Want to Add Impact? Try a "Q & A"!
If you're looking for an effective way to communicate complex information in a brochure or flyer, consider including a "Question & Answer" section.
You've seen them before. You start with a question (about your product or service) set in bold type, followed by a short answer set in plain text. Then you go on to the next set, and so on.
Copy research proves that people pay attention to Q & A's and read them with great interest.
When does it make sense to use the Q & A format? I think it's best used to deal with prospects' doubts and skepticism. For example, if you're selling software, you might confront readers' concerns that your product may not meet their unique requirements or that it's difficult to use. A Q & A is the perfect place to set readers' minds at ease by confronting their fears head on and dispelling them.
Here are some proven tips that can help add some sparkle to your next brochure or flyer:
1. Give your Q & A section a title.
Never just say, "Questions & Answers" and let it go at that. Always try to warm things up with a little personality, and add a "finished" quality. Here are some examples of good headline treatments for a Q & A:
"Five commonly asked questions about contact management software."
"Do you know the answers to these important database questions?"
"How to select tax preparation software -- Straight answers to tough questions."
"Do you have questions? We've got answers!"
2. Use interesting typography.
You don't have to keep repeating the whole words "question" and "answer" every time. It can look extremely ugly.
You can simply set the letters, "Q" and "A" in an attractive, bold serif typeface for some visual appeal. (Caslon, Palatino, Calligraphy and Garamond work well).
3. Use a conversational tone.
A lot of the Q & A's that I see are much too uptight and formal. A typical question might read, "Who can benefit from presentation software?"
This is cold. Distant. Impersonal.
Wouldn't it be better to risk sounding like a flesh and blood human being and ask a real question: "So far I've been doing just fine using a flip chart. Can your software really save me time and increase the impact of my presentations?"
4. Use Q & A's to overcome obstacles to the sale.
A Q & A assumes that your readers have some doubts and uncertainties that have to be dealt with.
As mentioned, the copywriting trick is to pick up on their concerns or skepticism, then overcome their doubts with facts and persuasive arguments. In other words, don't waste space restating benefits that are explained elsewhere in the brochure or flyer. Use the Q & A to articulate consumers' concerns and deal with them forthrightly.
5. Don't have too many Q & A's.
I think about five is a good number to deal with. If you add too many more it can start to get boring.
6. Include the guarantee.
If you offer a solid guarantee, do ask a question about it.
Q. What happens if I order your software and find out that it doesn't meet my needs?
A. No problem. Just return it within 30 days and we'll promptly refund your money, no questions asked. There's no risk or obligation of any kind.
7. Drop the Q & A in a fine-ruled box.
It's nice to set your questions and answers apart from the rest of your brochure or flyer. That's why I suggest you run a one point rule around it. The box adds visual interest and focuses readers' attention on what you've got to say.
Where should the Q & A go? I think it works well towards the end of your piece -- where it can have a summing-up function.
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.