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Five Ways to Gain Attention the 'Write' Way

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Five ways to capture your audience through writing
  • The direct benefits that good writing can have on marketing

Imagine this headline in an ad for a low-cost mobile phone targeted at low-income consumers: "65000-color display will make your life as colorful as a rainbow and new sound technology will ensure clear sound." Does it work?

Or, consider this: a software product requirement document for adding new features reads, in part, "The users should be able to collaborate while using the product." Does that requirement specifically convey what needs to be developed?

Unfortunately, the answer to both questions is No. What is common in both examples is that they are part of a marketing effort for the respective products.

Now, imagine this headline in the case of the first example: "Cool colors, clear calls!" And consider this alternative to the second example: "Users should be able to share the tasks in the application and work, comment, and act as a team on them." Better?

Marketing, in simple terms, is communication about and among business, product, customer, and customer service. Market research and marketing strategy form two core components of the marketing domain.


For software product companies, identifying client requirements or innovative features through market research (and providing them to the software development team in a neat, clean, and concise manner) is a good start to developing a usable software product. But selling the developed product through marketing strategy involves the right kind of marketing communication.

Now imagine the power of effective writing in such an important business function. Writing for marketing is challenging because marketing communication defines the image of your organization. If marketing communication fails, chances are high that your products/services too might fail, notwithstanding winning factors such as quality, cost, and so on.

Effective writing is a vital component of the following marketing-related tasks:

  1. Preparing simple, succinct, and effective market research materials, such as questionnaires, data collation and analysis formats, and market research reports.
  2. Creating a detailed marketing/development plan (approach definition). This involves a lot of documentation, such as reports, presentations, and detailed plan documents.
  3. Preparing market testing/acceptance reports in case of new products/services or new features in products/services.
  4. Planning advertising campaigns. Advertising is a limitless field, where extraordinary copywriting can strike gold if the campaign is run strategically. Writing copy for advertising your products/services is a crucial part of creating effective ad materials. Similarly, writing crisp, convincing catchphrases/taglines for a brand or an organization requires a thorough understanding of the product/service, brand, value-on-offer, etc.

Of course, writing effective marketing material isn't as easy as it appears. The writer must...

  • Be highly skilled at writing
  • Be an excellent communicator, listener, and observer
  • Possess an eye for details
  • Be familiar with cross-cultural sensitivity
  • Be adept at building stories and weaving them into words
  • Remember that his/her writing will not help much if the product/service that s/he is working on is of inferior quality

Writing effective marketing material offers the following six benefits:

  1. Clear communication among stakeholders
  2. A better understanding of market trends
  3. Enhanced brand value
  4. A good sales pitch to start with
  5. A firm base for advertising campaigns
  6. A trigger to build trust and respect for your organization, product, or service

Finally, here are five ways to make your marketing writing more effective.

1. Define focus

A sharp focus on what matters is vital. For example, when writing a product/application requirements document, the writer needs to focus on the actual end-user needs. When the requirements are finalized, the writer needs to document them in the most professional manner so that information can be easily retrieved at a later stage, requiring little or no follow-up with users. Ambiguity in requirements documents leads to repeated discussions and meetings with users.

While marketing your products/applications, focusing on the unique selling proposition (USP), or the differentiator, yields positive results. I remember a campaign for a residential project that had its location as a selling point. Trains, buses, hospitals, schools, shopping, grocery, and entertainment were available within 3-6 minutes' walking distance. That was the project's USP. One could imagine their billboards: "Walking is good for your health; walk to almost everything you need."

2. Less is more

Even a few words can convey a lot—if they're the right words. Use the minimum number of words to express the ideas you want to impart. The careful selection of words can simplify the most complex things.

I once saw a bakery catchphrase that read, "We bake to differ." Just four words, but they convey such a strong message and succeed in eliciting interest, curiosity, and desire.

3. Simple is effective

Simple is the buzzword these days. Anything simple is loved. Human beings by nature love simple things. If your writing, too, is simple—it is sure to give you the desired result.

Consider this wordy sentence: "When a user logs in and makes an attempt to create a task by filling out inadequate data fields or attempts to enter data that has not been identified as valid data for system approval, the system should be able to be responsive enough to notify the user about the probable exceptions and should request him/her to review and revise the data that needs to be entered." So unnecessarily confusing, wordy, and complicated! Here's what simplification can do: "The application should display an error if the user enters invalid or insufficient data while creating a task."

Avoid using hefty words such as "extraneous," "insinuate," "responsive," etc.

4. Enable visualization

Words, when used appropriately, can create pictures in one's mind. If your words enable users to visualize a workflow in a requirements document, for example, you can safely assume that your writing has hit the bull's eye. A project requirement should be able to create an image in the user's mind. For example, a requirement that reads, "If a user completes a task, all the stakeholders should receive an email notification," would conjure up a visual of a user clicking the submit button followed by an inbox receiving an email notification.

5. Involve users

Involving users in marketing communication (or in any communication) is a way to achieve your goals. In the case of writing marketing material, be as user-centric as possible. Each stakeholder can pose as a user and visualize what the user needs could be.

In the case of copywriting or marketing brochures, stirring up the target consumer groups' emotions helps greatly. Your words must be carefully chosen to invoke the right kind of response from the consumer.

I remember an Indian residential project developer's print ad campaigns, wherein the copywriter had done a fabulous job of making the copy as consumer-friendly as possible. He had used regional language very effectively to attract consumer attention. He had written his copy in a story format, in which the lead character enters the apartment and experiences the benefits by imagining various life scenarios. The copy was so appealing that I was tempted to visit the project and book an apartment.


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Sameer Suryakant Kulkarni is the senior content lead at Infosys Technologies Limited. He can be reached via Sameer_Kulkarni01@infosys.com.

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  • by Meredith Blevins Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    Perfect!
    And, writing succinct sentences, helps our brain organize aroun d what we're trying to get across.
    It's a good skill, regardless of what you're trying to communicate.

  • by Gord Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    Good article, Sameer. Actually, two good articles...one on market research and the other on marketing writing.

    I'm currently doing some copywriting for a software services company, and it's a real challenge to free them from the tendency toward tech-speak and irrelevant details.

    I think some other underappreciated factors in the tech community, possibly the topic of a future article for you, are the interplay between the text and the visuals, and how the actually appearance of the text on the document/web site/screen affects the message that the reader internalizes.

    Whew, I used some big words there. Better read your article again.

  • by Robin Hall Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    Great article--I can be wordy, so this was a great reminder to keep it simple and use words that communicate well with the audience!

  • by Gayatri Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    Nice article, Sameer. Good points to keep in mind when I write.

  • by John Moreau Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    Great article! To it, I would add that it can be helpful, when writing technical marketing materials, to minimize the distance between user and software by addressing them directly.

    So, in a sentence like "The application should display an error if the user enters invalid or insufficient data while creating a task," consider phrasing it as "The application should display an error if YOU enter invalid..."

  • by Sameer Thu Jan 27, 2011 via web

    Hey thanks all for all the wonderful comments.

    Gord,

    Great thought. Visual appeal is one of the most important parts in any kind of interaction. Maybe, in audio communication, clarity of voice, pronunciation, diction etc can be likened to visual appeal. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful thought.

    John,

    You are right. Maybe, while writing requirements documents, authors tend to use 'user' since the document is meant not for the users but for the people who would develop the feature; so to make them think from the user perspective, using 'user' helps. This gives an impartial view purely from the user perspective. But again, developers too can imagine themselves as users and read the document. In this case, using 'you' suits the best and is easily understood.

    Meredith, Robin, and Gayatri,

    Completely agree with your viewpoints.

    Thanks,
    Sameer

  • by Stephen Thu Jan 27, 2011 via web

    Love "we bake to differ". Where was it? Thanks for your cogent and valuable comments. A great reminder

  • by Jon-Mikel Bailey Thu Jan 27, 2011 via web

    Great post, I especially LOVE "We bake to differ". What a great tagline. Many times I see businesses either over thinking their copy or worrying too much about sounding like an expert and not about connecting with the reader. Great tips, thanks!

  • by Sameer Fri Jan 28, 2011 via web

    I had seen this tagline 'We bake to differ' on a bakery van in Chicago. It just stayed with me.

    Yes, businesses think taglines should be something that should reflect their business operations, values, mission, expertise etc. What they don't think is a simple 4-word line can very strongly convey the basic message. To keep it simple yet powerful is the mantra here. A strong association between the tagline and brand is the key point. For example, HP is very well tied with 'Invent' or the most recent copy 'Coke open happiness' is such a good tagline for Coke.

  • by Sara Fri Jan 28, 2011 via web

    Great points! Often writing shorter succinct phrases is more difficult than wordy descriptive sentences. It's the to-the-point phrases that are the most effective. It seems like in the era of 140 characters we are learning to do that a lot more.

  • by Danny Naz - Naz Creative Fri Jan 28, 2011 via web

    I recently had a long discussion with one of my account managers that disagreed with the direction of copy for one of our clients. I will be sure to send this to her to make sure she understands the process better and the fundamentals of writing clear, concise and yet effective copy.

  • by Stephanie Janard Mon Jan 31, 2011 via web

    Here's another tip: understand where your prospect is at in the buying stage, i.e., how aware are they that they have an urgent problem or desire? How aware are they of solutions that can solve this problem or meet this desire?

    Knowing the answer to these two questions helps you craft your copy around the most compelling messages at this point in time for your targeted prospects. You'll probably find you need to create different versions for some pieces, depending on which buying/awareness stage various prospects are residing.

  • by Jaya Wed Feb 2, 2011 via web

    Great articles..wonderful examples :)..

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