10 Steps to Better Marketing Writing

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In many marketing and selling professions, the ability to write well gives one a significant edge over others who aren't able to pen a compelling piece of prose. Wordsmiths are highly valued in most organisations, especially if their words can magically transform complex and arcane concepts into attractive ideas exhibiting Zen-like simplicity.

Like a scoop of well-made ice cream, good writing slides easily down one's throat, filling one with strong emotional convictions about an idea, a person, a product or a company.

On the other hand, bad writing is like a stale piece of cheese - its odour is so repulsive that one prefers to stay away from it with a 10 metre pole!

What are some of the tricks behind compelling marketing writing?

1) Know who you're writing for. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks. A sales letter going out to Fortune 500 CEOs will need to be pitched quite differently from an advertisement targeting 15 year old girls.

2) Focus on a single idea and convey it in short and succinct paragraphs. The best marketing collaterals are usually focused sharply on a clear value proposition for their readers. Don't try to pack too many ideas into your prose at they may only confuse and frustrate your readers.

3) Invest in your headlines - they are the most important attention grabbers you've got in your textual arsenal (beyond that attractive picture of course). In the attention starved world of marketing, your headline needs to stand out in the sea of words and ideas.

4) Begin with a bang! The only place for a beginning like "Once upon a time..." is probably your 8 year old's bedtime storybook. After ensnaring your reader's attention with a rock solid headline, make sure that your first 1 or 2 paragraphs can sing to him or her. Convert those critical few seconds of attention into a deeper level of interest and engagement.

5) End on a high note (not a fizzle)! A good piece of marketing writing starts well, is nicely paced over its duration, and builds up to a crescendo with a call to action that encourages you to take a further step. Note that this doesn't necessarily have to be a hardsell pitch such as "While stocks last!" or "Season ending soon!". They can be in the form of a question, a quote from a famous person, or a reinforcement of your key message in a compellingly worded sentence.

6) Make sure you've got rhythm and tempo in your writing. Having too many long sentences will leave your readers' heads in a spin. At the same time, a continuous spurt of short sentences reads like a kindergartener's work.

7) Write, read, rewrite, read again, and rewrite if necessary. If at first you don't succeed in getting the right words across to your readers, try try again.

8) If you've gotten past the point of spotting your own mistakes, enlist the help of others. Having a fresh pair of eyes (or two or 10) always helps in making a piece of marketing prose tighter, leaner and razor sharp.

9) Even better, test your writing with members of your target audience. Try as we may, married men over 40 (like me) find it difficult to empathise with 10 year old boys or a swinging single in her 20s.

10) Finally, remember that any form of communications is a loop. Let your writing lead your readers to a deeper level of conversation and engagement with you. Make it a chapter in a book rather than a standalone episode so that the seeds of a long term relationship is forged. This helps to build customer loyalty, community and affinity over time.

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