Copy Prep

Business-to-business and direct response copy persuades readers by giving them useful information about the products being advertised. The more facts you include in your copy, the better.

When you have a file full of facts at your fingertips, writing good copy is much easier. You simply select the most relevant facts and describe them in a clear, concise, direct fashion.

But when copywriters don’t bother to dig for facts, they fall back on fancy phrases and puffed-up expressions to fill the empty space on the page. The words sound nice, but they don’t sell because the copy doesn’t inform.

Here’s a four-step procedure I like to use to get the information I need to write persuasive, fact-filled copy 

Step #1: I would like to get all previously published material on the product. For an existing product, there’s a mountain of content you can send me as background information. This material includes:

Tear-sheets of previous ads
Article reprints
Technical papers
Copies of speeches
Audio-visual scripts
Press kits
Swipe files of competitors’ ads and literature
Blog posts
Web site URL
Online ads
Landing pages…

Did I hear someone say they can’t send me background material because their product is new? Nonsense. The birth of every new product is accompanied by mounds of documents you can give the copywriter. These papers include:

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

By studying this material, I should have 80 percent of the information I need to write the copy. And I can get the other 20 percent by picking up the phone and asking questions.

Steps #2-4 outline the questions I’ll ask about the product, the audience, and the objective of the copy.

Step #2: I’ll 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: I’ll 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? I’ll use two tricks to get to know your audience:
If I’m writing an ad, I’ll read issues of the magazine in which the ad will appear.
If I’m writing direct mail, I’ll find out what mailing lists will be used and study the list descriptions.

Step #4: I’ll ask 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 I write the copy, I’ll study the product—its features, benefits, past performance, applications, and markets.

Digging for the facts will pay off, because in business-to-business advertising, specifics sell.