If the brochure and cover letter you create don't do one of these three things, they have failed. Completely. Which brings us to the first rule of this game: the brochure and cover letter you produce must have a purpose. And since the only real purpose of any marketing document is motivating immediate prospect action, the purpose of what you create can only be one of the three things above.
Your brochure and cover letter exist either to:
. get the prospect to request more information;
. call up and arrange an appointment, or
. buy something, by either filling in an order coupon, or walking into your establishment.
Prominently post the purpose you have selected before you write your brochure and cover letter. Everything you put into this brochure, this cover letter must work towards achieving this single objective. Nothing else must be allowed in.
The truth is, when most marketers create their brochures and cover letter they get off the track. They forget what they're doing... and why. Don't be one of them. There's a very easy trick to seeing if your brochure and cover letter are correct: after you write each sentence, ask yourself if it's helping achieve your overriding objective. If it isn't, it's wrong. And that's a fact.
Focus On The Prospect, Not Yourself
Everybody supposedly knows that all marketing documents ought to be about your prospect, not about you. Sadly, the vast majority of brochures and cover letters fail to achieve this objective. Take a brochure I received in today's mail: on the mailing panel it simply says, "Instrument Calibration and Repair. Calibration: Standardizing a measuring instrument." That's it.
Now, I ask you: are these words about the sender, or about the recipient? It's obvious, isn't it! Lines that are about the marketer rightly elicit this response: "So what!" "Instrument Calibration and Repair". So what! What does this have to do with me, your prospect?
Lines that are about the prospect, the most important person in every brochure and cover letter, get this response: "Aha!" The prospect is interested in knowing one thing and one thing only about you: "What can you do for me?" And when that question is answered, he's interested in these questions: "When can you do it?" And "How much will it cost me"?
When you're writing a brochure, do this simple test. Read each sentence and ask yourself if it's about you or your prospect. If it's about you the sentence will feel incomplete, because it won't have the persuasive information the prospect wants. No wonder! Your prospect is saying, "So what?" to it. But if the sentence is focused on your prospect, offers him honest, believable benefits, and motivates him to take immediate action, it's finished.
Doing Your Homework
The big reason most people's brochures and cover letters fail is because their creators don't do any homework before writing them. Most people hate writing; their objective is to get it out of the way as quickly as possible, right or wrong. But not your savvy marketer! He may hate writing as much as the next person, but he never loses sight of his objective: that each marketing piece will either make him a profit, or be a dead loss. And
that if he's to achieve the former, he needs to get other people, his prospects, to act... NOW! Homework helps achieve his objective.
What You Have To Know Before You Write
The first thing you've got to know before you can successfully create any brochure or cover letter is who you're talking to. The best marketing documents, even if millions are sent out, are conversations between two people... you and just one prospect. You have to know who this prospect is and have to understand what he wants, when he wants it, why he might not take action to acquire it, and how much he can afford to pay for it. All these points must be dealt with in your marketing materials.
Without a doubt, one of the greatest single reasons why marketing communications fail to get people to take action is because those people don't feel that what they're being asked to consider has anything to do with them... it doesn't speak to them about what's important to them and, therefore, doesn't motivate them to take immediate action. In marketing, this is disastrous.
Hint: don't create brochures and cover letters for a mass. Create them for a single person, a person who represents your market. Make yourself focus on this single individual, perhaps someone you know; certainly someone you know about. This will help you create just the right tone and style. In writing to this individual, consider what he wishes to achieve, when, what specific benefits (in priority order) will motivate him to act, and what he has to do to get these benefits... NOW!
Fashion The Components Of Your Brochure And Cover Letter
Creating a brochure and cover letter is rather like making a quilt. You need to fashion each individual square before you knit the whole together. Start with the Anxiety Component.
Using Anxiety Information
People act when action is less threatening and more desirable than non-action. Most of us are pretty lethargic; even when we have problems, our inclination is simply to hope they go away without us having to exert ourselves. This is one of the major problems each marketer must overcome. Identifying and utilizing prospect anxiety helps us achieve this objective.
What is happening to our prospects? What are they likely to lose if they don't take immediate action? How believable can we make this loss? Who is willing to testify that these things will happen? This is the kind of information you need to use in your Anxiety Component.
Remember: fear of loss is always a greater motivation than hope for gain. Your prospects know what they have now... and even if it isn't what they want, they are still afraid of losing it.
Be specific! Don't just vaguely intimate to your prospects that they will lose something by failing to act. Be specific. Tell them how much they'll lose, when they'll lose it, why they'll lose it. Use numbers... and the names of real authorities. In short, make the anxiety you use authoritative.
Turn The Features Of What You Produce Into Benefits
If you want your brochures and cover letters to get fast prospect response, you've got to turn the features of what you produce into buyer benefits. Features are things that pertain to what you're selling... color, size, weight, payment terms, delivery information, etc. But these things are only important insofar as they can be transformed into benefits that motivate immediate prospect response. In other words, the fact that your widget comes in blue is no necessary advantage; it's merely a feature whose significance you must establish and sell to the prospects.
Here's how to handle this problem: list all the facts (features) about what you're selling. Now transform them into buyer benefits by starting a sentence about each one beginning, "You get..." A feature is merely a feature until you turn it into a client-centered benefit using a "you get" sentence.
When you're finished with this activity you should have dozens of "you get" sentences. Now the trick is to prioritize them... which are the most important to your prospects and which most likely to motivate them to take immediate action. Remember: all benefits are not equal. Some are more important than others. And these are the ones you should lead with and emphasize in your brochure and cover letter.
Find And Use Testimonials
Your prospect is a skeptical creature. Take my word for it. He's been burned in the past... and knows his judgment is questionable. Because of this, his natural inclination is to do nothing... the very thing every marketer fears and is constantly working against. That's where testimonials come in.
Recognize that your prospects are skeptical and need to be convinced to act NOW! Believable -- specific -- benefits achieved by people just like them will help motivate them. The key words here are: "believable," "specific", and "people just like them."
Don't make your testimonials vague. Make them specific. Don't say more widgets were produced in an hour... say how many more... and how much money the satisfied customer made as a result. In short, quantify your testimonials... and give them teeth by making them specific and detailed.
This is the way to overcome prospect inertia, because with these kinds of testimonials here's what you're saying: do you want an extra widget each hour (with corresponding profit)? Of course you do! And that's why you need our product. Take action now to get it... or keep losing an extra widget each hour of every day.
Turn Your Bio Into A Marketing Hook
Most brochures are packed with biographical data about the sender, data that does nothing more than make the prospect scream, "Who cares?" Remember, what I said: EACH line of your brochure and cover letter either works to compel an immediate prospect response, or it shouldn't be there! Thus, every line of your bio must be turned into a reason for the prospect to act.
Thus, don't be like this marketer whose brochure I'm looking at: "Mary Pretzer is a graphic design consultant with extensive experience in the use of desktop publishing software and hardware." So what!!! What benefit does the prospect get from this... does her experience mean she can show you how to produce books faster and cheaper? How much faster? How much cheaper? Make the benefits believable and specific!
Keep in mind that biographical details are not there for your greater glorification (which most brochure creators seem to believe), but to motivate a prospect to take immediate action. Thus even the biographical features of your life must be transformed into benefits the prospect wishes to achieve and which he understands he can get only with your help.
Make An Offer
Most brochures and cover letters fail because they leave it up to the prospect to decide when to respond. They say, essentially, "Respond whenever you want to. It doesn't matter to us." But we know in reality that it does matter to the marketer when the prospect responds. The marketer has invested time, treasure, trouble, and talent creating his brochure and cover letter... and the only justification for this is getting more treasure back as fast as possible. That's where the offer comes in.
The offer provides the prospect with the justification he needs for immediate action. It says, "It's not only okay to act NOW, but acting NOW is the only sensible thing to do." As a result, he does act.
Offers come in many shapes and sizes... two for the price of one, getting something free (that costs others money), getting more for your money, you name it. But a few things are common to all: they must offer perceived benefits to the prospect and they must be limited in some way, either in time, quantity, or otherwise.
Thus, you should never offer a prospect something like a free audio cassette. That's a feature. And you know people act to achieve BENEFITS. Thus, "Learn the 6 secrets of producing more widgets each hour... and pay nothing. This $14 audio cassette is yours absolutely free when you get (name of product)... but only if you act within the next thirty days! After that, you have to figure out these secrets yourself!" See the difference?
Don't offer people a feature... offer them the benefit that that feature delivers. Don't offer them anything free... offer them something that's free to them, but costs everybody else. And never leave your offer open-ended. The whole purpose of an offer is to induce immediate action. And something open-ended torpedoes that objective.
Now Bring It All Together
At this point, it's a good idea to remind yourself what you really want to achieve with your brochure and cover letter. Whatever you've selected... getting your prospect to request more information, make an immediate phone call or buy something... involves action. And it is this action you must work to stimulate.
Remember, this stimulation begins where the eye of your prospect first alights. Thus, don't build up to what you want the prospect to do... hit him with it right away... and pile on the reasons why it is to his benefit to do what you want him to do.
Too many brochures and cover letters fail because it takes the marketer too long to get to the point. Your point -- whatever your objective -- isn't something you build up to; it's something you begin with... and which everything in your marketing communication reinforces. Because this communication only has one point... the one you selected at the very beginning.
Now ask yourself: which of the necessary components of effective marketing communications will best help me realize my objective? Starting with a testimonial... prospect anxiety... an offer... a client-centered benefit?
The answer depends on your market. But one thing is certain: whatever you select should be a deliberate decision solely determined by your desire to motivate the greatest number of your prospects fastest.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant
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