Your marketing materials must grab your prospect's attention long enough to
convince them to investigate further. Assuming you get past this hurdle, your
piece's message must next convince the reader to call or buy.
To make the copy in your marketing materials pull its weight?and then some, take
this simple test: pretend you're a potential buyer who knows nothing about your
product or service, then answer the following questions:
1. Do your headlines entice you to read the fine print? In other words, do your
headlines use problem or benefit-oriented headlines? If your headlines don't grab
your attention, they won't grab a prospect's attention. In today's fast-paced world,
headlines make all the difference. Think about how you read a newspaper. Many
readers first search the major headlines, then decide where to start reading the fine
The same thing applies to your marketing materials; some readers peruse only the
headlines to understand the message and rarely read the rest of the copy. Others
read the headlines mainly to decide whether or not they even want to read the rest
of the piece. To entice your prospects to keep reading, make sure your headlines
state a problem or a benefit that clearly speaks to that particular audience.
2. Do you immediately explain your headlines in the copy that follows? Once the
reader is willing to read the finer print below the headline, make sure you provide
the solution or an enticing explanation of that headline immediately in the copy that
follows. Readers will quit reading after less than a paragraph if they feel the
headline just set them up and didn't explain itself promptly.
3. Does the copy clearly speak to your potential buyer? First, you need to know
everything about your reader. What are their demographics or characteristics? If
you sell to consumers, keep in mind their age, level of education, interests, etc. For
instance, copy about music that appeals to teenagers should read completely
different than copy used to sell retirement homes to an age 55+ audience.
If you sell to businesses, determine the role your prospect plays in his company,
identify his education and experience, and find out what matters most to him in
using your services and products. Then, make sure your copy speaks loud and clear
to that reader.
4. Is your audience knowledgeable about what you offer? Do you need to educate
them about your products and services? Your materials need to make the reader
feel smart by using language that clearly speaks to them. In other words, don't use
jargon, slang or highly technical language (unless your audience truly knows the
meaning of those technical terms). Examine every word in your marketing
materials, and create explanations for terms that require advanced knowledge.
Better yet, try your copy on someone who is not familiar with your product, and see
what words and phrases they stumble over. Then find ways to make that language
5. Does your copy use action verbs instead of "to be" verbs? One of the simplest,
yet most powerful ways to liven up your marketing copy is to change "to be" verbs
into action verbs. Replace verbs such as is, are, was, were, has, and have with in-
the-present action words. Besides making your copy more colorful and interesting,
action verbs get your reader excited about what you offer. A great book that covers
this topic is "Business Writing That Counts!" by Dr. Julie Miller (available at
6. Is it clear your company has the expertise and qualifications? Unless you have
top market share, great visibility, and name awareness in your industry, you still
need to convince prospects your company is trustworthy and experienced. Achieve
this with relevant information on your company's background, testimonials from
satisfied clients, certifications, important awards, and even awards you were
nominated for, but didn't win. Also mention any professional organizations you
belong to, continuing education seminars and training you and your staff take, and
any boards or non-profit organizations you participate in.
7. Where's your contact info? Your company's contact information needs to be on
every side of your marketing materials and easily found. If you can't find your
company's contact information within 2-3 seconds of looking, it needs to be better
8. What step do you want the reader to take BEFORE they walk away from your
marketing materials? Whether you want the prospect to immediately make a
purchase, call, send an email, fill out a form and mail it in, call for a free
consultation, or join your newsletter list, use language that clearly tells the reader
the next step they need to take. Consider offering a freebie or an incentive to make
that next step more enticing.
One last thought: once you've tested your marketing materials, make adjustments
to the copy. But, don't stop there ? instead, test that piece on people you trust to
give you honest feedback. Tighten up the piece some more, then get ready to
watch your marketing materials convince prospects you really do have the solution
to their problem!
Nancy J. Wagner of Cut to the Chase Marketing is a speaker, writer, and marketing
strategist who helps small businesses increase their sales with effective marketing
materials and websites. Download her free 9-step marketing plan at http://www.CutToTheChaseMarketing.com