Stop for a second and think about the power of words.
Words allow us to communicate meaning, build connections, and tell stories by using rhetoric. I bet if you think about it, you can’t recall any of the most powerful (or destructive!) moments in history that didn’t harness the power of rhetoric.
I’m going to teach you how to leverage your writing to use rhetoric that helps your customers in a way that ethically influences them to take action.
First, let’s start with a definition
The dictionary defines rhetoric as:
“The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.”
Aristotle defined rhetoric as, “A faculty of finding the available means of persuasion.”
To put it simply (and I mean very simply), rhetoric is communication that is arranged in a way that uses conventions in order to persuade an audience.
When you’re writing, you’re trying to persuade your customers to let you clean their carpets or upholstery. There are certain techniques that you can use in your writing, and on your website that make this more likely to happen.
Here are seven common ones that aren't that complicated to start using:
1. Simile and Metaphor
Humans are only capable of forming meaning through associations. In order to understand how two concepts are related to each other, you must understand how they are connected.
You might have learned about a simile in grade school, but it’s a comparison of two related concepts by using the words “like” or “as.”
In contrast, a metaphor is something that compares two concepts (i.e. time is money).
When used correctly, similies can invoke powerful visual imagery and appeal to the five senses in a way that gets a customer to use their imagination. A customer that does this is able to experience what a clean carpet would look like before your service.
Example of Simile: "Imagine your feet sliding across a carpet that feels gentle and fluffy like sand. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief as you walk across it and your toes drink in that fresh, clean feeling."
By comparing the carpet to sand, your customer will be able to feel what it would be like to walk across a clean, warm carpet that feels smooth against their feet.
Notice how this technique facilitates your customers to use their imagination. The example is specific enough to invoke a particular setting but generic enough for the customer to play with the scene in their mind.
Writing a simile or metaphor in this way allows your customer to experience a particular memory of sand and softness that THEY are familiar with. This is key. If your customer isn't able to draw a comparison they won't be able to associate the concept with the benefits that you are describing, and they will be less likely to take action.
2. Ethos, pathos, and logos
You probably learned about ethos, pathos, and logos in high school. These conventions appeal to credibility, emotion, and logic,
These rhetorical appeals are incredibly common and you likely encounter them every day.
For example, did you pay close attention to a commercial where (s)he was wearing a white coat? If so, you started listening because your subconscious was persuaded that you were watching a doctor, and doctors are widely regarded as experts that give credible advice.
Here are a couple of examples of how you can use each one along with an explanation:
Ethos: A professional website and email that has a modern appearance that is complete with pictures.
Why does this appeal to credibility?
Almost every legitimate business has a website. An attractive website shows that you’re a professional and not just some fly-by-night company; it shows your customer that you have stellar results that you can proudly stand behind.
Your customer will shop through the images on your website. If what they see arouses their emotions, they will be much more likely to want to use your services.
A good marketing email will do the same thing. It shows your customer that you are confident about the services that you offer.
Pathos: When you use pathos you appeal directly to a customer’s emotions. This is why Steve Johnson talks so much about presenting yourself as an indoor environmental professional because it doesn't just build credibility, your customers also like how it feels to be in a clean environment.
Do you know what lives inside? Germs. Lots of germs. And your customers want to get rid of them.
If you want to use pathos effectively, you should appeal to the emotions that stem from maintaining a clean home environment.
*Note: I tend to avoid fear-based appeals in my marketing. I personally think that they’re manipulative and tend to take undue advantage of a perceived vulnerability. I prefer focusing on approaches that empower customers.
Example: We are indoor environmental professionals. Your home is your personal sanctuary, and our job is to help protect you from all of the microorganisms that try to get in the way. Our cleaning system will penetrate deep into your carpet to scrub away germs and bacteria so that you can have the peace of mind that comes from living in a clean, healthy environment.
Logos: This is an appeal to logic. A logical appeal uses sound reasoning to arrive at conclusions based on correct premises.
Examples: “All carpets that are cleaned last longer, therefore I should clean my carpet so that it lasts longer”
“Cleaning your carpet twice a year eliminates bacteria in between the fibers, therefore if I want to eliminate bacteria in my carpet I will get it cleaned”
Your customers most likely already have the mindset that cleaning their carpet is a smart decision, so a good logical appeal will bolster that thought process and help to reinforce that idea— it will help them feel smart that they are choosing to use your service.
3. Imagery that uses the five senses
As discussed above, words are art. Words can be used to paint a picture that creates a visceral customer experience.
We work in a very visual industry. Our customers get to interact with the finished product of our efforts on a daily basis, so it’s much easier to find descriptive adjectives (i.e. clean, soft, beautiful, fragrant, etc.) than with other products where the results might not be as immediate.
4. Conversational writing
Do you like to read a monologue? I know that I don’t.
You’ll notice there that I asked you a direct question. One of the best ways to communicate with your customers is by imagining that you are having a conversation with them. Don’t be formal and stuffy. It’s common for people to overthink writing, especially in marketing. You should communicate like you’re having a conversation with a familiar friend.
Tell your reader something exciting. Be professional, but also be friendly and lighthearted. People want to do business with somebody that they are friends with. They also want to read content that sounds natural and that doesn’t feel annoying/isn’t salesy.
Example: “What are your plans for Spring Break? If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably looking and realizing that your house can use some cleaning now that winter is over.”
This dialogue is natural, and can quickly transition into a success story that you tell about a customer.
5. Social Proof
We love to know what other people think, especially somebody that’s similar to us. The truth is, if somebody similar to us likes something, it signals to us that it’s more trustworthy.
Social proof builds the type of credibility that we discussed above and it helps your customers make a more informed buying decision.
Example: Put reviews on your website, but also tell stories about satisfied customers in your emails. The intended rhetorical effect of this is that your customer will be talking about how great your business is instead of you just using space to brag about yourself (which can quickly get annoying).
*Note: I shouldn’t even have to say this, but never lie about social proof by creating fake customers or fake examples. Not only is this unethical, but it diminishes the whole idea behind a review. You want your real customers to speak to other customers, otherwise, it will backfire and make you look bad.
6. The Law of Three: A rhetorical triad
This one is a little bit more complicated to explain, but chances are that you’ve used it before. Whenever you give a list of three it suggests roundness or completeness to an audience. A lot of times writers will put adjectives in a series of three to drive home its impact. If you want a more in-depth explanation, you should read this article.
Example: We will blast away any urine stains and leave your carpet fresh, soft, and smelling amazing for any guest that walks across it.
7. Call to Action
All marketing communication should invite your customer to do something. One of the main differences between good writing vs. persuasive writing is whether your audience does something.
A call to action gives instructions about what your customers should do next and gives them simple, clear, motivational instructions about how to do it.
Example: “Schedule Your Cleaning Appointment today”
“Call Today to Get Rid of Urine Stains”
These examples are direct and should make it easy for your customer to take the next step in their journey.
Some final tidbits
- Because rhetoric can have such a powerful emotional impact, it should only ever be used ethically. Only use rhetoric to communicate promises that your business can stand behind and that help to further goals that your audience already has.
- When you use rhetoric for selfish purposes or to persuade people to do something that is not in their best interest, it can start to become manipulative.
- In other words, don’t use rhetoric for its own sake, use it to add value to something that is already valuable; rhetoric doesn’t create value out of thin air, it enhances preexisting value.
- When you’re marketing, one of the most effective tools that you have available to persuade your audience is rhetoric
- Rhetoric devices are conventions that you should use in your writing to help your customers take action that is in their best interest.
- In this article, we’ve covered how to use seven common rhetorical devices, and I’ve given examples of how to use each one in your marketing
- Persuasive writing doesn’t have to be difficult to be effective. You probably already use rhetoric quite frequently in everyday conversation. Your writing should mirror a friendly conversation that you have with your customers.
- By properly using rhetoric, more customers will be persuaded to use your services and you will grow your business
- In this article, I’ve used a lot of rhetorical strategies to convince you about the power of rhetoric (pun intended). Bonus points if you can spot them. If you have any questions about how to ethically use rhetoric, don’t hesitate to drop a comment below!