Friday, April 29, 2016

The Idea Generator

A very effective technique to use as an idea generator is called a swipe file. A swipe file is your collection of sales letters, ads, brochures, self-mailers, post cards, newsletters – anything that catches your eye or positively influences you. Two nifty apps for collecting content online are Evernote and Pocket. Pocket is our favorite read-it-later app, and we use Evernote as a digital filing cabinet.

You can create a swipe file geared to whatever you want to compose. One swipe file may be sales letters; another, interesting designs; yet another, good examples of advertising or informational copywriting. Then, when you’re creating your sales or promotional piece, you can look through your swipe file to get the ideas flowing. Remember, though, that a swipe file is only for ideas. You still have to write the copy or design the brochure yourself.

A swipe file costs nothing to create and may give you just the creative boost you need to break a writer’s block. And of course if you are really stuck, please give us a call.
Here are some things to include in a swipe file:

  • Creative, attention-getting ads
  • Competitors’ brochure or information sheets
  • Great promotional ideas
  • Examples of direct mail
  • Examples of promotional products
  • Graphics and cartoons

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Q&A: I’m not a very strong writer. Do you have any suggestions to help me become more effective?

One of the best ways to write good, strong copy is to organize for the task. Good copywriters always know both the audience and the action they want the audience to take. This information is the basis for strong copywriting. Thus, determine these two things for your project right at the start.

Next, list the benefits your audience will derive from using your product or service. A quick way to approach this is to jot down the features, then translate them into benefits for the customer. When writing, mention the features, but emphasize the benefits.

With the audience, desired action, and benefits identified, you are now ready to write a first draft. Paint a picture with your words that will draw the reader in or inspire the desired action. Realize that although you are writing for a specific audience, the personalities of readers vary. Include just enough technical information to satisfy readers who need to see data to make a decision. Keep copy simple and clear for readers who like to quickly get to the point. Include bullet points for readers who like to skim. Finish your writing with an attention-getting headline that will peak the reader’s interest and keep them reading.

Monday, April 25, 2016

You Can Write!

There are a million reasons why you “can’t” write. So what’s your reason? It’s not your job. You don’t like it. You haven’t done it since college. It’s hard, and besides you’re more of a numbers person. Those are excuses. They may be true, but they’re still excuses.

There’s no reason you can’t write – no matter how “unqualified” you think you are for the task. There are lots of courses you could take, books you could read, and experts you could talk to that would make you more “qualified” to write. But there’s no bigger step to take than simply getting the inspiration and the confidence you need to get started.

Writing well is definitely within your grasp. It’s not easy. But you can write. The hardest part is just getting started. So go on, write something. And then write something else. But if you just don’t have the time or the inclination, please contact me at 215-923-2679 to talk about how Creative Characters can help.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Professional Writing Fundamentals

The ability to write effective copy is an important skill to acquire if you are part of your company or organization’s marketing team. In this issue, we will discuss the characteristics of effective copy and reveal some techniques to help you improve your skills. Effective marketing copy has an accepted form which is in three parts: a headline or attention-grabbing first sentence, the development of the pitch, and a call to action. Whether you are writing a sales letter, ad copy, a brochure, or a direct mail marketing piece, the same three parts will always be present.

The Headline

Realize that you have less than ten seconds to grab the readers’ attention and convince them that it is worth their time to continue reading. Therefore, headlines and first sentences have a disproportionate effect on the success of the copywriting. Make your headlines provocative to make sure you engage the reader.


Develop the Message

Before you begin writing the body copy, determine the primary message or selling points. If you use the primary message as part of your headline, then dedicate a few lines to expand that point. Follow it with the selling points in order of importance using short sentences. Aim to keep all sentences to 12 words or less. Use words that are simple and easy to understand. Your readers will not invest in dissecting or studying your copy; instead, they’ll do something else more engaging. Make it easy for the reader to understand and follow your copy.

The Call to Action

Always include a call to action, and consider creating urgency to act. A call to action might tell your audience what will happen if they buy your product or service, or it could tell them what will happen if they don’t buy your product. If you use the latter version, select a problem your audience won’t be able to solve without your product. Other closings could be offering a guarantee or free bonus. If there is a time limit for your offer or bonus, you have created an urgency to act. You can also modify product solutions by adding how long the solution will take. The statement “Consolidate Your Overdue Bills” is less powerful than “Consolidate Your Overdue Bills In Just Six Weeks.”

Before you can begin writing, you must think through the who, what, and why so you know how to write the copy. The content will always consist of three parts: Who, What, and Why.

  • Who means the audience that is targeted by the message. You may think that anyone (or everyone) is the potential audience for your product or service, but marketing to an audience that broad is not feasible. In fact, most businesses derive about 80% of their sales from about 20% of their customers. Find this group in your own business and see what characteristics they have in common. Or, study your competitors, and see whom they are targeting.

    If you can’t decide who your customers are, decide who they are not. It may be easier to decide who you do not want to serve than who you do. Remember that a target audience is more than a statement of demographics. Visualize a real person to represent the target audience, and be as specific as you can. To describe a target audience as “working mothers ages 18-45” is a more effective planning tool than the more general “women ages 18-45”. If you can precisely define your target audience, you will be able to write advertising copy that appeals directly to that audience.
     
  • What means the specifics of the product or service being sold. Begin by spotlighting the features and benefits of the product or service you are selling. For each feature, develop an accompanying benefit – this will be used later to develop the appeal to your audience. For example, if your product is made of durable material (feature), the benefit is that the product will last longer, need to be replaced less frequently, and retain its attractive appearance longer.

    Benefit statements reflect how the product or service affects the customer’s life. Usually the benefits will make the customer’s life or task easier, faster, or more desirable. Remember that cost and quality are major considerations when describing product benefits. Price + quality = value, a very persuasive benefit that most buyers are seeking.
     
  • Why means the reasons for buying this particular product or service instead of others. Most products or services are not unique in the marketplace. To be effective, the copywriting must differentiate between your product or service and the other products or services the customer could choose from. Without a discernible and well-stated difference, the only way customers will have to differentiate is on price.

    A discerning customer will require you to support your benefit claims by providing some kind of evidence. This could be scientific facts, user testimonials, or the endorsement of a trustworthy or qualified individual. Ask your current customers for testimonials. A happy customer is a powerful persuader – nothing you could write will be as genuinely sincere as the praise of a satisfied customer.


The Role of Style

Business writers need to be familiar with the best-known guide to American English writing, The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Often referred to as Strunk and White, the book presented guidelines for “cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity.” The Elements of Style remains the most popular and often-required guide to proper use of American English. With only 105 pages, it’s easy to find guiding information quickly. The book contains a surprisingly small number of rules and principles, all of which are easy to understand. The charm of the book comes from its unique tone and the wittiness of the explanations and examples that accompany each rule and principle. We heartily recommend it to all business writers.

We’re Here To Help

If you’d like a “second eye” on your finished copy, we would be happy to proofread, edit, or give our opinion on how well you have accomplished your objective. Call Brigid at 215-923-2679 for an appointment or e-mail your Word document to brigid@creativecharacters.com and we’ll get started working on it!