Inexpensive Strategies in Sales and Advertising Writing for Marketing
This article will focus on the most inexpensive written marketing materials: business cards, flyers, brochures, sales letters, and press releases. One company I worked for did the majority of its advertising by cold-calling every potential buyer in the market area, asking for the buyer's fax number, and then faxing a combination sales letter and order form to them.
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This flyer is nothing to write Mother about, but it works for me. It promotes my name, gives some product information, contains testimonials, a special offer, and has links where potential buyers can contact me through the web and/or buy the books later (and your flyer ought to have most of these as well). For signings, I place two back-to-back in a free-standing transparent display, and have a stack of others ready to give out.
The downside of flyers: A great deal of them tend to "fly" into the nearest wastebasket (a good reason to use recycled paper for them), and you can't simply place or post them just anywhere. Many municipalities have anti-littering ordinances prohibiting flyers posted on telephone poles, for example, and you or your business can be cited for it. Still, many libraries, colleges, and clubs will have areas for flyers, so yours might as well be one of them.
If you opt to use flyers, consider them an expansion of a business card, and the rough draft of a brochure. With a business card, you have only a few inches of space. With a flyer, you have much more.
Your flyer ought to have:
Your company name (with a large, bold font)
Your contact information
Ad copy promoting your product or service (used sparingly -- large solid blocks of writing just invite your flyer to be discarded)
A special offer inviting buyers to visit you ("Bring in this flyer for X dollars off")
Directions to your location, or a small map.
You'll want to keep flyers black and white wherever possible; color printing costs more and just makes the flyer harder on the eyes. Add whatever graphics or photos you like, as long as they look good in black and white. Flyers are good to place in promotional kits as well.
A brochure is a step up from a flyer; especially when slick paper, photos, and graphics are used. Its folds make it pocket-sized and more likely to be kept for later, and ensure it will fit in a full-sized envelope. They look much more professional than flyers; it's tough to recall any memorable company that's never used a brochure.
There are word processing and desktop publishing programs that will enable you to print brochures from your personal computer, but you must have a high-quality, full-color printer. If you don't, you are much better off spending the money to have the brochures professionally printed -- or simply opt out of using brochures. Brochures can contain all the written information contained in your flyers -- and more -- but you cannot afford to have your brochures LOOK like flyers! Basically, a brochure is the voice of your company: If it could speak, the brochure would be what it had to say.
Before designing a brochure, stop by anyplace with a brochure rack and take out some that strike your fancy. You should notice that the better ones have some things in common:
Full color, or at least four non-contrasting colors
One large single photo (or graphic) on the cover, with the headline beneath it
A large-font headline (larger than 12-point type) and not more than 12 words
Most body copy in 12-point type (or no less than 10-point), but kept to short paragraphs
Complete back cover with company information
If demonstrating a product, contains photos of people using it, with bold captions
Body copy should not be endless blocks of text; insert bulleted paragraphs,
captioned photos, text boxes with testimonial quotes, or white space
Graphs and maps should be simple and easy to read
The writing of your brochure ought to be a series of "teasers" -- a largely visual one on the cover, with your headline "hooking" the reader, then a point-by-point list of benefits in the interior pages, and a summary ending with your contact information on the back page. If you're seeking to sell a product or service via a brochure, make the brochure sound as if it's been specifically written for the reader: Use "you" whenever possible and describe the ways in which it will enhance their lives. Don't get carried away and "promise the moon," however; stick to the facts. I was once so entranced by a brochure that read SEE THE AMAZING ICE CAVE!!! that I drove 30 miles out of my way to see a cave that had a layer of ice on the bottom. I was most assuredly not "amazed," but that particular brochure paid for itself, many times over.
Thoroughly proofread your brochures before going to print! The public has learned to expect typographical errors and shortcuts on flyers; they have no such sympathy for brochures. Do not simply rely on spell-check: Two Bee Oar Knot Too Bee is a grammatical nightmare, but it's still spelled correctly!
A Sales Letter is perhaps the most refreshingly honest advertisement you can create. You describe the benefits of your product or service, you define your preferred terms of doing business, give your contact information (with a message of urgency, such as "this offer only good for 30 days"), and you leave the decision up to the prospect.
Here's one inspired by a kind of sales letter I receive often:
Dear Ken L. Kupstis:
As a safe driver, you may qualify for reduced auto insurance rates this year. At MOTORMOUNT, we specialize in providing good drivers like you with better rates, and award recognized service for a better overall value.
You've been specially selected to receive this auto insurance offer from MOTORMOUNT. So please don't wait until your current coverage is up for renewal. We don't want you to miss this opportunity to receive the value you deserve. Because the sooner you call, the sooner you can SAVE!
This letter from "Motormount Insurance" goes on to describe dedicated service, friendly and experienced professionals standing by, most claims paid within 24 hours of settlement, and the ability to call or go online to report a claim anytime, day or night.
Here are a few more reasons to call: Savings on Homeowners Coverage, and the security of an "A++(Superior)" rated insurance company.
The expense in sales letters is modest if you wish to generate business locally. All you'll need is your area phone book, and quite a few envelopes and stamps. If you wish to generate business state-wide, or nationally, you'll need to purchase a mailing list.
The purchase of a mailing list is a good investment if your product cost justifies it, because sales letters are like lottery tickets. Most end up in a "circular file," because they're considered junk mail. But if your sales letter convinces one person to buy, the sale might recoup the cost for that entire marketing campaign! Remember, a television ad costs thousands of dollars. Your sales letter campaign can cost well under a hundred.
The best sales letters include the following:
Prospect's name spelled correctly. If it isn't, you've lost them right away. Also be sure of their gender! Francis is male and equates to Frank, whereas Frances is female and equates to Fran. When your list says "Sam," keep your wording gender-neutral, since you don't know if you're addressing Samuel or Samantha.
Give a warm greeting right away (even if it's "Dear Friend".)
Immediately offer a benefit, or a common problem your company specializes in fixing ("We know even the best men get tongue-tied around beautiful women.")
Use shortened sentences and paragraphs -- one point after another -- along with frequent questions ("Have you heard.?" "Are you ready.?") Don't cram the letter with huge blocks of text.
Use the simplest language possible. Instead of, "Our strategy will make a reduction in your failure rate by 20 percent!" say, "We improve your success rate by 20 percent!")
Use positive language wherever possible: "If you send," is negative; "When you send," is positive.
Use the words love, money, save, value, plus, success, perfect, value, easy, instant, results, enjoy and other positives, but be wary of free, guarantee, new and others unless your product or service can legally live up to them.
Intersperse your benefits with highlighted customer testimonials wherever possible, in a different/darker font, with quotes.
Motivate your reader to act fast: Include a deadline for a lower rate; establish "limited" availability; give a discount for a prompt response, or offer a special bonus that's only good in conjunction with your letter.
Close warmly ("We look forward to hearing your own success story!"), but add one P.S. that reiterates your benefits. A "P.P.S." is an annoyance.
Ensure the letter contains multiple contact methods: at least two phone numbers (even if it's the same one mentioned twice) and website addresses.
A Press Release is an appeal for publicity, using the news media -- radio, television and/or Internet.-- to inform the public that you, your product, or service is about to affect them in some manner. To be effective, you must ensure that your press release is worded that you will affect them in some manner. In short, your press release is some newsworthy information.
Like Sales Letters, Press Releases are easily written -- once you know the proper format -- and inexpensive: You create them, send them out, and hope for the best. Unlike Sales Letters, Press Releases will not bring in immediate sales. But they may give your company, product, or service a boost by shining a media spotlight on them, albeit temporarily.
As such, they must be factual and specific. They must be presented in the journalistic "inverted pyramid" style -- conveying the most pertinent news first (headline), then the bulk of the news, then the simplest conclusion. (The inverted pyramid style was adopted during the Civil War, when news items had to be delivered via telegraph. Communications lines were cut often, so journalists had to relay the most important information first, before they were "cut off," and would relay more information as time was available.) As such, the "KISS Rule" (Keep It Short and Simple) prevails in press releases.
Let's say our actor, Stone Coolman, rescues a baby from a wildfire in Thousand Oaks, California. If he has a publicist with a spoonful of brains, they will write a press release immediately. But they will not write:
STONE COOLMAN RESCUES A BABY FROM A WILDFIRE IN THOUSAND OAKS
ACTOR RESCUES BABY FROM WILDFIRE
Coolman escaped with minor burns, and the Thousand Oaks Fire Department got the blaze under control at around 5 p.m.
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