What We Talk About When We Talk About Conversation

Posted in Business Practices, Marketing | April 15,2019

Read anything about copywriting in the past decade and chances are someone has thrown around the word “conversational.”

And chances are that even after a decade of hearing about it, you still don’t know how to take advantage of conversational language. To really nail this distinction, you have to go back to the most valuable tool in any kind of writing: audience analysis.

The important thing to realize is that conversations are different based on context. Saying hello to a passerby on the street is not the same as catching up with an old friend, and neither is comparable to talking to a bank teller.

By determining your goals and the goals of your users, you can improve the success rate of your campaigns. To cut straight to the point, better conversations in your copy can help you ensure smoother and more streamlined lead capturing.

Here’s an example:

Say you’re trying to capture a lead’s email address. You’re much more likely to get that email address you’re after if you offer something in return versus simply asking for the email address. #humannature

If you’re providing access to an ebook or they are reaching out for information, then you can cut the chit-chat. You don’t want a long-winded conversation with the person selling you french fries and your users don’t want to read a bunch about why they owe you an email address.

On the flip side, if you’re capturing a lead and only providing a bit of value on the front end, then you’ll probably need to do a bit more work to convince them to give up that coveted email address.

How do we do that? Well, there are a number of strategies, but it starts with a bit of magic.

Your Magic Word

Most of us were told the magic word was “please” when we were young, but that’s not the most powerful word out there. (but your mom would be proud if you used it more often.) No, the true magic word is “willing.”

Willing? But that sounds so old-fashioned you might protest.

And to be honest we agree, but it’s also effective. Check out this study, if you don’t believe us.

And why does it work?

Simply asking if someone is “willing to” do something is much less of a demand than asking if they “want to” do something. And it’s as simple as that. People don’t want to be pressured, so by asking for something as small as them being willing to offer their email address, people are more likely to do so.

This magic word works best when coupled with a reason. In the classic book Influence, by Robert Cialdini, the author describes and shows how coupling a request with a reason is much more likely to influence the audience to move. Specifically, people react very well to the word “because,” so if there is even a decent reason for someone to fulfill your request, be sure to mention it.

Tired of Bad Feedback?

Moving to a different type of conversationality, many businesses are in a constant struggle to achieve quality feedback. Why does it seem that when asking for suggestions, you often only get a few negative responses and not much else?

It really boils down to two major things: asking questions the right way and only asking one question at a time.

Asking the same questions; The right way

WARNING: This tip is simple to understand but hard to master. Humans are creatures of habit and they will respond the same way to the same thing, over and over again. How do we crack those habits?

By asking in slightly different ways.

“Do you have any feedback for us?”

You’ve likely read this exact sentence thousands of times, and your brain has trained itself to simply ignore it.

But simply changing that any to a “some” has shown significant results.

People are so conditioned to hear one thing that you can wake them up out of their habitual trance by changing a single word.

And, we can also use people’s habits to our advantage. For example, people generally prefer the first option in a multiple choice list. So if you’re asking a question that has an effect on your bottom line depending on how people answer, be sure to put the answer you want them to pick first.

Only Asking One Thing at a Time

Most people have a bad habit of using two similar words together in an attempt to bolster and strengthen the meaning of their sentences. It often goes unnoticed until someone points it out and it quickly becomes bothersome (and annoying).

While it’s a bad habit to have in writing, it’s an even worse habit when asking questions. Take this question, for example:

“What did you think of the event and the afterparty?”

While it may seem to you that you’re simply condensing the number questions the participant has to answer, in reality, you’re nearly halving the number of responses you’ll end up with for both of the questions. Instead, just ask two questions and if people really don’t have the time to answer both, they’ll likely skip one of them.

Okay, the Last Tip; We Promise

If you’re still with us, we’re proud of you. There’s a lot packed into this article, but we have one more bonus tip to give you before we’re finished. Let’s say you need to ask for some sensitive information (maybe someone’s age for example).

Step 1: Do you actually need to know this?

Make sure you have an actual value add from the data you’re asking people to provide.

Step 2: Make it more abstract?

Is the person’s exact age not needed? Then ask for a range. People much prefer to say they are 35-50 versus saying they are 47.

Step 3: Rapid Fire

Stringing a quick question that may offend into a series of short questions so people answer it reflexively.

Go Flourish

Alright. So now you’re an expert on how to truly take advantage of a deep knowledge of conversations. Don’t just take these tips, but the principles behind them, and you’ll be ready to create some content that people will want to engage with.

And, if you need help, Miller Public Relations is just a call or email away.