t’s the ingredient that proposals, letters, brochures and advertisements are made of,
and – other than speechmaking – perhaps the one thing with which many marketing and
salespeople are most uncomfortable.
Marketing is about effective and persuasive communication of the features and
benefits of your product or service, and the communications vehicle is writing. Sales letters,
proposals, press releases, catalogs, Web pages and advertisements all require writing that is
professional and convincing, and calls clients or prospects to action.
Writing is an essential skill for successful sales and marketing efforts, but not
all businesspeople or marketing professionals are good writers. Some find writing painful. Hiring a
professional copywriter always is a good idea, but strengthening your own writing skills is equally
Avoid Wordiness: Too often, businesspeople want to write manuscripts rather than
marketing materials. Remember the mantra, “Never use 10 words when five will do.” At last count,
consumers are bombarded with more than 3,000 marketing messages every day. That means you have just
seconds to grab the attention of your reader, so get to the point.
Use Proper Grammar And Punctuation: Nothing loses a reader more quickly than
misspelled words or incorrect subject/verb agreement. The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is a
great reference available in printed and online versions. The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook,
another good reference used by professional journalists, includes a guide to capitalization,
abbreviation and spelling; and has a section on business guidelines
Proofread Your Work: Every writer needs an editor, so always have another set of
eyes read what you have written. Once you’ve composed copy and read it a few times, you likely will
not see mistakes. Ask your proofreader not only to look for misspellings or improper grammar, but
also to give feedback on the clarity and conciseness of the message. Does it hold the reader’s
attention? Is the copy convincing and easily understood? Is it clear what you want the reader
Write For Your Audience: Writing, like talking, comes in many forms – formal
or informal, general or technical, detailed or concise. Defining your target audience before you
begin to write will help make the process easier. For example, if you are writing for those in your
industry, you can skip lengthy explanations and specific details about a particular process or
issue. If you’re writing for those outside your industry, you want to be informative, but avoid
using industry jargon or technical commentary that might confuse or bore the reader. Use copy that
describes a situation that could easily apply to
the wants or needs of your defined audience.
Use An Active Voice: If you want your copy to be more persuasive, write with an
active voice. An active voice emphasizes the doer or the agent of the activity. A passive voice
shifts the focus simply to what is happening rather than what or who is making it happen. The
passive voice has its place, but for sales and marketing purposes, it is vague, wordy and places
your customer at arm’s length. Here are examples of active and passive copy written for a website:
Active – When you click the button, we immediately generate your order and automatically send
you an e-mail confirmation; Passive – Once the button has been clicked, the order is generated
and an e-mail confirmation is sent automatically.
You can feel the difference in these messages. You feel the confidence and
accountability in the active voice. That is the voice with which you want to do business.
Communicate Features And Benefits: Most of us, when we read a brochure or watch a
television commercial, ask ourselves one simple question, “What’s in it for me?” Your writing must
communicate the features and benefits of your product or service to solve a problem, improve
productivity or otherwise make the user’s life easier.
Issue A Call To Action: Too often, marketing materials fail to ask for the sale.
Remember to clearly communicate what you want the reader to do – visit your website, call for
a free demonstration, or visit your booth at a trade show. Again, use active words that prompt
readers to take action and offer an incentive that makes them do it now.