Do you remember when you were in elementary school and you learned about persuasive writing? I do. We learned to write about things that mattered to us – recess, lunchtime, going to the library. We learned to start our persuasive essays with phrases like “I am writing to” or “I believe that…” If only life were still that simple, right?
Persuasive writing doesn’t have to be hard in business. You can still persuade your target audience easily, especially if you’re passionate about the subject.
Whether you’re writing a business proposal, creating a PowerPoint, or crafting slides for a webinar, presenting a persuasive argument is the key to winning over your audience. Below are five questions you can ask yourself when working on your presentation or proposal to ensure you persuade your target audience.
What’s the problem you’re solving?
When you’re presenting information in business, chances are you’re trying to sell a product or service. Have you told your audience the problem your product or service will solve? You need to provide a solution, but make sure they’re familiar with the problem too.
That said, don’t tell them they suck! Instead, attack a known pain point in their industry or business. A pain point is something that is an ongoing problem, a widely known issue, or something that they simply want to fix.
Several months ago, I was assigned to a website redesign committee. The company was moving from a small to mid-size business classification, gaining dozens of new employees, and growing in revenue. The owners wanted to update their website to reflect their new status, but didn’t know what to do. The committee’s job was to figure out how to modernize the site without doing a full rebranding. We made a list of problems we needed to solve: the non-mobile responsive website, the outdated logo, and the lack of well-written copy.
Now that you’ve identified the problem, explain why they need to solve it now. Even if they’ve known about the issue for a while, they’ve clearly been avoiding fixing it. Why should they act on your solution? What’s changed where they must solve the problem?
Going back to my example of modernizing a website, we created urgency by showing how people were using technology and why we needed to update the site now. To solve the mobile responsiveness and logo issues, we explained that the majority of potential customers who looked at our website at industry conferences was looking on a mobile phone or tablet. People could walk away from our booth and look us up immediately. Even if we had an amazing pitch to them in person, our website was so unfriendly that it would hurt our image. The owners agreed that solving those issues was a priority.
Have you included a story?
People like facts. Facts, numbers, and the scientific things are important, for sure, and they hold value. But, when you include those facts, don’t just throw numbers around. Include the story about why they’re important, or how they’ll affect your audience. Pair your numbers and hard facts with examples. Your story can be something you have a personal connection with, like a client with a similar problem you fixed. Or, you can use a popular industry example.
For that website redesign, the committee and I were also trying to get the owners to completely redesign their website to be modern. They were still using a logo and website designed in 2005; even if we made it mobile responsive, it was ugly, clunky, and hard to navigate. During our presentation, we showed them examples of their biggest industry competitors (on the scale of Apple, Target, etc.) and how those brands evolved over time as their company grew in size and revenue. Needless to say, weaving in success stories from industry competitors got us the green light and hired a designer to bring the logo and website into the 21st century.
Are you using value propositions?
I could write twelve blog posts on value propositions. (Who knows, I might do that!) But, it boils down to this: a value proposition is a statement that explains how your product/service/solution solves a problem, how it delivers specific benefits, and what makes your offer unique. By clearly outlining your value, it’s easy for your audience to understand your goal.
On the website redesign project, we stated the problem(s) and solution(s) mentioned above, and used our position as company employees and industry experts to make the solution(s) unique. We sold them on the redesign by showing we knew what the company stood for and could translate that into their visual and written brands.
Is there a call to action?
It feels like every blogging or business coach tells aspiring business people to include a call to action for their audience. It always feels obvious to include it, but that call to action isn’t always clear to your audience. Clarify exactly what action they can take to show their support. Giving concrete steps or examples of what you need makes it easier for someone to act on your proposal.
In the corporate website example, the call to action was saying we needed to hire an independent designer to work with us because none of us had the skill to design/code a website from scratch. As I was the writer on the committee (and in the company), I told them I needed to talk to other experts in the company to get information to write new blurbs for the website. I also told them I needed to bring on one of the freelance writers we worked with because there was too much writing to do by myself.
What do you do after you persuade your target audience?
Once you’ve persuaded your target audience and they buy your service, solution, or product, set a schedule to deliver on your promises! If you wanted to sell someone the course you designed, make sure you send them all of the products they purchased by the promised launch date. If you’re rebranding someone’s website, create a delivery outline and give it to the client so they know what to expect. If you’re rewriting a company’s web copy, do your research, talk to anyone who might have important insight, and get to writing.