Can I be honest with you?
When I first found out that writing would be a fundamental part of my entrepreneurial journey, I was a little worried.
I was flat-out terrified.
I’d never thought of myself as a writer.
In fact, to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, I’m dyslexic.
You can imagine how loud the doubting voices within me were at that time.
After a while, I came to three empowering realizations that helped me overcome my mental barriers:
- I was in good company. Did you know that dyslexic people are overrepresented in the world of entrepreneurism? Some of them, such as Richard Branson and Alan Sugar, even wrote successful business books!
- Writing is a learnable skill, like anything else. Thankfully, we are blessed to live in a time when supportive editors are more available than ever before. Also, automated grammar aids have come a long way in recent years. I know I’ll never be a fantastic writer, in terms of craft. However, I am “good enough.”
- Ultimately, the technical, grammatical side of writing is merely a vessel containing something more meaningful: message. If I could focus on making my message as beneficial to others as possible, the rest would fall into place.
I’m not the guy to learn craft from, believe me!
So, my focus here is on the third factor.
I’d like to share three scientifically sound ideas to help you imbue your entrepreneurial writing with persuasive potency.
If you’re interested in delving deeper, I urge you to check out the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, in particular his seminal book, Influence.
Let’s get to it!
Understand the Potency of Likability
Hold onto your hats. I’m about to shock you.
If people like you, they are more receptive to your message.
OK, end of “bad sarcastic joke” mode, I promise! As you can see, if I’m not the greatest writer; I’m almost certainly one of the worst comedians.
Although it may sound like common sense, likability is less obvious than it first may seem.
So how can you come across as likable in your writing?
- Authenticity: There’s nothing worse than a weasel. I don’t mind the animals! Those little guys are fine by me. I mean a writer who never puts an authentic opinion across. The writer who tries to be a chameleon. All things to all people. If you always choose the path of blandness and fence-sitting, you’ll come across as inoffensive and forgettable at best, or inauthentic and manipulative at worst. Put your true self out there, and form genuine connections accordingly.
- Conversational tone: Many of us were taught to write in a certain way from an early age. Formal. Stilted. Serious. This might be appropriate for academia, but it often isn’t in the modern entrepreneurial context. Even platforms such as Forbes adopt this tone, for example, in their recent piece titled “All That Hot Air In Meetings Makes Us Dumber.” You’ll notice it’s written in an engaging style.
- Altruism: Do you believe that the best way to get things from this world is, ironically, to give without the expectation of reward? I do. Avoiding discussions of morality, let’s just focus on why this works. Human beings have an innate sense of justice. We are naturally inclined to like those who help others. It’s a core part of our psychology. If you serve your audience in the most altruistic way possible, you’ll most likely get a lot in return. Just don’t make that your motivation!
Some of the inspirations I look to for likability include Pat Flynn, Neil Patel, and Tony Robbins.
By increasing how likable you are in your own entrepreneurial writing, you increase its effectiveness.
What’s not to like?
Utilize Humanity’s Hardwired Response to Authority
As humans, we’re hardwired to respect authority.
As much as we might like to think of ourselves as free-spirited, James Dean types, evolutionary psychology has made us anything but.
Holding genuine authority is especially important when you are producing entrepreneurial content in the internet age.
Because, sadly, there are endless con artists out there—people who falsely portray authority to exploit the vulnerabilities of others.
Needless to say, don’t be that person!
Instead, look to display genuine, authentic authority in your writing.
- Value: If there is a single golden ideal that underpins entrepreneurial writing, it is the concept of value. You are there to serve, not to show off. To build others up, not to boast. You can be entertaining and dexterous with your language, but never for its own sake. Each and every word should add value in the eyes of your audience.
- Evidence: Please excuse me for using the two most irritating and accursed words of our era, but we live in a time of fake news. Many people are understandably skeptical. Support your claims. Use quotations from reputable sources. Use data. Your readers will trust what you have to say a lot more as a result.
Some examples of content I find particularly authoritative include anything from the appropriately named Authority Hacker team, this guide from Chandler Bolt of Self-Publishing School, and this study from Brian Dean of Backlinko.
Don’t underestimate the power of authority in your own writing. Just ensure it comes from a place of authenticity and respect.
Be Committed and Consistent
One of the most powerful motivators for people is the urge to maintain their sense of psychological self-consistency.
The opposite is known as cognitive dissonance, and it’s a well-documented occurrence.
Your writing should borrow from the motivational style of the most effective leaders humanity has ever known.
Namely, speak to people’s aspirations and hopes. Treat them as the type of person they hope in their heart of hearts they truly are.
Kind of a tall order, right? No pressure!
The following ideas will help make your writing a lot more psychologically potent.
- Knowing your audience: Really and truly taking the time to understand your audience is essential. Go beyond assumptions and broad demographics. How do they come across in the comments section? When people contact you, what do they talk about? What seems to engage their interest on social media, and what do they respond to on discussion forums?
- Digging deeper: Often, we spend too much time thinking about the superficial reasons behind things. We stop at the surface, when we should dig deeper. Imagine, for example, you were writing about time management. You could look at the surface level and say something like “you will save X hours per week, which equates to Y hours per year!” Or, you could say “you will get to spend more precious moments with the people you love.” The deeper meaning is almost always more persuasive.
- Staying true to your values: Values tend to be the deepest drivers of human behavior. By ensuring your words and actions are in line with your values, you become far more effective. Usually, people have a sixth sense if you are acting contrary to your deeper values. Similarly, try and ensure resonance between your values and those of your audience, provided it is authentic.
Some of my favorite resources when working on this aspect of my entrepreneurial writing are the StoryBrand blog, Tim Ferriss’ content, and anything and everything by Jon Morrow.
Psychology Will Increase the Effectiveness of Your Entrepreneurial Writing
Ultimately, I’m not suggesting you become the next Freud or Jung.
Although psychology is fascinating, I only advise you to go as deep as you need to.
Your core business will remain your focus.
However, by flavoring your writing with some psychological spice, it will be far more effective.
Which psychological principles do you use in your own writing? Have you encountered any useful resources?
It would be a pleasure to continue the discussion in the comments.