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Energize Your Marketing with these Inexpensive Strategies in Sales and Advertising Writing

Inexpensive Strategies in Sales and Advertising Writing for Marketing

For independent business owners -- especially those just starting out -- it'll probably be imperative to market or promote your product or service as inexpensively as possible. Deaver Brown, CEO and Publisher of Simply Magazine, and a founder of multiple companies, says, "You want every dollar you can keep and not spend, it's more ammunition for you."

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.

As it was their primary strategy, it wasn't always effective: No strategy succeeds 100 percent of the time, but it was very inexpensive, since it only involved paper and toner costs, electricity, and mostly local phone calls.
You will want to begin with a business card -- actually, two business cards; one that represents you, and one that represents your business. One business card might perform both functions, but two are better. The one representing you ought to be solid white, plain card stock with dark lettering: your company's name, your title, business address and business contact information, and with your company's logo in the upper left corner or on the side. This type of card projects professionalism.
If you've ever received a card from a professional of any of the Fortune 500 companies, you'll notice they tend to be very plain and unassuming. However, a card representing your business ought to excite viewers with all guns blazing -- bold fonts, large logos, photos, graphics, your mission statement, perhaps even an initial free or discount offer "with this card." This particular card ought to have your company's website, fax, and main phone number on it (or perhaps your sales office's number), but not your personal email, phone or cell number on it -- unless you are prepared to be barraged by unscreened calls or emails. (If you're a sole proprietor, you may wish to include a number that leads only to an answering service, so that you can return calls at your leisure.) Your personal card is a contact tool, which should be given out personally; your business card is a marketing tool you can and should be spread around everywhere it's allowed.
You can create your own business cards on your home PC and printer, although these tend to look second-rate. A printing company I wholeheartedly endorse is WWW.VISTAPRINT.COM. They not only have business cards that are technically free (you only pay for shipping and/or upgrades), but you can choose from their logos and graphics, or upload your own. They'll also create everything else for you from car-door magnets to t-shirts.
Flyers are technically one-page (8x11) paper ads or generic sales letters. Since they're printed on plain paper stock and unfolded, they're cheaper than brochures (and it shows).
Flyers are usually used to promote events -- concerts, festivals, art shows and the like -- but they can be used to promote a product or service. The upside of flyers is that you can make them quickly and easily on Microsoft Word, add photos and graphics, and include a lot of information. They're also the mere cost of a photocopy.

On the next page is a fairly generic flyer I use at book signings:
Hot Enough For Ya?




Take a Connecticut SLAYride in



Horror Fiction's first case of



With the Fury of STORM OF THE CENTURY!

Pick Your Favorite PAINKILLER from
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Advertising, Marketing and Sales Writing.
Sixteen Stories from Hell to the Unknown!
Both titles available on www.amazon.com!


"This Won't Hurt A Bit"

Six Stories From INHUMAN RESOURCES Narrated by K.K.

AND An Autographed 8x10 Photo!

"K.K. is the New Master of terrifying, mind-tingling horror writing."


"HORROR DONE TO DEATH. High Quality. Can be DEVOURED in one sitting. Highly Recommended." -- CAROL HAYTKO, Author of AFTER DARK

"'OLD ENOUGH TO' Was one NASTY little tale; I loved it. Welcome to the darkness." -- DAVID G. BARNETT, Editor, INTO THE DARKNESS

Catch K.K. in the films GO and BIOHAZARD: THE ALIEN FORCE.or add him as a "Fiend" at www.mywebsite.com!

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
  • Website address
  • Ad copy promoting your product or service (used sparingly -- large solid blocks of writing just invite your flyer to be discarded)
  • Testimonials
  • 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.

When you're done creating your flyer, save it as an MS WORD or PDF File, as you ought to do AUTOMATICALLY with all the marketing materials you write! You now have an e-mail attachment you can use at will.

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.

Please don't delay. Call within the next 10 days.
For a FREE rate quote: 1-555-441-5422

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 letter closes with an enticement for a multiple-policy discount, more praise for the company, and a salutation from a senior assistant vice president.
Sales letters are easy to make; you merely put your best sales pitch in black and white. You can create one, send it out , gauge its effectiveness, rewrite it, and then send another version out later. I personally have lost track of how many sales letters MAXIM Magazine sends me. Each one is a slight variation of the same old thing, but I keep renewing, because their sales letters always make ridiculously inexpensive offers.

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.

In fact, you can use a sales letter campaign to generate much more repeat business than you can new business, if you're savvy enough to retain your existing customers' mailing addresses. Just send your existing customers "thank you" letters with a hook: "Since you liked our last product, you'll love our new one!"

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:


They will instead write:


Or, perhaps even "Local celebrity" or "Area man" instead of "Actor." Beneath that, the release will begin relating relevant information: "The wildfire that threatened to consume Thousand Oaks this week also threatened to consume 5-month-old Felipe Sanchez, if not for the actions of a local actor named Stone Coolman."
In journalism, students are told "Tell 'em what happened, then, tell 'em what you told 'em, then, tell 'em again." So, in Coolman's case, after the second line, the release would relate the additional remnants of the story, according to What, Who, When, Where, and Why. Little Felipe, apparently abandoned in a car on Turbinado Avenue, was strapped in his car-seat when Stone Coolman raced by and heard his cries. Coolman was able to free Sanchez from the vehicle and deliver him to safety. The baby is in good condition at St. Mark's Children's Hospital.
"It was really just blind luck," said Coolman, a local actor last seen in a national Crisco commercial. "If he hadn't been crying so loud, I never would have heard him. The flames were so close and high, all I could think of was getting out of there, until I heard him."

Coolman escaped with minor burns, and the Thousand Oaks Fire Department got the blaze under control at around 5 p.m.

As you can see, any "marketing" portion of a press release comes to light only after any newsworthy facts have been reported. Like Sales Letters, Press Releases often are ignored by the media outlets you send them to (while working at Miami's Cable News Network in 1990, I had no choice but to ignore 85 percent of the press releases that were faxed to us every hour on the hour, in favor of "hotter" news items). That does not mean you should refrain from writing them! Any time you or your organization does anything remotely newsworthy, you should send out a Press Release to announce it. Using the inverted pyramid reporting style, they take very little time to write, and cost you nothing to submit by email or fax. Even if it's largely ignored, once it's uploaded to the Internet, it'll always be there as an indelible part of your corporate history. It also makes a good inclusion for promotional kits. Press Releases are another low-cost marketing tool, and another of your company's own "lottery tickets": You can't win, if you don't play.
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