Like it or not, you’re in the business of persuading others to give you what you want. Whether you’re trying to convince someone to hire you or attempting to get your husband to make dinner, life is all about asking for what you need.
Amanda Palmer’s fantastic new book, The Art of Asking, is a great primer for how to start making the asks that can change the course of your life. It is a recommended read, but as I was going through it, I couldn’t help but wonder about the fundamentals of persuasion that made making the ask successful or not.
What does it take to become truly persuasive?
I started researching the history of persuasion and who was talking about it first, and Aristotle’s Rhetoric soon found its way on to my bookshelf. What does rhetoric have to do with anything?
Everything. Rhetoric is the art of writing or speaking well.
It boils down any argument (or ask) into more basic principles that can help anyone become more persuasive under any circumstances, in any context. A man of action who relentlessly stripped away non-essentials from his body of work, Aristotle dedicated much of his life to studying and outlining why and how rhetoric works.
Rhetoric is the cure for the race to the bottom of search Seth Godin has predicted. And if you’re a business owner, understanding and using the 3 modes of persuasion outlined by Aristotle will make you and your business unforgettable.
These methods might seem distantly familiar to you, and I’m willing to bet you have heard of them. I’ll also bet you haven’t thought about them since you were trying to pass college writing 101.
In the interest of saving you time, we’re going to cover the most effective parts of rhetoric as they pertain to marketers, storytellers, and really anyone who want to know how to be more persuasive.
Aristotle and the Ancient Art of Writing Well
According to Aristotle, rhetoric is “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion” and “the modes of persuasion are the only true constituents of the art: everything else is merely accessory.”
Clearly, he had an opinion about the nature and tactics behind rhetoric. So what are these three modes, and how can we use them?
First, we’ll define them, then we will look at the three methods in more depth with examples of brands employing them.
The 3 Modes of Persuasion
Pathos: an appeal to emotion.
Logos: an appeal to logic or reason.
Ethos: an appeal to credibility or character.
These three methods will completely change the way you speak with an audience, because you can speak to their head and their heart – a powerful combination for any writer. We’ll begin with pathos and the brands who use it best.
Pathos speaks to your subconscious, your feelings. It is a quality that evokes emotion, like empathy or those heart fuzzies you get when you watch a video of a baby or kitten. Passionate language in writing or speech can make people feel a certain way. Pathos can also tap into negative emotions like guilt or fear in order to trigger you into taking action.
Pathos is at work on Gerber’s homepage. With language that speaks directly to mothers, Gerber helps mothers feel loved and supported. This is an effective emotive approach.
Emotional appeal is much more than a hook, however. Perhaps you’ve created a script for your brand’s next video with an emphasis on making the audience feel a certain way. Everything from the music to the tone of the actor’s voice to using the perfect metaphor. Pathos doesn’t have to have anything to do with the issue at hand, so long as it creates an emotional response in the person receiving it.
charity: water does an incredible job in a series of GIFs capturing the passion they have for providing clean water to the developing world – as well as the passion of the people who team up with them to make it possible.
Logos is an appeal to your sensibilities. Most SaaS fit into this category. Logos is all about the numbers, data, hard facts, and common sense solutions.
“Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration, since we are most fully persuaded when we consider a thing to have been demonstrated.” This statement makes it clear why logos was Aristotle’s preferred method of persuasion. Check out the brands implementing this persuasion strategy.
Keep all of your team communications in one place. There is no company in the world that can argue with the necessity of Slack or compete with its glorious simplicity. This is logos at its finest.
Turn clicks into conversions. Here at Instapage, our goal is to make data-driven landing page creation as simple and fast as possible. It’s hard to argue with when you’re a business owner who needs on brand sales pages fast.
Ethos is about the type of person you see yourself as. You’re the kind of person who acts a certain way, buys a certain product, and does things a certain way because it’s just who you are. Really great sales pages almost always employ ethos because it is so effective in helping people decide, “Yes, that’s me.”
This page from Shalom Mama is an excellent example of ethos. She is speaking to people who already identify a certain way and have chosen into certain communities. It’s an example of, “If you are like this, then you will like this.”
Apple practically defines ethos. You either identify as an Apple person, or you don’t. There really is no in-between.
There are many people, mostly non-marketers, who take issue with persuading people to think or be or buy a certain way, but the fact is we live in a time of massive upheaval. We have to make more decisions than ever on a daily basis, and if your brand is causing any sort of decision fatigue for your end user, you don’t belong in the game.
Don’t waste the time of the people you most want to help. Connect with the people who matter and forget the rest. Your ability to craft a compelling and persuasive story that reaches the right people is your key to breaking through your glass ceiling – and your profit goals.
So which methods are you using to be more persuasive? Show us in the comments how you’re making it easier than ever to help your audience make a decision.