Writing in general didn’t come easy to me when I first started. And I certainly don’t think I’ve mastered it at this point in my life. Honestly, I was a mechanical engineer with a degree who never worked a day in his life as an engineer.
I was given a tool box as my graduation present and sent into the field to learn the trades of my family business. It wasn’t as radical as it sounds since I basically grew up working in the business. Even while attending school, every day off was spent working in some facet of the business.
I share my background because you should know I was way more suited to engineering than writing for a living. That’s because I loved science and math and really stunk at spelling, grammar and pretty much any of the other mandatory liberal art courses I had to take to get my degree.
To my great luck, my girlfriend in college, now my wife, was great at all the liberal art courses so she became my primary editor. The good news for her is auto-correct has made me better at spelling and grammar so she only has to endure what I still can’t figure out as proper English. My goal is to be fluent in conversational writing, minus the ex-New York accent.
I think contractors could learn a thing or two about improving skills in this area. I know it can be done because I’m not exaggerating about how terrible I was. But, I worked at it because I knew it was important.
More importantly, I had to learn to stop speaking and writing in Technalize (yes, I made the word up), and I had to learn to convert it into plain-English. If you’re like me back then, I liked the fancy terms our trades use. I used them when I spoke to customers, too, so they’d be impressed — really, just overwhelmed — at my vast warehouse of technical jargon.
That thrill faded fast when I learned to read their faces and body language and came to understand they were totally confused by it, so there was going to be no sale made today…if ever.
I teach my clients that they need to reach out to their customers at least four times a year. But, there’s no good reason to reach out if your message isn’t worth reading and if the way you write doesn’t make it worth reading.
Today, it’s easy to send email blasts and ezines (some people call them enewsletters) to your customer list if you have their email addresses. And I strongly suggest you gather all the email addresses you can as fast as you can. It’s the cheapest way to stay in touch.
Write something worthy of reading
Remember, no one wants to read a sales piece including your customers who already know you and presumably really like you. Here’s what I do know. They will read something that’s written to educate and enhance their lives. If you take the time to write something worthy of reading because it’s of concern or just helpful to your customers, you must commit to writing it in a way that it gets read.
To me, the best examples of good writing are still newspapers and magazines in the printed world. But I also know that there are tons of great blogs on the Internet that are well written.
The magic is how to catch a reader’s attention with great headlines. If the headline doesn’t hit home with the reader, they won’t read on and act on the information being shared.
My marketing mentor, Leo, taught me that headlines are best if they are short. Five words or less is a great goal!...but sometimes tough to do:
1. Put the headline in the form of a question because a good question creates the need to know.
Ex:Want to make twice as much money at work with half the effort?
2. Put the headline in the form of a profound statement.
Ex: Lose 25 pounds in two months and never feel hungry!
Pay attention the next time you’re cruising down a highway to which billboards get your attention. I’m betting they have the magic headline strategy above.
And whether you’re writing a direct-mail postcard, an email blast or ezine, know that the best headlines actually come from a great testimonial from a happy customer who will testify to what you’re saying.
Testimonials are the secret sauce to making anything your write more effective. That’s because we all want to know someone that we can relate to and trust who says what you’re saying is true.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll have more useful tips that I gained from Leo, my marketing mentor!
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