When I set up my copywriting business back in the ’90s, I was frustrated by how much I was able to charge to write a press release. Despite its high value — remember, press releases actually worked back then — the most I could get was about $400. And some clients wanted to pay far less than that.
Whatever the reasons, it was a low-paying gig.
There was no point in fighting it. No amount of convincing would get clients to value these workhorses of public relations any more than they did. It was just the way it was.
So I did what any self-respecting freelancer would do. I focused on other types of projects that paid much better: direct mail, ads, annual reports, and articles. read more…
I had an opportunity recently to interview some clients about their experience with white paper writers. (As well as those who write special reports, ebooks, and other types of “long form” content.) The results were interesting — to say the least.
Much of what these clients said didn’t surprise me. For example, they were unanimous that “meeting deadlines” was a desirable trait. However, there were a few characteristics they emphasized that I didn’t expect to hear.
So if you write white papers — or are thinking of getting into this niche — take a look at the list below. These are traits you may not have realized are so important to clients. (I didn’t.) read more…
I got a somewhat desperate call from a CEO the other day. “We want to get a white paper done,” he explained, “but there are so many out there. How do we come up with a topic that’s going to stand out?”
The topic of your white paper is crucial. Get that right and there’s an excellent chance you’ll end up with a marketing piece that’ll boost thought-leadership, leads and sales. Get the topic wrong, however, and – ouch! – you’ll have squandered hours and dollars on something that’s more akin to a white elephant than a white paper.
Fortunately, there’s a proven criteria for selecting an ideal topic. Here it is… read more…
Chances are, you receive dozens of “sales emails” in your inbox each day. You ignore most of them for a myriad of reasons: too long, too spammy, I-don’t-know-this-guy, boring, not relevant to me, hyped-up drivel, and so forth.
That should give you an idea of what you’re up against when you need to craft a email to a prospect, client or customer.
So how do you write one that works? (Gets opened, gets read, gets acted upon.)
As someone who does this for a living, I wish the process were mysterious and complex — like brain surgery. The truth is, writing a persuasive email that gets the job done is remarkably simple.
It’s all in the prep. read more…
If you’re at all familiar with comic book lore, you know that this is the guy who runs super, super fast. Why am I a fan? There’s something about being able to go “zoom” and you’re “there” — in seconds — that somehow appeals to me.
Yet, despite his talent for sprinting faster than a Hennessey Venom, I’m fairly certain that The Flash can’t write any speedier than the rest of us.
In fact, he would probably appreciate getting some practical tips on writing faster, more easily, and with a lot less stress.
So, with that in mind, here are some strategies that have helped boost my writing productivity. Some of these may work for you, even if you’re not a superhero.
1. Create a “tent pole” outline
Forget about the detailed, paragraph-by-paragraph outline your grade eight teacher taught you to create. In my experience, that just makes the writing process longer. Instead, simply make a list of points you want to make in roughly the order you want to make them in. These are your “tent poles”. read more…
I actually nodded off once while reading a company’s marketing copy. Granted, I was tired at the time, having already reviewed about a gazillion copywriting examples that day. Still, if the writer had attempted to make the copy just a tad more interesting — rather than same ol’ same ol’ — I would have stayed engaged.
Boring copy loses sales. Everyone is too busy these days to pay attention to dull, yawn-inducing emails, websites, landing pages and other content. The good news is, it doesn’t take much of an extra effort to make your marketing copy more interesting. Even absorbing.
Here are four simple ways to do that. read more…
However, during a recent workshop a participant asked, “Do we need to connect a benefit to each and every feature? Our services have dozens of features. If we explain the benefit to each one, the copy is going to be a mile long!”
Of course, you don’t have to “benefitize” every arcane feature of your product or service. That would be like dramatizing the benefit of a gas pedal. “As you press your foot down on this lever, the car will begin to move forward, magically transporting you to…”
The trick is to focus only on those features that are important to the prospect – those which are most likely to motivate him or her to take action.
How do you figure that out? The simplest way is to organize features into three categories. read more…
I was speaking to a client the other day who joked, “E-books are the new white papers.” He was kidding, of course. He knows all too well there are significant differences between e-books and white papers, and even e-books and free reports.
That being said, there’s no ignoring e-books. They are all the rage these days, especially in lead-generation where they are working particularly well.
So how do you write one of these things?
The first step is to come up with a topic. People read e-books offered by companies because they want a quick education on something specific. They want to learn how to solve a problem, complete a task, make the right decision, deal with a difficult situation, improve sales performance, reduce costs, and so forth.
And your topic needs to reflect that expectation. read more…
Just about every marketing guru touts the importance of “knowing your prospect”. But how much do you really know about the person you’re trying to persuade with your landing page, email or other marketing piece?
A few years ago, for example, I was hired to write a direct mail letter for a training firm. The target market were sales managers and my client assumed, reasonably, that sales managers would be eager to reach this year’s quota. After all, it was the end of November. Only a few weeks to go.
After doing a little investigating, however, I discovered that sales managers at the end of November had already said their goodbyes to the current year. It was done as far as they were concerned. They were, instead, focusing on the new year – especially the first quarter. From a sales standpoint, they wanted to start the new year with a bang. read more…
There’s a good reason why some websites (mine included) feature so many client testimonials. They build belief and credibility like no other copy element can. In fact, these days, prospects get suspicious if your website doesn’t feature clients or customers saying great things about your products and services.
But there’s a problem with testimonials.
According to eye path analysis—a method of studying where eye balls linger on a web page—people tend to look at testimonials rather than read them.
So a client may have given you a glowing endorsement, but beyond the fact that the testimonial is there and gets noticed, the message itself may not be getting through. read more…
I had an interesting phone call with my friend, Dianna Huff, yesterday. We were chatting about the importance of creating “Buyer Personas” to represent the kind of clients we’re trying to attract.
What’s a Buyer Persona?
It’s simply an imaginary character you create that represents – and closely as possible – your target prospects.
If you’re targeting dental clinics, for example, you might create a persona called “Debbie the New Dentist”. You’d get to know Debbie very well. You’d understand her needs and challenges. And exactly how your services can help her. read more…
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this. But three years ago I hadn’t even heard of infographics. Now they’re everywhere!
In fact, according to a recent survey, infographics rank in the top 10 types of marketing communications that B2B companies will be investing in this year.
To me, that’s astounding. Infographics – essentially a cool way of visually presenting information — is becoming as important to companies as white papers, emails and websites!
Should you be writing or creating infographics for your clients? read more…
An Excellent Copywriting Teacher
Steve is an excellent teacher. His style is concise, relaxed and interesting. I gained a great deal from his teachings and his books. And I left with real hands-on experience through the work that was assigned. Steve is a true expert in his field. Any copywriter could benefit from his suggestions.JoAnn Attison
Engaging and Incredibly Informative Seminar
I wanted to thank you so much for sharing so much valuable information with us on Saturday… I found your presentation engaging and incredibly informative. The simplicity of the processes that you shared with us is truly elegant. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create useful copy using the steps you outlined.Lorna Wyllson