B-to-B Insights: Powerful Prose
Don’t be afraid to provide devices that help the reader grab important copy points. A hard truth of direct marketing that just irritates CMOs of big brands is that neatness rejects engagement. If all copy is justified and all design lines up, like rows of soldiers, nothing is grabbing the eye. While your creative might win an ECHO, you have made it really difficult for the reader to get engaged. Once again, readers don’t immediately read start to finish. They scan, they jump around and they pick up bits of information you’ve presented to help convince them they should invest more time in your message. So when everything is tidy and neat, you’re making them do more work than they want. Tasteful call outs, interrupters, bold type and underlines can all be used in a way that support your brand and make it easy for the reader to understand your message.
Use words that sell—avoid words that scare.
Words that sell: new, free, now, love, sex, romance, hope, desire, dream, dare, compare, see, smell, touch, passion, rich, money, fun, fancy, fantasy, glimmer, play, children, vacation.
Words that scare: cost, pay, contract, sign, try, worry, loss, lose, hurt, buy, death, bad, sell, price, decision, hard, difficult, obligation, liability, fail, complex.
One of my favorite resource books for copy is “Words That Sell” by Richard Bayan.
Don’t over-edit. Let me let you in on a little-known secret: Direct marketing, particularly letter copy, does not survive editing well. People try to smooth it—ragged copy usually works better. People try to get it to make more sense—rationality is often boring, and boring reduces response. In many cases, the writer had an original idea about how to manipulate the recipient to action. By the time the concept gets through editing, the big, exciting, bright-red idea becomes muted to dull gray. Leave it alone. Tell your writer her career is on the line with every word she writes, and then watch response rates go up.