You Got an Assignment – Here’s Your First Step to Writing a Winning Package

As an AWAI member, you already understand this basic principle of successful copy: the more relevant facts you include in your writing, the better chance you have of getting a control.

Not all clients understand this. That’s why I use this four-step procedure to get the information I need to write persuasive, fact-filled copy for my clients. This technique should be helpful to anyone who works with copy – copywriters, account executives, and ad managers alike.

Step #1: Get all previously published material on the product.

For an existing product, there's a mountain of literature you can get from your client to use as background information. This material could include:

  • Past promos – both successful and not successful
  • Tear sheets of previous ads
  • Brochures
  • Catalogs
  • Article reprints
  • Technical papers
  • Copies of speeches
  • Audio-visual scripts
  • Press kits
  • Swipe files of competitors' ads and literature
  • Customer service correspondence

Did I hear someone say he can't send me printed material because his product is new? Nonsense. The birth of every new product is accompanied by mounds of paperwork. These papers might include:

  • Internal memos
  • Letters of technical information
  • Product specifications
  • Engineering drawings
  • Business and marketing plans
  • Reports
  • Proposals

By studying this material, you should have 80 percent of the information you need to write the copy. And you can get the other 20 percent by picking up the phone and asking questions. Steps #2-4 outline the questions you should ask about the product, the audience, and the objective of the copy.

Step #2: Ask questions about the product.

  • What are its features and benefits? (Make a complete list.)
  • Which benefit is the most important?
  • How is the product different from the competition's? (Which features are exclusive? Which are better than the competition's?)
  • If the product isn't different, what attributes can be stressed that haven't been stressed by the competition?
  • What technologies does the product compete against?
  • What are the applications of the product?
  • What industries can use the product?
  • What problems does the product solve in the marketplace?
  • How is the product positioned in the marketplace?
  • How does the product work?
  • How reliable is the product? How efficient? How economical?
  • Who has bought the product and what do they say about it?
  • What materials, sizes, and models is it available in?
  • How quickly does the manufacturer deliver the product?
  • What service and support does the manufacturer offer?
  • Is the product guaranteed?

Step #3: Ask questions about your audience.

  • Who will buy the product? (What markets is it sold to?)
  • What is the customer's main concern? (Price, delivery, performance, reliability, service maintenance, quality efficiency?)
  • What is the character of the buyer?
  • What motivates the buyer?
  • How many different buying influences must the copy appeal to?

Two tips on getting to know your audience:

  1. If you are writing an ad, read issues of the magazine in which the ad will appear.
  2. If you are writing direct mail, find out what mailing lists will be used and study the list descriptions.

Step #4: Determine the objective of your copy. This objective may be one or more of the following:

  • To generate inquiries
  • To generate sales
  • To answer inquiries
  • To qualify prospects
  • To transmit product information
  • To build brand recognition and preference
  • To build company image

Before you write copy, study the product – its features, benefits, past performance, applications, and markets. Digging for the facts will pay off, because specifics sell.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 13, 2002

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