I’ve noticed something interesting in blog posts and online discussions recently. Persuasion has become a dirty word.

We’re talking shady used car salesman kind of dirty – the sort of thing that brings up images of cheap suits, too much Brill Cream, and getting taken for a bad ride… literally and figuratively.

Pushy. Hype-y. Sales-y. I might as well add in slimy too. And, it’s all been in the context of copywriting. Or, to be more exact – copy that aims to sell.

Ouch! Persuasive copy just got lumped in with that stinky crud stuck at the bottom of your trash bin.

I’m finding all the chatter a bit frustrating. Reading comments like this one in a thread on GrowthHackers has started to make me a little twitchy.

“Persuasive copy can repel some groups of humans who are particularly guarded against overly sales-y websites.”

In case you’re wondering, my head still hurts from banging it against the wall. Contrary to this statement, I believe that in order to be persuasive you have to be appealing.

Appealing, repellant. Tomayto, tomahto. Maybe we need to talk semantics.

I hate to sound like an Urban Dictionary cliche but it’s about time we got bogged down in the meaning of words. Because I am planning on winning an argument… and it has everything to do with defining what persuasive copywriting actually is.

The act of persuasion means getting others to do or believe something. When you write copy designed to be persuasive, your goal is to give people enough compelling reasons to take a specific action while alleviating any hesitations that might hinder them from doing so.

If those people aren’t taking action or are getting completely turned off by what’s on the page, you’re not being persuasive. You’re just writing ineffective copy.

So, what’s the secret sauce? Or, the 3 key ingredients in persuasive copy that won’t make you sound like you’re trying to hawk the next latest and greatest snake oil…

Before we jump in, let’s get one thing straight. You still need to sell. There’s no way around it.

If you’re planning on making money, you’ve got to create an offer with the amount of copy necessary so your customers can make a decision to buy from you.

Get comfortable with it.

This idea that in order to not be “sales-y” or not “repel” your customers you must use the least amount of words or be clear at the expense of making an impact with your message is crap.

No… instead, you need to do the following:

Be honest

While this should go without saying, it’s worth repeating. Always ask yourself…

Does my copy honestly reflect how I want my business seen?

This is where that highly overused and borderline meaningless word “authenticity” comes in. When you’re trying too hard or trying to be something you’re not in your copy, your customers and prospects will figure it out pretty quickly. Neither your business nor your offerings ring true.

Can my customers trust what I’m telling them?

As Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers once told me, you should be comfortable having your grandmother buy based on your sales copy. If you wouldn’t want her to make a decision to buy because your copy isn’t honest and transparent, no one should be reading it.

Tell them what they need to know when they need to know it

When you don’t give your customers enough information, the right information, or put it where it needs to be on the page, you run the risk of giving them the impression that you care more about the sale than them.

This means showing them your calls to action before they’re ready to contemplate buying your product or signing up for your trial. It can mean not letting them know why you need their telephone number if they want your free download.

Lack of information can be as much of a turnoff as too much… so can a big fat “Buy” button at the top of the page when your customers don’t have any good reason to click on it yet.

Make an argument, stand for something, tell ’em why in no uncertain terms

The most effective way to be persuasive is to build a solid argument. Spend the time to find out how aware your customers are of their problem and the solutions available. Once you do, you’ll be able to figure out not only how much of an argument  you need to make but the words and phrases that most resonate with them.

Making an argument with the intent of giving your customers exactly what they need to achieve what they want on your site isn’t the same thing as taking a vomit inducing, hard sell, 2×4 to their heads.

Why? It all goes back to intention and your business goals. Shout at your customers only considering what you’ll get out of the relationship and you’ll have a hard time persuading anyone to buy from you.

Persuasive copywriting inspires without the hype…

If what you’re writing makes people feel like they want to take a shower to get the ick off after reading it, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re not listening to what’s important to your customers and honoring their needs, you’re doing it wrong.

[clickandtweet handle=”jenhavice” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]Because being persuasive in your copy isn’t about trickery or manipulation.[/clickandtweet]

If it is, you may be making a sale but you won’t be gaining a customer.The end game shouldn’t be the quick buck but happy and satisfied customers.

What’s your take on persuasive copy’s rap and if it’s just a matter of how we define it? Let me know in the comments.