1: Get all previously published material on the product

For an existing product, there’s a mountain of literature you can send to the copywriter as background information. This material includes: 

Tear‐sheets of previous ads

  • Brochures
  • Catalogs
  • Article reprints
  • Technical papers
  • Copies of speeches
  • Audio‐visual scripts
  • Press kits 

By studying this material, the copywriter should have 80 percent of the information he needs to write the copy.

2: Ask questions about the product

    • What are its features and benefits? (Make a complete list.)
    • Which benefit is the most important?
    • How is the product different from the competitions? (Which features are exclusive? Which are better than the competition’s?)
    • If the product isn’t different, what attributes can be stressed that haven’t been stressed by the competition? 
    • What technologies does the product compete against?
    • What are the applications of the product?
    • What industries can use the product?
    • What problems does the product solve in the marketplace?
    • How is the product positioned in the marketplace? 
  • How does the product work?
  • How reliable is the product?
  • How efficient?
  • How economical?
  • Who has bought the product and what do they say about it?
  • What materials, sizes and models is it available in?
  • How quickly does the manufacturer deliver the product?
  • What service and support does the manufacturer offer?
  • Is the product guaranteed

 3: Ask questions about your audience.

  • Who will buy the product? (What markets is it sold to?)
  • What is the customer’s main concern? (Price, delivery, performance, reliability, service maintenance, quality, efficiency) 
    • What is the character of the buyer?
    • What motivates the buyer?
    • How many different buying influences must the copy appeal to? Two tips on getting to know your audience:
  • If you are writing an ad, read issues of the magazine in which the ad will appear.
  • If you are writing direct mail, find out what mailing lists will be used and study the list descriptions.

4: Determine the objective of your copy.

This objective may be one or more of the following: 

  • To generate inquiries
  • To generate sales
  • To answer inquiries
  • To qualify prospects
  • To transmit product information
  • To build brand recognition and preference
  • To build company image
    Before you write copy, study the product ‐ its features, benefits, past performance, applications, and markets. Digging for the facts will pay off, because in business‐to‐business advertising, specifics sell.
  • What are the characteristics that make copy effective? Why does one ad make a lasting impression and sell merchandise, while another falls flat and doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay its own cost?
    Virtually all persuasive copy contains the eight elements described in this article. The successful ad:

    1. Gains attention
    2. Focuses on the customer
    3. Stresses benefits
    4. Differentiates you from the competition
    5. Proves its case
    6. Establishes credibility
    7. Builds value
    8. Closes with a call to action

As for what an ad should be, here are some characteristics shared by successful direct response print ads: 

  • They stress a benefit. The main selling proposition is not cleverly hidden but is made immediately clear. Example: “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
  • They arouse curiosity and invite readership. The key here is not to be outrageous but to address the strongest interests and concerns of your target audience. Example: “Do you Make These Mistakes in English?” appeals to the reader’s desire to avoid embarrassment and write and speak properly.
  • They provide information. The headline “How to Stop Emission Problems – at Half the Cost of Conventional Air Pollution Control Devices” lures the reader because it promises useful information. Prospects today seek specific, usable information on highly specialized topics. Ads that provide information the reader wants get higher readership and better response.
  • They talk to the reader. Why are so many successful control ads written by direct response entrepreneurs rather the top freelance copywriters and direct response agencies?
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