Aristotle and Good Copywriting
So, does good writing sell?
In the world of business-to-business marketing, in particular complex industries like financial services, the short answer is of course yes. In fact, good writing sells exponentially more than poor or mediocre writing. But what is good writing?
Above all else, good writing is compelling. The trick is that there are an almost limitless number of ways to compel people to action. One sound way to prepare your argument follows the ancient science of rhetoric. It’s amazing that after thousands of years, the basic principles that Aristotle defined still apply to your business.
Aristotle defined our modern view of rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” In his philosophy, he divided the art of persuasion into three principle elements:
Logos: Aristotle defined logos as “reasoned discourse.” It’s your factual argument, your intellectual position that most people will use to rationalize a preference for your brand, your product, your service. Your logos argument will look a lot like facts. We’re 30% less. We’ve won 93.4% of our cases. We have 4 commercial bankers with more than 80 years experience in your industry.
Tip: Specifics are more compelling than generalities. “We have excellent customer service” is limp toast compared to “We have a 97.4% successful resolution rate on the first call.”
Pathos: This is using emotion to make your appeal. “You feel this beast of an engine in the marrow of your bones.” “You ride for that moment when you and the landscape merge into one.”
Emotion must have purpose though. It must connect to the core strengths of your product or service, otherwise people remember your ad but not the name of your brand.
Tip: The most powerful emotional argument is, of course, the one your customer makes for you. How did you solve their problem? How did you help them overcome their barriers to sell more? How did you simplify their processes or increase their conversions?
Ethos: Showing moral character. Before Aristotle, this meant “moral competence” only, but he broadened the meaning to include the expertise and knowledge of the speaker.
You have to demonstrate your expertise in order to be believed. In a sense, ethos does not belong to you but to your audience. Thus, it is the audience that determines whether you are a high- or a low-ethos speaker.
Tip: Again, we fall back to our “show, don’t tell” mantra. Demonstrate how you have helped people in the past. Demonstrate your expertise and your prospects are more likely to believe you.
So you have your factual argument. Be specific, but most importantly be relevant to your prospect. Use your emotional argument to connect to the one thing your prospect cares most about. Give them reasons to care. Make them want what you have to sell. They’ll use your factual argument to rationalize their choices. And firmly establish your credibility, your expertise — from the beginning.
Who said the ancient Greeks no longer have anything to teach us?