… Your products, services, programs — and yourself
In all economic times, the communicators who thrive — and those who help their organizations thrive — are the ones who know how to write copy that sells: not just products and services, but programs, plans and positions, as well.
Let’s face it: In this environment, organizations can’t afford to communicate just to get the word out. They need communicators who know how to move the needle on the bottom line.
Sadly, most communicators were taught to report and inform, not to write copy that drives readers to action. In fact, many of the standard practices in business communication and PR writing today actually do more to put readers off than to persuade them.
But here are three ways to write copy that moves readers to act:
1. Put the reader first.
The secret to writing to persuade is to position your messages in your audience’s best interests. (Most communicators position their messages in their organization’s best interests.)
So write about the reader and her needs instead of about your organization and its stuff. One simple trick: Change the structure of your messages from “We offer this” to “You’ll receive that.”
To focus your copy on your readers’ interests, put the reader first. Start your sentence — and your story, for that matter — with the word “you.”
|Instead of leading with your organization and its stuff …||… lead with “you” — the reader and her needs.|
|XYZ Corp. announces a new disability insurance program.||You’ll get back to work faster, thanks to ITT Hartford’s new Ability Assurance.|
2. Write in verbs, not nouns.
People don’t buy products, services and ideas. They buy what those products, services and ideas will do for them.
So instead of writing about your organization’s stuff, write about the benefits that stuff will deliver to readers.
That takes verbs.
Benefits are verbs (“get back to work faster”), not nouns (“ability assurance”). So when you’re writing about things, you’re not writing about benefits.
The headline writer for a conference ad almost got it right. The deck — that essential one-sentence summary under the headline — is a benefit. How do we know? It starts with a benefits-focused verb:
Revitalize your sexuality
and justify your chocolate obsession
Sounds good to me. But the headline — “Women’s Health Conference” — is a yawner. So is a tertiary head naming the speakers. That’s because the conference and speakers are features, not benefits. They’re nouns, not verbs.
Want to sell your products, services and conferences? Write in benefits, not features.
And that takes verbs, not nouns.
3. Use “that means you will …”
Having trouble finding those reader benefits?
Try prompting your subject matter expert with the line “that means they will …” The end of that sentence is likely to be a benefit.
Your subject matter expert says, “We can handle our client’s internal audit functions.”
You say, “That means our clients will …?”
Your subject matter expert says: “That means our clients will free up their own employees for bottom-line projects and better control the costs of producing internal audits.”
“That means you will …” also makes a great way to present your benefits:
“XYZ Company can manage your internal audit function. That means your management team will no longer have to worry about day-to-day responsibilities like recruiting, training, planning, execution, reporting or methodology. And that means you can focus management talent, capital funds, overhead and other resources on your core business. …”
Try it. “That means you will …” can help you discover — and deliver — reader benefits.