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Effective Copywriting

Want to really impress your prospect and give him sales materials that will make him want to order now?

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Want to really impress your prospect and give him sales materials that will make him want to order now? Follow these five important sales secrets from Bob Bly, an independent copywriter and consultant in Dumont, New Jersey, who specializes in business-to-business and direct-response marketing. He is the author of more than 30 books, including The Copywriter's Handbook (Henry Holt & Co., $13.95, 800-288-2131).

1. Target your material toward a specific audience. These days, it's not possible to understand and meet the needs of every potential customer. Show you are a specialist, Bly urges. "You have a selling advantage and come across as believable when your sales materials are tightly targeted to specific audiences," he explains. "Say you offer `accounting services for advertising agencies,' not just `accounting services.' "

2. Use testimonials. People might not believe your product or service can do what you say it will. You can overcome this disbelief by having a past or present customer praise you and your company. Testimonials are usually written in the customer's own words, are surrounded by quotation marks, and are attributed to the individual. They can be used in sales letters, brochures and advertisements.

3. Write from the customer's point of view. "Start your copy with something that engages the prospect," Bly suggests, "and what most people are interested in is themselves." If an insurance agency wanted to introduce its new employee health-benefit program for small-business owners, it might be tempted to state the obvious, using the phrase, "Introducing our Guarda-Health Employee Benefit Plan." The agency would get better results if it wrote something that directly interests the prospect: "Are the skyrocketing costs of your insurance premiums threatening to put your company out of business?" As Bly explains, "That's something business owners who provide benefits to their employees can relate to."

4. Use questions. A great way to engage your prospect is to pose questions in the headlines of your sales literature. "Every car-wash owner should know these seven business-success secrets. Do you?" Or, "Why haven't satellite-dish owners been told these facts?"

5. Turn a negative into a positive. If you are new in business and haven't sold many products or signed up many clients for your services, don't despair. You can phrase your situation this way: "Not one widget buyer in a thousand has ever experienced the advantages of this new XYZ widget design."

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