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How hard-working copy helps you prosper in economic downturns

Current economic storms continue to knock the wind out of your customers. Told the sky is falling, many consumers have frozen, retreating to the perceived safety of immobility.

For scared customers, action—any action—feels counterintuitive. When the economy falters, not only are people less likely to buy, but they also balk at donating, calling for more info, clicking links, joining your mailing list, moving at all.

As a marketer facing the freeze, your impulse may be to hunker down as well. It’s tempting to pull the plug on marketing spending.

But don’t.

Slashing your marketing communications budget now is a bad move. Industry studies, and calm common sense, tell you that sustained marketing results in better profitability and increased market share over the long haul.

In addition to tarnishing your image, dramatic marcom reductions erode customer relations. People resent—and remember—abandonment.

Your customers feel offended when you stop talking to them through marketing and communications.

Or when you persist in delivering company-centered messaging.

Maybe in boom times you could get away with hipper-than-thou headlines and organization-centric sales content.

It’s time to come to your senses.

To weather the storm, build strong relationships with your customers. Let them know you care with hard-working copy that speaks in their language about their needs.

“Hard-working copy” is content that does more than lounge around your website, brochure or direct mailer, trying to hook customers with one-liners and empty small-talk.

It’s copy that builds consumer confidence and sustains relationship. Evokes emotions and touches on customers’ core desires.

Convinces customers that engagement serves their best interest.

And yes, even in hard times, good copy gets customers to take action.

8 elements of hard-working copy

Great copy doesn’t work all by its lonesome. It can’t replace customer service, website usability, a trained sales force, brand strength, and, hey, outstanding products and services.

To see if your copy is working as hard as it can, ask yourself if your content…

  1. Drives action. Does your copy move your customer along the buying/selling/donating funnel? Before you put a finger on the keyboard, map a “copy path” that helps your customers tread step-by-step toward your conversion goal, a visit to your website, signing up for your newsletter, calling for more info, etc.

  2. Focuses on your customer, not your company. “You cannot sell the organization,” writes online copy expert Gerry McGovern, “by selling the organization.” If you want your customer to listen, stop talking about yourself. Today more than ever before, your impatient customer wants to know “What’s in it for me?” So don’t hammer her with self-serving hyperbole on your products’ “innovative,” “world class” features. Instead, transform features into benefits. And not “fake benefits” important only to you. Real benefits, relevant to her. Not sure how your product benefits your customer? Then get to know her better. Study focus group research, listen to customer service tapes, surf online forums and blogs, talk to sales reps or pick up the phone and talk to real, live customers.

  3. Offers unique solutions to your customers’ problems. Do you feel her pain? Do you understand her heart’s desire? If not, go back to Number #2, above. Craft copy to empathetically speak to your customer’s demands and challenges. Let her needs be your starting point. Then offer your product or service as the unique solution by delineating genuine benefits and helpful information that let her move forward with confidence.

  4. Makes promises—and delivers. Promise to fulfill your customer’s heart’s desire, and deliver on the promise. But don’t promise because you wish you could deliver. Don’t tell her to “Call Dr. Smith to discuss your dermatological needs today” when in reality you’ll route her to a no-exit phone menu. If you can’t deliver, don’t make the promise.

  5. Anticipates—and overcomes—customer objections. Is on-street parking a problem at your dental business? Don’t ignore the objection, address it head on. “You’ll find convenient parking one block from Metro Dental in the Citi-Park parking lot. Use the enclosed voucher for FREE PARKING on your next visit.”

  6. Taps into feelings. People make buying decisions based on emotions, not analytically weighing pros and cons. The jeans du jour aren’t about durability and thrift. They promise youth, insider status, social decoding and power. Cancer services not only provide medical break-throughs, they deliver hope, love and life. Reason solidifies a sale after the buying decision is made. That’s when facts, figures, claims and testimonials mollify your customer’s qualms, rationalize the purchase and ease buyer’s remorse.

  7. Kills your darlings“—as Faulkner so colorfully put it. This means the disciplined copywriter cuts superfluous words and phrases, when they fail to serve the copy’s purpose: selling your products and services.

  8. Talks like your reader talks. Craft your copy to speak in a warm conversational voice. Address your reader as “you.” Use short, fragmentary sentences. If you talk that way. Don’t be shy about breaking grammatical rules. To connect with your reader, imagine you are chatting with a real person, someone you care about in your own life. Think about her feelings, wants and needs. Her fears and limitations. Now reach out, pat her arm, smile, and write copy that helps her.

Walk with your customers through the valley of the shadow of (economic) dearth.
You keep hearing it. New marketing is about relationships, permission-based communications and customer conversations. Start and sustain the conversation with hard-working copy now when economic skies are grey, and watch what happens when the sun comes out.

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