When my partner and I were setting up our first home together, one of the things I really wanted was a hall table. Losing my keys and wallet around the house had become somewhat of a habit, so the idea of dedicating an entire piece of furniture to keeping track of them greatly appealed to me. I envisaged sailing calmly to the hall table each morning, where my keys, wallet, mail and library books would be ready for me to pick up on my way out. In my mind, the hall table became a symbol of the grown-up life of serene and effortless organisation that I aspired to.
Ten years later, that table is not the talisman against chaos I had hoped for. Instead, it has become a dumping ground for all the items I don’t feel like dealing with. Sure, my keys and wallet are always there. However, so are piles of unsorted papers, items that need packaging and mailing, prints that need framing and every pair of sunglasses in the house.
Whenever I pass my hall table, I can feel it judging me for my laziness and disorganisation. But with so many other commitments (read: a ‘need’ to get through all the shows on my Netflix list), I haven’t found the time to sort through the mess. So, when copywriter Tom Albrighton, in his excellent book, ‘Copywriting Made Simple’, suggested picking something I don’t want to do and using the six principles of persuasion to convince myself to do it, I had the perfect task to practice my persuasion skills on. What follows is the piece I wrote to market the action of tidying my hall table to myself:
Want to take the next step towards a serene and organised life?
It seems like everyone’s talking about decluttering, simplifying and tidying these days. Although you don’t usually follow trends, there’s something about this one that ‘sparks joy’. You’ve loved Marie Kondo’s books and her Netflix series, ‘Tidying Up’. You’ve longed for the kind of transformation her clients achieve on the show. You’ve even put in the effort to tidy your wardrobe, kitchen, bathroom and book collection, clearing out the clutter and making way for the life of calm organisation you’ve always dreamed of. Now, it’s time to finish what you started and tackle the hall table.
Here’s what your friends and family have said about tidying problem areas in their homes:
“I’d been putting off tidying the dining table, which had become a catchall for my family’s junk. It just seemed like so much effort. Recently, I bit the bullet and did it. I can’t believe the difference it’s made to our lives! Now, we have meals together as a family every night. I’m so glad I did it!” – Your friend.
“I finally went through my collection of scarves and jewellery and gave away the things I don’t need. You won’t be able to tease me about being a hoarder anymore!” – Your mum.
The time is now
Now that we’re stuck at home, there’s never been a better opportunity to get stuck into sorting out that hall table once and for all.
If you decide to take action in the next three days, you will receive two beautiful trays from Kikki K to help you organise those papers.
Make a commitment by putting a tidying session into your calendar today and enjoy the satisfaction of a clean and serene hall table!
While it won’t be winning any writing prizes, the above copy utilises all six principles of persuasion. Below I discuss each principle and how I have applied it in my example.
People have an innate desire to fit in and belong. For this reason, they are more likely to do what others are doing, especially if they feel an affinity with them (e.g. through a shared background or interests). Social proof can also come from influencers or even society in general. In the above example, I have evoked society’s interest in decluttering as social proof, and included testimonials based on real conversations I’ve had with friends and family.
When someone we like endorses something, we listen. This is why people often seek health advice from family and friends, regardless of whether they are qualified to give this type of advice. Even an endorsement from a well-liked celebrity or influencer can be an effective persuasive technique. In this example, the testimonials I have included are by people I like.
If someone we feel is an authority on a topic recommends an action, we’re more likely to take it. Marie Kondo is a tidying expert who I respect, and who I am certain would recommend I tidy my hall table (and my whole house).
People hate missing an opportunity and so will be more likely act if an offer is limited by quantity or time. In this example, I have tried to trigger scarcity in a couple of ways. First, I’ve drawn my attention to the fact that lockdown has afforded me the time I need to tidy; the unspoken message is that once life resumes, I won’t have the time. Second, I give myself three days in which to decide to take action, or I lose out on the gift I’ve promised myself (the trays).
Once people make a commitment to something, they want to stick to it. They also want to behave in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs or values. I have used this principle heavily in this example by repeatedly reminding myself that I value a calm, organised environment and believe in decluttering as a way to achieve that. I also draw my attention to the fact that I have already committed to tidying my house, having decluttered parts of it already. Lastly, I invite myself to make a commitment by blocking out time in my calendar to tackle the hall table. If I choose to make this commitment, I’m much more likely to take action in order to remain consistent with my commitment.
When you give something of genuine value and assistance to someone, they are more likely to want to return the favour by taking the action you desire. A frequently used (and perhaps overdone) example is offering a free e-book in exchange for joining an email list. In the above example, I attempt to bribe myself with a pretty set of trays from Kikki K. Reciprocity is often paired with scarcity, and this is the case in my example; I must act in the next three days in order to get the trays.
These six principles can be used to market any product or service. However, it’s important to note that success depends on knowing your target audience well enough to understand what is likely to persuade them. My job here was easy; I know myself and what motivates me. You will need to test out some different approaches to see what works for your audience.
It’s also worth noting that even the most perfectly persuasive piece won’t guarantee immediate results. On average, people need to see a marketing message seven times before they are ready to take action. Did this writing exercise make me clear off my hall table? Not at the time of writing it. But, in the process of creating and refining this article, I have read my own marketing message at least five times. As a result, I’ve been inspired to set aside some time this weekend to tackle the job. A life of serene and effortless organisation awaits.