Tips for writing effective marketing publications

People are overwhelmed with advertising and marketing messages and it can be hard to make a connection with potential customers.

When you want to develop your business, how do you get your message across? The short answer: Send your message to the people whom it is likely to interest, strive to develop a personal connection, and get to the point quickly, clearly, and compellingly.

Effective marketing writing isn't flashy. It communicates—and it elicits a response. Use these tips to write effective marketing materials, and then learn more about how you can target your message delivery for the best results.

How to write effectively

Successful writers take a variety of approaches. The following steps outline an approach that you can adapt to suit you:

  1. Prepare to write

  2. Draft your copy

  3. Edit the draft

  4. Polish your message

Tip   Why not copy and paste? For efficiency, most businesses frequently reuse copy, such as descriptions of the company, products, or key personnel. This boilerplate text is usually general and supplemental. If you start with it, customers probably won't read past it. Boilerplate text is often efficient but not always effective. Use it wisely.

Prepare to write

Creating a clear plan is the foundation for clear writing. The better you prepare, the easier the task of writing becomes.

  1. Research    Learn as much as you can about your customers, your market, and your competition. You can lean on this knowledge to build credibility with potential customers. Resources can include:

    • Industry data

    • Performance statistics

    • Customer metrics

    • Sales data

    • Testimonials and endorsements of your products and services

  2. Listen    Listening to your customers will help you develop empathy. When you remember and use their language, you can convey that you understand their concerns. To learn the terms that your customers use, try the following:

    • Visit online newsgroups and discussion groups

    • Listen in on sales and support calls

    • Meet with key customers

  3. Identify a call to action    What do you want customers to do when they are finished reading?

    • Click a link?

    • Make a phone call?

    • Think more highly of your business?

      Figure out what your customers need before they can act. And test your response system so you can follow through effectively when they do act.

  4. Define your goals    What will success look like? Knowing what and how much you want to achieve helps you to stay focused when you develop your content.

    • Reaching new prospects?

    • Creating new or returning customers?

    • Meeting sales goals?

  5. Take stock    Work within your budget and other limitations and determine your resources. It's better to work with what you have than to get halfway through your project and realize you can't possibly meet your goal within your resource constraints.

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Draft your copy

Know the difference between writing and editing. When you are writing, editing hinders you. Save the honing for later.

  1. Write anything at all    Don't expect to get it right at first. Turn off the inner critic as you write about:

    • Your overall message

    • Your key points

    • What you want to tell your readers

    • What you want them to do

    • How your product or service will benefit them

      Keep writing until you think you have covered all the points that you need to make. Make it as long as you need. You will return to it later to organize, edit, and hone it.

  2. Anticipate skepticism and objections    Answer the biggest objection first: Why should I bother reading this? Give details, reassure, persuade—whatever is most appropriate for your audience. If you hook them, they'll want answers to their questions:

    • What is it?

    • What will it do for me?

    • Who else has used it and what did they get out of it? (Here is a place to incorporate testimonials and endorsements.)

    • How much will it cost?

    • When and where can I get it?

  3. Focus on benefits    Instead of focusing on the features of the product or what you do, tell your customers about what they will get out of it. When you do write about a product feature, tell customers what it will do for them and how it will make their lives better. Create a desire.

  4. Use testimonials    Unless you are writing to leaders and executives, who are less likely to be impressed by others' opinions, let testimonials describe the problem that your business solves. Use testimonials to develop a personal connection with your audience.

  5. Make it authentic    Suggestions for how to do this include:

    • Write the way you talk.

    • Talk directly to the reader ("you").

    • Write as though you're addressing someone you know. The more you identify a specific segment of your audience, the easier this is to do.

    • Avoid hype and overstatement. If you need to convey excitement, can you do it without saying that it's "exciting!"?

    • Don't risk disappointing your readers by misleading them or promising things that you can't deliver.

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Edit the draft

It is time to edit. When you edit, work from general to specific—and from key messages to details. Focus on organization first, language later.

  1. Group it    Look at your content and group related content together. Be flexible. Try different arrangements. Remove redundancies.

  2. Grab them    Start with an intriguing anecdote, a provocative question, or an unusual perspective. Inspire customers to continue reading. You probably have fewer than 10 seconds to engage them.

  3. Concentrate on a single message    If readers give your message only a few seconds, will they absorb it? Cut content that doesn't serve your message or goals.

  4. Help your readers scan    Organize your message in containers (a heading and a paragraph or two, maybe with an associated graphic and caption). Convey your important points in the elements that customers read first (and often last):

    • Headings    They're the most important part of your content because readers are likely to skim only them when deciding to read more or move on to something else. Take special care in crafting them.

    • Captions    Use them to make a point—not just to describe the image. After headings, readers are most likely to skim captions.

    • Subheadings and lists    These devices help readers to skim the publication quickly and give them additional entry points into it.

  5. Hone your message    Use short sentences (10 to 20 words) and paragraphs (2 or 3 sentences) to boil down your message you its essence. This is also a good time to check for grammar and edit out anything unnecessary: modifiers, complex clauses, awkward phrases. Use an active voice, and avoid business jargon, obscure words, stale phrases, and any abstract or confusing ideas. Make it concrete and straightforward.

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Polish your message

As you fine-tune your publication, make sure that you also step back regularly to make sure it still fits into your overall marketing plan. This is a good time to get feedback from others. Their fresh perspectives to help you find what you may have overlooked.

  1. Keep it simple    The fewer words you use, the more likely your audience will read them. Use a clean design. A clutter of fonts, colors, and pictures can confuse a clear, straightforward message. Just as you have worked hard to achieve a simple message, strive for a simple design that supports your goals.

  2. Focus on the medium    What and how much you write differs depending on whether you are writing content for a postcard, a brochure, a newsletter, an email message, or a website.

  3. Double-check that you cover what is important    People want shortcuts, and the most convenient shortcut is often the wastebasket. Make sure customers can quickly figure out what your publication is about, who it is from, what they need to do next, when they need to do it, and how they can contact you.

  4. Make sure someone else checks for errors    Consider asking several people to look over the publication. You need impartial help of two kinds. First, ask someone who is similar to your target audience to review your work and tell you whether the message is coming across clearly. Are they hooked? Does it leave them with unanswered questions? Second, ask someone to proofread for you. Misspellings, typos, and poor grammar reflect poorly on your business.

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How to get a response

To reach potential customers and get responses, deliver a personal message. On a large scale, this means organizing prospective customers into distinct categories that you can address individually. Your customer database and mailing lists can help you filter for common characteristics that you can use as the focus of your marketing efforts.

The more you know your audience, the more confident you'll be that they're ready to read what you want to tell them and that you understand their concerns.

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Applies To: Publisher 2010, Publisher 2013, Publisher 2007



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