Making Tangible Statements
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|Credit unions save members about $8 billion a year thanks to better interest rates and reduced fees.||On average, credit union members save $400 each year compared to bank customers thanks to lower loan rates and fees.|
|The benefit is not tangible. Customers are not sure what the benefit would be for them personally.||This benefit is tangible; the customers know how much they will save on an individual level.|
|In recent years, many credit unions have lost membership because younger individuals are not attracted to them.||In the past five years, we’ve lost over 200 members—over 10 percent of our membership. And we simply aren’t attracting younger members.|
|This statement focuses on a general trend for credit unions but does not indicate an impact on a particular credit union.||This statement invokes a sense of what is happening right here at our credit union. Identifying the amount (as well as a percentage) helps the reader discern the impact.|
|We provide lower rates on car loans. Our car loan rates are between 1.5 and 1.75 percentage points less than at any of the banks in town.||You pay lower rates on car loans. You can get car loan rates at Better Horizons that are 1.5–1.75 percentage points less than at any other bank in town. Consider the savings:
|This statement doesn’t help the customers understand how much in dollars they would save on a car loan at Better Horizons.||This statement allows customers to easily think about how much savings they would receive by getting a car loan with Better Horizons.|
As you reread your message, keep in mind the following advice from sales specialist Ralph Allora: “Read the letter aloud. If it doesn’t sound like you’re having a conversation with the client over the phone, then you’re not using the right tone.”26 This in part is a test of whether you have personalized your message enough.
In persuasive messages, you have somewhat more license to write creatively. Focus on using action-oriented and lively words to achieve a sense of excitement, optimism, or other positive emotions. Use strong nouns and verbs to add to the excitement of the message. Some sales messages sound dull because of overuse of and reliance on words such as provide and offer.27 Across the entire message or thought, the action-oriented and lively language should emphasize a central theme. See Table 9.4 for examples from documents Haniz is working on for two of her projects.
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|The Betty Williams Breast Center has a nationally accredited program for treatment of breast cancer.||The Betty Williams Breast Center runs a nationally accredited program for treatment of breast cancer.|
|The weak verb has implies little action on the part of the Betty Williams Breast Center.||The action verb runs implies a full-fledged and active effort on the part of the Betty Williams Breast Center.|
|Better Horizons has always been known for its personal approach to our members. Our transactions have always occurred through face-to-face services. Our tellers are friendly to all members.||At Better Horizons, we’ve instilled a personal touch into every aspect of our business. We’ve reinforced this culture with face-to-face services. Our tellers welcome members by name. When members come into the credit union, they know we care about them as people, not just as customers.|
|Uses unexciting, weak verbs: has been known, have occurred, are (notice how passive verbs detract from a sense of action and engagement). The central theme of personalized service does not come through. For example, consider the contrast between our tellers are friendlyversus our tellers welcome members by name.||Uses a positive, diverse set of action verbs: instilled, reinforced, welcome, care. Uses adjectives and nouns to further emphasize a central theme of personalized service: personal touch, face-to-face services, name.|
As you display more confidence in your idea, your product, or your service, you can more effectively influence your audience. Effective persuaders provide compelling and simple reasons for action. They should show confidence in these ideas, as illustrated in Table 9.5, again with examples from two of Haniz’s projects. Emotionally, the writer’s confidence allows the audience to gain confidence in the message. In internal persuasive messages, expressing confidence in key players, who can make the change occur, is crucial. These key players include upper-level executives who will actively endorse and authorize resources as well as those managers and employees who will put the ideas into motion.28
|Less Effective||More Effective|
|At our upcoming board meeting, I would like to discuss possible ways of appealing to younger members. We can talk about how various strategies might appeal to this group.||At our upcoming board meeting, I will present a vision of how we can build marketing strategies and product offerings to appeal to younger members. These strategies will not only attract younger members to our credit union but also increase our business across other age groups.|
|These statements are an attempt to achieve an other-orientation; they show sensitivity to involving others in the decision making. However, they show no confidence in the ideas or policies that the audience resists.||These statements imply confidence in the change message: These are ideas and policies that will make a difference. Furthermore, the writer can make them happen. The argument is logic-based but also contains an excitement about possibilities.|
|Please think about how Better Horizons can help you in your banking.||We encourage you to stop by Better Horizons and make direct comparisons with your current bank. You’ll find that banking with Better Horizons saves you money, provides convenience when you travel, and offers services to meet nearly any banking need.|
|This nonspecific request sounds weak and unconfident. It gives the reader an excuse to easily dismiss the message.||This request lays down a challenge to make direct comparisons, confidently implying that Better Horizons can outperform competitors. It then directly states specific benefits to the potential member.|
Michael Maslansky and his research team have examined the reactions of tens of thousands of customers and clients to many types of written messages. In this section, we illustrate a few findings from the financial industry. For example, in Figure 9.1, you see four statements that were sent to respondents. In the hypothetical scenario that was presented to them, a company is attempting to do a good thing—give its employees an opportunity to put money in a retirement account.
Source: Adapted from The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics by Michael Maslansky, Scott West, Gary DeMoss and David Saylor, Copyright © 2010 by Van Kampen Investor Services, Inc. Used by permission of Prentice Hall, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Note: The survey involved a hypothetical situation where employers would automatically deduct 7 percent of an employee’s salary and place it into a 401(k). This process would help employees save money for the future. The employees would have the option to opt-out.
The four statements state essentially the same thing but are phrased differently. Each is written fairly well and appeals to some individuals. The statement that appeals to the most people (40 percent) emphasizes choice rather than intent. It uses the you-voice rather than the we-voice, which is preferable for many messages written to consumers (this is most similar to a consumer situation). It contains three short sentences with 7, 2, and 27 words. The emphasis on choice (other-orientation), use of you-voice (other-orientation), and simple language combine to make this the most influential statement. By contrast, the other options each contain one long sentence (30, 36, and 27 words).
In the PTE, customers and clients consider choice an indicator of credibility. They view simple language (not implying lack of sophisticated knowledge) as a display of transparency and respect. In contrast, they view overly complex language as potentially deceptive.29 Similarly, effective persuasive messages avoid statements that may be perceived as pressure tactics. Hard sells are increasingly ineffective in a PTE, especially in written format.30 Compare Haniz’s less-effective and more-effective persuasive statements in Table 9.6, all of which you will see again in her messages located later in the chapter.