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Developing Persuasive Content for LIST BUILDING

Posted on 4.06.2009

When paid search, social media and organic optimization campaigns bring in a steady stream of qualified visitors, the draw toward building a list for long-term connectivity and profit is obvious. It’s a logical progression for any serious website business. But what compels users to sign up for your e-mail list? What about joining a social network, subscribing to a weblog or even as a Twitter follower?

Well-established lists have several things in common: persuasive content, structured calls to action and trust-building elements. They also rely on an ongoing analysis occurring behind the scenes that inform changes and influence business decisions. But it’s often the persuasive elements where marketers need to focus. Basing an entire marketing campaign on structured, consistent persuasive elements provides a value-based and brand-centric experience for consumers.

Let’s look at these persuasive elements in more detail — those that influence both prospects and existing consumers.

Logical Content: Sell the sizzle, not the steak? Not anymore. Today’s consumers want to know more than ever about what they are buying before they open their wallets. A better way to convince users of the value of your product might be to appeal to their individual reasoning (e.g. this product is better because it’s cheaper, better made or is limited in quantity).

Those responsible for list building might want to consider two approaches to these logical appeals. Using inductive logic provides readers with similar examples from which to draw a general proposition. For example, “many speeding tickets are given to teenagers, therefore all teenagers drive fast.” Alternately, one could use a deductive argument that includes several general propositions and then derives from them a specific truth. For example, “All men are mortal, Rush Limbaugh is a man, therefore, Rush Limbaugh is mortal.”

Credible Content: Ethical appeals, or those that convince users of the integrity of the business’ character, might be one of the most misused and misunderstood appeals of persuasion. Consumers tend to believe those whom they respect. But these days, unless you have Barack Obama touting the value of your products or services, you’ll need to work hard to convince the reader of your credibility. You’ll need to convey that you are an authority, are likable and worthy of their respect — more so than your competitor could ever hope to be. Leveraging a personal network for testimonials, or displaying affiliations or accreditations are integral parts of convincing potential list members of your credibility.

In an age of hyper-connectivity, short attention spans and usergenerated content, quality still differentiates the players from the pretenders. Developing the best product or the most insightful article will yield the greatest return. Remember, just like in life, you can’t fake it until you make it — you must earn credibility.

Emotional Content: Another opportunity for copywriters to influence the buying decision of consumers is to appeal directly to their emotions. Language choice clearly impacts audience response and emotional appeals can effectively be used to enhance an argument. This requires that we establish in readers a state of reception for the ideas being presented. Whether it is pity or contempt, envy or indignation, those with a deep understanding of audience psychographics are best suited to making emotional appeals work. As behavioral advertising and the metrics that come from those campaigns make their way back to marketers, list building will ultimately be a much easier process. Targeting those already receptive to a message will move current and future customers further and faster.

Pre-Filling: A List Monetization Tactic to Avoid
The draw toward taking shortcuts to monetize a growing list is tempting during tough economic times. When you control the traffic, however, other marketers will want a piece of the action. Co-registration companies will offer to help you capitalize on the growing list. The opportunity for many is too much to ignore.

There are several worst-practices that, over time, have become common with many content publishers looking to make a profit on their list. While looking to generate income from your list is not unethical, there is one practice that can cause angst with your users and prospects. This gray-hat usability tactic, while not illegal, will yield a lower response over time. It’s called pre-filling and is a list building tactic to avoid.

If you're pre-checking message authorization on behalf of your users without their consent, you may be setting yourself up for short- and long-term issues. It's important to let users choose which communications they want rather than forcing them into receiving more communication than they actually need.

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