Marketing 101 says that you have to pave the path of least resistance if you want to get your audience to take action. For many marketers that means watering down a message so it’s easy for the masses to understand.
This is a mistake.
Although you want to make the decision to purchase from you easy, you don’t want to dilute your content too much. Your customer is on your website, consuming your content for a reason. She wants to learn something new. She has a problem she wants you to solve. The more simplistic your writing is, the less value you’re able to offer.
Here’s the truth about content marketing – it works best when you’re able to challenge your reader. If you’re not doing enough challenging and instead, doing more massaging of your buyer’s ego, you’re hurting your sales. You’re missing an opportunity to connect and engage. You’re not making anyone’s eyebrows go up with excitement over a new idea you’ve presented and as a result, they’re leaving.
What can you do instead? Challenge your reader. Here’s what that looks like in action.
Create an Outline
Before you dive into any post, you want to make sure it flows seamlessly. Having the proper flow will keep your reader engaged and excited about what you have to say – and when you have that reader’s attention, you’re able to keep them moving through the piece.
Your outline should look something like this:
- Presentation of the problem you’re going to solve for them
- An explanation of why that problem exists and demands a solution
- A few actionable takeaways that the reader can use to resolve the pain point you’re discussing
- A brief overview to showcase what the person should do with what they just consumed
This outline is fairly simplistic. The more complex the issue is that you’re working to solve, the more you’ll need to expand on each point.
For example, the pain point itself might be complex. Outlining it for your audience before you dive into a solution can help them clarify what it is that’s causing them grief – they might not be able to pinpoint the pain but they know it’s there.
You might also have numerous takeaways and sub-steps that you want to dig into in your content. If the problem is complex, there might be quite a few steps that your audience must take to reach a resolution.
The point is, having an outline lets you see how your piece will flow. It lets you put yourself in your audience’s shoes, so that you can write in a way that challenges them mentally, delivers value, and positions you as a leader without creating overwhelm.
Write With Empathy
Part of challenging your reader is understanding what your reader is going through at the time of consuming your content. This is called empathy. The person reading needs to feel it coming through in every sentence and paragraph of your writing if you want to hold your audience’s attention. If you’re challenging your audience to think differently or push their own limits, empathetic writing is even more critical.
To write with empathy, you need to have a solid understanding of what that person is going through. This concept stretches far beyond the blog post you’re creating. It goes into how they slept the night before (if you’re writing to parents, this is especially huge), the chores they have on their to do list, the people they have waiting for them at home, the way they’re consuming your content, and more. The list goes on and on.
The best way to identify with your audience is to push past the typical demographic-stuffed buyer persona and deploy an empathy map. There are many templates for empathy maps, but here’s the general idea of what you need on yours:
- A solid understanding of what the person is seeing and hearing while consuming your content
- A look inside your target audience’s brain to understand what they’re thinking
- A look inside your target audience’s heart to understand what they’re feeling
Once you have this, you will get a clearer picture of what’s causing them pain and where they hope to grow. It’s that hope for growth that’s prime real estate for the type of challenging content you can and should create.
Persuasive Writing Requires You to Push the Limits
I’ll leave you with this. If you want to persuade your audience to act after reading your content, you have to encourage that person to push their own limits. You have to make them a better person by informing them of new ideas, and making them aware of potential resolutions to the problems that are causing them grief. Water down your content too much and you’ll lose at this battle every time. Challenge them through empathetic, action-filled writing and you’ll win their hearts and their wallets every time.