21 October 2016

Turning marketing copy into lead generation and sales

Author :

In the late 1980's the book, The Art of the Deal was released to a huge amount of fanfare and success. The book detailed the rise and rise of American billionaire property developer, and future Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump. Purporting to give an insight into how to go from the poor house to the Penthouse the book is a time capsule of it's era.

For most businesses owners the idea of reaching the heights of people like Donald Trump is a bit of a wistful dream, but who hasn't spent a good portion of their time daydreaming about what it would be like to own a successful business, live a life of glamour and success?

While most of us may never reach the levels of success of Trump and his ilk, there is nothing stopping us from taking our businesses beyond their comfort zone.  Having worked for everything from large multi-nationals, to start up enterprises I've witnessed first hand the plateau a business can reach, what I refer to as it's 'natural comfort zone.'

Working in the events industry, producing conferences in a saturated, and relatively small market, means the importance of words takes centre stage. You can produce the world's greatest conference, with the best speakers ever assembled, but if the message you are trying to get across fails to reach it's audience you're doomed from the start. 

A lot of businesses depend on good word of mouth and direct marketing. While we'd all love to have marketing budgets like the big boys in town, but the reality for most SME's is you make do with what you can afford. 

When you're writing to sell there are several key strategies you should consider implementing. Copywriting is, at it's most basic, the art of using words to sell a product. Whether that product is a conference or a personalised fitness programme isn't relevant. The strategies and techniques remain the same.

Before you even put finger to keyboard you need to remember two things. Firstly, writing marketing copy needs to be genuine, no fluff, no over-hyped promises. Consumers today are too savvy to fall for promises you make if they don't believe you can follow through on it. Secondly, you have to know who your audience is. Without doing that you're taking a scatter-gun approach, throwing out a million emails and hoping to reach the ideal candidate. 

Once you've figured out the answer to 'What's In It For Me' (which is the first thing your potential customer is going to ask if they read your marketing copy), you're ready to start getting some ideas on the screen.

Genuine, honest and upfront sells the day:

We've all seen marketing copy that makes promises you doubt the company can fulfill. When you're writing a promise or a deliverable in your copy ask yourself 'what does this actually mean.' If you can't get give yourself a clear answer, scrap it and start again. A writing teacher of mine once told me writers need to learn to 'kill their darlings.' While that particular piece of advice came at a novel writing class, it's relevant for copywriters as well. No matter how beautifully crafted the sentence is, no matter how many engaging action words you've used, if it doesn't push towards the final message, cut it.

Marketing speak is useless:

I can hear the collective gasps already, but it's true. Writing copy when it is aimed at landing a client is about being specific. This is one of the most blatant missteps in copywriting today. Do your research. Instead of guessing "Company X has helped thousands of people just like you" give your potential client the actual figure. "Since opening it's doors, Company X has helped 11,000 people just like you to reduce their operational costs by an average of 15%." The more specific you are however, the more you need to be able to back it up. Don't fluff it, be honest.

Call to action:

We've all heard of the instructions 'include a call to action'. Be blunt about it. Most of the people you are targeting aren't going to waste a month reading your email. Get to the point and do it fast. Instead of putting a line such as 'if you would like further information or to register your interest, please click here', be direct and to the point. "Enter your email address here for further information," says exactly the same thing, only faster. 

Get to the point:

This tip follows on from the previous one. It's not enough to be blunt with your call to action. Make the commitment to get your message across in the least amount of time. Padding out your message/content with adjectives may impress the boss, but it won't do much for your potential client. When you can, show a picture. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, after all. Combine a picture with a direct message and you'll have a much higher hit rate than if you just use words to hide the fact you don't really have much to say.


Business is fast-paced. With traditional business models giving way to new and emerging trends it's easy to fall into the habit of rushing copy into the market. Don't. Take the time to re-read, to edit, to rewrite. If you can, leave the copy overnight and come back to it in the morning. Time has a way of bringing up some obvious problems you may have missed in the rush of creativity. Edit your piece to the best of your ability and before you hit send make absolutely certain your sales message is front and centre in your copy.

Final note: When you write sales copy for a living, you need to think about your customer. You need to know exactly who you are writing for. A well written piece of copy not only attracts the target audience, but repels those who don't fit thereby saving both them and your company time, by weeding out the lookers and making room for the buyers. 

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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