Remember the a la Mode!
So I'm sitting with my wife and another couple at The Lark Creek Inn restaurant in Larkspur, Calif. We've just finished enjoying some great appetizers and hearty main courses. Our waiter approaches the table, surveys the empty plates, and instead of handing us dessert menus, says, "I guess you don't want any dessert."
What does he expect me to say? "No, my guests and I are all pigs, so we're going to cram down some pie and ice cream"? The waiter just didn't make it very easy for us to order. He shut us down.
Dissolve: We're down the block and across the street at Fabrizio's and have finished our entrees. Fabrizio Martinelli himself comes over to our table with a tray of fabulous-looking desserts.
Before we can say a word, he launches into an enthusiastic description of every item. He even points out that the sorbet in the kitchen doesn't contain a single gram of fat. In the end, I chose the cheesecake because Fabrizio is such a nice guy.
So, have I given up copywriting and become a food critic?
Not at all. I just can't help noticing good and bad selling when it's staring me in the face. And it's good for marketers to stay sensitive to these issues. You see, we're so busy thinking about affiliate programs, clickthrough rates and this week's business model that it's easy to forget some simple facts:
* We have to be super salespeople.
* We have to be dynamite motivators.
* Our ultimate job is to SELL PRODUCT!
As I often say, this should be obvious but it apparently isn't. Let me prove the point by comparing two e-mail messages I received quite a while ago. The writing couldn't be more different.
We will start with a message from a CEO about the launch of a new e-newsletter. (I have changed the name of the company.):
"Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Reporter, an online newsletter for the ABC Software community. The purpose of The Reporter is to keep our partners, customers and other interested parties up to date on events at the company. I am pleased to report that the first quarter of the year was a period of tremendous progress for ABC Software. We reached significant technology milestones which have enabled us to better serve our customers. These milestones include . . . "
You get the picture. What we have here is an annual report masquerading as an e-mail. In the e-mail environment, this is DEATH. You simply can't be boring, pompous or stuffy and still be successful.
Apple Computer understands this very well. In fact, the copywriters who have worked for Apple have been first-rate from day one. Listen to this e-mail from my file of "winners" that they sent me years ago:
"Dear Ivan Levison,
We really have to talk more often.
So much has been happening at Apple lately, it's hard to keep up. Let's see, we introduced the Power Macintosh G3 computer and toasted the Pentium II. Opened the online Apple Store. Brought you the PowerBook G3, the fastest notebook computer on the planet. Announced iMac, the most dramatically new Macintosh since, well, the original. Started shipping Mac OS 8.5 the must-have upgrade to the Macintosh operating system.
And, to make it as easy as possible for you to get the latest news and information about Apple and its products, we've created Apple eNews. It's an electronic newsletter we can send directly to your e-mail address every other week. We invite you to sign up today by visiting: http://www.apple.com/esignup"
See what I mean? The copy is fun, lively, light and contemporary. It sparkles.
The take-away message this month?
Don't forget that if you want to make money online, you must ultimately be a sales-person who engages prospects and uses your powers of persuasion to turn them into paying customers.
Important food for thought.
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 email@example.com.