Avoid Writing Manufacturer's Copy
In advertising jargon, "manufacturer's copy" refers to the kind of flat-footed copy that clients write for themselves. You know the sort of copy I mean -- the kind that's always filled with self-congratulatory talk of "passion," "mission" and "commitment."
Let me give you an example. Here's the start of a letter written by the CEO and Chairman of U.S. Trust. (It appeared in Barron's and was aimed at affluent prospects for the company's high-end financial services.)
"At U.S. Trust, we understand that wealth management is as much an art as it is a science.
On the one hand, we have a deep pool of talented experts who are among the nation's top financial planners, portfolio managers, securities analysts, economists, attorneys and accountants and who are leaders in their respective wealth management disciplines. U.S. Trust also offers an impressive breadth of capabilities including . . . "
Still awake? Good. Let's check out the start of this letter again. Notice how right from the get-go the focus is not on the prospect's needs and pain-points, but on U.S. Trust: "At U.S. Trust, we understand . . ." and "On the one hand, we have a deep pool of talented experts ..."
This narcissistic self-focus is the hallmark of manufacturer's copy, and I urge you to avoid it in the copy that you write or approve.
So, How Should You Start a Letter?
Well, one great way to get rolling is to quickly engage prospects and demonstrate that you identify with the tough challenges they face.
Let me illustrate this by showing you the lead to a letter that I wrote, literally, last week for a fast-growing title insurance company in Pennsylvania. Matt Einheber, the president of the company, wanted to let mortgage brokers in his area know that his firm could solve all their title insurance problems.
Here's how I rolled into the copy:
"When it comes to working with title companies, believe me, I know what you're up against.
You see, just like you, I was a mortgage broker.
This means that I know what it's like to want to close a deal fast and have to wait for someone at the title company to wake up and get moving. Or how frustrating it is to waste time chasing after people in different departments.
Yes. I've been there myself. Which is why I think we should talk soon about how my company can solve some of the toughest challenges you face every day.
Hi. I'm Matt Einheber, the Founder and President of Vista Abstract, a full-service title agency underwritten by rock-solid Commonwealth Land America. Vista Abstract was created for a single purpose -- to provide you with a level of service that you probably have never experienced before."
Compare the start of these two letters and I hope you'll agree that my letter is a lot more energetic and involving. Yes, my letter does focus on Matt and his company, but it does so in the service of forging a bond with the reader and promising a solution to real problems.
My advice? Next time you need to do some writing that promotes your company's products or services, go light on the "manufacturer's copy" and, instead, substitute benefit-oriented copy that solves the prospect's problems. Give it a shot and watch sales and profits take off!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel, Microsoft and many others. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mail letters and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for software marketers, visit his Web site at http://www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.