Steal Like an Email Copywriter

Shannan Seely in RIT t-shirt

Get inspiration from your inbox to reignite your enthusiasm for writing emails

This article is filled with gratitude to the office staff at the Parent and Family Programs at Rochester Institute of Technology. Here’s the story …

We moved our oldest daughter, Claire, to the college dorm last month. She’s enrolled at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. And I feel like she was prepared, and we were prepared because of the Parent and Family Programs staff.

Well, true, Claire was organized. She kept her parents on track, but RIT was a positive influence.

Let me explain.

Initially, my husband and I scoffed at the emails we were receiving from RIT. Oh, this message is meant for helicopter parents. Adults who monitor their teenagers 24 / 7. Parents who are resisting the transition of their parenting role. Less micromanagement, more shifting responsibilities to their child.

Their boy or girl is a young adult, whether the parents are ready or not. Eventually, their child will need to do his or her own laundry.  

But then we – okay, actually me, because I’m the one who reads the emails – came across information I didn’t know.

The message recommended checking your health insurance to determine what coverage your student will have when they move to Rochester. Some health insurance plans have limited out-of-network coverage. Turned out, she needed in-state health insurance coverage for her out-of-state college student status. And the emails informed us about the options.

Thanks to the emails from RIT Parent and Family Programs, we learned this before she started college. My husband signed her up with the appropriate insurance. Yayy! Peace of mind. For her. For us.

I’m in the Parents of RIT Club

I continued to feel the emails were useful. Stuff I wanted to know. I felt like the emails were written to me personally. But I know I was one of thousands of subscribers.

Write as if you’re emailing one good friend, because that’s how people will get to know you, like you, and trust you. Henneke Duistermaat

How did the staff make me feel like they were writing exclusively to me? And why does this matter? Because you can learn from RIT’s emails. Even if you’re in healthcare, pharma or business-to-business. Because RIT completely looks at the reader experience. (I know, I know, they are a high-tech design school. But bear with me.)

You can do what they do. And your subscribers will be grateful.

At first glance, this email looks basic. And it is. But basic is effective.

RIT Students on Campus newsletter
RIT Prepare Your Student

Have you joined an email list only to be disappointed? The email messages did not align with what you expected. A waste, really. You thought, they say I’ll get this, but I end up receiving junk I don’t want.

RIT emails exceeded my expectations. And that’s why I’m bragging about these emails.

What do Rochester Institute of Technology’s emails do well?

1. The copywriter starts with a purpose and sticks to it

She studied what the parent was trying to accomplish. For me, my objective was to support Claire this summer to successfully start at RIT. And not go crazy.

Then the copywriter collaborated with the marketing team. They discussed how much the parent knows. What do they not know? What level of understanding did they have? And what did they want to know, need to know, to get to their destination? Perhaps the parents’ destination was to become fully aware of RIT programs and resources for their child.

Never underestimate the persuasion of a clear email message. Basic is so fascinating. Shannan Seely

Continue reading Steal Like an Email Copywriter

You + This Copywriting Concept = More Sales

map for customer journey

Understand your prospect’s 5 stages of awareness to write more effective copy

Copywriting. Looks easy, but it’s not.

As marketers, we have problems when we write marketing copy, whether we do the writing ourselves or hire a copywriter, we agonize over this issue:

What do we say?

and

What does our prospect need us to say?

But a concept used by experienced copywriters can help us. Let me share the concept and show you how I applied it to website copy.

What’s the Concept?

The 5 Stages of Awareness of your prospect.

How to get inside a prospect’s mind

Before we write, we think about what we need to say. We know we need to focus on the reader.

We need to determine their point of view to persuade them to take action. So how do we do that? By listening to the prospect, which includes understanding the prospect’s stage of awareness.

The 5 stages of awareness is a scale. It shows how much your prospect knows about your products and services. The concept also shows how much the prospect knows about his needs, pain, and problems.    

The concept was coined by renowned copywriter, Eugene “Gene” Schwartz. And he wrote about this in the book, Breakthrough Advertising. The book was published about 50 years ago, but don’t discount this idea of its age. The framework is foundational to good copywriting.

So you need to measure your prospect’s awareness level to write to him or her.

Continue reading You + This Copywriting Concept = More Sales

Why You’re Not Grabbing Your Reader’s Attention

The nuance of selecting the right word

By Shannan Seely

“See, the best interpreters are part linguists, part diplomats. They have to know the politics behind each word,” Danny Hajek, National Public Radio reporter.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer.

How do you want him to feel when he visits and reads the copy on your website? Like you’re speaking directly to him? So he feels like you understand him, can relate to his concerns and have the knowledge to solve his problems?

Do you want him to think, “These people get me!”

Many writers inadvertently fail to foster these feelings online with a prospective customer. Let me explain the three reasons why and how you can fix it. Continue reading Why You’re Not Grabbing Your Reader’s Attention

Three Tips You Can Use Today to Break the “Curse of Knowledge”

Have you been the new kid on the block, so to speak?

If so, you can probably relate to the dilemma we faced when we moved from Kansas to Central New Jersey four years ago. We needed to learn in only three days the ins and outs of attending a New Jersey public school. Our two daughters would be enrolling in an intermediate school and an elementary school.

So we went online. We visited the school district’s website.

This is what we saw:

Where do we navigate first?

The website is not designed for a novice to the New Jersey public school system.

Where’s the Parent’s Handbook? What will I find in the Parent Portal? Where do I find information about how to prepare for the first day of school? How do I know the information I find here is updated? Some of the text states “Updated on Sept. 15, 2010.”

I felt lost.

The website creators did not have me in mind. They were unaware what the customer experience would be for a profile like me: a new parent of the school, new to New Jersey, with two children.

Website creators assumed visitors will have the same level of understanding that the creators have. But we didn’t.

Chip and Dan Heath call this assumption the Curse of Knowledge. In their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the New York Times bestselling authors state this natural psychological tendency happens when we assume everyone has the same level of knowledge as we do.

“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind,” wrote Chip and Dan Heath.

Here are three ways business owners and marketing agency directors suffer from the Curse of Knowledge and how to combat it: Continue reading Three Tips You Can Use Today to Break the “Curse of Knowledge”

Ask These Three Questions Before Hiring a Copywriter

Person writing on notepad.

Your boss has had enough. He agrees with you that there’s too much writing work to do and not enough in-house peoplepower (combining men + women + power) to do it.

He asks you to find a copywriter. In the long term, hiring a professional will ease your work load, but in the meantime, you have a new assignment in your job description. Find the right copywriter. Your manager may make the final decision, but he’s depending on you to do the homework.

Who do you recommend to hire? It’s important to choose the right one, not only to look good for the boss. You’ll be the main contact for the copywriter, so find someone you prefer to work with.

Three Important Questions

Let’s look at the three important questions to ask before hiring a copywriter. Continue reading Ask These Three Questions Before Hiring a Copywriter

Do These 6 Things Today to Makeover Your Writing

All those ideas swimming in your head are finally on paper. The draft of the sales copy is saved in a file. You wrote your email. A chapter of the book has been written. You realize you’re not done, but it feels good to have completed the first draft.

Ready to make your copy 50 percent better? Thought I’d share some tips everybody can use to improve their writing today.

First, let’s take a look at two ways to describe a city’s landmark.

“The location is Western Australian. In the city center, just near a road, stood a monument about dead men and boys, some really young. A really hard time was had by them. It was a very long time before the community simply went back to a routine of school, work and marriage, but not seen by outsiders.”

Confused when reading the description? Already bored you to tears? Yes, it was mind-numbing to read.

Let’s see the description with exquisite detail. Read how M.L. Stedman portrayed the city’s landmark in her book, The Light Between Oceans, voted the Best Historical Novel by 1.5 million voters on Goodreads.

“… hard-bitten experiences that marked any West Australian town. In the middle of the handkerchief of grass near the main street stood the fresh granite obelisk listing the men and boys, some scarcely sixteen, who would not be coming back to plow the fields or fell the trees, would not be finishing their lessons, though many in the town held their breath, waiting for them anyway. Gradually, lives wove together once again into a practical sort of fabric in which every thread crossed and recrossed the others through school and work and marriage, embroidering connections invisible to those not from town.”

Now that’s an example of award-winning writing. How did she do that? We may not strive to win prizes for writing the best novel of the year — well, we may not all want to write a novel — but we can improve the writing we do, every day.

Six Tips to Makeover Your Writing

  • Use the active voice
  • Avoid the use of intensifiers
  • Use definite, specific, and concrete language
  • Create and use a personalized style sheet
  • Read your copy aloud
  • Ask another person to read your copy

 

Continue reading Do These 6 Things Today to Makeover Your Writing