B-to-B Insights: Follow the Formula to the 'C'
Lastly, a copywriting formula I use—one of my own invention and never before published—is the "Secret of the 4 C's." It says that every good piece of copy is: clear, concise, compelling and credible. Let's take a look at each element of the 4 C's formula in a bit more detail.
What you write must be clear. Not just to you or the client or the marketing director or the product manager. But to the prospects you hope to sell the product to.
Ralph Waldo Emerson defines clarity this way: "It is not enough to write so that you can be understood. You must write so that you cannot be misunderstood."
The typical advice given in writing classes about clarity is to use small words, short sentences and short paragraphs, and this is sensible advice. Breaking up long documents into sensibly organized sections, each with its own heading, also helps.
But clear writing stems primarily from clear thinking, and the converse also is true. If you don't really understand what you are talking about, your writing will be weak, rambling and obtuse. On the other hand, when you understand your subject matter, know your audience, and have a useful and important idea you want to convey, the clarity of your writing inevitably reflects your well-thought-out idea.
Now, you may be thinking that "concise" might apply to other types of writing but not to direct marketing, because direct response favors long copy.
But concise and brief are not synonyms. "Brief" means "short." If you want to be brief, you simply cut words until you reduce the composition to the word count desired.
"Concise" means telling the complete story in the fewest possible words. Direct response copy is long because, to make a sale or generate a qualified lead, we often have to convey a lot of information. But in good direct response copy, we convey that information in the fewest possible words—no rambling, no redundancy, no needless repetition, no using three words when one will do.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.