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Thursday, March 6, 2008

How to Be Lively,Appealing and Truthful in Sales Writing

by Marcia Yudkin

A lot of my clients shrink from using hype in their
marketing messages. Hype is a style of overexcited,
exaggerated writing that can fire up the eager reader, but
at the cost of trust or credibility in the eyes of someone
who is temperamentally or professionally skeptical.

For instance, here is a hype-y headline of the sort found
all around the Internet: "If You Can Write Your Name, You
Can Write and Publish a Book in 7 Days - Guaranteed!"
Having been a writing teacher, I know that the only way
such a claim could be valid would be to play games with the
accepted meanings of the words "write" or "book." People
who can write their name cannot necessarily write a
coherent sentence or paragraph much less have enough
ideas in their head to fill a book of average length.
Because of its implausibility, such a headline is all the
more appealing to those who feel impatient for results.

Many copywriting experts hold that if a headline or
marketing pitch sells and is not downright illegal for some
reason, it's the right way to write. However, I support my
clients' instinctive recoil from hype and help them with
more truthful yet still lively and appealing persuasive
techniques. You can create vivid, powerfully persuasive
copy without crossing the line into hype by learning these

No-hype Technique #1: Create rapport with the reader.

Think your way into the mind of your ideal customer and
express what they're thinking and feeling. Then build on
that. This wins over readers by connecting with where they
are and showing them the next logical step. For example:

Wishing that your book in progress could just finish itself
already? Writing a book can be an exercise in
procrastination, frustration and roadblocks. But when you
use the "Two-a-Day" Method, your book gets completed
easily, steadily and finally.

No-hype Technique #2: Use emotional words and phrases.

Dry, matter-of-fact language isn't as persuasive as wording
that acknowledges and expresses what's at stake in the
customer's situation and the feelings involved.

BEFORE: Our database offers detailed listings of more than
$3.7 billion in available scholarship funding.
AFTER: Access to our members-only database of more than
$3.7 billion in free, no-strings-attached scholarship money
means you can attend the college of your dreams without
enslaving yourself to future loan payments.

No-hype Technique #3: Add colorful details.

For every general concept you want to mention, substitute
or add specific, concrete details. Abstractions and
generalities never hit home as well as statements
containing numbers, names, places, stories and other
specifics. Also, general statements have little impact
because they sound like things we've all heard a zillion
times. Copywriters call the technique of adding detail
"dimensionalizing" because it turns a square little
statement into a 3-D patterned shape that the reader has
never quite encountered before.

In these two examples from Paul Lemberg's home page, the
section in parentheses dimensionalizes the claim just
before it:

* How to boost sales quickly; (50-100% year-over-year sales
increase is not unusual among my clients.)
* Escalate short-term profits and build long-term equity;
(One client recently sold their company for three times
what they had been led to expect by the so-called expert
investment bankers...)

No-hype Technique #4: Pair problems with solutions.

Listing problem after problem that a product solves or
prevents can come across as unbelievable and even
depressing. The opposite strategy, listing benefit after
benefit from the product, can seem too good to be true.
When you link the problem with the solution and at least
hint at a reason for the positive result, customers feel
they're getting something solid and valuable when they buy.

To illustrate this, here are three bullet points from Susan
C. Daffron's description of her book "Happy Hound: Develop
a Great Relationship With Your Adopted Dog or Puppy":

* The two main reasons dogs generally jump on people and
four ways to convince the dog you really don't need that
type of greeting
* Six safety instructions you must teach your children not
to do to avoid dog bites and the four things they should
always do if they encounter a dog they don't know
* Three keys for surviving "canine adolescence." As with
human children, adolescence is a time when dogs test limits
and try your patience!

(By the way, the numbers in those bullets help
dimensionalize the book's content, exemplifying tip #3.)

No-hype Technique #5: Paint vivid scenarios.

Feed the reader's imagination with what can realistically happen after they buy your product or service. You're not promising this will happen, but by putting the reader into
the future, he or she pictures it happening and feels motivated to have the result.

Here, for instance, is how I fed the reader's imagination
in promotional copy for my report, "Marcia's Makeovers: 24
Press Releases Transformed from So-So to Sizzling":

I challenge you to cite a greater return on investment than
that produced by a world-class media release that lands you
on page 1 of a major newspaper, in a two-page spread in
your top industry magazine or in the fluffy final segment
of a network newscast. Just one major score like this, and
you can milk the credibility payoff for your business
practically forever. Inspire a feature story that gets
picked up by the Associated Press, and enjoy people all
over the world clamoring to get their hands on what you

No-hype Technique #6: Incite curiosity.

Reread the bullet points for tip #4, and if you have any interest at all in
dog behavior, you'll find you really, really want to know
the techniques that are described there in an incomplete
yet tempting fashion. Reference to the "Two-a-Day" Method
has the same kind of effect, the reader wants to know "two
of what?" Show a little while holding something back.

Like the other five techniques described here, enticing the
reader is a truthful, effective, no-hype way to make the
reader want to step forward and buy.

Veteran copywriter and marketing consultant Marcia Yudkin
is the author of Persuading on Paper, 6 Steps to Free
Publicity and nine other books. She runs a one-on-one
mentoring program that trains copywriters and marketing
consultants in 10 weeks, providing neophytes with no-hype
marketing writing skills and business savvy. For more
information, go to

1 comment:

NaijaEcash said...

I got here from Nairaland. Wanted to check out the blog of a fellow Naija