By Nancy Drexler
If you're like many people in the payments arena, you fall into one of these three categories: You think you're a great writer; you think you're a good enough writer; you are successful enough to hire someone else to do your writing.
To each of you, I say:
Here are some pointers for making your letters, sales materials, ads and other written communications more effective.
I am not suggesting you pepper your communications with grammatical errors. I'm just saying that it is perfectly appropriate to keep your tone conversational. Your writing should reflect who you are. Don't say, "Me and you should get together." But don't worry about ending a sentence with a preposition.
Say something in a print ad along the lines of, "Call me today for your free quote," followed by the correct telephone number.
A postscript is a very effective place for your call to action. Letter readers often read the first line or paragraph and then the P.S. before reading anything else. While you want to keep your postscript's tone conversational, you must also be concise.
If the answer to your question isn't more than likely to be the one you want, you probably shouldn't ask the question. For example, don't start a letter or direct mail piece with, "Interested in the best new terminal?" or "Want to get more from your processor?" The answer to those questions could easily be "No" or even "Not right now"'; if so, your message could be tossed aside.
One of my favorite ads contains a four-color close-up of the torso of an elderly woman. Just above her left breast is a large "tattoo" that is the signature of Jimi Hendrix. There is no headline or copy, just the picture of a BIC permanent marker. Could this ad be considered offensive? Possibly. Does it catch your eye? For sure.
But what makes this ad brilliantly clever instead of gimmicky is that the visual draws you in and, without using copy, lets you know that if you write with a BIC marker, your message will last until you are old and wrinkled. The gimmick makes the point in a strong, memorable way. Similarly, good writing uses wit to enhance a message, not compete with it or detract from it.
Like a pushy salesperson, a pushy letter or sales piece can be annoying or completely counterproductive. So don't shout. Keep your tone conversational. Don't use trite phrases that underwhelm because they are overused. And don't count on bold letters and exclamation points to generate interest or excitement. Your writing will have to do that.
The best writers are great editors. Never wedded to a word or turn of phrase, they are able to delete any writing that doesn't push the narrative forward in a logical and convincing way. Good business writers don't emulate poets. They use simple, straightforward language. They know never to use a long word when a shorter one will do.
Effective writers replace the words "I" and "me" with "you" and "your." Instead of talking about what makes them great, they focus on what will benefit readers.
Clearly presented information is far more engaging than cleverly presented information. Tuning up your writing skills to concisely convey your message will pay great dividends.
Nancy Drexler is the Vice President, Marketing for SignaPay Ltd., an ISO headquartered in Dallas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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