I glanced at the clock. The hands pointed to midnight. Is it really that late? I rubbed my eyes. And then I looked at the book I held in my hand. Another five chapters to go. Did I dare try to finish it?
How many of you have trouble putting down an exciting novel? Whatever your genre—mine is mystery and romantic suspense—we are drawn into the tale, anticipating the ending. I’ve been reading a series of novels that I shake my head at when I read some of the far-fetched details. But the storyline is enticing. I have to know what happens next. How the villains get caught. And what happens to the protagonist – in this case seven women out to fight injustice one case at a time.
What does this have to do with you and your business? A lot. When you write that ad, your entry on your blog, your newsletter, or even the headline and message on a postcard, you need to use the very same skills that the writer uses to drag you into the midst of the world they have created.
You have to create excitement. Appeal to the emotions. Make them want to read further. And even more important, you must motivate them to take action. You have to seduce your customers one word at a time.
If you want to market effectively, you must learn to write in a way that your reader can’t resist. I’m not suggesting that these skills will manipulate your customers. It’s simply a matter of knowing how to communicate in a way that your customers use their own inner needs to buy into what you’re telling them.
Many of you have the mistaken notion that you weren’t “born to write.” Most of us weren’t. There are good writers and not-so-good writers. But any not-so-good writer (just like the not-so good gift basket designer) can become a good one, or even a great one by acquiring the needed techniques and skills.
We’ve all heard that a picture of a gorgeous gift basket or even a cute clipart is necessary to sell in this business. That’s only partly true. The clip art or photo gets their attention but a well crafted headline can do it as well.
For example, I’ve just returned from the grocery store. An ad on the grocery cart had the picture of a local insurance salesperson, his company logo and contact information and the headline, “I can save you 40% on your car insurance.” I don’t even remember the name of the salesman and only glanced at the picture, but that headline caught my attention. If I were in the market for car insurance, I would have definitely read further.
It has been proven that certain words and ways of putting those words together push buttons unconsciously in people and they respond internally without being aware of it. This is why a good writer keeps you turning the pages. It is also how you can make people buy your gift baskets with words alone.
Imagine the possibilities if you know the secrets.
There’s no way I can teach you all the techniques in this short article. But I can give you the basics that will help get you started on your way to selling with words.
The first technique is one we’ve heard many times. Translate your message into benefits that appeal to the emotions. A clever gimmick isn’t enough. Remember a few years ago, the suggestion was going around to send a dollar with your sales letter to get people to read it. I received one of those letters and it told me all about why the sender wanted my business, all the things he had done, and listed reasons why I should buy from him. It’s true that the dollar got my attention and was added to my wallet. But the gimmick didn’t work simply because he forgot one basic fact. He forgot me. The letter was all about him.
Let’s face it. People don’t care about you. Regardless of how benevolent they may be, people are selfish. They care about themselves. You must appeal to that interest when you try to sell anything to them.
Consider yourself. You’re reading this article because you’re interested in how to make your marketing materials more effective. If you’re not interested in that, you’ll quit reading and turn the page. But if I were telling you how to be an expert fisherman, most of you would have stopped reading long ago—simply because you really don’t care.
My years in business, awards won, etc. may help convince the potential customer of my expertise and create trust. This is an important part of a longer sales presentation letter or website page but there isn’t room on a postcard or in an ad to talk about me. If I want to sell to them, I have to forget my ego and concentrate on theirs.
A great copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, wrote:
“A copywriter’s first qualifications are imagination and enthusiasm.
You are literally the script writer for your prospect’s dreams. You are the chronicler of his future. Your job is to show him in minute detail all the tomorrows that your product makes possible for him.”
Your potential customer has a dream or a need for what your product can do for him. It’s up to you to find that need and show him how it will fulfill his dream. If you wander from that one objective, his response is going to be:
And he’ll toss your postcard in the trash or turn to the next page of the publication that your ad is in. That photo of a beautiful gift basket may get him to read your postcard or ad, but your words are what will sell him – or not. When you understand what your readers care about, you are in power. You can then create a piece of copywriting that will make it hard for them to put it aside without acting.
Your writing has to be interesting. It’s a known truth that people buy from people they like. How do you make them like you? Become intimate with them by sharing a bit of yourself. Let your personality shine through. Creating your own style of writing marketing materials is just as important as creating your own design style. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re not naturally a comic, don’t try to be one. They’ll instantly know you’re being phony.
Forget trying to please your high school English teacher. Writing marketing materials is very different than writing that term paper. I was taught long ago to use fiction techniques when writing any type of non-fiction. And that includes marketing materials.
The number one fiction technique is “Show, don’t tell.”
Use descriptive language. Paint a picture with your words. Tell a story. Use dialogue. Don’t always begin at the beginning. Don’t hesitate to write in phrases. Use contractions. It’s okay to begin a sentence with “and” or “because” or all those other words that you were taught could never be the first word in a well-crafted sentence.
If you go back to the beginning of this article, you’ll notice that I didn’t start it with “I’m going to share some ways of writing marketing materials that sell.” Hopefully, I drew you into the article with the short story of how another writer (and I didn’t tell you who) kept me entranced past midnight. In the process, I also shared a bit of myself and my personality. Perhaps I made you ask yourself, “Why is she telling me this?” I’ve created a mini-mystery with that opening paragraph.
If you aren’t used to writing, when you sit down to start, you probably turn on that old internal editor that was instilled in your brain in English class. Mr .Self Editor whispers in your ear, “Did you spell that word right?” “That’s not a complete sentence.” “You aren’t making sense.”
You have to fire that guy or at least send him out of the room when you are writing.
First, determine the intent of the project. Are you writing an ad to sell holiday gift baskets? Is it a webpage to entice people to look at what you have to offer? Or perhaps it’s a marketing letter.
Whatever the project is, think about why your customer would care about what you have to say. Sometimes a working title or headline helps keep you focused. Then sit down and write as the words come to you. Don’t worry about what you are saying. Let your subconscious do the work.
At some point, the right words will come to you and you can let Mr. Self Editor back into the room when you’re done. That’s the time for rewriting, picking out what’s important, what works and what doesn’t. But even then, don’t let Mr. Self Editor convince you to turn a convincing sales piece into a well-crafted English composition.
You can’t wait for inspiration before beginning. You’d never get a word on paper. Professional writers don’t have the time to wait. They have learned that the number one secret to writing is to sit down and write. When I begin to write, I usually have a germ of an idea but I really don’t know where that idea is going until I finish. Once I start writing, my subconscious (which is really nothing more than past experiences and things I’ve learned by reading) takes over.
One of my favorite people was science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. I heard him talk many times about how he writes before he died. He began by writing words on paper. One word triggers another word and so on until an idea clicks. It may sound difficult. But try it. You’ll be surprised at how much your subconscious is hiding from you. It’s not voodoo or even magic. It’s nothing more than reaching back into your innermost being and drawing on your life experiences.
Ann Lamont, in her book “Bird By Bird”, says much the same thing: Take it one bird– or one word– at a time.
Like any skill, writing good sales copy takes practice. But once you know some basic techniques, a “not-so-good copy writer” can become a good one.
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