To start with, let me rephrase the action of writing a Newsletter.
Writing a Newsletter is strategically delivering words that get people to take some form of action.
Do you agree?
The Business Scenario
John runs a small business. He has 3 employees and works hard to stay competitive in an increasingly globalised market.
He’s just spent Sunday afternoon writing an article for the electronic newsletter he plans to send out on Monday.
It’s an important Newsletter because it announces the launch of a new product.
A previous Newsletter publishing a new service did not yield much interest amongst the clients and leads on his distribution list.
This time, John wants to do better. He asks himself:
What do I need to do so that more people read and sign-up to my Newsletter?
Let’s start with the objectives: what is our main goal for writing anything to be published online: be it an email, a newsletter, a blog post or a tutorial?
No doubt we want people to read what we write, right?
Let’s examine 3 core principles for delivering words that have an impact on your audience and – key! – help us reach our business goals.
1. Get the next sentence read.
Every element of writing has just one purpose: to get the first sentence read, and then the second sentence, and so on until we’ve led our reader to a call for action which may be an offer, or a sign up form or a file download.
The first in the line is, of course, the Headline. The second is the opening paragraph. Guiding our reader from one sentence to another, kindling interest and curiosity with each phrase – here’s a truly artful endeavour.
Consider this: Legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz often spent an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales document: the headline and the opening paragraph.
Here’s an example of an article that takes the reader by the hand and leads him through each sentence. It’s drawn from a recent article by Sonia Simone of copyblogger.com.
2. Properly convey product benefits.
When we write a document that is destined to boost our business goals , we’ll need to stress benefits, not features. Identify the underlying benefit that each feature of your product or service delivers, because that’s what will incite our potential customer to buy.
In other words, focus on the reader – make an important promise early on that tells the reader what’s in it for her.
To quote Brian Clark of copyblogger once again.
“We’re not as logical as we’d like to think we are. Most of our decisions are based on deep-rooted emotional motivations, which we then justify with logical processes.”
Highlighting benefits over features – seems easy enough. But in practice it’s often more difficult than we imagine. Let’s give it a try.
A major challenge writers face is to avoid phony benefits. Here’s a short example inspired by a blog post by Clayton Makepeace, widely regarded as the world’s “Highest-paid Copywriter”.
Let’s take this title, written by a Tennis Coach as part of a blog post.
Play tennis perfectly.
At first glance, it sounds benefitial. But when we get right down to it, this text does not contain a real benefit.
Makepeace suggests that we apply his patented “forehead slap” test to see if our writing truly contains a benefit to the reader. In other words, have you ever woken up from a deep sleep, slapped yourself in the forehead, and exclaimed “WOW… I really want to play tennis perfectly!”
Most probably you have not. Getting someone to attend a tennis lesson on the grounds of learning to play perfectly may well prove difficult.
Now, let’s give it a different slant, by identifying the real benefit hidden in that title.
Hardly anybody aspires to play tennis perfectly. But most of us will not continue to play if we never ever win a match. Because, it’s not just about winning, it’s about earning the respect of other club members (the desire for winning is amplified if you’re a young man in search of a girlfriend).
So how about the title “How to win at least one tennis match a month” ?
3. Include a clear and concise call for action
This implies 2 things:
1. Don’t be shy
Make it straightforward for the reader to grasp that you have an offer. Avoid being shy or discrete about the action you seek. Choose words that help you come accross assertive rather than agressive. Your readers are not innocent wall flowers. If you genuinly strive to provide valuable solutions to your clients, they are perfectly fine with your including a call for action.
2. Make it easy
Readers are busy. Make sure any call for action is only one or two simple mouse clicks away. Missing or badly positioned sign-up forms are a dreadful way to loose a potential client or lead, especially if you’ve spent lots of time and effort writing a great article.
A call for action, only one click away.
Now it’s your turn
If you’d like to learn more about the topic of writing for business success, I recommend the following 3 steps:
1. Watch the 4.5 minute video tutorial about benefits and features (navigate to the bottom of this page).
2. Practice writing a newsletter for your business that contains a) a Headline, b) an opening paragraph and c) 3 paragraphs, each describing a benefit, based on your product’s features.
3. Check out my selected reading materials (down here).