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Aligned Persuasion™️:

Can you encourage people to buy / click / read / subscribe without being a pushy, sleazy, fear-mongering varmint?

You want people to buy your stuff, read your blog posts, stop scrolling and pay attention to your social media posts, open your email, subscribe to your freebies.

You NEED people to do this because the success of your business depends on people taking those actions.

Encouraging people to take those actions requires acts of persuasion.

And yet…. isn’t trying to get people to behave in a particular way a bit pushy? Controlling? Manipulative?

When does a countdown timer stop being a helpful attention-focuser and become a fear-generating distraction?

Are early bird bonuses and discounts ethical?

How can you sing the praises of your fabulous offer without sounding like a bombastic bell-end?

I’m not here to tell you….. but I can throw some ideas and questions out for you to reflect on so you can make up your own mind.

(True story - I studied theology and philosophy alongside my business degree, so I’m big on looking at all the angles and leaving people to make their own mind’s up).

Sound good to you?

Let’s get to it.

Extreme Persuasion

(maybe manipulation, could be coercion)

I really struggled to write something that would be manipulative and slimy enough to make my point — but here’s my best shot.

It’s a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s a version of the many sales pages I’ve seen that imply you’re a loser if you don’t buy the thing, then promise big benefits, while giving an insanely short time to make the decision, so you’re unable to research the claims or weigh-up your options.

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This makes use of fear, insults and time-pressure to squeeze a decision.

It does not facilitate good decision-making.

The Problem With Going Persuasion-Free

What would a persuasion-free sales pitch even look like?

‘Hey, I’ve got this insulated travel mug with a lid. Do you want to buy it?’

There’s no urgency to make the decision, so often the reader won’t. They may choose not to buy right now, but that’s not the same as weighing up the information, considering the options and making a decision. They’re postponing the decision until the next time it pops-up in their mind/social media feed.

The reader has no idea why they might want this thing. Someone who works outdoors all day, would really benefit from a cup that keeps their drink cool, with a lid that keeps the bugs out……but many would miss out on the opportunity to buy because they don’t realise HOW this product could benefit them.

What if 1,000s of people have already bought and used these mugs, and left gushing testimonials….. do we leave those off the sales page because it’s too pushy…because we don’t want to use social proof because that’s a persuasion tactic?

And some of you (many of you) sell services, programmes and courses that have the potential to be life-changing. So while you’re humble-mumbling™️ about it, there are people out there who could experience massive benefits if they bought from you….and they’re missing out because what you’ve put out there isn’t persuasive enough.

The persuasion-free pitch does not facilitate good decision-making either.

One of the reasons writing these examples was so hard is because I am aware that you will not all perceive them in the same way.

Some of you would have read that ‘pushy’ example and felt it was a fine example of effective copywriting. Others have read through it and found it repugnant.

You are all right.

I am not here to tell you what is ‘too pushy’ and ‘not pushy enough’ - the whole point of the blog post is to help you find what’s right for you and your audience.

It’s not as straightforward as ‘All persuasion is evil’.

Aligned Persuasion™️

A middle way that works

Remember right at the top, I told you what you wanted:

“You want people to buy your stuff, read your blog posts, stop scrolling and pay attention to your social media posts, open your email, subscribe to your freebies - you NEED people to do this because the success of your business depends on people taking those actions.”

Firstly, that was a bit presumptuous of me, as I’m not a mind-reader - but I’m hoping it was a good enough guess.

Secondly, I left some stuff out.

I’m also guessing that:

  • You want to help the people who give you their time and money…. so you’re actually quite discerning about who you attract.
  • When people read, subscribe or buy, you want them to be feeling good (not fearful) about their decision).
  • You know that your income, impact and reach very much depends on your reputation, so you want people to feel good about their interactions with you, and for them to say nice things about you.

You want your prospects to make an empowered, informed decision about whether to purchase/click/download, and you trust them to judge what is right for them right now.

For me Aligned Persuasion™️ is about supporting that decision-making, and both me and the prospect feeling good about our interaction (whether that’s via a sales page, webinar, discovery call).

It’s Aligned because we basically want the same things.

Countdown timers, early bird pricing and disappearing bonuses……

Are any persuasion tactics totally off-limits?

Are all countdowns evil?

Surely they generate fear and a sense of rushing, which makes it harder for the buyer to make a good decision?

But some of us (definitely me included) would never make a decision if we didn’t have a deadline to focus on.

To help The Sons (who are neurodivergent) navigate complicated situations, I ask them ‘What is the next decision we need to make and when does it need to be made by?’

If a deadline doesn’t actually exist we make up our own one.

And we hit the deadline.

And then we get to free up that headspace and move on with our lives.

We like a countdown timer.

And what about this example of a discount without a countdown timer?

(I’m not sharing the rest of the sales page because this isn’t a name and shame exercise - but there was no deadline or countdown timer on the page).

And what about this example of a discount without a countdown timer?

(I’m not sharing the rest of the sales page because this isn’t a name and shame exercise - but there was no deadline or countdown timer on the page).

How do you feel about that?

To me that’s more fear-inducing because I have no idea when that discount will go away. I feel like I have to make the decision right now to be able to get the discount.

What about not having a refund policy?

Which is the most ethical/morally-acceptable way of selling:

  • A limited-time discount with a countdown timer and a generous refund policy (so it’s a rush to make up your mind, but if you’ve misunderstood what you’re buying you can get your money back)

OR

  • The price is the price, there’s no time-limited discount or bonuses, but there is a strict ‘No Refunds’ policy? (so you’ve got ages to make up your mind but there’s no going back, even though you’re buying an invisible thing and relying solely on the description from the seller).

Hint - There is NO right answer here. Just notice how you feel about each of these scenarios.

Finding Your Persuasion Sweet Spot

We’ve established that I can’t tell you what is and isn’t ‘in integrity’, ‘authentic’ or ‘ethical’ (and neither can anyone else).

So it’s over to you.

You get to decide how persuasive you want to be, and the strategies and tactics you want to use every time you create sales or marketing content.

Here are five questions to ask yourself whenever you want to use a persuasion tactic:

As an example, I’m going to use Early Bird Bonuses that go away after the first stage of a launch to encourage people to buy as soon as the cart opens.

#1 Why am I doing this - what is the outcome I am hoping to achieve?

Example: I want to get some good sales at the start of the launch to make me feel better and to be able to use that social proof to pull in more sales

#2 How do I feel about this as the business owner - including what could go wrong?

Example: It might get tricky for me to help people because not all the people on the programme have access to the same resources.

#3 How would I feel as the customer? How might my customers feel?

Example: People who miss out on the bonuses, but still buy may be a bit grumpy forever because they don’t have access. Some people who would’ve bought, but missed the bonus, will actually wait it out for the next launch so they get another shot at the bonus.

#4 Are there other ways to get the same outcome?

Example:

Hold a live event only for people who have signed up so far.

Follow up personally with people who were on the waitlist but haven’t bought in the first 48 hours.

Open my diary for ‘get to know you’ chats during first few days.

Give people instant access to the materials, so the quicker the sign up, the earlier they get results.

Send an automated email asking purchases what prompted them to buy now then use that feedback (with permission) in promotions - one person story can be just as effective as stats like ‘25 people have already joined us’.

#5 Choose which option is the best blend of feeling good to you, feeling good for the customer, and supports them as they make an informed decision.

Just in case I haven’t made myself clear…. I am not demonising Early Bird Bonuses. That is not my call to make. I am using it just as an illustration. You get to choose which persuasion tactics you use.

What’s Next

I’ve got so much more to say:

  • About the difference between tactics and strategies…. (Urgency is a strategy, a time-limited bonus with a countdown timer is a tactic.)
  • About the flexibility of layering up different strategies and leaning into them as much or as little as you are comfortable with
  • About how so many of you are soooooo far away from being pushy or slimy or spammy, and you’re so chronically humble-mumbling™️ about what you do, that you’re severely limited the impact and income you get to make, and that’s doing more harm (to you and your customers) than you realise.

I also have a course, Copywriting Power-ups, which covers much of this, but for now I want to take it away and give it an update to reflect my thoughts, and make it do a better job of helping you find your sweet spot with the seven persuasion strategies it contains.

So my next stop will be to create some kind of free thing walking you through 7 questions you can use to make your thing more persuasive (in a way that feels good for you and your prospect)….. but it’s not ready yet, so if you want it, fill in the box below.