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Getting it right – business opinion

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Phil Turtle of Turtle Consulting looks at the science of successful brochure and website writing

How often have you read a potential supplier’s sales brochure or website and thought “Oh that was interesting (not)” or it’s made you yawn because its so dry and boring – or all about their factory and not about your problems – and then consigned it to the large round file (waste bin) on the floor?

Is this a familiar scenario? Yes, because most copywriters compose their brochures from their company’s point of view not from their prospect’s perspective.


The A4 sales person

Reflect for a moment on the purpose of a sales brochure or website. It is there to perform a selling function. And in most cases it must do this when there is no sales person accompanying it.

We can assume if your target or prospect has taken the trouble to leaf through your brochure or browse through your website, you have – for a brief few minutes or seconds – grabbed his/her attention. And if the brochure is merely scanned and then dropped into the bin or a filing tray, or the website is clicked away from, you have just lost a sales opportunity.

Now let’s look at a taking a structured approach. If you have ever had the benefit of any formal sales training, you will already know the magic formula. This same prescription can be applied just as effectively to copywriting.

• Identify with your prospect
• Answer his/her questions
• Knock down any objections
• Close the sale

So let’s take a look at how we apply those four basic steps of selling to writing compelling sales copy.

Identify with your prospect
First of all, realise that your reader thinks of him/herself as a single unique person, not as part of the frequently and in my opinion insultingly referenced animal “the customer”. So don’t refer to “the customer” in your writing – talk to him/her in the first person singular. And “talk”. Use the same emotional language you would person to person.

Don’t start with a history of your company. Paint a picture that makes your reader think: “Hey this is about me – they’re talking my language, they understand my problems”.  By doing so you immediately engender the opinion that you understand his/her needs, problems etc.

Answer their questions
If you’ve done your homework before starting to write, you will have developed a sketch of your target person. So you can readily work out what your readers’ problems are (that your service or product can solve) and exactly what s/he needs to know about how your product or service solves them.

Knock down objections
This part is not easy, but be honest with yourself. What factors will put your prospective purchaser off? Bite the bullet and tell him/her why these are not reasons not to buy. Turn these negatives into positives. If you need help, talk to one of your sales people – they combat the same set of objections in virtually every sales negotiation they conduct. Find out how they combat them and write your copy the same way.

Close the sale
This is usually the part of selling that people dislike the most. It seems that most people just don’t like to ask for the order. But, as my grandmother taught me, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So, having just persuaded your prospect that your service or left-handed widget really is the best thing since sliced bread, we can either let him/her do nothing and file the brochure or leave your website. Or we can attempt to make them take some form of action.

So finish your brochure with a call to action. On your website, try to get the reader to fill in a very simple contact form.

Tell your reader your brochure/website has only been able to tell him a small part of the story. Persuade him/her to e-mail a response back to you asking for more information. Then you’ve got a warm lead to pass to your sales force.

Better still, suggest that they phone and speak to a technical advisor (don’t say salesperson!).   If they do this, you’ve got a hot lead.

And don’t forget to put the contact details right there in the copy, to make life easier.

Congratulations, you have now created the main ingredient of an ‘A4, full colour glossy sales person’ instead of another pointless brochure or worthless website.

Quick Bullets
• Use headings and sub-heads – then your reader can dip straight into the areas that particularly interests him/her.
• Use short sentences. Don’t be afraid, occasionally, to treat a phrase as though it were a sentence. It makes more impact.
• Never make your reader have to read a sentence twice. Replace difficult words with easy words.
• Avoid acronyms. If you must use them,  write out in full at their first appearance with the initials immediately after in brackets.
• Remember, you and your company are not the targets of your brochure – it is for your prospective customer – so only let the directors comment on technical and commercial accuracy – but not on the style and grammar!

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