Star Wars. Responsible for inspiring the most popular Halloween costumes, inciting heated debates over who shot first, and turning chubby, lightsaber-wielding kids into overnight YouTube sensations. Among the Ewoks, droids, stormtroopers, and starships, one iconic image sums up the Star Wars empire (pun intended): Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s clashing green and red lightsabers, locked in a timeless struggle between good and evil.
Imagine what would have happened, then, if, instead of throwing himself down Cloud City’s air shaft in a final act of defiant heroics, Luke had accepted Vader’s offer to “rule the galaxy as father and son.” For all his mind tricks, persuasive powers, and paternal bullying, our dear asthmatic Sith Lord made a fatal error: he failed to read his audience, and thus didn’t speak to him effectively.
The same goes for writing persuasive web copy. A beautiful website design and a perfect SEO system may bring a Star Destroyer full of consumers to your webpage, but if your writing doesn’t resonate with your audience, it will fail to convert those visitors into leads. In short, you’ll be left hanging—just like Vader, hand outstretched—failing to make the sale. (Maybe he should have rethought that one—offering a hand right after chopping off Luke’s. Bit of a costly oversight there, Anakin.)
From Jedi mind tricks to dark side scare tactics, Star Wars can teach us a lot about writing persuasive web copy. Grab some popcorn and blue milk, tell your friends you’ll have to pick up power converters at Tosche Station another time, and settle in to learn a few things from the denizens of a galaxy far, far away.
Use positive language
“Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.”
Like the divide between the light and dark sides of the Force, the message here is about positive over negative language. How did Obi-Wan divert the stormtroopers who were searching for R2-D2 and C-3P0? Some Jedi mind tricks, to be sure, but also positive language. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for; you can go about your business. Move along.” Negative language has a tendency to be memorable in a bad way; the last thing you want is for your readers to develop a negative association with your content. You want them to feel empowered to tackle whatever problem they came to your website to solve. Another technique is to ask a question early on—a question you know the consumer will answer with a “yes.” Unless your readers are Toydarians, they’ll develop a habit of saying “yes” to other questions or offers you pose.
Use the active voice
“Do, or do not—there is no try.”
Write in the active voice. The active voice is direct, simple, and easy to understand. The passive voice removes the power of action from the subject and can quickly muddy your meaning with convoluted turns of phrase. The active voice is particularly important when writing headlines or titles, meta descriptions, image captions, and calls to action (CTAs). You want clear, effective language to draw users to your landing page and compel them to take the desired action. As much as we love Yoda, you should probably avoid his legendary speech patterns.
Be authentic and believable
Luke: “I can‘t believe it.“ Yoda: “That is why you fail.“
Consider your audience. If your content is not culturally relevant to your target group—or worse yet, not believable—your chances of gathering successful conversions are slim to none. Avoid salesy jargon and claims that sound too good to be true. Don’t hesitate to link to factual supporting evidence, research studies, testimonials, or other verifiable sources to demonstrate your credibility. If your users don’t believe you, they aren’t going to buy.
Choose your titles wisely
“Don’t call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease!”
Names are important. Put extra effort into names, titles, and headlines. Imagine if the Death Star had been called the Planet Zapper, or if Obi-Wan Kenobi had described Mos Eisley as a “wretched hive of icky people.” Doesn’t quite have the same zing, does it? Your titles and headlines need to draw users to your page and encourage them to keep reading. For tips and tricks, take a look at this guide for writing headlines more engaging than an Imperial tractor beam.
Tell a story
“I’m not much more than an interpreter, and not very good at telling stories.”
Emotional response can be the deciding factor in changing visitors to conversions. A fantastic way to make a connection with your reader and elicit emotion is through storytelling. While only a small part of the brain is triggered by facts and figures, stories can activate the entire brain, including emotions. This can be a powerful tool for swaying your audience. Need proof? C-3P0 wooed a whole civilization of Ewoks by telling them stories of the Rebel Alliance’s battles with the Galactic Empire, inspiring the Ewoks to fight beside the Rebels against the Imperial troops on Endor.
Get to your landing page
“Stay on target!”
Everything you write needs to maintain focus. Your ultimate goal is to get consumers to your landing page by convincing them that your product will solve their problems. There are many ways of doing this—showing empathy by acknowledging your own experience with their problem, providing testimonials for emotional relatability and positive assurance, or simply describing the benefits your product will bring to the user, as opposed to merely listing its features. Whatever approach you take, make absolutely sure your content relates directly to your audience and points toward a solution. If it doesn’t, cut it out.
“Control, control, you must learn control!”
Take control of a user’s impulse to click away from an offer by creating the feeling of product scarcity. This is a tried-and-true aspect of writing persuasive web copy: you want your readers to feel as though they’ll miss out if they don’t act on your offer now. Marketing a product as available for a limited time only, or to a limited number of consumers—an ebook available free for just three days, for example, or a special discount for the first 100 buyers—can move someone who might otherwise wander off to “think about it” to jump on the limited opportunity instead.
“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”
It’s time to acknowledge the new greatest power in the universe. It isn’t the Death Star anymore—it’s Millennials. These tech-savvy, Internet-dominating, information-processing machines are what drive online marketing success. They are your future consumers. So it’s time you learned to speak (and write) their language. Millennials value engaging, relatable content that can be skimmed quickly for key points. Break up your copy with visual aids (bolded headings, photos, embedded videos, graphical content) and divide large sections of text into manageable chunks with concise headings so that readers can find the information they need via a quick scan.
Never stop adapting
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Internet technologies change, and they change fast. Effective online marketers extend their brand presence across a variety of web spaces, from product websites to social media networks. Your web copy should reflect the attitudes and behaviors of each platform. A Facebook post that directs users to your landing page, for example, requires language that is considerably more attention-grabbing and concise than the copy for your website’s homepage or a blog post.
To market in each space effectively, it’s important to stay on top of the trends. Relying on your knowledge of past Internet trends or writing styles is a mistake, as these become obsolete faster than the Millennium Falcon can complete the Kessel Run. You’ll also want to keep in mind changing social attitudes and needs when you consider the tone of your writing. In the wise words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” The buying cycles that marketers used in the past aren’t effective anymore, especially with Millennials. Writing to satisfy the conventions and buying patterns only of older groups won’t resonate with this now-dominant Internet generation and will result in lost conversions.
So you’ve soaked it all up? Great, kid. Don’t get cocky!
When writing persuasive web copy, it’s important to continuously remind yourself of the personas of your target consumers and their stages in the buyer’s journey. Creating a personalized experience that applies the right emotional triggers will enhance the likelihood of your users’ completing the action you’ve laid out for them. If Luke could feel comfortable flying the Death Star’s exhaust port corridor because it reminded him of shooting womp rats from his T-16 back home, you can certainly give your users the confidence to follow your CTAs by creating a positive, action-oriented, culturally relevant experience.
In the words of Jedi Master Yoda: mind what you have learned, and may the Force be with you.
Image sources: Josh Felise/Stocksnap.io, DasWortgewand/Pixabay.com