Ten writing tips to attract new customers

As a commercial printer, label printer, mailing house, print finishing business – whatever your area of expertise, if you don’t break through to your prospects on an emotional level, you’re dead in the water! In other words, your writing must personally convince potential customers that you can save them money while adding value. But you must also get them to look upon you as a partner who is genuinely interested in their success, rather than just a supplier. While there are many proven rules about effective writing that you can use in your print-marketing efforts, here are 10 you might not have considered.

• Appeal to the reader’s emotions. Most writing will fail, or be very forgettable, if this doesn’t happen. Shatter that barrier of indifference. Find some common ground and address the ‘pain points’ of your clients and potential customers. Infer that you’ve been there before and sound genuine (i.e. no clichés) when offering practical solutions. No unaffordable “pie-in-the-sky” strategies here please. Be empathetic rather than sympathetic.

• Convey excitement. Sound enthusiastic, but not corny. As a print supplier, if you’re not excited about your topic, don’t expect your prospects to be. Try not to use superlatives. People simply don’t believe them. If you have an amazing fact or story to tell, then just tell it. It should hold up on its own merit.

• Keep it conversational. Write as if you’re chatting with, not writing to, your readers. Use plenty of contractions. You’re not writing a legal document and you don’t need to be perfect. Most prospects and clients never talk the way they write. But they will respond better to a sincere “narrative.” Oh, and for heaven’s sake, make sure everything you compose is grammatically correct. If you’re sloppy with your writing, your prospects might assume you’ll be sloppy with their printing too.

• Look to the second paragraph. A good car dealer embellishes the truth by saying your new vehicle will make you the sexiest person on earth. The same is often true with writing – especially writing to persuade. So try this: see how your final piece reads when you remove the first paragraph. That paragraph usually contains “hype” while the second (or third) gets to the real facts. This will help you with editing and future writing.

• Use humour sparingly. It’s great to put a smile on a prospect’s face while conveying your message. But humour does have a short lifespan. In general, the same joke repeated will elicit a smile the first time, indifference the second, and annoyance the third.

• Re-read the next morning. Put your masterpiece aside for one day. Look at it with a clear mind (and your preferred caffeine infusion) the next morning. This will help you trim more fat and get to the point much faster.

• Limit proofreading to two experts. One person should check for grammar and typos, and another for technical accuracy. Don’t ask someone to do both simultaneously. I once worked at a newspaper where 6 different department managers had input into each project I wrote. The rewritten final versions invariably looked like failed ESL tests!

• Don’t highlight to much. Highlight everything and you highlight nothing! I had one client who used to ask “Can we underline this, bold face this, box this off?” By the time I did what he wanted, I couldn’t figure out what was important on the page – and neither could his clients! Limit text emphasis in your print marketing to three areas: Headline, reader benefits and call to action.

• Emphasize client benefits, not equipment features. That new digital printer you just bought might be loaded with features in terms of power, speed, output, etc. So what? Don’t they all? Pointing out how wonderful a new piece of equipment is to a potential client, might also sound like bragging. However, pointing out how it can make their lives easier by reducing their printing costs, improving print quality or adding value (such as new finishing options), shows that you’re thinking of your customers first.

• Talk slightly above your audience. Never ever talk down to a client or potential customer, even in the slightest. Words matter. If you’re trying to score points, try talking slightly above their heads. This should flatter them and give them a sense that they can actually learn from you. Warning: Don’t talk too far above their heads though – you’ll frustrate customers, or they’ll simply conclude that you’re being somewhat arrogant.

– Tony Curcio, Editor, Graphic Arts Magazine.

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Tony Curcio is the editor of Graphic Arts Magazine.