I don’t have the world’s longest attention span. Sure, there are times when I can get thoroughly lost in what I’m doing. For example, in my youth I spent many hours patiently building model airplanes, although the fumes from the glue may have contributed to my methodical pace. When I receive a direct-mail piece or an email blast, however, I tend to skim over the veneer of cleverness and the endless lists of what a product does or how many years the company has served Satisfied Customers Just Like Me. I cut to the chase — and as far as I’m concerned, the chase ends with the answer to one simple question: “What’s in it for me?”
I’ve rewritten countless websites and print marketing campaigns in which the client had simply taken too long to get to that crucial question, or in some cases had never gotten to it at all amidst the personal trumpet blowing and back patting. Of course your reputation for quality matters. And yes, you DO have to explain who you are and what you do sooner or later. But that’s not what we prospective buyers are really looking for. We’re interested in how you will improve our lives by solving a specific problem, and the longer you take to get around to that little detail, the less chance you have of avoiding a one-way trip to the circular file.
You’ve heard it a million times: Push the benefits, not the features. While I wouldn’t suggest dumping the features, I would recommend leap-frogging the benefits into a prominent position so they can grab your audience’s attention from the git-go. One simple way to do this is by playing the “What If” game — an arresting opening statement that dares us to dream: “What if you could guarantee your family’s financial security for life, starting today?” “Imagine getting the best night’s sleep you ever had — every night!” Determine what your ideal clients’ ideal outcome would be, get them excited by making them envision that ideal outcome, and then offer it to them on a silver platter.
If you feel the need to paint an even clearer picture for your prospects or remind them of the problem at hand, you can lead off with a pain statement. If you offer a more efficient lawn mower, make your reader picture another hot, horrible summer battling that broken-down behemoth in the garage and laying out money for frequent repairs. Then flip the emotional state with a “What If” that describes the fast, effortless mowing experience possible with your super-reliable new MegaCut 3000. Our hero!
Whatever approach you use, make those benefits leap off the page so your readers don’t have to search for them. If you need a reminder, hang a picture of a typical customer over your computer monitor with a caption reading, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” If your answer to that question is compelling enough, we will keep reading — and buying.
For more about my writing services and current package deals, check out my website at www.reynoldswriting.com.