There’s this concept in theatre called the 4th wall.
It’s a performance convention; the wall is imaginary.
It’s what you, as the audience, sees through to view the performers on stage – and those performers are asking you to believe that wall exists because otherwise it’s all a bit odd you’re sitting munching on Malteasers while their apparent real lives are playing out in front of you – with zero interaction (usually) between stage and audience.
So you, the audience, you can see through the wall. The performers on stage, they pretend they cannot.
It’s a bit weird, hey?
But it’s not manipulation, it’s not trickery, you’re not fooled. You buy a ticket knowing that’s the leap of imagination you’re going to be asked to take. And as the audience member, you actively agree.
Persuasion in copy is the 4th wall.
It’s not manipulation. It’s not trickery.
Just like Musical Theatre performers don’t fool the audience into believing people randomly break into song and dance in unison when you’re they’re on stage (oh, and they all happen to have matching costumes), your copy doesn’t trick your reader into believing they’re going to somehow be devastated if they don’t buy your thing.
Persuasion isn’t fooling your reader.
It’s not hypnotising someone. It’s not what happened to my husband when hypnotist Alex McLeer picked him out of the audience and pretty much read (and blew) his mind – even though he purposefully didn’t sit in the front row because he was terrified of being singled out. (There’s something in there about the power of manifestation, I’m sure!)
Persuasion isn’t something you, as the writer, does to the reader. It’s something they choose to do to themselves, just like an audience choosing to believe in the 4th wall.
That moment you persuade your reader to do anything, not just buy a thing, but persuade them to read further than your headline, check out your testimonials, actually read read your website, not just scan it, that’s a response your reader chooses to go through in their own head (and belly and throat and arm tingles and wherever else they feel emotions) when they ‘buy in’ to being taken by the hand by your brand and shown all the highlights.
So it’s your job to pick and choose your performance showcase to deliver on what your best people need.
Your reader will either buy a season pass to your show. Or not. It’s totally up to them. And it’s totally OK.
Because, you don’t want your brand singing to a whole theatre of readers who respond with a lukewarm clap.
You want the front row – your best people – to be so in the moment they’re standing ovationing, applauding until their hands bleed, singing along and dying to be in the chorus line. You actually want the people in the cheap seats, those who don’t even want to look up from their phones to focus on your showcase, to toddle off as fast as toddling can carry them.
Your people are lining up outside your brand right now literally hoping you’ll persuade them to be lifelong fans.
They wouldn’t be interested in tickets if they weren’t looking to buy something and they wouldn’t be at your box office checking out the options if they weren’t at least a little bit interested in buying something from you.
Go give them the show they deserve.
I’m giving you the thumbs up from the wings.
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Make your reader lick the screen