Posts filed under ‘Sales’

Quick Thoughts on Copywriting

A colleague asked me to put together some quick thoughts on copywriting for his staff. Upon receiving them, he suggested that I post them to my blog. So here they are.

Note: I learned writing from my mother, Ellie Hager, a brilliant and prolific screenwriter. My education in COPYwriting came when I went into sales. That said, always work toward the close in copywriting–respectfully, honestly but unambiguously.

Key Questions

Who is reading this?

Understand the prospective customer and speak (write) in his/her terms. This is done by knowing:

  • Who is this person (ideal prospect for the product/service)
  • What is on this person’s mind (need/challenge/aspiration to be addressed)
  • The solution being presented (benefit of product/service).

This understanding will guide tone, word choice, and depth of information.

What do we want the reader to do?

Answering this question forms the “call-to-action,” the essence of every good marketing piece, the grand finale when we tell the prospect in appropriate but no uncertain terms what we want him/her to do. (“Call…” “Visit…” “Ask for…” “Click here…”) If we have done our job right (right words, right prospects, right value proposition), the reader will be happy to do what we want him/her to do.

What’s in it for me?

This question runs through every prospect’s mind when encountering a marketing message. Answer it quickly and convincingly by emphasizing product/service benefits. Descriptions of features must take a supporting role, helping to verify and explain stated benefits. Remember this classic sales/marketing adage:

What does a drill salesman sell? Drills? No. Holes.

Copywriting Process

In advance of actual writing…

  • Identify and understand prospective customer
  • List product benefits
  • State call-to-action; think backwards from call-to-action during preparation and writing
  • Confirm length and configuration of piece

Actual writing…

  • Use “college-style” outline format to organize major points
  • Create headlines and taglines that convey entire marketing message
  • Use subheads and bullets to deliver important information quickly
  • Make sure “call-to-action” is logical, clear and accurate

Recommended Reading

The Elements of Copywriting, Gary Blake and Robert W. Bly

The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook, Joseph Sugarman

“Benefits First: Marketing’s Active Voice,” article in BtoB magazine, Jason Karpf


July 13, 2009 at 9:57 am Leave a comment

Sales Vs. Marketing

godzilla_king_kong_smallAli vs. Frazier. Magic vs. Bird. King Kong vs. Godzilla. Cool. Sales vs. marketing. Not cool. Still this internal conflict persists in many companies. Philip Kotler, one of the giants of marketing, co-wrote “Ending The War Between Sales and Marketing,” an excellent overview on creating cultural and operational harmony between the groups.

Having worked both sides of the sales/marketing fence, I know the perennial complaints…”Marketing doesn’t give us stuff we can use” …”Sales just likes to ‘wing’ it.” … “You spend a ton of money on fancy marketing that nobody cares about.” … “Sales is just looking for someone to blame when they can’t close.”

Kotler and his co-writers, Neil Rackham and Suj Krishnaswamy, speak wisely on the need to define roles between sales and marketing, moving toward the ideals of alignment and integration. Dialog and cooperation are the watchwords. Unfortunately, as Kotler, Rackhame and Krishnaswamy point out, many companies struggle with any form of interdepartmental coordination (you can say “synergy” until you turn blue). Under these circumstances, even the proximate functions of sales and marketing are likely to remain in their proverbial silos.

Early in my marketing career, I heard a definition that resonated: “Marketing’s job is to put prospects as deep into the sales pipeline as possible.” To the salesman in me, that meant qualified prospects, aware of the product and the value proposition, whose objections have been reduced due to information and impressions already received.

Gleaning from the observations of Kotler et al. and my own experiences, here are some steps to synchronize sales and marketing:

  • Get field reports from sales. What’s working? What’s not? What’s the competition doing? What are customers saying? Make sure sales has supporting evidence.
  • Involve sales in the strategic marketing process (see above). This minimizes surprises and resistance when the strategy becomes tactics and the tactics become deliverables.
  • Prep sales in message delivery. Review active marketing messages with salespeople to make sure these themes reappear in sales presentations (or are not contradicted).
  • Create a strong sales support function. Let sales know that marketing has its back for customized communications as needed.

Sales and marketing must be united since they are two elements of a single process: identifying prospects and converting them into satisfied customers. Their disconnect is ridiculous, destructive, and all-too-common. Open the peace talks now. Have a senior exec (C-suite if possible) take ownership of the new cooperation between sales and marketing. Leave the rivalries for sporting events and monster movies.

June 4, 2009 at 7:39 pm 1 comment


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