I went to a couple of the DMA’s #writerscrawl events last week and one in particular made me think. It was the ‘Words are Experience’ workshop by Lab Digital on the use of NLP (neuro linguistic programming) techniques in copywriting and the impact this can have on response rates. Funnily enough, it coincided with the Oxford Dictionary announcing that the term ‘post truth’ was a defining phrase of our current times. Post truth being the use of emotional language – particularly by politicians – to gain influence, as opposed to simply offering a rational argument. Based on the outcome of the workshop, this idea is too one sided. To be really effective and convincing, copy needs to take the reader on a cycle combining emotional, rational and subconscious arguments.
There were three things of particular note arising from the DMA session, which provide useful tips for anyone wanting to make their marketing copy more effective.
- A quick and effective method for proposition sanity testing
During proposition development, where resources and time are limited, it’s very helpful to test a marketing pitch on unconnected friends and colleagues, giving them a brief overview of the basic premise. Their role is to very quickly note down any unanswered questions they have, to be reviewed afterwards. It’s a very revealing and efficient exercise. No matter how thorough you think your pitch was in conveying your proposition and answering questions, there will be things you hadn’t thought of. It’s a very quick and effective way to initially road test an idea before committing to focus groups or surveys.
- Audience predisposition to different language styles
An important goal of much B2B content marketing is education, using thought leadership articles and white papers. As writers we understand the importance of adopting a style and language to appeal to our audience. Taking a psychological approach, this goes beyond using simple tone of voice branding guidelines when creating such pieces. Just as we all have different learning preferences – some people are predominantly auditory, visual, or kinaesthetic – we have preferences to different types of language. Some people will react more positively to visual language for example, using words like brilliant, clear or bright, vs kinaesthetic, movement orientated words – like get, enjoy or connect. Since it’s impossible to know in advance the language a reader will prefer, it’s important for writers to be aware of these tendencies and accommodate the diversity among audiences with variety in their content.
- Understanding how an audience filters information
There are three primary ways a reader of content will filter the information they are presented with, relying on a combination of contextual or subconscious information, rational facts and emotional arguments. Giving a marketing proposition or story a psychological grounding takes the reader through all these phases and helps to make it more convincing. The process can be broken down into discrete stages. Firstly in Stage 1 we have the contextual phase, the ‘how could you get a better outcome from your current circumstances’, ‘would you like to get better value’ questions, designed to elicit a ‘yes’ response. This is followed in Stage 2 by the explicit offer being made… “well now you can, with XYZ…” Stage 3 explains how this is achieved, detailing 2 or 3 emotional factors, concluded in Stage 4, with a final, future focussed declaration of the benefits with a call to action.
Given the level of ‘noise’ that most B2B marketing content and copywriters face, any practical tactics that can easily be employed to increase the impact of content, either making it more persuasive, or more likely to elicit a reaction, are well worth trying out.
I offer a wide range of content writing services, please do get in touch if you would like to outsource B2B copywriting to an expert.