Shakespeare? …Dickens? …Mark Twain? …Edgar Allan Poe?
I was thinking more along the lines of David Ogilvy or Leo Burnett, two gurus of the advertising world who knew a bon mot when they saw one (as did the others above).
I was trying to come up with a witty headline for this newsletter. “How ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Can Improve Your Marketing Message” is simply too long a headline. And the ‘How To…’ titles can get old quickly.
There I was, asking my brain to solve the puzzle I gave it: “I’m writing a piece about succinct copy descriptions, Brain. Can you come up with a clever title for it?”
The Brain, transmitting well beyond the speed of light, searched its vast memory for a correlation with something stored away. The only thing that came to mind was flipping the channels last week and seeing the host of “Dancing with the Stars” make a quick, descriptive comment about the latest star to take a turn on the dance floor.
“So-and-so, former star of [fill-in-the-blank] and recently of [fill-in-the-blank], took to rehearsals with…” in Tom Bergeron’s sing-songy voice, fills the air. And there you have it. Some copywriter has poured through a mountain of research (as well as likely gaining approvals from the star’s publicist and lawyer) to drill down his or her introduction on that one night to approximately ten to twenty words in a short, dependent clause.
Now you or your business may not be considering a turn on the dance floor in front of a zillion viewers, but you can imagine that if you were, you’d want that handful of words to be quite perfect, no?
Let’s try closer to home: (In my neck of the woods, that translates to a networking event with wine and cheese served.) You’re standing in the room observing everyone mingling and overhear one of your clients describing your services to someone you’ve never met. What would you like that person to say about you – to best describe your business in a nutshell?
Another scenario: You’re about to be introduced at a speaking engagement. The host has asked for one or two sentences from you as introduction to you and your services. What do you want the audience to take away from the brief introduction?
First, if you haven’t already got a clear and concise marketing message for prospects, we should talk! Second, assuming you do have spiel on your website or in a brochure, summarizing your message, how concise is it?
At the very least, most companies have a paragraph of ‘press release style’ description about the company. This may be 80 to 100 words or more, much too long for any of these introductions. How do you distill it down to the most important keywords?
Quick Step or Tango?
It may all be ‘dancing,’ but the moves are different from one dance to the next. Similarly, the words in your marketing message will vary too from a speaking engagement introduction to a press release for a new product.
- Focus on the problem you solve. Note the singular ‘problem.’ For a short introduction, key in on the most important product or service you provide that solves clients’ most problems. Example: “At XYZ Company, we provide cutting-edge web tools to process our clients’ e-commerce Pay-Pal transactions in half the speed of our competitors.”
- Focus on the results: “We do this, so our client gets that” – describing the main benefit.
- If space allows you can add a brief statement about how you achieve that result.
Nail the Technique
You’ve seen the clips: The pros make the guest star dancers practice individual steps and sequences before they put it all together into one, fluid dance. If the star’s moves don’t match the dance’s goals, they change the choreography.
- Start with your long, descriptive paragraph and edit down to the keywords.
- Circle the most important words to include in red (and/or cross off the least important words so they don’t distract you).
- You need a mix of key adjectives, nouns and active verbs to describe your unique problem solving capabilities.
- Steer clear of jargon and acronyms! No WYSIWYG! Many folks don’t know the ‘What You See Is What You Get’ terminology.
Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!
You’ve seen how long they rehearse those dances, hour after hour, getting each step just so. In the end, the dance seems Fred Astaire-y perfectly polished – as if they make it up on the spot! Your words need to move as fluidly; they must flow logically and effortlessly so the reader or listener immediately understands what your business can do for her.
- Say your ten- to twenty-word introduction out loud. How does it flow? Change anything that’s stilted or too difficult for your host to get out of his mouth gracefully.
- Read it to your other clients, your spouse, parent, colleague and others. What’s their reaction? What do they think you do? Make changes if their conclusions about the problem you solve are incorrect. Rehearse again.
- If you substitute your competition’s name in place of your own, is your description of your business too generic? Do you need to be more specific to differentiate yourself from them?
Puttin’ On the Ritz
Finally, don’t just hoof it! Dust off your top hat, white tie and tails to show off your marketing message’s best moves on the dance floor. You’ll wow the judges (also known as your target audience) to garner those perfect, 10-point scores (and ideal, new customers, to boot)!