How to Write, Right

Write like you talk.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing B2B marketing letters is using very formal language. It’s a very common mistake.

It’s one that I made all the time when I first started writing copy in 1991. (In fact, sometimes I still screw it up).

The bottom line is this: Make your letters sound like a conversation – in print. Your message has to sound like one real human being talking to another. Forget ALL the formal phrases taught in “Business Letter Writing 101. When you meet a prospect in person, you wouldn’t say “I hand you herein my new promotional catalog.” So why say, “Enclosed herein” in your sales letter?

Simply say. “As you can see I’ve included a copy of our current catalog of phenomenal products. I think you’ll really like what I circled for you on page 39.” That’ll get their attention. It sounds real, and personal, because it is! Stick to simple words, short phrases, and paragraphs consisting of 1-3 short sentences. Your recipients should not have to think too much to figure out what you’re saying.

The second most common mistake is trying to decide on the perfect length for your letter.

In my monthly newsletter at, I frequently answer subscriber questions. Recently I had one from a guy who wondered: If long copy outsells short copy, than why does NIKE say Just Do It(TM)?

Great question. What Nike has there my friend, is a slogan. It’s a branding strategy to get the masses to identify a statement with a product. Companies have done this since the beginning of time, (or close anyway). It is also an attempt to get people thinking about your product, so they associate everyday activities with their brand.

For Coke, it’s about associating refreshment with drinking a soda. For Nike it’s about associating getting off your lazy bum, putting away your excuses and getting into the game. Ultimately, the goal from the company’s perspective is TO SELL!

So, let’s see how it works?

What company do you think of when you hear this? “When it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.” That was easy right? FedEx. “The Pause That Refreshes” A little tougher, eh? It’s Coke. What about this one? “How do you capture inspiration? Ooh, that’s a lot tougher – Adobe Software. How about “Think Small” if you guessed Volkswagen, you’re right. How about “It’s everywhere you want to be” – That my dear subscriber is a slogan for Visa. Now these are all well and good, but here’s the question:

Do any of these sell a dang thing?

Who really knows? How you track people, that get your slogan inside their head, then obsessively hear it over and over again, so many times that they HAVE to go out and buy your products is a task for John Edward or some other purported psychic – not me. The point is this. The companies that come up with slogans spend profane amounts of money to get that slogan out there. They’d do better sending every qualified prospect a coupon to buy their products. Then tracking the redemption and sending them a Tee-Shirt that has “Just Do It” plastered all over it.

Okay, maybe not. But the question is has that slogan EVER compelled anyone to buy?

Do you know when that NIKE slogan came out? Two years ago? How about five? Nope. 1988. That’s right, NIKE introduced that slogan 15 long and expensive years ago. Is it a household phrase? I don’t know. Not in my house anyway.

So What Does All This Mean In Regards To Copy Length?

Well it means this. If you’ve got millions of dollars you want to “pee” away getting people to memorize your slogan or sing your jingle when they are bored. Go for it. But if you are trying to make your first million hawking things out of your garage, from your website or in your brick-n-mortar business, tell your target audience the whole story.

The more you tell the more you sell. At best, a slogan can transmit what you do. At worst all it will do for you is waste your money and wind up being associated with something else, e.g. Wendy’s “where’s the beef?”

In the end, your copy should be long enough to tell the complete message, story, whatever, and short enough so as not to bore the prospect. Figure that one out and you’ve got it made!

Source by Tony Policci