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The Financial Copywriter

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It’s tricky to change your perspective when you live with a product or a service every day

You know your subject inside out. You've kicked the tyres a thousand times. All that can be said and written, has been said and written. From your side of the fence, that may be so. I see it differently.

I view what you’re selling as a buyer—not a writer or a marketer. It’s the core of your product that interests me. Looking at the big picture, is the value proposition on point? Are all the bases covered? Are benefits underplayed—or overlooked? Would a fresh angle or slant reinvigorate the story?

To answer those questions entails taking a step back. The writer has to be willing to look beyond the obvious and reject imprecise and easy answers. And whatever propostions and benefits you create must be specific and capable of surviving the ‘so what’ test. With sufficient concentration, dogged determination and total objectivity, you can pass that test with flying colours.

I have the time to do that.  Do you?

Polished metal letter box

If direct mail is still one of the sharpest communication tools in the box, why are most sales letters ineffective?

To write a good letter takes time and commitment. And there’s the rub. The majority of sales letters are usually dashed off in a couple of hours by somebody who would rather be doing something else.

There are no pictures or graphics to play with and space is tight. Engaging prose doesn’t evolve by accident— you have to work at it; every word, sentence and paragraph must be analysed, refined and polished to perfection.

We warm to letters which are written from one human being to another.
I want this copy to convey two points: a) that I write financial copy for a living and b) having read the words and sentiments, you’ll understand something about me. Because for better or worse, what you’re reading is what you get—i.e., copy that’s informal, personable and punchy.

If my approach falls wide of the mark for you, that’s my loss. I can’t write any other way. So expose me to your sales letters, newsletters, marketing literature, your website (and anything else that’s built on words) and I’ll give them the tender love, care and thought they deserve.

I have time to do that. Do you?

The word Pronto!

Here's why it takes more time and thought to write a short and effective email, than a long and ineffective email

Get to the 'Why?' Establish the reason/aim/purpose of the email.
Get to the point—pronto! Make your purpose, or the benefit on offer, crystal clear at the outset. Skip the pleasantries. Detailed explanations can keep until later.
Play Devils’ Advocate. Each statement you make must answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question. You must provide specific benefits or connect emotionally with the reader. Or both.
Write, rewrite and then rewrite again. Omit the words people don’t read. Writing a lean and mean email takes time, discipline and objectivity.
Don’t overdo it. Resist the temptation to list all your USPs. One sales message at a time is enough.
Ask for action. Tell the reader what you’d like them to do—i.e., email me. Call me. Visit the website. Download the PDF.
Skimability. Does it pass the ‘Scan’ test? Will the reader get the gist of your message through the emboldened keywords?

Be specific. The more mirrors you add and the more smoke you blow, the reader will conclude that there’s nothing of interest here, or they’re just not seeing it. In either instance, they move on.
Give. Offer something the reader values, is interested in, or is intrigued by. Be credible and don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.
Less is more. Use short words, sentences and paragraphs—stick to one or two sentences per para. Intersperse crisp and punchy sentences with longer ones: a technique which creates flow, pace and colour.
Repetition. Some may be desirable.
Completeness.
 Ensure there’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
Benefits, benefits, benefits. Show how your product or service makes life better (benefits); not what it does (features).

Cart before horse illustration

Words before pictures—always

It happens all the time. Most websites start with a ‘look and feel’ exercise. Having no solid content to work with, the designer produces a Photoshop mock up. Usually that will be an impractical, plucked-out-of-the-ether design, which relies on attractive (but usually irrelevant) library images for its appeal.

At this stage, much is made of responsive layouts, colour palettes, animations and CMS. But what about the words? Words are the core of any and every website. Putting design first, is adding bells and whistles before the engine’s been built.

Why you should ask me to quote for your next website:

  • Your site will be made-to-measure and reflect your firm's personality
  • Economies of scale—you get a start-to-finish price for the whole job
  • You spend less time on it—one person to communicate with
  • Less frustrating—left hand knows what the right hand is doing
  • Because it's founded on real content, your site will finish as it started—i.e. you avoid expensive rethinks and redesign work
Illustration of the holy grail

What you have that your competitors don't

Looking for a succinct phrase or image that differentiates you from your peers and opposition? A statement that articulates the true nature and value of your service or product? A couple of words that determine the place your brand or service should occupy in a client’s mind when compared to the rest? If so, then I can help.

I view what you’re selling as a buyer—not a writer or a marketer. It’s the core of your product that interests me. Looking at the big picture, is the value proposition on point? Are all the bases covered? Are benefits underplayed—or overlooked? Would a fresh angle or slant reinvigorate the story?

Establishing your point of difference gives you something firm and unique to build on. It summarises what’s special about your enterprise. It’s the ‘starting point’ in the preparation of marketing collateral. It's the hook in face-to-face presentations. It can provide direction for the business and become its ethos.But of course not all big ideas are appropriate ideas.

A simple way of telling when a big idea is the right idea: if your competition couldn't say it or stand by it — and you can and do — then you’ve found your big idea.