.” I love this quote. I often think that by admitting a mistake, I’ll be less prfessional, or less of a man. But that ‘ol saying is true, it takes a bigger man to admit his mistakes. I have to constantly remind myself of this. I wrote a
    post
    awhile back about humility, and Sam Walton from Walmart was huge on humility, and fully believed in it.

  13. Brian – Sorry to be contrary here, but I would say for our business Relationship is second to GETTING ATTENTION.

    In probably depends on your market, but in ours, we’ve GOT to stand out and be noticed and that sets the stage for relationships.

    To bond with our audience? Games, games, games.

  14. Emmon, I’ve written about getting attention more than most.

    I’ve also maintained that attention alone is worthless. If you can’t transfer attention into authority and trust, you make no sales.

    This is sales 101 applied to blogging. Not sure what game you’re referring to.

  15. These are 5 powerful points! It really puts things in perspective. Our writing skill, now more than ever, is a force for developing a presence, a brand, and overall success!

    Doyle Slayton
    Sales and Leadership Strategist
    http://www.SalesBlogcast.com

  16. The whole common enemy idea leaves me very uncomfortable. That led to a very bad place in Germany in the 1930s.

  17. I’m just starting up but I focus on really letting me come through in my writing. So I’m writing as if I’m talking to my best, then if people respond I try to keep talking as if they are one of my most trusted.

    After all, I want to be friends with everyone :)

  18. Great site!
    First time around – I’ll be back for more…

    All the best from Thailand

  19. I completely agree. I’ve been in sales for 25+ years and I can tell you – the relationship first, sales second tip should be everyone’s mantra. From a consumer standpoint, I am certainly not going to buy the best product in the world from someone I am not all warm and fuzzy about.

  20. Another excellent post, Brian. You never fail to provide my email such great posts. I definitely agree with you, building a relationship with your readers requires a lot of hard work but more than that – personal touch.

    As I have mentioned in my last post – How to convince your Visitors to read your Blog Posts, it is not enough that you give our readers what they need. We must be able to inspire them. Guiding someone is better than educating him. Visitors love to be treated like children.

    As a whole, we must be as simple as possible especially if we are writing about technical stuff. Never tell your readers that you are the best because they will look for the better ones.

    Thanks.

  21. Consider this: People usually like those who are similar to them. But the more a person knows about another, the more dissimilarities between them are revealed.

    Psychologal studies have shown that the more we know about other people, the less we tend to like them. I think this is contrary to what you said at #4.

  22. Mugil, you bring up an important point, although I don’t believe it invalidates my point. Many blogging advocates endorse “authenticity” to a ridiculous extreme, even in business blogging. This is a mistake in my opinion, and I think the study you cite supports that.

    People still expect professionalism even if delivered in a more human voice. You can let people know that you’re human without letting them know that you’re contemptible. There are still boundaries, but I’m sure they differ from person to person.

  23. It’s post like these that keep me coming back. I try to keep my readers engaged and entertained even when the content tends to be on the dry side (my site deals with writing). One thing I would add is to read your reader’s comments. When someone takes the time to post a comment, good or bad, I will acknowledge it and thank them. They don’t need to agree with me. Just the fact that they are reading and felt the urge to comment keeps me blogging.

    Rick

  24. Really enjoyed this post.

    You sure make a lot of sense !

    Cheers.

  25. I think relationships are actually becoming even more vital to successful sales in this age of impersonal internet marketing, don’t you? People want to feel as if they are more than an email address and customer account number.

  26. Very true. Great tips. The point about a common enemy – yes, definitely. Cialdini is one of the most insightful social psychologist out there. I think knowing who you are talking to matters as well, that way you can develop the same common ground to discuss solutions/tips on.

  27. I try to reach the audience on their own term to maintain regular contact. People have different consumption habit and preference.

    By re-purposing content I can often reach people who are otherwise not reachable via a blog.

  28. I like the ideas of being more passionate and also disclosing faults and mistakes. It reminded me of one of my recent posts.

    Thanks for the good info!

  29. Your points are right on. I find I get my best results come from being there using your points #1,2,&3, for my clients and sharing helpful solutions. I never saw the enemy point of view and now I have something to watch for! This is really a nice eye opener I’ll use and share with the self publishers who come to me to design their book covers and interiors.

    As an F.Y.I., I’m following you on twitter…

    Remember, keep doing something everyday toward your book and promotion

    Kareen Ross
    Your Book Cover Designer
    http://www.bookcoverdesigner.com

  30. Great site!
    First time around – I’ll be back for more… Stefan