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Who Cares? Overcoming the curse of assumption...

By Chris Newton, founder of Results Corporation.
The letter below is an invitation to attend the release of a new software product.
 
The original letter wasn't from Savvy Computer Company.  I made that name up.  The REAL company is one you'd recognise immediately. 
 
But does that make their sales letter any more effective?
Let's look at the letter and you be the judge.  In doing so, I guarantee you will sharpen your own letter writing skills.
The Curse of Assumption

OK, so the ACTUAL company is a major brand.  And you'll know it.  But does that mean you'll know as much about their XANADU 3000 as they assume you must.  More to the point, will you care?
 
One of the greatest pitfalls in letter writing (or any communication) is assuming that the reader will care about the company, the new product, or that they'll even care long enough to stop what they're doing to try to work up an interest. 

They WON'T!
 
Your reader is hovering near the wastebasket  
Always assume that the reader is reading your letter near their wastebasket.  Or with their finger poised on the delete key. 
 
NEVER assume that because you may live and breathe your company and your products and services, that someone 'out there' in the marketplace will too.
 
Most likely, when your prospect woke up this morning, they were NOT thinking about you!  And they'll get through a whole day and go to bed tonight, and chances are, they won't have given you a thought.
 
It's a sobering perspective.
 
When you come at your communications from that perspective, it makes you realise that you have to work TEN times harder to grab their attention and keep it past those critical first few seconds, and then to motivate them enough to ACT on what you want them to do. 
 
Think about your own situation ...

How many sales letters have you flicked straight into the wastebasket?  How many emails that reached your inbox have you instantly deleted? 
 
Stopping someone in their tracks and commanding their attention is NOT something you can do by rambling on about how good your company is, or that your computer division was established in 1984! 

WHO CARES?
 
Now, just in case you feel this letter example ISN'T a sales letter, that it's an invitation … and therefore doesn't need to 'sell' ... rest assured its objective IS to 'sell' something.  

Its objective is to 'sell' the reader on giving up two hours to come to an event, reorganising their diary, and braving the traffic snarls to get there.  It IS a big sales task. 

And that's not even the first sale.  The first 'sale' is getting your reader to stop and read your first paragraph.  Make sense?
 
The 'WHO CARES? test'

Whenever you write anything, make sure you give it the 'who CARES?' test first. 
 
If it doesn't compellingly grab the reader's attention, hold it with riveting advantages and benefits that demonstrate how you will help them to save money, increase productivity, look younger, feel fitter, get more sales, increase their profits, or whatever, then it WON'T pass the 'who CARES' test. 
 
Don't waste your time sending it until you've re-worked it massively.
 
How to fix this letter
 
Here's the irony.  The XANADU 3000 may indeed be some amazing new innovation that will revolutionise your entire working environment. 
 
It may quadruple your productivity.  It may cut costs by 48%, or enable you to cut three weeks off your delivery schedules ... or any one of a myriad of benefits. 
 
But from that letter, you'd sure NEVER know it. 
 
The letter suffers from 'product peddling'.  That is, it is 'we' focused.  It's all about the writer's fascination with their company and their product, NOT what that product will do for you or me. 
 
As well, the letter suffers from bland generalisation syndrome.  It sounds impressive; '… addresses the changing data capture environment by delivering the highest level of applications flexibility, without the usual penalty of performance degradation.'
 
But what does all that mean? 
 
The key to powerful communication is to be SPECIFIC. 
If your product delivers a 48% cost cut, don't just say it will 'cut costs'.  Say it will cut costs by 48%. 
 
If customer surveys have shown that it cuts 21 days off delivery times, say so.  And go on to say that, for the average user, this translates into over $40,000 a year in savings from stock control efficiencies. 
 
And that 27 of the users have attributed winning new contracts worth a collective $4.7 million because of their faster delivery times.
 
Can you see where I'm going with this? 
 
Once you learn how to write in this compelling, benefit oriented way, you'll truly revolutionise your communications. 
You'll win more business. 
 
You'll increase your profit margins.  You'll begin to gain an unassailable hold on your niche market.  And your competitors will wonder what you're doing.
 
Does that sound like something you'd like to take on board?  If it's made you feel that way, it's because I simply did what the letter above failed to do. 
 
I focused on what's in this ... for YOU. 
 
Simple, isn't it?
 
Article by Chris Newton, founder of Results Corporation.
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